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Category Archives: 2014-2015

Hull City Preview and Lineups – It’s Our Cup to Keep!

It seems ages ago now. Me, packed with hundreds of Gooners in a tiny pub in Delhi watching a hazy streaming of the Cup Final. Abusing our defensive woes after going 1 down, sheer anguish at 2-0 and an almost chorused sigh of relief at a Gibbs clearance off the line, which otherwise would have meant entering a 10th consecutive season without a trophy. Loud cheering when Santi’s thundering free kick bolted in and pandemonium when Koscielny poked home the equalizer.

And the moment of the day arrived when we lifted the roof off the place, as Ramsey scored the winner with just minutes left to play. There was of course our typical Arsenal moment when Fabianski, well Fabianski’ed, and gave Hull an open chance to score, which they narrowly missed. Singing “We love you Arsenal, we do!”, “Jeetega Bhai Jeetega, Arsenal Jeetega! (We will win brother, We will win, Arsenal will win!)” and “We are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen!” for an hour after the trophy celebration and hugging every Gooner in vicinity. It was one heck of a night.

Fast forward 7 months, and we find ourselves in a sticky situation. 6th in the table, compared to the top spot we were holding on to at this stage last year. To make it worse, we find ourselves below Sp*rs. Just of the back of a putrid loss to Southampton, and a injury list longer than the number of first team players available to select from. Things ain’t rosy as they looked on that fine day in May. But, this is the Cup, where all equations go out of the window and it can work wonders to any side’s faltering season.

Hull City, the same side we vanquished in the final in May, come visiting to the Emirates, hoping to get some measure of revenge. It’s been a hard season for Hull too. They lie 15th in the table, and have had a bad patch of form since the start of November, losing 7, drawing 2 and winning 2. They come into this game, in slightly confident mood, having beaten Everton 2-0 at home. Hull have already visited the Emirates season, and left with a creditable 2-2 drawn, a game which they could have so easily won.

After Alexis Sanchez gave Arsenal the lead, Hull bounced back to score twice, before conceding late on to a Danny Welbeck equalizer. In all honesty, Arsenal were sluggish that afternoon, struggled to create any chances, and the equalizing goal was down to the drive of Alexis, who provided the assist for Welbeck.

Recent performances have been below par, and Arsenal overall have struggled with injuries this season. Arsenal have failed to put together 3 consecutive wins in the league. The only time they did that this season, in all competitions was beating Dortmund 2-0 at home, before 1-0 wins over West Bromwich Albion and Southampton. And, remember, this was on the back of a 3-3 capitulation at home to Belgians Anderlecht and losses to Swansea and Manchester United.

The worrying aspect of today’s team selection is that the manager will have more or less the same players to choose from the pool he took to Southampton. It doesn’t make for a very rosy picture. With Olivier Giroud suspended owing to his stupidity, Danny Welbeck a doubt with a thigh problem, Yaya Sanogo a doubt with a hamstring problem, and of course, our German cannon Lukas Podolski loaned to Internazionale, it will either be Alexis Sanchez starting up front, or Theo Walcott making his first start in nearly a year, or young Academy striker Chuba Akpom asked to play up front. Either ways, it is going to be a gamble.

Last season, Yaya Sanogo was asked to start against Liverpool and he did pretty ok, I think, his miscued effort paving the way for Chamberlain’s opener. Alexis looks exhausted at the amount of work he has had to do over the course of the season. Unlike the Spanish league, where the game is more technical and slower, and additionally, playing for Barcelona, the masters at a painstakingly slow passing game of football, he has had to adapt to the faster, more physical English league. He has done immensely well of course, scoring 15, and assisting a further 12, but the physical aspect seems to have taken a toll on the Chilean.

Wojciech Szczesny will be rested and given some time to mull over his disastrous display at the St. Mary’s, which means Columbia international keeper David Ospina, who has missed over 3 months of the season due to a niggling injury, will make only his second start. His first start was the 2-1 loss at home to Southampton, which knocked us out of the League Cup. In defense, the manager will be pleased that he will have all 6 defenders available for selection. Mertesacker has started 26 out of 30 Arsenal games this season, and looks a tired figure. I would like to see Callum Chambers and Laurent Koscielny start today, but I think it will be Mertesacker and Chambers, as Koscielny still is working his way to full fitness. Nacho Monreal also looks set for a start, if the manager decides to give injury prone Kieran Gibbs a rest.

In midfield, the freshness of Tomas Rosicky will be an issue. Francis Coquelin has done reasonably well in the centre of the park, and will start. The other players are Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla. Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini are close to a return, and will undergo late fitness tests, but hoenstly, I do not see them starting, or being named on the bench.

Hull have some injury concerns of their own. Defenders Liam Rosenior, Michael Dawson and Andy Robertson are doubts, while midfielders Robert Snodgrass, Mohomad Diame and Gaston Ramirez are also out. However, they will welcome back Stephen Quinn and Tom Huddlestone. Hatem Ben Arfa is apparently close to leaving the club, and will move to Ligue 1 side Nice on loan from Newcastle United.

This is how I expect the teams to line up.

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Enjoy the game wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Previews

 

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Liverpool Preview and Lineups – 3 points please!

It’s the weekend again, and the start of another hectic Christmas-New Year football period. It doesn’t get any tougher than visiting Anfield to play Liverpool. Yes, the very same Liverpool that gave us a 5-1 spanking last season, finished 2nd in the league, missed the title by a whisker and scored 101 goals in the process.

It all seems ages ago now. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge running riot in every game they played. Steven Gerrard driving his troops and even Jordan Henderson looked good. Liverpool, this season look a pale shadow of last season. Luis Suarez has moved on to Barcelona for £75 million, and scored his first La Liga goal, last evening in a 5-0 thrashing of poor Cordoba. Daniel Sturridge is injured. Daniel Agger has moved to his beloved Copenhagen for a paltry £3 million, and Brendan Rodgers’ swathe of signings, costing him £119 million over the summer has massively backfired.

While they are still alive in the League Cup, winning 3-1 at Championship high-flyers Bournemouth, they lie at 9th in the league table, and were unceremoniously knocked out of a Champions League group comprising Real Madrid, FC Basel and Ludogoretz Razgard. The trio of signings from Southampton (Adam Lallana for £25 million, Dejan Lovren for £20 million and Rickie Lambert for £4million), Serbian winger Lazar Markovic for £20 million from Benfica, Emre Can for £10 million from Bayer Leverkusen, Divock Origi for £12 million from Lille and the madcap maverick Mario Balotelli for £16 million from AC Milan, have all spectacularly failed to deliver, bar Alberto Moreno for £12 million from Sevilla, who has been decent so far.

Arsenal, have struggled themselves too, but after a week of two 4-1 wins, and a week of rest ahead of the crunch fixtures, the Gunners look raring to go. This could be an exciting match to watch. With both West Ham and Southampton winning last night, taking themselves to 4th and 5th on the table, both sides will be under pressure to deliver. A win for Arsenal would mean creating a gap of 8 points between them and Liverpool, and level on points with 5th placed Southampton, but a win for Liverpool would take them into 9th spot, just 2 points behind Arsenal.

Arsenal have some injury concerns easing up, with the week of rest they have had. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott all face late fitness tests. Callum Chambers is back after a suspension. However, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere remain unavailable for selection. For Liverpool, Mario Balotelli serves a one match suspension for breaking FA rules on social media, Dejan Lovren faces a late fitness test, while Daniel Sturridge and Glen Johnson are out.

Arsenal’s main concerns are in defence. The partnership of Callum Chambers and Per Mertesacker is yet to convince. But, with Mathieu Debuchy back at his preferred right back position, there is some solidity in the backline. Both Chambers and Mertesacker are too similar, and a player like Koscielny who has more pace and drive than the two compliments them better. A player like Raheem Sterling will definitely look to exploit this weakness, and this is where Arsenal have to be alert at all times.

Here’s how I expect the teams to line up.

 

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Jai Arsenal 🙂

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And do like, the Facebook page as well.

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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in 2014-2015, Match Previews

 

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Newcastle Preview and Lineups

The furrows have slightly waned after a thumping meted out to the Turkish champions on Tuesday night, after a harrowing loss to Stoke on Saturday. It’s back to business though, however, as Arsenal host Newcastle in tonight’s Premier League clash.

Newcastle have been on a recent high, and have picked up wins over the past couple of months, a long journey it seems since the Newcastle faithful wanted manager Alan Pardew out of the club. After the 1-0 loss away at Stoke, the Magpies drew 2-2 at Stoke, beat Leicester 1-0 at home, won 2-1 at White Hart Lane, knocked Manchester City out of the League Cup, 2-0 at the Etihad, beat Liverpool 1-0, West Brom away 2-0, and then beat QPR 1-0, charting out a neat form chart. They slipped up 1-0 at Upton Park against high flying West Ham, before drawing Burnley 1-1 at Turf Moor and then shocking runaway leaders Chelsea 2-1 at St. James Park, despite being down to 10 men.

Arsenal’s form has been patchy in recent times. Consecutive losses to Swansea and Manchester United were followed by 3 solid wins, 2-0 over Borussia Dortmund and 1-0 wins over West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, before Stoke clinched a 3-2 win. Arsenal bounced back 4-1 in an inconsequential match against Galatasaray in Turkey.

Injuries have mounted, and the Gunners are now down to the bare bones, speaking in terms of defense and midfield. Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are injured, with no specific timeline yet. Callum Chambers serves a one match ban for his red card at Stoke. The return of Mathieu Debuchy, however, is a massive boost ahead of tonight’s clash. He put in a good 75 minutes in Istanbul. He will most probably start at centre-back today alongside the only fit centre back at the club, Per Mertesacker.

In midfield, long term injuries to Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, and now, Aaron Ramsey mean the club has been forced to the extremes, and have recalled Frenchman Francis Coquelin from Charlton, where he was on loan. Mathieu Flamini will start today, most probably alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. There is a possibility of a start for Lukas Podolski, should the manager opt for playing one striker upfront in either Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck.

Newcastle will welcome back midfielder Mehdi Abeid and Fabricio Collocini is fit to play. However, local hero Steven Taylor will miss the match due to a suspension. Moussa Sissoko too misses the game.

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

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Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in 2014-2015, Match Previews

 

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Stoke City Preview and Lineups – Time to Build!

So, Saturday is here. A December Saturday and that, which means games are going to come thick and fast. The festive period is the most busy one when it comes to football, and there will be a glut of games from now till the New Year.

Stoke City are the opponents today, and as we all know, how much we hate those ogres. It’s a tough place to go to, given the hostile nature of the crowd, awful weather, more awful playing conditions, and despicable football players. Oh, and their manager is Mark Hughes. Stoke have had a mixed season so far, languishing in 13th place in the Premier League, having lost 7 of their 14 games so far, winning only 4 in the process. And they will be looking to avoid a 4th consecutive loss this evening, after suffering defeats to Burnley at home, Liverpool and Manchester United away.

Arsenal, on the other hand, are somehow managing to chug their choking, coal-filled engine along. After some setbacks, the Gunners have made some ground with 3 consecutive wins, and in the process keeping 3 clean sheets as well, something that bodes really well. Mood in the camp should be positive now, given the recent performances, where the Gunners have had to battle it out for their full share of points.

However, fatigue will be a major concern, with Arsenal having played 7 extra Champions League games, as well as an increase in the traffic jam in the medical room. Some players have been overplayed. Take for example, Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey whose performances in recent games have been average to under-par. However, considering the paucity of options, it doesn’t look ideal to give rest to any of the players. Against a Stoke side playing at home, it will be extremely difficult for a tiring side to cope up with the physical presence of the Potters. Arsenal’s record in the last 8 games at the Britannia includes just one win, and last season the Gunners put up an apalling performance in a 1-0 defeat.

There are injury concerns for both sides. Jonathan Walters (knee), Glenn Whelan and Germany international Robert Huth have calf problems. Stephen Ireland could miss out because of illness while Steve Sidwell, Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses and Dionatan Teixeira are all sidelined. As for Arsenal, Nacho Monreal is out with an ankle injury, Tomas Rosicky has a thigh problem, Laurent Koscielny an Achilles problem, while Yaya Sanogo will undergo a late fitness test. Sigh! Wojciech Szczesny will be back though and will replace Emiliano Martinez, who has played commendably.

With Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere still out, there’s no option but to start with Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey in midfield. I expect a start for Olivier Giroud this time round, with the dynamic trio of Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sanchez behind him. Defense will be a major concern if Koscielny and Gibbs both fail their fitness test. That would mean Chambers playing at centre-back alongside Mertesacker, Bellerin coming in at right-back and Flamini at left-back probably, leaving us short in midfield. This could cause an entire reshuffle, with Ramsey having to play deep, and either of Podolski or Welbeck starting. Under ideal circumstances, this is how I expect the teams to line up.

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Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in 2014-2015, Match Previews

 

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West Bromwich Albion Preview and Lineups

The win against Dortmund, as positive and important as it was, now needs to be put in the backseat. More pressing issues need to be taken care of, in the Premier League, with the Gunners languishing at 8th in the table, level on points with Everton and Sp*rs, and behind the likes of West Ham, Swansea and Newcastle.

The Hawthorns has one of the best away ground in recent years, and the Gunners have picked up vital wins there, none more so important than the final day 3-2 win in 2012, when Laurent Koscielny scored the decisive goal in the 55th minute. Gibbs made a very precious multimillion dollar last ditch tackle, late on in the game, which bought about a cuddly hug from Arsene Wenger to Pat Rice, which also turned out to be the last game for the long-serving Irishman.

It is that kind of steel that the Gunners require today. More substance over style. Wins are all that count from now on. It’s been a story this season to go on and dominate games entirely, yet not make the most of them. Games against Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are indicative of that. Arsenal managed to keep their opponents under caution for large majorities, yet failed to take the chances when they came, conceded silly goals on the counter instead, and then huffed and puffed till the final whistle.

The refreshing thing about the Dortmund result, was the willingness of the team to learn from those mistakes. The pressing looked better, and so did the defence look more composed. Attack minded full backs like Chambers and Gibbs maintained their stances against a Dortmund side that could have inflicted damage on counters. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey helped shore up several times.

The Premier League is a completely different ball game though, and pressing always doesn’t suit the purpose against more physical sides, who like playing the long ball, given Arsenal’s obvious discomfort at defending them. West Brom have a host of strikers who can cause the Arsenal defence problems with their physicality. Greek striker Giorgios Samaras, Nigerian duo Victor Anichebe and Brown Ideye and the pacy Saido Berahino. The Baggies, have been struggling for form this season, winning only 3 of their 12 games, losing 5 and drawing 4. £10m signing Brown Ideye has failed to impress, but Saido Berahino is a man in form, even earning an England call up for his form.

Right, team news then. Wojciech Szczesny is still out, meaning Emiliano Martinez keeps his place in goal. Laurent Koscielny returns to centre-back. Mikel Arteta’s and Jack Wilshere’s injuries mean Arsenal are thinning out in midfield, and Mathieu Flamini will start in central midfield alongside Aaron Ramsey. Olivier Giroud, should make the starting line up too, with Danny Welbeck and Yaya Sanogo nursing knocks.

Berahino is available for the Baggies, despite recent drunk driving allegations. James Morrison is a major doubt for the Baggies though as he is struggling to recover from a sickness bug. Sebastien Pocognoli (hamstring) is a minor doubt and Jonas Olsson (Achilles) is out. Claudio Yacob starts a three-game ban after he was sent off at Stamford Bridge.

Here is how I expect the teams to line up.

jE5 jE4Let’s hope the Gunners build on from here at least, and take it game by game.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on November 29, 2014 in 2014-2015, Match Previews

 

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Borussia Dortmund Preview and Lineups – Time to, er, bounce back!

So, here we are. A new game, a new outlook. It’s been 4 days since that loss to Manchester United, and however hard I try to forget it, I just can’t. Either it’s flashes of Arsenal pounding United’s defence or the image of Gibbs collapsing in a heap at the end of the game. But, when it comes to football, there’s little time for emotions. The next game is just 3-4 days away, and each game presents a chance to wipe out that lingering disappointment.

Borussia Dortmund come visiting today, and a completely different one from last season. They are ravaged with injuries, bad form and bad luck. They lie in the relegation zone of the Bundesliga, with 12 games gone, and they have an injury list to match that of Arsenal’s. German internationals Sven Bender and Mats Hummels have been injured for some time now, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Jakub Blaszczykowski are out too. Add to that the horrendous injury that Marco Reus suffered over the weekend in a 2-2 league clash against SC Padeborn.

Things for Arsenal don’t look too bright either. Mathiey Debuchy, Theo Walcott, David Ospina, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and the perenially injured Abou Diaby have permanently taken residence in the Arsenal medical room, for majority of the season, and it looks like a German bomb shelter. Add to that the injuries suffered by Wojciech Szczesny and Jack Wilshere in the weekend loss to Manchester United. News reports suggest Wilshere will have to undergo ankle surgery, which means he will be out for about 3 months. Danny Welbeck too is a doubt with a knee problem. However, there are a few positives, with Laurent Koscielny available for selection, after he took part in training. Olivier Giroud who scored a fine goal in the loss though, is unavailable, as Arsenal didn’t register him for the group stages.This means it could be, yes, hold your breath, Yaya Sanogo starting up front. Or else, if Arsene Wenger decides to experiment a bit, Alexis playing up front, and a chance for Podolski or Cazorla.

Another issue that Arsene Wenger will be concerned is the fitness of in-form Alexis Sanchez. Having scored 12 goals and provided 8 assists this season, he has been the Gunners’ star man, and he appeared exhausted in the second half against Manchester United, and conceded possession, leading to the winning goal by Wayne Rooney in the 85th minute. Though possibilities of the manager resting his star player in a crunch clash like this are less, he has options like Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla to turn to. Rosicky and Podolski have had very little playing time, and Cazorla is a shadow of the player he was in his last 2 seasons at the Emirates. It will be a tough decision to make.

Despite the two sides struggling for form and fitness, they will still be able to put out two good teams, and an entertaining match to offer. Both teams like to play attacking football, and with Arsenal needing all 3 points to avoid awkward situations of the final matchday, it could be an open encounter. In the earlier match, Dortmund defeated Arsenal rather comfortably 2-0, and it was down to their superior pressing game which denied Arsenal any space and time to get into their groove. They play a 4-4-2 formation, but what helps them is their disciplined defensive midfield, which stifled the life out of Arsenal.

German international Ilkay Gundogan should ideally start alongside Sebastien Kehl, and the two can make life difficult for Arsenal’s attackers. It will be interesting to see if Klopp plays 2 upfront, with Aubameyang and Immobile or drop one back in midfield to support the attacking midfielders, Shinji Kagawa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. A formation of 4-2-3-1 would suit Dortmund in away games at sides like Arsenal, but at the slight expense of their attacking prowess.

With Dortmund having won all 4 of their Champions League games, and thereby having qualified to the next round of the competition, the onus is on Arsenal, who have won 2, lost 1 and calamitously drew 1, to take the game to Dortmund. This is how I expect the two teams to line up.

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The manager has called for solidarity within the club and it’s supporters following a string of disappointing results. Indirectly aimed at recent comments made by Alisher Usmanov, he said,

Everybody has the right to have an opinion, having said that, we have values at this club. During the 18 years I have been here, I have shown that I can take criticism,I don’t take [Usmanov’s comments] personally at all.It is an opinion that I respect, but when you are from this club, you are from this club.You are in or out, you cannot be both.What is important is how close we are together inside the club and how much we can respond to people who question our quality.

I personally feel that there is a very strong bond inside the team and the club, and that this team will have a very strong season.I believe in what I do and I especially believe in my players, and in their quality and spirit.I question myself every day and I hope you do that as well.

Time to get a vital 3 points today!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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

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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in 2014-2015

 

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