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Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1 – Thunderbolts, Selfies and Derby Wins!

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Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal (Rosicky 2)

Man of the Match - Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

It wasn’t the most fluid of performances, neither did it have the conviction. But, you really can’t ask for more than 3 points at the end of a typically feisty derby game, as Arsenal painted North London red again with a narrow win over rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who seem to have bottled their chance of getting into the top 4 for another season.

With the recent spate of injuries adding Mesut Ozil to a list that already contains Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, the manager welcomed back left-backs Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs. The recent return from injury and a couple of solid performances by Thomas Vermaelen also would have pleased Arsene Wenger. Kieran Gibbs started at left-back. Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started alongside Spanish duo Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla in a makeshift Arsenal midfield.

Sp*rs, who have some injury concerns of their own, were forced to name Kyle Walker on the bench, as Kyle Naughton started at right back. Younes Kaboul, who passed a late fitness test, started alongside Belgian Jan Vertonghen. With Michael Dawson injured, Vertonghen moved to centre-back; Danny Rose, scorer of a blinder against Arsenal on his debut few seasons back, starting at left-back. Christian Eriksen, who scored in midweek against Benfica, started. So did, Nacer Chadli, Sandro, Andros Townsend and Nabil Bentaleb.

Within no time, Arsenal were in the lead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain collected the ball in Arsenal’s half and made a darting run into Sp*rs penalty box, before losing control slightly. Tomas Rosicky who followed the Englishman’s run unleashed a powerful shot, which no goalkeeper in the world would have saved. Not Jens Lehmann. Not David Seaman. Not Gianluigi Buffon. Heck, not Lev Yashin. What chance would poor Hugo Lloris have? 1-0 Arsenal.

Sp*rs, however, to their credit, demonstrated a good passing game, as they looked to pressurize Arsenal. The Gunners, looking a bit weary, struggled to hold on to the ball for long periods as Sp*rs patiently rolled the ball around. With Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose running down the flanks, Sp*rs were always susceptible to losing a goal on Arsenal’s swift counters.

On 15 minutes, Arsenal had a golden chance to put the game to bed, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain broke away from Sp*rs defenders to face Hugo Lloris, but instead of setting up Lukas Podolski on the left, or rounding the French international goalkeeper, he decided to chip, and his effort went wide of the post. This defending lapse sent Tim Sherwood absolutely beserk as he flung his jumper on to the ground in disgust. Maybe he was disgusted with Chamberlain’s finish.

On another occasion, Chamberlain skied the ball having received it from Podolski and the English winger’s finishing was again questionable when he missed another chance.

On the other end, Emmanuel Greedybayor was giving Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker plenty to think about. His intelligent running, and space creation was causing Arsenal’s defenders plenty of problems. Sp*rs, who have scored only 16 goals in 14 home games this season, did get a few chances, when Eriksen’s free kick went over, and Chadli’s low effort went wide.

Sp*rs were continually being exposed on the breaks. Lukas Podolski struck the side netting after escaping the attentions of Kyle Naughton. Moments later, Olivier Giroud was narrowly offside when he was set free in acres of space. Tomas Rosicky was causing Danny Rose plenty of problems. The game started getting stretched, when Bacary Sagna was booked for a late lunge on Rose, before Sandro got his yellow for a tackle of Rosicky.

Sp*rs started the second half in similar fashion Arsenal had started the first half with. Wojciech Szczesny wasn’t having the best days in office. He came ahead to collect a ball, but completely miscued it, and he repeated it moments later. With Nacer Chadli looking destined to score, he came up against the rock that is the Koscielny-Mertesacker axis. Both defenders made themselves big, and the Chadli’s strike was cleared by Koscielny in an amazing moment of last ditch defending.

Sp*rs kept going, and had several chances to equalize, but paid for their profligacy. A cross from the right by Townsend went past the goal, but Chadli failed to tap it home. And then, Greedybayor headed just wide. Both managers made changes in the 67th minute, as Paulinho and Sigurdsson came on for Sandro and Chadli, and Flamini came on for Rosicky. Vertonghen got a yellow card for a foul on Cazorla, and off the ensuing free-kick hauled Koscielny to the ground. It should have been a penalty.

Mertesacker’s short range swiveled shot was saved by Lloris, having been played in by Koscielny off a corner. Arsene Wenger, by now had sensed that Rosicky’s goal could well be the only goal of the game, and threw on Monreal and Vermaelen in place of Podolski and Chamberlain. Flamini got a booking, minutes after coming on. A better story than Twilight.

Roberto Soldado, or is it Roberto Penaldado, came on for Eriksen, as Tim Sherwood looked for an equalizer. The Sp*rs boss was involved in a little incident with Sagna, throwing the ball at the right back urging the Arsenal player to get on with the game. It could have gotten out of hand, but Sagna tried to calm down the situation, claiming it was nothing.

Emmanuel Greedybayor saw a fine curling shot saved by a diving Szczesny in the closing moments, as Arsenal sealed a hat-trick of derby wins this season. A win that takes them to within 4 points of leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand.

Like I said, it wasn’t the greatest of performances from Arsenal. But, defensively, Arsenal were rock solid. Laurent Koscielny deservedly won the Man of the Match for a colossal performance with Per Mertesacker. Tomas Rosicky was all energy, hassling Sp*rs at every opportunity, and my, his goal was class. Something to remind them all the time.

Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were average, apart from a couple of moments of brilliance. Mikel Arteta had an important role just in front of the defence. Olivier Giroud was quite anonymous all night, but with Sp*rs attacking most of the match, there was little he could do.

The end of the match saw some crazy celebrations, as Szczesny took a few selfies, Lukas Podolski climbed upto the fans, and Tomas Rosicky gave his shirt to a disabled supporter.

All in all, a solid performance that garnered 3 vital points in the title race. Every game turns to be a 6 pointer from now till the end of the season. Next week, Arsenal will travel to Jose Moaninho’s Chelsea, in what will be Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. No better way to celebrate the milestone than to beat the cunt once and for all.

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Reviews

 

Sp*rs Preview + Lineups

Yes, it’s been quite a while since I last posted a preview for a game. 4 months to be precise. The last preview was the home game against Southampton, which we won 2-0, with a Giroud brace, courtesy some assistance from Artur Boruc.

It’s been quite a topsy turvy time over the past few weeks. In fact, since the start of the year, there have been several such moments. It started in solid fashion, with wins over Newcastle at St. James Park, Cardiff at the Emirates, Aston Villa at Villa Park and Fulham again at the Emirates. In the midst of that the Gunners knocked Tottenham and Coventry out of the FA Cup.

Post that, Arsenal drew 2-2 at St. Mary’s against Southampton, despite rallying from 1-0 down to leading 2-1. Arsenal struggled against lowly Crystal Palace, but overcame them with a brace from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Then, Arsenal were taken to the cleaners at Anfield, as Liverpool raced away with a 5-1 win.

With the mauling still in the back of their minds, Arsenal hosted Manchester United in midweek. Prior to the Liverpool defeat, probably every Arsenal fan was of the opinion that the jinx against the Red Devils would finally end, but we were treated to a dour 0-0 draw. Arsenal’s last win against United remains 3 years back, in May 2011. Arsenal extracted some measure of revenge against Liverpool, by knocking the Reds 2-1 out of the FA Cup, with a slightly shaky, but efficient performance.

Then came the strange Bayern match. The first leg of the First Knockout Round. With Yaya Sanogo upfront, owing to Olivier Giroud’s romp with a FHM model, Arsenal started brightly against the marauding European champions. In the 8th minute, Mesut Ozil’s tame penalty was saved. Wojciech Szczesny was sent off in the 37th minute when Arjen Robben went tumbling like a pack of cards. 10 man Arsenal stood up to the Bayern onslaught but ended up losing 2-0.

Arsenal responded in resounding fashion to that loss, with a 4-1 thrashing of Sunderland. And then lost 1-0 to Stoke. That was before Arsenal chalked up another 4-1 win, against Everton to reach the semi finals of the FA Cup.

Arsenal’s form this calendar year reads:

WWWWWDWLDWLWLWD

9 wins. 3 losses. 3 draws.

And that’s the beauty of it. Like Nick Hornby so epicly portrays in Fever Pitch “It’s not easy to be an Arsenal fan”. It really isn’t. Probably a month back, Arsenal were leading the Premier League table, and tipped by many to have a fair chance of knocking Bayern out of the Champions League.

But, as of now, we are in 4th place, on 59 points, 7 points behind leaders Chelsea, and 2 games in hand. Oh, and we are out of the Champions League. Well, no this is not another negative post as it seems it is. In fact, it is more positive than you think.

There’s still at least 11 games to play, 10 of them in the league. Away trips to Sp*rs today, Chelsea next week and Everton in April await. Manchester City come visiting later this month. It all starts all today though, against Sp*rs.

There’s nothing better than getting a kickstart with a win over your historic rivals. And, this is the best time to do it. Sp*rs saw a bit of rejuvenation after Tim Sherwood took over the reigns at the circus of a club. But, Tottenham have had a more shaky form than Arsenal.

Having been mauled 5-1 by Manchester City, and 5-0 by Liverpool, both at home, they managed to beat Swansea 3-1 and Newcastle 4-0, both away from home, and even beat sturdy Everton 1-0 at home. Funnily, they managed to lose 1-0 at Carrow Road to Norwich City. In the week leading up to tonight’s clash, they were trounced 4-0 at Satmford Bridge by the league leaders Chelsea, and then went on to lose 3-1 at home to a solid Benfica side.

Yes, confidence is pretty thin at the moment. But, it’s the derby, and anything can happen. Form is of little consideration here. And that is why, Arsene Wenger will know his side, will have to tread cautiously.

Tottenham will look to stifle Arsenal. Against Chelsea, Tim Sherwood deployed an extra midfielder to partner Brazilian Sandro by playing Kyle Naughton, a move which backfired as Chelsea romped to a 4-0 win. Paulinho could be handed a start, while either of Nabil Bentaleb or Andros Townsend on one of the wings. Christian Eriksen could be in contention for a start as well after his fine free kick goal against Benfica. Kyle Walker is doubtful to start, while Michael Dawson is definitely out of this one.  Younes Kaboul is available for selection after his red card against Chelsea was rescinded.

Arsenal have some problems of their own, with Mesut Ozil out for at least 3 weeks, with a maximum of 6 weeks, a major injury blow. Jack Wilshere faces another 3-4 weeks injured, while Aaron Ramsey suffered a setback on his road to recovery, which means he misses this game. Nacho Monreal is back fit, and is expected to take his place at left back, despite a solid display by Thomas Vermaelen in Munich. Kieran Gibbs is still out, but there is some good news as Swedish international Kim Kallstrom, Arsenal’s deadline day signing is available for selection.

Here is how I expect the sides to line up.

Arsenal – Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Podolski, Cazorla, Chamberlain, Giroud

Tottenham – Lloris, Naughton, Veronghen, Kaboul, Rose, Paulinho, Sandro, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Bentaleb, Adebayor

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Previews

 

Bayern Munich 1 Arsenal 1 – Gallant, but Short!

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Bayern Munich 1 (Schweinsteiger 54) – 1 Arsenal (Podolski 56)

Man of the Match - Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

Arsenal were knocked out the Champions League First Knockout Stage, for the 4th season in a row, and a second time by Bayern Munich in as many seasons, despite a valiant effort to salvage the 2-0 loss suffered at the Emirates 3 weeks ago, at the hands of the Bavarian giants.

With a massive mountain to overcome, the manager drafted in captain Thomas Vermaelen at left-back, in place of the injured Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed a start in central midfield alongside Mikel Arteta, while there was a start for former Bayern striker Lukas Podolski as well. Due to an admin error, Arsenal were able to name only 6 substitutes, as Ryo Miyaichi was declared ineligible to participate in the competition. With Aaron Ramsey, Kim Kallstrom, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal injured, Wojciech Szczesny suspended, Yaya Sanogo and Niklas Bendtner not travelling with the squad, the manager was forced to name Emiliano Viviano, Isaac Hayden and Serge Gnabry on the bench.

The start of the match was pretty even, with Schweinsteiger forcing an early save from Lukasz Fabianski, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drawing a foul from Brazilian international Dante, after marauding his way through the Bavarian defence. Bayern, playing the tiki-taka way, under Pep Guardiola, were giving Arsenal a lot of chasing to do, as they kept the ball close to themselves, and making runs on both wings.

Arsenal, on the other hand, responded through Lukas Podolski, who beat his marker, Spanish international Javi Martinez, but his effort was thwarted away for a corner. Minutes later, Arjen Robben’s effort went narrowly above the bar. Arsenal were holding their own in hostile German territory, and Arsenal’s fans were adding to the atmosphere in the Allianz Arena.

Bayern through they had taken the lead through Javi Martinez’s close range header, but it was flagged for offside. Podolski picked up an unnecessary yellow card for kicking the ball away. Bayern were increasingly looking to get on top of the Gunners by using cheap tactics, and employing Arjen Robben, who opted to fall over like a ballerina at every opportunity he got.

Arsenal were having little outlets to break away from the pressure, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being one of them. Bayern, unable to contend with the Englishman’s pace, decided to hack him down, as Arsenal relieved themselves of Bayern pressure. Arsenal got two chances 10 minutes before the break, first when Cazorla’s free kick went just wide, and then Olivier Giroud’s header on target was saved by Manuel Neuer.

Bayern responded with a flurry of chances. Laurent Koscielny had to resort to last minute desperation, to block a Robben shot, before Mario Mandzukic headed just over. Mario Gotze was denied by Fabianski, before Arsenal’s defenders were forced to make several last ditch challenges to prevent the bludgeoning German champions from taking the lead before half-time.

Mesut Ozil, anonymous on the night was subbed at half-time, after pulling his hamstring in just the 2nd minute. Tomas Rosicky came on for the former Werder Bremen midfielder. Arjen Robben, unable to get past Thomas Vermaelen, who put in a solid shift at left-back, flung himself to the ground at the slightest touch, but the referee caught the Dutcman’s cowardly act, and asked him to grow some balls, but refrained from showing a yellow card.

Bayern, soon were in the lead. Franck Ribery drove in from the left, and teed up Bastian Schweinsteiger to tap home the opening goal of the match, rather easily. Bayern were now 3-0 ahead in the tie. But, amazingly, Arsenal got one back less than 120 seconds later. Olivier Giroud combined effectively with Lukas Podolski, and the German shoulder dropped his international captain and close friend Phillip Lahm to the ground, before shooting a rocket from the most ridiculous of angles to make it 1-1 on the night.

The goal gave the steamrollering champions something to think about, as they appeared jittery for a while, and Arsenal plenty of hope. Chamberlain forced Neuer into a save, before Podolski drove forward, crossing in dangerously. Giroud teed up Rosicky, but Javi Martinez managed to clear the danger.

Bayern, who recognized Thomas Vermaelen as a liability at left back, were barely able to get past the Belgian defender, who had a fine outing, assisted admirably by Podolski, who did not shun his defensive duties. Some one touch passing almost resulted in a Bayern goal, but Fabianski bravely saved from Mandzukic.

With 15 minutes left to play, and 2 goals still required to progress, Arsene Wenger decided to give it a good old go, sending young German Serge Gnabry on for Mikel Arteta, who looked a bit off the pace on the night. Thomas Vermaelen got a yellow card for hacking down Franck Ribery, which was pretty pleasing to watch. No, really.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who did plenty of running on the night was replaced by Mathieu Flamini. Serge Gnabry had a couple of quick attempts, the second of which was a left footed effort, when he was in plenty of space, and probably should have taken his time. With the match going to injury time, and Arsenal pummeling the Bayern defence, Arjen Robben got a chance to break away, but was closely followed by Laurent Koscielny, who did fantastically well to track the Dutchman back.

The Dutchman, who most probably shares a room with Robin van Cunty during national duty, and derives his derisory behavior from there, went down howling like a pack of cards, at the slightest touch from Koscielny, with the referee assigning a penalty.

Thomas Mueller’s penalty was stopped finely by Fabianski, who had to be brave to stop the German from slotting home the rebound. That was the last effort of the night, as the match ended 1-1, with Bayern progressing through to the next round 3-1 on aggregate.

It however was a valiant performance from a depleted Arsenal squad. Koscielny, Sagna and Mertesacker were at their usual bests, while Thomas Vermaelen now has put in two good performances. Lukasz Fabianski, on his way out of the club, served well in goal, in the absence of Wojciech Szczesny.

The highlight of the evening, was the performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who didn’t seem intimidated by the quality of the opponent, and constantly caused problems for their defence. Lukas Podolski, who was quieter in the first half, put in a much improved second half performance, tracking back to defend, and scoring a goal too. Olivier Giroud, though isolated up front, put in a decent shift, assisting Podolski’s goal. With Ozil quiet in the first half, Cazorla was at the heart of Arsenal’s creativity.

It hurts to see Arsenal getting knocked out of this stage of the competition, yet again. But, over the two legs, and despite the red card and all, Bayern were probably the better side, despite fielding an absolute cunt like Robben in their side.

It’s time to concentrate on the domestic front now, with plenty still left to play for. 10 games in the league, and there’s that small matter of a FA Cup semi-final against Wigan. And a final after that. A trophy, maybe?

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 4 Everton 1 – Wembley, here we come!

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Arsenal 4 (Ozil 7, Arteta 68 (pen), Giroud 83, 85) – 1 Everton (Lukaku 34)

Man of the Match - Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Arsenal came one step closer to lifting silverware with a comprehensive win over Everton. Having already knocked sides like Tottenham and Liverpool out of the FA Cup, Everton became the third Premier League side to be drawn to play the Gunners in the FA Cup this season.

Arsene Wenger made a few changes to the squad, with captain Thomas Vermaelen marking his return from injury, which kept him out for 2 months, replacing Laurent Koscielny. Elsewhere, Mathieu Flamini, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski. Yaya Sanogo too got the nod ahead of Olivier Giroud. With Jack Wilshere ruled out for at least 6 weeks in a testing run of games coming up, there was good news in the form of returns for Aaron Ramsey and Kim Kallstrom. They, however, did not feature.

Everton have reached thus far by overcoming Queen’s Park Rangers 4-0 in the 3rd Round, Stevenage by the same margin in the 4th round, and Swansea 3-1 in the 5th round. They made a quick start to the game, with England left-back Leighton Baines causing some confusion in the Arsenal area with his cross.

However, it took Arsenal less than 7 minutes to make movement in the scoreboard. Santi Cazorla escaped the attentions of former Wigan midfielder James McCarthy and played a delightful pass to the beleaguered Mesut Ozil, who finished beautifully despite being under pressure from Everton’s defenders. His celebration showed a palpable sense of relief. His first goal for over 2 months now.

Young Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles was being given a testing time as Yaya Sanogo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both saw their efforts being pushed away. Bacary Sagna was lucky to escape the attentions of the referee with a last ditch tackle on South African midfielder Steven Piennar, with replays clearly suggesting the French full back didn’t get the ball.

Kieran Gibbs linked up with Mesut Ozil, but saw his shot being blocked before Per Mertesacker’s attempt was saved. Joel Robles looked nervous with some dodgy moments. Mathieu Flamini got another yellow card, for his challenge on John Stones.

Everton hit back with an equalizer, as Arsenal continued to press for a second goal. After an Arteta shot was blocked, young Ross Barkley charged upfield before sending in a cross met by the falling Kevin Mirallas, before falling into the path of his compatriot Romelu Lukaku who had the easy task of bundling the ball home. Cazorla saw his shot go just wide, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed great determination in winning back a ball he had lost to Lukaku.

Both teams came out in the second half in conservative fashion. After clearing an Ozil free-kick, Everton saw Cazorla volley the ball high above the bar. Everton should have taken the lead on 54 minutes, when Thomas Vermaelen conceded possession to his Belgian teammate Lukaku rather carelessly, but Barkley could only shoot over having been set up by the pacy forward. Sanogo came off for Giroud soon after.

Arsenal won a penalty when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was fouled by Gareth Barry in the box. Mikel Arteta stepped up and scored, but the goal was ruled out after the referee caught Olivier Giroud’s encroachment as Arteta was taking the penalty. He retook it, with the same result. Arsenal were in the lead.

Baines was still looking to cause havoc on Arsenal’s right, but Everton were unable to capitalize on these chances. Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley, both missed. Tomas Rosicky replaced the lively Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with 12 minutes to go, with Arsene Wenger looking for an experienced head in the closing stages.

The Czech played a vital role in Arsenal’s 3rd goal, releasing Bacary Sagna on the right. Sagna looked up to track Giroud’s position, and played a fine ball to the French forward who slotted the ball home from a tight angle. He was again involved as Arsenal emphatically sealed the tie.

Tomas Rosicky made a run on the right, with Everton at a loss of defenders, Ozil and Giroud making advances. Ozil received the pass and set up Giroud to tap home the 4th. There was no turning back for Everton after this.

The scoreline maybe a bit flattering, but not undeserved. Arsenal controlled the game throughout, creating several chances, and taking them with aplomb in the end. Sanogo was a bit aloof, but he is still learning. Most impressive was the performance of Mesut Ozil, who would definitely be feeling rejuvenated after a commanding display on the sunny afternoon. After his finish, there was an air of confidence in his movement and passing. He combined well with Cazorla and this will bode well with a tough run of fixtures.

The Spaniard was lively throughout. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in another blooded performance, and since his return from injury has been a vital component of the side. Arsene Wenger will be pleased with the return of Thomas Vermaelen. The team was always on a thin line with only 2 fit centre-backs and the return of the captain will allow him to chop and change. Apart from the one mistake against Lukaku, he put in an immense display.

With Wigan upsetting the odds and Manchester City, Arsenal have become the new favorites for the cup. But, after losing to Birmingham in the League Cup Final of 2011, and getting knocked out of Cup competitions by lowly Bradford, Blackburn and Sunderland, nothing can be taken for granted.

Wigan will go all out in their defense of the Cup. Before the Wigan match, Arsenal will face Bayern, Tottenham, Chelsea, Swansea, Manchester City and Everton. And oh, the quarter finals of the Champions League too sandwiched in between after we beat Bayern tomorrow night!

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Reviews

 

Stoke City 1 Arsenal 0 – Costly Slip up!

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Stoke City 1 (Walters 76 (pen)) – 0 Arsenal

Man of the Match – Steven Nzonzi (Stoke City)

Arsenal were condemned to a 3rd defeat in 6 games, leaving them in a precarious position in the title race, with just 10 games to go, against a physical Stoke side, cheered on by their unruly hooligan bunch of fans.

Club captain Thomas Vermaelen made a return to the side and was named on the bench, alongside Mesut Ozil. Kieran Gibbs was adjudged fit to start after injuring himself in the 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich. Elsewhere there were starts for Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski.

In a scrappy and dull affair, both sides were unable to string any set of passes together, with Stoke looking to stifle any sort of creativity from the Gunners, and themselves inept at creating anything. The first few minutes were as dull as ditchwater. Stoke forwards Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch were looking to impose themselves on Arsenal’s centre back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.

There were few chances between the two sides. Jonathan Walters saw his header go narrowly wide, before Cazorla’s effort went too high. Then, Olivier Giroud failed to get required contact from a Kieran Gibbs cross. There was a lack of conviction and creativity from Arsenal, as they failed to get past the two banks of four that Stoke had employed. Olivier Giroud was being given a tough ride by Arsenal’s most hated player, Ryan Shawcross and Danny Wilson. He saw his header being easily saved by Asmir Begovic, before Lukas Podolski’s effort was poor.

Austria international Marko Arnautovic, former teammate of Per Mertesacker at Werder Bremen, looked to create something with his well timed runs, through Arsenal’s midfield, and set up Glenn Whelan, whose drive from the edge of the box went just wide. Santi Cazorla, then found himself in a good position to play a pass to Lukas Podolski, free on the left, but decided to shoot himself, a shot easily collected by Begovic.

Giroud, bearing the brunt of Stoke’s aggressive hardmen, especially Whelan and Wilson was cleaned out by the rash Dutch international left-back Erik Pieters, who earned a yellow card for his challenge near the half way line, just before the half time whistle.

Stoke appeared more urgent in the second half, creating some decent opportunities in the opening few minutes. Szczesny had to scramble away a shot or cross with Walters and Crouch looking to crowd out the Arsenal goalkeeper. Peter Crouch, known for the bizzare as well as the spectacular, attempted an overhead kick, that went just narrowly wide. Tomas Rosicky then conceded an unnecessary foul on Pieters. Charlie Adam whipped in the resulting free-kick that Peter Crouch should have done better with rather than just toe poking it. Arsenal escaped yet again.

Arsenal looked to counter on the breaks, with Stoke looking comfortable on the ball. Steven Nzonzi was the driving force taking the home side out of some soupy situations and distributing the ball intelligently, something which Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere were able to do only sporadically. Stoke were the ones still creating more attempts on goal, with Szczesny the busier of the two keepers. Crouch’s glancing header forcing the Pole to a stop, before Cameron could only head wide off the resulting corner.

With 65 minutes gone, both managers sensed that only 1 goal could decide the game. Mesut Ozil came on for the subdued Podolski, while former Manchester City and Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland was sent on for the Charlie Adam, the ugly cheating bastard, who got away with numerous stamps. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain too came on for Tomas Rosicky.

However, moments later, Stoke were awarded a penalty. Harsh decision on Arsenal and Koscielny. The French defender and Jonathan Walters challenged for the same ball inside Arsenal’s penalty area, and the ball struck the defender’s arm from about a yard away, with almost no time to react. It was an unfair and hard decision, which would have been given probably once in 100 times.

Walters stepped up, sent Szczesny the wrong way to set up Ogre celebrations at Mordor. Yaya Sanogo came on for Jack Wilshere, before Giroud set up Ozil, whose effort scraped the far side of the post. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain infused some life into the attack, beating Pieters few times. On one occasion, he set up Giroud, whose attempt was pathetic in the least.

The board showed 5 minutes of extra time, and Arsenal’s best chance of the match came in these 5 minutes. Chamberlain again rounded off the Stoke defence, to set up Sanogo, who had time and distance to put the ball into the roof of the net, but his effort was woefully over. It ended 1-0 at the Potteries.

A disappointing afternoon for a disjointed Arsenal side, who can have no complaints over the result. There was a week to rest and recuperate, and with 11 games to go, it makes every match all the more important and gives lesser scope for dropping points. It was an uninspiring performance all around.

The result leaves Arsenal now in 3rd, joint on points with Liverpool, who have a goal difference of 38, compared to Arsenal’s 24. The Gunners however could soon be condemned to 4th, with Manchester City, newly crowned winners of the League Cup, having 2 games in hand. Should City win them, they will go on top, joint on points with Chelsea, but with a better goal difference.

There’s little time to reflect on the defeat now, with games coming thick and fast. The FA Cup provides a great platform to break our trophy drought, with Everton visiting the Emirates on Saturday. That is before the daunting trip to Munich, as Arsenal look to overturn a 2-0 deficit. Oh, that’s before we face Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City in the league.

Jai Arsenal!

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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 4 Sunderland 1 – Wonder Goal Marks Vital Win!

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Arsenal 4 (Giroud 5, 31, Rosicky 42, Koscielny 57) – 1 Sunderland (Giaccherini 81)

Man of the Match - Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

After what has been a mixed couple of weeks for Arsenal, the Gunners went into a week’s break, with a resounding win over a dodgy Sunderland side, thereby moving a point closer to leaders Chelsea.

After the shell shock of a 5-1 loss at Liverpool, a dour 0-0 draw against Manchester United, a revengeful 2-1 win over the Scousers, and a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a powerful Bayern Munich, it was much more than vital for the team to register a win.

Arsene Wenger made several changes to an exhausted squad, that were made to chase all night long against Bayern, with the injured Kieran Gibbs, being replaced by Nacho Monreal, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky coming in for Mathieu Flamini and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud for Mesut Ozil and Yaya Sanogo respectively.

Flamini and Chamberlain made the bench, while Ozil was given some time off football, as he attempts to recover from the penalty miss from Wednesday. Niklas Bendtner made it to the subs bench alongside ‘in-form’ Yaya Sanogo, as Thomas Vermaelen and Aaron Ramsey remain on the sidelines.

The match was preceded by the unveling of the bronze statue of club legend Dennis Bergkamp, caught in a mid-air pose, from a famous moment captured during a match against Newcastle United at St. James Park in the 2001-2002 season.

Arsenal needed just 5 minutes to open the scoring, when Jack Wilshere darted into the box and setting up Giroud to score past former Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone. It was just the start the beleaguered French striker needed after the extra marital affair that rocked his personal life recently.

Arsenal were dominant throughout zipping the ball with ease in midfield, Lukas Podolski’s sledgehammer of a shot being saved by Mannone brilliantly. Sunderland, however, were creating a few chances of their own. Wojciech Szczesny, who was sent off against Bayern, had to be alert to prevent a deflected shot off a corner from creeping in, before Laurent Koscielny was on hand to prevent a free kick from the talented Adam Johnson creating problems.

Sunderland eventually settled in defensive position, giving Arsenal little space, and making it hard for the Gunners to break them down. Rosicky had a couple of shots from distance, but none that really troubled the Black Cats. Then, a moment of stupidity from Sunderland’s defenders.

A poor back pass from Santiago Vergini, making his debut in the league, aimed at former Manchester United defender Phil Bardsley, fell kindly for Olivier Giroud, who had the easy task of slotting past Mannone. 2-0 Arsenal. Easy peasy.

Arsenal looked to rattle Sunderland from thereon. Bacary Sagna’s long range effort went wide after a deflection, while Podolski’s free-kick too deflected out. It didn’t take long though to make it 3-0. And how! Arsenal recreated the magic of the goal against Norwich earlier in the season, scored by Jack Wilshere.

Tomas Rosicky made a fine run, exchanging passes with both Cazorla and Wilshere, before being beatifully dinked by Giroud, for a subtle chip over Mannone. A beautiful team goal that will be talked for years to come. Words really ain’t enough to describe this goal.

Nacho Monreal was taken off at half-time, with some niggling problem, being replaced by Carl Jenkinson. This meant a reshuffle, with Bacary Sagna moving to left-back. Former Arsenal midfielder Sebastien Larsson came on for the visitors.

Sunderland looked a bit rejuvenated after the break, and immediately got into action. On-loan Liverpool striker Fabio Borini tested Szczesny as Arsenal retreated for a while. It was soon beyond Sunderland’s reach however, as the nervous Vergini conceded a corner. Cazorla took it, and Koscielny easily headed it home to score his first goal of the season.

Arsenal were 4-0 up, but Sunderland still were up for it, only to find an unflinching defence. Koscielny had to be worryingly substituted with Mathieu Flamini coming on in the 68th minute. Sagna moved to centre-back, Flamini went to left-back, as Arsenal’s makeshift defence looked to keep a clean sheet.

South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung forced Szczesny into making a low save. The lively Serge Gnabry replaced the sprightly Rosicky and almost made it 5-0, but slipped at the vital moment, as he looked to capitalize on a Wilshere pass.

Larsson’s free-kick went just wide, after a Jenkinson foul, before a Giroud foul finally yielded the visitors a goal. The free-kick was punched out by Szczesny, falling straight to Emmanuelle Giachierrini, who unleashed a fine shot from 30 yards. Gnabry and Wilshere worked Mannone in the closing stages, as Arsenal registered a 4-1 win.

The injuries are a matter of concern, but 3 points were vital today as the Gunners prepare for a tough trip to the land of Ogre’s, Stoke, who have already come up with a hate propaganda over the Aaron Ramsey issue, by preparing some childish acts, 67th minute onwards in that game. What a bunch of useless clowns.

The injuries, according to the manager ain’t too serious. Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere are all expected to be back in time for the Stoke game, while Mesut Ozil too is expected to be handed a start. Thomas Vermaelen too is scheduled to make a return, while rumors state that Aaron Ramsey could be back for the short trip to Sp*rs in mid-March.

Olivier Giroud needed a performance not only for the team, the fans and the manager, but for himself. Having been kept out in the games against Liverpool and Bayern Munich, by the rookie Yaya Sanogo, he needed to again claim the trust of his fans. Coming to his stats, he has 16 goals and 8 assists this season, not a bad return at all. It keeps him on par with players such as Manchester City’s Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo, who is considered to be a revelation this season. Oh, and definitely way better than Robin van Cunty, whose boyish dream of playing for a mid table team is finally being fulfilled.

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2 – Undone By One Mad Moment!

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Arsenal 0-2 Bayern Munich (Kroos 54, Mueller 88)

Man of the Match - Toni Kroos (Arsenal)

In an all too familiar tale, Arsenal were undone by one moment of madness, on what promised to be a glorious night of Champions League football. Jens Lehmann against Barcelona in 2006, Robin van Persie against Barcelona in 2011, and now Wojciech Szczesny against Bayern Munich last night.

With the match billed as a clash between Europe’s classiest and Europe’s finest, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger sent shock waves in the football world by naming unheralded Yaya Sanogo in the starting lineup. Despite his impressive performance against Liverpool, it was surprising to see the French youngsters’ name in the lineup. Olivier Giroud may still be regretting his night out with the FHM model. Former Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski too did not get the nod. With Mikel Arteta suspended, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was preferred to Tomas Rosicky.

Bayern Munich, without the services of the injured duo of Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri, started with the strongest possible lineup. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller made it to the bench, while the starting lineup had the formidable holding midfield partnership of Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez. Mario Gotze and Arjen Robben on the flanks, Mario Mandzukic upfront and the irrepressible Toni Kroos in attacking midfield.

The match started at electric pace, and the visitors had the first attempt, when a beautiful shot by Toni Kroos required Szczesny to dive to his left to palm away the ball for a corner. Arsenal’s first attempt came moments later, when Yaya Sanogo forced Manuel Neuer into a save. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was already causing David Alaba problems, as Arsenal rolled around the ball in confidence in midfield.

The best chance of the match fell to Mesut Ozil, when after being released on the left, he tricked compatriot Jerome Boateng into a foul, and won a penalty. His resultant spot kick was casual and easily tipped for a corner by childhood friend Manuel Neuer. It was the German’s second penalty miss, after he missed one in the group game against Marseille.

The Emirates which was a loud precipice till that point of time, suddenly became a bit quieter as Bayern started making inroads into Arsenal’s defence. Arjen Robben’s free-kick struck the wall and then the rebound way over. Bayern, under Guardiola, have become a more Barcelona-esque side, and they teased Arsenal with their inch perfect passing. In a rare foray forward, Yaya Sanogo won the ball, created space and released Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain beautifully, but Manuel Neuer made a perfect judgement to come out of his area, and clear the danger.

Arsenal were forced to make an early substitution when Kieran Gibbs pulled his hamstring and had to be replaced by Nacho Monreal. Things got worse 6 minutes later, as in the 37th minute, Arjen Robben attempted to bring down a ball, and cluttered into Szczesny, who came out to collect the ball. The Dutchman, formerly of Chelsea, and the general cunt that he is, made most of the contact, and played his role in getting Arsenal’s Polish keeper sent off. A yellow card and a penalty would have been fair. But, this reduced the Gunners to 10 men, in a major European clash.

Santi Cazorla was the man sacrificed, as Lukasz Fabianski came on. David Alaba was assigned to take the free-kick, and the young Austrian full back chose the correct spot, but struck the post and out. Arsenal had escaped, just about. Arsenal hung on for the remainder of the half.

Bayern, the well oiled, mean German tank, came out all fired up against a weakened artillery unit that was Arsenal. From the word go, in the second half, Bayern attacked Arsenal. Jerome Boateng was taken off, with Brazilian right back Rafinha taking his place.

Nacho Monreal’s unsure clearance, fell straight to Kroos, who shot straight at Fabianski, before Koscielny had a chance of his own at the other end. He escaped the attentions of the defenders, created space, but couldn’t find the angle nor the power to shoot, as Neuer saved comfortably. After that, Arsenal were under immense pressure, as Bayern peppered Arsenal with bullets.

The first one, went in. Toni Kroos, who opened the scoring for the Bavarians last year, repeated it this time round, with a fantastic curling effort, leaving Fabianski with no chance whatsoever. Bayern patiently passed the ball around, as Arsenal were forced to retreat, forming two banks of 4, Sanogo playing in midfield. Ozil and Chamberlain were to become the only two outlets, but they were crowded out as soon as they were in possession.

Rafinha, and more so, Arjen Robben, were peeling Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard was getting little protection from Ozil, as Bayern constantly attacked from Arsenal’s left. Robben did his trademark cut-in couple of times, but was met by a resolute Fabianski. Arsenal remained solid, however, despite attempts from Kroos, Gotze and Thiago to pierce the defence. Mandzukic was reduced to taking shots. He was replaced by Thomas Mueller in the 64th minute, as Bayern went for the kill. Koscielny fouled Robben in the box, and was lucky not to have been awarded another penalty.

Laurent Koscielny, made several last ditch tackles, as Arsenal tired on with 10 men, and 2 subs down. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had picked up a slight knock, was the last substitution, and he was replaced by former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Tomas Rosicky, with 16 minutes left to play.

Bayern were unflinching in possession and continuously worked the Arsenal players. Peruvian striker Claudio Pizzaro came on in the 79th minute for Alcantara. Laurent Koscielny made a dart forward in the 88th minute, that would prove to be costly. A cross from the right was headed in by Mueller, with just 2 minutes of regulation time left to play. It was a big blow for Arsenal, as they were reduced to a 2 goal deficit, and now a mountain to cimb at the Allianz Arena.

While the debate will rage on whether it was a red card or no, my say is simple. Far too many games have been spoilt due to one poor refereeing decisions. A lack of consistency is a major issue. The goalkeeper came forward, but Robben had already bought the ball down. There was no way Szczesny would have moved out of the way in a fraction of a second. Moreover, the ball seemed to be going out for a goal kick. It was too harsh a decision.

The social media has been out brandishing swords at the performance and general attitude of Mesut Ozil. He had a shocker at Anfield, slighly raised his game against Manchester United, and had a good outing against Liverpool in the FA Cup. He still remains our top assist provider, with 12 in all competitions. Yesterday was his chance to slay Bayern, being a boy from Werder Bremen, but he was at best average on the night, after the penalty miss. It drained him of his confidence, and as Arsene Wenger pointed out, he was shaking his head even 10-15 minutes after the miss.

His attitude has been of concern in recent times, with Mertesacker, and Flamini last night, having to remind him that he was playing for the cannon on the chest. He has come in with the tag of a superstar signing, and probably some rest would do him a world of good. This is his first season in England, and he has played in the busy Christmas schedule, when he was accustomed to rest. Too many games have definitely taken a toll on him. He was 3rd in the list of distance covered in the match, but there was a general lack of interest in helping Monreal keep out the threat of Robben and Rafinha.

Flamini and Wilshere toiled hard all night long in midfield, while Chamberlain was lively in the opening exchanges. Sanogo was a wild card, had a decent games, but surely we need to have some sort of solid back up. The Champions League knockout round against the best side on the planet, isn’t exactly a game you want to experiment in.

I was surprised by the manager’s decision to sacrifice a lively Cazorla than a forlorn Ozil. The Spaniard is giften in wriggling out of cramped spaces, and would have been immense, when Arsenal had seen so little of the ball. Arsenal’s defenders put in a massive shift last night, Laurent Koscielny in particular was impressive.

His tackles, his forays into midfield and his general levels of commitment were top notch. Mertesacker complimented him well again. The manager should also now look into the form of Fabianski who made some good saved last night, and give him an extended run in the side.

Last season, the Gunners overturned a 3-1 home loss to a 2-0 win in Munich, and were still knocked out. This time, they have lost 2-0, and will attempt to overturn the same in 3 weeks time. I am an optimist, but realistically speaking, this tie is done and dusted. Bayern surely will have learnt their lesson, and while Arsene Wenger will give it a real go, and I really hope there is some sort of miracle, it is time we became pragmatic, and concentrate on the league and the FA Cup. Starting with the home clash against Sunderland on Saturday.

Jai Arsenal!

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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in 2013-2014, Match Reviews

 
 
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