Archive for the ‘ Match Related ’ Category

Defensive Frailties Continue – Will Jagielka Save Us?

Arsenal couldn’t even win the Emirates Cup. This year our opponents were much weaker, and they still failed to win it. Two utterly disappointing draws.

It’s true that there weren’t too many goals either. The same old story, Arsenal creates countless opportunities but convert only a few. However, once the season starts we know Arsenal will start to convert more. Nobody has ever been in doubt over our attacking threat. Yet, while the defense disappointed us last season, it’s started failing us again this pre-season.

If our defense looks weak against the likes of Boca Juniors, New York Red Bulls and Hangzhou Greentown, how do you expect to contest for titles? Arsenal’s priority this year in the transfer market was clearly to go out and reinforce our defense, yet there has just been one defender entering the team. While our first choice LB in Clichy left, Wenger announced that our second choice LB was up for the task. Those who saw the match against NYRB would agree that Kieran Gibbs had no impact on the game whatsoever.

A month left in the transfer market, and Wenger will definitely sign a defender. He doesn’t want to name names, but it’s evident he will. The most likely transfer targets so far have been Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Chris Samba. Will a Jagielka just come in and plug our leaking defense? I certainly hope so. I’m happy atleast Wenger is looking at center backs who are established in the Premier League rather than resorting to ones abroad.

If for some reason we don’t see a new defensive signing, or if it’s just a young defender like Carl Jenkinson, all hopes for the coming season are gone. Just a couple of injuries in the backline, and our season would be instantly over. The only thing we can hope for then is that we don’t turn into a Liverpool.

Follow me at @sharjilh

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Barcelona finally outclassed

Yesterday was historic. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for a long, long time. The day when Arsenal finally beats Barcelona. To all those who support Arsenal, it was a special moment. We forgot about everything else going on in our lives atleast even for a few seconds, to spare some thought on this glorifying victory.

Those who saw the match should however know that it wasn’t really an easy ride. Barcelona really dominated the game in the first half. They played breathtaking possession football, passing it around almost training session like. It was not a pretty sight for the thousands of fans in the Emirates Stadium who were eagerly waiting for a result. If the first half was so poor, then what could’ve possibly turned it around and placed the match in our favour?

It was possibly the first time in a major victory that Cesc Fabregas is not at the heart of attention. In fact, it was the young Jack Wilshere who inspired everyone. He was arguably the best player in the whole match and he got stuck in at the Barca field when they had possession and made some fantastic passes when he had the ball at his own feet. His perception was brilliant and tracked back extremely well to always anticipate and tackle that growing Barca move. What a display from this young Gunner. If anyone had any doubts about him, this performance should remove them completely. Actually the rumour is out already that after yesterday, Barcelona have lost their interest in Cesc Fabregas and have shifted towards Jack Wilshere. Hopefully this will never happen!

 

 

Wilshere was the Man of the Match, but it was one moment of brilliance that catalyzed this win. Robin van Persie’s form just continues to get better, and he continues to impress. I don’t remember the last time RVP was so prolific. I still remember just a couple of months back all we were talking about was Chamakh and his goal scoring form. Woah, but where is Chamakh now? He is pretty much out of the scene because van Persie comes back in the team in a bang! What RVP provides to the team is that cutting edge finishing ability. Just the way he moves when he has the ball in his feet is mesmerizing. I mean no offence to Chamakh, but van Persie is provides just a totally different class of striking ability up front. It was his awareness that made the crucial goal. It was a flash of inspirational play, from a true Gunner.

You know who is our super sub now? Before it was Walcott, now its Arshavin. Andrei won’t be too happy about because he wants to start for Arsenal every game. The important thing is he is making an impact in every game he features in now. We get glimpses of the old Arshavin back in his true colours. It’s his ability to be at the right place at the right time which makes him such a great player. His finish yesterday might have looked easy, but it wasn’t at all. A composed and accurately placed strike from our little Russian. Not even a sign of doubt in his eyes when he struck that. This is the Arshavin we want to see everyday.

However, the department that most impressed against Barca was the defence. Yes, the defence. I can’t believe I’m saying this as well. Wenger didn’t sign anyone in January and many started to speculate that we would stand no chance against a resilient Barcelona side. The first half was horrid though. There was a lack in concentration and Song’s flurry of tackles was frustrating to witness. But the defence regrouped, and put up a match winning defensive display. It’s not easy to contain the likes of Messi and David Villa upfront for even a few mins, let alone the full match. Djourou and Koscielny were right on the money as they kept intercepting passes and clearances with great precision. Then again, we have the Szczesny factor, who also seems to be improving on a daily basis. From being in the utmost outskirts of the first team, he is now out best goalkeeper and is putting up match winning displays against the best teams in the world. It seems as though the future of our goalkeeping lies in good hands. It must be said, Vermaelen’s absence was not felt yesterday. Just to put it in the most simplest of terms, our defence is awesome!

It’s not over yet, since it’s just the first leg. Nou Camp will be a hell of a game, and Barcelona will be at the top of their game. Whichever way it goes, this victory means a lot.

Leading up to the next game, Andrei Arshavin puts it perfectly when asked about Arsenal’s chances.

“Without belief you can do nothing, so we must believe”

Couldn’t have said it any better, it is belief that will take us forward.

 

Arsenal vs Wigan: Problems Persist

For Arsenal it was the same Achilles heel which has blighted us all season. Our soft defending has seen two points slip away at a crucial time of the season. The result isn’t a catastrophe but it is certainly a huge annoyance given Wigan had 10 men at the time and we had 3 points comfortably within our grasp.

After the game, a lot of people in the media and Arsenal fans alike blamed the draw on Wenger and the wholesale changes which he made. But in truth, the equalising goal we conceded was purely down to bad defending by Squillaci and Fabianski.  Squillaci did not follow the basics of defending and didn’t get anywhere near goal side of Caldwell. He then compounded it all by bundling it into the net. Fabianski lived up to his reputation of not commanding the box at set pieces and was in no man’s land when the ball was headed back across the face of the goal. Flappianski at his very best.

We will never win the title as long as Wenger refuses to buy a top class commanding centre back and a quality goal keeper. It is so glaringly obvious where the team needs to strengthen, and we always hear about how much money there is available. Manchester City have already shown by splashing out 30m on Dzeko that they mean business. Chelsea and Tottenham will also probably strengthen in January. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be left behind and persist with Squillaci until Vermaelen is fit again. Points will continue to be dropped.

I would like to see Johan Djourou given an extended run in the team. He played magnificently against Chelsea and controlled Drogba all game – the first time for a few years an Arsenal defender has managed to get the better of the Ivorian. In goal meanwhile, Szczesny is still young, but he is confident and commanding and also should get a run in the team now. He showed at Old Trafford he can handle the occasion and Fabianski simply isn’t good enough for Arsenal despite his decent form for a few weeks. When it really matters, he will still make bad mistakes and we will continue to concede from set pieces as he does not inspire any confidence in those in front of him.

Looking forward, we will need to be at our best against Birmingham on Saturday if we want to take full points from St Andrews. They have an excellent record there and have already held Manchester Utd, Spurs and beaten Chelsea there this season.  Cesc will be back from suspension which is a massive boost and the likes of Nasri and Song will be almost certainly be restored to the starting line up. It is games like these which are a test of our title credentials but I am confident that if we play to our best, we will beat Birmingham and cap off a pretty good Christmas period.  COYR.

Follow me on twitter: @AndyHa_

Walcott needs to start!

Our Chelsea curse is finally over and we can gladly put it behind us. It was an absolutely fantastic performance from all the players as they stepped up to the plate in the perfect time to give us fans an amazing end of year present. This match should also pull us away from the ‘big match chokers’ title. Finally.

Although Cesc Fabregas was the official man of the match, most fans felt it should have gone to Alex Song. I have often criticized him this season for being too attack-minded and failing to give effective cover when opposition often counter against us. However, it was due to his anticipation and hunger to score that Song found himself in a great position after breaking away from the crowd of defenders and provided that crucial goal right before half-time.

Let’s see, who else had did outstandingly well? Oh yes ofcourse, Drogba finally DID NOT score a goal and that credit has to go to our central defenders. Djourou just added another impressive performance to an already fruitful season so far. He did so well to intercept and clear a bulk of the passes and crosses from the midfield towards the Drog. Koscielny was a bit hesitant and nervy at times, but he still looked quite confident most of the game and did enough to protect the goal.

 

The likes of Song and Djourou have been playing like this the past few months, so it wasnt really anything new. What was new is that Walcott started, and gave us a match-winning show. He proved to us he doesnt just score and perform well against weaker teams like Blackpool and Partizan, but can make the likes of Cashley look like a fool! This shouldve been enough for our No 14 to send a message to Arsene that he should start games way more often, ahead of Arshavin and Rosicky.

I was also so delighted to see Robin Van Persie in full stretch. His movement was impeccable and was always looking to find some space and receive the ball. There is really a stark difference when RVP plays up front, rather than Chamakh. They’re both very different players and I’m not sure when Wenger will be comfortable starting them both together up front. I still think their partnership has the potential to thrive, but it will take time. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to give them too much time!

Overall, it was a strong response from the Gunners after their loss against Man Utd where they looked lacklustre for most of the game. One can only hope that we can build on this victory and continue to maintain this level of form. Can’t look too far ahead though, next up Wigan! Give us a New Year’s present this time Arsenal. 🙂

Would you like it if the game against Chelsea got postponed?

Ok, I know the weather forecasts in London sound promising and the game is likely to go through but would you rather that the game is called off? Not to sound like a coward or anything, but at a time like this I would have preferred a game against a weaker opposition. Our form against top sides has been ludicrous for the past couple of years. This Arsenal team is heavily dependant on confidence when it comes to winning games. After losing to Manutd last week, this match against Chelsea does not feel auspicious at all.

A quick look at the fixtures reveals that we have a good number of away games coming up. We do have one home game within the next five fixtures though. It’s against Manchester City. No matter how chimerical our away record is this season, I always believe that home games are easier. But sadly, we do not have any easy home games coming soon. What we do have is a couple of manageable away game coming up against Wigan and Birmingham respectively. So would you rather face Wigan away or Chelsea home as your next game? Surely the majestic Wigan.

But then again, will there be a better time to face Chelsea than now? Chelsea are out of form. In fact, I do not remember them playing this bad since 5 or 6 years ago. With one one win in their last six games, getting to play Chelsea now is like gold dust.  Fat Frank should be rusty having just made his comeback from injury. Didier Drogba should also be low in confidence after missing the penalty against sp*rs. A win for Arsenal is definitely on the cards then.

Another reason why this might be a good time to face Chelsea is because we are in luck with injuries currently. The only big player missing is Vermaelen and he should be back by the end of January. Other than that our strike and midfield options are at a maximum. The sad thing is, so are Chelsea’s. They also have players coming back and the only  injuries they have is in defense. But personally I do not care about the opponent as long as we are injury-free.

As they say, Weather is very unpredictable. Forecasts predict the game will probably not be called off. Plus, the Emirates is built to resist such conditions and we are lucky to have such a majestic stadium. But what do you want? A lovely match under the sun which you are confident we will win or a blizzard that freezes the engine of the Chelsea bus? Do let us know.

When Fabregas is fully fit

Our favourite Cesc Fabregas is most likely to be completely fit ahead of the clash against Chelsea next Monday. We really do hope he is’ fully’ fit because we can’t afford to continuously lose him on the same niggling injury. It also seems like Robin Van Persie has returned to full match fitness as well and possibly feature in the starting XI on a more regular basis.

After a long time we seem to have a team full of attackers who are fit to play (Diaby is almost close to return too). This is absolutely great, but strangely enough makes it ever more difficult for Wenger to choose a starting lineup. It should be a real headache for Arsene, but from an Arsenal perspective it’s a nice headache to have!

There are quite a few options that Wenger can opt for in the match against Chelsea. Cesc Fabregas will definitely make the starting XI and so will Alex Song and Samir Nasri. The question remains about the others.

I would genuinely like Theo Walcott to start. It’s about time Wenger puts some faith in him and starts with him even in the ‘big’ matches. He has been much more composed in front of goal this season, and could be an option since we struggled to score against Chelsea in the first PL match, and also against Man Utd last week. That would mean Nasri could play on the left wing with Fabregas in center, and Wilshere and Song in support.

So who will be our main striker then? That is the question to ponder. Chamakh has been in amazing form, but is he better than Robin Van Persie? I don’t think so. Maybe I would still go with Chamakh for the Chelsea game, but RVP should come into the lineup asap. If that means Chamakh has to sit out 2-3 games, then that may just be a possibility.

However, that’s just me and I’m quite insignificant in deciding who starts and who doesn’t! What Wenger will most likely do is play Arshavin, again. I know Arshavin is regarded as the ‘big match’ player, but he hasn’t really done much in the tough fixtures so far in the season. But, Arshavin will start for sure. Van Persie and Walcott will also most likely be used as ‘impact’ players off the bench.

There is ofcourse another possibility of dropping Wilshere to the bench. Who would like that? Not many Arsenal fans. Wilshere upon giving a chance in the first team has done brilliantly so far, and has established himself as a consistent performer. One thing that will happen is that Rosicky will have to settle for a place on the bench. Wenger, to everyone’s surprise, did opt to start with Rosicky against the Man Utd game. Although he didn’t do much wrong, he certainly didn’t do anything spectacular either. He would still have a vital role to play off the bench due to his versatility, as he could come on either to go for a win or even protect a lead.

What I’ll be most interested in seeing is how Wenger handles our two star strikers Chamakh and RVP in the next upcoming fixtures. Will Wenger give them time to build a partnership up front, or look to rotate them depending on the magnitude of the fixture?

Regardless of who plays for Arsenal, the next few games are crucial and I’ll hope that everyone involved plays well and gets us those much needed wins.

 

Follow me @sharjilh

It’s time for revenge Barca, ‘cause revenge is sweet

Oh let’s cut the crap. We all knew who we were going to face next. Admitted that we ‘wished’ for something else but deep inside our fragile hearts we knew that it was time- time for revenge.

Some Arsenal fans are already moaning about how unlucky we are and that we can never win against a side like Barcelona. Really? If Arsenal fans feel like that then we seriously do not deserve to be in the Champion’s league. What’s the point of playing in the Champion’s League if we do not have the guts to face Europe’s top teams? It defeats the purpose, really. If not now, then when? We would eventually have to play them anyway. After playing in this elite competition for 13 seasons consecutively, we should be able to cope with this type of pressure. If Arsenal can ‘beat any other team’, why won’t it be able to beat Barcelona?

Arsenal are the underdogs in this match up. I know some fans prefer that we stay underdogs but frankly speaking, I don’t want us to be underdogs anymore. Why you say? Because I think Arsenal deserve more than just being a good club playing good football. I want Arsenal to be a club that puts fear into even the most elite clubs. I don’t want opponents claiming that they ‘rather face Arsenal than Chelsea or Manutd’. You know why people keep saying things like that? Because Arsenal never won the Champion’s League before. Yes, we went to the final once but ask any neutral footy fan if he or she remembers that game. I bet the answer would be ‘no’.

Arsenal are really unlucky. We again face Barca at the Emirates first. Personally, I would have preferred an away game to start with. That way we actually know where we stand when Barca come to play in our turf. It gives us the mental edge. But no, that won’t happen because lady luck’s a friggin’ Barca fan!

The one man who will be a key player for this tie is obviously our skipper Cesc Fabregas. He has to step up soon. I do not know what’s wrong with the chap. Before his injury he seemed very rusty. He made his comeback against Manutd the other day and he seemed even rustier. I mean, at a game like that adrenaline alone should make him be on his toes. But no, Cesc Fabregas’ 65% pass completion rate off the bench made him the most wasteful Arsenal player on the pitch. But the game is at the end of February and he has time to recover. But he has to step it up for this game, not just to the next level but to his maximum level.

At the end of the day, though, this is the biggest and the toughest game for Arsenal so far this season. I know revenge itself is not a good enough reason to play this game. But our pride is at stake this time. I am fed of us being the weaker of the two clubs playing the same way. I want us to be the best at what we do. I believe so, but the world does not. It’s time to put an end to this once and for all. Arsenal shall not only beat Barcelona, but go to win it all the way as well. Let’s keep believing, because it will make us stronger.