Wenger’s injury update on Koscielny, Gervinho, Walcott and Squillaci

September 28, 2011

It is back to Champions League football this midweek, with Arsenal up against Olympiacos at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger, speaking at his press conference on Tuesday gave the latest update on the injury front.

According to the manager, Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Gervinho are all out of today’s game through minor injuries and will have a chance against Tottenham coming weekend.

Koscielny is going to miss today’s game through an ankle problem as a consequence of a Nigel Reo’s tackle in the game on Saturday. Gervinho is out due to a muscle problem.

Theo Walcott, who was substituted on Saturday due to an injury, later revealed to be a knee problem, is also going to sit this game out but has more than a fifty-fifty chance for Tottenham game.

On an update on Squillaci, the manager said he will join the group on Friday or Saturday.

Arsene Wenger, ahead of the game, said:

[Laurent] Koscielny is not fit. He has an ankle problem which is a consequence of the tackle by [Bolton’s] Nigel Reo Coker, which was a fair tackle but a bit late. Gervinho is not fit, he has a minor muscular problem that is very, very mild.

[Theo] Walcott is not fit, he has a minor knee problem. He got a kick, but there is no damage in the knee. All three have a chance for the weekend. I would say Theo has a more than 50-50 chance.

Squillaci is not completely fit, he should be back in the group on Friday or Saturday.


Arsenal vs Stoke City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 23, 2011

Stoke City are visiting us today ahead of the Carling Cup final and a win will take us closer to a point of Manchester United at the top in the Premier League.

It seems like ages ago when this fixture was postponed back in December, with the prospect of facing Barcelona getting more attention at that time. We have now come a long way from that. Snow and bad weather saved Stoke at that time, today however they are in line for a lesson in football. 

It isn’t difficult to predict how Stoke will approach this game. From the very onset they will be looking to unsettle us. They will use the long balls, free kicks and long throws to their advantage and their forwards will use any mean necessary to gain advantage over us in our danger area.  Their midfielders and defenders, no doubt, will use the ‘committed’ approach of the English game to their full benefit. So, expect a lot of fouls and very less cards for them and if I am not wrong the opposite for us.

Our game plan, as Wenger very rightly pointed out, will be to keep possession and control the game. If we play the game to our speed, Stoke will have no chance of getting into it. The midfield will have to play a very big role in this and with most of our regulars set to start, it shouldn’t be difficult.

We will have to score goals and with no Van Persie, whosoever starts in his place will have to be really creative and clinical in front of goal. Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott will have to lead by example.  

As for the starting eleven, Szczesny will return in goal along with Clichy at left back and Djourou at centre back. With Koscielny injured, Squillaci will keep his place and Sagna will remain on the right flank.

In the middle, Fabregas and Wilshere will return and Song will keep his place.

Upfront, I would have started with Walcott in the middle if it wasn’t Stoke, as we will require someone with strength up there today. With Chamakh under-performing, Bendtner is the most suitable option and I hope that today he performs well as he will be playing at his favored position. Nasri and Walcott will be on either side of him. 

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri.

This game can get difficult if Stoke score the first goal because they are much disciplined at the back. The first half, therefore, will be very important and the more quickly we get the game in control, the easier it will be.

As always, we need a win to keep the pressure on Man United. It will be a tight game but I expect nothing short of three points.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the match and have a great day.


Newcastle United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 5, 2011

Today is yet another Premiership game and this time our opponents are Newcastle United, who have already beaten us at our home this season.

For me they are an unpredictable team as they have the knack of getting unexpected results. When they are on fire they can score plenty of goals, when not, they also concede plenty. Conversely, they can also frustrate with good organization at the back as they did the last time against us.   

This match is going to be difficult and we will need to be on top of our game to get the maximum. Newcastle will resort to the same tactics employed the last time they faced us. They will keep it very tight at the back and look for opportunities on set pieces and counters. However, with no Andy Carroll, our jobs will be slightly easier in defense but we would need to break them down upfront. And for that we will require a high tempo start and an early goal.

On the other hand, this game is going to get more difficult if we don’t score goals and Newcastle will be more than happy to get a point.

As for the starting eleven, I hope Wenger doesn’t make too many changes for this one. I will go out with the same team that started against Everton, replacing the injured.

Arsene Wenger has already confirmed that Szczesny is going to be in goal. As for the centre backs, I have a feeling that Squillaci is going to start today.  However, I would go with Djourou and Koscielny as we can’t afford to make mistakes at the back in this one. Sagna and Clichy must retain their places from the last game.

In the middle, with no Song, Diaby will get a start. Wilshere must keep his focus today and start better. Fabregas will complete the midfield.

Rosicky didn’t have a good game last time, so I would replace him with Arshavin, who certainly looked better. Walcott has been declared fit, so he must start on the right side. If not, then Bendtner will be the next best option. Van Persie to retain his place.  

Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Fabregas, Diaby, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

As usual, the way we are playing we should win this and we must because we don’t have the option of dropping points.  However, we will need a similar display of character today which we displayed against Everton, if things are not going in our favor.

Three points is all that matters and I hope we don’t get any more injuries.

Keep your fingers crossed and let’s beat them like we did in the Carling Cup earlier in the season.  

Come on Gunners!!


Player Ratings: West Ham 0 – 3 Arsenal

January 16, 2011

After the cup games, that was one very refreshing performance from Arsenal. There were a few hiccups at the back but upfront and in the middle we were just brilliant. The way we moved, passed the ball and created openings was a delight to watch. The whole team helped each other out and showed great understanding amongst each other.

The defense was a bit shaky yesterday but only the right side and it was mainly due to bad positioning of Eboue compounded by some bad decisions from Djourou. However, they both improved in the second half.

In middle, we passed the ball around well and kept a high tempo. We never gave space to West Ham and whenever they got the ball, Song and Wilshere would cut them off nicely.

Upfront, the movement was also very good. Everyone combined nicely and the finishing was excellent.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (6.5): An overall good game from him. Made some excellent saves and his distribution was also fine.

Clichy (7): Another one of his better games. Defensively was good and helped in attack by providing good width. His pass to Van Persie that led to the second goal was brilliant. However, needs to improve his crossing.

Koscielny (7): Brilliant game from the Frenchman. No usual mistakes and was always quick to close the opposition down and clear the ball. Made some vital tackles and clearances and aerially was also better.

Djourou (5.5): He was the guilty party in defense yesterday after committing a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. His decision making was very bad. However, he did improve in the second half. I hope it was just a one-off.

Eboue (5.5): He leaves his side very exposed and I feel it was the main reason for an uncharacteristic performance from Djourou. Was always caught out of position in the first half. Did improve in the second half and made a couple of good runs. However, he needs to be aware of what is happening around him as at times he looks aloof.

Wilshere (7.5): An excellent game from the young Englishman. Great in cutting off the west ham attack and he always found the right pass. Was never afraid to hold the ball and was involved in every move upfront. Could have also scored a goal. However, he needs to improve his touch and off the ball movement.

Song (8): Another dominating game from Song. Was a beast at the back and skillful while going forward. Broke up west ham’s play with ease and linked up play with the forwards nicely.

Fabregas (8): Another captain’s performance. It wasn’t anything flashy but a very effective game.  Didn’t get any assists but was at the heart of everything. Dropped back deep to bring the ball out, combined brilliantly with Nasri and Van Persie and showed good work rate.

Walcott (8.5): Had a slow start but went onto have a very influential game. Got an assist on the first goal, scored the second and won the penalty for the third. Enough said!!

Van Persie (9): This is what we have been missing. He really is a treat to watch. Linked up play nicely, created space and openings, scored goals, got an assist and played the full 90 minutes. He needs to stay fit for sure.

Nasri (7): Didn’t score goals or get any assists, but still he showed his brilliance. Combined really well with Fabregas and Van Persie. Made some good runs with and off the ball. And a great step over on the first goal.

Subs:

Denilson, Arshavin and Gibbs had too little time to make an impact. No ratings for them.

In the end I would just say that the result speaks for the performance itself, ‘Three goals and a clean sheet’. I only hope that we continue with this in all competitions and whoever starts for us in the coming games puts up similar displays.


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 1 Leeds

January 8, 2011

The overall performance of the team was not up to what we have displayed in the last two games. Our passing and movement was slow and we weren’t decisive enough. We still had plenty of possession but it was of no use as Leeds easily defended whatever we created. We improved greatly when Fabregas and Walcott were brought on though.

The defence was not bad but there were few occasions where we were caught sleeping. Djourou clearly was a beast there and Szczesny was excellent.

In the middle, we did create a lot of chances but the passing tempo was slow.

While upfront, no one really made an impact despite presented with lots of chances. Walcott was the one who made the real difference.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (7.5): Great keeping. Kept us in the game when it was level and also when we were a goal down. Nearly saved the penalty and overall good decision making from him.

Eboue (7): He was a constant threat while going forward. At times however was caught out of position at the back. Some of his crosses were really good.

Squillaci (5.5): Not impressed by his outing today. He should be the one with experience and confidence and today he himself looked short of both. Some of his decisions were poor.

Djourou (9): This man impresses every game. We would have lost today if not for him and Szczesny at the back. Reads the game really well and was always present at the right place at the right time. Made some vital interceptions and clearances.Was strong in the air and on the ground. Top performance!!

Gibbs (6.5): A good game by him while returning from an injury. Some of his runs and crosses were good.

Song (6): Looked unimpressed by the proceedings. Still did most of the things correctly.

Rosicky (6.5): He started very brightly and helped our game flow. His movement and touches were good however lost it in the later parts and was rightly substituted. He also gave away the ball at the wrong place on a few occasions.

Denilson (5): I don’t know what to say on him. Some of his shots were great as they tested the keeper. However, he just doesn’t have pace and strength. Gave away a silly penalty too.

Arshavin (5): I am at a loss as to what has happened to him. He is a genius, a master in his game if he plays, sadly most of the times he doesn’t. Nothing went right for the Russian today as he did try on a few occasions. On others he simply didn’t. Should have scored the opener on Rosicky’s lobbed pass. However, showed good technique on a few shots.

Chamakh (4): Another bad performance from him. IMO he is feeling the rigors of the Premier League.

Bendtner(6): Started the game well but went onto miss plenty of chances. Landed most of his headers over the bar.

Subs: Fabregas (8.5) changed the game when he came on. His presence increased the momentum of our passing and we looked more of a threat. Great composure while taking the penalty. Walcott (8) also made a big impact when he came on. Made some good runs and used his pace well. Still should have scored at the end when he shot the ball straight to the keeper. Vela (no rating) had very less time to make impact.

I will conclude by saying that we have to put this behind for now and look ahead to our next game. We still have a chance to qualify for the next round and hopefully when we face Leeds at their home we will get the job done.


Arsenal vs Stoke preview: To hell with Barcelona, it’s Stoke + starting eleven

December 18, 2010

Most of you will be thinking about the Barcelona tie. I say to hell with them, we have more important matters at hand and we must focus our attention towards that. Its Stoke tomorrow, the return of the thugs led, none other than, by Ryan ‘not that kind of a guy’ Shawcross.

Much has been said on the Ramsey incident already and I won’t go into that. As for what the crowd does to Shawcross, I don’t care. What I care about is that we win by scoring plenty of goals. And incidentally we will go top again, and if Chelsea does their job we will stay there.  

As it is Stoke, expect lots of long throws, long balls, pushing, shoving, kicking, tackles and everything you can imagine to try and put us on the back foot.

To counter it, we would need our midfielders to support the defense every time the ball is with Stoke. The second ball is what we need protection against and the midfielders will come into play a lot tomorrow. If we can shut them out in the middle by keeping possession, they won’t be much of a threat then. Provided we score on the chances we get and keep it disciplined at the back, we will get the result.

As for the team, Djourou needs to start tomorrow. He has been excellent in the air and we will need that. To partner him I would go with Squillaci. Clichy has come under a lot of fire for his performance against Manu. As Desigunner proves it here and I agree that it was the lack of support on his flank that led to that side being exploited. And since there is no word on Gibbs yet, Clichy is going to start. Sagna to occupy the other flank.

The latest on Fabianski is that he is to undergo tests, in other words he won’t start. As a result Szczesny will be in goal. He was impressive against United; showing confidence, making saves and catching whatever went down his way. We will need the same type of performance as there will be plenty of long balls tomorrow.

In the middle, Fabregas needs to start as the match with Chelsea is next and we need him to get some playing time. Song and Wilshere to support him. Both of them will need to be alert by providing cover for the defenders properly.

Upfront, I feel it’s time now to give Van Persie a start. We need him to get his form back as it is vital for our campaign. To partner him, Nasri is a certainty to start. This leaves only one place and I can’t decide between Arshavin and Rosicky (although Arshavin is edging it at the moment).  Rosicky will offer us cover at the back while contributing upfront also. Arshavin on the other hand is a game changer and despite not playing well in the last match, will always be a danger.

And I have not forgotten Walcott. I believe that he offers us more when he comes on as a substitute. He along with Chamakh to start on the bench.

So my starting XI would be: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin

No predictions for tomorrow. However, I would love to see plenty of goals and a clean sheet.

Come on Gooners!! Let’s show Stoke how proper football is played!!


Braga vs Arsenal preview: Will we have learnt anything!?

November 23, 2010

The million dollar question after Saturday is: Will the last defeat have thought us anything? I don’t know the answer to this. In fact the answer will only be given at the end of the season because simply words don’t matter now, results do and they haven’t been going in our favor consistently. The defeat on Saturday is still hurting. The away wins against Everton and Wolves are a distant memory as we head into today’s match to redeem our lost faith, or will it?

Today we are facing Braga at their home and a win or a draw will see us qualify for the next round. A loss will make the next group match a must win for qualification.

Our squad is somewhat depleted for today with Andrei Arshavin, Clichy and Van Persie not travelling. Arshavin has been given a rest, Clichy has a back problem and Van Persie isn’t 100 percent so he has been left behind. Besides these Diaby and Vermaelen are still out. Almunia and Ramsey are with the reserve team; in fact they have started the reserve game against Wolves. Wenger was to yet to make a decision on Fabregas. The starting team therefore for me would be

Probable XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Walcott, Bendtner, Rosicky.

Fabianski to return in goal. Djourou is improving a lot and he shall a get a start today alongside Squillaci. Koscielny wasn’t spectacular against Tottenham so he should be on bench. Gibbs shall replace Clichy on the left and I hope he lasts for the whole game. Sagna on the right or if he needs a rest then Eboue to replace him.

In middle Wilshere has had his rest so he is likely to start. Song and Fabregas to retain their places. Or if Fabregas isn’t ready Nasri should start then.

Upfront Chamakh needs a breather and as Van Persie hasn’t travelled Bendtner will get an opportunity to start. Walcott to start on the right and I hope he returns to the way he was playing before the injury. Rosicky to start in place of Arshavin to complete the eleven.

The team from here looks strong but we have come to know that nothing comes easy with Arsenal. On any other day it would have been an easy game but after last Saturday you never know. Still it is a new day and we may yet be surprised. We need to be at our 200 percent best for the whole 90 minutes to come up with a win. Anything less will be bad for us and more tense times ahead.

We have beaten them before but this season we have lost against those whom we have beaten before; like Newcastle, Shakhtar and Tottenham. I am not saying anything about this match as the outcome depends on how we show up and how we play. Frankly speaking I will take a draw. We have been so inconsistent that a win won’t change much. I am being pessimistic but that’s how I have been since the derby collapse; we have massive results away from home and then we lose at home a game we are dominating.

Wenger is giving his every drop of blood for success as he said:

“I want so much for this team to win that I am giving every drop of my blood to make sure that they win. I want them to be successful because they deserve it and it hurts when you get so close as you did on Saturday and you don’t manage to do it.”

Let’s hope the team does come up with a solution because something is not right with so much inconsistency.

May be this game will start a run of games for us that will put the defeat behind. Not looking too much ahead, let’s get a result in this one.

Fingers crossed!