Player Ratings: Barcelona 3 – 1 Arsenal

March 9, 2011

So, finally our Champions League campaign for this season has come to an end and in a fashion I certainly wouldn’t have wanted. To begin with, I would like to congratulate Barcelona for qualifying and showing why they are the best team in the world. They truly were remarkable and made us look like spectators and they truly desreved to go through. However, I also believe that they would have had to work much harder had it remained 11 vs 11. The referee’s decision completely ended the competition. They were dominating the game with 11 all but our defense was putting up a great show. With a man down the job was gigantic. Not blaming the ref for the loss but that decision did change the game and we can only wonder what would have happened had Van Persie remained on.  

Nonetheless, credit also to us for putting up an overall good effort and a good defensive performance. We held them for like 48 minutes and only a mistake by Fabregas led to their goal. In the second half again we held them till the time the numbers were equal. I won’t fault the defenders for the goals because they were down to some brilliant movement of Barcelona players and as well as individual mistakes by our players that allowed them to continuously attack us.

The players who shone yesterday were Almunia, Wilshere, Nasri, Koscielny and Djourou. They played with their hearts and looked like they really wanted to go ahead. Koscielny for me was massive as he played really well under pressure and even with a yellow card. Wilshere showed why he is in the starting eleven for Arsenal after yet another inspiring display of football. Nasri again showed that he is quality. If only Rosicky, Diaby and Fabregas had played with the same effort, as they were all poor, this game would have been different.

Tactically, I think we should have played to our strengths and going all defensive invited in too much pressure. However, I know one thing now that if we want to we can defend very well, which is one of the biggest positive from yesterdays defeat. Also our passing was poor as under pressure we gave away the ball as soon as we got it. But here credit to Barcelona as they pressed our players in threes and fours. I am though dissapointed with having no shots on goal. 

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (no rating): Was on for like 18 minutes during which didn’t have to do much. Made one save from a free kick which also led to his injury. I hope he comes back quickly.

Sagna (6): Did his job very well even though he wasn’t supported enough by Rosicky. Should have done better with the ball when he got it because gave it away very easily every time.

Djourou (7): Made some remarkable blocks and interceptions. Partnered well with Koscielny as both of them gave their best to keep us in the game.

Koscielny (7.5): He too was excellent with his tackling, interceptions and blocks. Did well the whole match as Barcelona created chance after chance. Gave away a penalty but otherwise his defensive performance was excellent.

Clichy (6): His side was exploited as he was at times caught out of position. At times drifted back from the off side line that allowed Alves to make a few diagonal runs. His decision making was also bad. However, credit still to him for restricting the Barcelona players most of the times.

Wilshere (7.5): Top performance defensively as well as the few times we went ahead. Played with his heart out as he demonstrated with a tackle made early in the game. Tried his best to take us forward every time he got the ball.  His pass to Bendtern in the dying minutes should have been a goal.

Fabregas (4): He had one of the worst games yesterday. Even he acknowledged it himself. His passing was off, didn’t provide anything in defense and made a colossal mistake that I didn’t expect from him, which opened the scores for Barcelona. Maybe he wasn’t fit but then he shouldn’t have started.

Diaby (4): Poor, as he was one of the weak links for me. Even looked lost at times as he would remain rooted to the spot. Didn’t give enough support in defense and whenever he got the ball he would lose possession. I was expecting much more from him.

Nasri (7): Another one who gave his heart out. Defensively was massive as he saved Clichy’s arse time after time. Looked lively whenever he got the ball and made a few good runs but was always triple teamed with no one in support. Earned us and delivered an excellent corner that led to the own goal after yet another strong run.

Van Persie (4): I don’t know what he was doing when he went for Alves rather than the ball. That first yellow was deserved but the second was just an incomprehensible decision. However, during the time he was on, should have done more to help the team. I am still of the view had he stayed on the game would have been different.

Rosicky (4): Poor again from him. Gave away possession every time he got the ball which led to continuous attacks from Barcelona. If he had played like Nasri did on the left, we could have created a few chances down the right side.

Subs:

Almunia (8): I must admit, wasn’t happy to see him come on. However, he demonstrated again that he is a good shot stopper as he made save after save to keep us in the game till the final minute. Massively excellent performance and I hope he gives the same in the match against Man United at the weekend.

Bendtner (no vote): Got the chance of his life and had he scored in the 87th minute, right now we will have been praising him. Didn’t do anything else as Barcelona played keep-ball later in the game and we didn’t get to create much.

Arshavin (no vote): Tried hard but couldn’t do much as we had very little possession. 

The best thing now is to move ahead and concentrate on the two domestic tournaments. There is still plenty left to play for and now I am more than certain we will win the League and hopefully end our trophy drought. However, we will need all to perform and please Arsenal, no dropping of points. This season has promised too much and we cannot stop now to end the season with nothing.

The final run in starts this weekend with the FA Cup quarter and if we beat United, we are in for the double.

Keep the faith!!


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham City

February 28, 2011

I won’t go into how the game played out or what we should have done or where it went wrong. It was just one of those days where we sadly didn’t take the initiative and suffered. Bad luck for us as it came in a final where we had a chance to end our six years wait for a trophy.

I will say one thing though that most of our players did felt the pressure of playing in the final and also playing under pressure of a lot of fans expectations. Although, it should never have been the case but they will have learnt a vital lesson. I just hope we bounce back from this.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (5): Made one excellent save and did well on most occasions. However, one wrong decision and one mix-up, not entirely his fault though, and two goals. Not what I was expecting from him. Experience does matter and this will be a great lesson for the youngster.

Sagna (5): Defensively wasn’t that commanding. Provided good support upfront as he delivered in a couple of good crosses.

Djourou (4): I think he felt the pressure of the final the most. Made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. Missed a few headers, misplaced a few passes, lost his man on the first goal. Need I say more? Also wasn’t expecting a performance like this from him.

Koscielny (5): He was much better than Djourou. He was solid on most occasion and made a lot of important interceptions but then went on to make a mistake he will never forget. What on earth was he thinking, I will never know and I will leave it at that.

Clichy (5.5): Did well on most occasions on the left side. Was good in the one-on-ones. Didn’t provide much support upfront.

Song (4): I guess he is tired after all. Wasn’t up to his best as he misplaced a lot of passes and never looked at ease in the middle.

Wilshere (7): One of our best players. He was great in the middle, gave his heart out. We needed more like him yesterday.

Rosicky (3): I don’t want to point fingers at any one but I feel he was the weak link for us. Was way too casual as if he was sure we will win. Misplaced a lot of passes in the first half as he failed to make an impact. Improved his game in the second but still not enough. He should have won it for us if he had been simple and not gone for a deft back heel near the end.

Nasri (7): He too was great out there. Took some time but he also gave his heart out. Made excellent runs, showed good close control, had shots on target. I guess it just wasn’t our day as there were very few playing like him.

Van Persie (7): Scored an excellent goal. But I guess luck always desert us in such time. Should never have gotten injured and should never have been substituted.  

Arshavin (6.5): Excellent assist for the goal and was one of the better players in the first half. Went missing in the second half as he was substituted.

Subs:

Bendtner (6) had a couple of good moments but still lacks that extra quality Van Persie has. Chamakh (6) defensively provided good support. Upfront produced a good chance for Bendtner and Rosicky but both of them failed to utilize.


Player Ratings: Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona

February 17, 2011

The joy of wining last night was out of this world; it was an amazing feeling as we did what most have failed to do, beating Barcelona at their game.

The belief, determination, spirit, effort and brilliant team work were the key to this result. We never looked awed by their good play and possession in the first half and continued with our game plan in the second half which eventually worked in our favor.

While Barcelona were mesmerizing as usual, we weren’t behind. We defended, we pressed, we passed, we created and we finally scored. The defence was amazing as they bravely played a high line and played the offside trap really well. Once we were caught up which led to a goal but you can expect that with Barcelona playing so well. Overall it was a phenomenal performance.

Coming to the player ratings:

Szczesny (8.5): Confident and brilliant as he made a couple of excellent saves that kept us in the game. His decision making along with distribution was excellent. Cannot be faulted for the goal.

Eboue (7): Defensively did well throughout the match. Upfront wasn’t that good in the first half as he was losing the ball very cheaply and falling over time and again. Improved his game in the second half and made some good runs.

Koscielny (9.5): He was just magnificent. He was strong, quick and intelligent in his play. Made his usual important interceptions and tackles and I don’t remember he did anything wrong. Didn’t give space to any of the Barcelona players. Was early to every ball and covered up well for Clichy and Djourou. Simply phenomenal!!

Djourou (7.5): He too was excellent but made some errors by misplacing some of his passes but thankfully we weren’t punished for it. Otherwise he was solid and partnered well with Koscielny. Covered up well for Eboue.

Clichy: He was decent at the back but the Barcelona players exploited his flank throughout match. Was caught on the wrong side of the offside-line as Villa scored the opener. Made some important interceptions in the second half as he did well to cope with the situation. His pass to Van Persie that led to the equalizer was perfect.

Wilshere (9.5): Wilshere has certainly grown in the last couple of weeks. Last Night he was magnificently outstanding (if it makes sense). The way he dueled in the middle of the park with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets was amazing. He didn’t look intimidated by any of them as he played his game, looked confident, showed good work rate and linked up the play brilliantly. He also did well in breaking the play of Barcelona.

Fabregas (7.5): He wasn’t at his best yesterday yet he produced some amazing balls. His through ball that led to the second goal and his pass to Van Persie in the opening minutes was a delight to watch.  Combined really well with Wilshere, Nasri and Van Persie.

Song (7): He got booked early on in the game but still didn’t stay back and played his game. His work rate was good as he broke up Barcelona’s  play many times and distributed the ball around nicely.

Walcott (7.5): A continuous threat on the right as Barcelona players would always surround him whenever he would get the ball.

Van Persie (8.5): That goal he scored was one of its kinds. Forget that he missed a couple of good chances as he got the goal at the right time which matters the most. His movement was excellent and did his defensive duties well.

Nasri (8): His start was slow as he was returning from injury. Yet he was a threat and in the second half he was excellent. The way he coolly created the goal for Arshavin was impressive. His passing and movement was excellent and did his part in defense by helping Clichy on the right flank.

Subs:

Arshavin (8): He is getting back to his best as he made that goal look so simple. Looked confident and helped in defending when required. He made a mistake near the end but again thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Bendtner (7): Did his job and looked good. He just needs to be quick in making his decisions.

To conclude, the whole team deserves a standing ovation for their efforts. And let’s continue with what we did last night in all the other competitions we are in. The second leg can wait for now….just enjoy this moment!!


Andrey Arshavin on the match and his performance against Ipswich

January 27, 2011

Arsenal qualified for the Carling Cup final by beating Ipswich Town in the second leg of the semifinal.

Andrey Arshavin, speaking to his personal website, talked about the match, his performance and winning his first English trophy. He said that Ipswich came to defend their advantage and stop Arsenal from scoring whereas Arsenal approached the game very seriously with the sole objective to crush the opposition from the very first minute and score an early goal.

With the scores zero all at the break, Arshavin revealed that the manager asked the team to continue with the same high tempo and speed things further up to find the goal. He asked the team to keep patience and possession as there will come a time when the opposition would get tired and openings will be created.

Arshavin said that they played that way and it led to the first goal which came at the right time. He further added that the goal lifted the inner tension and the game became easier and eventually more goals were scored. He also acknowledged the skill of Bendtner in scoring the first goal and Wilshere’s great pass that led to it.

On his own performance and assists, he bluntly said that it wasn’t a super match for him but he is satisfied with the result. He added that he is glad he was useful to the squad.

When asked about being favorites to win the tournament, he replied that considering the names they may be but as it is the final anything can happen. He added that it will all depend on how Arsenal play. In the end he said that they deserved the victory and to be in the final and wants to win the first trophy of his English career.

Andrey Arshavin said:

“Ipswich came to London to try and defend their advantage. Maybe they tried to play in such a way so that they could score from a set piece while keeping us from scoring. If they had managed to do so, we would’ve had to score three goals in order to win this game. We took a very seriously approach to this game, tried to “crush” our opponents from the very first minute of the match. We expected to score a quick first goal. But after the first 45 minutes, the score was still 0:0.

During the break Arsene told us to play in the same high-tempo and try to speed up. He said that there would come a moment when the Ipswich players would get tired and then it would get more and more difficult for them to hold back our attacks. The coach asked us to keep our cool, not to make hasty, ill-considered passes, take care of the ball. He was sure that there would come a moment when we’d press them out.

Actually, we played that way and that led to the Nicholas’s goal. I would say that the goal came at the right time. Here it’s worth pointing out not only his skills in finishing this chance off, but also a Wilsheres’s great cross to Bendtner. This goal allowed us to lift some kind of inner tension from the team and our fans. Once we started to lead the score, the game became easier. Soon we scored a good goal from a set piece.

It wasn’t a supermatch for me. But I’m satisfied with the result. I’m glad that I was useful to the squad.

Maybe, considering the names, our club is the favorite. But, this is the final. Everything will depend only on us, on our game in this match … on February 27. We deserved this victory, we are in the final. Tomorrow we’ll find out our rival that we are going to clash with on Feb. 27. I hope for success, and I want to win the first trophy in my English career. It is time to win.”


Wenger on the team’s performance and his regret about the game

January 6, 2011

Despite dominating the whole game against City, it ended in a frustrating draw for Arsenal in terms of losing ground against United.

Arsene Wenger, however, is taking encouragement from tonight’s game as Arsenal did play well despite the game ending disappointingly. Wenger, after the game, said that the performance by the team was there, the result however is not. Mathematically it has ended in favor of Manu as Wenger said that the players are all disappointed. He further added that over all the belief has to be maintained and in the coming games the response should be with more quality.

With a flying start to the game by Arsenal, they struck the cross bar twice and Wilshere and Walcott both went close to scoring in the first half. However Arsenal failed to continue with the same momentum as the game entered the second half.

Wenger went on to explain that it becomes really difficult to keep the same momentum and freshness against the whole team back defending as the game goes on. There were long periods in the game where Arsenal had to find space among 10 players with even Tevez back in his own half. Wenger, however, regrets not taking the early chances to score. With Man City playing for a draw they got the result they wanted but according to Wenger had Arsenal scored one goal; the game would have changed altogether.

Wenger said that:

I feel we had the performance and not the result. But I take a lot of encouragement from tonight’s game, even if mathematically we are all frustrated and the players are very disappointed. But overall there is no way we should lose courage or belief in our team. It is the opposite. We should even come out with even more belief in our quality and be more resolute in the coming games because we have shown we have what it takes to be a serious contender in this League.

The regret I have tonight is that we did not take our early chances because that would have changed the game. They came here to have a 0-0 and they got what they wanted. I believe had we scored the first goal it would have changed the run of the game tremendously. We faced long, long periods in the game where we faced 10 men as Tevez – I have never seen him so deep. When we lost a little bit of sharpness and freshness in our movement, we looked less dangerous, because you need to play against 10 men like that in the final third. Quality passing, sharp movements… they became more difficult as the game went down.


Rumours, rumours and rumours, Way to go Wilshere and Alisher Usmanov

December 23, 2010

Time flies! It was just today that the match against Stoke was postponed. I am not complaining though as it has been a boring week for me. I was busy doing some other work which has kept me from writing anything these last few days. And it has been a pain in the a*** as it has kept me away from the football world. I have been getting updates on Arsenal though.

Anyhow, nothing much has happened even if you count the sacking of Benitez, it was inevitable. As for us, after Wenger declared that he might buy players in January, the numbers of players getting linked with us have increased exponentially. I am not surprised as it always has been like this.

What I am surprised at is that some of the rumours are just ridiculous.  For instance Lescott is linked with us. Now I don’t know but maybe someone was really drunk or that they wanted to give us laughs when they wrote this, take your pick. Then there is Mascherano, who only recently went to Barcelona.

Apart from them there are many others that have been linked, including Simon Kjear, but I feel we are very unlikely to sign them. Still there are a few that might interest Wenger. Such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who plays for Southampton in League 1.  He is being compared to our very own and former Southampton man, Theo Walcott and the club rates him higher than Walcott at his age. I think that we already have far too many youngsters and another one will not add anything. We have signed Ryo Miyachi and we have our own youth players that we need to develop and induct into the first team. If we keep on adding more young players, a point will come where we will have to sell most of them and we might lose genuine talents with it.

At the moment what we need is proven performers, if we do buy as I still have my doubts that Wenger will buy. The other thing is that we have to sell first to make place for new signings. A couple of players have  been linked away from us; namely Denilson, to Barcelona and Wolfsburg, and Bendtner to Lazio. Both of them have been diplomatic in their responses to the speculations. My honest opinion is that they are going nowhere.

My strong belief is that till the time we don’t release players we won’t be signing new ones. Injuries can also force Wenger. However, we can only wait and see what happens as only a few days are left to the start of transfer of window. Don’t get your hopes up though. Still I would love to see Schweinsteiger and Eden hazard to be signed; I know I am asking too much!!

Apart from the rumors, a certain someone, after winning the ‘golden boy’ award, feels that only Messi is better than him in football and he is on his way to win another league title. If Lescott rumors didn’t give you the laughs this certainly would. As for his remarks about Wilshere, I think he needs to play more football than warm his backside.

I loved the response of Wilsher though, who said:

“Would just like to say how honoured I am to have got 2nd place in the ‘golden boy’! And like to thank everyone who voted for me!

“And would like to congratulate Mario Balotelli on winning it, even if he doesn’t know who I am! He is a top player!”

Way to go Wilshere!! You will win many other awards for sure.

By the way, if it interests you, Alisher Usmanov is on the verge of buying more shares at Arsenal. I don’t care as long as it doesn’t effect Arsenal and we still get to buy, some of the players, that we do.


Arsenal vs Partizan Belgrade preview: Barca or Real can wait + starting lineup

December 8, 2010

Tonight we face Partizan in a must win game to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. It would have been an insignificant game had we done better in the previous two matches. As it stands, even if we win, we can’t be sure of topping the group as it depends on Shakhtar’s result against Braga. However, we have to do our part in the best way possible and what is to come will be dealt with when the time comes.

This is a must win game but we do have an important fixture coming after this. Will Wenger rotate or just make a couple of changes? I have a feeling that it will be a strong team with only one or two changes from Fulham. We have to go match by match and for tonight the priority is to qualify. So the team that I would like to see is:

Starting XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin.

As Djourou has been ruled out and Koscielny declared fit, so Squillaci and Koscielny are sure starters. Fabianski will also start. As we need to win this so I would start with Sagna on the right and give Gibbs a chance on the left. Clichy to have a rest. In the middle we should start with Song and Wilshere, with Song sitting deep. Or if Wilshere is to be given a rest, Denilson should be given a go. Rosicky to start in the playmaker role.

Up front it gets trickier. Wenger hinted at Van Persie’s start so I would go with him in the lone striker role. It would although be vital that he is brought into the game more as he can open up the Partizan defence.  Nasri and Arshavin to flank him on either side.

We will need to take control of the game from start and then change a few players to give them a much needed rest. So it would be of utmost importance that we find early goals.

The defending today would have to be perfect. With defending, I don’t mean only the defenders but our defending as a team. We have been conceding plenty of goals that are not down to the opposition getting the better of us but due to us making some basic mistakes as a team and in some cases individually. We need to certainly put things right in defending as we are going to be facing Man Utd and Chelsea shortly.

I don’t have doubts that we will win tonight. The scores don’t matter tonight though. A win would suffice but a clean sheet will help the confidence.

Let’s just go out there and get a win. Man Utd or Barca or Real can wait…