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Burnley 0 Arsenal 1 – 8 in a Row!

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Burnley 0 – Arsenal 1 (Ramsey 12)

Man of the Match – Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)

Arsenal edged Burnely to complete their 8th win in a row, in a closely contested game at Turf Moor! Having trounced Liverpool 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium last week, it was a contrasting display at the home of struggling Burnley. The Premier League may be far away, but Arsenal seem to be close to sealing a top 3 finish, vital to starting the next season afresh.

Burnley are known to be a team that battles hard. They may be low on quality, but they make it up with their work ethic. Unfortunately, that alone cannot guarantee survival in the toughest league in the world. Burnley had a mixed February and March. They managed to stun defending champions Manchester City 1-0, but lost 4 out of their last 8 games, 2-0 losses to Southampton and Liverpool, a 3-1 loss to Manchester United, and creditable draws against West Brom, Chelsea and Sp*rs.

Arsene Wenger made no changes to the starting 11, while Wojciech Szczesny, who missed the Liverpool clash with a rib injury replaced Matt Macey on the bench. The first real chance fell to the home side when Welsh striker Sam Vokes drove in from the left into the box, but Ospina smothered the ball. Mesut Ozil set up Alexis Sanchez, inside the box, but the Chilean’s effort went over.

Arsenal took the lead in the 12th minute, after some sustained pressure. Jason Shackell lost the ball to Francis Coquelin, who played it to Alexis, who saw his shot from outside the box blocked by a Burnley defender. It fell to Mesut Ozil, who advanced from the left inside the box, but Burnley keeper Tom Heaton managed to pull off a save. It fell to Spaniard Santi Cazorla, whose shot was blocked as well. It fell kindly to Aaron Ramsey, who made no mistake in smashing the ball to the top corner.

Burnley won a free kick outside the area just after Arsenal’s goal. It struck the wall and then another free kick from Kieran Tripper in a similar situation required Ospina to be at his best. This was after a Ashley Barnes run into the box was thwarted. Santi Cazorla had a free kick too, and it required Tom Heaton to scramble across, but the ball went out anyway.

Ben Mee and Michael Duff picked up yellow cards in quick succession, as Burnley played in their typically combative style. The rest of the half was played out in midfield, with both keepers having little or no action. Burnley committed several fouls, giving Arsenal free kicks, but the visitors were unable to take any real advantage out of them.

Burnley came out in the second half in earnest. The first opportunity fell to Ashley Barnes, and again Ospina came to Arsenal’s rescue. Burnley pressed hard, and didn’t allow Arsenal much room to attack. Alexis’ low shot was saved by Heaton after being set up by Ozil. Aaron Ramsey had another go at goal, but his effort was blocked.

Burnley’s best chance fell to George Boyd in the 69th minute, after Ben Mee crossed, having beaten Hector Bellerin. He completely scuffed his shot, when he should at least made the keeper work. Fellow striker Danny Ings fared better, when his overhead effort deflected, but Ospina managed to avert the danger.

Arsene Wenger bought on Danny Welbeck for the quiet Giroud, and he was immediately played in by Ozil. It went out for a corner. Alexis then played in Bellerin, but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked. Danny Ings managed to scamper his way through Arsenal’s defence, but Arsenal held on for 3 more vital points, and their 8th consecutive win in the league.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on June 7, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

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Queen’s Park Rangers 1 Arsenal 2 – Points, Glorious points!

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Queen’s Park Rangers 1 (Austin 82) – Arsenal 2 (Giroud 64, Sanchez 69)

Man of the Match – Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)

Having recovered from the shock 3-1 loss at home to Monaco in the first leg of the Round of 16 in the Champions League, with a solid 2-0 home win against Everton, Arsenal made the trip across London for a clash with relegation strugglers Queen’s Park Rangers. QPR, lie in 18th position, level on points with 17th placed Aston Villa and 19th placed Burnley, with only goal difference seperating the 3 teams.

QPR have been in dreadful form this year, having lost 5, drawn 1 and won only 1, a 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. The only bright light for QPR this season has been the form of striker Charlie Austin, who has scored 15 goals in the Premier League, and is leading their fight for survival. There was a change at the helm when Harry Redknapp was sacked and replaced by Chris Ramsey till the end of the season.

Laurent Koscielny was rested for this one, and the manager started the centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista for the first time. Francis Coquelin started, albeit with a mask that made him look like some superhero, while Tomas Rosicky was rewarded for his recent performances and goals against Brighton and Everton, with a start. The pacy English trio of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck were all named on the bench. Wojciech Szczesny pulled out with an illness, which meant there was a place for young Argentine Emiliano Martinez on the bench.

Queen’s Park Rangers started in earnest, and David Ospina was set for a busy match all night. Arsenal struggled to hold on to the ball, against a QPR side that seemed hungry and keen on taking control of a match on the small Loftus Road pitch. Up front, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora were proving to be more than a handful for Mertesacker and Paulista. QPR went with the long ball approach and used the physical presence of their strikers to unsettle the Arsenal defence. Austin tried a couple of shots from distance, both of which were easily saved by Ospina.

Coquelin was all action in the centre of the park, but the rest of Arsenal’s midfield was extremely sloppy, giving away the ball at regular intervals making life hard for the defenders. Rosicky, who had been lauded for his strong performances recently, seemed to be having an off day, as he gave away the ball several times, even in situations when there seemed to be little or no pressure. Arsenal’s real first chance of the game came in the 22nd minute, when Olivier Giroud found space behind QPR’s defence and tested Robert Green with a low shot.

Arsenal seemed to get better in the next few minutes, but QPR fought hard not to wrest the tempo to Arsenal. Arsenal were struggling to put together their passing game on a crowded pitch, as the home side continued to haggle the Arsenal midfield. Scotland international Matty Phillips then swung in a cross from the left, which Ospina managed to push away with a dive, only to Austin, whose volley went just wide, with the Colombian keeper in no shape to react. In the midst of all this, Gabriel was taken off due to an injury and replaced by Laurent Koscielny.

QPR defender Nedum Onouha, once of Manchester City, too was injured and Arsenal looked to capitalize on this. Giroud and Cazorla combined well, before the latter unleashed a volley, that was pushed away by Green. Veteran defender Clint Hill replaced Nedum Onouha as the half drew to a close. A half which was mostly dominated by the home side.

Arsenal looked a completely different team in the second half, and nearly scored in the opening minutes of the half. Rosicky made a fine darting run and crossed it to Mesut Ozil, who was just two yards away, but was pulled back by QPR midfielder Karl Henry, which denied Ozil the chance to score. Alexis collected the ball, but could only find the lower part of the post.

Alexis was in the thick of things by now, and having not scored in the last 7 games (his last goals were the brace in a 3-0 win against Stoke City) he seemed eager to put things right. Two his efforts went just wide as the hour mark approached, and in the 64th minute Arsenal got the breakthrough they were looking for. His dart towards the QPR area drew defenders towards him, and gave Gibbs a free run on the flank, and the left-back’s shot was blocked, but it fell to Giroud who scrambled the ball past the line to score. 1-0 Arsenal.

Alexis continued to trouble Rob Green, and his powerful shot troubled the England goalie. Green won the battle again, when the Chilean couldn’t convert having been sent through for a 1 on 1. He eventually managed to score though, to put Arsenal firmly in the driving seat. Collecting the ball from Kieran Gibbs on the left flank, he danced past static QPR defenders to squirm the ball between Green and the post to score his 19th goal of the season.

Hector Bellerin was outstanding on the night and his pace kept Arsenal buzzing. One of his crosses was met by Ozil, whose effort struck the post. QPR, buoyed by a vociferous home support, trudged on, and bought the game back to life with a goal. Charlie Austin turned inside the box and netted his 16th goal of the season to halve the deficit to 1-2.

Arsene Wenger replaced a tiring Tomas Rosicky with Aaron Ramsey, even as QPR looked to equalize in the dying moments. Arsenal managed to hold on to a glorious 3 points, that keeps them in 3rd and all set to take on Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in 2014-2015, Match Reviews

 

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A few thoughts on a few things, West Brom Preview + Lineups

West Bromwich Albion vs Arsenal, The Hawthorns, Premier League

Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (19:30 IST), 13th May 2012

As we move into the final day of Premier League action for this season, my emotions remain mixed. This has been one of the most topsy turvy season I have been witness to, and I have watched just 8, including this.

Being an Arsenal fan is not easy. It is an extremely hard choice to make, and certainly not one for the faint hearted. While we had to endure millions of jokes butted at our 8-2 mauling, at the hands of Manchester United, earlier in the season, I have also had the pride of rival fans coming up to me and telling “Arsenal were awesome yesterday!”, after we beat AC Milan 3-0. While all Arsenal fans may sum this to be a largely disappointing campaign, the word ‘disappointing’, being used only in the context of lack of silverware, I don’t see this as a disappointment or a success. Rather, I see it as another season gone by. I always have seen it that way. Of course, I would be elated, more than anyone else, if we had a cup to go with it, but then, football is football. It goes on. There’s always next season. Players may go, players may come. But, Arsenal will always be close to my heart.

So, moving on, in our quest for Champions League football next season, is our extremely massive league encounter with Roy Hodgson’s West Bromwich Albion. After 37 games of league football, it all comes down to this, and it is still in our hands. If we win tomorrow, irrespective of what Sp*rs do against Fulham, we will be competing in Europe’s premier football tournament. Else, we will be competing in the rather harsh environs of the Europa League.

No disrespect to the Europa League there, but a lot hinges on our Champions League qualification. So much has been talked about this, and all of you know why qualifying for it is of paramount importance to the club’s fortunes at this crucial juncture. A 4th place finish means, we will have to hope Bayern Munich beat Chelsea in the Champions League final next weekend, and while I will be cheering on Bayern, irrespective of our league standing, just because I want the Gunners to be the first club, to bring the European Cup to London, there is no two ways about the fact that we have to win tomorrow.

Much has been said about West Brom players looking to give old man Hodgson a good farewell. On the flip side, we will have the same agenda on our minds, Pat Rice the man in question here. What a fine servant he has been to the club, and a win tomorrow, will be a nice gesture of saying ‘Thank You’.

All games will kick off at exactly the same time tomorrow, and while all of us will be scrambling for live scores, around the grounds, we all know that a 1-0 style win will do the trick. Robin van Persie has had a magnificent season for us, and at times I wonder, where we would be, at the end of the season, without him. Talk surrounding his possible exit from the club has disgusted me enough, and I hope he gets to the 32 mark, to be the Premier League record goal scorer, in a single season, and proceeds to sign a contract.

I don’t believe much in transfers, cos’ they are all a load of bullsh*t. 99% of them never really happen, and with us, it has never happened. This time, though, it seems a bit different, with Lukas Podolski signed even before the present season ends, and the next one starts. This statement of intent has led newspapers to link us with every other professional footballer on the planet. But, for now let’s not talk about it.

Team news, then. Theo Walcott will face a late fitness test, though I doubt he will start tomorrow. Attack wise, we weren’t too bad last week against Norwich, and I think we will stick to that midfield. Bacary Sagna injured himself last week, and is certain to miss the Euro’s, which is quite sad, for him, personally. I would expect natural right-back Carl Jenkinson to start, rather than Francis Coquelin. Another Frenchman, who could miss the Euro’s, not with injury though, is Laurent Koscielny. He has been bloody brilliant this season, and Arsene Wenger wants him to be in the France squad. Also, recent news that Wojciech Szczesny could be out for the final game, because of a knee/back problem, no one knows for sure. Meanwhile, Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie and Jerome Thomas will face late tests. Captain Chris Brunt is out for the Baggies.

West Brom play with a pretty straight-foward 4-4-2 formation, and the injuries to Brunt, Thomas and Odemwingie means starts for Andrews, Scharner and Marc Antoine-Fortune respectively. Without Thomas, I can see them playing a very narrow games, with minimal wing-play. This will also be Paul Scharner’s last game, and incidentally, for him, being an Arsenal fan, it is against the Gunners themselves. Shane Long can be a pretty useful forward, but he also has the tendency to be lacklustre. Fortune is a skilfull player, and Arsenal will have to be at their very best defensively, or we could be slaughtered, like last week against Norwich.

I was impressed by Gervinho last week. He played very well. His dribbling seemed much better, and there was also more pace, and more penetration, and we will require all of that. Benayoun, too, could turn out one last time in Arsenal colors, and, I hope, it’s not the same case for a certain Dutchman. In midfield, there will be an attacking battle between Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Youseff Mulumbu, Keith Andrews. Though the criticism of Ramsey has been a bit harsh, he will look to sign off the season on a positive note.

Last time these two sides met at the Hawthorns, Arsenal fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2, to keep their faint title chances alive. Some calamitous defending was on display last time, and surely, there won’t be any of that tomorrow. There ain’t any room for errors, this time round.

Meanwhile, Keep the Faith.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Arsenal 3-3 Norwich City

Arsenal 3 (Benayoun 2, van Persie 72, 80) – Norwich City 3 (Hoolahan 12, Holt 27, Morison 85)

Man of the Match – John Ruddy (Norwich City)

The chances of having St. Totteringham’s day celebrations, this year, seems pretty bleak now. In what can be described as one of the matches of the season, and one which never ceased to amaze and entertain, Arsenal garnered only a point, to move 2 points clear of Tottenham and Newcastle, albeit having played a game more.

There were no surprises in Arsenal’s lineup, with the same squad that played against Stoke being used. Norwich, however stuck to their policy of rotation, and made several changes. Simon Lappin came in place of the injured Adam Drury, while there was also place in the lineup for Canada striker Simeon Jackson. Also named was the Irish Messi, Wes Hoolahan.

Within no time, Arsenal were in the lead, after birthday boy Yossi Benayoun opened the scoring, with a fine curling effort, into the top corner of the net. Just 70 seconds had passed by at this stage.

However, contrary to what I had predicted earlier, Norwich didn’t seem like they were too keen on an early holiday. They almost equalized immediately, but Grant Holt’s strike was blocked by Kieran Gibbs. They didn’t have to wait long though. An unconvincing moment from Szczesny later, Norwich capitalized as Kyle Naughton’s ball was turned towards the goal by Wes Hoolahan. Szczesny fumbled, as the ball ended in the back of the net.

What was required from the Gunners on the afternoon was some impetus to gather the 3 points that they so required. However, they looked edgy, lackadaisical and lethargic in their approach. Norwich, playing for nothing, after having secured their top flight status, looked like a real menacing outfit.

An Arsenal attack fizzled out, and Norwich got hold of the ball, and chested and headed it around neatly, to set up Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan, who were up against Laurent Koscielny and an backtracking Kieran Gibbs. Holt’s shot took a big deflection off Gibbs’ and looped over a stranded Szczesny into the net.

Arsenal almost equalized, but van Persie failed to get to the end of a low Sagna cross. Moments later, the French right-back suffered an injury, and was replaced by his compatriot Francis Coquelin. He almost conceded a penalty, moments after coming on, as a cross from the right was met with a tangle of legs between Coquelin and Howson. Replays clearly showed Coquelin had fouled the Norwich midfielder. However, the referee refused to oblige.

Norwich were wrecking more havoc in Arsenal’s penalty box. Russel Martin was hauled down by Koscielny, and should’ve gotten a penalty. A furious Paul Lambert certainly thought so. Soon after, Grant Holt nearly gave the Canaries a 3-1 advantage going into the break, but for Koscielny’s brilliant last ditch challenge.

A chorus of boos echoed round the stadium, as the two teams trudged off the pitch at half-time. Surely a hairdryer treatment would do the trick.

Arsenal came racing out into the second half, but it was Norwich who created the first real opportunity, when Jackson almost did a Taraabt, with a shrug of shoulders to beat Vermaelen, who slipped, but his poor effort was saved by Szczesny. Moments later, Benayoun headed right into Ruddy’s hands, with Koscielny being impeded by Holt, but the referee clearly was in no mood to give penalties.

Right back Kyle Naughton, and then Simeon Jackson missed further chances for the Canaries. Arsenal responded with two misses of their own, van Persie and Ramsey the culprits. Rosicky and the impressive Gervinho both had shots on goal, but failed to score.

Arsenal almost had their equalizer, when substitute Marrouane Chamakh’s shot was blocked by Elliot Bennet, only to fall to Alex Song, who played his trademark assist to van Persie. The Dutchman didn’t dissapoint this time, and leveled the scores.

8 minutes later, the comeback was complete, when van Persie, brilliantly placed again, scored off a Rosicky through-ball, under John Ruddy, into the back of the net.

By this time, the adventurous Paul Lambert, had 3 strikers on the pitch, with Anthony Pilkington, Aaron Wilbraham and Steve Morison. It was Morison, who scored the final goal in the match, as he took the ball into his stride, and beat Szczesny at the far post.

What followed next was a frantic end to the game, with Arsenal creating numerous openings. First, van Persie was clearly pushed over by Naughton, with the goal wide open, in the penalty box, and the ref again refused to budge. Soon, Song attempts a backheel, Gibbs has a header, Song has another header, van Persie sent clear on goal, but all of these attempts were kept out by a brilliant John Ruddy.

As the final whistle blew, Arsene Wenger, clearly fuming, just about managed to shake the hands of his counterpart Paul Lambert. It was in our hands, but now it is not. And it is all down to us. We can just hope Manchester City and Aston Villa can do the business for us tomorrow.

The parting shot of the day was Robin van Persie waving at the crowd. Could they be goodbye waves? Only time will tell. For now, the team should just get back to thinking how to beat a West Brom side, keen on giving their boss Roy Hodgson a final hurrah, before he heads on to take the England job.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (6.5) – Looked nervous throughout the game. Nervy clearances, poor handling, bad distribution.

Sagna (7) – Slowed down too many attacks for me. Suffered a bad injury though.

Vermaelen (6.5) – Poor game. He may score a lot of goals, but he is a defender. Needs to concentrate on his defending. Was found wanting on many opportunities.

Koscielny (7.5) – We may have conceded 3, but he was brilliant. Without him, it could’ve been a rout. Sadly, he was partly at fault for the 3rd Norwich goal.

Gibbs (7.5) – He had a good game, I thought. Very good going forward, and almost scored what would have been a precious winner.

Song (6.5) – Failed to get in a single tackle in the game, as far as I remember. He too seemed to slow down the pace of the game at times, but he played a delicious assist for the equalizer.

Rosicky (7.5) – Worked hard in midfield, constantly running at the Canaries defence.

Ramsey (6.5) – I really like the lad, but he hasn’t been at his best of late. Hopefully the close season will give him a good break, and he can return an improved player. He worked hard today, but nothing going his way.

Benayoun (7.5) – Scored a fine goal, and was involved in some fine work in midfield.

Gervinho (7) – A much improved performance from last week at Stoke. His dribbling looks much better, and so does his confidence. Created some good chances today, and switched flanks well, too.

van Persie (8) – Where would we be without him. Scored two important goals. Hopefully, this was not his last game at the Emirates in Arsenal colors.

Subs –

Coquelin (7) – Injected a bit more pace than Sagna on the right, which was good to see.

Chamberlain (7.5) – Provided some much needed creativity, as soon as he came on. A good few minutes.

Chamakh (7) – There is still some life left in him, isn’t there.

Overall Team Rating – 7.10

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Podolski, Vertonghen, M’Vila, Belhanda, Giroud, Norwich preview + Lineups

Arsenal vs Norwich City, Emirates Stadium, Premier League

Kickoff – 12:45 GMT (17:15 IST), 5th May 2012

Hello Gooners. We enter what we can describe as ‘cup football’ mode of the league campaign. The last 2 league games of the campaign remain, and there’s still everything to fight for. Relegation is yet to be sorted out, and so is the title race, and something we are in the middle of, i.e the battle for Champions League spots.

The fixtures in the middle of the week have affected the outcome at the end of the season quite a bit. Manchester City’s win over rivals Manchester United puts them in pole position to win their first league title since 1967/68, while Newcastle and Sp*rs moved to within a point of us. Tottenham won 4-1 at the Reebok, a game which was preceded by the miraculous return of Fabrice Muamba, and Newcastle beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, thanks to 2 world class strikes from their Senegal striker Papiss Demba Cisse.

Looks like Chelsea are almost out of it, and they may just switch off in the final two league games they face against Liverpool at Anfield and Blackburn at home, and concentrate rather on tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Liverpool and the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on the 19th. Chelsea have entered their second European final in 4 seasons, and should they win it, it would mean that they will fill the final Champions League spot, that the English teams are offered. It would, of course, however hurt me to see Chelsea be the first London club to win it, before the Gunners.

Newcastle’s win over Chelsea has given them much needed confidence ahead of the visit of title favorites Manchester City. Papiss Demba Cisse is really off to a flyer in the Premier League, with 13 goals already in just 12 outings. City, of course are no pushovers, and with the title on the line, plus a week’s rest, one should expect them to battle it out and win at St. James. Newcastle’s final game is at Goodison Park, against Everton, which is a hard game too. But, the manner this season has gone, you wouldn’t want to write them off.

Sp*rs, on the back of their morale boosting wins over Blackburn and Bolton, will travel to Birmingham to play Aston Villa, who could be sucked into the relegation mire. This will be an interesting clash, and with the Villa faithful getting on the back of Alex McLeish, you can expect a feisty game. Sp*rs will end their season at home to Fulham.

Thje major news for Arsenal this week, ahead of their league game against Norwich City, is of course the signing of German striker Lukas Podolski from Cologne. The fact that the club has signed a player even before the transfer window opens, and an experienced international at that, is a massive signal of intent to the rest of the league. The German striker, who was a club legend at his childhood club, revealed recently that Arsenal was the only club he had in mind.

I’ve long thought about how we go from here,and the question was only a top club like Arsenal. I’m ready to take this step and I am convinced that it is the right thing. I’ll find my place at Arsenal.The goal is to win titles.I’m more experienced and mature than in Munich.

The man he will be partnering in attack, (hopefully, Gulp!), next season, will be Robin van Persie, who was quick to praise ‘Poldi’.

He is a really good player, an experienced player and he has been in the game at the highest level for more than eight years,I know that he has played 91, 92 times games for Germany, which says it all. He had a little trip to Munich a couple of years ago and then came back to Cologne.He is a great player and a great character to have around because he’s a winner. When we played against Cologne in pre-season you could see that he’s a winner.Even though it was a friendly he was doing absolutely everything to win and we are very happy that he’s coming to Arsenal.

I ask a certain standard of my game, that’s not something new. I always ask myself to provide assists, to score goals and help my team-mates out.This year and the second part of last season has gone really well. I always ask those standards of my game.

According to me the main focus of the transfer window should be retaining the best player we have, while getting rid of the so called ‘deadwood’. The recent speculation of the future of van Persie is particularly disturbing. After collecting his Football Writers’ Association award, van Persie told this.

If you ask the likes of Robert Pires how he feels, what he feels like he will say ‘I feel like a Gunner’ – and whatever happens with me I will always be a Gunner.

It is like Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas all over again. It is like a girl telling you that ‘We can only be friends’, and I have got a lot of that, and the feeling sucks. Hopefully, the signing of Podolski, and a couple of others will convince the Dutchman of the club’s ambition.

Speaking of which, there have been alot of rumours regarding the transfer of Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen to North London. And, I say North London, because the players’ agent recently revealed that Sp*rs have made the first approach. Vertonghen, himself, is rather keen on a transfer to Arsenal, and I hope we sign him, should Wenger feel the need to sign a defender. We don’t need another Juan Mata like situation. Whether we would actually sign the lad, I am not too sure. We already have a good partnership at the back with Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny. Per Mertesacker, when fit is a real asset. Johan Djourou, brother of calamity, is prone to the odd error, or should we say comedy of errors, but with him signing the new contract, I find it hard to see him leaving. Rather, I find it hard to see anyone buying him. Anyways, just a thought, he is not a bad option to have at all for 4th choice centre back. He has ammased nearly 150 appearances at the club, over 7 seasons, and is a Swiss international as well. While I can clearly see Sebastien Squillaci being shown the door, Ignasi Miquel is a good young budding defender as well.

Yaan M’Villa, the Rennes midfielder, is another player heavily linked with a move to the Gunners. Again, I doubt this happening. Though I haven’t seen him play much, the boy does have some disciplinary issues to sort out. Plus, we already have Alex Song, who has made the central defensive midfielder position his own. While Wenger may run out of patience on Abou Diaby, we can still blood in players like Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Henri Lansbury, who will return from his loan at West Ham.

Other players linked are the duo from French champions Montpellier, young Moroccan midfielder Younes Belhanda, and France striker Olivier Giroud. Belhanda has already been marked down with a possible move to Spanish champions Real Madrid, with the director of football, Zinedine Zidane himself hailing Belhanda as a ‘special talent’. With our ‘new signing’, Jack Wilshere, returning next season, and an existing array of options such as Arteta, Rosicky and Ramsey I do not see this happening. Moreover, the crazy price that Montpellier are bound to demand will be a turn-off anyways.

We could, though, do with another option in attack. We may have signed Podolski, but it still feels a slightly empty department. I can already see Chamakh in a Fiorentina jersey, and Park in a military uniform, though he has delayed his army service. The point is, they clearly haven’t proven themselves in training to the manager, which has lead them to be given very little time to prove themselves on the pitch. Gervinho, was one player, I did expect a lot from, and he clearly hasn’t delivered. He was decent before the Cup of Nations. After that, he has been woeful. Theo Walcott can look like Maradona at times, and rest of the time, he just looks like the bloke from the park, who just interested in football. As I had predicted earlier, I expect Niklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela in different clubs next season. The only other striker who will be coming in, apart from Podolski of course, is Costa Rican Joel Campbell, if he can get his visa sorted out, that is. That is pretty much the situation of our strikers. Olivier Giroud is an out and out scorer, and he would be a valuable addition, I feel. But, there’s still time for that though.

Arsene Wenger was quick to point out that further signings will be affected by the Premier League’s 25 man squad rule.

That is a big problem for every club,and before you go out on the transfer market you have to see how you cope with the 25 players.I don’t exclude it but we have to respect that number.We wanted at least one target to be sorted out early. Now we are in a position where the second part of our signings will be to take care of the players who are injured and to get them back for the start of next season.I think of course about Jack Wilshere, and about Abou Diaby.  Then, if you look at our squad, we have quite a big one and before we buy again we have to look at how many players we will have.

Team news, then. Abou Diaby, as expected, has suffered a minor strain, which means he is out for the Norwich game. I am really starting to feel for the guy. He is talented, but just can’t seem to get the better of those nagging injuries. If he does, he is a good player to have in the team. Apart from that, Arteta, Mertesacker, Wilshere and Walcott are all ruled out for the remaining two games. Not many changes for Norwich. Their only casualty is left-back Adam Drury, while dangerous forward Grant Holt is back in the lineup.

Both, us and Norwich seem to have taken their minds of the season, if recent results are anything to go by. While Arsenal are still in the fight for the 3rd spot, Norwich will be pretty pleased with the way the season has panned out for them. They are a good solid unit, and Paul Lambert’s side can spring a surprise on their day.

Arsenal have let the steam go off lately. They won 7 on the trot, before losing at Loftus Road. They were soon up again, beating Manchester City and Wolves, and after that they have been disappointing. A home loss to Wigan, a home draw to Chelsea, and an away draw to Stoke, means only 2 points out of a possible 9. This has blown the 3rd spot fight wide open. 6 points in the last two games, would seal 3rd spot, and that should be the aim. No more slip ups can be accepted.

Norwich, will hopefully be in holiday mood, tomorrow. They will be just waiting for 13th May, after which they can take a well deserved break in the sun. After beating Sp*rs at White Hart Lane last month, they already look like they are on holiday. They got crushed 6-1 at home by Manchester City, 2-0 to struggling Blackburn, and 3-0 at home to an inspired Liverpool.

Arsenal slaved to a 2-1 win the last time these sides met, at Carrow Road, with Robin van Persie, scoring two, one of which was a delicious chip. The goal which Norwich scored was a defensive error by Mertesacker, and we will have to avoid any of those, for now, atleast.

There is no more need to emphasize on the importance of the points tomorrow. The game will be the only league fixture for the day. Of course, there is the small matter of the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool later in the day. The remaining round of fixtures will be on Sunday, which is always good for us. Should we win tomorrow, and Sp*rs and Newcastle lose, we ourselves can go on holiday before 13th.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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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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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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