Posts Tagged ‘ Samir Nasri ’

Captain Van-tabulous

Robin van Persie has caught the attention of the media, and the rest of the world. They’re all for the right reasons.

He sits on 34 goals for the year 2011 and close to beating Alan Shearer’s record of scoring the most goals in a calendar year. This would be an impressive feat in any league, but even more so in the Premier League because of the gritty and compact defenses that it possesses.

The timing of his incredible form in front of goal could not have been better. The club was looming with disappointment with the loss of stars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Someone needed to step up to the plate and inspire hope into the side. RVP took the mantle of captaincy with glee and led from the front.

This season we witness the Van Persie that we missed in previous seasons, when he found himself injured in the sidelines on a regular basis. The past is past, and Wenger still had confidence in his ability as he became the Arsenal frontline striker.  While a couple of years ago he used to produce flashes of brilliance with his dribbling and powerful free kicks. Now he is able to singlehandedly produce a string of classy, consistent performances which reap positive results. Even though the side heavily relies on his performance day in and out, he handles the pressure incredibly well and thrives in it.

Transfer rumours will always surround a player of his quality. 3 years ago it was Juventus, and now it is Real Madrid and Manchester City who are anticipating his signature. It is difficult to gage the future but it is unlikely that Dutchman will leave the club so soon. He should realize his enormous responsibility and importance to the club, something he would not get in parity with clubs filled with big names. Either way, Arsenal fans can just hope that he pens a new contract with the club as soon as possible and continues to mesmerize us with his match winning contributions.

He loves the club, and he loves his role as captain. This was evident when he scored the wonder volley goal against Everton (see video below). Instead of doing a solo celebration for his magical personal effort, he ran over to the Arsenal bench to celebrate the crucial 3 points earned for his side. Salute to you, Captain Van-tabulous.

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

Who Should Arsenal Face: Barcelona or Real Madrid?

So the much anticipated Champions League draw is tomorrow afternoon (in my time zone anyways). The four teams that we can draw are Schalke, Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid. Does anyone have a feeling like me that it’s most likely going to be one of the Spanish giants?

Our Champions League campaign started on a high when Arsenal comprehensively won the first three group games, but had to wait to the last game in order to secure qualification. We only have ourselves to blame for making things so difficult. But as many people predicate our team, that it wouldn’t be Arsenal if they didn’t do things the hard way.

Copyright Getty Images

Some fans seem to think that it’s best not to focus on the Champions League and actually get eliminated early to focus on the Premier League. This could be maybe because of the disappointing performances against Shakhtar and Braga, so the ‘hope’ of winning the competition has dissipated. Unfortunately, Arsenal have found themselves in a similar sort of position in the Premier League for a countless number of times in the past few seasons and yet haven’t been able to capitalise on them.

One of the fans I talked to recently said that he wants Arsenal to face Real Madrid to give them the same 5-0 thrashing that Barcelona did (woah, that’s the spirit!). Many may also want to face Barcelona early on in order to take revenge of last season. That is a possibility, especially since our team does look a lot stronger than when we faced Barcelona the last campaign. This time, Samir Nasri is firing at all ends and we have the likes of Chamakh and a fit RVP, so Bendtner is less likely to be our primary front-man. Others of course, are still wary of facing Spain’s dominating footballing forces and would much rather fancy their chances against Schalke or Bayern to progress further into the tournament.

Questions about our weaknesses remain. Football pundits ask whether Fabianski is ‘good enough’ to protect the Arsenal goal for them to win the Champions League? Does the Arsenal backline possess enough quality and depth to prevent the likes of Messi and Ronaldo scoring goals aplenty? Is Chamakh prolific and lethal enough for the Gunners attack to lead us to glory?

The problems are there. But do we sulk about them and lose confidence, or accept them and move on? The latter seems to be the right way to go. Does it really matter whether we face Barcelona or Real Madrid early in the competition? We’ll have to face them eventually if we are to win. So why fear them at all?

I cannot accept any element of fear in this Arsenal side. We are a team that has played in this prestigious competition for 13 seasons so far. The team needs to exuberate confidence and the winning mentality must flow through the veins at all times. Whether we play at Camp Nou, Santiago Bernabeu or at the Emirates, we must be in it to win it.

Does Walcott Deserve A Place In The Starting Lineup?

A star in the making. A gem waiting to shine. The next Thierry Henry. These were some of the words which were used to describe Theo Walcott when he first signed for Arsenal in 2006. The guy was considered the ‘next big thing’ in England since Wayne Rooney. And indeed when he was selected for the England World Cup squad in 2006(even before he made his Premier League debut!!), the hype was already in full swing. Although Theo did not get a single minute in the whole of the tournament, expectations were still very high. After all, he was the youngest player in the tournament.

It’s been four years now, how much did he improve? Well, if you follow the analogy that since he made the World Cup in 2006 but not the World Cup in 2010, then he did not improve but deteriorated. Of course, we all know that’s not true. His World Cup selection in 2006 was just wrong and he himself admitted that. Whether he deserved a place the next time around is questionable as there were older, more experienced players the manager could have opted for. But one thing’s for sure, he certainly improved a lot since 2006 but just not to the level many expected him to be in.

What are his weaknesses? Certainly not his speed, that’s for sure! The guy is undoubtedly the fastest player in the Premier League and it is this attribute that people want him to build around. Theo is weakest at his decision making and his crossing ability. Time and time again he tries to cross the ball when he could have hold on to it a little longer and vice versa. At other times he would drive in a high cross when a low one would have been more appropriate. Theo is deployed by Arsene Wenger as a winger which Theo argues is not his best position. But most Arsenal fans know that this is the same tactic Wenger used with Thierry Henry when he first joined Arsenal. This made Henry develop into a complete player which we know he is. Since Walcott is played as a winger, he should take his role seriously. But so far his crossing ability has disappointed us. He needs to practice more vigorously on this aspect of his game. Lastly, he needs to improve his defensive qualities. I know he is a winger but Arsenal is a team which gives away 2 goal leads rather easily and naturally it needs all the help it can get from its midfielders. Theo does not provide those much needed defensive attributes like tracking back, holding up play and being a physical presence on the field. This is especially true when he is brought in as a sub in the 60th or so minute to help protect the lead and provide more effective counter attacks. He does the latter very well but fails in the former. A good example of this is the last game against Fulham. After Walcott was called on, he was almost invisible, seldom providing any defensive cover. When he did have the ball in his feet, he seemed rather rusty giving it away at the most crucial moments.

Last season was an injury plagued season for Walcott. He still managed to start 12 league games. After 16 league games this season Walcott has made 8 appearances and started only 2. If this trend continues, then by the end of the season he will have started only about 5-6 games which is a step down from last season. This just goes to show how competition within the squad has increased. Walcott is not improving as quickly as the squad as a whole is improving. Let’s take a look at players who are in direct competition with Theo and how much better or worse they are suited to the right wing:

1. Samir Nasri: With Cesc Fabregas in the team, Nasri is almost sure to start on the right. Nasri is a completely transformed player this season. Having scored 4 goals in his last 3 games, Nasri has done well to carry the team forward in the absence of Cesc Fabregas. With his current form, I do not see any player in the Premier League replacing him let alone Theo Walcott.

2. Emmanuel Eboue:  Given that Eboue was predominantly used as a right back this season, he is still a candidate for the right wing as he was used in midfield last season. If ever a crisis were to arise in midfield, Eboue could be slotted in as a temporary fix. He is currently injured but when fit, he can provide the defensive cover on the right which Theo fails to do. But because he lacks in pace and his finishing ability is a notch under Theo’s, Eboue is behind in pecking order for this position.

3. Robin Van Persie: Most people are ambivalent about RVP’s role in this team. On one hand, when RVP is fit(a miracle to Arsenal fans) they want him to play and on the other hand they do not want Chamakh to drop to the bench. So, to fit RVP into the starting lineup Wenger has to play him on the right. If this becomes the case, then Walcott’s chances of making it into the starting line up will be unfortunately thwarted.

4. Tomas Rosicky: This is one player who thus far failed to make a big impact at Arsenal as he was always held back by injuries. But these days he seems a bit stronger and looks less prone to injuries. This is the positive side to his game. But, Tomas has been widely used as a substitute this season and rightly so. When he does start, he looks like a shadow of a player who made such a huge impact on the Czech national team in the World Cup of 2006. He seemed to have such a great finishing ability then and some of his long shots were stupendous. Now-a-days, though, he seems to lack pace and fails at most of his attempts on goal. This might be down to his age. The Little Mozart, although he might not seem to be so, is almost 31 years old and his best years are probably behind him. Nonetheless, he is very much a strong candidate for this position and Walcott has to prove that he can contribute more than Tomas can in this year’s title challenge.

The worst part is that most of these players can cross better than Theo which gives Wenger even more reasons to start him on the bench.

Walcott faces some stiff competition this season unlike any he had ever faced before. It will only be through some emphatic hard work and substantial diligence that he will get a starting place in this strong Arsenal squad. But in case he does not, as Arsenal fans we should realize the guy is only 21 years old and has time on his side. Not everyone progresses at the same rate and us fans have to be patient with Theo. Just forget for one moment that Theo ever was in the 2006 World Cup squad at 17, that he scored a hat-trick against Croatia in only his second World Cup qualifier and you will begin to realize how the people and the media have been so over-expectant of him. Let him take his time and one day he will grow to be the player that we all know he will become, not a successor to Thierry Henry but Theo Walcott, a virtuoso in his own way.

Is Arshavin back?

Who in the Arsenal team do all the Arsenal fans regard as lazy, uninspiring and low in team spirit? Most probably Andrei Arshavin. Our Russian international, who is an evident Barcelona fan and isn’t used to playing in the cold, hasn’t really lived up to expectations recently.

Who do you least expect to step up to plate when squad morale is low after a week of terrible results? Probably Arshavin again. This time, he hits us all fans aback with a cracker of a performance.

Arshavin’s goal against Aston Villa was crucial. Although Arsenal were dominating from the kick-off, we were frustrated by not being able to convert the chances that were coming our way. That’s when Arshavin’s precise finish to the bottom right corner broke the shackles. Soon after he produced an insightful pass to break Samir Nasri free one-on-one with the goal keeper which Nasri missed (and shouldn’t have especially after the angle he beat to score in the Tottenham game earlier). He did however manage to assist Nasri later in the first half with a corner kick. Not only that, he did manage to make some brilliant runs on the counter to pose a constant threat to the Villa defense. Although it was a great team effort, he did enough to be the MoM.

Was his performance enough to prove that he’s back to form? Maybe, but there are still quite a few important games coming up in December. It was still great to see Arshavin play so well and take control against a Villa side who always tend to nick results off.

Andrei Arshavin v Aston Villa

Arshavin has always been one of my favourite players since I saw him play in Euro 2008. I’m so glad that he’s scored after a 9 game goal drought. Hopefully this will get him back on the goal trail. We desperately need him to.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not going to change too much. He will still be that lazy character always getting that odd assist and poking out for goals.

We can’t really expect all our Arsenal players to give their 100% every game. Arshavin certainly does not have the Gunner ‘spirit’ bursting through his veins. Our team still needs him. He’s a genuine match winner and has the ability to show flashes of brilliance at the most unexpected of times.  That’s probably why Arsene Wenger plays him game in and out, because you never know when his day is.

Truly ‘Hazard’ous

Eden Hazard, heard the name? Pretty much most people who follow football closely will know that he is one of Europe’s most talented footballers. He’s got electrifying pace, a great shifter (almost Messi-like) and has been a match-winner for Lille with some influential displays.

Can we get him? Nope, almost impossible now. Unless he is a devoted Arsenal fan, he won’t come to Arsenal. Although he is strongly linked to Liverpool as well, he won’t go there either. What will happen is that as soon as there is the slightest hint that Eden Hazard is available (if not this transfer window then another one), the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea will come in and try to swoop him up at unmatchable prices.

Eden Hazard

So that means another world class talent out of our grasp? I wouldn’t really look at it that way. It is true Arsenal have had some bad luck in the transfer market at times. Wenger did state that even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres could’ve joined Arsenal at the time they were available.

If you actually look at our young attacking options, they’re quite amazing on paper. Samir Nasri is only just 23 and is becoming a better player by the day. He keeps playing like this and in a few years time we’re going to start to consider him an Arsenal legend. Also, the fact that he will be a considered a regular in the France team will help him mould into that star we need in our team. Theo Walcott is the potential ultimate Gunner for me. Arsene Wenger didn’t just give him the No. 14 shirt without a reason. He won’t fill up Thierry Henry’s boots, but he will be right up there. I’m hoping injuries are out of his way and with a few more first team opportunities, he will build more confidence and develop a better footballing brain to reach his peak.

The big name that fans don’t consider ‘youth’ is Cesc Fabregas. We often tend to forget that he’s still young (only 23) because he’s such an integral part of our first team. The truth is he will also only improve. The problem is that there is so much transfer speculation surrounding his link to Barcelona, that it’s not helping him. What’s even worse is that he’s been rumoured to go back to Barcelona since he started featuring in the Arsenal first team, and yet he’s still at the Emirates. Now what we need is for that speculation to disappear forever. Barcelona just signed Ibrahim Afellay, and Fabregas should be smart enough to realize that he’ll probably have to spend a majority of the time in the Barcelona bench as well. Once Fabregas is only seen as the indispensable Arsenal captain and not as a Barcelona transfer target, we’ll see a new Fabregas.

I’m not even going to talk about Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Carlos Vela this time. Also not even mention the likes of Samuel Galindo, Wellington Silva, Henri Lansbury and JET who are outstanding prospects in the making.

Now you ask yourself, should we really be thinking about Eden Hazard? It’s not the end of the world. The beauty about football is that talented players just keep on coming in the ranks. We also have the manager who has the best eye for youth.  So let’s be realistic and leave the ‘Hazard’ous one for others to handle.

Samir Nasri for FIFA Puskas 2010

Samir Nasri’s breathtaking goal against FC Porto last season has been nominated for the prestigious FIFA Puskas award for 2010. This is basically FIFA’s best goal award.

Please go to the following link and vote for Samir Nasri to win it:

http://www.fifa.com/ballondor/puskasaward/video=1333708/index.html

If you don’t remember or haven’t seen the goal, check the video below…