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In our hands again?

Hello Gooners. All of us wait in anticipation for Sunday. The last day of the league season, where so much is left to be decided.

The week that passed by has been quite action packed. Sunday bought loads of important clashes in the Premier League. Newcastle were finally overpowered by the class of Yaya Toure, who scored twice, to move Manchester City ever so closer to their first Premier League crown. A late Djibril Cisse strike for QPR, against Stoke, may prove to be the singular most important goal in the Hoops’ season. Bolton dropped valuable points at home, and find themselves deep in trouble.

Blackburn Rovers were relegated, after a late Antonin Alcaraz goal ensured league safety for Wigan. It has been a tumultuous season for Rovers, with protests against manager Steve Kean, after almost every home fixture. Even a chicken with a Blackburn logo was released on the field, while other novel protests included a plane, with the message ‘In Venky’s we trust – Burnley Fans’. More importantly for us, Sp*rs could only muster a draw against a determined Aston Villa, which keeps us rooted to 3rd spot, one point ahead of our neighbours.

In our hands again. It has been quite a dismal end to the campaign, which has mirrored our previous seasons. A winning run of 7 games was halted by QPR, before we won two more against Manchester City and Wolves. Wigan bought us down to earth again. Since then, we have only managed to eke out 3 points against Stoke, Chelsea and Norwich, and a 5 point gap has been reduced to just 1.

St. Totteringham’s day celebrations have been put off, atleast until 5 PM GMT. While the Gunners travel to Birmingham to face West Brom, Sp*rs will take on Fulham at home. Newcastle still have an outside chance, though, when they travel to Everton.

The last time we faced this nail biting finish to the season, was in 2006, the final season at our beloved Highbury. The last game at the famous old stadium, Arsenal took on upstarts Wigan, while Sp*rs travelled to West Ham. Arsenal were 2-1 down at one stage, before Thierry Henry turned on the style, to win the game 4-2, while a certain Yossi Benayoun sunk Sp*rs, whose many players were out due to food poisoning before the game. Conspiracy? Probably.

However, we cannot rely on rotten pieces of meat this time round. 3 points is an absolute must at the Hawthorns, and regardless of how many goals Fulham get punctured by, we will have a place in next year’s Champions League. Anything but that, we face the realistic prospect of playing in the Europa League, and that means, a probable exodus from the club, a financial downfall, and the inability to sign top players for quite some time.

In other news, the past few days saw two former Arsenal legends retire, one from the game, and the other from his post as assistant manager. Both were defenders. They are Sol Campbell and Pat Rice.

I will start with a little tribute to Sol Campbell. Signed controversially on a free transfer from Sp*rs in the summer of 2001, Campbell came to be one of the mainstays in the Gunners’ defence for years to come. With stalwarts such as Tony Adams retiring from the game, the mantle had well and truely been passed. He first formed a solid partnership with Martin Keown, and then with Kolo Toure, the latter of which proved to be one of the stand out performers in Arsenal’s history making season of 2003-2004. Of course, our unbeaten run ended, off a Rooney dive, with Campbell the accused, but he has been an absolute rock for us. His command in the air, his leadership and organisational abilities have been indispensable. Another fine season in 2005 followed, with a FA Cup final win over Manchester United. He even scored in the Champions League final in 2006, a thumping header against Barcelona, but, alas we were not to leave our old ground as European champions. Campbell left Arsenal in 2006, to Portsmouth, where he won the FA Cup in 2008. He made a brief return to the North London, making 14 appearances, to help out the team during an injury-striken phase. Campbell was voted 15th in the “Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players” poll.

While Campbell served the club for little more than 5 years, Pat Rice has been a fantastic servant to the club, with an association that adds up to nearly 50 years. From Northern Ireland, and born in Belfast, he grew up in London, and joined the Gunners as a schoolboy. He made his debut in 1967, and slowly but gradually made the right-back position his own. He was an ever present in the 1970/71 side, that won the league and the cup, and at just 22, he was becoming the mainstay in defence. Rice was to stay with the Gunners for another 9 years, till 1980, and moved on to Watford after amassing 397 league games. He would return in 1984, as a youth team coach, for 12 years, before moving up the ranks to be assistant manager for the next 16 years. He has seen through successes like the doubles in 1997/98, 2001/02, and the unbeaten campaign in 2003/04, also FA Cup wins in 2003 and 2005. He has also been partly responsible in developing a host of exciting young talent over the past few seasons, in Cole, Flamini, Fabregas, Ca$hri, Greedybayor, van Persie, Wilshere, Gibbs, Ramsey, to name a few.

The squad gave Rice a farewell party, ahead of his last game against West Brom.

The game against Norwich was Rice’s last at the Emirates, and also Wenger’s 900th in charge of the Gunners. He boasts a win percentage of 57%, which is quite remarkable, for a 16 year tenure.

This means that there will be some more shuffling about in the backroom staff. Youth team coach Steve Bould has been promoted to assistant manager, and it is a good move. Bould played as a centre-back for the Gunners for nearly 11 seasons, making 288 appearances, and despite revealing recently that he loves his present role as developing young exciting talent, his appointment, will hopefully drill some good defensive skills into the club. Arsenal have conceded nearly 50 goals in the league, this season, which is quite unacceptable.

Moving on, Yossi Benayoun revealed on Israeli radio, that there is a minor chance he could stay with Arsenal for next season. I am not too sure, whether he will stay, but I think another year would be good. He is experienced, level headed and a pretty useful member to have in the team. He has done a good job, despite being one of the peripheral players. With Wilshere returning from injury, and Ramsey struggling to hit form, Benayoun will be the right cushion for the first few months of the season.

Another player, whose future at the club is a doubt, is Russian Andrey Arshavin. Loaned to Zenit St. Petersburg, Arshavin has slowly but gradually improved his form, and helped the club to a Russian Premier League title.

I haven’t yet thought about (my future). Everything will be decided after the European Championship,Of course, the result and quality of play there could affect my destiny.Without a doubt I can say that the decision to return to Zenit was correct. First of all, I am now playing regularly. Secondly, it’s hometown. Third, Zenit has ensured me of everything so that my thoughts are focused only on football.

According to reports, one player on the brink of a transfer to Arsenal is Yaan M’Villa, the Rennes midfielder. There is a good article on Gooner Daily, and what a useful asset he could be to the Gunners. To be honest, I haven’t watched this lad much. If he can bolster the squad, then it would be a good addition, and a strong statement of intent. I highly doubt this happening though, with Wenger still hoping against hope for Diaby to be fit again, and with youngsters such as Coquelin and Frimpong in the waiting list.

In other news, Per Mertesacker, has praised the new arrival at the club, his compatriot Lukas Podolski.

He is very confident.  When he feels he has to be there for the team and when we needed a goal he was always there. He was always one of the best players on the pitch and nothing could take him down. He is so confident and that is what I like.He is a fantastic striker,Everywhere he has played he has scored a lot of goals. He is very good on his first [touch] when he has the ball in front of him, that is a big quality and very good for us.I think he has good physical power and that is what is needed in the Premier League. He is very quick too. It is a challenge for him but he can cope with it.

Finally, the new home kit was revealed recently. My first thought, was they have gone bonkers. On a closer look, it is a tribute to Herbert Chapman’s revolutionary WM formation. The sleeve looks kind of like the Dutch flag, and if it helps keep Robin van Persie, who did participate in the photoshoot, then, so be it. The neck looks ghastly, but then again, if it helps us get some silverware, then change is a good thing.

More on the West Brom game coming up soon.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in General

 

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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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Torres, Guardiola, van Persie, Stoke Preview + Lineups

Stoke City vs Arsenal, Britannia Stadium, Premier League

Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (19:30 IST), 28th April 2012

Hello Gooners. It has been an eventful week. The Champions League has kept us involved, despite our own shortages. Bayern Munich and Chelsea dispatched Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona in two exciting contests to book their place for the final in Bayern’s own Allianz Arena on May 19th.

Fernando Torres has to be one of the most talked about footballers this season after the likes of Ronaldo, Messi and probably van Persie. From being one of the outstanding players in Liverpool, he has become a topic of jokes, after his move to Chelsea, where he has struggled, big time, to find the back of the net. That was not the case at Nou Camp, though, as Torres kept his calm, to round off Valdes and settle the tie once and for all. Most neutrals who have watched Torres, would love to see the Spaniard back to his old nick.

The other big news this week has been the exit of Pep Guardiola. He is still a very young manager, and has probably achieved so much in such a short span of time, that it has taken out the energy, motivation and passion out of him. Or, rather it was a move from Barcelona’s board, who just couldn’t accept failure. If it is the second case, then it goes to show how diluted and results-oriented the game has become. It is rather an unfortunate incident. No one knew the players and the system more than Guardiola himself, and to see him leave in such a fashion, does raise some doubts. He has however created a lasting legacy at the club.

Things closer to our heart then. Let’s start off by first congratulating Robin van Persie, on winning bith the PFA (Proffesional Footballer’s Association), and FWA (Football Writer’s Association) Player of the Year Awards. van Persie’s form of late can be forgiven, for his form throughout this campaign has been nothing short of marvelous. He has carried the team from some dark days early on in the season, to a final flourish, which can see us finish in the top 3, to ensure Champions League football next season. His 27 goals, have been delightful, as well as important. With winners against Sunderland, Stoke, Chelsea, Norwich, Everton, QPR and Liverpool, and other equally important strikes against the likes of Newcastle and Sp*rs, he has deserved all the plaudits he has received.

While there has been enough talk about van Persie moving away from the Emirates, after 7 trophy barren seasons, and with suitors like Juventus, Manchester City and AC Milan, willing to bulge his pay packets, it is of utmost priority, that Arsenal sit down with the player and convince him to sign a new contract at the club, as well as splashing the cash, in order to place down a marker on the club’s ambition. Arsenal fans will certainly hope, the club won’t lose another of their star players, having seen out most of the players’ development, akin to Fabregas, Nasri, you know the lot.

Arsene Wenger was quick to praise the Dutchman.

I believe he was consistent, he had an exceptional year because he scored goals but he was as well a provider,I think that’s what people admired with him this season, the fact he was not only a goalscorer but also a guy who provided assists. But something that was maybe questioned about him in the past is that he was a fighter. I think he added that combative side to his game, as a leader and a captain in the team, and that’s what certainly convinced everybody.He has grown mentally and you see it better when you look back with a distance. The young player who arrived here and the man he is today, I believe he has grown a lot and made a big, big, massive improvement on that front. He has grown into a leader and he is a great captain now, on and off the pitch.

Not much of news from the Arsenal end over this frenzied week of Champions League football. While the drab stalemate against Chelsea, got us a point, it has also fortified our position in the league. Newcastle, however, are close on our heels, just 3 points behind, and with a game in hand. The Geordies, do face some massive games though, against relegation threatened Wigan (A), fellow rivals for Champions League qualification, Chelsea (H), title chasing Manchester City (H), and a final day away trip to Everton. Sp*rs, too have a game in hand, and find themselves 6 points behind the Gunners. It is all in our hands to secure that 3rd spot. Now, with Chelsea, in the Champions League final, and 50-50 chance of them winning it, it means that finishing 3rd is an absolute must.

Arsenal start with the first of their last 3 games, today, with an away trip to problematic side, Stoke City Rugby FC. The Potters have been known to cause the Gunners problems, physically. Last season, Arsenal were beaten 3-1 in a largely lacklustre display, and 2 seasons previously, we all know about Aaron Ramsey’s horrific injury, after he came at the end of a Ryan Shawcross challenge. Stoke City’s long ball tactics and throw-in abilities, have been less talked about this season, and they have added a little more football to their style of play, in a way of telling.

Arsene Wenger spoke after the Chelsea game, explaining why the players never really got into top gear. Both teams were cagey throughout the game, and it was quite strange according to him. Even I felt the same. Both teams never carved out any open chances. One positive was the return of Abou Diaby, after he suffered another injury setback. Both, Arsene Wenger and Thomas Vermaelen spoke how important Diaby can be in the run-in with important players like Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott facing an end to their seasons, because of injury.

Another positive point, to be taken from the Chelsea game is how well the central defensive partnership between Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny is gelling. The Belgian spoke how well Koscielny completes him as a defensive team. With the return of Per Mertesacker from injury, I think Arsene Wenger will be pleased to have 3 world class centre-backs at his disposal. Vermaelen also shared his views on the defensive shield of Alex Song.

Tomas Rosicky, who was Arsenal’s best player on the disappointing afternoon, also revealed he has found his place in the team, finally. After being moved around from left midfield to central midfield, in his early seasons, he has now held on to his favoured central position, rather a more free role, which allows him to go forward, at will. This position also allows him to track back, and help out Song, and this feature of his game has been quite a revelation for the Gunners. The Czech, who has been out injured for the best part of 2 seasons, during his time here, feels that his football age is only 29, rather than 31, which is his actual age.

The numbers are very similar. There’s no difference between what I’m doing now and, let’s say, five years ago,You know, my normal age is 31 but in football years I’m 29 – I lost two years because of injury so let’s just talk about my football age.I still believe I have plenty in me – we’ll see how it all goes, but right now I feel great and want to continue this way.I can say that I feel very well and I hope I have many years to come.You see players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes – what they are producing at their age for Manchester United is great and that’s a real inspiration for me.Everything is possible, but of course it will depend on my health.

Another player, who feels that he still has many years to the club is Wojciech Szczesny. He will have to be at  his best, to deal with Stoke’s crosses. According to Opta, the centre for football stats, the Pole is the best keeper when it comes to dealing with crosses, with a success rate of 98%.

It’s always satisfying to hear people praising you,But I’m at the beginning of my career with a long way to go.  I’m looking forward to playing for this Club for a long, long time.At this age, it’s very important for a player to play regularly and I’m very happy that I was given the chance. I’m just trying to do my best for the Club.

When you play for this Club you want to win trophies,This Club deserves trophies and we didn’t get any this year so it’s always disappointing.I think the quality is there. We all know it – we have the quality to fight for trophies in Europe and this country. It’s just consistency that has been a bit of a problem for us this year.But the team’s getting more experienced and hopefully we’ve got the experience to win trophies next year.I think if you look over the last couple of months we’re probably one of the best teams in the Premier League. So we’ve got three games to go and we need to win all three and we’ll finish third.

Brazil left-back Andre Santos, too shared the same view.

When it comes to a derby I think it was a good result – Chelsea are not an easy team to beat, they have excellent players,I congratulate our squad for their fight and now we need to work hard to carry on winning.We need to qualify for next year’s Champions League. We need to finish well and carry on next year to compete for the title.This is a big club and deserves better. All we want are trophies.

Moving on, Le Prof had something very interesting to say, regarding suspensions, and a new idea of sin-bins. I think this is a really great idea, but it would be years before any drastic changes are made to the game, as it has become quite a spectacle now, as it is.

On to the Stoke game then. Here are all the pre-match interviews.

Arsene Wenger

That’s what we want to show,I believe that Stoke is always a difficult opponent for us and everybody. Every big team who goes to Stoke knows they get a game. From our side we are in a position where we want to win our remaining games. That is the only chance to master our future. We have our future in our own hands but only if we win the three games. That starts with Stoke so we are completely focused on cancelling their strong points but as well we want to score goals because that is what you need to win the games.They have played many games as well. They played in the Europa League and in the FA Cup so they have played many games this season. So that will not be an excuse from our side.

Tomas Rosicky

We have to find the balance again, even without Mikel because the midfield is the heart of the team,There is no doubt that Mikel is a very important part of this team because he is very experienced, always wants the ball and wants to play. But we have to cope without him. It is the last three games of the season and we want to stay in third place. I have absolutely no idea [about whether I will play deeper], it is a question for the boss. As I have said many times before, I can play this role too. I can drop a bit deeper too but let’s see what the boss wants.I think we have to be confident because we are there and it is in our own hands,The battle is on, no doubt about that, and it shows you how strong this league is. It will be to fight right until the end. It is difficult to say [why we struggled in our last two games]. Against Wigan we had a bad day and we never really got it going. Against Chelsea there was maybe a little thought that we could not lose that game and had it in our heads a little bit. We hit the post twice and if you saw the game, Chelsea just tried to defend. There is another game right now at Stoke where we want to get back on track again and win the game.

Thomas Vermaelen

It is always a hard game when we go there, you know it is going to be a battle, If there is a battle, sometimes you have to fight back. But the main thing is to play our own game, with quick passing. That is the way to score. Of course we must fight for every ball but the main thing is to keep to our own game and score a lot of goals.We always want to defend well as a team, we have to do that on Saturday,It won’t be easy, and we have to be focused on set pieces.

Carl Jenkinson

I think it is fair to say that most teams struggle with the physical side that Stoke have,It is something we have to be aware of and it is no surprise anymore, everybody knows how Stoke play. They are a big, strong and physical side but we are prepared for that, know what is coming and just have to deal with it as best as we can.We are very excited but we know it will be a tough game. Stoke away is never an easy place to go and we have to be prepared for the sort of game we know they are going to throw at us. But we are looking forward to going up there and getting a win.Of course they can win it, they wouldn’t have got this far if they didn’t have it in them to win,But it is in our hands now, we are in third place and we can’t be relying on other things for us to be in the Champions League now. We need to make sure of it ourselves and the only way to do that is finish in third place. We just have to do everything we can to win our next three games and make that place ours.

Team news, then. Stoke’s recent form has been poor. They were trounced last weekend at Newcastle 3-0. Before that, they earned a point at Aston Villa, scraped past Wolves 2-1, and lost at Wigan 2-0. Tony Pulis has blamed this on Stoke’s poor finishing. Of course, their defensive side needs some look into, but Stoke do create a good amount of opportunities, especially at home. They have had a long hard season, one which earned them a European tie with Valencia. And, this seems to be taking a bit of a toll on the Potters. Andy Wilkinson and former Arsenal winger, Jermaine Pennant, who scored a goal last time these two met, have been ruled out.

Arsenal are without Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott. Yossi Benayoun will return after missing the Chelsea game, due to ineligibility. Abou Diaby had a recent illness, and hence may not play, though he may feature in the squad. Also emerging, is news that Jack Wilshere may not even return for the start of next season.

I think we can expect a very open game here. With Etherington and Palacios on the wings, there is always a threat of quick counters. Arsenal could be stifled, and I hope Chamberlain isn’t kicked out of the game. The role of Ramsey, Song and Rosicky becomes vital here in central midfield. Arsenal will have to keep balance, going forward and tracking back, because Stoke can create opportunities. It should be an entertaining battle.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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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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All the reaction, Wigan preview + Lineups

Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic, Premier League, Emirates Stadium

Kickoff – 20:00 GMT (00:30 IST), Monday, 16th April 2011

Hello Gooners. It has been another good few days. With 6 points from 6 in the last two games, with vital wins over Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, there’s not much we can complain for.

Well, the title race has been blown wide open, thanks to a stunning strike from Scotland international Shaun Maloney, for Wigan Athletic against Manchester City. The gap was cut down back to 5 points, and despite Roberto Mancini saying that he expects Manchester United to go on and win the title, deep down he knows that Wigan threw him a lifeline, which they have to hold on to dearly now. Earlier today, Manchester City thrashed a hapless Norwich City 6-1, quite an ironic scoreline, at Carrow Road, 24 hours ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Aston Villa at Old Trafford. With the gap down to 2, pressure will be on Fergie’s men, to make it 5, as they play a team, who could get sucked into the basement battle, in no time.

The FA Cup semi-final, meanwhile pitted the two Merseyside clubs against each other, as Everton took on Liverpool. It was quite an exciting game, and the Wembley pitch just seems to getting poorer and poorer. Nikica Jelavic’s 24th minute strike, was rather harshly cancelled out by a mistake off his own teammate Sylain Distin, whose attempted backpass, was finished off by Luis Suarez. Andy Carroll seems to be back to his goalscoring nick, despite missing howlers through the game, he managed to pounce home the winner in the 87th minute.

Coming back to Arsenal, then. Here’s all the reaction from Arsene Wenger, post the win over Manchester City.

AW on the run-in

For some people these predictions are their job,Believe me, they don’t know much better than you or me and the result of every game is just a consequence of your performance on the day. Nobody can really predict that because your performance on the day depends on you, but also depends on the other team as well. To predict both is nearly impossible. You can have an idea but football has surprised us so many times, especially recently in the last two or three months. We have all been surprised by many results and predictions. What would be interesting is to make a championship of the predictors and see who comes out on top at the end.Let’s not anticipate, that is something else that is important. When it gets to the last sprint, the focus on the next game becomes the most important part because you are always tempted to anticipate. We have the experience to know just to deal with the next one and that is the only important thing.

AW on the team this season

It [a top-four finish] is very important to us,It has a big meaning for us because we want to play at the top but also because of where we came from, that would be a great achievement for us. This team has gone through difficult times but we know that we belong with the best and we have shown that again on Sunday. That is why it is important that we continue to go in a strong way.It is very intense. The closer you get to the end and you go for something important, the more the pressure is there. So to keep your nerve is vital.

AW on Bacary Sagna being the best right-back in the Premier League

I think so, personally, and I believe that everybody at the Club would share this opinion,Many people outside the Club have this opinion as well.I must say with the right back position I have been quite lucky because we had Lee Dixon when I arrived, then Lauren, and Sagna afterwards. They have all been real winners and extremely consistent. On that front we were very lucky.They are all real battlers, they are ready to die to win. All these players have been inspirational for everybody because their physical level, commitment, intelligence and desire to win is all there.

AW on Yossi Benayoun

First of all he knows the job in this [wide] position,He is highly focused in the big games, that is a massive part, because you cannot switch off.So we have a good balance in the team with him and a good focus. And of course he has quality. We have to say that in the games he has started he did extremely well and the team did extremely well as well. That is never a coincidence.No, not yet [I have not made a decision],That will happen at the end of the season. We have to look at the situation in a global way because we have many players out on loan so we need to deal with these situations.

Moving on, Mikel Arteta, has been massive this season. He has blended in seamlessly in the midfield, and now is one of Arsenal’s most vital players. He scored a fine winner against Manchester City.

We need to finish the season really strong,We’ve shown we have a lot of fighters here. We have missed big players this season; Abou DiabyJack Wilshere, and they haven’t played at all and are massive players.We know we have really good players and maybe, just maybe, we can do even better than what we have done this year.I’m trying to contribute the best way to the team that I can,Scoring goals is not one of my most important jobs because we have better players in the team to do that. But it’s always nice to help.Robin [van Persie] has been creating goals for other players. As long as we keep winning, that’s the most important thing. We are also keeping clean sheets as well which is important from now until the end of the season.Everybody likes to score a goal and I’m no different. When Robin scores three then I’m happy as well because we win the game. But this goal [against Man City] was special and it won the game.

Third place gives you direct access to the Champions League,It’s really important. It’s been a big fight; we have come all the way through from the back.We’ve put in a big effort, we are in a strong position now and we don’t want to waste it. We had a setback at QPR and it says a lot for our spirit that we came straight back.Everyone was saying we were in trouble again because Newcastle look really strong, Chelsea have been winning and I’m sure they’ll be there until the end.It will be a big fight and I think it will go right until the end. There are some big games ahead. Everyone must play each other; we’ve got Chelsea here and have got to go to Stoke so it can change again.I don’t think it will be easy, We have some good examples this year when we have dropped points against teams near the bottom.We have to go there with the right mentality and the right approach and sense of pride. When you’re playing away from home there are no easy games in the Premier League.

Robin van Persie, without a shadow of a doubt has been Arsenal’s talisman this season. Taking over the reins from Cesc Fabregas, and after the stuttering start to the campaign, the Dutchman has led the team by example.

I don’t think it changed me a lot in the way I am because I believe you should always stay the same,I think the only thing that has changed for me is that it has been made official. Before that I was always helping people out where I could because we all help each other out, it’s not only me. This is the way our club is.I do realise that some stuff starts with me but that counts for every single person for themselves as well. Good behaviour starts from yourself. If you expect that from other people, you should start by yourself and be helpful to everyone else. That has nothing to do with the captaincy, it is the way you should be. Everybody should try to be positive and try to help each other out. I don’t think I am the main starter in all of that.I was very proud [to be made captain], obviously,If you look at the history of Arsenal captains, being part of that is a very special feeling. It makes me proud because Arsenal is a massive club. You look at Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas – those guys were proper captains. I like it, it feels comfortable and not weird.

Meanwhile, after the relatively easy win over Wolves, and Spurs’ shock loss to Norwich at home, Arsenal moved 5 points clear of their rivals, and are now in pole position to seal 3rd spot. Here’s the manager’s complete post match interview.

AW on the result
We started well and then had a situation where we could control the game. Did we push on or not? After that we played a bit with the handbrake on, they played deeper and defended like mad with a great spirit until the end of the game. If they keep that spirit then they still have a chance of staying in the league. On our part we controlled the game, although they actually had a spell in the second half where they created chances. Szczesny made a good save but after that it was a comfortable win.

AW on top-three situation
I am very happy that we are in this position but I am also very cautious because some teams have been in that position before. We want to win our next game because where we have come from this season we must be focused. We have come from very deep and to stay in this position we have to focus on our next game.

AW on the penalty

It looked to me [like a penalty] but I have not seen it again. You could argue that he is the last man as well. The referee had no choice but I think the punishment is harsh because you give away a penalty and you lose a man as well.

AW on spoiling the game
It spoils the game for the supporters because they know they have little chance to come back after. I never forget that we lost Robin van Persie in Barcelona last season when he got a second yellow card for kicking the ball away. It was just strict application of the rules. Today I think the referee had no choice because it is the rule.

AW on Van Persie’s finish

It was a surprise to me because I have never seen him doing that. It was just what came into his mind at the last second he said.

AW on ending his four-game goal draught

It is not easy for a striker like Van Persie who is not used to not scoring. I think he equalled the record of Ian Wright by scoring against 17 different teams in the Premier League out of 20. That is absolutely remarkable in the modern game so I would like to congratulate him because that has never been done before. When your striker scores against 17 different teams, that is sensational.

AW on possibility to improve on record
He could have beaten it if he had scored against Manchester City. The last two chances he had were Man City and tonight. He hit the post twice and Vermaelen saved one on the line against City.

AW on the Wigan game

Wigan did not deserve to lose at Chelsea and they got a great result tonight. It is a good warning for us to prepare well in that game.

AW on FA decision not to extend Balotelli ban

I still don’t understand. If you look at the case of Balotelli you get an explanation and you have to accept it. Then you look at the case of Derry, you get an explanation and you can accept it. But if you put the two together it looks absolutely unbelievable. When the referee has seen something nobody can get over the rule.We need an exceptional committee of ethics who can get over that. The global situation does not make common sense. For people who love football you cannot accept that one is punished and the other is not. But I am not keen to get Balotelli suspended because I have no interest at all in that.

The man who was responsible for both the early goals was Theo Walcott, as he won the penalty and then played a fine one-two with Robin van Persie, before finishing off, to put the game to bed.
I’m 23 now and I am still growing. I am not afraid of getting hurt,A few years ago I had shoulder injuries, ankle problems and back problems and that was just me learning the other side of the game.Now I am just going into games and enjoying myself, not being scared of anything. The manager always tells me not to be afraid going into tackles. I am a totally different Theo Walcott now.We are playing great football and it’s nice to be part of that and not on the treatment table.
 Moving on, Le Prof spoke on a host of issues ahead of the Wigan clash.
AW on the Ladies
Arsenal Ladies are always doing well,I am a big supporter and admirer and I wish them well against Frankfurt and I am sure they will surprise us as always in a positive way. The German teams are always very strong. Their national side didn’t do well in the last World Cup at home but usually they are always there in the top two or three in the world.
 AW on Benayoun
He has been very patient and very professional,He came here with a lack of [playing time] and it took him a while to become really sharp. He kept working and waited for his place.We kept faith in him and put him in for big games because he is an intelligent and talented player. He has a good team attitude.The problem with Yossi was more physical because he is a guy who plays on his sharpness and quick movement. He had a big injury don’t forget and it took him some time to come back.After that, when you do not play big games it takes you time to find the confidence again. Now he is there.
AW on Wilshere’s return
I will not take any risks with him,He is making slow progress so we still have to monitor the situation a little bit at the moment. As I told you last week, the next three weeks would be decisive and now we have two weeks in front of us. I cannot tell you more.
AW on how the league’s dynamics have changed
We are in a different situation because we are on the way up, and last year we were on the way down,The dynamic is completely different. We are on a very strong run, but last year we were on a strong run downwards. Where we finish we will see at the end of the season but at the moment our focus is to maintain our momentum and finish in a stronger position than last year. It is possible if we maintain our results, [like we are] at the moment.Champions League football is still our main target of the season. For a while it was very difficult, for some people [they thought] it was impossible, but now it is feasible. Considering where we came from, we want to take our chance now.
AW on transfers
What has not changed at all is our policy that we will be as ambitious as ever and spend the money we have available, if possible in an intelligent and wise way,We have always spent money because we are ambitious for top-class players and if you look at the history of our last 15 years, we have always had top-class players. Sol Campbell is one of them.It does not mean you cannot win the title,There are two basic trophies for me that are the sign of the quality of a team; they are the Premier League and the Champions League.The Champions League is prestigious and it is half league and half cup. That means that at the end, the teams who wins must show real quality.All the rest, they are trophies of course and they are important, but they do not really reflect the deep quality of a team. The championship does, and we want to win it.Our ambition is intact, to win the championship. It depends on how we finish the season to decide how much we need to buy to have a chance to win the championship next season.
AW on van Persie
It does not look like he is worrying but you know that a striker who has scored in every single game but then has a period he does not like it,But I am convinced that he thought about it. I didn’t worry at all, but the guys who score goals like to continue to score.What you can do one day, you can do the next. We are on a strong run and if you look at our last 10 games, we are defensively more stable because we have kept a few clean sheets.We can score goals and Robin van Persie comes out of a period when he scored a bit less. We still managed to win the games, that is positive.
Yes [he has exceeded my expectations], not on the quality of his games though because I expect a lot from him,The way it goes beyond my level of expectation is the number of goals he has scored, that is for sure. Where he is sensational as well is as a captain. He has done extremely well on and off the field.
AW on video replays
I would like to assess the situation as a whole at the end of the season,Last weekend was a very bad weekend, but we need to assess the global situation.I think the football authorities need to sit together and see how we can improve it. It is time for us to help the referees and not be so conservative and finally opt for video. Video will help the referees, not question their authority. It will give them more credit, more authority and [produce] fewer mistakes.We need instant video replays on the demand of the referee. It would not stop the game, it would sometimes given an even bigger flow to the game. Why? If I am a linesman and the offside situation is a 50:50, I am tempted to stop the game. If I know I have video behind me I am tempted to let it go. You could improve the flow of the game and then check after. I believe that football is the [No 1] sport in the whole world but we have to accept that we have a more conservative approach than any other sport. It can be a strength but on the refereeing side I think it is a weakness.If the referee thinks there is an obvious situation he has not seen well, let’s go and check. You could still be wrong but in fewer cases. I don’t think that the referees are bad, I just think that there are so many situations and they cannot see everything in the game. It is impossible for a human being, no matter how good you are. Out of 100 situations [if you used video replays] you would be less wrong than you are today because you could have help.I believe that maybe we need to promote young talents who come to the game,” he said. “The bigger the basis is quantity-wise, the more chance you have to produce top-level referees. We need to think about how we can promote young talents because it is a difficult job.
AW on Szczesny
He has improved in his focus, the consistency of it,The talent was always there but he is maturing quickly.You can’t be completely on the inside or completely on the outside. I like that he is a good communicator. You have to adjust, it’s important to find a balance.The mental part of a keeper is vital. Look at Joe Hart, who is a fantastic goalkeeper for England. For me he shows that strength.I wouldn’t like to say publicly what he [Szczesny] needs to do to improve, I’d rather tell him myself. Overall he has the basic talent to be a top-class keeper, how far he goes will depend on how much he wants to improve.
AW on diving
We should have a superior committee of ethics that could still punish a player [after a match] and if this committee could punish an obvious dive with a three-match ban, the players would not do it anymore.I would support that for obvious diving. A guy who trips himself with his other leg, no.Everybody wants to win football games and when you have played football, you always try to be on the fringe if you want to win. For example, you touch the ball and it goes out you shout ‘throw in for us’, things like that. But a dive in the box? I think sometimes you can only get it out after the game.I think that the foreign players have brought good and bad things, In England you respected that you got well kicked but on the other side players did not go down for nothing. The second thing I admired here in England is that players never surrounded the referees to demand a yellow card for somebody else, they let the referee make a decision. But that has gone as well. Not everywhere but there is a trend now to surround the referee and [demand] a yellow card and that never happened when I arrived.Yes [that has come from foreign players],” added Wenger. “But I must say the English players learn quickly.
AW on the defence
It is getting there, because everyone does their job well. What we used to think is that clean sheets are only linked to defenders but it is not like that. It is more a team effort and on that front I believe we have improved. Of course our overall defensive record is still not good, but if you take into consideration that we conceded eight at Manchester United and four at Blackburn at the start of the season, our record since that period is quite good defensively.
AW on Ramsey
It is his first full season in the Premier League and he worked very hard [at Wolves] on Wednesday night again,He always looks like he will score but doesn’t score at the moment. Once that will be done I think he will be more relaxed in front of goal and score more. He has played many games this year and for a first season that is tremendous. I am quite happy I can give him a breather sometimes now. Aaron has played many games but he did absorb them well. He was tired two or three weeks ago, and it allowed me to give a breather [on Wednesday] to Tomas Rosicky who has played many games recently.I don’t think it is a long-term option for him because he is more a central player in the way I see him developing,Sometimes to balance the team, especially considering on the other side we have a real winger, I put a midfielder in there. That’s why in some games like at Everton I played him on the left. It worked then but at QPR we lost and it didn’t work. It is not linked with one position, it is to balance the team. I think in the education of a player it is important that he plays in different positions.
Arsenal’s renaissance of late, can be hugely attributed the form of one man, Tomas Rosicky. The sight of Rosicky bombing down the midfield, is a joy. He spoke about how the team has got help from the fans and the importance of finishing 3rd.
Recently the atmosphere at our home games has been absolutely amazing – the team can feel it and it is a big help for us,It is a great feeling to have the supporters so passionately behind you for the whole 90 minutes. The supporters really do make a difference at Emirates Stadium and we’re hoping that we can keep that connection by winning more games.
Wigan beat Manchester United on Wednesday, so that’s an indication that it will be a tough test for us,We’ll have to be on top of our game to win, no doubt about it. Wigan have some very good players and a good young manager, so this will be a very tough match for us.We have a great chance to stay in [third] position, but now we have to make sure of it. That starts against Wigan on Monday – and make no mistake, it’s a very big game for us. People might not usually regard a match against Wigan as such a big one, but they are still battling relegation, so there is a lot at stake for both of us.We saw what can happen against a team fighting for its life when we played away at QPR, and we expect the same kind of performance from Wigan on Monday. We have to give 100 per cent to get the result.
Robin van Persie rose out of his rather uncharacteristic patch of not scoring with a cheeky penalty against Wigan. He spoke about Arsenal’s mental strength.
As you have seen, Mikel has been showcasing his right foot recently,What a great weapon it is, and things are going really well for him. Looking around the team now, we have lots of different things like that in our armoury – everyone has qualities and they are all coming together to create a big threat. It is a good sign that a lot of these weapons are coming alive now and you are seeing a number of players prove decisive for us. I see it as real proof that this team is growing. Mikel’s goal last week was a great example of all that we have been about recently – first he was defending to get the ball from Pizarro, then he brought it forward and had the shot. It was a transition from effort to quality in a few seconds and the outcome was perfect.Effort and quality will both be needed again against a good Wigan side,” he said. “I like their manager, Roberto Martinez, a lot – he likes his side to play football from the back and wants to achieve things by playing the right way. They are having a really good period, being very unlucky at Chelsea and then winning in very confident fashion against Manchester United. In the last five or six weeks they have done really well so we have a very tough task on our hands to beat them and know they won’t surrender easily. I am confident, though, that if we play well and work hard for each other we will create the chances to win and keep our hands on third place.
 Prior to the Wolves game I’d gone four games without a goal, but I didn’t really let it bother me,I could have scored in each of those four games – and when that’s the case it’s not a big problem, because the chances are still coming to you. Against Manchester City I could have scored twice, one going off the line and the other hitting the post. Against Villa I had another cleared off the line, I hit the post again against Everton and had a one-on-one well saved against QPR. As long as I’m taking my opportunities with confidence and 100 per cent sharpness I accept that it won’t always come off, because that is part of football. We won all of those games apart from one, so it wasn’t as if things went badly for us.
Team news, then. Gervinho is fit again after completing the training session ahead of the game, while Gibbs has  half a chance of playing. However, Santos is expected to start. Wigan’s only casualty is striker Hugo Rodallega, who will be given a late fitness test.
There’s no way this fixture can be taken lightly, especially after what Wigan did to Manchester United in midweek, and Liverpool a few weeks earlier. They played a high pressing game, and never allowed their opposition to settle. They slogged it out in the centre of midfield, as they completely shut down supply lines in midfield. Midfield, again will be vital, and Arsene Wenger will be hoping, the trio of Rosicky, Arteta and Benayoun can overrun Wigan’s raw, but exciting midfield. Arsenal defenders will have to be wary of the pace and skill of Wigan’s wingers Jean Beausejour and Victor Moses, especially the latter, who has been in fine form of late. Brother of calamity put in a good performance against Wolves, as well as Aston Villa few weeks back, and should build upon these.
3 points is vital to maintain pressure on our rivals, as we face a crunch game at the weekend against Chelsea, which makes today’s game all the more important.
I end on a rather poignant note. Football witnessed a tragedy, as a young Italian footballer Piermario Morosini, lost his life after a cardiac arrest on the field. This is just one in a recent list of events that have shook the football world, and emphasis will be now on better monitoring of players.
Football’s ugly head was also revealed over the weekend, as a section of the Chelsea fans booed during the minute’s silence to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Such people should be banned from attending football games, henceforth. But then, I am a mere mortal. The FA takes such decisions, and also whether the diver par excellence Ashley Young is to be banned.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Wolves Preview + Lineups

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Arsenal, Molineux, Premier League

Kickoff – 19:45 GMT (00:15 IST), 11th April 2012

Hello Gooners. It has been a good week, this. Watching Manchester City falter in their title race is quite pleasing. Even though I am sickened by the fact that it is going to be Manchester United again to win the Premier League, just the sight of Samir Nasri kicking his heels, is worth it.

Much has been spoken of Manchester City’s loss, but very little about Arsenal’s performance that evening. I think we were simply brilliant. Why we don’t do it, week in and week out, completely outfoxes me. We saw this kind of pressing game, and players giving it their all in the Sp*rs game, as well, which was a tremendous result, and has probably turned around our season, for good. We now lie, a good 2 points ahead of our rivals, who like Manchester City, have faltered at the most crucial of times, as they succumbed to a 2-1 home loss to Norwich City, who one can agree, were stupendous. Chelsea, too, were held back in their traps, by a late Clint Dempsey goal at Fulham, a player who incidentally is being linked with a move to Arsenal. Newcastle, on the other hand seem to be getting better and better. After winning 2-0 in Swansea, they repeated the feat again at home against Bolton.

Getting back to Manchester City, rather than Manchester United’s good form and experience in such crucial stages, it can all be attributed the man-management, or the lack of it at Manchester City. Far too often, we have heard stories of Manchester City players this season. First, there was Edin Dzeko going out in the media, and criticizing Mancini for not giving the Bosnian enough game time. When he did get game time, against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, he played poorly and reacted angrily when being subbed. And in the same game, happened the Carlos Tevez saga, who according to Mancini, refused to warm up. We all know how it ended. Tevez jetted off to Argentina without informing his employers, and returned months later, in no condition to play in the first team. We move on to, of course, the enigmatic Mario Balotelli, who just can’t stay away from the headlines. From his firecracker story, to him interrupting a media meet at Inter Milan, to throwing a dart at a youth team player, to his bust ups with teammates Micah Richards and Yaya Toure, he has just taken away the spotlight. Add to that, his on field bust up’s with Aleksandr Kolarov and captain Vincent Kompany, and his red cards this season, have just added up to City not being good enough to be champions.

Anyways, that’s their problem. Our participation in next year’s Champions League is still far from confirmation, though we have a great chance to go 5 points clear of 4th place, if we beat bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers today. Arsenal are without Laurent Koscielny, whose yellow card against Manchester City means he will miss the games against Wolves and Wigan on Monday. In comes, brother of calamity, Johan Djourou. Left back Kieran Gibbs faces a late assessment, though I have a hunch, Arsene Wenger will play Andre Santos at left-back anyway. In midfield, the question still remains if Yossi Benayoun has done enough to hold on to his place in the starting lineup, or whether Aaron Ramsey gets another chance.

Wolves, have been poor this season. Their inability to defend has seen them concede 70 goals, joint highest with fellow relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers, who lost 3-2 to Liverpool last night. Injuries and suspensions along the way haven’t helped either. The sacking of Mick McCarthy was shambolic, and while Terry Connor is trying his best to save Wolves from relegation, it is a near impossible task now. Wolves lie 6 points behind 19th place Wigan, with just 6 games left in the season. They require nothing short of a miracle.

Earlier in the week, Jamie O’Hara was ruled out for the rest of the season, and he joins Stephen Hunt and Jody Craddock. Apart from that, Wolves have no injury concerns. With an extra day of rest, Wolves’ fans will expect their players to give it all. Last time these two teams met, Wolves escaped Emirates with a 1-1 draw, in which Wayne Hennessey pulled off a horde of fantastic saves. Arsenal will look to Robin van Persie to shrug off his mini drought, and bang in some goals for fun. It is not going to be so easy, however. Last time we played a relegation battling team away from home, was as recent as QPR, when we lost 2-1. On a positive note, Wolves haven’t beaten the Gunners since 1978. That’s nearly 34 years now.

Wolves are heavily short on resources in midfield. With key players O’Hara and Hunt out, and Arsenal loanee Frimpong too injured, they rely on a makeshift midfield of Karl Henry, Michael Kightly and Matt Jarvis. Options on the bench include the obviously talented, but inconsistent Serbian Nenad Milijas, and also Kevin Doyle, but apart from that Wolves have a weak bench. At the back, Sebastian Bassong and Roger Johnson look formidable, but are prone to errors far too often.

I expect Arsene Wenger to stick with Yossi Benayoun as he gives the team something extra in midfield, in comparison to Aaron Ramsey. Pressing will be the key again, and Arsenal simply cannot afford to take their opponents lightly tonight.

Enjoy the game, wherever you are!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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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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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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Bucketload of Everton and Aston Villa reaction

A very good day to all Gooners out there. It is a really great feeling, to see your team on a fantastic streak, as Arsenal are in right now. I really can’t remember the last time I was really buzzing. It just translates into your mood, the way the Gunners fare. If they lose, the day is really lousy as lousy can be, but if they win, it can be a really enjoyable day. The last few weeks have been really enjoyable, and Arsenal secured 3 more vital points against Aston Villa on Saturday. Schoolboy stuff.

I couldn’t cover all the post-Everton reaction, because there was very little time between that and the Saturday kickoff. Anyways, here it is.

Aaron Ramsey started after a while on the sidelines. He scuffed a couple of opportunities, but he put in a decent display, and will provide Arsene Wenger a pleasant headache in midfield. Aaron Ramsey said,

It was great, we battled well and it came off,The back four did a wonderful job and kept a good line. As a team I think we kept our composure and looked very solid so overall we are delighted with the win and hopefully we can keep it going.Overall I thought we did very well in the first half an hour and created a few opportunities. Then the crowd started to get behind them and they started to get a few tackles in. It was always going to be a tough place to come and they proved that in the end. But we dealt with it really well and I think we deserved the points in the end. The results definitely went our way on the night and we are carrying on our good form of late. Hopefully we can just continue to do this now until the end of the season. We have proved what we are capable of achieving and how motivated we are to finish third. We are definitely doing that at the moment but we are going about our own business and hopefully we can continue it.

Arsenal’s defence, which has been the talking point for much of the season, has been flawless over the past few games. The centre back of pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen is moulding to be one of the best partnerships in the league. Laurent Koscielny said,

It is not just the four defenders, it is all the team,Robin [van Persie] put in a lot of effort to help us too so all of the team defend and we attack together too. We have to take that into the next game. We have had some difficult periods this season but we have some good players and a good team. In football it changes quickly and in three or four weeks we have won. We need to keep that and the most important thing is to keep in the top four.We know Chelsea had an important game against Manchester City [on Wednesday] and their next game against Tottenham so if they lost and we won it was good for the table,”Wednesday night was good but the most important thing is the next game against Aston Villa. If we win it is very good for us. It is very important, we are very happy but now we want to keep this place. It is important to continue to play well.

Thomas Vermaelen, who scored vital winners against Newcastle and Everton, said,

I am always confident – we keep winning games but we don’t look at Tottenham, we only look at ourselves,We have some difficult games to come. We don’t have to look at other teams because that will keep the focus away from our own performances. That’s the most important thing ­ to keep the focus on ourselves.At the moment we have had some good results against some difficult teams. Everton won against Man City and Tottenham at Goodison Park so it’s a great result to come here and win.We showed a great mentality. We won a lot of duels at the back and that’s why we got the three points.The Champions League is important for us and third place gives you straight qualification into it, while with fourth place you have to play a qualifier,Third place is better but it is not going to be easy ­ there are a few games to play and not easy ones, so let’s focus on ourselves and see how far we can go.

Le Prof, too was full of praise for the central defensive pairing.

They look solid and I think they have a good balance defensively and offensively,They can both play with the ball as well and for us that is very important for the basis of our game. It starts at the back and they have the quality to do that as well. Defensively they are not the tallest but they have a fantastic leap and both of them have good pace. Vermaelen looks like a frustrated centre forward because he has the timing to get into the box as well.

He also said that Kieran Gibbs is a fast improving player.

Because he has been out for a long time, when you start a game you are a bit more cautious,But he slowly becomes himself again and you see that most of the time for a full back with the initiative it takes going forward. Defensively in the challenges he is stronger. I still feel there is more to come from him and from game to game there are improvements there.He was transformed into a full back but the natural [ability] always comes out. It is good because we have a game that is based on that.

Gibbs had got his chance earlier in the season, when Andre Santos got injured against Olympiakos. However, Gibbs, too , got injured and missed a major chunk of the season. He has returned and put in some fine displays at the problematic left-back spot. Another selection headache for Wenger. Does he opt for the experienced Brazilian international, or the young English upstart.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger voiced his views on quite a few matters.

AW on the pressure

What you want is improvement from the team, so if this improvement is going in a spectacular way it is great,But it is about finishing the job. We have good ingredients because we are on the same wavelength to play our game, and the spirit in the side is good. Now we must continue our development.I felt we always had a strong spirit, but of course you question it when you are mid-table. That is why I feel this team was maybe under more pressure than any other team, and maybe they have learned from it.It has tested our character, and the response was positive. If you look at all the problems we had over the season and how we responded, the attitude was always right and correct. The end of the season will tell us where we stand but I am very positive that we will fight until the end.

AW on set pieces

We are a bit more dangerous because I feel our runs are better, our combinations are better and overall we look more dangerous,I remember Benayoun scoring from a corner [at Aston Villa in December], which you don’t expect. That brought us two important extra points, and against Everton we again scored from a corner. That goes against the idea that we are not good on set pieces and if you look at the number of points we have taken, it is not fantastic but it is not too bad. Benayoun is a technical player and on the night you are very grateful because you don’t expect him to score a header.

AW on consistency

I believe what is most important at this stage of the season is our consistency and momentum,More than any other result, I believe this is the period which matters most what you do, so we just want to keep our focus on that.You have to focus on how we want to play football, that is the best way to deal with the pressure. In the end you enjoy it and it is a privilege to play games of importance. They become more and more important.There is something in the team because we have been to Liverpool twice [recently] and taken six points.They were points where we not only had to show our footballing qualities but also our mental state. That looks quite positive.

AW on the solidity of the team

It confirms the solidity of the team,Especially when you go to Goodison Park where you know you will be under pressure and the crowd knows the game. To come back having not conceded I am very happy because we have shown signs of mastering situations and not panicking. Especially against a team that is top class on crosses and set-pieces. Usually people would not say Arsenal would not concede in circumstances like that so I am very pleased.

AW on Chelsea v Tottenham

What I want us to continue is our run and not be in a position where you have to look at the other results,That is why I believe that the main focus is on us, not to be obsessed by other results and to just keep going.Of course the players will be aware of what is going on but it is not the last day of the season. We are in a position where what will matter is what we do at three o’clock against Aston Villa. We have to be professional and focus on what is important. What is important is our performance. We are happy and we keep people who love Arsenal happy if we turn up with a top performance. We have regained credit with our fans because we have shown a fantastic attitude and the more we show that, the more we will gain credit. That is the most important thing to do.

AW on Podolski

Nothing is done. No, he has not had a medical,I don’t master the timing [of any announcement] because that does not just rely on us. It could happen soon, it could happen later, I don’t know.It is always a concern [that someone else could come in for him]. The speed in which you do things is important, but at the end of the day it is always the player who makes the decision.It is about how much they want to join you.

AW on summer transfers

We will not be a lot on the market, quantity-wise I mean. Quality-wise, certainly,But the [maximum] number of the squad is 25. We have many players out on loan and we will take a gamble if we find top, top quality of course.But don’t forget we have many players out on loan and we have not had Jack Wilshere or Abou Diaby for the whole season.These players will be back and it means that number and quality-wise we are strong because we are in the position we are in without these players.You want to make me say that last year was bad and I agree with you – last year was terrible for us because we finished on August 31 at 11.55pm and we do not want to repeat that, of course,

AW on Fabrice Muamba

He had big players in front of him and it was very difficult to take them out and put Fabrice in at the time,The second reason is that he is so highly motivated that I felt he was ready to play and needed to play.There always comes a moment in the career of a player that you play him now or you let him go. Because I didn’t play him, I let him go but I knew he would have a career.I let him go for his benefit and he understood that very well. When he was at Birmingham he drove back many times and we had a little chat about how things were going. We felt attached to him because we wanted him absolutely to be successful.Against us, he is always very keen to prove that we made a mistake in letting him go,“He is always outstanding against us and I hope he will do that again soon.Today we are in a better mood than one week ago. I am not a medical specialist and do not know if he will play football again, but the most important thing is that he recovers completely. Afterwards hopefully we will have the joy of seeing him on the football pitch again.

AW on being favorites

We are favourites because we are in third, but being favourite never meant a lot,We must just put every effort in to do it.As soon as you ease off, things change quickly. We have tricky fixtures and how well we finish depends on our attitude. If we keep our attitude, we have a chance.

AW on Abou Diaby

Diaby is available again, but he should be in the group next week,I don’t want to take any gamble on him now. Apart from that it will be the same squad as at Everton.He can be massive for us, but at the moment we have had so many setbacks with him that we don’t want to take a gamble. He needs another game [for the reserves], and then he will be ready.

AW on Jack Wilshere

Wilshere is back with the ball and for us that is a huge step,The work we do with the ball is always quite demanding.Today we can say if all goes well now in three weeks he will be back with the squad. Then another two weeks to get fit. I don’t have to hold him back yet because at the moment he suffers a lot for fitness. But after three weeks we’ll have to.I think he will play this season if he has no setbacks now. His last scan was positive, so he should be capable to play.

That’s a decision fortunately I don’t have to make,I will only intervene if I believe medically he is at risk. He is an England player and if he has played some games before the end of the season it is a possibility [for him to go to Euro 2012]. If he has not played at all before the end of the season I don’t think it’s realistic.The next three weeks will decide how well he progresses. We have gone for a very cautious attitude with him. We will not force him into training with any pain. So we might have to be slower than expected. If all goes well he will be back in full training in three weeks. But that is not sure yet.The Olympics destroys the start of season for us,If Wilshere could play I would rather he went to the Euros than the Olympics. It depends how well he will develop.

AW on next season

Let’s see how we finish. We have big games coming up,If we maintain consistency until the end of the season we can think like that.If we don’t drop any more points I would say we can come to that conclusion. With nine games to go, we’ve got five at home and four away. It all depends on how we finish.

AW on Thomas Vermaelen

That is why people love him and respect him,Somewhere as well you must give us some credit. We took him from Ajax, when nobody knew about him and he became a player. So it is give and give. Then you have a happy marriage.I was always clear he was part of the team you build for tomorrow, no matter what happens at the end of the season. That is still true today. We don’t know what happens at the end of the season but Vermaelen has the class to play for Arsenal so you want him to sign for a long contract. The fact he did it made me very happy.

AW on the image of the game

The common image by football is always that you do not behave well, because when one guy out of a thousand does something silly, in another job they are not in the newspapers,But in our job, because it is a public job, people speak about it. You have a tendency to put everyone in the same bracket.Overall I feel that it is extremely sad what happened to Fabrice, but the only positive is that it looks like he is recovering well. Also, the image that football has given is quite positive.

AW on time wasting

It [time wasting] is basically most of the time from goalkeepers and we have to see how that can be stopped,I do not say we are more innocent than any other team – it is human that a goalkeeper tries to gain time when his team is leading away from home, especially in stadiums where they are not supposed to win.The rule has been created to speed the game up. At the start when the ball went out, you always used to have to take the goal kick from the side it went out, so to gain time it was said that anywhere on the line can be used. Maybe there is a way of thinking [to change that]. We have to think about it.

Phew, that was a load of Wengerisms. Moving on, Benik Afobe has been loaned to Championship side Reading, who are aiming to make a comeback into the Premier League, and currently lie 2nd. Also, Nico Yennaris has moved to Notts County, also on loan, as part of his football education.

Ahead of the Aston Villa game, Bacary Sagna told why he feels the run-in is going to be hard, and that the Villa game would be vital.

The Villa game is massive,Tottenham are just one point behind us, but we were 12 points behind them in February. We are here now and we deserve to be here, but we have to give even more.We can’t think about ‘what if?’ – we just have to give our best and look after our team, not [concentrate] on the others.Villa have very good players, like Charles N’Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor. We know they can bring us problems. But we must focus on ourselves and make sure we play.There are no easy games,Even if everyone thought we would win at Everton, we were struggling. It was a hard game physically and mentally as well because it is never easy to win away.We can’t anticipate the games. When Villa came to us in the FA Cup they were 2-0 up, so it is a warning. We know they have good players, and can play good football. But we are at home and we need to impose ourselves.

Arsenal’s very own samba boy, Andre Santos revealed, he was sad that he couldn’t help the team out during a difficult phase of the season.

It was very hard,When I found that I would need an operation it was very hard news to take. I was in the changing room when they told me and I cried.All of the players were trying to comfort me, but I was scared because I’d never been through this before and surgeries are never guaranteed to go 100 per cent well.But everything did go well and I have to thank Doctor Abdala from Sao Paulo and everyone here, Colin Lewin for example, who helped me with my treatment. Also Simon, Tony and Marcos, they were essential for my return.Both Kieran and I were injured at the time. When you can see that the team needs you but there’s nothing you can do about it, well it gives you a sour taste,You want to help but it’s just impossible to do your job. But Arsenal has built a strong family and I believe that the players who filled in, like Ignasi Miquel and Thomas Vermaelen, did a great job.They were disciplined and followed the manager’s instructions very sharply, so I give a lot of credit to them.We’ve got most of the injured players back in action now but we had very good back-up for these players as well,It wasn’t easy for us but now the squad is stable and we’ll do our best to have a great final sprint.“One hundred per cent [a top-three place] is our target, our main objective. It means automatic qualification for the Champions League and that is what we want.

Ivorian winger Gervinho has been somewhat of a question mark this campaign. There  have been some flashes of talent, but also of mediocrity, and his first season at the Emirates has been mixed. He talked about working harder to be more clinical in front of goal.

I am happy about my first season but I know I can do better,I have scored and given assists but I also created a few chances that I missed. If I had been more efficient, it would have been even better.I need to work hard at training to become more clinical in front of goal. I’m not worried though.People say that the second season is always better for a foreign player but I don’t think it will be much easier.Every game is tough for me because the level of competition is so high in the Premier League, and every time you have to be at your best.

Captain Vantastic, Robin van Persie has put the Muamba incident into perspective.

I think the whole of football has had a bit of a reality check,We’re all very passionate about this game, and sometimes we are over passionate about winning a game – me as well – but when something like this happens, we realise what’s really important in life, and that’s being healthy. When something like this happens, it puts everything in its place.This has had a big impact on the whole football world because you know it could happen to anyone. He had heart tests with Arsenal, Birmingham and Bolton – but this came out of the blue. He’s a 23 year-old midfielder in the Premier League – that makes him fitter than most. It’s so shocking, but the good thing is it’s made everyone come together, everyone realises ‘that could have been me’ and the support he is getting is great to see. I hear Bolton have been fantastic too, and my dream is that he can play again for them. He deserves it.You saw us all wearing T-shirts for Fabrice Muamba on Saturday, and we’re all thinking of him every day here. We care about him and everyone is hoping he can recover.

He also spoke about the momentum has shifted from Chelsea, to Tottenham, and now firmly with Arsenal.

In the battle for third place the momentum is ours now, we are winning games and the other teams are dropping points,They have tough fixtures coming up too because Chelsea meet Spurs this Saturday. From our point of view, for those two to play each other at this moment is fantastic because we know one of them – or even both of them – will definitely drop points.So we have to win against Villa to take advantage of that. If we have to win ugly, then let’s do that. It’s part of our job too. We have shown great character in the last few weeks, so why not do it every week now?You can see that the mentality has changed lately,Twice we have had to come back from very hard periods this season – at the start of the season after losing at Old Trafford, then recently when we lost to AC Milan and Sunderland.After those two games everyone was thinking this is going from bad to worse, because our next fixtures were Tottenham, Liverpool, Milan, Newcastle and Everton – but we won them all.

Off late, the form of Theo Walcott has been impressive. The brace against Sp*rs has done him a real world of good. He seems more sharper now, and assisted both goals against Newcastle. He said,

In the first half of that game it wasn’t quite happening for me, but I was still trying – perhaps too hard, really – and I wasn’t hiding,Although we came back to 2-2, part of me wanted the first half to end because of how things had been going for me. You can tell when people aren’t happy, and it’s not nice. But getting those goals was great for me and for the fans – and hopefully I can show a bit more of that than I have lately.I’ve only just turned 23 and people sometimes forget that – players often aren’t breaking into the team until around this age, and I’ve played a lot of games. There’s a lot more to come from me.That night I think my performance had everything it needed in terms of defensive and positional play,” he said. “It’s important to remember that as a winger you need to work hard defensively and maintain the right position while getting up and down the pitch.I got two assists as well – yes, I’ll take the second one! – and everything seemed to work out.

Walcott also couldn’t hide his admiration for Thomas Vermaelen.

[They were] brilliant – really important goals as well,The Newcastle win was massive and he showed that desire to get from defence to attack and latch onto things. He’s an absolute soldier, someone you’d always want in front of you, a real leader who just wants to win.To see him banging in another big goal at Everton was great. I’m happy for him – he had his injury problems last season but he’s one of the best defenders in the world without a doubt.

Post the Aston Villa game, Mikel Arteta, who scored a fantastic free kick right at the death, to put the cherry on top, talked about the spirit within the team.

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.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, Kieran Gibbs, who scored his second goal of the season, and did a fine little celebration afterwards.

Gibbs on the team

The team is playing really well at the moment, we have found some momentum and we want to keep that going,We are all gelling together well. People don’t realise that we had a lot of signings at the start of the season, and they have settled in really well.We have shown how we have gelled and we are all aware of each other qualities, so we just need to remain consistent.

Gibbs on his celebration

I just said hello to my Grandad [Jim],He passed away when I was nine, about 11 years ago now. He was a scout for Arsenal and a big fan, like the rest of my family. I hope it was a proud moment for them. It was strange to score, but it was about time. I’m not sure how many games I have played now, but it’s always nice to help out the team. I’m just happy to be back playing, we have turned things around dramatically and I’m happy to be part of it.I scored goals for the reserves but hadn’t done much since becoming a left back and getting into the first team. I’m just happy to help the team and it was another good win for us.

Gibbs on seeing out games

The most important thing has been the way we have been winning, making people aware what we are capable of,Whereas in the past we might have lost some of those games due to lack of concentration, we seem to be sealing victories now. We just have this belief at the minute that we are not going to lose a game. We were down against Spurs and Newcastle but we don’t give up now. We have a resilience now that we are not going to lose games. We need to keep that.We would have liked to have played like this all season but we suffered through injuries and a dip in form. That is football.If we can keep this group together, everyone is hungry, we have a group of players who know each other well and they are gelling,” he said. “The new signings have done fantastically well.

Gibbs on Walcott

For me, yes [he is the best winger in the country],Put it this way, I wouldn’t like to be coming up against him.I looked up to him quite a lot when he first came to the club, it is a pleasure and a joy to play with him. He is an outstanding player. He is one of my best friends and a top boy. He is a model pro, takes his work really seriously and is a really nice guy.

That’s a lot of reaction, then guys. I will keep you updated through the week, of course. Have a good one.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 27, 2012 in General

 

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Telecast revolts, Muamba latest, Park Life, Everton Preview + Lineups

Everton vs Arsenal, Goodison Park, Premier League

Kickoff – 20:00 GMT (01:30 IST), 21st March 2012

Another fine day to all you Gooners out there. Something very unexpected happened yesterday.

A few days earlier, ESPN-Star Sports India, had put up the schedule for Wednesday night (i.e the wee hours of Thursday morning), for the telecast of the English Premier League games. There were 4 games to be telecasted, which were Manchester City vs Chelsea, Everton vs Arsenal, QPR vs Liverpool and Sp*rs vs Stoke. And, the schedule put up was Manchester City vs Chelsea, live at 1-25 on ESPN, and Sp*rs vs Stoke, live on Star Sports. Well, that did it.

This is not the first occasion, where Arsenal games have been snubbed by the network. This sparked an outrage, and a petition was started by the Bangalore Gunners group, to troll ESPN-Star’s Facebook page, and also a petition was started on twitter, which attracted nearly 700 signatures. Finally, last night ESS bowed down to Arsenal Power, and decided to telecast the Arsenal game. This is of course fantastic news, and shows how Arsenal can unite us all. 😀

Speaking of uniting, the unfortunate incident involving young Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba has united the entire world of football. Messages have poured in from all over the world in support of the player. I read an interesting article in Angry of Islington, which I think is a must read. Here the author, has expressed his honest view on the incident.

Muamba, of course learned his trade at the Arsenal academy, and he has got lot of support from his parent club. Arsene Wenger spoke how Muamba has a ‘special bond’ with Arsenal.

He is a loved guy,Because we have a young team, many of them grew up with Fabrice. There is a strong link when you fight together in the youth teams because it creates a special bond. The players were quite low yesterday and two days ago but today it is a bit better because we have good news about him.Everybody has a bit of relief today but let’s not maybe go too quickly overboard and think he is completely out of it. You trust the quality of the care he has, you trust the quality of his mental strength and his desire to fight any restrictions. But we are as well a bit cautious as long as we do not really officially know that he is out of danger and that he is completely alright.I have not personally been in contact with him but through Bolton we have been in contact. His very close friends have gone to hospital and you want to respect that it is not overcrowded there. At the start we know how it is, many people go, and after a while you need a bit more support.

Latest news is that Muamba is fine, and reacting well to the treatment. He also had brief interactions with his family and Bolton manager Owen Coyle. Liam Brady, who worked with Muamba, earlier in 2007, had this to say.

Like everyone else I was completely shocked. I was in Barcelona with our Under-14 team and I was watching the Tottenham v Bolton game on TV. I was completely horrified by what happened and we are hoping and willing him to pull through.Fabrice was always a happy boy at Arsenal, a well-mannered boy. He seemed to really appreciate the opportunity he had and was fully intent on giving his best. He has been like that ever since he was 12.He comes to visit us, he calls in when he can. Fabrice remembers where he came from and he’s a smashing young man. He’s determined to make the best of his career and let’s hope that determination helps him pull through the situation he is in.

I can speak on behalf of all Arsenal fans in India, and we wish Muamba a speedy recovery.

Moving on, news emerged earlier in the week that Park Chu-Young’s military career has been postponed by 10 years. Now, if you are confused, let me tell you what it is. South Korean rules state that all fit and healthy males should joing the armed forces, when they turn 28. You need a special permit from the government, if you wish not to pursue a military career. Now, whether he stays on at Arsenal or not is a completely different issue. He was signed by Wenger from under the noses of Lille, and has rarely featured since. He scored his solitary goal against Bolton in the League Cup, and has rarely featured since. Even when Arsenal were leading 10 man Blackburn 5-1 after around 65 minutes, Wenger decided to keep van Persie on the field, instead of giving Park a run. Many would expect the South Korean to leave for greener pastures at the end of the season. Staying with Park, the player’s agent revealed that it was the result of talks between Monaco, Park’s former club and Arsenal, that resulted in Park’s freedom. The permission was granted back in August, but was kept under wraps.

I asked the Military Manpower Administration in early August last year to grant me an extension of overseas stay permit. The permit was granted on Aug. 29,In 2009, the Monaco royal household agency granted Park an unprecedented 10-year residence permit in recognition of his outstanding activities there. We found out through a legal counsel last July that it’s possible to delay military service based on a long-term overseas residence permit.Additional negotiations about his transfer fee between Arsenal and AS Monaco only concluded recently, and AS Monaco asked us to make it public after the negotiations came to an end.

Park’s transfer still seems strange. Why was he signed by the manager, if he hasn’t been given the chances. Anyways, we will come to know during the summer.

Moving on, Kieran Gibbs spoke about how the pressing game has allowed Arsenal to win more games, recently. It is a tactic greatly employed at Barcelona, where they unsettle the opponents, as soon as they lose possession.

There are a lot of players putting a lot of effort in, especially off the ball, and that is great to see,When we put pressure on teams high up the pitch and early on in the game, it is difficult for them to play and we can control the game a lot easier.We are enjoying doing that at the minute and we have to enjoy defending as well. It’s alright just having the ball, we know what we can do to create chances and score goals. That [the defensive side] is the big improvement we have made over the last few weeks.In previous seasons you wouldn’t have thought we would have the strength to come back but now we don’t really think about the score, we just keep playing,It helps when you have the best striker in the world at the moment in your team. The team is showing great character at the minute and we need to keep that going.

Gibbs also spoke about how players returning from injuries, and the fact that Arsenal have only the Premier League to concentrate on, will help keep their players fresher, and will assist them in the run-in.

It is a relief to have a break until the next game and it was important for us to get that because we have played quite a lot recently in a short space of time,“We should have players coming back from injury now so we should be getting some fresh legs looking to go for the rest of the season strongly.Football changes so much. We’ve seen over the last few seasons that anything can happen now and it is important for us to cement our place [in the top four] and keep winning. I saw Everton against Tottenham and they would have obviously been on a high after that. They are a good side and what the manager [David Moyes] has done with that squad is quite amazing. We know it will be a difficult game but we have the momentum and at the moment we are on a good run so we want to continue that.

Another player who has massively impressed this season is Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain. He was a massive presence in the second leg against AC Milan. He spoke about how he keeps calm, and doesn’t get nervous, and that the Milan game was a dream.

I’ve played so many games of football now and even though it is at a higher level, at the end of the day football is football. You are just playing with better players,As soon as you feel comfortable and confident you just carry on as normal. I felt comfortable in the Manchester United game because I thought we came out in the second half and played really well.Playing in a team like Arsenal helps massively having all of these players around you giving you advice. When they are playing well, you feel comfortable and it helps you to play well too.I can learn from all of them. I look at Theo, Gervinho and Robin as the three main attacking players and more recently I have been watching Tomas Rosicky because he’s been outstanding,Robin has taken most of the headlines and rightfully so with all of his fantastic goals but quietly I think Tomas has been playing absolutely amazing.I started my career as a central midfielder and the way that he gets the ball in midfield, turns and runs at people just makes things happen.We have had some really good wins [lately], away at Anfield, at home to Tottenham and Newcastle, and AC Milan too even though we didn’t qualify. It drives you on to want more of that success.

It was a dream yes, but it was also a bit nerve-wracking because I haven’t played there since Under-18s football I think,It is where I have grown up though so it was nice to go back there.I think my Dad was more excited about me playing in that game than any other because he thinks I am going to drift into central midfield more as I grow older. It was nice to play there, I just knew I had to work hard and do other bits of my game. Sometimes when you play on the wing a lot you forget other parts that you have to do in the middle.

It is a different work rate as well. When you are playing on the wing you sprint a lot, recover and then sprint again, whereas when you are playing in midfield it is non-stop. Maybe it is slower running but it is here, there and everywhere.So it was different, a big shock to me but obviously playing against Milan with their players was a really good experience and one I won’t forget.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie has asked Arsenal to keep playing at the same level, and churn out results, for the rest of the campaign.

If you look at the last couple of weeks, we showed we have a lot of character in our side,After the two defeats to Milan and Sunderland, everyone was like ‘this is going to be a tough couple of weeks’ because we had games against Spurs, Liverpool, Milan and an international week and then Newcastle. Yet we won every game, so we showed lots of character. We can be proud of that.Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. That is very hard and only the best of the best teams have that in them. Look at Barcelona for example. They have a special team there, they are playing most games – 9 out of 10 – really well and working hard. We need to have a run like that for months and even win the ugly games. We showed signs that we can do it because against Liverpool we didn’t play well but still nicked it. Sometimes it is necessary to win those games. We came from behind in the past four games and ended up winning the game. That shows we can do it, not only once or twice or three times, but lots of times. So why not show it 20 times or whenever it is needed?It is very hard [to be consistent], especially in a league like England,In my opinion, if you look in a technical way, a physical way, the pace, the quickness of the game, all that stuff together, the Premier League is the hardest. I see lots of games from Italy and Spain, but overall it is the hardest league. It is tough to play the way we all want. We need to be consistent and get a win over the line, like at Liverpool. We did it now, and we can enjoy it, but we need to show it again [at Everton] and it may even be a harder game. But we have to give it our maximum and see where it ends.

Some Wenger talk, then. Le Prof spoke highly about his signing from Everton, Mikel Arteta, who according to some reports, will get a huge applause from the Goodison faithful.

He always gives you a certain level of quality.He is always 100 per cent focused and committed and that is what you want from a real professional. He brings the best out of other players.I believe he is a winner and a fighter as well. I think he possesses both aspects of the game of a real midfielder – that means he can defend and he can attack. That is what we looked for.

Wenger also had praise for Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder, has found it hard a few times this season, but he is all of 21.

It is basically his first full season and he has done extremely well,He can learn from the experience of players like Arteta, Song and Rosicky. That is something vital when you want to develop players.We lost Diaby as well and people forget that he played a big part in many games last year. I believe that the players who came in did a good job.

Le Prof also spoke about the run-in, saying it was different from previous seasons, where Arsenal were still in contention for silverware. Also, unlike previous seasons, the team seems to have found a spirit and a fight, to go on and keep pushing.

It is different from last year because we had a lot of negative experiences then,We were in four different competitions and we were knocked out in three in the space of two weeks, and you are only human beings. On top of that some results were really going against us, when you think about the last minute [equaliser] against Liverpool at home, you think about Tottenham when we were ahead. These two results killed the hope we had to play for the championship and from then on we felt, subconsciously, too secure that we were in the top four anyway. Once you don’t go for the championship anymore it’s different. This season it’s completely different, we were completely out of the top four, we have come into it on a good run and now of course it is taking advantage of that momentum.We are on a positive momentum and last year we were on a negative momentum. That changes it completely. On top of that we have experience. There again, it is how much are you ready to give? How much commitment can you give in every game? How focused can we be?

And, finally, Wenger spoke about how he doeesn’t believe in the element of luck.

Every time we were behind, we showed outstanding spirit,It is not fantastic for your emotions but overall when it finishes well you accept that you suffer. If that is the price we have to pay we are ready, but you just want to continue with the same attitude because I don’t believe in luck too much on that side of the game. If you come back it is because you fight and if you fight you have a chance to come back. So let’s fight first.

Team news, then. Arsenal will welcome back Andre Santos, from his long layoff. However, Gibbs is expected to hold on to his place in the starting lineup. Arsenal haven’t lost since the defence was a staple Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, in the Premier League. It is a good sign that the defence is showing signs of improvement. Abou Diaby played for the reserves against Liverpool, and was at the receiving end of a tackle, which means he has suffered another setback, but news is that he will be back soon. Francis Coquelin is still weeks away from return, while Jack Wilshere is as good as ruled out to feature this season. Sebastien Squillaci has returned to first team training. Thomas Vermaelen picked up a strain in his calf, but he is set to start.

Everton, on the other hand, have injury concerns of their own, with Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson all out injured.

Arsenal can expect a tough encounter at the Goodison, and have to be alert at all times, to get a win out of the Toffees. The Merseyside club, who have been consistently finishing in the top 10 under Moyes, have already beaten the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham this season. However, they have already played 2 games in the last 8 days, including a 3-0 loss to neighbours and rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, and a 1-1 draw with Sunderland in the FA Cup. Arsenal on the other hand, are in fine nick, picking up 5 wins in the league, which includes the 7-1 thumping of Blackburn, the 5-2 mauling of Sp*rs, and 2-1 wins over Sunderland, Liverpool and Newcastle. Everton play a similar formation to Arsenal 4-5-1, and can be dangerous on the counter. If they do get an early goal, you can expect them to shut shop and absorb attacks.

As is evident, Everton have some quality crossers, in Baines, Drenthe and Piennar. Arsenal will have to narrow down Everton’s play. On the counter even the pacy Osman can cause problems to the Arsenal defence. At the back, they have a steady defence, and a goalkeeper who is as good as any on his day. Arsenal will have to make full use of every opportunity they get.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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

 

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