Wenger’s injury update on Vermaelen, Walcott, Gervinho, Benayoun and Koscielny ahead of Tottenham

October 1, 2011

Arsene Wenger gave mixed injury news ahead of the North London derby on Sunday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the manager revealed Laurent Koscielny will definitely miss the Sunday game after failing to absorb any of the tests on Friday. While on Theo Walcott and Gervinho, the manager said a decision will be made either today or on Sunday with Walcott having more of a chance to be available. Arsene Wenger also confirmed Squillaci and Benayoun are completely fit and back with the squad with Squillaci short on match fitness only. 

On an update on Thomas Vermaelen, the manager revealed a delay in his recovery from the surgery. Vermaelen now will join the squad one or two weeks after the international break.

Meanwhile, with Arsenal short on defenders at the moment, Arsene Wenger said he is tempted to start with Alex Song in defence but hasn’t decided it yet with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also having a possibility to be in the team.

Arsene Wenger on Friday said:

[Laurent] Koscielny looks to be definitely out for Sunday, it looks short for him. He couldn’t absorb any test today [Friday]. For [Theo] Walcott and Gervinho a decision will be made on Saturday or Sunday. The most likely to be fit of the two looks to be Walcott. [Yossi] Benayoun and [Sebastien] Squillaci are completely fit. Squillaci lacks match fitness, Benayoun does not.

It will be a fraction longer than expected [before Thomas Vermaelen returns]. He will not be straight back [in the squad] after the international break. It will be one or two weeks later.

[Alex Song in defence?] Squillaci will not be fit enough to start the game. If I am tempted I can answer honestly ‘yes’. Will I do it? Honestly I don’t know yet.

[Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] He is a possibility to be in the squad, I haven’t picked the team yet.

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Wenger’s injury update ahead of Bolton: Ramsey, Sagna and Rosicky back, Benayoun out!

September 24, 2011

Arsenal host Bolton today at The Emirates after the midweek win against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup. Arsene Wenger gave the latest injury update ahead of the game on Friday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the manager gave positive news on Aaron Ramsey and Bacary Sagna’s scheduled tests. Both passed their tests and are included in the squad to face Bolton. Tomas Rosicky, who has been out since the International break, is also back in the squad.

Meanwhile, Yossi Benayoun who scored his first goal for Arsenal on Tuesday will be out at least for a week with a thigh strain. Johan Djourou will join him on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.

Both of them will be missing today’s game plus the midweek clash in the Champions League against Olympiacos. They have an outside chance against Tottenham next week.

Arsene Wenger on Friday, said:

“[Tomas] Rosicky is back in the squad. [Bacary] Sagna and [Aaron] Ramsey had positive tests this morning, so overall it is alright.

[Yossi] Benayou has a thigh strain and [Johan] Djourou has a hamstring [problem]. Both of them are very minor muscular problems.

They could play with a risk of making it worse. But we will not take the gamble. As I told you, we only play players when they are 100 per cent.

Both of them are out with muscular problems in the short term. One week so Bolton and Olympiacos for sure. They have an outside chance to play against Tottenham”

 


Arsenal vs Shrewsbury Town: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 20, 2011

The loss at Ewood Park left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Three days on, it hasn’t lessened but as it has been the case for the last 7 months, we have to move on and get on with the games as they come. We definitely need to break this chain of bad results as Wenger very nicely put it while talking about the loss against Blackburn.

“Our season depends now on how well we respond to this disappointment and how quickly we can cut out the mistakes we made on Saturday by giving away goals that we should never give away. I personally want to focus on the positives because there is huge potential in this team. We had 22 shots on goal, 61 per cent of the possession. It’s very important [to break the cycle]. The Blackburn game is very disappointing and frustrating. We feel that we have given this game away, not that we have lost the game. There is nothing worse in our job than having that feeling.”

Tonight is one such opportunity against Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup. A win in this game might not turn any corners but at least it will give something to cheer about.

While Wenger has made it clear he will be giving a chance to the young players with a balance of experience, looking at the eighteen-man squad announced, I don’t see much in it in terms of experience. It is good to see some of the names of the young players and I am looking forward to their starts today but I am a bit disappointed to not see Santos, Mertesacker and Koscielny. The reason is that we will start with another set of defenders tonight which is not going to help the new defenders settle. Wenger said it himself that the new defenders need time to gel and tonight’s game was a perfect opportunity for all the names I mentioned to have some more playing time together.

“I believe there is a little question of time and timing. Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker are new, but they were not especially guilty on the goals. But maybe as a unit we need more time to work. A lack of concentration, a lack of communication, a lack of coordination and individual urgency [is behind the goals we have conceded]. When you score an own goal, you have to look at yourself. It is never completely out of your reach where you have no chance at all. All the rest, you have to look at yourself.”

Anyways, Shrewsbury Town shouldn’t be much of a problem even if we start with 11 changes from the team that started against Blackburn.

Half the team has already been announced by Wenger. Jenkinson, Chamberlain, Miyaichi, Coquelin, and Frimpong are all in for a start. As for the rest, you don’t have to think too much.

The only question is the formation that we will start with tonight. I have a feeling that we will finally go back to the old days and play a 4-4-2 with both Park and a Chamakh starting ahead. Chamakh looked good in the Blackburn game with van Persie playing just behind him. He does need game time to get his confidence back. As for Park, we at least deserve to see him play and tonight’s the perfect opportunity to see what he can offer. Wenger was full of praise for him while talking to the official Arsenal site.

“Park is good in every area. He is good in the air, good technically, he is mobile and that’s why he is an adaptable striker who can play up front behind the striker. That’s why we went for him. What I like with him is that he is very mobile and that’s the basis of our game.”

I am sure of one thing that he will have excellent work rate and if he can do all what Wenger has said, we might get to see some good partnership between him and Chamakh. Maybe I am looking too much into it, but he certainly has got me excited for tonight’s game.

In the middle, if we stick to 4-4-2, two places will go to Frimpong and Coquelin. For the other two, I am caught between Benayoun, Chamberlain and Miyaichi. Looking at what Wenger said, Miyaichi and Chamberlain will start but if were up to me, I would go with, Miyaichi and Benayoun, just to have some experience on the field.

At the back there is also nothing much to ponder on. Djourou needs playing time and so does Miquel. Both are in the squad, so I am expecting them to start with Jenkinson and Gibbs to flank them.

And as there is no Szczesny in the said, Fabianski is surely going to start.

Probable starting eleven: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Djourou, Miquel, Gibbs, Frimpong, Chamberlain, Coquelin, Miyaichi, Park, Chamakh (4-4-2)

As far as the game is concerned, I am looking forward to Park, Chamberlain and Miyaichi’s performances. I know they will shine tonight.

To be realistic, I also believe that the domestic cups are the only options for us to get any trophy this season. We need to make a good start and maybe this will turn the things for us. Not looking too much ahead, I am at least hoping for a big win tonight.

Enjoy the game from where ever you watch.


Wenger’s press conference: Consistency, Benayoun and Injury update | Marvin Martin to Arsenal? Lansbury’s contract and Cesc’s interview

September 16, 2011

The weekend is finally here with the new round of EPL games. This Saturday we are up against Blackburn but before that I have lots of catching up to do.

Dortmund game

To start off, my two cents on the positive result at Dortmund. I only saw the second half of the game and considering how the game played out, that was a very important point gained. I have to admit, I was really impressed by how Dortmund played. They really were very good with the ball and knew how to make things happen. They were also very strong at the back. They took the game to us and had it not been through some good defending and some great saves from Szczesny, it would have been a very different result. Also had they taken their chances, we would have come out with nothing. And that is why this was a very good point won against the opposition, who are surely the toughest in our group.

The whole team played their hearts out that night but the main performers for me (in the second half ) were, Koscielny, Song and Szczesny. In my preview, I mentioned how important both Koscielny and Song will be to our setup and they proved it with their play. I know Koscielny was not good in the first half but having not seen it, I cannot make comments on that. The second half was where he and Song really made some exceptional interceptions, blocks and clearances. Song alone got us out of three very tight positions if I remember correctly. Combined with Szczesny’s excellent keeping, we were able to keep the Germans from scoring goals. The goal that did come was a one-off and you won’t see any one saving a goal like that. It did, however, left me wondering as to why is it always against us the other teams find such goals?

However, despite the positive result, we are far from a finished product. Nearly improvement in every area is required. I know the team needs time to integrate but we will have to do it quickly as the games will be coming in thick and fast. Of all the things, one that really leaves me wanting is our lack of creating chances recently. Arteta, Benayoun Arshavin, Walcott, Gervinho and Van Persie all have to step up and find the right rhythm among them if we want to get back to creating aand scoring goals freely.

Marvin Martin to Arsenal?

Moving on, reports have come up related to France’s next big star, Marvin Martin that he might after all end up at our club next year. Despite signing a contract extension, the French star was quoted by L’Equipe saying this:

We had good talk and we found an agreement. The officials made a promise. Indeed, an agreement to let me leave. I will remain at Sochaux until the end of the season.

It is still too early to say anything because a year is too long a time. And it is not even sure if he will leave Sochaux to come here.  His performances for Sochaux have earned him a call to the French national team where he is set to become a regular. At only 23 he has lots of years ahead of him and if he keeps progressing, he will surely be on the radar of many top clubs. Now, how much are we interested in him will be answered either during the January window or at the end of this season. As far as I am concerned, he certainly has enough quality to add something extra to our midfield. And if we really are in to him, we would need to get him to agree a pre-contract during January before other clubs hijack the move.

Henri Lansbury extends contract!

I was glad to hear the news that Henri Lansbury has signed a contract extension with us.  After seeing him go on a season long loan, I had partly made up my mind that we had seen the last of him at Arsenal. Now, however, after having him signed that extension, I hope that one day he will be a regular player for us. He sure is one of the bright talents to look out for among the upcoming English players.

Arsene Wenger’s press conference

Moving further on, Arsene Wenger had his usual pre-match press conference ahead of the Blackburn game on Thursday. He talked about the Dortmund game, Consistency being the key and Benayoun’s permanent signing among other things.

Talking about consistency, the manager said that only getting good results is going to help the uncertainty and skepticism out of the club.

“We must win. We live in an environment that questions us when we don’t win. We do not criticise that and have to live with that. But we have to show performances, consistency, attitude and quality. That makes us respected. It’s as simple as that. That’s why it is as important that we don’t talk too much and play as well as we can. We feel we have turned the corner but we will be judged by the consistency of our results. We want to change the skepticism around us but that will only [happen] if we are consistent with our results.”

Can’t agree more on this! We don’t have to look too much ahead. One game, one positive result at a time and hopefully we can then manage to get the belief and positive vibe back into the club. We have started the process at Swansea and let’s hope that it continues for a long time.

Wenger also didn’t rule out signing Benayoun permanently; however, he did make it clear that it’s too early to decide that.

“It’s too early to say at the moment [whether we will sign him]. I want him to contribute as much as he can to the rest of the squad like every other player – not more, not less. He gives his best every time he plays and we think he can integrate well – he can play on both flanks. He can play in the middle, although I think he prefers to play on the wing. Overall he has shown on Tuesday night that he is completely physically fit again.”

In my opinion, we must wait it out till January before making any move. Benayoun is good a player but his only concern is injuries. If he can maintain his fitness throughout the season and perform consistently, I won’t mind a permanent deal. At 31 he is not likely to be made an offer for more than a year though. Still looking at Arteta’s deal, anything is possible.

Injury Update

Arsene Wenger also gave the latest injury update. Of the injured, only Aaron Ramsey seems to have a chance to be back by next game if not tomorrow. He has a slight possibility to be available against Blackburn but I won’t bet anything on it.

As for Vermaelen and Diaby, they will be back after the international break if there are no setbacks for either of them. Both the players are doing well in their recovery from their respective problems.

Regarding Jack Wilshere, the manager had nothing new to give. Wilshere is in the boot for six weeks after which the tests will decide when he will be back.

“[Abou Diaby] should be available after the international break. He is doing well now. He is just starting at the level that we are in in pre-season. He has three weeks planned now, from this Friday. So if he has no set-back after the international break, he will be available.

[Aaron] Ramsey had a little test today [Thursday] and will practice tomorrow, he has a little chance to be available.  [Thomas] Vermaelen is progressing very well and will be available after the next international break. I cannot give you any news because [Jack Wilshere] is in a boot for [six weeks in total]. The test will come after that.”

Cesc Fabregas’ latest interview

Before I conclude, Fabregas’ interview to Sport Magazine, whether true or not, have caused quite a stirring. Cesc was quick to deny whatever was said in the interview but as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter what he says any more about Arsenal. He is gone and not part of this club so it doesn’t matter what he says, or does. I still wish him the best of luck and will always admire his talent, but when it comes to Arsenal, I am over him.

I will come up with the preview of the Blackburn game later.


Arsenal 1 – 0 Swansea: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 11, 2011

So after a bad start to the season, we finally recorded our first win of the season, albeit some luck, a top class strike by Arshavin and some good keeping by Szczesny. As for the rest, it was a so and so performance.

We started off very brightly with Arteta creating the first opportunity in the opening minutes for Ramsey to miss the target. Soon after wards, Szczesny produced a great save to keep the score level. Arshavin then created an opportunity for Walcott only for the Swans to keep the ball form crossing the line after some good defending and keeping. The goal for us came in an unexpected fashion, when lady luck for the first time sided with us. It was a mistake by Vorm, Swans keeper that allowed us to take the lead. It was a great first time finish form the Russian from a very tight angle. In between all this, there wasn’t anything of worth created by both teams.

The second half was where we again faded as we have been doing lately. Except a solo effort by van Persie and a header by Chamakh late on, I don’t remember any decent shots on goal by us. Swansea on the other hand had a good second half. They did create a few openings but due to lack of quality upfront couldn’t score. They managed to hit the cross bar from a free kick. They also came close to scoring in the dying minutes of the game when Szczesny made a mistake only for the Swan’s player to miss the target.  Overall, the final 15-20 minutes were the worst for us. We didn’t concede though and the three points were secured, which matters the most. I will take three points any day over a good performance. However, we do need to improve our play if we want to seriously challenge for a top four finish.

As far the performance was concerned, I was always expecting a win, however, wasn’t expecting that we will go through the same scenario that we have witnessed in almost all the final games last season. I was rather hoping for a win with some margin. And that is why we need lots of improvement to really secure our place in the top four this season. It is also safe to say that had this been any other team, the score would have been different. It is going to be a very tough battle this season but we have taken the first stepsin the right direction and we can only go forward form here.

We need to take encouragement from the positives. Against Swansea we kept a clean sheet and ended with three points and 11 men on the pitch, something which we haven’t done till yesterday this season in the league. However we must not turn a blind eye on the weaknesses.

The problem, at the moment, is that we seem to have lost our creativity upfront. Is it our style of play or our formation or the fault lies with our players? I don’t know the answer but something needs to be done ASAP. How will it be solved is one tough question that Wenger needs to answer and rectify and he must do it quickly.

Much has been talked about changing the formation and even though I am a big supporter of the formation we are playing now, I am coming to the conclusion that it’s time now to change back to 4-4-2,  just to mix things up a bit. Van Persie does look isolated upfront and another striker will really help his game to prosper.

We also need to increase the pace of our passing because right now we are slow in releasing the ball. Our decision making in the final third is also not good. Our final ball lacks intent, pace and accuracy and so the opposition doesn’t have a hard time defending against us.

As for the new signings, they all had a decent debut for us. Arteta certainly looked at home with his passing and movement. However, all of them need to increase their pace. It is too early to say how much Arteta and Benayoun will help us in getting what Fabregas and Nasri could do but I am encouraged by the signs. As it was their first game, I hope they will gel in with our style of play quickly.

In conclusion, we got what we wanted. Performance will surely come in time as we have a few players out injured and the new players need time to adjust to our play. Technically we are in the building up process again, so we will have to be patient and make do with the points secured which are going to matter in the end.

This game is done and dusted and now the focus must turn to Tuesday, where a more formidable force awaits us.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny: (7) Made an excellent save early on in the game and commanded his box excellently throughout. Brought into action late on where he missed a ball only for the Swan player to miss the target from a few yards out.

Sagna: (6) Nothing special from the Frenchman. Kept things simple at the back, however, didn’t contribute much in attack.

Mertesacker: (6.5) He was calm, composed and kept things simple. Made a couple of great tackles and his positioning was also good. Does need to increase his pace though.

Koscielny: (7) Solid game from him. Made some good interceptions especially one at the end of the first half.

Gibbs: (6) The usual performance from him. Bad positioning and decision making at the back. He did make a few good tackles but he needs to improve a lot. Upfront he was great as he showed with his cross to Chamakh in the final minutes of the game.

Frimpong: (5) Nothing fancy from the youngster. Misplaced lots of passes but did provide decent support to defense. Still a long way to go for him.

Arteta: (6.5) Good debut for him. Started well and produced some excellent through balls. His passing, movement and distribution of the ball was good but he too needs to increase his pace. Disappeared somewhat in the second half as most of our team does. It was his first game for Arsenal so I am not going to be too judgmental.

Ramsey: (5.5) A decent performance from the Welshman after a weak start. Missed a good opportunity in the opening minutes and he was involved in the move that led to Chamakh’s header. He does give an aura of being lazy at times with his passing and movement. I have been saying after every game that he needs to take more responsibility and he needs to come out of the shell when he plays for us.  

Arshavin: (7.5) Great game! Looked lively, made some great runs and was always involved in the game. A great finish scoring the only goal of the game too. Back tracked a lot (by his standards) too.  Need more of this every weekend from him.

RVP: (6) Had one excellent shot on goal after some trickery where the side bar denied him the goal. Otherwise it was quiet for him as he looked isolated.

Walcott: (5) Besides having a couple of shots on goal, it was not a good game for him. His final ball was very poor and didn’t give the right support on the flanks.

Subs:

Benayoun (5), Coquelin (5) and Chamakh (no rating) didn’t make much impact. Chamakh did get a header on target though.


Arsenal vs Swansea: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 10, 2011

So after a draw, two losses, countless red cards and injuries, frantic last two days in the transfer window and the ever boring international break, we are here, almost a month later since the inception of the season for a fresh start. We are up against Swansea at home and I am already feeling the excitement of today’s game.

International breaks are never a welcome thing, however, this one did came at the right time for us. We needed a break after the thrashing at Old Trafford and our new signings needed time to get acquainted with the team. How will they gel in with the team on the field particularly and the English football in general will be somewhat answered today.  Most of our players (old and new) had some great international games, scoring lots of goals though. Hopefully, they will repeat that today against Swansea.

On the injury front, we have not made much progress though. We have Gibbs back from his injury (hopefully he won’t go out injured today). Otherwise, we have lost Vermaelen for a month, Wilshere for up to two or may be more, Squillaci is still having a calf injury and Diaby is as usual enjoying time on the side lines. Miyaichi and Rosicky have joined them for short durations and will hopefully return in midweek.

I am glad though that Frimpong is back and that we were able to sign five players in the final two days. Otherwise we would still be stretched in the middle and at the back. With Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker, Santos and Park, we have plenty of options to start with today.

We do need a win (for a change) but if we do it by a margin, it will really set the right tone to our miserable start. However, we shouldn’t be complacent under any circumstances. We have a perfect opportunity to bounce back from the awful start, so, let’s take it with a bang. I know we will have a few new bodies out there, but I am expecting them to give a great performance to send the right message out to the masses.  

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, it will be interesting to see who Wenger opts to start with. Based on the team news, it is quite obvious that we will see a backline of Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gibbs. Andre Santos is in the squad but lacking match fitness and knowing Wenger, he won’t start with him. We might though see him later in the game. As for Mertesacker, I am really looking forward to see how he partners with Koscielny.

In the middle, Frimpong will have to start in the holding role behind Arteta and Ramsey. I won’t be surprised if Benayoun deputizes for Ramsey but I have a feeling Wenger won’t start with him today.

Robin van Persie is sure to start up front flanked by Walcott and Arshavin. I am tempted to start with Benayoun in Arshavin place though. Park is another option to start with but I am not sure how he will respond to playing on the wings. Seeing his international goals, he does get into some good scoring positions and is not afraid to have a shot on goal. To properly utilize Park we will need to change our formation and I am certain on one thing that it won’t happen today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Frimpong, Ramsey, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

With this team, we still will have a bench of Benayoun, Park, Chamberlain, Djourou, Santos, Fabianski and Chamakh with quite a few suspended and out injured. It does feel good to have options after failing to put out an experienced team in the opening three games. However, lots of work still needs to be done. We have got our numbers up and we have got some quality and experience in the team, but we will need to show it on the field by giving results.

As I said before, we have been given the best opprtunity and we need to give the perfect response.  

Here it is to a great win today, a first of many to follow. To all the Gooners who will be at The Emirates, be loud and vocal in your support, the team will need it today.

Enjoy the game and have a good day!

 


Confirmed: Arsenal sign Arteta and Benayoun!

August 31, 2011

Arsenal has done a great job on the transfer deadline day.

It is now officially confirmed that Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker and Benayoun have joined Arsenal.

According to BBC, we also have signed Arteta for a fee of around 10 million. He will join the club on a four year deal.

This is what @bbcsport_david tweeted on twitter minutes after the window officially closed:

“I can confirm Arteta and Bendtner are DONE deals #bbcfootball #afc #safc #efc”

“Arteta signs for Arsenal for fee in region of £10m. No news on contract length, squad number. Bendy to #safc on year-long loan #bbcfootball”

Arsenal has officially confirmed Arteta’s signing and Bendtner’s loan move to Sunderland.

Great news all around!

More to follow!