Posts Tagged ‘ Manchester United ’

Just get Scott Dann!

Arsenal has been looking for a solid defender ever since the start of the transfer market this season. Yes, we signed Carl Jenkinson but he’s just one for the future.

Firstly we were close to signing Phil Jones, but he just chose to join Manchester United instead. Considering Manchester United’s recent successes, no one can blame him.

The rumor of Gary Cahill has just been inconspicuous. First it seemed the rumor was pretty strong, and then the news just kept fading away. His transfer to Arsenal now seems highly unlikely

Then there was Christopher Samba, who was misquoted by The Sun that he expressed an interest to join Arsenal. He came back and quashed it furiously. He might as well be leaving Blackburn, but his price tag may just a bit too much for what he’s worth to Arsenal.

The first bid of 10m was turned down by Everton for Jagielka. He seems to be the most likely defender to join Arsenal as rumour has it that Wenger will re-bid for 15m. That would be an interesting dilemma for Moyes, and only patience will dictate this transfer.

What about Scott Dann? Arsenal has been linked with him for a while now. He was close to a switch to Stoke but it didn’t materialize in the last minute. From then on the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool have also joined the race. I know Birmingham was relegated last season, but they have always been a gritty defensive team. All the Premier League clubs last season found it hard to break the Birmigham defense, especially in St Andrews. The reason for that is both Roger Johnson and Scott Dann were rock solid in defense.

One thing is encouraging is that Wenger is only showing interest in Premier League defenders, those who have been performing consistently and are physically capable of handling the pressure week in and out. He’s not going to risk it with an overseas signing this time around.

If a 10m bid is enough to secure Scott Dann, then Wenger should put in some serious thought to getting the 24 year old centre-back to Arsenal. Let’s face it, time is running out and teams will be more and more hesitant to get rid of their first choice defenders as it’ll be even harder to replace them. Dann would be a strong back-up to both Vermaelen and Koscielny. He would also probably provide stiff competition to Squillaci for a run in the first team!

 

 

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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.

Arsenal faces Manchester United: The anxiety ‘almost’ over

There has been so much speculation surrounding this fixture, that it’s been tough to follow ‘all’ of it for an average Arsenal fan like me. This just builds up to the intensity, and shows how badly both teams want to come out as the victorious ones.

Everyone seems to have had their say. Some a bit outspoken, while others simply reiterating the already known. Let’s sum up what’s been said so far.

Evra has possibly made himself the most hated figure to the whole Arsenal community by calling our club a ‘training centre’. Park Ji Sung questions our ability to win, partly due to inexperience. Sagna came up with a statement to just hit back at Evra’s unnecessary criticism (thank you Bacary). Nasri has said that he’s not afraid of Manchester United as they are much weaker offensively than they were before. Clichy has spread a strong signal of intent by saying that Arsenal are ready to change their tactical style of play, in order to beat United. The funniest comment, in my opinion was when Darren Fletcher came out of nowhere and tells the press that he’s not a ‘dirty player’ like Wenger has so before. I’m sorry Darren, but find a better excuse to get on the news (I don’t think even Man United fans care about what he says). Wenger and Ferguson on the other hand, have both come out with ‘respectful’ comments. They are two managers that have persisted in the Premier League for so long, and we all know how they must really feel like inside when it’s time they go head-to-head.

All of these comments seem to be insignificant now. After a few hours when the whistle blows for kick-off, none of these players will remember what has been said. All that will matter is the 90 mins of football that will determine the winners of this clash.

What really ticked me off today was when I was talking to one of my friends who is a hardcore Man Utd fan. He was telling me that even Tottenham are better than Arsenal now (nobody goes there). That’s where the Man Utd fans confidence level is. They criticise Arsenal before talking about the strength of their own team. You can’t blame a Man Utd fan. We have no one to blame but ourselves for not winning a trophy for so long. However, what my friend was also saying is that Manchester United are a ’10 star’ team in FIFA 11 and Arsenal aren’t. Well on that matter, I just want to tell all the Man Utd fans that the only reason their legendary team gets 10 stars nowadays is because they make Wayne Rooney one of the best strikers in the game. I won’t blame FIFA 11 on that either, because they didn’t know that Wayne Rooney wouldn’t score a proper goal for United in 5 months!

To be honest, I can’t be bothered about all that title race and mentality stuff when it comes to United. All I want is for the Gunners to go out there and beat them, whether it’s at Old Trafford or not.

I don’t know how Wenger motivates his players before the match starts. I just want to tell all the Arsenal players that in order to be champions, we must feel like champions. Be a champion tonight. Go out there, and make us proud.

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Manutd Strikers vs Arsenal Defenders

This fixture could not have come at a better time. Both Arsenal and Manchester United are in the form of their life. Arsenal have won four of their last four away games and Manutd have won four of their last four home games. From a neutral perspective, this match has got all it takes to be a season best. This match is the definition of goals.

But, the odds seem to be slightly tilted towards the home side. Manchester United have scored the most number of goals in the Premier League even though they have played fifteen, one less than Arsenal. On the other hand, Arsenal have kept only four clean sheets out of a possible sixteen. This indeed is worrying from an Arsenal perspective. Arsenal now have to score more than the highest scoring team in their own home ground whilst providing a top defensive display. Can Arsenal do it? Only time will tell.

I am fully confident that Arsenal can dominate midfield even in the absence of Cesc Fabregas. And both of our top two strikers have enough quality to deal with  the Manutd defense. But can I say with the same confidence that the Arsenal can dominate the Manutd strikers? Unfortunately the answer has to be no. The fu

llbacks can possibly handle themselves but I am really concerned with the heart of our defense. Let’s see what might happen when the defenders go head to head with the strikers:

Koscielny vs Berbatov: Having never played Manutd before, this match-up is hard to predict. Koscielny is alright with his aerial ability although I would have preferred Djourou against Berbatov. I don’t think Wenger will listen to me though. If Koscielny can keep up with Berbatov aerially, I believe Koscielny will be at an advantage. This is because Koscielny is best at anticipating and tackling. I also believe he can cope with Berbatov’s pace which is not very high. What Koscielny has to be aware of is Berba’s killer instinct near the goal. A lot of low crosses will be played from both sides with the help of Nani and Park(possibly) and Koscielny will need to man-mark the striker really well.

Squillaci vs Wayne Rooney: I am most worried about this match-up. Unless we are really lucky and/or Rooney is completely out of form, I cannot see Squillaci effectively defending against the Englishman. Squillaci is slow. His tackling is so-so and aerially he his horrifying. Moreover, his partnership with Koscielny has yet to take off. If Arsenal are to lose/draw against Manutd on Monday, Rooney might as well be the reason for it. To cope with him, Squillaci has to be at the top of his game and Wenger has to apply some major tactics. Squillaci will not get away with it if he repeats the same errors that he made against Fulham and Partizan. Their strikers were lethargic, Wayne is not. Rooney will punish Squillaci cruelly for every mistake he makes.

Clichy vs Nani: This one can go either way. It depends on which Clichy shows up on Monday. Will it be the Clichy with the awesome tackling ability or will it be the absent-minded, error prone Clichy we occasionally see? Clichy can match Nani with his speed but it will be his awareness and tackling precision that determines who wins the duel. I say tackling ‘precision’ because Nani will be up to his tricks and everytime Clichy makes a bad tackle he will give away a free kick. And, we do not want to concede free kicks to the likes of Berbatov, Rooney and Vidic, especially when Nani will be taking them. Let’s just hope the right Clichy shows up on match day.

Sagna vs Park: This is one duel I am fairly confident about. The only thing that Sagna needs to be wary of is Park’s movements off the ball. That Korean can make some deadly runs and Sagna has to make sure that the Park-Evra combination does not work. But, I think out of all the Arsenal defenders, Sagna is the most dependable and I expect him to do his job.

Manchester United will be up for the game but so will Arsenal. To hide some of our apparent frailties, we have to dominate the game well. We have to make sure the ball is on the right side of the field most of the time. Manchester is a counter attacking team and I hope our players are training accordingly. This is not a run of the mill fixture; we have to do much more than we did against the likes of Fulham and Partizan. Manchester United will be looking to take advantage of every mistake we make and we have to always be one step ahead of them to win.

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!

Who’s Got The Strongest Bench?

While watching the Tottenham v Liverpool game last weekend, Gus Poyet mentioned on Sky Sports that he thinks that Spurs have the strongest bench in the Premier League. I’m sorry, could you say that again? The Spurs bench?!

Anyways, it got me thinking. I decided to compare bench strength of the top teams in Premier League, position by position.

Manchester City probably have the strongest goal keeping options at the moment. Having a player of Shay Given’s caliber sitting in the bench is a luxury. However, that may not be the case for too long as Given’s exit from Man City looks more evident every day. Tottenham’s Carlo Cudicini is probably another good goalkeeper who’s had to sit in the bench for most of his career (making him a bench expert!). I still don’t get how he doesn’t start for the Spurs ahead of the erratic Heurelio Gomes. However, that’s not really my concern because their stupidity is good for us. On the other hand,  Arsenal’s goalkeeping strength is still a doubt. Who actually is our first choice goalkeeper now? I’m not sure if Almunia is still injured, or whether he has just kept falling down the pecking order. Fabianski still remains to be a bit inconsistent. Our goalkeeping future does look bright though as Szczesny has impressed in both of his Carling Cup starts against Newcastle and Wigan. However, he didn’t have too much to contend with so we still need to see his ability against much tougher oppositions. Tomas Kuszack is also not a quality cover for Manchester United, which is possibly why Ferguson has signed the highly rated Anders Lindegaard. I am yet to see him play to comment on his goalkeeping credentials.

It’s difficult to determine who has the strongest bench defensively. I wish I could say Arsenal, but our defensive record has been horrible as of late. Kieran Gibbs is probably our best defender, but its difficult to consider him a bench player since he gets quite a few first team opportunities these days.  Koscielny needs to improve his consistency and the likes of Djourou and Nordtveit need first team opportunities on a regular basis to prove themselves as quality defenders. I guess without Thomas Vermaelen, our defense is a bit out of shape. We can also count out the Manchester United bench after their horror show mid-week in the Carling Cup. Their defense looked in tatters after conceding 4 goals to a struggling West Ham (Jonny Evans had no clue on how to mark/tackle Carlton Cole). The Chelsea defence also looks weak on the defensive side(currently). John Terry’s injury has already created some problems for them, but Carlo Ancelotti is adamant to bring in cover this January. Alex is  having a surgery and could be out for up to eight weeks. Tottenham have never really been a team that have done well to protect their goal. Gareth Bale’s promotion to the midfield and constant injuries to Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate have simply left their defense hanging. Tottenham have kept just one clean sheet in the season so far, the lowest in the premier league. Man City possibly have the most over-rated defense in the whole of the Premier League. The likes of Micah Richards and Jolean Lescott just make their defense a threat from an attacking perspective, rather than a defensive one. They have kept the second highest number of clean sheets this year(mainly due to some great goalkeeping at the start of the season) but I think it will not continue to be that impressive by the end of the season.

This time, I will not hesitate to say that Arsenal has the best midfield bench in the Premier League right now. Having the likes of Rosicky, Ramsey (who should be back soon) and Walcott (effectively been used as a bench player this season so far) provide a bench full of creativity and an envy for any other team in England. Chelsea and Manchester City are probably a tied second with Zhirkov and Ramires, and Adam Johnson and Shawn Wright Phillips, who are extremely capable players at the top level. Manchester United benefit from having the best bench player in the Premier League in Ji-Sung Park, but the rest of bench seem to be a bit too young and lack experience. I’m also happy to say that this time, Tottenham’s attacking cover is the most over-rated compared to the rest of the top teams. Niko Kranjcar and Giovani Dos Santos are inconsistent and more flash than effectiveness, which is why their responsibilities are limited to the bench in the first place. It’s also the same case with David Bentley and Jamie O’Hara while Sandro is yet to have adjusted himself to the rigours of English football.

This will probably hurt (A LOT) to say but Manchester City do have the strongest forward options as cover for their first team. A team that can send Craig Bellamy out on loan and have Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz in the bench just shows that. The other strong bench strikers in the Premier League such as Niklas Bendtner, Federico Macheda, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Daniel Sturridge aren’t able to threat at that level (at the moment).

What’s surprising to see  is that Manchester United have the weakest bench strength out of the top 5, but they are still in pole position. I’m predicting that won’t stand for too long, especially late in the season when tired legs will lead to more injuries.

I’m going to finish this post by showing you why out of all teams Arsenal have the strongest bench. This is the team that played against Aston Villa last weekend:

Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh

This is an alternative lineup which doesn’t include any of the players that thrashed Aston Villa:

Almunia, Eboue, Vermaelen, Djourou, Gibbs, Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey, Fabregas, Walcott, Van Persie

We pretty much have two first teams in our squad. So Gus Poyet, please do think properly before making comments publicly like that in the future! 🙂

By the way, Cesc Fabregas is having his own website soon. Bookmark it: www.cesc-fabregas.com

How The Next Four Matches Could Be Season Defining For Arsenal

I’m absolutely delighted by the fact that Chelsea dropped points yesterday. This brings Arsenal on par with Chelsea with 29 points. Manchester United are top with 31. Pundits were predicting Chelsea to walk away with the title this year saying that they had the better squad, more experienced players etc. Bullsh*t!! I do not know about Manutd but this year I truly believe that Arsenal have what it takes to win the title. The squad is indeed one of the strongest Arsenal squad I’ve seen in a long time.  Sure it’s not perfect and it has weaknesses but you do not need a perfect squad to win silverware, you just need to have a team that can perform better than the others. This team can do that.

Which brings us to the topic of today. The next four game weeks are difficult for all the top three teams as they face each other in quick succession. This could change the appearance of the league table drastically and could give a more clear indication about who ‘really’ got what it takes to win the title. Let’s take a look at the fixtures then?

CHELSEA:

1) Chelsea vs Everton

Chelsea have got the hardest fixtures and what a time to have them! They are on a roll, a roll of dropping points. In their next match, they face Everton at home. Given that Everton have  poor away form with only one win in their last five games, I still expect Moyes’ side to give this weakened Chelsea side a run for their money.  Everton have players coming back from injury; their only concern would be the suspension of Mikel Arteta. They still have Tim Cahill though and he has been using his head(literally) to score goals for fun lately.  Even if Chelsea do win this game, they will not be able to relax because they face the ”mighty” Sp*rs next.

2) Tottenham vs Chelsea

By the time Chelsea face Sp*rs, they should have John Terry and Franky back to their starting line up. Sp*rs have Van der Vaarth injuried for upto a month(according to latest reports) and it certainly won’t be easy for them. But, the game is at White Hart Lane and this certainly evens things down a bit(they have won four of their last 6 home games and drawn 2). So even with VDV out, I expect Chelsea to drop at least 2 points in this fixture.

3) Chelsea vs Manchester United

Big, big game this one. I can’t even guess what will happen here. I’m predicting that Rooney will be in full swing by this time and Chelsea,hopefully, will be low in morale after dropping points against Sp*rs. This could possibly be a high scoring game as both teams have players who would have returned by then. Arsenal fans all over the world will be hoping for a draw in this fixture. In any case, whatever the result, this game can only bring positive news for the Londoners.

4) Arsenal vs Chelsea: (refer below)

MANCHESTER UNITED:

1) Blackpool vs Manchester United: This is an easy fixture for the ManCs. Blackpool are conceding goals wherever they play and their home form has been abysmal too, winning only two of their last 6 games. The best that they can do against this in-form Manutd side is get a draw. But lets not get our hopes up; Blackpool should be thrashed in this game.

2) Manchester United vs Arsenal: (refer below)

3) Chelsea vs Manchester United: Unpredictable as mentioned above.

4) Manchester United vs Sunderland: The fact that Sunderland have the core of their defense out injured certainly is not good news for their rivals. Titus Bramble and Michael Turner are out for months and are not expected to be fit for this fixture. Manchester United are gaining momentum game by game and I really can’t see them losing against Sunderland at home regardless of their previous results against Chelsea and Arsenal.

ARSENAL:

Arsenal vs Fulham: On paper, this may sound as a very easy fixture for Arsenal but this actually is  a big test for them. Arsenal are struggling at home  having lost 3 out of their last five home games against various oppositions. Arsene Wenger has said that these losses were only coincidental and that Arsenal will bounce back. I think this is true. Arsenal have been losing home games ,yes. Did they play that bad as to deserve a loss? No.  It’s the fact that they are losing matches even though they are playing well that is putting a bit of mental pressure on the players. I believe that once we win against Fulham  on Saturday, we will put on a string of home wins from then on, including the the match against Chelsea later on.

2) Manchester United vs Arsenal: This match will be upon us on  13th of  December and this is truly a mouth watering fixture. Head to head, Manutd have the upper hand winning four of the last 5 games against Arsenal in all competitions. Add to that the fact that the match is at Old Trafford and Arsenal have more pressure on them. Still, this Arsenal is side is now matured and with or without Cesc Fabregas, I expect Arsenal to get at least a point in this game. Remember that this Arsenal side, unlike last season, is doing terrific at away games and a win is certainly on the cards.

3) Arsenal vs Stoke: Another easy home fixture. We cannot afford to drop points in games like these and I think by now Arsenal will have had learned their lessons and will just do the business. Stoke’s away form has been pretty bad with four losses in six and I’m sure Shawcross will play accordingly if he does not want death threats on his door steps the next morning.

4) Arsenal vs Chelsea: This is a must win game for me. Chelsea might have players coming back but they will need time to get back to full fitness. Also, just because they have players back does not necessarily mean they will be back in form instantly. Head to head, Arsenal are again on the back foot with absolutely no wins in their last 5 games against Chelsea but with a complete change in the centre of defense and a new dimension of play with Chamakh as a striker, I expect the tables to be turned. The Drogs has also been sleeping lately and hopefully he will continue to do so as Arsenal certainly need all the help they can get. I don’t know how but Arsenal HAVE to get a win in this game.

So that’s about it. It is clear that Chelsea have the hardest of fixtures, Manutd the easiest and Arsenal somewhere in between. To be title contenders, Arsenal have to get points off these big teams. I do not expect them to win all but to have things differently  for Arsenal this time around, they have to win most. Let’s just hope for the best and take on one game at a time and I’m sure our hard work will pay off.

I’m off to watch the El Classico match now. Till then. Ciao.