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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:

WWWWWDWLDWLWLWD

9 wins. 3 losses. 3 draws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”

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

 
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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™‚

β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”

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

And do like, theΒ Facebook pageΒ as well.

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

 

 
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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™‚

β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”

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 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™‚

β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”

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

And do like, theΒ Facebook pageΒ as well.

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

 
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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™‚

β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”

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

And do like, theΒ Facebook pageΒ as well.

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.

abFCYjTab2

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

And do like, theΒ Facebook pageΒ as well.

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

 

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

 

Swansea Preview + Lineups – Bergkamp Competition and More!

Good *bleh* morning!

Another night of revelry sees me wake up in the middle of the afternoon, all weary. Another small weekend party turned out to be an all night affair and I sleep only after breakfast. Just another normal day I suppose.

Well, fear not. The weekend is here. And a good Premier League weekend to look forward to. Arsenal travel to Wales for their clash with Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea have been a thorn in recent seasons to Arsenal, since their promotion in 2011.

Arsenal managed to narrowly beat them 1-0 post the mauling at Old Trafford, before Arsenal lost 3-2 in the away game. The following season, Swansea came to the Emirates and won 2-0, thanks to two late strikes from Michu. They proved to be no pushovers in the FA Cup either, as Arsenal drew them 2-2 in Wales, before a late Wilshere strike in the replay earned the Gunners progression to the next round. Another hard earned 2-0 win was secured in mid-March.

Arsenal are enjoying a good run in the league which sees them on top at the current moment. After the disastrous start to the season, losing 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, victories have been secured against Fulham, Tottenham, Sunderland and Stoke in the league, Fenerbahce and Marseille in the Champions League and a narrow win through penalties over West Brom in the League Cup.

Despite the growing list of injuries, which includes Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta until recently, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Abou Diaby, Yaya Sanogo, and now Theo Walcott, the manager has been able to ring in the required changes to keep a solid first 11 every week.

While the signing of Mesut Ozil has definitely lifted the spirits at the club, the form of Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini have been nothing short of tremendous. With Flamini, Arsenal have now gotten that extra bit of bite, robustness and steel required in midfield, which had had been missing for some time now. Flamini’s spirited performances where he is constantly seen heckling the opposition and rallying his own defence has been one of the highlights of the season so far.

Ramsey on the other hand, has proved to be seamless between defensive midfield and attacking midfield. He seems to be getting into the right goal scoring positions at the right times. 7 goals already, 3 of them in the league.

Arsenal have also benefited from Olivier Giroud plying alone up front. With Premier League defences, the only thing constant is physicality. Giroud has been able to marshal well up front, giving the midfield more time to set up an attack and create space. His contribution up front has been absolutely vital.

Swansea come into the game in pretty mixed mood of mind. Having lost their opening game to Manchester United, by a margin of 4-1, they have gone on to lose to Tottenham 1-0, defeated West Brom away 2-0, drew Liverpool 2-2 in a lively encounter and beat Crystal Palace 2-0 away as well. In the midst of this they trounced Romanian side Petrolul 5-1, before losing the away leg 2-1, trounced Valencia at the Mestalla 3-0, and crashed out of the League Cup 3-1 to Birmingham City, just couple of days back.

Right, team news then. Arsene Wenger will most likely continue with the back 4 of Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Sagna. In midfield, Mesut Ozil will start, but there are doubts over the fitness of Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini. The manager however reiterated that there is only a minor possibility that they may not feature. Apart from that, Serge Gnabry could be given a rest, after his 120 minutes out in the League Cup. There have been rumors all over the internet, that Nacho Monreal could start on the left hand side. Mikel Arteta too may not be 100% having been substituted due to cramps at the Hawthorns.

Tomas Rosicky is expected to be fit in time for the visit of Napoli, Walcott about 3-4 weeks away, while there is still no definite timestamp on the returns of Podolski, Chamberlain and Cazorla.

Swansea are defintely without Pablo Hernandez, and are still waiting over the fitness of captain Ashley Williams, an Arsenal transfer target during the summer.

Here is how I expect the teams to line up.

abFz1zvamaSwansea will be a particularly hard team to deal with. An enterprising midfield of new signings Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool and Jose Canas from Real Betis are slowly but surely forming a strong partnership. Up front is the livewire Ivory Coast international Wilfried Bony, signed from Vitesse over the summer. Add to that Michu, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge, 3 tricky players.

Arsenal will have to deal with the high pressing and quick passing game of Swansea. The Gunners have been successful in scoring the early goal, but have always given time and space to the opposition to equalize. This habit needs rectification.

Arsene Wenger celebrates the 17th anniversary of his unveiling as an Arsenal manager. Let’s hope it is a win to make it even more special.

Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal πŸ™‚

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Fancy winning a copy of the official autobiography of Dennis Bergkamp, “Stillness and Speed”? All you need to do isΒ answer these questionsΒ and send in your answers to blazingcannonsblog@gmail.com by Saturday, 28th September 17:30 GMT (22:00 IST), i.e the kickoff time of today’s game. There are just 5 books to be won, so buck up! All the best!

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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews

 

West Brom Preview + Lineups, Bendtner and more!

So, there is some midweek action against West Bromwich Albion to keep us going through a mundane week. It will be a great chance for the manager to give a run out to players returning from injury as well as some fresh faces while also being able to field players who are back from a footballing exile.

The Capitol One Cup has been a mixed bag for Arsenal in recent years. From losing in the finals in 2007 and 2011, to to extremely memorable games like the 7-5 win over Reading and 6-0 win over Sheffield United few years back, to crashing out at the hands of lowly Bradford City.

However, it also does provide Arsenal a chance to land some silverware, and has been considered Arsenal’s best chance of a trophy in recent years. Having been accused of using the competition as a platform for youngsters in recent years, Arsenal’s entire first squad put on an abysmal display against Bradford last season.Β It seems like the trend could continue, with Arsene Wenger naming a largely youthful squad for the game tonight.

Arsenal’s injury list continues to grow deeper, with Theo Walcott now ruled out for a few weeks owing to an abdominal muscle strain, which means he will have to undergo an operation in Germany for the same.

Apart from that, Tomas Rosicky is rumored to be in contention for next week’s Champions League clash against Napoli, while Lukas Podolski too is a few weeks away from a return to first team action.

All this injury muddle means a possible start for Danish striker Niklas Bendtner after over 2 years since his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt. He has had a rough ride since the 2-1 home loss to Liverpool in August 2011. He played a season on loan at Sunderland, crashed a few cars, broke his nose, wore a Batman mask and scored 8 goals.

He then went off to Euro 2012, scored twice against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, revealing his Paddy Power underpants and putting himself in a soup with UEFA. His next move was to Juventus in the Serie A, where he again crashed a few cars, suffered injuries, did not score any goals and managed to get a 6 month suspension for drunken driving from the Danish FA. Quite an uneventful time.

Well, he is now back at Arsenal, and to be honest, the boy does have some talent, and quite an attitude to go with it. In 3 full season with Arsenal from 2008 to 2011, where he was in and out of the first team, he scored 36 goals, many of them vital ones. The goals against Hull, Stoke, Aston Villa and Wolves come to mind instantly. There were some good goals too, the opener against Ipswich, a hat-trick against Porto etc.

His arrogant attitude, lack of effort in training and a fetish for drunken driving have spiralled his career to nowhereness, but the Capitol One Cup will provide him some ground for a redemption. Could Arsene Wenger revive the Greatest Striker That Ever Lived? Only time will tell.

On Bendtner’s part, he has been working on his fitness the past few weeks. Seems like he has been working on a new Japanese samurai style hairstyle too. Let’s hope he can provide some back up for Olivier Giroud, who is being rested tonight.

Right, team news then. Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta will make returns to the first team tonight, after their injury problems. Emiliano Viviano, signed on loan from Palermo (or was it Parma?) will make his debut in goal. There will also be outings for Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal on the defensive flanks. Young Isaac Hayden could partner Vermaelen at the back. With Walcott and Chamberlain out, Ryo Miyaichi and Serge Gnabry will be given a chance to impress. I would like to see Mathieu Flamini rested and Emmanuel Frimpong been given a chance. Thomas Eisfeld could start too.

West Brom have their own injury concerns.Β Chris Brunt (groin), Ben Foster (foot) and Shane Long (hamstring) will all be missing for Albion, while Steven Reid (knock). Matej Vydra (hamstring) and George Thorne (knee) are doubtful for the clash.

Here is how I expect the sides to line up.

abFy2fjal8

Arsenal will have to deal with the pace and physicality of new signing Stephane Sessegnon and on loan striker Victor Anichebe. Steve Clark could give young Saido Berahino another start, after his hattrick against Newport in the previous round. West Brom will also have options such as Nicolas Anelka and Markus Rosenborg from the bench.

Arsenal will have to make full use of the wings, and hope Serge Gnabry kicks off from where he left at the weekend, a lively performance against Stoke.

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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P.S – A minor correction. Emmanuel Frimpong is not included in the squad. Chances of Mathieu Flamini starting are high!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews

 

Stoke Preview + Lineups

Well, *boink*!

Last night was absolute madness. Having slaughtered numerous chickens in the city, and downed like litres of alcohol, with some ‘desi’ stuff to go with it, I finally woke up post afternoon today. Won as well as lost quite a bit of money in poker, but knowing my friends, I don’t think they would be in a hurry to pay up.

Well, to beat the hangover, we have got some Premier League action in store today. Arsenal host Stoke City, and will hope to continue their recent run of form, which has seen them win 6 games out of 6, as well as extend their away winning streak to 10.

Stoke haven’t picked up a single point in their previous 5 visits to the Emirates, losing on every occasion. Of course, they now aren’t managed by that baseball cap wielding Tony Pulis, but by another extremely irritable figure, Mark Hughes.

Stoke recovered from losing 1-0 at Anfield on the opening day to pick up wins against Crystal Palace and West Ham, a 3-1 win over Walsall in the Capitol One Cup, before holding Manchester City to a goalless draw. Stoke had a pretty quiet summer, buying only Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic from Werder Bremen for Β£2 million, and Dutch international centre back Erik Pieters from PSV Eindhoven for Β£3 million, while also completing loan moves for Stephen Ireland from Aston Villa and Oussama Assaidi from Liverpool.

However, they also saw a lot of players leaving, with Michael Owen, Rory Delap, Mathew Upson, Dean Whithead and Mamady Sidibe either retiring or leaving for greener pastures.

Arsenal’s good run of form can partially be attributed to the personal form of Aaron Ramsey, who looks like a man on a mission. Having suffered that horrific leg injury against today’s opponents, almost 3 years back, his recent run of form has been testimony to his hard work and honesty.

His game has seen a holistic improvement. Not only has he displayed his versatility in adjusting to various roles but his gameplay has seen an increase of level. There are rarely any mistakes made on tackles, his passing has improved leaps and bounds and he is scoring goals for fun. What’s more, he seems to have formed a strong midfield partnership with Wilshere. This can only bode well for Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger was full of praise for his young Welsh prodigy.

He has a great spirit and he has an obsession – he wants always to be better,There is a basic rule in the game that if you have a big injury before the age of 20 you come back and redevelop completely normally,I was not too worried but you never know how deep the impact is psychologically. He had a little resistance to go into the fights for a long, long time – but now he is over it.He had a difficult period in the middle of last season when people became impatient with him and he lost confidence,Sometimes you give the players a little rest, they can rebuild that confidence in their game and come back stronger and that is what happened to him.I always thought he would score goals if he improved his technical quality because you always saw him in good positions in the box.

The signing of Mesut Ozil, has in general lifted the club. The addition of Mathieu Flamini, while less talked about has probably been equally important. The vocal French midfielder has been unflinching on the tackle and a constant loudmouth when it comes to barking orders at the defence.

Right, team news then. Mikel Arteta has returned to the squad, but is expected to only start from the bench. The other player returning from injury, er, is, er, Niklas Bendtner. There are murmurs of him making the bench as well. However, the medical staff at the club still have their hands full, with Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby still nursing injuries.

Stoke have some injury concerns of their own, with Marc Muniesa, Glenn Whelan and Jamie Ness all out. Arnautovic is expected to start for the Potters.Β This is how I expect the sides to lineup.

abFxRBFa9Mesut Ozil will be making his home debut today, and the Emirates will definitely be abuzz everytime the German gets the ball. However, knowing Stoke, they will take every opportunity to hackle the German midfielder. Steven N’Zonzi and Charlie Adam have formed a solid midfield for Stoke.

The Potters will be hard to break down, and Arsenal will require some magic from the shoes of Ozil and Wilshere to create chances for the front two.

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 September 22, 2013 in 2013-2014, Match Previews

 
 
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