Man United 1 – 0 Arsenal, good or bad result? Let's discuss…

The first half was all United, the relentless running of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo was a lot to handle. United are good at mixed play, a little bit of short passing mixed up with a long ball here and then, strikers working the channels, and they had our team chasing for the first half of the first half. We don't seem to be bright starters in Europe and fell behind to a John O'Shea goal, when we left two Man United player unmarked at the back post - I'll always remember that O'Shea chip when we lost 4-2 at Highbury - and the stand in right back volleyed past Almunia, with the Spanaird nearly saving it.

It was good to have Almunia back in goal. There was an air of confidence about his play, something which had lacked with Fabianski in goal. Arsene Wenger was very much full of praise for his goalkeeper, he surely kept us in he game:

“A player who had a big game in a big game! He was excellent, top class in every sense. The reading of the game, his decision making, his sharpness. He was really top class tonight.”

Without Almunia tonight, we could have been 2 or 3 down. The keeper saving well from close range from Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez. One thing you’ll see from Almunia is that he’s quick off his line and very brave, two characteristics were very much useful today.

We really didn’t test Edwin Van Der Sar and from an attacking point of view, we really were quite inept. Adebayor was very closing marked by Vidic and Ferdinand and Diaby was very much ineffective on the left of midfield. Arsene critical of the attacking ambition, but ultimately the formation and personnel led to the performance. 

“I believe that we were not dangerous enough offensively. After the first 20 minutes we thought we could do something but we were not sharp enough in the final third. Defensively we had a positive game, but we were in a position where we had to come out and score. Then United played the game they love which is counter-attack.”

I really hope we play 4-4-2 on the weekend, with Nasri and Walcott on the wings and Ade and Eduardo (or VP if he’s back) with Denilson just in front of the back four and Cesc deep… maybe it will happen, maybe we’ll do something completely different. Either way, as the gaffer says, it will be a very different game…

“It was a difficult game played at a high pace. Manchester United started stronger than us and if you look at the clear cut chances they were on top, of course, tonight. The positive is that we are only 1-0 down and we are still to play at home. I am convinced you will see a different Arsenal at The Emirates.

“I believe we still have a chance to reverse the result. Football can be like this. We could play tomorrow and you would see a different game. That is why I still believe at home we can do it. The tie is still very open. United could have regrets because they could have scored a second goal, and it is up to us to make them regret that.”

News coming out of the United camp is that they’ll be without Rio Ferdinand next week and that’s a bonus for us if true.

So, what do you think about the result? Good or bad?

Let’s discuss.

——————————————————————————-

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand (Evans 87), Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Giggs 66), Ronaldo, Tevez (Berbatov 66), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Foster, Park, Scholes, Rafael Da Silva.

Booked: Tevez.

Goals: O’Shea 18.

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Song, Diaby, Walcott (Bendtner 70), Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor (Eduardo 82).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Denilson, Ramsey, Djourou, Eboue.

Att: 74,733

Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).]]>

Tuesday: Champions League Special

But then today, I read this comment from Diaby:

“Whatever their form is like, they are still packed with great players who can make the difference at any time. However, they are not in their best form – maybe it’s an opportunity for us to make the most of it and profit from it. That’s not the main thing, though. We will concentrate on our game knowing that if we play we have a good chance. We have the quality here to win the Champions League, so we will give it everything.”

Abou Diaby is not usually a player who inspires me with much confidence, but the young lad has a quiver of a point. Taking away the second half of the Sp*rs game away (where Sp*rs capitulated big time), the last 10 games for United have seen them labour to get results. They’re overwhelming favourites and no doubt, they will attack. But we have the ability to overcome them if our tactics, attitude and concentration are spot on. The culprits for our last goal against Liverpool (in my opinion) were the midfield for not tracking the opposition, and we need clever thinking from all round the pitch.

In all honesty, I think we really need to defend this one. We need to go there solid at the back and protect our defence. We need to defend all over the pitch. Having Nasri in front of Gibbs will hopefully mean that we’ve got two players defending Ronaldo – I was a little concerned when we played Villareal that we weren’t covering that side well enough. Maybe that’s why Arsene may switch Diaby and Nasri – but can Diaby be disciplined on the left of midfield?

But the best form of defence is always attack, and although we have to be measured, an away goal – a 1-0 win, would be awesome. Ade’s record up there is pretty good and the Togan had this to say:

“When you get onto the pitch the people around will be singing against you, they will be hating you, and that can give you more motivation. I know they do not like me there because I managed to get a goal, and you just feel like ‘Okay, I will show you again how good I am. In three games there I have scored two goals and I know it will not be easy to get another one, but I will give 100 per cent to do everything it takes to score or to help my team win the game.”

“We know how good they are and it is going to be an exciting game for English football. It is going to be tough, but we just have to believe we can do it, that we can win this cup. That is why we are here. We have the quality in the squad and are in form.”

Very edgy and nervy stuff hey?

The plus points is that in the last month, we have had the opportunity to rest various players such as Ade, Walcott and Nasri and as a result, combine that with a fresh Cesc, we really can go the distance. We’re not tired, we’re young, we’re raring to go – Arsene agrees.

Our vice-captain, Kolo Toure has also been in the press talking about the defence. He says that Gibbs has earnt his place in the team and deserves to play and he’s also said he doesn’t mind who he plays next to. His words:

“Let Gibbs play,” the Ivorian said. “He is a good player and very intelligent. He came in at a really difficult time when we play the big teams and I think he has showed good character and I am really happy for what he has done for the Club.  Its always really difficult when you are young and you come in to play against the big players. I think he is going to perform very well on Wednesday. Ronaldo is a really good player. But it’s not only about Gibbs – it is about all the players. If we are focused and defend together then nobody can beat us.”

“I have been here for seven years and I have played with 10 or maybe more different players.  The good thing is that Johan is a really good and intelligent player. It’s a shame that Silvestre is injured.”

I believe Djourou has the ability and I’m glad that he’s getting this opportunity. He deserves it with his displays this season.

Anyone else nervous? But at the same time very excited, but at the same time very nervous but excited but nervous… but…

More tomorrow.]]>

Monday: Champions League Special…

Wednesday is a massive game. Like uber uber massive. Like, the biggest game that we've had at the club since the Champions League final three years ago against Barcelona.

Manchester United are the current team holders of the trophy and they're the favourites. They've done pretty well last season and this, winning pretty much everything in their path (except the FA cup)... they've got strength in depth and have a solid defence. Of course, a new £30m player every season helps a little and we've fallen behind them purely because we wanted our new stadium.

On current league form, it's exciting... we're 20 games unbeaten, look the business and have looked very exciting in recent games. Our link up play, speed and aggression going forward has been pretty awesome. But of course, we're capable of an off day and the Chelsea game was one of those days. We're also a little suspect in defence and having Djourou back in the back four will help us deal with the pace and tricky skill that Man United pose.

We'll have Gibbs playing at left back and you feel that it will be a little bit of weakness for us. Not because he hasn't been playing well. In fact, he's been very exciting at left back and definitely been an able deputy in the absence of Clichy. But you feel that this will be a very big test for the young lad. Ronaldo is the obvious candidate to play on the right and if he does, young Gibbs will be up against him. That's where the presence of Alex Song comes in. If he starts just in front of the back four and supports them like we've seen Gilberto do, kind of acting as a fifth defender and being available to slot into the left back or right back position when our full backs are going forward, it will really help with the defensive side of the game.

As for the attacking part of the game, you feel Adebayor will start up front alone and with what we've got available, it makes a lot of sense. We're away from home, and it's in our interest to get some sort of result, any result. With that in mind, a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1 is preferable... Adebayor will be supported on the flanks by Walcott and Nasri and Cesc and Diaby in the middle. So this is how the 4-2-3-1 works:

Almunia

Sagna – Toure – Djourou – Gibbs

Song - Diaby

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Adebayor

There is a fear that without Arshavin, we may see the semi-final performance type of game, but I really think that game was decided by a bad pitch and some bad defending and bad goalkeeping. With Almunia back in the squad, I’m sure the confidence will be restored amongst the defence, and that’s important. And of course, with Djourou, the high balls can be defended better.

Arsene has been in the news today and he’s been talking about the away goals rule and how it affects the two legs.

“At this level you have to be audacious away,” said the manager speaking before the weekend. “The weight of the away goal in European football could be discussed I feel. It may be a little bit too heavy.
 
“We have spoken about it, maybe making it a Carling Cup rule where it only comes in at extra time. At the moment you are encouraged to be very cautious at home but very audacious away from home.”

I think Arsene has a point, but I do think it adds some spice to the game. It gives the two games a dimension. A reason for the away team to attack and if it wasn’t there then the away team would always play for a 0-0. The away goal rule makes the two legs different and is part of how it works. But I see what Arsene means about trying to win it in normal “game time”, ie, within extra time first and then if not, let the away goals rule apply.

There is so much more to discuss, bit unfortunately, not enough time tonight…

More tomorrow…]]>

Arsenal 2 – 0 Middlesborough, bring on United…

Today we took on Middlesborough in the League and we played a much stronger line up than I expected. I really thought we'd rest players like Cesc, Walcott and Nasri, but the boss went with a stronger line up and the idea must have been let's win the game then rest the big guns! The team news was boosted with the return of Almunia and the inclusion of Djourou in the squad.

We started with:

Almunia

Eboue – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Walcott – Cesc – Denilson – Nasri

Bendtner – Arshavin

Although, the line up was more like a 4-4-2, Arshavin had quite a free role, which saw him pop up all over the place. Mostly on the left, which helped overload that side and the team pushed on with esquisite play mostly inspired but the awesome foursome of Walcott, Cesc, Nasri and Arshavin.

The first goal came through Cesc Fabregas, when a great piece of intricate play saw the ball go from Arshavin to Bendter, who did a clever little back heel into the path of Cesc who played a great ball into the path of Arshavin, who ran the length of the half before cutting the ball back to Cesc who shot will amplomb to make it one nil to the Arsenal.

And the goal was very much deserved, we’d definitely been the team in control – some of the football played was amazing. Our link up play was brilliant. At 1-0, any mistake will be punished and it did take until the 67th minute until we got the second goal.

Eboue turned creator and slipping Cesc into a goal scoring situation, and the Spaniard rounded the keeper and slotted home to make the score line 2-0. Cesc and Walcott were then duly rested for Diaby and Adebayor, giving some pitch time to two players who will probably feature on the midweek game and resting two who will definitely play.

The manager was obviously very pleased with the result and had this to say:

 

“It was an entertaining game and after 2-0 you could see that Maybe the Champions League started to surface a little bit. Overall it was a very good game against a Middlesbrough team who played in a very positive way. We dominated it and we made some brilliant passing today, some brilliant combinations. The first goal was absolutely outstanding and you could see that the team enjoy the way we play and loved the game. Middlesbrough had one opportunity to come back through Jeremie Aliadiere which was maybe the turning point for them.”

“He gets sharper and sharper in every game. He was out for three months and you don’t come back at your best straight away. But now he gets better in every game. Every player who plays in midfield, who thinks they are creative and offensive, needs to score goals. That happened to him today and that’s important.”

“Usually Fabregas plays deeper with Nasri higher. I wanted to test how it would work the other way round. It could be reiterated that we will do it again because it was quite convincing. But that is open; we have 48 hours to study that then make a decision.”

“It’s better to win today than to lose and rest players. I believe the first part of today was to win the game – that’s the best preparation. We have a young team and they recover well. It is very important to put a nearly decisive distance between us and number five, Aston Villa. I believe it was very important not to miss that opportunity today. It’s not completely definite but 10 points with four games to go… We can focus now on maybe catching Chelsea because we play Chelsea at home.

“If you go to Old Trafford without belief you make it very difficult from the start. We’ll go there with belief, with desire and with enjoyment as well. We enjoy being where we are.”

“I thought he was coming to watch Middlesbrough? He knows we have good red wine in the Directors’ Box! I think he knows us and he’ll think it will be an exciting game between two teams who try to play. We know each other well but still the talent on the pitch always surprises you. But I believe that both teams will go for it and it will be an exciting game.

“[did you speak to him?] Yes, we are polite here, we greet people. I went up to the Directors’ Box before the game like I always do.”

“Yes, Tottenham played well. In fairness I didn’t see the second half I saw the first and during the period I saw, Tottenham played very well.”

“We will be faithful to the game we play and we go like we go everywhere in Europe, to try and score a goal or two to win the game. What is important on Wednesday night is to be at our best. When we are at our best we can beat anybody so let’s focus on us to be at our best and not to speculate on any weakness of Man United because they have the experience. But if we play at our best we have a good chance and we can do it.”

“Adebayor is just coming back from injury, Djourou as well. Djourou’s knee was not 100 per cent but he came through – I will decide that on Tuesday or Wednesday. Djourou came through the game well we will have to see how he responds tomorrow. I believe the only serious problem we have from today is Silvestre, he has a back spasm. He is a 50:50 [for Old Trafford].”

 

Back tomorrow with the first of a few preview posts regarding the BIG game…

—————————————————————————————————–

 

Arsenal: Almunia, Eboue, Toure, Silvestre (Djourou 46), Gibbs, Walcott (Diaby 68), Denilson, Fabregas (Adebayor 68), Nasri, Arshavin, Bendtner. 
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Sagna, Vela, Song Billong.

Goals: Fabregas 26, 67.

Middlesbrough: Jones, McMahon (Digard 73), Wheater, Huth, Taylor, O’Neil, Bates, Sanli, Downing, Aliadiere (Emnes 86), King (Adam Johnson 61). 
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Hoyte, Alves, Grounds.

Att: 60,089

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).]]>

Friday Round Up… Injury News… Almunia, Djourou and Adebayor return… as Cesc is charged by the FA…

The sun is shining and it's been an interesting day in the World of Arsenal. As we looked at yesterday, we only have five games left until the end of the season, and in reality, with 8 points separating us from Villa in 5th and 6 points separating us from Chelsea in 3rd, it will be a monumentous task for us to finish either 3rd or 5th.

As a result, against Middlesborough this weekend, you'd really expect Arsene to rest some players in preparation for Wednesday big game. Winning is a habit and as much as I'd like to push on and really try and challenge Chelsea for the 3rd spot, in reality, I'd rather win the Champions League then finish 3rd instead of fourth.

Arsene gave us an injury update yesterday:

“From Tuesday night we are quite safe. We will rotate a little bit again but we have no major injuries from Liverpool.

“Manuel Almunia was in full training today and we’ll see how he responds. Djourou was in full training also so we’ll see how he is too. Both could come back into the squad. It is not enough training to say [for sure] yet we need 48 hours more. Emmanuel Adebayor should come back into the training on Saturday. He could be in the squad.

“But Robin van Persie is definitely out for Sunday and for Manchester United.  Gael Clichy could be back for the second Manchester United game. He has a scan on Monday. We’ll go from there. He has a chance to be back in full training next week.”

So, as we’ve all thought and discussed, Arsene really should play a reservish squad against Middlesborough and reserve all the big guns until Wednesday. If it were my call, I’d play the following team against Middlesborough:

Fabianski

Eboue – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Arshavin – Ramsey – Denilson – Vela

Bendtner – Eduardo

This will give a few key players a chance to rest and give us the performance of their lives away at Old Trafford. If we do play the team above against Middlesborough, then that will keep the following team ready for Wednesday:

Almunia

Sagna – Toure – Djourou – Gibbs

Walcott – Song – Cesc – Diaby – Nasri

Adebayor

Without Van Persie this Wednesday, I’m sure it will be a 4-5-1 formation, especially away from home in the Champions League.

And just when you thought the season was overwhelmingly frustrating, news has broke that Cesc Fabregas has been charged by the FA for the alleged spitting incident:

“Cesc Fabregas and Phil Brown have both been charged with improper conduct. Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas and Hull City manager Phil Brown have both been charged with improper conduct. The charges relate to matters arising from the FA Cup match between Arsenal and Hull at the Emirates Stadium on 17 March.

“Fabregas faces two charges of improper conduct relating to his conduct on the pitch following the game. One charge concerns his behaviour in coming onto the pitch after the final whistle, the second charge relates to an alleged spitting incident. The charges are based on submissions from Hull City and video evidence.

“Brown is charged with improper conduct and/or bringing the game into disrepute in relation to media comments made after the game concerning referee Mike Riley. Fabregas and Brown have until 12 May to respond.”

If you ask me, very much ridiculous by Hull and there is still a hope they will go down. That’s all I’ve got to say on that today – I may speak more on this tomorrow.

I’ll be back later with a look at what Bendtner has had to say about this season, but here’s to a good Friday evening and some interesting games tomorrow…]]>

The League Table, Chelsea, Wenger, Cesc & Fabianski

We've got the following teams from now until the end of the season...

  • Middlesborough (Home)
  • Portsmouth (Away)
  • Chelsea (Home)
  • Manchester United (Away)
  • Stoke (Home)

I’m going to make the bold step of presuming that we will beat Middlesborough, Portsmouth and Stoke and then look at the options of what happens if we beat Chelsea and United.

At the moment we’re on 62 points. If we beat Chelsea and United we’ll be on 77 points for the end of the season… where will that put us at the end of the season?

Chelsea have:

  • West Ham (Away)
  • Fulham (Home)
  • Arsenal (Away)
  • Blackburn (Home)
  • Sunderland (Away)

Now, let’s say they lost to us, but beat Blackburn and Sunderland and draw to West Ham and Fulham, that would see them pick up 8 more points and that would see them finish on 76 points. Sometimes, I wonder why I write the “what if”, or “maybe, this could happen” blogs – I’m a bit of an optimist, but it could happen, you never know.

Looking ahead to the next BIG game (not taking for granted the big game this weekend against Middlesborough… we face Manchester United and we could have a completely different team available for selection by then. Looking at the injuries, it’s definite that Djourou and Clichy will be back for the game with Almunia a 50:50 (let’s say he does make it) and then we’ll have both Van Persie and Adebayor back too.

Let’s compare the two teams… one that played against Liverpool and the one that could play against Man United:

Liverpool vs Arsenal

Fabianski

Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Nasri – Denilson – Cesc – Song – Arshavin

Bendtner

Man United vs Arsenal

Almunia

Sagna – Toure – Djourou – Clichy

Walcott – Song – Cesc  - Nasri

Adebayor – Van Persie

It’s a much more exciting and experienced line up next week than this week, and if the team I suggested does play, we will have a real chance of nicking something at Old Trafford.

I’d expect us to rest as many of the team as possible against Middlesborough in order to have a fresh team on Wednesday – I’d expect to see Sagna rested, with Eboue coming in, I’d expect to see Bendtner and Eduardo up front with Arshavin and Vela on the wings and maybe Denilson and Diaby in the middle.

Arsene spoke on this:

“I am not happy with our defending but I believe that our defence has played many games and they were a bit jaded physically. We cannot change many players, especially at the back. Offensively we have a bit more choice but at the back we haven’t got too much choice. Of course [resting players against Middlesbrough] is in our thoughts but the best way to prepare for the Champions League is to win games in the Premier League.”

Cesc has also been in the press… commenting on the excellent attacking prowess of the team but also berating the deficiencies of the defence…

“We have seen the best things we can do, but there are a lot of things we can improve on. We played in front of great players and great fans and the team has to be proud of what we achieved, but still we go home with the feeling we should have done more. We gave the goals away too easily and after all we did to create four opportunities to score four goals – it is difficult to take.

“From an attacking point of view, we played one of the best games of the season. However, defensively we need to improve a lot if we want to be in the Champions League final. It is the most difficult thing because when you attack you have the creativity to do what you feel. If defensively you are not well positioned, you will concede goals. We still need to do a lot of work on it.”

And he’s bang on it. Our midfield did not protect our defence much at all on Tuesday, and against Man United, I’d expect Song to literally sit in front of the back two central defenders.

On a final note, I have to say I’m delighted with Fabianski for commenting honestly on his performance. There may be a few big games coming up for him soon if Almunia doesn’t recover… this is what the Pole had to say:

“I know that it was mostly because of me that we did not qualify for the FA Cup final. When you are honest and look with honest eyes on that, you can say it. Every day I had been waking up with the game still in my mind, so it was not easy.

“When the season is finished, maybe I will clear it out from my mind. It was a big, big chance to win something this season in the FA Cup. I did not help my team like I should have, and I am sorry for that.”

There is a long way until the Champions League, so let’s see what happens between now and then… more soon.]]>

Liverpool 4 – 4 Arsenal: Arshavin stars…

Liverpool 4 – 4 Arsenal
Arshavin 36, 67, 70, 90 

Wow, that was a seriously crazy football game yesterday. In a decent reaction from Arsene, he named the strongest line up he could, which saw Arshavin and Song restored to the starting line-up and with Sagna recovering from flu, we had some more strength at the back. A 4-5-1 was deployed with Nasri on the right replacing Walcott the only real change. A little surprising as we know what Walcott in capable of, but at the moment, Arsene is trying to keep everyone fresh, whilst getting results, as he attempts to win the Champions League.

The line up was:

Fabianksi

Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Denilson – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Bendtner

It was a tough game and Liverpool, no doubt, were up for it. They came out of the blocks firing and were biting at our heals all game. Torres was very dangerous and with Benayoun having a free role, the tenacity of the Liverpool team did pose a problem. We rarely had a chance to venture forward but, our only shot on goal was a goal, when Nasri and Cesc combined well to steal the ball on the edge of the area and set up Arshavin for an emphatic tap in.

We went into the half 1-0 up and it was all Liverpool after the break – they went 2-1 up quickly with goals through Torres and then Benayoun. At that point, the result or any result looked dubious as Liverpool were really on fire, but then a great peice of pressure by Arshavin on the Liverpool defence saw him nick the ball and shoot an incredible shot past Reina to make it 2 – 2. 3 minutes later, some great work by Nasri and Arshavin saw the ball swing over to Bendtner and the Liverpool clearance fell to Arshavin who shot low and hard to make it 3-2 to the Arsenal.

But within 2 minutes, Torres swivelled and shot pasted Silvestre and Fabianski and it was level again. But on the stroke of full time, Walcott broke and found Arshavin, one on one with the keeper and the Russian finished with aplomb with his left past the Liverpool keeper. There was still time for Liverpool to equalise through Benayoun against a very shaky back line.

All in all, a crazy game – am I happy? Am I sad? I just don’t know. The only question I have is why didn’t Arshavin play against Chelsea? I’m surprise no-one has asked Arsene that!

Okay, here’s what Arsene said:

“I believe it was a game of a frenetic pace, and of top quality. Both teams created many chances and you can see when you play on a good pitch you can play football in the Premier League. Apart from that we are  half-happy because we scored four goals but we are half-unhappy because we conceded four. As well, to be 4-3 up with two minutes to go, the team is disappointed. It was another great performance tonight and Liverpool maybe thought a draw was a fair result.

“The big regret we have is that 10 minutes into the second half we a 2-1 down, but not from something created by Liverpool; from balls we didn’t clear properly from the back.”

“Arshavin can play everywhere, like all great players. He scored four goals but it was at the end of good combination play. He has tricks and a short back-lift and that makes him very dangerous.

“It shows he has a good left foot, but in full confidence he can be relaxed enough to take the goal anyway. I have been in this job a long time and not many players get four goals in a top game like that. I didn’t expect him to do that – he has scored seven in seven games.”

“It is still very open. It depends on what kind of form Manchester United find because they had a bit of a problem before the interruption of the Champions League so we will see how they come back against Portsmouth.”

“I never doubted the character of my players. The fact they came into the dressing room very, very disappointed says a lot about their character. It shows they wanted to win and that we go for it every time. It takes quality to respond like we did today, only three days after the [FA Cup].”

“He was fantastic in the first half but struggled a bit more in the second because I believe we were less dominant from crosses. But overall, Fabianski had a god performance.”

More tomorrow…


Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt (El Zhar 86), Riera (Babel 74), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Lucas, Ngog, Skrtel.

 

Goals: Torres 49, Benayoun 56, Torres 72, Benayoun 90.

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Arshavin, Song, Fabregas, Denilson (Walcott 65), Nasri, Bendtner (Diaby 90).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Eduardo, Vela, Ramsey, Eboue.

Booked: Sagna.

Goals: Arshavin 36, 67, 70, 90.

Att: 44,424

Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).]]>

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Eduardo set to start…

Some people have mentioned that we'd prefer to throw the game away so that Liverpool win - that way it puts more pressure on Man United and ultimately will help us beat them in the Champions League. Realistically, we shouldn’t even think about this whatsoever. For us, we need to finish 3rd or 2nd to automatically qualify for the Champions League as the new rules come into effect as of next season.

If we can beat Liverpool, yes it will hurt our CL chances, but we must go into every game believing and wanted to win. Once you start losing, it can often be hard to stop.

So, today marks the return of Eduardo – he’s in line for his first competitive start as Arsene shuffles the pack. New International amongst other news agencies have said:

Arsenal striker Eduardo is set to make his first start in a Premier League match in fourteen months when the Gunners travel to Liverpool this evening.

The Croatia forward has made just three first-team appearances – two in the FA Cup and another as a substitute in the Champions League – since his leg was broken by Birmingham defender Martin Taylor last February. But with Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor both ruled out of tonight’s game at Anfield, Eduardo is poised for a starting spot alongside Nicklas Bendtner.

With Walcott due to be rested, it may see Arshavin and Nasri deployed on the wings.

The possible line up for tonight could well be:

Fabianski

Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Arshavin – Cesc – Song – Nasri

Bendtner – Eduardo

or, if the papers aren’t to be believed and Arsene’s preference for always playing Diaby and trying desperately to play 4-5-1 away from home, which often sees Diaby run around going forward and lose the ball, then we may just see…

Fabianski

Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Walcott – Cesc – Song – Diaby – Arshavin

Bendtner

With all these injuries and lack of consistent formations, I think Arsene will keep us guessing right up to 7pm tonight!

Before I go, here’s what Arsene said about tonight’s game:

“You never know how teams will respond,” he said. “But I believe you can never say to your team – even if that was the case – take your foot off the pedal because you do not know what kind of consequence a defeat has on the team and the belief.

“I feel it is always better to win your big games because it makes you stronger for the next one. So we will have nothing to do with ‘favourising’ Liverpool or Manchester United because we want to win. It’s a big game and we just want to win it. We have not secured fourth place and we can still be third,” said Wenger. Wednesday night is Chelsea v Everton and you never know, if Chelsea drop points and we play Chelsea at home we can come back on third.

“We just have to accept what happened on Saturday, to deal with it and not repeat it. We have many big games coming up and we feel we can win them.“Winning is what we live for. We cannot be happy with only trying to remain fourth. We want to get closer to the top and have a good opportunity to come back to six points on Liverpool this evening.

“Third place is important, second place is important and why not first? You never know. You do not want to have regrets. We want to win every single game, no matter what competition we play in. Of course we are disappointed having lost in the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup, but we want to bounce back quickly. We have so many important targets in front of us and want to focus on that.”

On a side note, Matty Flamini is trying to tempt Adebayor away from Arsenal to Milan and has been in the press saying:

‘He (Adebayor) is a great player and if he was to move to Milan he would boost us,’ Flamini told Datasport. ‘He was already very strong when he arrived at Arsenal, but he has improved a lot up there, and became one of the best strikers in the world.’

Interesting public tapping up by Matthieu “No Morals” Flamini…

Anyway, bring on the ‘pool, it’s time for another big game…]]>

Liverpool vs Arsenal Preview… (and a bit more Chelsea)…

After the shambles that was the FA cup on the weekend, we have the chance to recover tomorrow night as we take on Liverpool in the league. Chelsea and United fans will surely be routing for us as a win for us against Liverpool would all but end their title challenge.

Early team news sees Adebayor out with a hamstring injury and Van Persie out with a groin injury. Knowing Arsene, I'll predict his line up and then I'll tell you my preferred line up too.

Arsene's line up:

Fabianski

Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Walcott – Denilson – Cesc – Diaby – Arshavin

Bendtner

But personally, I’d go like this:

 

Fabianski

Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

Walcott – Song – Cesc – Nasri

Arshavin – Eduardo

It would be good to have some attacking flair and finishing ability – my formation would still see us be able to act like a 5 man midfield if required, with Nasri tucking in and Arshavin on the left

Toure says the weekend’s game is all about learning and we’ve got Liverpool next so we can focus on that game straight away. He says the “youngsters” will learn from this and it will stand us in good stead for the future.

“We just have to put all this to the back now and focus on the next game,” he said. “Our target is now the League and Europe. The good thing is that we only have a couple of days to get this loss off our back. We will head to Liverpool on Tuesday and look to get the three points. This can be just the start for this team, because there are some really good players coming through. The season started really badly, but we have come back very well. We hope to keep going now and improve the way we are playing.

“You can only learn from these types of games, because they are so intense. When you make some mistakes, they can cost you, which is what happened against Chelsea. We will just have to try not to do that again.”

Van Persie was quite upset at the result on the weekend, but he’s right when he says that we need to look ahead to tomorrow’s game and get back into the groove:

“We have to look game by game, because if you look at the schedule from now until the end of the season, it makes you a bit dizzy because we have big games every three or four days We still have two targets now – that is the Champions League Final and to finish fourth, or even third in the league. ”We are disappointed, but we need to get our stuff together and fight for the other two titles. We have to play the game against Liverpool on Tuesday now, whether you are happy or if you are not happy.

“It is the Premier League and we need those points, but I am confident because we have strong characters. Every experience makes you stronger, a good one and definitely a bad one.”

I’ll be back with more team news tomorrow, let’s see what we’re made of…]]>

It's Champions League or bust (Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea)…

It's been a strange weekend of disappointment. I was down at Wembley this weekend for our semi-final outing and I have to say it was very strange. Pre-game, the atmosphere around the game was immense, Arsenal fans outsinging their rivals. The sense of doing something special, the sense of really making an impression on the cup was there.

There was a genuine glowing feeling around the supporters - this is our day - and we will win.

But then we all heard the team news...

Arsene had previously said "we need to rotate" and "we'll have a fresh Arshavin for the Chelsea game" but to our surprise, the dimutive Russian was left on the bench. As well as that, Alex Song, who's been brilliant in the last 4 weeks, and awesome against Villareal was also left on the bench.

My pre-game optimism turned into pre-game pessimism as surely we'd be better "playing our game" with a 4-4-2 and Arshavin in the squad - in fact, with a neutral venue such as Wembley, surely the same team as Wednesday should have started? (Nasri / Arshavin swap)... Very frustrating and you knew Diaby wouldn't be that great, he's been injured for a while. Argh!

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal

The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON

Saturday, April 18, 2009, 17:15

So, the line up was:

Fabianski

Eboue – Toure – Sagna – Gibbs

Walcott – Denilson – Cesc – Diaby – Van Persie

Adebayor

I’m a little sick of seeing Diaby in our team ahead of players like Arshavin and Song, who really have deserved to be in the first eleven.

Arsene spoke on Diaby’s inclusion:

“Alex Song has played many games and I believe when you do that you need rest. I am not sure he would have stopped the ball in the air on the second goal, but it is difficult. We know they are dangerous on set-pieces and we are a bit short. Plus they have some tall boys who make it physical in midfield and we needed a player like Diaby to be capable of fighting against them.

“As well I wanted to rotate it a bit because Nasri was sick last week and he looked a bit tired. We played with three strikers – Theo, Robin and Adebayor – and I couldn’t play with four when they had three in midfield.

“I believe we are a team with eight games in 24 days and you cannot imagine to play every game with exactly the same players.”

That still doesn’t explain the absence of Arshavin, something we’ll never know. To top it all off, Adebayor and Van Persie have both picked up knocks.

Having said all of that, we did start the game well and a good move from Ade and Gibbs saw Walcott side foot the ball home to make it 1-0. But two very bad goalkeeping errors saw Malouda equalise and Drogba score the winner in a game where we struggled to find any form in the second half. It’s a game I’m not going to dwell on too much, and in all honesty, I think Arsene made some personnel / tactical mistakes.

Arsene said of the game:

 

“The disappointment of the day is that we gave two cheap goals away, and in a game of that level it has a bad outcome, especially with seven minutes to go. It was a big blow. The two teams looked jaded physically, maybe us a bit more than them.

“We missed a few opportunities on crosses in the second half, and were unlucky in the last minute. They had one or two chances, but it looked like it would go to extra time, until we gave a goal away that you should not at this level.”

And that’s very true. Very disappointing for us to “throw” it away, and that’s exactly what we’ve done!

——————————

Arsenal: Fabianski, Eboue, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Walcott, Fabregas, Diaby, Denilson (Nasri 86), Van Persie (Arshavin 75), Adebayor (Bendtner 83). 
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Vela, Ramsey, Song Billong.

Booked: Denilson, Toure.

Goals: Walcott 18.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Lampard, Essien, Malouda, Anelka (Kalou 82), Drogba. 
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Carvalho, Di Santo, Mikel, Belletti, Mancienne.

Booked: Ivanovic, Ballack, Drogba.

Goals: Malouda 33, Drogba 84.

Att: 88,103.

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).]]>

Gunnersaurus to start as Zohaib chooses line up…

“The Gunnersaurus has shown very promising signs in training and without Adebayor and Van Persie available, it’s a perfect opportunity for the mascot to claim his place in the team.”

The rest of the team news sees Wilshere, Merida and Ramsey make their first starts away from the Emirates in a line up that looks like this:

Fabianski
Eboue – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs
Wilshere – Ramsey – Denilson – Merida
Bendtner – Gunnersaurus

Arsene Wenger was quizzed in the press conference about a weakened team and said:

“Manchester United have won the league too many times. In all honesty, it’s time for another team to win it and if we let Liverpool win, then hopefully next season they will do the same for us.”

It’s going to be mouth-watering tie, simply can’t wait!]]>