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Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2 – Old Trafford Conquered!

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Manchester United 1 (Rooney 30) – Arsenal 2 (Monreal 25, Welbeck 61)

Man of the Match – Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)

Ever since I started supporting the Arsenal, I have always had a distaste for anything Manchester United. The club, the manager, the players, the merchandise, and their fans, of course. And, it’s understandable too, for when I started supporting Arsenal, it was the heady days of the epic Premier League rivalry between Wenger and Ferguson. And then, it all died down suddenly. Arsenal’s stadium building activity cost them not only their best players, but also trophies, as a 9 year trophy drought saw Manchester United win 5 league titles, a Champions League and 3 League Cups.

Add to that, the barren run against Manchester United themselves. Arsenal haven’t beaten their Northern rivals since a sunny day in May 2011, when Aaron Ramsey scored the winner in a 1-0 win at the Emirates. Arsenal haven’t won at Old Trafford in a long time either, with the last win being a 1-0 win in 2006, Emmanuel Adebayor scoring a late winner past Tomasz Kuszcak. In the FA Cup, the teams have met 15 times, Manchester United winning 8, Arsenal 6, including the Final twice, in 1979; when Alan Sunderland scored a late winner, and in 2006, when Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty after a 0-0 draw. And, more recently, Arsenal were drawn United at Old Trafford in 2008, where they were pummeled 4-0  and in 2011, where they lost 2-0 to a side that had 7 defenders in the starting line up.

Arsenal beat runners up Hull City 2-0 in a replay of last year’s final, Brighton away 3-2 and Middlesbrough 2-0 at home, while Manchester United beat Yeovil Town 2-0 away, Cambridge United in a home replay 3-0, and Preston 3-1 away. Recent form suggests both sides are in a mixed vein, with Arsenal winning league games against Aston Villa, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Everton and QPR, but also suffering the blips against Tottenham and Monaco, while Manchester United beat Burnley, Sunderland and Newcastle in recent games, but lost to Swansea.

Olivier Giroud was named on the bench in a surprising decision by the manager, and former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck startup up front against his old side. Tomas Rosicky was taken ill, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started in his place. Nacho Monreal started in place of Kieran Gibbs, while Wojciech Szczesny kept his place in the Cup games, instead of David Ospina. Manchester United started with Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia at right-back, with Chris Smalling and Argentine Marcos Rojo in defence, while Shaw faced his old pal Chamberlain on the flank. The trio of summer signings Ander Herrera, Angel di Maria and Daley Blind all started alongside Marouanne Fellaini, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney.

The opening exchanges between the two sides were cagey, as both teams looked to get a foothold of the game. Alexis was the first to have a shot on target, when he forced David de Gea into a save. Hector Bellerin picked up a yellow card for a foul on Ashley Young, but everyone’s guess is the bald diver conned the referee again with his theatrics. He then had a shot on target after being set up by Marrouane Fellaini, who was then involved in a clash of heads with French defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin, who seemed to have inflicted further damage to his nose.

Arsenal were looking composed on the ball, but rarely threatened against a Manchester United side that was putting together some disjointed attacks, but nothing too dangerous either. Arsenal then showed some spark, when Bellerin was released on the right, and his cross was cleared for a corner, but shockingly not given; before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who was making Luke Shaw work hard, flew a shot over the bar.

He immediately made up for it, minutes later, when he received the ball from Mesut Ozil, after the German combined with Nacho Monreal on the left flank. Chamberlain skipped past a couple of static Manchester United defenders neatly, and picked out Nacho Monreal, of all players, who was in a free position, unchallenged in the box. The Spanish left-back took one touch before calmly slotting the ball past David de Gea. 1-0 Arsenal on 25 minutes.

Arsenal’s joy lasted, just about 3 minutes, when Manchester United struck. Angel di Maria, primarily playing on the right flank, cut in to deliver a perfect cross to Wayne Rooney with his favored left-foot. The England striker was in a free space between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny and headed past a stranded Szczesny. 1-1 on 30 minutes.

Arsenal looked to hit back through Danny Welbeck, who looked keen to impress upon his return to his beloved Old Trafford. He was tugged by Marcos Rojo, near the edge of the box, but a penalty wasn’t given, and then he forced David de Gea into a fine save from a header, as the half came to a close.

Louis van Gaal rung in the changes at half-time, bringing on Phil Jones and Michael Carrick in place of the ineffective duo of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera. It was a strange decision bringing on Phil Jones at left-back. And, Arsenal were forced to make a substitution 3 minutes into the half, when the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain complained of a hamstring problem, and Arsene Wenger threw on Aaron Ramsey, instead of Theo Walcott, most probably to bolster the midfield.

The game started getting scruffy, as both teams made silly fouls. Marrouane Fellaini was lucky away to get away with most, but then picked up a booking for a foul on Ramsey. Ashley Young then fouled Welbeck and took a yellow card for his troubles. Danny Welbeck, who had put in a hard-working shift all evening, then struck a fatal blow to his former side.

Antonio Valencia inexplicably back-passed the ball to David de Gea, when under little pressure. However, the ball had little conviction. Welbeck, was alert, and raced on to the ball, rounded de Gea and slotted the ball into the net from 12 yards out. He wasn’t shy in celebrating his strike in front of the Old Trafford faithful either! 2-1 Arsenal.

Manchester United got even more grumpy after this, and started to cynically foul Arsenal players. Marcos Rojo received a yellow for a foul on Cazorla. Hector Bellerin escaped a second yellow, mostly by slyly walking away from the scene after a tackle on Ashley Young. He was immediately replaced by Callum Chambers. Chris Smalling then contrived to miss from a yard out when the ball had fallen to his feet. A Fellaini header was then saved after an assist from Young, before Alexis saw his shot from the edge of the box being saved. de Gea was called into action again when he had to make a brilliant save from a Cazorla close range volley.

Louis van Gaal used up his final substitution bringing on Belgian-Albanian-Turk-Kosovan-English midfielder Adnan Januzaj for Rojo while Welbeck left with a decent applause from the Manchester United crowd, as he was replaced by Olivier Giroud. The game then turned over its head when di Maria made full meal of a Ramsey challenge diving on to the floor like a piece of cardboard. Upon receiving yellow, he reacted angrily tugging at the referee’s shirt, and rightly received his second yellow and marching orders. This, at the most important stage of the game, with United searching for an equalizer.

Arsenal on the other hand were looking for a third, but weren’t able to put together a final pass in United’s third, while Manchester United, despite the numerical disadvantage were pushing for an equalizing goal. Most were directed towards Fellaini in search for a header, but Mertesacker and Koscielny were having a brilliant game. The multi-ethnic Adnan Januzaj tried the same cheap tricks again, which were employed by Ashley Young and Angel di Maria, and was booked for his dive in the box, when he tried to con the referee into thinking he was nudged by Nacho Monreal, when infact there was little or no contact.

The board showed 5 extra minutes, and Alexis had the chance to score a third, only for de Gea to pull off another stunning save. Arsenal held on for a deserved win, and knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup, which was realistically their only chance to win a trophy this season. There were several players who stood out on the night. Nacho Monreal manned his flank against Angel di Maria impressively, while Francis Coquelin won 10 of his 12 duels against Fellaini, albeit with a broken nose.

It may not have been the most fluent performance, but the win certainly felt good. The fact that it was despicable Manchester United, and one of their own driving the final nail, made it even more enjoyable. On to Wembley now for a semi-final against Reading!

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

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Queen’s Park Rangers 1 Arsenal 2 – Points, Glorious points!

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Queen’s Park Rangers 1 (Austin 82) – Arsenal 2 (Giroud 64, Sanchez 69)

Man of the Match – Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)

Having recovered from the shock 3-1 loss at home to Monaco in the first leg of the Round of 16 in the Champions League, with a solid 2-0 home win against Everton, Arsenal made the trip across London for a clash with relegation strugglers Queen’s Park Rangers. QPR, lie in 18th position, level on points with 17th placed Aston Villa and 19th placed Burnley, with only goal difference seperating the 3 teams.

QPR have been in dreadful form this year, having lost 5, drawn 1 and won only 1, a 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. The only bright light for QPR this season has been the form of striker Charlie Austin, who has scored 15 goals in the Premier League, and is leading their fight for survival. There was a change at the helm when Harry Redknapp was sacked and replaced by Chris Ramsey till the end of the season.

Laurent Koscielny was rested for this one, and the manager started the centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista for the first time. Francis Coquelin started, albeit with a mask that made him look like some superhero, while Tomas Rosicky was rewarded for his recent performances and goals against Brighton and Everton, with a start. The pacy English trio of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck were all named on the bench. Wojciech Szczesny pulled out with an illness, which meant there was a place for young Argentine Emiliano Martinez on the bench.

Queen’s Park Rangers started in earnest, and David Ospina was set for a busy match all night. Arsenal struggled to hold on to the ball, against a QPR side that seemed hungry and keen on taking control of a match on the small Loftus Road pitch. Up front, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora were proving to be more than a handful for Mertesacker and Paulista. QPR went with the long ball approach and used the physical presence of their strikers to unsettle the Arsenal defence. Austin tried a couple of shots from distance, both of which were easily saved by Ospina.

Coquelin was all action in the centre of the park, but the rest of Arsenal’s midfield was extremely sloppy, giving away the ball at regular intervals making life hard for the defenders. Rosicky, who had been lauded for his strong performances recently, seemed to be having an off day, as he gave away the ball several times, even in situations when there seemed to be little or no pressure. Arsenal’s real first chance of the game came in the 22nd minute, when Olivier Giroud found space behind QPR’s defence and tested Robert Green with a low shot.

Arsenal seemed to get better in the next few minutes, but QPR fought hard not to wrest the tempo to Arsenal. Arsenal were struggling to put together their passing game on a crowded pitch, as the home side continued to haggle the Arsenal midfield. Scotland international Matty Phillips then swung in a cross from the left, which Ospina managed to push away with a dive, only to Austin, whose volley went just wide, with the Colombian keeper in no shape to react. In the midst of all this, Gabriel was taken off due to an injury and replaced by Laurent Koscielny.

QPR defender Nedum Onouha, once of Manchester City, too was injured and Arsenal looked to capitalize on this. Giroud and Cazorla combined well, before the latter unleashed a volley, that was pushed away by Green. Veteran defender Clint Hill replaced Nedum Onouha as the half drew to a close. A half which was mostly dominated by the home side.

Arsenal looked a completely different team in the second half, and nearly scored in the opening minutes of the half. Rosicky made a fine darting run and crossed it to Mesut Ozil, who was just two yards away, but was pulled back by QPR midfielder Karl Henry, which denied Ozil the chance to score. Alexis collected the ball, but could only find the lower part of the post.

Alexis was in the thick of things by now, and having not scored in the last 7 games (his last goals were the brace in a 3-0 win against Stoke City) he seemed eager to put things right. Two his efforts went just wide as the hour mark approached, and in the 64th minute Arsenal got the breakthrough they were looking for. His dart towards the QPR area drew defenders towards him, and gave Gibbs a free run on the flank, and the left-back’s shot was blocked, but it fell to Giroud who scrambled the ball past the line to score. 1-0 Arsenal.

Alexis continued to trouble Rob Green, and his powerful shot troubled the England goalie. Green won the battle again, when the Chilean couldn’t convert having been sent through for a 1 on 1. He eventually managed to score though, to put Arsenal firmly in the driving seat. Collecting the ball from Kieran Gibbs on the left flank, he danced past static QPR defenders to squirm the ball between Green and the post to score his 19th goal of the season.

Hector Bellerin was outstanding on the night and his pace kept Arsenal buzzing. One of his crosses was met by Ozil, whose effort struck the post. QPR, buoyed by a vociferous home support, trudged on, and bought the game back to life with a goal. Charlie Austin turned inside the box and netted his 16th goal of the season to halve the deficit to 1-2.

Arsene Wenger replaced a tiring Tomas Rosicky with Aaron Ramsey, even as QPR looked to equalize in the dying moments. Arsenal managed to hold on to a glorious 3 points, that keeps them in 3rd and all set to take on Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

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Arsenal 2 Everton 0 – A Vital Morale-Boosting Win!

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Arsenal 2 (Giroud 39, Rosicky 89) – Everton 0

Man of the Match – David Ospina (Arsenal)

Following the shenanigans of the 3-1 capitulation at home to supposedly the weakest left in the top tier of European football competition, Arsenal faced the prospect of a tricky home tie to Everton. Now, Everton have had a poor season by their standards so far. A side, which in recent years that has been around the fringes of challenging for a top 4 position, languishes in 12th position in the table, with just 28 points picked up from 26 games.

European football next season may be a far flung dream, but most of it has been down due to the erratic form of the Toffees. Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku who powered home 15 league goals last season was bought in for a whopping club record fee of £28 million, but he has only 7 goals to his name this season. However, Everton haven’t been an easy team to beat ever.

Arsene Wenger decided to drop/rest Per Mertesacker and gave Gabriel Paulista his first league start, while Olivier Giroud kept his place in attack, despite a horrendous display against Monaco. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored the goal that still leaves us with some slight embers of hope in Europe came in for Danny Welbeck. Theo Walcott got the start too, and Andre Mariner, the same referee who took charge of Arsenal’s 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea last season had the prospect of manning a side that had Gibbs, Walcott and Chamberlain!

The opening 10 minutes were slow and nervy, with Arsenal looking to bounce back from the 3-1 loss, and Everton struggling with mediocre form. A Santi Cazorla corner was too high for everyone in the penalty box. Sanchez received it, beat a defender and crossed, but the cross too was high. Everton saw more of the ball in the opening exchanges, as Arsenal’s midfield lacked the composure required.

Everton had packed their midfield with Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Bosnian youngster Muhamed Besic. Everton had a great chance to go ahead, when a nervous piece of defending allowed Romelu Lukaku to have a go at goal. David Ospina, though, was equal to the big Belgian as he blocked his run and then produced a fine tackle outside the penalty area to clear a dangerous situation.

The Gunners were looking nervous overall, and Gabriel, probably anxious to make a good impression made a couple of basic errors. Arsenal’s first real chance of the game, when an Alexis Sanchez ball into the area saw Giroud diving in to head it home, but it went just wide. It was a brave attempt considering he almost been struck by a boot from Phil Jagielka.

Bright English midfielder Ross Barkley was then stopped in his tracks by a great Koscielny tackle, even though he should have gotten a yellow card as he was the last man. The game started to open up more, as Cazorla released Bellerin in the box, but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked by some committed Everton defending. Everton responded with a counter, and Kocielny contrived to make a costly error when he mistimed a tackle on Lukaku, which gave the Belgian another chance at goal. It required a timely challenge from Gabriel to stop him in his tracks.

There was relief around the stadium 3 minutes later, as Giroud scraped a Cazorla corner with his shin into the goal. It put us ahead just before the half time whistle. 1-0 Arsenal. Arsenal’s confidence seemed to grow, as a Cazorla shot had to be tipped over by American international goalkeeper Tim Howard. From the resulting corner, some clumsy defending by Besic almost resulted in an own goal, but Howard was alert. Arsenal went into the break with the narrow lead.

Olivier Giroud picked up a yellow card early in the second half, and from the resulting effort, Ospina had to be assured and alert to palm away a dangerous cross. Everton seemed determined to get the equalizing goal, as there were a series of corners, which Arsenal managed to clear somehow. On the other end, a rare foray saw Giroud and Jagielka hustle for the ball with their body strength, which the Frenchman won, but his shot was blocked, with what seemed to be a handball.

The game slowed down a bit, and became sluggish as it became a midfield battle with both teams squirming out in midfield. Bellerin got some rare space on the right hand side, but his touch deserted him, as he lost control of the ball, and it went out for a goalkick. Giroud and Cazorla then combined well, and the Spanish international’s shot from the edge of the box went way over.

Arsenal seemed to be looking for the perfect goal again when they constructed a fine passing move, but the final pass had too much weight, and Everton managed to clear the danger again. Ospina had to be alert in the 64th minute, when Lukaku got ahead of Gabriel and his powerful volley towards goal was saved from short range.

There was a pause in the game when Giroud and Coquelin accidentally quashed their heads against each other, with Coquelin bleeding from his nose. Former Sp*rs winger Aaron Lennon, who had come on for the ineffective Kevin Mirallas then tested Ospina, who had to hold on to the ball, with Lukaku lurking nearby. Gabriel seemed composed by now, and a sliding tackle on Ross Barkley helped clear some danger.

Laurent Koscielny then picked up a yellow card for a bad foul on Aaron Lennon. The heat combined with the players’ fatigue lead to both sides committing several mistakes. This meant more chances, and Arsenal had a great one, when Alexis won the ball in midfield, leading to a 3vs2 situation, but Mesut Ozil took too long to react and Everton averted the danger.

Tomas Rosicky was the first substitute on when he replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 80th minute. Ospina provided another brave moment when he had to come out and produce a punch in a crowd of players, thereby taking a hit on the ribs. Then, Sanchez came off for Welbeck and the bleeding Coquelin came off for Callum Chambers, as Arsenal looked to close down on the win.

And close down they did, as a Giroud header into the path of Ozil on the left flank, allowed the German to play a perfect pass to Czech Rosicky who had approached the edge of the box. His piledriver deflected off Jagielka and ended up into the back of Howard’s net. Arsenal could have had more, when Bellerin’s cross was met by a Giroud header, but it went just wide.

Arsenal kept the pressure on Everton in an additional time, that lasted 7 minutes. Cazorla dribbled his way into a crowd of Everton defenders but failed to capitalize, and another Rosicky shot saw Howard parry it away. Arsenal eventually saw off the 2-0 win. A vital win, that moves us into 3rd, 4 points behind Manchester City, and 1 ahead of Manchester United. Also, a much needed morale booster after the 3-1 loss to Monaco.

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 1 AS Monaco 3 – Suicidal First Leg!

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Arsenal 1 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 91) – AS Monaco 3 (Kondogbia 38, Berbatov 53, Ferreira-Carrasco 93)

Man of the Match – Joao Moutinho (Arsenal)

The reaction when Arsenal got one of the easiest draws in recent seasons in the knockout stages of the Champions League was palpable. Having been knocked out by Barcelona 6-3 and 4-3 in successive seasons in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, 4-3 by AC Milan in 2011/2012, 3-3 on away goals in 2012/2013 and 3-1 in 2013/2014 by Bayern Munich, you have to feel the Gunners had been hard done by an unfavorable draw. So, this time, when the chit showed AS Moncao, most Arsenal fans smacked their lips at the prospect.

However, 90 minutes were enough for Monaco to crush Arsenal in their own backyard and take back a formidable lead to their ground, where they have one of the meanest defensive records in all of Europe. After the narrow 2-1 win at Selhurst Park over Crystal Palace in the league, the manager decided to bring in Hector Bellerin in place of Callum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs in place of Nacho Monreal, but kept the same attacking 5 of Cazorla, Giroud, Ozil, Sanchez and Welbeck.

Arsenal got off to a bright start, creating a chance in the 2nd minute, when Welbeck turned his marker near the edge of the area, but his finish was lacking. The passing looked sprightly in the opening stages and some fine work from Cazorla almost set up Giroud. He then crossed in for Welbeck, but both chances went begging. In fact, it was only the start as Olivier Giroud suffered a harrowing evening in front of goal.

Arsenal were creating chances, and Sanchez was in the thick when he found Ozil with a long range pass, but the German couldn’t take it in his stride. A Sanchez cross nearly found Giroud in space, but the ball was too high for the French striker to connect. Monaco then took the sting out of Arsenal’s play, but didn’t really do anything with it, as both sides played some balanced football for a while. Arsenal chugged the ball towards Monaco, but failed to really create any opportunities. From a corner, Giroud headed wide.

After a sluggish phase in the game, Ozil looked to ignite some spark, when he spotted Sanchez near the edge of the box, but the Chilean tried to chip the keeper when he should have taken a shot on goal. Bellerin wasn’t having as easy outing either, as Monaco tried to hassle the young Spaniard. An acrobatic volley from Joao Moutinho went over by a distance. In the 36th minute, Arsenal seemed to put together a move, as a flick from Sanchez found Cazorla who released Bellerin on the right flank, but the cross wasn’t met by anything equal to it, as another chance was squandered.

Arsenal then conceded the first goal of the match, when Welbeck was robbed of the ball at half-line. Striker Geoffrey Kondogbia made a darting run towards Arsenal’s defenders, assisted by Portugal international Joao Moutinho and his shot deflected off Per Mertesacker past Ospina into the net, with Ospina non-reactive. Monaco lead the Emirates 1-0.

Arsenal knew they had to respond, and started the second half, just like they had started the first. Sanchez got the ball around a Monaco defender into Giroud with a cross, but he couldn’t convert it. In the 51st minute, Giroud should have done better than heading a ball over from a Cazorla free kick in a dangerous position. Arsenal paid for his profligacy. Mertesacker darted high up the pitch, leaving Arsenal short at the back. Anthony Martial was free to set up Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov, of all of 11 players Monaco had to score the second goal for the visitors. 2-0 Monaco on 53 minutes.

Arsenal still had little more than 37 minutes to bounce back, and they started off with a terrible miss. Olivier Giroud was the culprit again. Sanchez did some fine work and found himself in a great area to send a stinging shot towards Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic. The ball rebounded and fell right to the feet of Giroud, who contrived to miss from 6 yards out. He was taken off 3 minutes later, visibly devastated, and replaced by Theo Walcott.

Joao Moutinho was Monaco’s prime player as he was in the thick of all good things good about the French side. He almost helped his side take a 3-0 lead, when he turned and released a teammate for a 1 on1 with the keeper, but Ospina was quick to react and averted the danger.

In an almost laughable miss, Walcott looked like he had poked the ball past the keeper, but instead it fell to Welbeck, who had put the wrong shoes on. His shot hit straight at a fallen Walcott, and went over. Arsenal were looking extremely shaky at the back too, and Monaco looked composed. Some nervy defending from Koscielny nearly worked in Monaco’s favor but they failed to convert it to make it 3-0.

The defensive minded Francis Coquelin was sacrificed for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 69th minute, and the England midfielder had a quick impact on Arsenal’s attacking shape. He released Walcott with a fine through ball but the England striker failed to latch on to it. Arsenal’s jangled nerves at the back were for everyone to see as Moutinho almost got on goal, but Chamberlain made a vital last ditch sliding tackle.

There were more attempts to play through balls to Walcott, but Monaco snuffed out everything and seemed wary of the threat posed by Walcott’s pace. On 80 minutes, Cazorla was taken off for Tomas Rosicky as Arsene Wenger looked to inject some freshness and directness into the attack. Sanchez, then inexplicably miscued his shot from a corner, something he probably would have converted a couple of months earlier.

Arsenal finally managed to pull a goal back. A Sanchez corner in the 90th minute fell to the feet of Chamberlain who created space and unleashed a lovely shot to the top corner to make it 1-2. When it seemed like it was time to shut shop and take the 2-1 deficit to the second leg, Arsenal managed to hit themselves in the foot with an axe. A big one. Made of heavy iron. And chiseled to perfection with sharp edges.

Chamberlain lost possession, and a quick counter-attack saw Yanick Ferrera-Carrasco took full advantage to power home Monaco’s 3rd of the night, to make the scoreline look more glossy for the visiting team. What was supposed to be a simple passage into the quarter finals now looks like a Herculean task, as Arsenal should now score 3 at Monaco, where they have not conceded too many goals this season. 7 in all competitions I suppose.

It was a damaging night, after all the buildup to it, and how Arsene Wenger would navigate his current club to the next round of the competition after slaying his former club. Alas, that was not to be. There is the second leg, but far too often we have found ourselves in the same situation and a goal short from qualifying. Only time will tell!

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2 – Nervy 3 points!

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Crystal Palace 1 (Murray 94) – Arsenal 2 (Cazorla 8 (pen), Giroud 45)

Man of the Match – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

Arsenal well and truly know, more than any other club on the planet, how to make life difficult for themselves and their supporters. Even in situations when it seems like the team could be coasting to a comfortable team against some mediocre opposition, they know how to hit the axe on their own foot.

Well, the Crystal Palace game is one example, where Arsenal made it difficult for themselves, and had to end up scraping 3 points from a ground, where you would always expect Arsenal to return home with some easy points. There were changes made to the squad post the 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, with David Ospina returning in goal, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal replacing Gabriel Paulista and Kieran Gibbs, and Francis Coquelin coming in place of Mathieu Flamini. The manager had the luxury of choosing his vast array of attacking options, with Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud all starting. Jack Wilshere returned to the squad, and was named after 3 months out, following challenge from Paddy McNair, in the 2-1 loss to Manchester United.

The game turned out to be a comedy of errors in the opening moments, as the referee looked to take grip on the game. Mesut Ozil had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside. Francis Coquelin then got away with a rash challenge on striker Fraizer Campbell. In any other games, it would probably have been a red card. Nacho Monreal then rashly challenged on loan winger Wilfried Zaha, and escaped punishment.

Arsenal were awarded a penalty in the 8th minute, when Danny Welbeck collected the ball from Senegalese defender Pape Souare, who then took the England striker down with a clumsy looking challenge. Santi Cazorla kept his 100% record with penalties, and struck the penalty to his right, to make it 1-0.

The game got more physical after that as the home crowd pushed on Crystal Palace. An attack of Dwight Gayle, Frazier Campbell, Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha is heavy on pace and not easy to take on, and that meant loads of tackles, both well-timed and mistimed. Palace were making Arsenal really hard, and had a huge share of possession in midfield. They also made Monreal and Chambers work hard on the flanks. Francis Coquelin and Jordan Mutch were having an interesting contest and both saw yellow for not so aesthetic football tackles.

To Arsenal’s credit, Palace struggled to create an opening that would pose real danger, and Ospina had little to do. Arsenal could and probably should have made it 2-0 when Laurent Koscielny was unmarked in the box, but could only head wide off a corner. Arsenal, did however end the half with another goal. Olivier Giroud, on 49 goals for Arsenal, made it 50. It was poacher stuff, as Alexis released Welbeck in behind the Palace defence. However, his strike was parried away by long serving Argentine keeper Julian Speroni. Giroud was on hand to turn the ball in from close range.

Crystal Palace had to respond in the second half, and they got to the task in earnest. They won a barrage of corners, and came close through Zaha and Puncheon, only for some last ditch blocks that prevented the Eagles from getting one back. Olivier Giroud received a yellow when he took out Dwight Gayle, with an odd challenge. Alexis then crossed to Ozil, whose rare header struck the bar. The Gunners had a great chance to put the game to rest, when Ozil released Alexis, but the Chilean could only shoot wide after a brisk move.

Crystal Palace then threw on pacy Congo winger Yannik Bolasie in place of the injured Frazier Campbell, and it injected more pace and desire in the Palace attacks. Ospina had a crazy moment when he came charging from his goal to head the ball clear before clattering into Mertesacker. He then injured himself on the head minutes later.

Palace were relentless in their attacks as they looked to overturn the 2 goal deficit. A Souare cross was headed over by Gayle on 69 minutes, and a Jason Puncheon free-kick went just wide, with Ospina not reacting. Arsene Wenger decided to shuffle the system, taking off the offensive Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil, and bringing on left-back Kieran Gibbs and Tomas Rosicky. Alan Pardew took off Wales midfielder Joe Ledley and threw on lanky former Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi and Glen Murray in place of Dwight Gayle.

The final few minutes were frantic, and it seemed like the scoreline was 3-3 in a Cup final, and not 0-2 in a league game. Speroni drew a save off Giroud before Mutch forced Ospina into a save. Palace finally got the goal for all their endeavor, in the 94th minute, when Glen Murray bundled the ball home, from close range. Palace nearly snatched a point too, when the English striker’s header struck the post.

It was a heart stopping moment, but the referee blew the whistle seconds later as Arsenal bought home 3 vital points. With Manchester United’s loss at Swansea, Arsenal climb in to 3rd place, and are looking good ahead of the visit of Monaco!

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

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Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 0 – On to Old Trafford!

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Arsenal 2 (Giroud 27, 29) – Middlesbrough 0

Man of the Match – Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Having beaten Hull in a repeat of last year’s excellent FA Cup final and a tricky away trip to Brighton being completed successfully, Arsenal welcomed Championship high-flyers Middlesbrough, led by Aitor Karanka, once of Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid.

Arsene Wenger bought back Szczesny in goal in place of Ospina for this tie, and gave Brazilian Gabriel Paulista, his £12 million acquisition from Villarreal his first start in Arsenal colors. Callum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs started on the defensive flanks in place of Spaniards Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, both of whom have been in a rich vein of form. Francis Coquelin was rested, and instead Mathieu Flamini got a chance. The attack looked formidable, with Cazorla, Welbeck, Ozil, Alexis and Giroud all starting. There were concerns over the fitness of Alexis, after he suffered a swollen knee, following a challenge from former Arsenal cetnre-back Mathew Upson in the 2-1 win over Leicester.

Spanish goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, formerly of Real Madrid, who was Boro’s hero in their shock 2-0 win to knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup, was named in the starting line up and he was called upon to make a save in just the 4th minute, when he saved a low Santi Cazorla free-kick. Arsenal, as expected, showed more attacking endeavor, compared to their lower league opponents. Mejias was constantly in the thick of action and Kieran Gibbs made him work twice in the space of few minutes. First, he saved a low cross from the England left-back and then he had to be alert to avert the danger after Gibbs was played in beautifully by Cazorla.

Olivier Giroud then took a shot in the 14th minute, which was palmed away by Mejias. Alexis was on hand, but the angle was against him, and he ended up striking the side netting. Middlesbrough looked to stifle Arsenal and didn’t give them space to run at, especially on the wings, condensing the game, and making it hard for Ozil and Cazorla to play their through balls. Giroud saw another effort saved rather easily by Mejias, when he could have instead played it to a free Danny Welbeck.

Arsenal didn’t have to wait long, however, to take the lead. In a move, which involved all 11 players, from goalkeeper to striker, Arsenal produced a goal for the purists and the cameras. Cazorla played Gibbs down the left, who played it into Giroud for a finish from close range. Arsenal lead 1-0 in the 27th minute.

And the stadium was buzzing when seconds later, the ball was in the back of the net again. Following Arsenal’s corner, Alexis spotted Giroud’s run on the near post. He caught it on the volley and struck it sweetly, leaving Mejias with no chance to save whatsoever. 2-0 Arsenal on 29 minutes.

Arsenal could have been 3-0 up just minutes later, when Ozil’s fantastically placed pass to Alexis was caught by the Chilean, but Middlesbrough’s defenders somehow managed to scamper the ball away from crossing the line. Wojciech Szczesny made his first real contribution to the game, when he saved in the 39th minute from Ghana striker Albert Adomah. The striker made a burst from midfield, but Szczesny was alert. Arsenal continued to keep possession, but were happy with it, not really threatening Middlesbrough again before the break.

The second half started with Middlesbrough’s corner, which was latched on to by Danny Welbeck, but he couldn’t capitalize on his chance. Mathieu Flamini had a go from 25 yards out, but it went wide, before Welbeck was released by Chambers but his cross couldn’t find Giroud. Alexis then set up Ozil, but the German’s shot was well saved by Mejias, and then Alexis was wrongly adjudged to have handled the ball, when he had actually controlled it on his chest.

Karanka then bought on Belgian Jelle Vossen and English winger Adam Reach in place of Lee Tomlin and striker Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea. Gabriel received his first booking in English football when he upended Reach as he latched on to a wayward pass from Alexis. The resulting free kick was no good as it struck the wall. Kieran Gibbs then tested Mejias, but the Spaniard tipped it over the bar. Mejias then again made a brilliant save when Alexis nearly put the ball in the back of the net from a Cazorla free kick.

Alexis and Ozil seemed to be combining well all afternoon, as they created another chance, which Middlesbrough managed to snuff out. Arsene Wenger decided to bring on Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott in place of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. A Cazorla shot went just over the bar on 75 minutes. Gabriel seemed up for the English game as he put in a couple of decisive robust tackles, which could have been dangerous. Ozil then sent Walcott free, but the English winger couldn’t make full use of it. Chuba Akpom came on for Olivier Giroud, soon after.

Ozil had another go, but Mejia did not budge, before Walcott tested Mejia having been sent though by Rosicky. Adomah then took a chance, but his effort wide went through. Boro’s Spanish striker Kike then had the best chance of the game for the visitors, but it could only clonk against the post, as Arsenal held on for the win.

Of course, we could have hoped for a bigger scoreline, but for the heroics of the Middlesbrough keeper. Nevertheless, it’s a win which puts us in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. And the opponent is Manchester United, a team we haven’t beaten in 4 years; at Old Trafford, a location we haven’t won in 2006. But, anything is possible in the cup! Bring them on!

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 2 Leicester City 1 – Edgy 3 points!

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Arsenal 2 (Koscielny 27, Walcott 41) – Leicester City (Kramaric 61)

Man of the Match – Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

With a run of 5 games ending with a rather blunt loss to your nearest rivals, nerves and uncertainty are expected. And with an opponent like Leicester City, who can be a bag of surprises on their day, it wasn’t going to be an easy task for Arsenal to bounce back after the 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane.

Arsene Wenger rung in the changes after the disappointing loss, bringing in fit-again Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky, instead of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey. Leicester, in a relegation quagmire, had to release a statement on their website denying that manager Nigel Pearson had been sacked. The manager also discovered he wouldn’t be charged for a scuffle with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur. He was however banished to the stands, and spent time along with owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Leicester started with a back 5, clearly to frustrate Arsenal. However, the first chance of the match fell to Algerian international winger Riyad Mahrez, who was a livewire throughout. He stepped inside of Monreal, leaving the Spanish defender baffled, but his deflected shot drifted wide with Ospina having to make a lunge for it. Leicester almost scored from the resulting corner, but only for Alexis making a timely block.

Leicester had come with the intention of crowding out Arsenal’s defenders and they clearly succeeded in hussling and harrying Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean cutting a frustrated figure. He burst into the box, but was soon crowded out by Leicester’s defenders. On the other end, Mahrez was making things tick for the Foxes, as he drove into Arsenal’s box after beating an offside trap, but managed to only put his shot between Ospina’s legs and wide of the post.

Arsenal responded with an attack of their own. Mesut Ozil, who looks to be rediscovering his touch of old, spotted Theo Walcott in the box. The winger’s touch was good, but his finish was poor, as he hit straight at Australian international keeper Mark Schwarzer. From the resulting corner, Alexis could only head over, due to heavy pressure from Leicester’s defenders. Former Arsenal defender Mathew Upson then fouled Alexis, who took the resulting free kick. But, it could only strike it against the wall. Mesut Ozil then sublimely forced Schwarzer to push his toe-poked effort around the post for a corner.

Leicester’s defenders suddenly switched off, and Laurent Koscielny ambled past them to head home the opening goal from just metres away, on 27 minutes. Alexis was then hurt by another Upson challenge, and it seemed like he had taken a heavy knock, as he seemed hurt throughout. Arsenal were still struggling to get a proper foothold in the game, despite the 1-0 lead. Per Mertesacker brilliantly cleared on one dangerous occasion, before Mahrez again proved to be the bane of Arsenal’s defenders, as he made his way past them, only to curl an effort over the post.

The miss proved dear for Leicester, as Arsenal doubled their advantage, 4 minutes before the break. Hector Bellerin won the ball back and played it to Mesut Ozil in midfield. He unleashed a venomous shot, only for Schwarzer to parry it right into the path of Theo Walcott, who finished it to make it 2-0. It was the Englishman’s 3rd goal of the season, after having scored against Brighton in the FA Cup and Aston Villa in the league.

Mesut Ozil then put a free-kick just wide before half-time. David Ospina caused some nervous moments in his own box, when he came out to collect a corner but missed. Leicester, however, failed to capitalize as Arsenal went into the break with a comfortable looking 2-0 lead.

Arsenal started the second half better, and had penalty shouts turned down when the ball seemed to have struck Danny Simpson. The referee gave a corner instead, which Tomas Rosicky met with but could only shoot it wide. Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric then could shoot only straight at Ospina. Midfielder Matty James then had only Ospina to beat, but miscontrolled the ball, as Arsenal escaped yet again. Mathew Upson then was injured and replaced by Polish international Marcin Wasilewski.

Arsenal, by now were living dangerously and a Mertesacker clearance prevented any Leicester player from capitalizing after Ospina drew a save from Kramaric. From the resulting corner, Argentine veteran, and former Real Madrid and Inter Milan man Esteban Cambiasso seemed to have handled the ball as it fell to Kramaric, and the Croatian striker turned and rifled the ball home to reduce the deficit to 2-1.

Santi Cazorla responded almost immediately, with Schwarzer making a vital save. Arsene Wenger then bought off Alexis, who looked injured and not so effective, and replaced him with Olivier Giroud. Riyad Mahrez was growing in stature, and again he drove into the Arsenal defence, but could only shoot wide again. Aaron Ramsey then came on for Theo Walcott.

Leicester still looked more likely to score the next goal of the game, as Arsenal were repeatedly exposed, especially on the breaks. Kramaric raced after having been set off by a clearance from an Arsenal corner, but Ospina was alert and Kramaric’s attempt to chip the Colombian failed. Things got worse for Arsenal when Aaron Ramsey was injured and had to be replaced by Mathieu Flamini in the 82nd minute.

Arsenal braved 5 minutes of extra time, which included a bizarre yellow card, whose offense was receiving a kicking with the ball on his back by Schwarzer. It was vital to garner these 3 points, ahead of the important FA Cup 5th round clash against Middlesbrough.

Jai Arsenal :)

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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 
 
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