Category Archives: 2013-2014

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:


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. Β 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 πŸ™‚


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


Southampton Preview + Lineups

And, we are back and rolling. It’s been an excruciating couple of weeks without watching Arsenal play, and while we have been subject to international friendlies and all so important World Cup play-off’s, it just ain’t the same adrenaline rush.

The next international break isn’t until March or something, so there’s plenty of club football, including a heavy December round of fixtures to look forward to. It all starts tonight as the high flying Saints pay a visit to the Emirates Stadium.

The defeat against Manchester United, though narrow has left a bitter after taste, and there is no better way to rectify it than with a win. As I mentioned in my match review, I felt the difference between the sides wasn’t too big, and maybe it was just fatigue and the location that may have eventually played into the hands of United.

Arsenal, despite the loss are still 2 points clear of 2nd placed Liverpool, and just 3 points clear of today’s opponents Southampton. Despite the series of 8 wins in 9 games before the Manchester United defeat, the margins remain so tight, which just goes to show how intense the competition for the title is going to be this season.

Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment in place of the popular Nigel Adkins came as a shock to many, considering the he had led the Saints to consecutive promotions to a position of safety in the Premier League. An accomplished defender himself in his playing days for Argentina, Espanyol and Paris Saint Germain, he has managed to build a water tight defence, second best in Europe to high flying Roma in Italy.

They started their league campaign with a 1-0 away win at West Brom, before drawing at home to Sunderland, and then losing at Norwich. After a dull goalless draw at West Ham, they beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield, and then won 3 consecutive home games with a margin of 2-0 against struggling Crystal Palace, Swansea and Fulham, with a late 1-1 draw against Manchester United sandwiched in between. A tough away point at Stoke was followed by a 4-1 trouncing of Hull.

Artur Boruc has been in tremendous form this season, and has been helped by his central defensive partnership of Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren. Young left back Luke Shaw too has been impressive. Kenya international Victor Wayama was acquired from Celtic forΒ Β£12.5m and has been instrumental this season, surrounded by Morgan Schneiderlein, James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez.Β Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana have earned international call ups for England this year with their stellar performances.

Right, team news then. Former Southampton starlet Theo Walcott is set to return to the bench. Per Mertesacker is expected to replace Thomas Vermaelen, who put in a solid shift at Old Trafford. Tomas Rosicky, who missed the game through flu, is still out. Mathieu Flamini is suspended having picked up his 5th yellow card at Old Trafford, which means Jack Wilshere could start, despite concerns of his fitness earlier this week.

This is how I expect the teams to line up.

abFUjYfammLong back in time, approximately 9 years ago, Arsenal’s unbeaten run came to an end at Old Trafford. Arsenal hosted Southampton the next game, and required a late van Cunty screamer to draw 2-2.

Let’s hope that’s not the case today, and we get the required 3 points. Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚


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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews


Chelsea Preview + Lineups – Wenger vs Mourinho!

It is the start of a hectic and tough period of football. Arsenal host Chelsea tonight in the Capitol One Cup, as the Gunners are slated to face Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United over the course of the next 2 weeks.

This is the first time Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho will clash with Wenger’s Arsenal, since the Portugese returned to the helm in the summer. The pair have been involved in verbal tussles earlier, when Chelsea emerged as a dominant force in English football, just when Arsenal went into a transition phase.

It all started when Mourinho responded to Wenger’s criticism of Chelsea’s exorbitant spending in the transfer market, by branding the Frenchman aΒ voyeur. It got worse, a year later, when a youthful Arsenal side would face star studded Chelsea in the League Cup Final. Mourinho was keen on pointing out his superiority over his arch rival, by bringing up the topic of winning the Champions League. Mourinho had won the competition with Porto in 2004, and went on to do so again in 2010 with Inter Milan, whereas Wenger lost the 2006 Champions League Final to Ronaldinho’s Barcelona.

The tension between the managers descended onto the pitch, as Arsenal failed to build on Theo Walcott’s first goal for Arsenal, by conceding two goals from Didier Drogba. At the end of the match, there was a 20 man brawl, with both managers getting involved in the scuffle, by trying to separate the players. In the post match celebrations, Mourinho was spotted showing the number 5 to the Chelsea fans, in an indication of the number of trophies he’d won at Chelsea.

Mourinho would leave the West London club in few months time, to Inter, yet continued targeting Wenger, still struggling to build a team worthy of challenging for top honors.

“I’m not the person to be in a club three or four years without winning a trophy. Maybe Wenger should explain to Arsenal supporters how he cannot win a single little trophy since 2005.”

By 2010, Jose was in Real Madrid, and in reaction to his strategy to get his players yellow carded in a group game, ahead of the important knockout stages, Wenger had this to say.

“It’s a pity to see that from a big club,” he said. “It looks, frankly, horrible.”

This would of course no pass by without a reaction.

“Instead of speaking about Real Madrid, Mr Wenger should speak about Arsenal and explain how he lost 2-0 against a team in the Champions League for the first time [FC Braga].”

All hostilities were however put aside, as the two were snapped smiling and sharing a joke at the UEFA coaching forum in 2011. And, in yesterday’s press conference, Mourinho was quoted as saying,

Β “We have no problems, no problems at all”.

There is certainly a history and background to this fixture, and the relationship between the two managers probably helps increase the profile of the clash. The Portugese manager criticized the FA for the scheduling of the game, less than 48 hours after Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Manchester City, which they ended up winning 2-1, thanks to a late strike from Fernando Torres.

After earlier claiming to play a youthful side, he has now changed his mind and will play his first team players, who weren’t involved in the clash with City. Chelsea would still be able to field players of the likes of Demba Ba, Wilian, Kevin de Bruyne, Michael Essien, Jon Mikel Obi etc.

Arsenal have several injury and suspension problems of their own. Mikel Arteta is suspended after picking up a direct red against Crystal Palace over the weekend. Mathieu Flamini, who went off, is out for 2 weeks, which will be a major blow. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski still remain on the sidelines. This is how I expect the sides to line up. Youngsters Gedion Zelalem, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld are doubtful due to some knocks.

abFLnIsaf8Chelsea have a flexible formation. Mourinho could start with two physical strikers up front, in Demba Ba and Samuel EtoΓ³. Chelsea could also replace one of the strikers with young midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.

This will definitely be an exciting encounter! Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚


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

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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews


Borussia Dortmund Preview + Lineups

The ‘serious business’ portion of the season is here, and it starts tonight with the visit of Borussia Dortmund to the Emirates Stadium. With many saying Arsenal have had an easy start to the season, playing only the smaller teams, it is how the Gunners perform over the next few weeks against opposition such as Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United that they will be rated as contenders.

Dortmund come into this game in great domestic form, just 1 point behind rivals Bayern Munich. Dortmund have however scored more goals that Bayern, and have coped well with the loss of their star midfield man Mario Gotze, who moved to none other than Bayern forΒ Β£31.5 million in the summer.

The German club, who lost the Champions League final last season to Bayern, by a margin of 2-1, will be looking to reach the final again this season. There are a lot of similarities between Arsenal and Dortmund in recent seasons, with Dortmund having to sell off their best players, and come out of financial irregularities to winning the Bundesliga. Arsenal, on the other hand have gone through a transition phase, with the new stadium, and also having to sell their best players to rivals.

Dortmund have made some good signings over the summer, such as theΒ Β£25 million capture of Armenia international Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Shakhthar Donetsk, theΒ Β£12 million signing of forward Pierre Emerick Aubameyang from Saint Etienne, and theΒ Β£9 million signing of defender Sokratis Papasthapoulos from Werder Bremen.

It is set up for an exciting night of football, of two sides with so much footballing talent on offer. Arsenal, currently sitting on top of the Premier League, against an exciting young Dortmund side, narrowly second in the German Bundesliga.

Two seasons back, Arsenal emerged with a draw from the Westfallenstadion in Germany, after a late equalizing goal from Dortmund’s Ivan Perisic, while winning 2-1 at home courtesy a brace from Robin van Persie.

Arsene Wenger will have some job to do with the team selection, now that he has plenty of midfielders to choose from. Despite the absence of Mathieu Flamini, he will have to decide which 5 to start from Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla and Rosicky. Rosicky will definitely relish the chance to play against his former club, while the tantalizing prospect of Ozil and Cazorla is too hard to avoid.

Mathieu Flamini is ruled out of the game as a precaution, while Walcott, Podolski and Chamberlain remain out of action Dortmund have some injury problems, with Lukasz Piszczek and all action midfileder Ilkay Gundogan out for the long term. Sebastien Kehl and Jonas Hoffman face late fitness tests. The trio of Marcel Schmelzer, Marco Reus and Sven Bender made their returns from injury recently in a 1-0 win over Hannover.

This is how I expect the two teams to line up.

abFIKPcalfDortmund are fast, exciting and enterprising. Arsenal should stick to their tactics, and attack from the word go, just like they had done against Napoli. It is all set for an exciting game of football.

Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚


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

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews


Norwich Preview + Lineups

It’s been a long time coming. The international breaks really do get on your nerves. There is a huge sigh of relief it is over and we can get down to the business that matters, as Arsenal resume their Premier League campaign, by inviting Norwich City to the Emirates Stadium.

Luckily, there were minor or no setbacks from the international break. Mesut Ozil was reported to have a small knock, but has been reported fit enough to start. Laurent Koscielny too has been declared fit to start today’s game. Meanwhile, there was the Annual General Meeting as well, and you can get all the details here and here.

The Norwich game is just the first of a testing round of fixtures for the Gunners. Borussia Dortmund come visiting on Tuesday night, before Arsenal travel down London to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace. After that, the Gunners will host Chelsea in the Fourth Round of the League Cup on the 29th, before inviting Liverpool on Saturday, November 2nd. Arsenal will travel to Germany to face Dortmund on 6th, and then go to Old Trafford to face old foes Manchester United.

Last season, Arsenal returned from the October international break with a visit to Carrow Road, and the game was decided by a 9th minute goal from Grant Holt, as Arsenal were outfought and outmuscled. There can however be little room for error this time, if Arsenal are to maintain their top spot in the league.

Norwich have had a poor start to the season, and are still hoping for their new signings such as Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander to click. After a 2-2 draw on the opening day to Everton, they have since lost 1-0 away to Hull, beaten Southampton 1-0 at home, lost to Tottenham 2-0, lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa, won 1-0 at Stoke and lost 3-1 at home to Chelsea.

Right, team news then. Santi Cazorla and Bacary Sagna have both been declared fit, and though the prospect of Ozil and Cazorla in the same midfield is pretty drooling, we may have to wait a bit longer to see that, with the manager probably having one eye on the midweek game against Dortmund. Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Theo Walcott are still out.

For the Canaries, Anthony Pilkington faces a late fitness test, while defender Elliot Bennett is definitely out of this one. Here is how I expect the two teams to line up.

abFHCQbapjNorwich will definitely look to contain the hosts tonight, and it will be to Arsenal’s strengths to capitalize on this and create space and time, to make opportunities. In case of the manager deciding to start Cazorla, we could be witness to a treat in the centre of the park.

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚


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

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


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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews


West Brom Preview + Lineups

Another Premier League weekend, and a chance for Arsenal to go top of the Premier League, following yesterday’s movements in the table.

It will be a tough test, with Arsenal having to travel to West Brom, in order to keep their winning run intact. It has been 10 games on the bounce, that started with the 3-0 win in Fenerbahce, and has continued with a 3-1 win at Fulham, 2-0 home win against Fenerbahce, 1-0 win against Sp*rs, 3-1 win at Sunderland, 2-1 win at Marseille, 3-1 win over Stoke, 4-3 win on penalties over West Brom after a 1-1 draw, 2-1 win at Swansea and a 2-0 win at home against Napoli.

The manager will definitely have some more options at his disposal, with Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta both fit. Mikel Arteta played alongside Mathieu Flamini just in front of the defence, and it worked as a treat, as Arsenal blew away Napoli in a 15 minute blitz. This would mean a constant shifting of positions between Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky, something that Napoli’s defenders just couldn’t cope up with.

Ramsey initially started on the right, and the versatility of Arsenal’s midfielders allows them to do that. Jack Wilshere played on the left a week or so back, while Tomas Rosicky has played on the wings quite often. This allows Arsenal to diversify their play and also feed in Giroud, who seems to be in fine goal scoring nick at the moment.

If the manager decides to deploy only Flamini, attacking wise it could be a treat, with Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil and Rosicky, but since it is an away game, the manager wouldn’t want the play to be too expansive at a defensive cost. Remember, the side is still waiting on returns from injuries of Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski.

West Bromwich Albion, haven’t been doing too bad themselves, with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford over Manchester United taking them to a current 12th place in the league. After just 2 points from their opening 4 games, they now have a 3-0 win over Sunderland and this to build their season upon.

Arsenal’s away form has been excellent of late, with 8 wins on the bounce, and the Hawthorns has been a good venue to play, with 3 wins in the last 4 visits.

Right, team news then. West Brom have some injury concerns, with strikers Nicolas Anelka, Shane Long and Victor Anichebe mostly ruled out. That would mean youngster Saido Berahino, who scored against Arsenal in the Capitol One Cup, and against Manchester United last week could start. Scott Sinclair is also ruled out for this game.

Arsenal have several injury problems, with Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Abou Diaby, Yaya Sanogo all ruled out. Bacary Sagna is the latest to join them, and is expected to be out for atleast 3 weeks. There are rumors that Per Mertesacker could be given a rest, which would mean Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson taking their places in the starting lineup. Here is how I expect the two sides to line up.


Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚


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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews


Napoli Preview + Lineups

The Champions League is back with it’s second round of tasty fixtures, as Arsenal host Rafael Benitez’s Napoli side at the Emirates Stadium. Both sides started their Champions League campaigns with wins, as Arsenal came away with a 2-1 win over Marseille at the Stade Velodrome, and Napoli won their clash with Dortmund by 2-1 in Naples.

The Italian side have had a fruitful summer, making some good buys, including snatching former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain from right under Arsenal’s noses, for a fee ofΒ Β£35 million, in order to replace Uruguyan international Edinson Cavani, who left for Paris Saint Germain forΒ Β£55 million. Other signings include defender Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon, both also from Real Madrid, also for a combined sum ofΒ Β£20 million, Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina on a season’s loan, Belgian winger Dries Mertens from PSV Eindhoven, and the permanent signing of Colombian left back Pablo Armero.

A good run of form in the Serie A, has seen them rise up to 2nd in the table, after 6 games. The highlight was the ill-tempered 2-1 win at the San Siro over AC Milan. Gonzalo Higuain has netted 4 times, while Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik also has 4 goals.

Arsenal too have seen good recent fortunes, moving to the top of the table, with a 5 game winning streak. Aaron Ramsey seems to be in the best form of his life, with 8 goals in all competitions, double that of striker Olivier Giroud, who has 4.

Right, team news then. Arsenal will welcome back Tomas Rosicky into the team, but there are less chances he could feature in the starting lineup. Santi Cazorla is expected to return at the weekend, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo remain injured.

Napoli have an almost fit squad to choose from, with Higuain and Albiol set for late fitness test. Christian Maggio however misses out. This is how I expect the sides to line up.

abFBb9oaeoJack Wilshere could continue playing on the left hand side of Arsenal’s midfield, while Serge Gnabry could start his 4th game in a row, after his recent run of form, which saw him score a goal against Swansea last weekend. After a long time, Arsene Wenger would be able to name a pretty decent bench, including Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Jenkinson, Bendtner, Arteta and Rosicky.

Napoli will be no pushovers, and a win tonight would go great lengths in progressing from the group of death.

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚


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

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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews

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