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Category Archives: 2012-2013

Newcastle Preview + Lineups – Crucial, Crucial Game!

The first question that popped into my head when I woke up this morning was “Will I get to celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day today?”. For the second season in a row, it has come down to the final round of fixtures to decide who finishes above whom in the North London battle for supremacy.

But apart from the bragging rights available in town, the bigger prize is that of qualification to the Champions League, something that not only promises financial rewards, but also helps attract players and keep the best existing players in the squad, er, yeah it really does!

This season has been hard. Starting off with the sale of the Dutch traitor to Manchester United to the incredible 7-5 win at Reading, getting knocked out of the League Cup against Bradford, before being humbled at home by Championship strugglers Blackburn Rovers, topsy turvy league form, a heroic performance in Munich and some rallying victories towards the fag end of the season. Another typical Arsenal season of trials, hits, misses, frustrations and tribulations.

Arsenal’s league form, in mid March, however, has slightly improved and the side now finds itself unbeaten in 9 league games, in which they garnered 2 home draws against Everton and Manchester United, apart from 7 wins.

To be honest, the 7 wins were close ones, including the 2-1 win at West Brom, the 3-1 revival against Norwich, 1-0 scrapes against Fulham and QPR, while the 4-1 beatings of Reading and Wigan added some gloss. Most games have been close, and nerve wracking right till the end.

This is something that definitely needs fixing over the summer. Arsenal managed to outpass their opponents for good part of the first half in most of the games I just mentioned, and even found themselves a goal ahead, but either failed to capitalize on the good starts or didn’t build on the one goal leads they took and found themselves in sticky situations, with last minute clearances, nerve wracking tackles and the sort.

Anyways, it was this series of results that have put Arsenal in pole position to finish in the top 4, at 70 points, with Tottenham on 69, and a chance to pip Chelsea, who face Everton at home, who are on 72 points.

There is still a possibility that this could not end up being the final competitive game of the season, with the Premier League proposing a play-off between Chelsea and Arsenal at Villa Park on 26th May 2013. Of course this game would be required only if the scenario of both sides ending up with the same points, goal difference, goals scored and goals conceded arises.

Chelsea have scored 73 goals and conceded 38, while the Gunners have scored 71 and conceded 37. Goal difference stands at +35 and +34 respectively, and I really wouldn’t mind having the play-off, as an extension to the season. Atleast the summer would feel a bit shorter. Being an Arsenal fan, I would however take a 4th place finish today gleefully, but Arsene Wenger really does fancy a play-off match.

If last season’s final day is anything to go by, it promises to be nail biting for sure. Arsenal traveled to West Brom with 67 points on the board, while Sp*rs hosted Fulham. Arsenal knew a win would ensure 3rd place, and took the lead in as early as the 2nd minute through Israel captain Yossi Benayoun thanks to comical goalkeeping from Martin Fulop.

But, within minutes, Arsenal were down 2-1 down thanks to some calamitous defending, which had become the norm last season. However, a certain Andre Santos made it 2-2, more thanks to Sir Martin Fulop. He came to Arsenal’s rescue again, and for a moment looked like he was possessed by the ghosts of Almunia and Fabianksi, when he came forward, flapped at the ball, allowing Laurent Koscielny to score the winner in the 54th minute.

While Sp*rs ensured a comfortable 2-0 win, Arsenal had to deal with bit nails and shivering hands, as Kieran Gibbs made a season changing 89th minute tackle, which prompted an impromptu hug between Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice. Aaaw! And, so we celebrated St. Totteringham’s day by throwing Pat Rice into the warm Birmingham sunlight, as the Dutch cunt applauded the travelling Arsenal support.

It was almost done and dusted, the race for Champions League spots last season, with Sp*rs enjoying a 10 point lead when they visited the Emirates in late February. However, a 5-2 mauling revived a faltering Arsenal and demoralized the chokers to such an extent that they barely recovered.

Right, enough of the history lesson, and let’s have a look at today’s opponents. Newcastle have had a mixed season. After the high of finishing 5th, when they took the league by storm, they find themselves in 13th position, and recently escaped relegation fears.

Manager Alan Pardew, who was the Manager of the Year, has found it hard to keep the same flow of results as last season. In the process he has lost his star striker Demba Ba to Chelsea, while also having to deal with unhappy Argentine captain Fabricio Collocini.

On the positive side, he has managed to attract half the France international side to the North East in the January transfer window. No, really. Right back Mathieu Debuchy joined from Lille for £5.5 million, centre back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, last seasons title winning captain from Montpellier for £6.7million, left back Massadio Haidara from Nancy for £2 million, winger Yoan Goufrran from Bordeaux for £1.4 million and bustling midfielder Moussa Sissoko from Toulouse for £2.1 million, to add to an already existing French contingent of Gabriel Obertan, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Romain Amalfitano and Sylvain Marveaux.

It has been a transitional season for the Magpies, and they face a massive summer as they prepare for next season. When the sides met back in December, it was a 7-3 thriller, with the second half proving to be one of the best attacking halves of Premier League football this season.

Walcott provided Arsenal the lead in the 20th minute, after being put through, before Demba Ba levelled matters in the 43rd minute. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain made it 2-1 after the break, before Marveaux’s tap in made it 2-2. Lukas Podolski gave Arsenal the lead in the 64th minute, but Demba Ba pegged the Gunners back within minutes.

Arsenal ran riot after that, with the introduction of Olivier Giroud, who scored a brace, and Walcott completing his hat-trick to make it 7-3 within the space of 20 minutes, and it could have been more had Giroud not struck the post.

Right, team news then. Mikel Arteta is a major doubt for the game with a calf strain, and Jack Wilshere is the favorite to start in his place. With the manager clearly having lost faith in Francis Coquelin, it will be interesting to watch if he plays Wilshere or captain Thomas Vermaelen, in a position where has almost never played before in. Wilshere faces a surgery very soon, and the captain has found himself out of favor in recent times.

Apart from that, Olivier Giroud is back in the squad after serving his suspension, and there will also be the left-back decision to make. Nacho Monreal has proved to be a very competitive and combative player, while Gibbs has maintained consistency recently.

For Newcastle, Tim Krul is injured while Rob Elliot is suspended after last week’s red card, which he received for handling the ball outside the area, against QPR. This means Steve Harper will be handed a start. The stage is set for him to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Martin Fulop. Harper, who has been at the club since 1993, will be playing for the last time in Newcastle colors.

Midfielder Cheikh Tiote (hamstring) was forced off early in the win over QPR last time out, but is expected to be fit to start. However, fellow enforcer Moussa Sissoko, striker Shola Ameobi and defender Ryan Taylor (all knee) are out. Davide Santon (hamstring) is back in training and could come back into contention, whilst Steven Taylor (illness) and Massadio Haidara (hamstring) could also return to the first-team squad.

Here is how I expect the teams to line up.

abEOcMqacoNewcastle look like a balanced side, but they are more imbalanced than it seems. Ridden with poor positioning and an error strewn defence, Arsenal will have to capitalize on these deficiencies that Newcastle possess.

Newcastle’s strength is their unpredictable style of play, with spontaneous players like Hatem Ben Arfa, Papis Cisse, Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye. Again, a quick start and a second goal before half time should help calm down nerves and ensure a relaxed second half, against a side that have little impetus to garner a result.

I prefer Lukas Podolski instead of Olivier Giroud up front. In the Champions League game against Montpellier, Giroud was well marshaled by Yanga-Mbiwa, and Mathieu Debuchy, his international teammate, er, knows the inside out of Giroud’s play. I am of course referring to the French kiss between Giroud and Debuchy, in an international game between France and Germany.

The other reason being, Podolski looks like he can lead the line, with his midweek brace against Wigan. Giroud would be a good option to get off the bench, if Arsenal can utilize his mobility and physicality to good effect.

One must remember that couple of seasons back Arsenal gave up a 4-0 lead, to draw 4-4 and drew again last season, on the first day of the campaign. It could be a fight to the finish for 4th spot!

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 

Wigan Preview + Lineups, Ferguson, Latic’s exploits and UCL Qualification

It’s been a long and hard 10 days without having to watch Arsenal strut their stuff on a football field. But, apart from that the past few days have been anything but boring.

First there was the announcement of retirement from management by Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester United, before the resulting appointment of David Moyes from Everton to take on the soon-to-be-vacant position at Old Trafford.

Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich completed their title wins in their respective leagues and Wigan managed to snatch the FA Cup from Manchester City in a hotly contested final at Wembley to win their first piece of silverware in 87 years. Big spending Manchester City then sacked Roberto Mancini.

And in some of the big derby games around the world, Benfica were stunned by a late Porto winner, while Turkish champions Galatasaray slumped to a 2-1 defeat to bitter Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce. And finally, the Serie A clash between AC Milan and AS Roma was marred by a section of Roma fans racially abusing Milan’s players. Some thoughts on the same, then.

Let’s start off with Alex Ferguson. I would be dishonest if I said I did not admire the achievements of the Scot at Manchester United. He took the club from being a drink house to the world’s most popular football team, and the most succesful English club in the space of 26 years, while instilling in the club a kind of winning mentality that not only intimidated opposition sides, but far too often referees as well.

13 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and a Club World Cup decorated his time at the club. He managed to buy some of the best footballers to have graced the Premiership, from Eric Cantona to Jaap Stam to, er..Juan Sebastien Veron to Cristiano Ronaldo.

There is no doubting that he retired at the very top, having safely toppled Liverpool off their perch by claiming United’s 20th crown, 2 more than Liverpool’s 18, a number which has been untroubled for over 2 decades now. He is by far the greatest manager in the league.

Well, as Arsenal fans, one can only fondly look back at the start of the millennium where Ferguson’s globetrotters pitted with Arsene Wenger’s greatest footballing sides for Premier League domination.

There were so many fantastic tussles, Arsenal winning 3-2 in the 1997/1998 season at home, before winning 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to Marc Overmars to eventually win their first title in 7 years. Then came a blinder of a goal from Ryan Giggs, on the way to a historic treble. There was the wonderful goal from Thierry Henry, numerous Barthez errors, the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’, which culminated in Martin Keown bitch slapping Ruud van Nistelrooy, the end of Arsenal’s unbeaten run, the FA Cup final win where the Gunners failed to turn up. Not to forget Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira having a go at each other at every possible ocassion.

And then it all ended abruptly. Manchester United regained lost ground while Arsenal went into a long rebuilding process and victories over their foes became sporadic. Arsenal did the double in 2006/2007, before the Red Devils knocked out the Gunners in the FA Cup and won 2-1 at Old Trafford to claim the league title as well.

A Champions League exit would also follow, as Manchester United kept piling their trophy cabinet with silverware. Probably the greatest humiliation would come when Arsenal were pounded 8-2 at Old Trafford. Even though the club and its fans eventually recovered, they were destined to lose their prize asset, striker Robin van Persie to Manchester United, to further vent the fury of the Arsenal faithful.

While a part of me will miss the big Wenger – Ferguson tussles, which have gone cold in recent years, I also heave a sigh of relief to the see the red-nosed man finally leave his position as manager of our foes. It will be interesting to watch how the Red Devils will deal with change.

On the other hand, I have despised the same man for his ways. His abusive behavior at times towards the press, his ranting at the officials when something didn’t go his sides way, his furious pointing at the watch, to extend extra time, his constant demeaning of opposition managers, his disregard for the FA in general (I have a hunch he was their secret agent or something!), his moaning at decisions at the end of games he lost, and oh, his hypocrisy.

Has there ever been a bigger hypocrite? Anyone with more double standards than him. He speaks highly of discipline on and off the pitch, while his players go kung-fu-ing rival fans, missing drug tests, intimidating referees, cheating and diving their way into winning penalties, defending his own players when it came to them committing any offence and in general his vile and abusive nature. Well, good riddance and thanks.

Now, to on to the next thing on the agenda. And it is Wigan. The small club from Lancashire which has just about managed to survive it out with the big boys in England for 8 years now, are rightfully the FA Cup winners.

Dubbed instantly as the underdogs, they went into the FA Cup final against last year’s Premier League champions and big spending mega rich Manchester City, with some grit between their teeth and rightfully claimed the victory as their own.

The Latics compensated for their lack of natural footballing talent with a workmanlike performance to wear out a City side, sprinkled with household footballing names. The likes of Shaun Maloney, Jordi Gomez, Callum McManaman, Paul Scharner, Arouna Kone, James McCarthy among others put in a brave performance to eventually win it through a late Ben Watson header. Goes to show that money alone in football doesn’t win you trophies.

City have had a long hard season, and their fall from FA Cup and Premier League triumphs in the space of 2 seasons, amidst heavy splurging of cash to a trophyless season, branded as a failure has been well chronicled. It all would end up with the City board deciding to sack manager Roberto Mancini for having failed to win anything at all; this morning, with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini the forerunner to succeed at the Etihad. Goes to show how fickle the world of football management is at some clubs.

Wigan come today to the Emirates in good spirits, a FA Cup win under their belt, and a massive relegation dogfight ahead of them. A loss today would signal the end of the Latic’s 8 year stay in the premier division, as they join the list of clubs that have the dubious distinction of winning a cup and getting relegated the same season.

Arsenal have their own agenda, of winning in order to propel their chances of finishing in the top 4 in the Premier League to secure Champions League qualification for next season. It could all come down to nerves and the question of who wants it more.

Wigan will come into the game a bit leggy and weary having played 3 times in the space of a week, this being their 4th game in 10 days. This included some naturally tiring encounters, a 3-2 win at West Brom, a 3-2 home loss to Swansea and the 1-0 win over Manchester City at Wembley; while Arsenal come into the game after a good 10 day break, their last game being a close 1-0 win over already relegated QPR – Quality Professionals Relegated.

The Premier League table proves to be a very interesting read. Chelsea and Tottenham have both played 37 games with 72 and 69 points respectively, while Arsenal now have played 36 games with 67 points on the board. Chelsea have a superior goal difference of +35, while Arsenal have +31, with Sp*rs lagging behind at +19.

Should Arsenal only manage a draw or even end up losing today, they would have to hope Sunderland do them a favor on the last day of the season, as they travel to White Hart Lane. And should that happen, Arsenal themselves will have to secure a win at Newcastle United, who are almost safe at this stage.

3rd place looks a bit beyond Arsenal’s reach and the only way to get there is to win both their remaining games, and hope Everton spoil Chelsea’s last day of the season. The Blues face Benfica in the Europa League final tomorrow evening. This should clear allpossible permutations and combinations.

Right, team news then. Kieran Gibbs and Lukasz Fabianski are both fit. I expect Kieran Gibbs to be picked ahead of Nacho Monreal, with Wojciech Szczesny continuing in goal. Jack Wilshere will have a ‘minor’ surgery at the end of the season, and the manager would want to play it safe by keeping the Englishman out of the squad.

So, the midfield should be the quartet of Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky; Arsenal player of the month Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. Olivier Giroud serves the last game of his 3 match suspension, which means Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott should start up front. The manager revealed recently about his decision to sub the German early in most games this season.

For Wigan, Jean Beausejour may return after missing the match at Wembley, but Maynor Figueroa, Ivan Ramis and Ronnie Stam remain on the sidelines.

This is how I expect the teams to lineup.

abEMoomaeaWigan employ an unconventional 3-5-2 formation. Emmerson Boyce, a right-back partners Antonin Alcaraz and boyhood Arsenal fan and Austria international Paul Scharner in defence. You would do well to remember that Scharner scored against Arsenal on his Wigan debut during his first stint with the club in the League Cup semi-final way back in 2006.

Wigan will look to make it as tight as possible and use the same tactics as they did against City, shoring up midfield and defence and using their two full backs Giovanny Espinoza and James McCarthur to full effect. The cup final winner Ben Watson is expected to start in midfield, in place of Jordi Gomez, to support the hard working duo of James McCarthy and Callum McManaman.

Arsenal will have to release the hand breaks and have a go at Wigan right from the word go. In the past couple of games, Theo Walcott has managed to put the Gunners ahead with just seconds gone on the clock and Arsenal will require another such start and apply pressure on the Latics.

It could get interesting after an hour or so, when Wigan’s exertions of the past week come into play and they tire out. An Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or a Gervinho introduced at this stage should be able to produce some fizz and pace for Arsenal, as they look for a win in a must-win game for both sides.

Last season, at almost the same stage, Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to a Victor Moses inspired Wigan who scored two quickfire goals through Franco di Santo and Jordi Gomez. A Thomas Vermaelen header reduced the deficit but an insipid and lackluster Arsenal failed to score again.

Such a result would be disastrous for the club, while a loss for Wigan would mean definite relegation. All ingredients set for an exciting encounter!

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 

QPR Preview + Lineups – Transfer Talk and More!

Another bright and sunny day out here, another Saturday, and an all important Premier League game for Arsenal today.

With draws against Everton and Manchester United very recently, the pendulum has swung slightly into the favor of Tottenham again, to secure that all important 4th spot. Sp*rs play already safe Southampton this weekend, knowing that a win would take them a point ahead of the Gunners, even if for a short period of time.

With reports in the week suggesting that Arsenal are set for a major transfer overhaul in the coming summer, a frenzy of transfer rumors have broken out. From the believable to the downright ridiculous.

One of the major rumors is the possible return of Cesc Fabregas to North London, who is currently going through a rather tumultuous phase with Barcelona. Reports also suggest that Arsenal are precariously close to sealing the signature of Stevan Jovetic from Fiorentina, in a deal akin to that of Lukas Podolski last summer.

In terms of players going out, the major news has been that of Galatasaray looking to price away either of Lukas Podolski or Gervinho as they continue their rebuilding process assembling an array of stars. The manager said the following about the up coming transfer window.

We have gone through a period that was very sensitive, we are coming out of it now, in a much stronger position financially.I believe that this club is today in a very, very strong position and has gone through a very sensitive period in a very intelligent way. After that, everything is here to have a great future.We have a good fanbase, we have now a strong financial situation, we have good young players and a squad with a bright future with the quality of the young players we have. It is just to manage it well now.

Arsene Wenger was yet again linked with a move to mega-rich French giants PSG, but quashed any such rumors.

I answered that question already. I respect my contracts. I want to stay on if I do well and if I consider or the club considers that I do well, that is all.I want this club to do well, that is my basic feeling.

It will be interesting to watch again how the club’s transfers are dealt with. After seeing star after star leave, and his youth project dismantled, the manager has learnt his lessons, and put his best English youngsters on long term contracts. Plus, he has managed to add some fine continental talent to go with it.

By the looks of it, that policy will continue to be in place, as the club seeks to clear all the deadwood that exists, which should free up a substantial amount of salary space. Players on whom the club will have to work hard to hold on to will be Bacary Sagna, who has been at the end of some costly errors of late; Thomas Vermaelen, the out-of favour captain and Francis Coquelin, supposedly unhappy with the lack of chances.

To more important matters for the moment then. With Olivier Giroud still serving his 3 match suspension, it looks likely that Lukas Podolski will start up front, despite an average performance against Manchester United.

Apart from that Jack Wilshere, Nacho Monreal all are back into the squad, so that means that the manager has a fully fit squad to choose from. Lukasz Fabianski, however, remains sidelined.

Already relegated QPR are a team full of individuals who have managed to hurt Arsenal in the past. They have only pride to play for, but Arsenal will have to be on their heels at all times during the game. Arsenal lost 2-1 at Loftus Road last season, after going through a 7 match winning streak. Bobby Zamora is one such player, who seems to have a knack of reserving his best against the Gunners. There is also the added Sp*rs connection, in Jermaine Jenas and Andros Townsend. Christopher Samba could be recalled into the squad. Former Arsenal left back Armand Traore is in contention to start as well.

Here is how I expect the two sides to line up.

abEIGk5afPArsenal will have to deal with the added physicality of Loic Remy up front, who is a self confessed Arsenal fan and been linked with a move to the Emirates for some time now. Andros Townsend has been one bright spark in otherwise what has been an abysmal season for the heavy spending London outfit.

The transfer policy to sign top players, out of favour elsewhere has come back hard to hit QPR, who were relegated along with Reading, after the two sides played out an insipid draw. However, Arsenal enough will be enough motivation for Harry Redknapp, to secure a win for the Hoops.

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 

Everton Preview + Lineups

It seems strange that there is an Arsenal match tonight, after all the lulls that we have gone through after the past few weeks, since being knocked out of the Champions League at Bayern.

The last time there was a flurry of Arsenal games, was in January, where Arsenal had to make do with the Saturday-Tuesday/Wednesday-Saturday styled fixture list for 4 long weeks. With the recent resurgence in form, I am not complaining about games coming in thick and fast.

Everton at home, apart from Manure at home will be one of the trickier of the ties we will have to negotiate from now till the end of the season. That said, Everton have been punching above their weight for quite some time now, and despite financial limitations, which eventually has meant a limited squad, they have enjoyed a pretty good season.

Still in the reckoning for a top 4 finish, and lying just 3 points off Chelsea and Sp*rs, and 4 points off us, David Moyes has managed to construct another hard working unit, sprinkled with dogged players and some fine individual players like Leighton Baines, Marroane Fellaini, Steven Piennar etc.

Arsenal, on the other hand on the bounce of 7 wins in the last 8 league games, will have a chance to go 7 points clear of Sp*rs, by Saturday, to mount more pressure on the famous bottlers. Everton know anything but a win will dent their chances of making it into the elite, so this game could be more cagey than open.

Arsenal have an almost fully fit squad now, with Tomas Rosicky being adjudged fit to play. It will be interesting to see if the manager decided to reinstate the Czech international back into the squad, or keep faith in Jack Wilshere, about whom he admitted was rushed back into action against Norwich.

Apart from that, the manager will have to decide whether to start Gervinho, who was back to his apalling best against Norwich, or play Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who contributed with an assist, or Theo Walcott, who immediately provided an impact, or Lukas Podolski, who scored right at the end.

Olivier Giroud could really do with a rest, having lead the line over the past few weeks, but I suspect that would happen, and I feel a Podolski – Giroud – Walcott up front is the best attacking option at the moment.

Aaron Ramsey did not put a foot wrong against Norwich, and has been impressive over the past few weeks. So, he should definitely keep his place along side Arteta. The thinking point for the manager would be whether to start with the combination of Cazorla and Wilshere, or Cazorla and Rosicky to supply the front two.

Apart from that, he will also have to take a decision as to who will partner Laurent Koscielny in the centre of defence. The skipper Thomas Vermaelen, who had a decent outing against Norwich, or Per Mertesacker, his most trusted defender at the moment. I have a feeling Mertesacker will get the nod.

Lukasz Fabianski is out after receiving a kick to the ribs, during the Norwich game, which means Szczesny will return to the squad. Another interesting watch.

Everton have no injury concerns. This is how I expect the two sides to line up.

abECjVbamREverton will definitely battle hard, and it is going to be a very hard game for Arsenal. Mikel Arteta knows all about the Toffess, who he says are a side that never give up.

Arsenal will have to deal with the towering Fellaini in midfield, while Darron Gibson is a player not afraid to take his shots from long range. Victor Anichebe will be a constant menace for Arsenal’s defenders, with his pace and strength.

Leighton Baines has created over a 100 chances, from left-back, which is an achievement in itself, but he is not one to shun his defensive duties. Olivier Giroud will have to be at his best, to tackle a physical defensive partnership of Jagielka and Distin.

3 points are vital to keep the momentum going, and to ensure the pendulum doesn’t swing back to Sp*rs favour. It will be a great game to watch!

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 

Norwich Preview + Lineups, Rotation and Form

Another Saturday has arrived, and things seem very quiet at the moment. There was of course plenty of action throughout the week, and with Arsenal not involved, there wasn’t much really to talk about or dissect.

Manchester City reduced the gap at the top with Manchester United by a meagre 12 points, and o Tuesday we had a football extravaganza, with Malaga and Real Madrid narrowly losing out to Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray. Barcelona sneaked past Paris Saint German, while Bayern Munich stamped their authority over a subdued Italian champions Juventus, to win the tie by 4 unanswered goals.

Oh, and not too long ago, Sp*rs were slogged on to a penalty shootout loss in Basel. Which will of course do us no harm. Chelsea managed to sneak past Russian side Rubin Kazan, despite losing 3-2. Oh, and they still have Manchester City to contend with on Sunday in the FA Cup. So, that would of course mean a fixture pile-up.

What this doesn’t mean, however, is that we can take a bit of a rest. There are just 7 games to go this season, and time for the team to buck up and put in that final shift to confirm 3rd or 4th spot, to ensure Champions League football next season.

Norwich come visiting today, and although they look safe from relegation, they wouldn’t be taking this game lightly at all. Take last season for example. Norwich came to the Emirates with nothing to play for, went behind early, but then gave Arsenal a torrid time, taking a 2-1 lead. The traitor managed to put two past the Canaries to make it 3-2, but some disastrous midfield passing from Alex Song, and Norwich left with a point.

Of course, they aren’t entirely safe, just 4 points above the drop zone, and manager Chris Houghton will have them well drilled and well prepared for the game. Norwich have already beaten us this season, and also table toppers Manchester United, although they were both home games for them.

Recent form has been patchy for the men in yellow, with just 1 win in their last 15 Premier League games, a 2-1 home win against Everton. This run included 7 losses, 7 draws, and also an FA Cup exit at the hands on non-leaugue Luton Town.

Arsenal’s Premier League form has seen some semblance of improvement recently, with 6 wins in the last 7 games, including hard earned wins over Stoke, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion. The only loss came away at White Hart Lane, against Sp*rs.

The recent run brings memories of last season, when Arsenal had nothing but a top 4 finish to play for, and went on a 7 game winning streak, to eventually stuttering, before finishing in 3rd place. Sp*rs were eventually unable to play in the Champions League, owing to Chelsea’s win in the competition. Nothing of that sort this season, as it has come down to a showdown between the finest of Germany and Spain.

Last week’s win over West Brom was a typical Arsenal display. They were on top of the game, with two well-taken goals from Tomas Rosicky and then pressed the self-destruct button with the sending off of Per Mertesacker and the concession of a penalty. Arsenal eventually battled to hold on, but they almost nearly lost the match, as the Baggies missed a host of chances.

With Mertesacker suspended, the logical choice would be to start Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of defence, along side Laurent Koscielny. The Belgian has been on the sidelines ever since he was dropped for the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Munich, and this should provide the perfect stage for him to make a return to the squad, and prove his abilities.

It has been strange that a tough-tackling, aggressive, goal-scoring defender, who quickly became a fan favorite became a pale shadow of himself since he was handed over the captain’s armband. His performances this season have been mixed, with little consistency, as he has struggled with confidence and the burden of leading out the team.

Hopefully, the stint on the sidelines would have done him some good. Same goes with Wojciech Szczesny, who was dropped for the away Munich game as well, and lost his place to fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski, who I should say, was back to his usual self, against West Brom. Flapping at every ball, punching poor opposition players in the face in an attempt to retrieve the ball, and inaccurate distribution.

I personally would like to see Szczesny in goal, as I feel he is the better of the two. Of course, he needs some competition  but Fabianski is not that. A new goalkeeper in the transfer window please.

The boss spoke about the position of the captain, and was in full support of the Belgian, who he claims will stay at the club. Apart from that, rumours are strife that Andrei Arshavin could leave the club after his contract expires. Oh, what he could have been. Let’s talk about it some other time, shall we.

Team news, then. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are back in the squad. Gervinho’s recent form should suggest that the Ivorian get a chance. Elsewhere, Tomas Rosicky is a big doubt for Norwich, with a hamstring problem. And, it seems like a case of two steps forward, one step back for the Czech. I would like to see Lukas Podolski play. I haven’t seen much of him this season, and I do not understand the manager’s reluctance to play him all the time.

For Norwich, goalkeepers John Ruddy and Mark Bunn are injured, so Lee Camp should deputize. Anthony Pilkington is back in the squad.

Here is how I expect the two sides to line up.

abEA8LGakXThe most interesting battle of the day could be fought out between Olivier Giroud and Sebastien Bassong. Elsewhere, Norwich will look to keep it tight in midfield, hoping to stifle Arsenal, and playing a lone man up front would also help them in holding up play.

It is again upto Arsenal to take the game to the opposition, and secure 3 points to move one point ahead of both Chelsea and Sp*rs, who aren’t playing this weekend!

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 

West Brom Preview + Lineups – A tough Midlands test!

It seems eerily spooky in here! It’s been a while since there has been activity of any sort over here! But, fear not, as I announce my arrival to clear the cobwebs and dust that have been covering this blog over the past few weeks.

The reason for this lull, has partially been the Interlull that happened so very recently. Add to that me travelling a small length, of this colossus of a country called India. And, further to compound the woes of my blog, I have been dumped so much work that I find it hard to even scratch my ass these days.

Well, anyways, last week’s 4-1 win against Reading, was the first full match I missed this season. The other one was the first half against Swansea, in the league, when we lost 2-0 at home. Both those times, I was having a gala time at one of the million shacks that dot Goa’s pristine beaches.

I realized that I had missed the performance of the season from Gervinho, who scored once, and created two others. Olivier Giroud’s finish was sumptuous to say in the least, and it’s now time to push on and secure what is left of the season. A top 4 finish, and a direct qualification into Europe’s premier club football competition.

Today’s game is a challenging away day at West Bromwich Albion, the very scene of last season’s great escape to secure 3rd spot, and seal Champions League qualification. After going ahead through a 2nd minute goal from Israeli Yossi Benayoun, Arsenal quickly found themselves 2-1 down, thanks to calamitous defending.

Never mind. Up stepped the Brazilian football god, named Andre Santos, and Laurent Koscielny secured the all important goal in the second half. The West Brom goalie that afternoon, Martin Fulop was so horrendous, it seemed that he was possessed by some weird Roy Carroll kinda spirit. There was that last ditch Gibbs tackle as well, which bought about a heart warming moment between Messrs Wenger and Pat Rice. Of course there was the Dutch cunt too, waving his goodbyes, and the ever-so-loyal Irishman Pat Rice was given a farewell to remember.

Arsenal, now knowing that the race for Champions League qualification will go right down to the wire, after Chelsea’s and Sp*rs slipped over the last few games, while Arsenal have managed to ride out a rough patch, and are stringing a run of victories together.

The last Arsenal game I saw was the win at Swansea, and Arsenal had to dig deep to secure all 3 points. And that game seems like ages away. There seems to be a slight change in mentality, and the team looks like they believe in themselves again.

Arsene Wenger’s faith in Lukasz Fabianski is set to continue, after the Pole conceded just once in the last 3 games. Laurent Koscielny too is expected to keep his place in the squad. Kieran Gibbs, who started against Reading will start again, as the manager may not want to rush Monreal back into action.

With Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott still out, there could finally be a start for Lukas Podolski, while in midfield, the manager could opt for the quartet of Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey and Cazorla. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho are other options up front.

West Brom are without Youseff Mulumbu, who picked up a suspension in the 3-1 loss to West Ham last weekend, but James Morrison is expected to start in his place. Here is how I expect the teams to line up.

abEyBFKacF

The defence can expect a tough day in office, with the physical Lukaku leading the line. Arsenal have struggled the likes of Lukaku in the past. Shane Long has scored 9 goals this season, and will be a goal threat himself.

Arsenal will have to get out of the traps early, and dominate proceedings in midfield as West Brom play a really midfield centric game, which has yielded some really positive results for them this season.

All in all, it could be an exciting game, and a must win one for Arsenal! Can’t wait for this one to get started!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

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Posted by on April 6, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 

Swansea Preview + Lineups

Well, this is embarrassing. For the first time this season, I will be posting a match preview, before I post the match review of the previous game.

It has been extremely hectic for me the past week, to keep up with the blog, considering my project manager has been hounding me to get a particular project up and running. I have had to work 10 hour shifts, and I return home like some ruffed up and exhausted soldier, after a weary battle.

Add to that, the frustrating life of being a software developer, with little or no incentive to work. There’s barely a social life, and at the moment it is only watching the games with the lads, whenever I am in Bangalore.

Anyways, I am not going to bore you. The match reviews should be up soon. And we have a game to look forward to today.

The Bayern game bought out a lot of emotions from me. Sheer ecstasy at Giroud’s early goal, some abusing at Ramsey’s wayward passing, a bit of wowing at Koscielny’s tackling, a few heart-stopping moments when Fabianski appeared on the screen, cringing at Gervinho’s introduction, ballisticness at Koscielny’s goal, ranting at Bayern’s loser attitude, and of course ‘down-to-the-knees-face-in-hand’ at the final whistle.

Like against Milan last year, the team made us dream the impossible dream, albeit for a small time. At the end of the day, however, we were knocked out on the technicality, termed as “The Away Goals Rule”.

It was a massive performance from the team, slagged off at every opportunity, for their under performances over the course of the season. But, now it’s time to carry this result forward, and aim for whatever is left this season, finishing in the top 4, above Sp*rs, for Christ’s sake.

There will be some rotation for sure. Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna are out. Also, Kieran Gibbs is likely to be rested, having played in a high intensity encounter, just after returning from injury. That means a start for Nacho Monreal.

Apart from that, Arsene Wenger may reinstate Belgian Thomas Vermaelen and Wojciech Szczesny back into the squad, after some baseless rumours in midweek that the pair will be offloaded at the end of the season. In midfield, Abou Diaby…do I need say more.

Swansea have injury worries of their own, with Chico Flores and Kemy Augustien ruled out. Neil Taylor is still recovering, while Leon Britton and Wayne Routledge are included in the squad.

Here is how I expect the teams to lineup.

abEqXXRal0Swansea are on the high, after their cup winning exploits this season, and surely will be brimming with confidence. Arsenal have now deployed a very high defensive line, and it may be exposed ruthlessly, unless it is tightened up.

Michu, Routledge, de Guzman are the kind of players who can really pick a pass. Arsenal will however have to stick to their own game and constantly press a Swans team, that likes to pass.

Thanks to Liverpool, the gap is now down to 4 points, and with 10 games to go, anything is possible. About time the team bucks up and makes those games count!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Previews

 
 
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