Posts Tagged ‘ Djourou ’

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.

 

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Wenger’s rotation policy a MUST, not a choice

Last week, everyone started criticising Arsene Wenger after he made 8 changes to face Wigan after the Chelsea game. What made it worse is that the changes didn’t pay off, as Arsenal went on to draw 2-2 with Wigan. Wenger changes the winning lineup, we draw, so it’s Wenger’s fault.

The thing is I think Wenger would love to play his best lineup every match. If that ensures the win, then I think that’s what every manager would do. Play the same set of 11 players game in and out. With Arsenal, it’s a special scenario. Wenger has to take into account quite a few factors before making changes like that on a regular basis.

First of all, we have to consider that all our players are injury prone. Yes I said it, all of them are! Let’s just keep Vermaelen out of this since he’s still injured, you’ll find very few players who haven’t faced a lengthy spell in the sidelines. Especially out attacking options in Fabregas, Van Persie, Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott, Nasri, Diaby and Ramsey have all faced injuries at times which have left them out of the side for months. Did I miss someone out because I am sure the list is longer.

Fans were so upset that Djourou didn’t play in the Wigan game after producing a match-winning display of keeping Drogba quiet against Chelsea. So we wanted him to play after 48 hours with barely any recovery time. We tend to think of only Eduardo and Ramsey having horrific injuries, but Djourou is making a remarkable comeback after a dreadful knee injury too. Would we rather see him be match fit for more of the season or risk the chance of him being injured again at a crucial point in the season?

Secondly, our squad is just way too strong. Arsene has a tough job in trying to keep them all happy. In football, the only way you can keep a player happy other than financial incentives is to put them in the starting lineup on a regular basis. As soon as Walcott didn’t start for 3-4 games this season, he started voicing out concerns of how badly he needs to start now. Walcott starts again and scores and assists against Chelsea. When Bendtner’s groin troubles are gone for good and he still didn’t make the starting lineup, he just wanted to leave outright. Wenger plays him against Wigan and he scores a wonderful goal. I’m predicting Arshavin might have to sit in the bench more often these days, so just wait till he starts speaking out publicly when that happens.

Wenger has to rotate his players, he doesn’t really have a choice in this scenario. Maybe he could toggle around with the lineups a bit more and possibly set two lineups that are a bit more equally strong. That will take some weeks to sort out as well. Regardless of that, expect a rotation policy to be there throughout the season. There is no way of avoiding it.

 

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. 🙂

No Magic Against Partizan

I know we shouldn’t be panicking for our match on Wednesday. It should be a straight forward game at the Emirates against a Partizan side that has lost all their Group Stage games so far. The pressure is still on!

We should expect a win. We should also expect Arsenal to come 2nd in the Group. This may seem horrible in every context of progressing further in the competition. It opens up the possibility of facing a team like Barcelona or Real Madrid, Manchester United or Chelsea, Inter or Bayern Munich right in the first knockout round. Most people would blow out Arsenal’s chances against these heavy weights straight away, but history suggests otherwise.

UCL Season Group Position Knocked out
06/07 1st Round of 16 (vs PSV Eindhoven)
07/08 2nd Quarter Final (vs Liverpool)
08/09 2nd Semi Final (vs Manchester United)

Although coming 1st in the Group Stages in the 06/07 season, Arsenal were knocked out to a much inferior opponent straight after in the Round of 16. On the contrary, when Arsenal finished 2nd in Group stages in the following 2 seasons, they progressed much further in the tournament and were knocked out by tougher oppositions.

In my opinion, it actually doesn’t matter where you finish in the Group Stages, as long as you qualify for the Knockout phase. After that, you have to consider all the teams as equally strong. The Champions League isn’t just one of the best competitions in the world without a reason. Teams who win make things happen and perform to their level best to tilt the result towards their favour, rather than waiting for the opponent to make a mistake.

What can we expect from Partizan tomorrow? Not too much. Since they don’t even have a chance for third spot, Partizan really have no pressure on them.  They do have a talented forward in Cleo, but I’m sure he won’t be too much of a handful for our defense.

I’m not expecting any magic from Arsenal this time around. All I expect is some great possession football and the conversion of most of the chances we create. We need to take matters in our own hands and win in a decisive manner, rather than depending on the Shakhtar vs Braga game.

The morale in the Arsenal camp is high. It is also with us fans. We’ve finally established ourselves as serious title contenders by sitting at pole position in the Premier League almost half way through the season. Our Carling Cup team has shown fantastic composure and consistency to reach the semi finals. It’s about time we can think of putting all those trophy-less seasons behind and win some silverware.

However, the Champions League isn’t silverware. It’s gold. So let’s put this game behind us quickly, and join the gold rush ASAP!