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Arsenal 2 Everton 1 – Quick Reviews Part 13

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Arsenal 2 (Giroud 36, Koscielny 38) – Everton 1 (Barkley 44)

Man of the Match – Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Arsenal overcame a gritty Everton, and shrugged off any pre match question marks over their fitness, after a physically and emotionally draining 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in midweek. There were some changes to the squad, with Gabriel coming in for Per Mertesacker at the back, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced an injured Aaron Ramsey. Olivier Giroud, who scored in his two last substitute appearances against Watford and Bayern Munich, was awarded a starting berth, while Theo Walcott dropped to the bench.

The game had a very cagey opening, with Everton allowing little space and time for Arsenal in the final third. However, the deadlock was broken on 36 minutes, when Olivier Giroud met the end of a Mesut Ozil cross with a subtle touch. And, they were 2-0 up, when Laurent Koscielny headed home from Santi Cazorla. Ross Barkley reduced the deficit on the stroke of half time, with a left footed effort past Petr Cech.

Belgian international Romelu Lukaku had chances late in the game, one of which he struck the bar with. On the second occasion, he was met by a strong unflinching tackle from Gabriel. Giroud and Ozil both struck the woodwork, as Arsenal failed to build on their slim lead in the second half. Phil Jagielka came out the worst in a tackle with Oxlade-Chamberlain and had to be taken off, as Arsenal held on for 3 vital points to move to the top of the Premier League.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in 2015-2016, Match Reviews

 

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Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2 – Old Trafford Conquered!

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

Man of the Match – Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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

 

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Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

I am actually at a bit of a loss of words, right now. Even though its been well over a day since one of the worst games of football I have witnessed, I still can’t find enough words to jot down a match review.

The worst game I saw this season, before this was the 1-1 draw between Manchester United and Liverpool. Both teams played crap, and were just happy to kick the hell out of each other. It also had a little racist incident, by the way. And next was the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Tottenham. Not that I give a shit about them, but the game’s result was important to us. What ensued was piss poor football. But, yesterday’s game topped it all. Here is an attempt at a match review.

Arsenal’s major injury concern before the Chelsea game, was in all obviousness, Mikel Arteta. He has been ruled out for the remaining 4 games of the season. However, there were returns for French defensive midfielders Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin. Also, Yossi Benayoun was ineligible to play against his parent club. Brother of Calamity, (thanks to god’s blessings), was replaced by Laurent Koscielny, who returned after his 2 game suspension. And, a timely return it was. Arsenal started with Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield.

Chelsea, on the other hand, were forced to make wholesale changes to the squad that played in absorbing encounters against Tottenham and Barcelona, in the FA Cup and Champions League respectively. Ashley Cole was replaced by young Ryan Bertrand. Branislav Ivanovic, who is still suspended, was replaced by Portugal international Jose Bosingwa. John Terry, Gary Cahill and Petr Cech kept their places. The midfield looked fresh, with Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Oriol Romeu, all of whom have played sparingly this season, drafted in. In what seemed a 4-3-3 formation, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Salomon Kalou were picked in attack.

Now, to the actual match itself. The first few minutes were the slowest minutes I have seen this season. Usually, teams like to start off with some fizz. After kickoff, Arsenal were just happy passing the ball in their own half. And the players, were just walking around, like they were taking a stroll in the park with their girlfriends. This is where the tone for the entire game is set.

Arsenal were very lethargic, and thus allowed Chelsea to have much of the ball. And, when Chelsea have the ball, it ain’t a pretty sight. They were spraying around the ball intelligently though, managing to frustrate the Gunners. However, it was Arsenal who made the first real attempt on target. van Persie managed to direct a Walcott freekick on to the post. Then, Fernando Torres had a great chance, after some good work by Florent Malouda, but he was denied by a last ditch interception from Laurent Koscielny. Minutes later, Malouda caused more problems when he played a ball over the top for Kalou, who missed an onrushing Szczesny, only for Koscielny to come to the rescue again.

In the second half, it seemed like Arsenal had gotten a bit of bashing from Wenger, when they got into the groove. (Mind you, only a little bit). Laurent Koscielny hit the post again with his header, and van Persie’s shot was turned away by Cech. Theo Walcott suffered an injury, which meant he was replaced by Le Forehead, Gervinho. A largely lacklustre Tomas Rosicky, and a dissapointing Chamberlain were soon bought off, as well, to be replaced by, surprise surprise, Abou Diaby and Andre Santos. Now, that’s how you win a match, I suppose.

There were no more real attempts on goal, really, after that, as both sides looked like they had already agreed on a draw, and were just creating chances for the heck of it. Towards the end, Alex Song played in Robin van Persie. Unfortunately, for the Dutchman, his right foot isn’t as talented as his left, and he completely miscued it. Before that, he turned in and out, beating Chelsea’s defence, but was beaten to the shot by Cech.

It took another Koscielny block to deny Sturridge later on.

The only reason I was cheerful come 1:30 AM IST, was that QPR managed to beat Sp*rs 1-0, and I saw a really entertaining El Clasico.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (7.5) – Had a good game, preventing a few goalscoring opportunities for Chelsea.

Sagna (7.5) – A decent game again, but still lacks a bit of cover from Walcott.

Vermaelen (8) – Was caught out a couple of times, and had Koscielny to rescue the situations.

Koscielny (9) – Fantastic defending. He is our best defender by a mile. (Country mile)

Gibbs (7.5) – Looked vulnerable to Chelsea’s attack a few times, but a good game overall.

Song (6.5) – He was poor. Just like the Wigan game, gave away the ball far too often, and never really looked like a defensive midfielder.

Rosicky (7) – Subdued by Romeu and Essien, to make any impact.

Chamberlain (6.5) – Can’t fault his effort, as he is still inexperienced at this level. Rarely got out of the traps.

Ramsey (6.5) – I thought he worked hard, but nothing really worked for him. Strange.

Walcott (6.5) – Ineffective against Bertrand. Stranger.

van Persie (7.5) – Why you no score with right foot? Beats me.

Subs –

Santos (7) – Put in more pace and creativity than Chamberlain on the left.

Gervinho (6.5) – Crossing needs to improve. I have never seen him once kick a football into the air.

Diaby (6.5) – Collecting a yellow card was his only contribution to a timid game

Overall Team Rating – 7.69

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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A brief look at Arsenal’s game + Chelsea preview + Lineups

Arsenal vs Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Premier League

Kickoff – 12:45 GMT (17:15 IST), 21st April 2012

Hello Gooners. The Champions League football has helped me take my mind off the Wigan defeat, over the course of the week. It wasn’t exactly good to look at, but both the games were tight, and exciting contests, and the second legs can get even better.

But, that’s the week. The weekend is here, and we face a massive tie on Saturday, against an in form Chelsea. Let’s not beat around the bush, with a few abusive words towards our history-less (Oops!) rivals. They are a completely different team under Roberto di Matteo.

I don’t know what the sly looking bald Italian, with a wicked smile has done to the Chavs, but they have really picked up. While their league form is still a bit jittery, they have progressed quite comfortably in the FA Cup, humiliating another club, so lacking of history, Tottenham, by a margin of 5-1. And, by the way, they also managed to beat the world’s best club, thanks to Didier Drogba’s acting lessons to Sergio Busquets, by a 1-0 scoreline.

News poured in this morning, that Mikel Arteta, one of our more influential midfielders this season, is out for the remainder of the same. This is actually quite a blow. We have pivotal games coming up. If Chelsea at home was hard enough, we have to play our bogey away side, Stoke Rugby Club, Norwich at home, who will be playing just for the fun of it, and a tricky last day game at West Bromwich Albion.

While Arteta has been pivotal, he will be replaced by a player, much criticized this season, Aaron Ramsey. No, I am not going to hop on the bandwagon. I really like Aaron Ramsey. He is a good young player, but probably a bit naive and inexperienced. I see a lot of blogs and posts coming out in support of the Wales captain, and I am one too. You just cant be captain of your nation, if you aren’t good enough. While Ramsey may not be the midfield orchestrator like Arteta, or a pass-master like Fabregas, I feel has the quality to become both at once. Yes, he may attempt the odd backheel, or miss a goal, which Harry Redknapp’s missus would have scored, or just give away the ball to the opposition, like he just wasn’t interested. C’mon, that’s part of being young. You make mistakes, you learn from the, and you move on. I have watched almost every Arsenal game this season, and of course seen a lot of Ramsey in the centre of the park. And he runs around a lot, busting his lung. Give the boy some due.

While Arteta’s injury is some concern, another player Arsenal won’t be able to use, for the crunch game will be Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun. According to rules, a player on loan can’t play against his parent team. He will be another miss. When he has played in the big games, against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, he has been immense. This, of course will give Arsene Wenger a selection headache, as to who to choose on the left hand side of midfield. Does he go for everyone’s favourite, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or does he opt for the at-times frustrating Gervinho.

Chamberlain was given the free role against AC Milan, where he played in the centre of the park, and used the full breadth and width of the pitch, to produce a game, far too ahead for his age. The role of Alex Song, and the adventure-minded Rosicky allowed Chamberlain to dictate play, and what a fine job he did. On the wings, at times, he seems a bit suffocated, due to probably, a lack of space, to play his game. And, unfortunately for him, most of his appearances come after the 80th minute, when the team is in dire need of an equalizer, or when we just need to hold on to a precarious lead.

Robin van Persie will hope he will be in the same nick in the game, as he was back in October against the same opposition. Chelsea do have some defensive worries, when it comes to really quick forwards. Barcelona managed to expose it time and time again, but they just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, owing to their own wastefullness, and the brilliance of Cech.

Much has been spoken about the defence in recent weeks, and its susceptibility to counter-attacks. Wigan exposed in the space of 2 minutes, the frailties, which have hampered our campaign.  One swift counter attack off a corner, and another well taken goal, gave Wigan the impetus to close down the game. The problem lies in how Arsenal go forward. Far too often, we see Vermaelen bomb down the midfield, and while our full-backs all love going forward, there needs to be a bit of balance here. It just leaves our defence too open to an attack or too less in numbers. This is where, Laurent Koscielny has been vital this season. I personally feel he is a better defender than Thomas Vermaelen. His nimble movement and pace allows Vermaelen to give that extra bit going forward. However, no such risks can be taken against a Chelsea side, who can put on pace when necessary. Left back will be occupied again by Brazilian Andre Santos, as I suspect Wenger wouldn’t want to risk Gibbs.

The final talking point of Arsenal’s play will be Alex Song, who probably played his worst game this season against Wigan. He gave the ball away far too many times, and he just couldnt balance between attack and defence, probably due to the loss of Arteta. He needs to be at his absolute best tomorrow.

The pressing game suits Arsenal best, and has served us well this season. Manchester City couldnt muster a single shot on target, and Sp*rs couldn’t manage any either, after they got their 2 goals of course. A high defensive line was the norm on both the days, and will prevent Chelsea from completing swift counters.

Let’s have a look at Chelsea then. While we have had respite in between league games, since our exit from Europe and the FA Cup, Chelsea have had a relentless round of fixtures, and they still have a minimum of 7 games left to play in the season. Roberto di Matteo is expected to rotate his squad around a bit, and why not, with the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals against Barcelona coming up, on Tuesday.

Arsenal fans will be happy to hear that Didier Drogba, so often Arsenal’s tormentor in the past is ruled out. And, with the exertions of the past week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the likes of Malouda, Essien and Torres getting a run about. Even Ryan Bertrand being selected ahead of Cashley (Oops!), I mean Ashley Cole wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit.

Ramires has been a real workhorse in midfield. His darting runs can pose a threat to Arsenal’s defence. He has been consistent throughout. Another man to watch out for is Spain winger Juan Mata. He got just 9, yes, 9 touches of the ball against Barcelona, and has been the Blues’ best player this season. His goal in October, against us, was, in the least, sensational.

Fernando Torres has been piss poor in front of goal this season, but hey, never write him off. He can come up with the goods in the big games. Daniel Sturridge’s form has waned a bit of late, but they still have the Ivorian Salomon Kalou, whose incisive runs can be dangerous. A host of different options is what Chelsea have.

Defensively, the ban for Ivanovic means a start for Portugal right-back Jose Bosingwa. They really don’t have a choice, but to play Terry and Cahill in defence. There will be a lot of tired legs, as the match wears on.

Here is how I feel the two teams could line up.

There is no doubt about the importance of this clash. A loss here, for Arsenal would mean, that we would be just 2 points ahead of Sp*rs and Newcastle, having played a game more. A loss for Chelsea will all but end their hopes of a top 4 finish, with so little to play this season. A win would of course keep them in contention for Champions League qualification. A win for the Gunners would almost seal a top 4 finish, of not 3rd spot.

All in all, the game promises to be an exciting battle of tactics and nerves.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Arsenal 1-2 Wigan Athletic

Arsenal 1 (Vermaelen 21) – Wigan Athletic 2 (di Santo 7, Gomez 8)

Man of the Match – Victor Moses (Wigan Athletic)

I am at a loss of words to say, in the least.

Last night was a representation of what can be so shambolically Arsenal. When the fans really expect a win, over a team that is stuttering at the bottom of the table, we go ahead and lose the game. And it was not a lack of talent, but a lack of determination, last night.

Take nothing away from Wigan though. They have given themselves a great chance to survive in the Premier League, with wins over Liverpool, Manchester United, and now, Arsenal. And, they deserved every bit of the 3 points, they earned last night.

No major injury worries ahead of the game. Jack Wilshere, is however, ruled out for the rest of the season, and also for the European Championships, which I believe, must be a huge blow to him. Laurent Koscielny remained suspended for this game too, meaning there was a place in the starting lineup for brother of calamity Johan Djourou. There was also place in the lineup for inform Israel captain Yossi Benayoun, while Andre Santos continued at left-back, with Arsene Wenger deciding not to risk young Kieran Gibbs.

Arsenal did all the early running, with Thomas Vermaelen’s long range effort, ambling just wide. Yossi Benayoun’s fine header was parried away by Oman international Ali Al-Habsi, who has been sensational for Wigan this season. Arsenal maintained the early pressure, as they won some early corners. It came to their own undoing, as the Gunners sent everyone forward. Wigan cleared the lines off one corner, and broke away brilliantly.

It was like clockwork, as James McCarthy, Victor Moses and Jordi Gomez all linked up, before Gomez set up the on rushing Argentina striker Franco di Santo. His initial effort was blocked by an alert Szczesny, but the ball fell perfectly to him, and he finished off to hand Wigan the lead, and end his 17 game goalscoring drought.

Before Arsenal could settle down, after the goal, Victor Moses took on Bacary Sagna, and beat him for skill to set up Jordi Gomez. His first effort was saved by Szczesny, but Gomez didn’t miss the second, and Wigan were 2-0 up at the Emirates in under 7 minutes.

There was more concern, as Mikel Arteta was forced off due to an injury, and according to some reports, his season could be over. He was replaced by Aaron Ramsey.

Arsenal’s response was swift, as they stepped up gears in midfield, with some decent moves. Vermaelen jumped too early for one effort, while Benayoun had another off his header’s clipped brilliantly by Al-Habsi. Tomas Rosicky then fed a delightful cross, and it was met powerfully by Thomas Vermaelen, who headed home.

Johan Djourou shot narrowly wide, and then, Tomas Rosicky played a 1-2 with van Persie, before completely skying his effort.

The second half was almost the same story, with Wigan playing a fine containing game, and even enjoying fair amounts of possession. Arsenal never really threatened Al-Habsi, as Antonin Alcaraz and Gary Caldwell stood firm. In fact, Wigan had the more clear scoring chances of the second half, with Moses terrorizing the naive Arsenal defence.

On one occasion, he was clear of the defence, but shot too early, for Szczesny. He later played a fine ball for Gomez, but the volley was poor. Wigan employed some time wasting tactics, towards the end, much to the frustration of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans, but the bottom line is, we really didn’t deserve to win the game.

Arsenal threw on Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but their inexperience in such circumstances, was clear for everyone to see.

The task doesn’t get easier, as next up is the in-form Chelsea.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (7) – Not really to be blamed for both the goals.

Sagna (6) – Had a poor game. Was literally owned by Moses and Beausejour.

Vermaelen (6.5) – His attacking instincts seem to be costing the team a bit at the back.

Djourou (6) – Guilty on both the ocassions. Could have been guilt for more, but was saved by Moses’ inexperience.

Santos (6.5) – Was never threatened, and did help a bit in attacking.

Song (6) – One of his worst games this season. Lost the ball far too many times. Seems to have lost that extra yard of pace too.

Rosicky (7.5) – The workhorse in the centre of midfield, and assisted Vermaelen’s header.

Arteta (No Rating) – Played too less, to get a rating.

Benayoun (7) – Can’t fault his workrate. Does tend to overdo things a bit at times. His two fine headers were brilliantly kept out though.

Walcott (6) – Lack of effort, or lack of skill, I really don’t know. Just didnt perform yesterday. Beausejour had him pocketed.

van Persie (7) – The frustration seems to be getting to him. Didnt have a good game either.

Subs –

Ramsey (7) – Worked hard all night, but nothing going his way right now. Seems to overplay a bit, and suffers as a result of that.

Gervinho (6) – Rarely got on the ball, to make a worthy impact.

Chamberlain (6) – No impact from him, either.

Overall Team Rating – 6.50

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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The QPR Fallout

Hello Gooners. Football is all about fine lines. Before the QPR game, Arsenal fans were riding high on seven consecutive victories. And, that fact that we had taken an eight point lead over Chelsea and a 3 point one over our bitterest rivals Sp*rs. Few hours later, we find ourselves again in a vulnerable position. After Chelsea’s dogged display at Villa Park, which, surprise, surprise, saw Fernando Torres finding the back of the net, and Sp*rs relatively easy beating of Swansea, and our own capitulation against relegation threatened QPR.

The fine line is applicable at the top too. Everyone had predicted towards the end of February, that Manchester City would power their way to the title. But, oh my, has the title race taken a wicked turn or what. Manchester United’s experience in closing down games, under the guidance of Alex Ferguson, is pretty well known. What we didn’t know were Manchester City’s self destructing powers. The enigmatic Mario Balotelli has been in the thick of things, as he involved himself in an on-field altercation with teammate Aleksandr Kolarov over free kick taking priveleges. With Sunderland leading 3-1, at the Etihad, Kolarov skied his freekick, before Balotelli himself got one back, and Kolarov levelled things soon after. However, it just papered the cracks, that Mancini has created, by assembling an expensive, egoistic squad. With players like Richards, Balotelli, Tevez, Kolarov, and of course $amir Ca$hri, squad management was always going for a toss. Manchester City’s title dream lays in tatters now, as they move 5 points behind Manure.

A bit from the continent then. The Champions League quarter final ties, are still far from over. AC Milan and Barcelona face off at the Nou Camp. I don’t know why, but I have the feeling AC Milan will garner a 1-1 draw and qualify. Barcelona can be bloody brilliant at times, but Milan proved they are a tough cookie to crack, in the first leg. The Bayern Munich-Marseille tie is as good as over, after Bayern’s comprehensive 2-0 win, in France. They have been warned against complacency, though, but it is going to be routine for them as they look to compete in the Champions League final, which is taking place in their own backyard, the fantastic Allianz Arena.

Chelsea vs Benfica, too is far from over. The Portugese team weren’t too good against a rather second string Chelsea side, and I would fully expect Chelsea to ride the wave, and kill of this tie too. I, however, think they will fall at the semi-final stage. They really haven’t got the squad at the moment to beat Barcelona or AC Milan. But then, in football, who knows. Speaking of which, we arrive at the Real Madrid vs APOEL Nicosia. If you told an APOEL fan, that they would be playing Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, they would have taken you for a nutter. But, here they are, brushing shoulders with the elite in Europe. They are as good as out, but they will have fun at the Bernabeu. It is not everyday you get to play there, after all.

Matters closer to the heart then. The defeat to QPR has drawn criticism, from Le Prof. Not stinging, but criticism, nonetheless.

AW on the performance

It is very frustrating because they left us the ball and waited for our mistakes. We took the ball, did not do a lot with it and made the mistakes. At the end of the day that made the result. Our performance was not good enough to win this kind of game, especially in the duels. They had a little bit of extra special commitment that took advantage of us in some specific positions defensively. Overall we can only congratulate QPR for their attitude and be unhappy with our own performance.

AW on the nature of the pitch

Any bad performance you can see coming. Each football game is a new start. It is not what you have made before that decides the game, it is what you produce on the day. And what we produced on the day was not good enough.

AW on the pitch

The pitch is not smaller than any other pitch. The pitch was bad but it does not explain our performance. We did not create enough to win a football game.

AW on the defending

I do not want to single anyone out but of course we made defensive mistakes. It is a good shock to come back to what has made our strength recently. Subconsciously something was missing today. In the Premier League, if you miss something on the commitment front you are beaten. That is what happened today.

AW on complacency

It is difficult to single out one reason but why not? We played against a team who play for survival. We prepared properly but we missed something today and you could see that. Their keeper made a good save.

AW on the goals conceded

We lost a game when our keeper had nothing to do. It is the first time this season, we were too open when we had the ball.

AW on the response

We know how to respond, we have been exposed to this situation this season. We have a good opportunity on Sunday but it will be needed after giving away the points today.

AW on Adel Taraabt

He is a very talented football player,He has shown here that he has talent, that I knew. But he has to produce these kinds of performances on a consistent level.No [I have never tried to sign him]. He was in Lens and then he went to Tottenham. He is a good player with good potential but he has to produce that week in, week out.

AW on the next game

We have to take the distance with that and put things into perspective. We have to go back to basics; that means to win football games and win your fights first.We have to play like we do. It is disappointing to lose a big run in the way that we did it here. At the end of the day the result does not lie. The focus was missing a little bit and the way we conceded the goals [was disappointing]. I felt that we lacked something, I do not deny that.  We have been consistent recently and you have to give credit to the team. But in this game we were poor and we were not good enough.

AW on the QPR performance

It is difficult to explain because we prepared as usual. Maybe we sensed it would be easier than usual and once you have that in your heads it is difficult to come back to reality.We got a reality check. I just believe that our performance was not at the level we have recently produced. I feel we did not create enough with the time we had on the ball. It was all visual but not really efficient. It is disappointing to lose a game like this. If you do not win you at least want to make a draw, you do not make the mistakes we made. We have some time to recover now and produce a decent performance [against Manchester City] on Sunday.

Meanwhile, captain Robin van Persie, looked subdued in the QPR game, for large parts. Some say he is still suffering the after effects of ‘that’ miss against Milan.

RVP on the defeat

Everyone is disappointed but towards the end of the week I am sure the spirit will be how it was,We’ll have a couple of days to be disappointed but after that our focus is on Manchester City.It is a shame we have wait eight days for the game, but it is how it is. Losing at QPR is a big blow but we have to look forward and the next one is a big one.Man City are second but drew [on Saturday] so they will need the points. We have seven big games to play but if you look at the big-name teams then we have City and Chelsea. As a fan of football I always love to play those games and one of them is next week.We have seven more games to play and I believe we can come third. It won’t be easy, everyone is fighting for every point and our opportunity is next week.Even last week when we were three points ahead [in third] with eight games left we never thought it was done. [Tottenham and] Chelsea won and came closer but we have to look at ourselves.

RVP on his evolution as a striker

I was hoping to play as a second striker… I never thought I would end up as a main striker,We only tried it [at Arsenal] when Adebayor went to Manchester City [in 2009]. The boss didn’t buy anyone else because he was convinced I could do it, but I wasn’t even convinced I could do it. I had not really played there that much, and I hadn’t thought about it much before. The boss said, ‘I think you can do it, give it a go and see where it ends. Play your normal game, don’t go out there to score, go out there to enjoy yourself and help the team’. I had a go and then in pre-season we had a game against Inter Milan and I scored good goal and played well, and he told me after the game, ‘We will see how it goes, I am 100 per cent sure it will work’.Then in my first five or six [league] games I didn’t score, I was making assists and playing well, but I didn’t score and I thought, ‘I am a main striker now, I need to score’ and the boss said, ‘I don’t mind that, as long as you play well for the team, giving assists, the goals will come’.When I scored my first goal I then scored seven in seven, with seven assists, so that was quite good. That was my first step to being a main striker.

RVP on having the element of surprise

It is quite strange because a main striker and a second striker are quite close to each other, you are playing next to each other sometimes or just behind. But it is a massive difference in your game,A second striker is a role where you are doing a lot of running, but one-pace running – closing people down to the left or to the right. Sometimes you will have a high-speed run but it is mainly one-pace stuff.For a main striker you might give everything for 10 to 15 seconds or 30 seconds, whatever it takes. After that you might have a breather and then you go again, it is in intervals from really low straight to the maximum again. There isn’t too much in the middle and it is a bit more of an aggressive game.To be fair I like that though because sometimes you can just surprise an opponent by doing that, having a breather and then, bang, you are off again. It is a different game in lots of ways, that is just one of the reasons. You are, of course, closer to the opponent’s goal, which is handy because otherwise you have to cover all that distance. Even if you are not playing well as a main striker, just that one, short moment in behind means you can still score.

Moving on, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain spoke about his EURO chances, and how he feels England has a great chance, with a trove of young talent emerging.

It would be very nice [to be involved] but I don’t get too far ahead of myself or get carried away,My main focus is to see the end of the season out with Arsenal and help us do as well as we can. We have a long way to go to get a Champions League spot and hopefully top three as well. It would be very nice, but one step at a time is the way to go.We have a lot of really good players in this country and a lot of experienced players,The fact that [the younger players] are pushing on already and are in the England squad, while playing week in week out in the Premier League, can only be good.There are a lot of good teams like Spain and Holland, but you have to say England have what it takes to get to the final and even win it.

There are a lot of English players coming through, such as the likes of Danny Welbeck and Kyle Walker, while at Arsenal we have the likes of Jack Wilshere and Theo,As long as everyone keeps progressing as they are at the moment, it will be good for England’s future. We have a lot of English talent here at Arsenal and we will all be working hard to get into the national team.The longer you play with people, the better you get to know them. You bond and being around the same players means that you bounce off each other. It will be good for the future.For their age they are all really mature and fearless,You forget how young Jack is – he is such a confident lad – but at the same time they are all humble as well.When it comes to football they are really focused and just get on with the job. They are technically very good and have the right mindsets to become world-class players.

In other news, peripheral striker Marroaune Chamakh was pictured with international teammate Adel Taraabt, who scored in QPR’s win over Arsenal, in a shisha club in London. Despite speculation from the media, that this could be the beginning of the end of his time in London, the Morocco international denies this.

Am I going back to Bordeaux? For now, no. I have spoken to Wenger and I will stay at Arsenal. I think he trusts my work and I will have opportunities in the first team.When it comes to football they are really focused and just get on with the job. They are technically very good and have the right mindsets to become world-class players.

And finally, former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has warned his compatriot Lukas Podolski, ahead of his reported Arsenal transfer.

He is quick, dangerous in front of the goal, and has a good pass. I’m happy for him if he soon joins Arsenal,It won’t be easy though. He will have to get used to the pace, and he will have to realise that participating is not enough. You must win. Expectations are very high.

Meanwhile, Rennes midfielder Yaan M’Villa, revealed he was flattered by interest from the Gunners.

If the coach calls you and tells you he wants you to make you play, especially a French coach, it changes everything.The important thing for me is getting playing time for the France team.

That’s a wrap. Enjoy the European action.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in General

 

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Queen’s Park Rangers 2-1 Arsenal

Queen’s Park Rangers 2 (Taraabt 22, Diakite 66) – Arsenal 1 (Walcott 37)

Man of the Match – Bobby Zamora (QPR)

So, there we are again. Another miserable week looms large. Arsenal were outfought, outmuscled and completely outplayed, by Queen’s Park Rangers.

So much for marking the 11th death anniversary of David Rocastle with a win, Arsenal just couldn’t come out of their cages as QPR, made most of Arsenal’s physical limitations to power their way to a 2-1 win, which is, of course a fantastic result for them

Laurent Koscielny was declared fit and took his place along side Thomas Vermaelen in the heart of defence. Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey was given a start ahead of Gervinho, on the left, which is so not the Welshman’s preferred position.

Arsenal were the first to do the initial running, but QPR pegged the Gunners’ back, as they won the midfield battle. QPR, as expected had started with a defensive minded midfield, as Barton, Diakite and Derry all got the nod. Jamie Mackie, who scored an invaluable winner over Liverpool, started on the right.

Bobby Zamora came to the end of Adel Taraabt’s free kick, but it went over. Nedum Onouha’s shot was met with Alex Song’s hand, and he was lucky to escape the attention of the referees. Bobby Zamora was particularly impressive throughout the game, as he used his physical strength to torment Koscielny and Vermaelen. He managed to hold his ground, and kept the ball with him, allowing his teammates to surge forward.

QPR soon had the lead, as some fleet footed movement from Taraabt hoodwinked Thomas Vermaelen, and he finished emphatically past Szczesny. It was the Moroccan’s first Premier League goal, and what a time to get it.

Arsenal’s response was slow, as QPR still manned the midfield. However, Arsenal got their luck, as van Persie drew the entirity of Rangers’ defence into him, allowing Theo Walcott to be in a good position. His first shot hit the post, but the rebound came back to his feet, and he didn’t make a mistake. 1-1.

Jamie Mackie was denied a penalty, while Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs both spurned chances. The chance of the match fell to van Persie, as he ran clear of the QPR defence, and everyone would have expected him to score, but his shot was parried away by Paddy Kenny.

Arsenal soon paid for it, as Jamie Mackie, aided by a Vermaelen slip, calmly placed the ball for Samba Diakite, who scored a fine winner, in the 66th minute. Arsenal just didn’t turn up, in what proved to be an under par performance, from the Gunners, especially after the high of their 7 consecutive wins.

Marrouane Chamakh, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on, but it was always a case of too little too late.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (6.5) – Not helped by his defence.

Sagna (7) – Looked a bit lacklustre going forward. Defensively sound.

Vermaelen (6) – Not his best day in an Arsenal shirt.

Koscielny (6.5) – Like Vermaelen, seemed to be struggling against the physicality of Taarabt, Zamora and Mackie.

Gibbs (6) – Did well going forward, but allowed the dangerous Mackie enough time and space to foray into Arsenal’s penalty box.

Song (7) – Arsenal’s best player on the pitch, as he looked to stem QPR’s midfield.

Rosicky (6.5) – Never looked sharp. Had a couple of moments, but overall poor.

Arteta (6.5) – Was well marshalled by the Rangers’ midfield, who frustrated Arsenal’s passing game.

Ramsey (6) – Not his fault, is it, that he is being played out of position.

Walcott (7) – Apart from the goal, never looked like a danger to the opposition’s defence. Lacked innovation and ideas.

van Persie (7) – Spurned the chance of the game, and got minimal feed from midfield today.

Subs –

Gervinho (7) – Added a bit of freshness on the left, but never a threat really..

Chamberlain and Chamakh – Came on too late to get a rating.

Overall Team Rating – 6.58

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Load of Wenger, QPR Preview + Lineups

Queen’s Park Rangers vs Arsenal, Loftus Road, Premier League

Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (19:30 IST), 31st March 2012

Good day, fellas. Good day indeed. I was hoping for another dour evening, with no telecast of the Arsenal game,  but ESPN Star India has heeded to our twittion’s again, and decided to telecast the QPR vs Arsenal game, in the process sacrificing the Manchester City vs Sunderland kickoff.

The week has been fairly quiet. Yes, there was the Champions League, but the interest of following it goes away once your beloved team is knocked out. Real Madrid had a routine 3-0 win over Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia, who have done fantastically well to come so far. I think they will go the Santiago Bernabeu and have a good day out, and tell their grandchildren about the day the played Real Madrid. Barcelona and AC Milan provided quite a dull affair, a world away from those hugely entertaining group games. The pitch, surprisingly, was much better than the cabbage field, which the Arsenal players ploughed on. Chelsea have made a decent head start as they look to reach the semi finals of the Champions League, which I think they will, with a 1-0 win in Benfica. I, however, do not expect them to go any further. Bayern Munich, too had it easy against the completely out of sorts Marseille team. A Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid semi-final is on the card. The other semi-final is still far away from being decided.

Matters closer to our hearts then. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke about his teammates very recently, and they are Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Robin van Persie.

Chambo on Song

I can’t remember the last game he didn’t play – he is always there. Sometimes you don’t notice the stuff he does, the defensive side of the game, but he is always there cleaning up,Obviously he has been bringing assists to the team as well. Some of the passes he has been putting in, like for two of the unbelievable volleys Robin has scored, reminds me technically of watching Fabregas put those balls through.For a holding midfielder to do that, as well as the defensive side of the game, is brilliant. You can’t ask for anything more.He has been brilliant for us all season and he is a really good guy to have in the dressing room as well. He is always happy and putting smiles on everyone’s faces – he is a massive part of the squad.

Chambo on Arteta

I watch them every week in training,I look at the movement they have off the ball, and when they have the ball they are always positive and looking to find Robin or a winger. I can take that into my own game.You always try to learn off anyone in the team, especially top players like Alex Song and Mikel, as well as Aaron and also Jack when he is back.

Chambo on van Persie

Robin has been the main man for goals this season, he is a fantastic player and we see it week in, week out,But the fact that we can bring goals from other areas of the pitch and from different boys does help to take the pressure of him. That will in turn help him relax and play the way he wants to play, and he will end up scoring anyway. It has been good, especially with people like Thomas [Vermaelen] scoring from the back. It always helps to score from other areas of the pitch so long may it continue.

Moving on, Arsene Wenger had a lengthy interview on a host of issues, ahead of the clash with QPR. Before the interview, news as out that UEFA had banned Wenger for 3 games, and handed him a hefty fine. It seems one of the most stupidest decisions made by UEFA. Arsenal had to contend playing on a joke of a pitch, and then given a below par referee in the second leg, and the manager is handed a ban because he touched the referee after the match, while trying to speak to him. Last time round, Wenger was banned for his comments over the most horrendous decision’s in football history, when van Persie was sent off for no reason at all, at the Nou Camp. And, UEFA showed they are muppets when they launched an internal investigation immediately, after Barcelona complained about the substandard San Siro pitch, but no action was taken, when Arsenal played on an even worser pitch, last month.

AW on the captains

I don’t believe in coincidences,Certainly it is impossible to measure but they have certainly been an influential part in that with many other players who have a good spirit as well. The captain is the leader of the team and of course they have played a vital part in that.I believe that the whole team dynamic was very strong, very positive and that had a massive impact. We were going through difficult periods and we recovered because the players never gave up in the dressing room and that was a vital part. I feel overall this has been one of the best seasons in the dressing room. We will see where we finish but I am sure of one thing; we will give our best until the end of the season.They know how difficult it is to be successful and how difficult it is to be consistent,We forget players like Sagna, Walcott is maturing now and they have all played a big part. I must say that the spirit has always been good but the results have not always been as good as expected, especially at the start of the season. The spirit was never in doubt for me. What could be questioned was how good we could be and what was the quality of the team. I am happy now that we have answered this question in a positive way.

AW on the goalscorers

I don’t deny that we rely a lot on Robin van Persie but it is good to see [that we have contributions from elsewhere],It shows you that when the confidence of the team is a little bit higher, suddenly the goals can come from different people. There is more initiative and that is very positive for us because for long parts of the season it is true that we were too dependent on Robin’s goals. The fact that goals now come from everywhere is certainly just a result of a bigger confidence level in the team.

AW on overtaking Manchester City

We will try to give our best,What we can hope for is to be third. We can be fourth, we can be fifth, we can be sixth – we want to be as high as possible and that depends on our consistency now.We are in a position that nobody expected us to be in and we want to strengthen that position from now on. That depends on our performances.I see us fighting like mad on Saturday to win the game. That’s all I see, I don’t see further.We are focused on QPR, believe me. We know that is always a tricky game for everybody and that is what is important to us. After that we focus on the next one and our capability to finish the season in a strong way depends on just how much we focus on every game.Things can change very quickly. Our sport is fragile and we have learned something this season from a very difficult period. Urgency and focus are vital to keep your level up.

AW on new deals

[We will try to arrange new contracts] very early,” he said. “Yes I am [confident that these players will commit]. To say that I am always confident, yes I am. Of course we want to keep our best players.These players want to win things and they want to be in a team that has a chance. Our end of season will help that to help me convince them that they can [here]. It depends now how well we finish.Newspapers open talks now. They should inform me how much they offer and for how long because I would like to know!We are in the situation [with him] as we are in with Van Persie – it will be sorted out at the end of the season,He is playing very well. I think he has improved his technical level a lot, his links with other players and his calmness in front of goal. For me he is developing very well.

AW on favouritism

On the evidence of the numbers, at least you can say that Arsenal doesn’t get any advantage from anybody because we have zero penalties,That is what comes clearly out – on our side, not only do we not get penalties but we get penalties against us that are not penalties – this season – so that at least keeps us out of that fight.Man United have got seven penalties at home, Man City got seven penalties at home and Arsenal got zero [at home in the Premier League]. So we come out of that with no advantage from anybody, so we are very happy.He [Vieira] spoke with his heart,It was after the decision on Monday night where Fulham didn’t get the penalty and in fairness it was a penalty. It just shows one more thing – that the referees need help, video assistance, and then they will gain credibility and there will be no suspicion. If the referee has a difficult decision to make, if he has any assistance from video he would have given a penalty or not a penalty but it would have been a decision that would have had no suspicion. The referee is certainly honest but you expect him to make a decision in a fraction of a second. You can understand it is difficult. He has not time to check if it is right or wrong. That is why, for years, I have been for video assistance.

AW on his ban

If I am [suspended] then it is not justified and I will appeal straight away,I believe that when you have 25 years [experience] in Europe you can still ask the referee that you can have some discussion with him. It is very difficult to understand.At the moment I have difficulties with UEFA and I can take what is wrong on my side but in these different situations I think they go a little bit overboard if they suspend me.

AW on Manchester City

It is not easy, it is demanding,You always go through a period where you are a bit hand-braked, then when you feel you can do it and suddenly it goes [well] again. Man City have gone through a little bit that moment for the first time this season. What will be vital in the title race is the game they play at home against Man United.[They could slip] if they technically lose the championship but that’s not decided yet. They play Man United at home, the goal difference is very similar and Man United don’t look untouchable at the moment. You cannot say Man City are on the way down. It is a little bit uncertain. If they lose the championship it can happen but it’s still 50-50 at the moment.

AW on Milan

We would have gone through against Milan had we played them now because Milan are not better than us,When we played the home leg, if we had more players available I still think we could have qualified.I think that in the first leg we were very bad. On top of that we lost our defenders and conceded a third goal at the start of the second half which placed us in a very difficult position.They had the perfect game on the day, in return we had no game and in the home leg we were different. We have more confidence today.

AW on the summer

A big part of our starting [business] will be done inside,We will do the job we have to before the Euros, for sure.We need to get Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby back and then look at the number of players we have. Then we have Chamberlain, Diaby, Wilshere, Song, Rosicky, Coquelin, Arteta, Gervinho, Walcott, plenty of players. The most important part is to get our players fit and back and then hope in the Euros we have a positive experience with our players.

AW on Mark Hughes

We have a rivalry. But in fact I discover I have this kind of rivalry with many managers,Maybe it’s me, that’s exactly the conclusion I have come to!I respect every manager because I know they all suffer. That’s part of the job. He was a passionate player, he didn’t give anything away and that comes across in his management.We know QPR are a side with quality players and are in a difficult situation,I expect them to fight not to go down.However the key will be on our side, no matter what QPR’s quality or problem is. It will be important for us to go out and show how much we want another win.

That’s a piece of Wenger, there. Team news, then. Laurent Koscielny is expected to return to first team action after he suffered tendinitis, minutes before the Aston Villa game, which means brother of calamity, Johan Djourou is back heating the bench. Apart from the squad is fully fit. Abou Diaby, apparently, had a bit of pain in training, and could be expected to be on the bench, next week, against Manchester City.

QPR, on the other hand, have a host of injuries, and suspensions to deal with. Strikers DJ Campbell and Heidar Helguson are doubts and so is defender Fitz Hall. Former Arsenal left-back Armand Traore, midfielder Kieron Dyer and Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin are all long term absentees. January marquee signing Djibril Cisse will start his 4 match suspension after his crazy tackle at the Stadium of Misery. QPR have picked up 6 red cards this season, which is the highest for any team this season.

What we can expect, for sure, is a really tough and physical encounter. QPR will look to contain Arsenal rather than be adventurous. They do not have too many players who are great going forward. They do have the Algerian Adel Taraabt, and former Manchester City and Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, but both have been largely inconsistent this season. I expect QPR to be looking to win the battle in midfield, by deploying the hard-tackling trio of Joey Barton, Samba Diakite and Shaun Derry. At the back, they have a decent defence. Former Aston Villa captain Luke Young, and on loan AC Milan left back Taye Taiwo will take their places on the flanks, while they have the young, but experienced Anton Ferdinand former Manchester City defender Nedum Onouha. Up front, of course, is Arsenal’s nemesis, Bobby Zamora, who has netted winners against the Gunners, whilst playing for other London clubs, West Ham and Fulham.

Arsenal might have to work the flanks a lot more, to get away with 3 points. QPR play a very narrow game, and cannot be taken lightly. They may be in a real slump, and played poorly against Liverpool, but they took their chances, and beat the Reds, right at the death, with Jamie Mackie scoring in injury time to make it 3-2.

Let’s end on a poignant note. March 31st marks the 11th death anniversary of David Rocastle, that supremely talented Arsenal midfielder, of the late 80’s and early 90’s. News came out today, that Aston Villa midfielder Stilian Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, which goes to show, footballers aren’t superhumans. Good news, then. Fabrice Muamba was able to sit, and even posted a picture of himself in the hospital on Twitter. Let’s  hope both Petrov and Muamba are back where they belong, on the football pitch.

Enjoy the game, wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Haircuts, Transfer Rumours, Title Chances and Honest Assessments

That wait for the weekend is quite painful can be quite painful, when the entire week has been quite strenuous. Seems like the world has finally returned to its normal ways, after those midweek games, where I had to watch games, in the strangest hours of the day, with strained watery eyes.

Saturday kickoff’s are really great, and set the stone for a good weekend, if you win of course, or a pathetic one,  if you lose. With seven wins off the bounce, I am predicting this weekend to be a buzzing one as well.

The strangest news or rather report to emerge out of the Emirates’ this past week has been the hairstyle of right-back Carl Jenkinson. Quite strange really. Jenkinson has moved on from the classic 30’s style (which is now donned, with panache by the goalie), to an outrageous half Mohican or whatever term used by the hairstylists these days. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, supposedly tried to talk Jenkinson out of it, but to no avail, before the club captain, Robin van Persie decided to step in.

We all want to help him. We have the slight feeling that this hair is a bad influence on the team. Or maybe it’s a good influence, since everyone is having a laugh.

The hairstyle remains though, as of latest news reports. It is a pleasant contrast, from just, say 6 months back, when the press were predicting this season to be the downfall of one of English football’s giants. Now, the talk is about hairdo’s, and the antics of Emmanuel Frimpong. A major transition.

Speaking of which, there has been much talk of how this very current crop of Arsenal players could be potential title challengers next season. I certainly think so. The likes of Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Song, Rosicky, van Persie know what it means to wear the Arsenal crest on your chest and take it as a privelege to be turning out for Arsenal. Of course, it would take much more that that. Football isn’t getting any cheaper, especially with Manchester City and Chelsea in the market, and also a certain Scot in Manchester, ain’t getting any older. The cunts down the road, well, will always remain in our shadows.

But of course, there is still that belief. The Lukas Podolski saga is getting too drawn out and boring. I just hope it doesn’t end up being another Juan Mata. We should get this deal wrapped up as soon as the transfer window is opened. If reports are to be believed, Arsene Wenger will order a squad clearout, the likes of Chamakh, Squllaci, yeah you know the lot, beeing shown the door. We have heard a lot about it, but whether it will really happen is another matter. Supposedly, another rumour is Arsenal will complete the signing of Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen. Yeah, we believe that one. And, the Mario Gotze deal is out of the window, with the German signing a long term deal with Dortmund. Eden Hazard, though, still gets visits from top managers across the world, as he turns out for Lille in the French Ligue 1.

The question is do we really need another central defender, in Jan Vertonghen? We do have 3 world class centre backs in Koscielny, Vermaelen and Mertesacker. Plus, we have Calamity Djourou, who really ain’t half bad an option for 4th choice centre half. The rumours, yes, them again, claim Juventus are interested in signing him. Probably, they saw the Villa game. If Djourou were to leave, and then we had Vertonghen coming in, then great, otherwise it would be another Park like situation. Plus, we have Ignasi Miquel.

Yaan M’Villa, too has been linked with a move to North London. This again is contentious. We know Wenger will stand by Abou Diaby, no matter what. Plus, we have Song in top form, and youngsters like Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong pushing for a place in the first team. What we do need is, of course, a top striker, which I think, Podolski fulfills. Our midfield looks pretty strong, though we would need cover, once Yossi Benayoun returns to Chelsea. But then, we do have Jack Wilshere returning from his long term injury. Whatever it is, Arsene has a long time to think about it, and he certainly wouldn’t want a repeat of last summer.

Andre Santos, who was one of the players signed on that eventful day in August, says he wants to make history at the club.

It is fair to say that I have totally adapted,I feel very well, people here have received me with open arms, and I mean everyone, the Club, the staff and the fans.People recognise me on the streets and ask for photographs, people have great respect and charisma and they make me feel at home here. I’m super happy, I’ve adapted and now all I want is to make history with this club.The Premier League is something different – it’s the best league in the world. It’s hard to play in, the pace is different, the fact that almost every pitch is wet makes the ball run more, the tackles are harder, and it’s just really good.I’m not saying that the Turkish league is not good, it has quality as well, but the Premier League is different from anything I’ve ever seen.It was a big surprise how people accepted me here,Especially when I was injured, a lot of people supported me and they were always asking when I was going to come back, saying that the team needs me and wishing me well.In the stadium people would see me in the stands and ask me to come back, there was also many ‘Get Well Soon’ messages on my Twitter account.All of that gave me the strength to carry on, and it all just contributes to my desire to work hard for this club and win titles in the red shirt.

Moving back to Jenkinson then, who says it’s been a steep learning curve for him at Arsenal over the past few months.

I didn’t start how I would have liked to, but an honest assessment would be that as I have progressed, got more minutes under my belt and trained with the boys I definitely feel like I have improved a lot.It was a very steep learning curve for me. I believed I was capable of playing at the highest level, and sometimes it is about getting seen by the right people at the right time.I have had some tough times but I feel like I have come out of it a bigger and better person, and a better player.In a football career you are going to have ups and downs and tough times, but people have told me it is about how you respond to those tough times that will make or break you as a footballer.It was all a little bit of a blur,It was tough day for me and the Club and it was very hard to swallow.We had played Udinese in midweek and I felt I had done quite well. That was a massive high, so to go from that to Old Trafford was strange. It happened so quickly.It was a disappointing day for me and it took me a while to get over. It was my first taste of a tough result, but things like that make you stronger, and build you as a man and a character.It has been a real rollercoaster,I have had some tough times and some fantastic times. Chelsea, Spurs and Udinese are games I will never forget.It is my first season as an Arsenal player and games like the one at Stamford Bridge were just fantastic. You don’t score five goals there very often so that will stay in the memory for a long time.Overall I am relatively pleased [with his first season]. I know I have an awful lot to build on, and a lot to improve on. But I have got more in myself to show people, so that is my aim.

While we are about honest assessments, Gervinho has one of his own, about the club and himself.

I think that we can cope with everything really,We have had and have been through a lot of difficult times this season. Lots of people have waivered in their belief in us, have said this and that, but we have returned to form.We are a group of young lads, we get on really well, but we have got stronger during the tough times and showed the real Arsenal. We are going to try and finish the season well and we are happy with that.We are all still young, have got some good players and a good group. We can still win lots of trophies and do great things in the future because we are a good club.The derby game was great and everything came together and clicked,You saw how we played as a team, the result, how the team worked together and hit some form. That is how we should be and we can use that as a yardstick.

There have been different things to deal with on the pitch and I think that my career has come on a lot since I have been here,It is something I am really pleased with because so much has improved. Being here in England can only be good for my game and my career. I am happy with how I approached and came into English football and I think that my first year has gone well. I have adapted to the club, I have settled into the group and I get on well with everyone. We have two months left and it can get even better. But I am really enjoying it and determined to keep it going. There have been lots of good moments, but it has been difficult too. Coming to another club can be hard but each time I play for Arsenal it is special. I am happy coming to a club like this with such good players.

Meanwhile, youngster Nico Yennaris, who has been a revelation this season, and moved to Notts County said he needed to get out of the comfort zone to be a better player

I’ve been at Arsenal for a long time so I really feel at home there, but it’s good to come out of your comfort zone sometimes to learn and experience new things,Coming to Notts is a good opportunity for me to do that, play games and hopefully improve as a player. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

Finally, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, says he always believed this current crop of Arsenal players had it in them to finis near the top.

It was always going to come as we have the quality in the squad to get results like this,It was about grinding out certain results and concentrating on playing our game – that is what we have been doing recently.We have been playing the way we want to play and even when we haven’t been able to, like at Everton and Liverpool, we have now been able to grind out results.Working together and believing in ourselves has been a massive part of it, and the fans have been a big help as well.When the team or a player has got a lot of confidence, things come naturally and you do things without realizing,Maybe a player whose confidence has been knocked would not do those things. When you feel comfortable, everything runs smoothly and that’s the way we have been playing recently.You can see around the training ground there is a big buzz, the weather is nice and everyone is happy. It has been like that since the start, but when results are going your way it helps a lot.

That’s a wrap for today.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in General

 

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Henry, Song, Gervinho, Arteta and Winterburn

Hello Gooners. This is my first blog update from my new laptop, and it certainly is a fine one. After all the jump from an 8 year old PC, with 512 MB RAM, Pentium 4 Processor, 40 GB Hard Disk, to a laptop with 4 GB RAM, i5 2nd generation processor, and 1 TB Hard Disk, is quite massive. 🙂

Let’s start off on a legendary note. Thierry Henry paid homage to Arsene Wenger’s undying belief in the young squad.

He makes you believe in yourself. He will let you be what you want to be. And obviously at times he has to be hard. That’s him, he will make you aware of your abilities and make sure you take care of it and take advantage of it.He does now and then, but that’s often the way it has to be, kind of political. He loves them [his players] that much that sometimes … he’s not going to lose it like all managers.And that’s the beauty of him; he believes in his players so much, that sometimes, like you see recently, his players can turn around a situation just like that.In those four games, Arsenal were losing and they came back. He believes in the team.

It certainly has been quite a turnaround. We have spoken a lot about it in recent weeks, but still can’t stop. Of course, we have tough games, Manchester City and Chelsea at home, but then no game is easy these days.

Meanwhile, Alex Song, reportedly could be one of Arsenal’s best paid players. Wenger has managed to pen down contract extensions for the club’s top assets like Tomas and Thomas, Rosicky and Vermaelen, and that brother of calamity, Johan Djourou. Alex Song, has been absolutely brilliant in midfield this season. He has polished his game, and is now the league’s most foremost defensive midfielders. And what’s more, he has the eye for that killer pass too. That Messi moment against Dortmund, and fantastic long balls against Everton, Liverpool and more recently, Aston Villa.

In other news, Le Prof revealed that Laurent Koscielny suffered tendinitis, and is expected to be back for Saturday’s clash against QPR at Loftus Road.

Koscielny had tendinitis in his knee when he woke up this morning. I don’t know what position he slept in but he could not walk properly. He tried in the warm-up but could not play,We decided in the morning when he woke up. He came to see me and said he was not sure that he could play with that pain.So we called somebody up and pushed him in the warm-up. Straight away after the first run he said he could not even move. How bad it is we have to assess.

Hopefully, Koscielny will be back. QPR, didn’t play too particularly well against Liverpool, but managed to beat the Reds 3-2. Moving on, Robin van Persie has hailed the special talent, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.

He can have a big impact,He’s shown that already in a couple of games. He has pace, he is clever, he knows when to pass, he knows to dribble and he has good technique.Basically he has everything to become a great player. I’m sure that he’ll have a bright future with Arsenal and England.I agree. Definitely. I rate Rooney highly; he’s a big player, a very good player and an all-round player. He can score goals, he can provide assists, he can make nice actions, good crosses, passes. He has a bit of everything.Chamberlain does play in a bit of a different position, either on the left or the right wing although that could change in the future, you never know where you’ll end up. They’re both very all-round [players] definitely.

Another player, who is doing hard to impress in his first season at Arsenal is Gervinho. He feels he is getting back to his best, after the Africa Cup of Nations debacle.

I spoke to the coach when I came back [from the Africa Cup of Nations]. He knew I was tired and I needed a bit of time to recover and to get back to my best. Now, I feel good again.I want to finish the season well and be a key part of the team in the last games of the season and help the team to finish in the top three.

I am still not too sure what Gervinho can actually offer to the team. He is not an out and out striker, nor he is a winger, who sets the flank ablaze. What he can do well is dribble, and has real good ball control. However, he has been erratic in front of goal, missing a few sitters along the way. Let’s hope Wenger can work his magic on him.

Mikel Arteta has been influential this season, and his passing stats are second to none, and more importantly, on par with the aliens from Barcelona. He has hailed the spirit within the squad, to fight it out for results, recently.

“To be honest I was really surprised with the spirit when I came here – even when we were down it was so good,It is something you rely on because if you start blaming each other and shouting at each other it is not good. This group has always been positive, the manager has always been positive with the players and we have kept at it. We have the talent, we know we have the ability to win games and sometimes it is just about the balance in confidence. We have it all together now.

On his screamer, against Aston Villa,

I don’t know, I was just confident, I had my family here as well and I wanted to score for them.Robin takes them really well too and he takes a lot of the free-kicks. When you come to a new club it is not easy. When I was at Everton I used to take all of them and score many goals from free-kicks. But it was nice to score against Villa in that way. When you are winning, life is good and you can see that the fans are enjoying it at the moment. They deserve it as well because they were behind us when things weren’t going right. Hopefully we can finish the season strongly because we have a group of players and staff who really mean business.

Finally, Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn spoke about how confidence makes the difference to see out games, and he also spoke about Arsenal being potential challengers for the title next season.

Confidence plays a big part when you are on a good run of form,You just never think you are going to lose, even when you go a goal behind. You always have the belief that you will come back and that the minimum you will get is a draw.I think it is sometimes hard for the supporters to understand how big a part confidence plays in a player. You need great mental strength as well and I think the team has showed that.After AC Milan the players were low and they would have had to dig deep because they had some severe criticism. But recently they have shown great desire to get back into that top four and put a run of results together.Some supporters were angry earlier in the season because they want this great club to be challenging for trophies. But now the team is on a terrific run and what they need to do now is keep that going until the end of the season, make sure Champions League football is secured and then get ready to challenge next season.

They have a good core of talent and if they can add one or two to it then I think they will be even stronger next season,I expect them to be back up there at least challenging. If you put yourself in that position then that is all you can ask. Eventually you get yourself over the line first and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later for Arsenal.I have looked at the years gone by when people talk about how long it has been, but I can count at least two seasons where they were in a position to have won it,They have also been close in cup finals and have been to semi-finals as well so I think the divide line between success and failure is very close.If they can continue their recent revival until the end of the season and then start off again next year, hopefully they will put themselves in a position to challenge for the Premier League. That is what everybody wants.

Finally, an interesting article, comparing Yossi Benayoun and $amir Ca$hri, on Arsenal Arsenal. A good read. Have a good day.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in General

 

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