Arsene Wenger confirms Manuel Almunia’s start in goal against Blackburn

April 2, 2011

Manuel Almunia will start in goal when Arsenal resumes their Premier League challenge this weekend.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Arsene Wenger put an end to all speculations as he confirmed that Manuel Almunia will be in goal against Blackburn today. The manager revealed how both the keepers are looking sharp in training and how Lehmann has given good competition to Almunia. Arsene insisted that Lehmann is getting better every day but still needs time to be ready for the Premier league.  

During the International break, Lehmann did feature for the Arsenal Reserves against Wigan.

On who will start in goal, Arsene Wenger on Friday said:

“He [Almunia] will play tomorrow. I can announce that today, he will be in goal. He looks in good shape in training and Jens gives him good competition. The best thing [for Almunia to do] is put in a good performance in the next game.

Jens comes back to being very sharp, he is looking better every day. You do not stop at his age for seven months and you are straight away back but he’s getting better every day. They both look good in training.”

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Arsenal vs Ipswich Town: Preview and Starting Eleven

January 25, 2011

So this is it, the final obstacle in our way to Wembley. A top performance from us today and we are there and hopefully it will be a start of more great things to come from this team.

Ipswich is leading by a goal coming into this game and their game plan will be to frustrate us by parking the bus and hoping to score on the long balls. And mind you they are much disciplined at the back. But seeing what our team did at the weekend against Wigan, I have no doubt that we will go through but we have to be at that level and never switch-off.

We just have to give our best and not take them lightly. Wenger has said that he will rotate for today’s game also. I feel that we should start with the same team that started against Wigan, with one or two changes, and kill the game off early. The more we delay in killing the game the more Ipswich will fancy their chances.

For the starting eleven, Szczesny is going to stay in goal with Djourou and Koscielny retaining their places. On the left, Gibbs should replace Clichy but on the right I will start with Sagna.

In the middle I will keep the same trio of Wilshere, Song and Fabregas as it is vital that we dominate the midfield today.

Up front I will start with Van Persie and Walcott but rest Nasri and bring in Arshavin on the left.

Probabale starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Fabregas, Song, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

Start with this team today Wenger and we will be in the finals with one hand on the trophy and hopefully we will claim it.

I won’t make any score predictions but  keep everything crossed for this one. This game won’t be a walk in the park but we can make it by giving a quality performance.

Come on Arsenal!!!Wembley is waiting!!!


Arsenal vs Wigan: Preview and Starting Eleven

January 21, 2011

An early preview for the match against Wigan as I am going to hit the road today and wont be able to do it tomorrow. And incidently I will miss my first match of the season too.
 
Anyways coming to the match, it’s against Wigan and this time it’s at our home. Three weeks back, Wigan snatched a draw against us at the DW stadium when Squillaci scored an own goal.

However, this time with our first team available and no new injuries, I have no doubt that we will get the maixmum points. But again goals will matter and for that we will have to be clinical in front of goal.

Uptill now the injury news is that Denislon and Chamakh have minor knocks but they are expected to be available for the match. Still I dont expect them to start, even if they are fit. Fabianski, however, is still out so Szczesny will remain in goal for this one.

The options at centre back is limited aswell, so Djouoru and Koscielny will retain their places along with Sagna, who was superb against Leeds. Clichy will however return to replace Gibbs.

In the middle Song will retain his place, Fabregas will be a sure starter and Wilshere will return after his rest.

Upfront, Van Persie and Walcott will return and they must and Nasri will drop to the left side.
 
Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Wigan’s approach to this game will be no different form what it was the last time. They will rely on set pieces and counter attacks. Charles N’zogbia will will always be a threat and we will need to keep him out of the game.

If we can keep the ball down and keep it moving at pace, we will have the game in our hand. However, we will have to be carefull on the counter attacks and make sure that we don’t give away too many freekicks in our half.

Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the match.


Chamakh and Denilson have minor knocks, Diaby and Squillaci are a week away from returning

January 20, 2011

Speaking to Arsenal TV online today, Arsene Wenger gave the latest update on the squad ahead of the Wigan game.

After last night’s game, there are some uncertainties on the availability of Denilson and Chamakh for Wigan. Both of them picked up minor knocks in the game against Leeds but it’s too early to say if they will be available or not.

The manager said that overall there are no new injuries as both of them are ‘small doubts’. According to Wenger, Chamakh looked better even today after picking up a minor knock to his knee while Denilson will be checked tomorrow to see how he responds to the knock on his hip.

As for the other injured players, they are still not yet ready to be back.

Wenger confirmed that Diaby and Squillaci are not far away but won’t be ready at the weekend. A week is what Wenger gave for their return.

As for Fabianski, Wenger said that they will have to remain patient as his shoulder still gives him pain.

Wenger, while speaking to TV online said:

“We have some uncertainty about Chamakh and Denilson. Denilson has been hit on the hip and we will see how he responds tomorrow morning. Chamakh today looks good so overall I don’t think we have lost anybody last night. They are small doubts.
 
Diaby and Squillaci are not far away but they will not be completely ready for the weekend. They will be one week I think.

Fabianski is still out unfortunately with his shoulder. It still gives him pain and we have to be patient about that.”


Sagna returns, Diaby not far away and Szczesny will start against Leeds as Fabianski has a setback

January 17, 2011

Arsene Wenger gave the latest update on the squad ahead of the Leeds game while speaking to Arsenal TV online.

With Sagna returning from his three match suspension and no new injuries from the weekend’s game, Wenger said that things look alright. Wenger revealed that the situation hasn’t deteriorated as Ramsey is also available and Diaby is not far away from returning.

Regarding Diaby, Wenger said that he will be the first one to return from injury but Wigan and Ipswich games will be too early for him.

Fabianski is also out with his shoulder injury and with Almunia already out, Szczesny is the only keeper fit to start and Wenger said that he will remain in goal for the coming matches.

Regarding Fabianski, Wenger said that he has a setback and it will take time to recover. He will also be returning after the Ipswich game.

As for Squillaci, Wenger said that he could be available in two weeks.

Arsene Wenger said:

“We look alright. We have of course Ramsey available again and Diaby is not far away. So overall the situation has not deteriorated and we hope to get Diaby back soon.
 
Wigan will be too early [for Diaby], even I believe Ipswich will be too early, but the game after he should be available. He should be the first one who will be back.
 
We still have Fabianski out with a shoulder injury, we still have Almunia out and therefore Wojciech will continue to play.
 
Fabianski had a little setback, it doesn’t improve as quickly as we thought and like Diaby he will not be available for Wigan or Ipswich but after. Squillaci could be available in two weeks.”


Player Ratings: Wigan 2 – 2 Arsenal

December 30, 2010

The overall team performance was very much below par yesterday. We started very casually and never really stepped up. We enjoyed a good patch late in the first half but that was all individual brilliance. As a team we never really clicked today and here questions arise like where was the balance when the starting team was picked? Maybe Wenger will know about it.

The defence was quite shaky and never looked comfortable whenever Wigan were on the attack. The communication wasn’t there and at times most were caught out of position. The midfield is also to be blamed for our woes at the back as they never supported the defenders.

The midfield didn’t create much today. There were some moments where it looked like we were stepping up but the next moment it was all quiet.

Upfront, none of the players had any understanding among them.

Coming to player ratings:

Fabianski (5.5): He is a good shot stopper and is fine whenever the ball stays low. He just can’t make up his mind on the aerial ones and just doesn’t marshal his defence. Two goals in two games conceded in almost the same manner i.e. getting caught out of position. Besides that he did well in stopping N’Zogbia’s shots in the second half

Sagna (6): Wasn’t at ease today although showed good work rate while sweeping the flanks. Should have done better on the corner that led to the equalizer.

Koscielny (5): He makes mistakes and then covers up. Why not avoid the mistakes and make life easier!!?? Was caught out of position many times yesterday. Did make some vital interceptions though. Gave away a soft penalty, although IMO it wasn’t. Still should have done better and he needs to stop doing costly mistakes.

Squillaci (5): Scored an own goal, although he couldn’t have done anything else due to the way he was caught. Bedsides that did a fair job but needs a lot of improvement.

Eboue (4): I had my doubts before the game in starting him, and they were confirmed after the game. He was harassed all night by Nzogbia. He was caught out of position many times and never was comfortable on the flanks.

Denilson (5): Very poor in the first half, rather being a holding midfielder he was completely absent. Improved somewhat in the second half.

Rosicky (6.5): One of our better players out there. He tried really hard and some of his passes were good but the players around him were too slow. Dropped down deep at times to get the ball and did well for his part.

Diaby (no rating): Not even half an hour had passed and he was substituted for an injury. While he was on did nothing of worth. I hope he does get back to his best because we will need him,

Arshavin (6.5): Anonymous in the first part. Woke up for like 10 minutes in which he changed the game and then went back to his usual self. Made an assist and scored an awesome goal in those 10 minutes. If somehow he can play like that for just 60 minutes, we would be having no problems in winning games. He did miss a chance in the second half that would have killed the game. We only want that he should play consistently because we know what he can do.

Chamakh (5): Another one of his disappointing games. Didn’t know what to do. Missed a few half chances besides contributing in defence.

Bendtner (6): He too like Arshavin was absent for most parts of the game. Did better in the second half. Scored a very well taken goal. He needs to step up though if he wants to be starting regularly.

 Subs:

Wilshere (7) was an example out there to others. He tried hard, made things happen and did his job superbly. Was involved in most of the things upfront and he brought some spark to our game when he came on. Nasri and Walcott were brought on far too late. No ratings for them.

Final word

Disappointing, yes!, but  it’s not a disaster. We didn’t lose and it was a type of match which we could have easily lost.  We have dropped two points and the manner of dropping the points is questionable. And yes, we could have done better but every day is not a holiday. We still have 19 games to go and anything can happen in them. At the moment we need to focus on our next couple of games and make sure the mistakes done yesterday are not repeated.

We have a a few days to prepare for our next match at Birmingham. It will be more difficult than this and I hope we do show up for it like we did against Chelsea.


Wigan 2 – 2 Arsenal report: The ref was clueless, yes but we have ourselves to blame

December 29, 2010

Well it proved to be a tricky fixture after all. Simply angered by this performance. We have no one but ourselves to blame for this along with the ref who played a major part but it would not have ended like this had we just shown some urgency today.

We started slowly, Wigan were making us look ordinary on the counter, upfront Arshavin and Bendtner were lazy, at the back we were leaving spaces open, in the middle  our players were taking  a nap, the ref had no idea he was refereeing and in all this Wigan took the lead through a penalty that was never a penalty.

We woke up somewhat but still were far from our best. Bendtner somehow got a shot in on goal that was saved by the keeper. The ball went to Arshavin who amazingly put it into the back of the net with an overhead kick. We were leveled. Minutes later Arshavin won the ball, powered down the middle, gave the ball to Bendtner, who was lucky that the ball stuck to his feet, and he slid the ball into the back of the net. We were leading now; surely we would wake up.

However, we returned from the break and started similarly. Wigan were having a go at us every time they got the ball. We should have killed off the game and we did get the chances. Arshavin missed a one-on-one after Wilshere did a one-two with Chamakh and lobbed in a perfect ball for Arshavin. Chamakh had a couple of headers off target.

And still we were not comfortable at the back. N’Zogbia had a chance to level up the scores but Fabianski did brilliantly to keep us in the game.

Wigan were reduced to 10 men when N’Zogbia was sent off for head-butting Wilshere. We now just had to keep the ball but as always we cannot live without making goal-conceding-mistakes. Wigan got a corner which was flown in to the far corner. Fabianski went for it but never reached there. He was caught off line as the ball flew back in and Squillaci, while trying to keep the ball from reaching the Wigan player headed it into the empty net.

When it seemed we will get the maximum points we did that. Anyhow, Wenger woke up after this as he sent Walcott and Nasri in.  

We tried and tried till the end but never got close to netting the winner. The ref made sure of that as we were denied penalty in a scenario similar to one in the match against Tottenham, where tottenham were awarded a penalty after Fabregas handled the ball while standing at the wall.

The final whistle blew with the final score 2 all.

Thoughts:

Well we didn’t show up the way we should have after beating Chelsea. We were far too casual. We created less and never got our game going. Arshavin and Bendtner were anonymous for the whole games. They did get the goals but you have to be involved at all times. Our midfield was just absent. We weren’t holding the ball for long and at times gave it away cheaply.

The ref was very incompetent and some of his decisions were bizarre.

Fabianski again showed that he is not good in making decision on the high balls. That is now two goals in three days for not being able to make up his mind. He leaves his line to catch the ball, stops midway in no man’s land, ball flows past him and the opposition has an empty net to aim at. Only this time it was Squillaci. It’s just not acceptable. The defence maybe was partially at fault but the keeper is the one that marshals the defence and at the moment Fabianski is not doing that.

I also feel that Wenger got it wrong with the starting lineup. There was just no balance. To start Denilson alongside Diaby, who is returning from injury is just plain wrong. He also was very late in making the substitutions. It was quite visible that we were having difficult times out there. We should have either scored the killer goal by bringing in Walcott for Bendtner or brought on someone like Song early in the second half to give some stability at the back, if we were to defend the score. Wenger did nothing and when Wigan equalized, Wenger then sent in Nasri and Walcott, by then it ws too late.

In conclusion, it is two silly points dropped and I hope it doesn’t bite us in the end. We still are in it and let’s not be put off by this result. We have two important games coming up and we have to deliver in them. No more mistakes please!!