Dinamo Zagreb Preview + Wilshere debate

We kick-start out Champions League campaign tonight away to Dinamo Zagreb. Let’s just hope we fare better than the two Manchester clubs last night. City has been shocking in Europe, I believe they have won 2 out of their last 11 Champions League matches. As for Manchester United, they bought PSV’s best player and still lost to them. You have to feel for Luke Shaw though, the guy just got over his weight issues and started making good strides in his game only to suffer a double fracture.

Speaking of injuries, there was news that Jack Wilshere will now be out for 3 months due to a hairline fracture of his fibula. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing as he is a player I enjoy watching, we all love him as he’s Arsenal through and through, but will he ever make it? Every time he starts making progress he suffers a lengthy lay off through injury.

Here are the comments from Wenger and, our captain, Arteta respectively:

“This kind of injury is not career-threatening. I am not a specialist, but this was just an accident. It is a bone injury. It is not linked with the injuries he had before.”

“He has an enormous talent and support from every department of the club, and from the players because we feel sorry for him. He has an amazing career ahead of him. We are responsible for putting that into his head every day and to not allow him to fall down because, at some stage, that is the danger; that he does not believe in himself or his body and he needs to trust himself.”

In regards to team news for tonight’s match, Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin did no travel and will be replaced by Mathieu Debuchy and probably Oxlade-Chamberlain. I suspect the players may have a slight niggle and the manager doesn’t want to risk them for the big game against Chelsea at the weekend. Will we see any other changes with this in mind? Will Gibbs get a rare start?

Let’s try to not make this difficult for ourselves again and finish second.

Arsenal 4 – 1 Galatasary: A rush of blood

There is no better way to build confidence, for this weekend’s match against Chelsea, than there was Wednesday night. We set up exactly how we should be setting up to take advantage of the assets at our disposal, in this squad’s case that’s pace. Alexis, Welbeck and Chamberlain all being fed by Ozil. As we saw against Villa, you put Ozil more central and surrounded by pace then he will thrive and dictate play.

We all knew Danny Welbeck is quick but the other night he showed how quick he really is. His sudden acceleration, and his finishing, are very reminiscent of a certain Thierry Henry. I’m not comparing the two players directly, but the way he finished and shaped up his body and the sudden electrifying burst of pace was something we haven’t really seen since the king. Some may argue the Theo comparisons but he doesn’t have the hold up or back to the goal ability of Welbeck.

Wenger did what only Wenger would do and that was make a baffling positional choice for Cazorla. He started him central in the deeper role next to Flamini. Now against Galatasary it worked, due to the way the formation they played and how poor they were in general, but against a team like Chelsea it will fail.

When you play against Chelsea, they will bully and pressure you into having no space and then take the ball from you in midfield. That’s where we need a strong combative midfielder. Do we have one? No. But we have a Diaby… He’ll be our only real hope in that position against Chelsea, alongside Arteta or Flamini. But I’ll touch more on that when I do the Chelsea preview.

Danny Welbeck’s first two goals were taken calmly after being played through into space by Alexis. Just before his run into the space, he signals to Alexis where he wants it played, a quick burst of pace saw him past the defender to slot home.

The second goal was the one that caught everyone’s attention. Another quick burst of pace, after knocking the ball down, leaving his marker treading water, then finishing with the technique and style that Arsenal fans have long associated to Thierry Henry.

 

 

Felipe Melo, a player we once looked at when he played for Fiorentina. How he was not sent off for a clear two footed lunged at Alexis Sanchez is anybody’s guess. Both feet were off the floor and he was not in control of his actions. He got all the player and no ball, but got away with a yellow card.

There were also the usual antics, of complete imbeciles, that come with playing a team from the Turkish leagues. The Galatasary fans lit flares they managed to sneak into the stadium, probably up their arris, and then even threw them onto the pitch. Disgraceful behaviour and how they are allowed to keep getting away with their behaviour in Europe is a joke. The club should be either kicked out of the competition and banned or forced to play with no travelling fans. Sneijder, was the only player who did the decent thing, went over to their fans and gestured to them to please calm down and cease causing trouble.

Alexis had the last laugh though by bagging the third goal of the night before half time. Mertesacker broke up a Galatasary attack and played the ball to Chamberlain who fed Ozil in midfield who in turn sent Alexis in behind. Welbeck was available for a pass, to complete his first half hat-trick, but the Chilean went alone and fired the ball into the bottom corner.

Not long after half time we managed to make it 4-0 and Welbz completed his first career hat-trick. He also became Arsenal’s first English player to score a hat-trick in the competition and third player overall. The other two? Henry and……Bentdtner.

 

We were on cruise control as we looked to see out a comfortable win. But  Szczesny had other ideas. A ball to Yilmaz saw him clean through on goal, the keeper had no choice but to come out, but he had left it too late. Yilmaz touched the ball round the keeper and contact was unavoidable, as Szczesney pulled his hands back, and went down. For me, this is where the rules need to be looked at again as a red card, for an unavoidable challenge from a keeper, and a penalty is too harsh. Unless it’s for violent conduct, of course. I believe it should be a yellow and a penalty. This meant we had to substitute Alexis off for Ospina, who has now had to face two penalties in two games in his first two appearances for the club. They scored.

The wind was now in their sails but Ospina kept us in the game with a string of fantastic saves. The main thing that Ospina needs to work on is his communication with his back four, as it caused him to flap at some crosses due to being unaware of what his defenders were doing. I’m sure that will come with confidence he’ll build with playing more with the team. There was one save that he seemed to just hang in the air for ages.

We wrapped up the game 4-1 against a very poor side. Take nothing away from our team though as they performed extremely well. Chelsea will be a whole other matter though and hopefully we adapt our lineup and tactics to suit. But we all know we probably won’t.

Arsenal vs Galatasary preview

Tonight is a must win game, if we want to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. In order to qualify, you really should be winning all your home games and one of the away games. Whether that wins you the group is another matter though. For now we just need to focus on winning with our  depleted, injury stricken, squad.

Our midfield is extremely thin, due to the injuries mounting up. Arteta and Ramsey will miss the match through injury whilst Diaby is supposedly being rested. Yes, rested after one game in a year or two. Wilshere is back in training but will probably  be on the bench with the Chelsea match in mind.

I think we’ll see Flamini, Chamberlain and Rosicky in the midfield roles. Up front I am sure we’ll revert back to Ozil, Alexis, Cazorla and Welbeck. Get the win early and lock up shop, like against Napoli at home last year. Let’s just hope we don’t pick up any more injuries tonight, ahead of Chelsea, as we will need to be near full strength.

There’s good news away from the match, as Theo Walcott has returned to training. He will be a very welcome addition to the squad and provide us with another outlet. We have really missed someone with his pace down the wing and coming in centrally. We bought Alexis, who plays in a similar position, but Theo is more adept to our game, currently.

There is also some not-so-great news. Arteta is about to sign a one or two-year extension (depending on which reports you read). He is not good enough for this year, let alone another two years. We need a world-class holding midfielder who bosses the midfield, not an over the hill player who gives away needless fouls and has no turning ability.

Today’s blog post is short, as there is not much really to look at going into this game. We need to win and it’s as simple as that.

Dortmund 2 – 0 Arsenal: Tactics are for winners

We were absolutely shocking in our defending last night. We looked like a team sent out with no instruction other than to just play. There was no game plan on how to cope with a Dortmund team that we knew were going to press us constantly and with pace.

We couldn’t perform the simple things, like passing the ball to a player in space. We always seemed to opt for the pass into a man who was being tightly marked then losing it for a counter attack. There was no communication on the pitch to give direction. We all know the manager doesn’t like instructing play from the sidelines so it is up to the players to do so.

Arteta, for me, is not a captain. He may be a great guy on and off the pitch, as well as a mentor for players, but he is not someone who is commanding. He doesn’t command his troops and his legs are gone. Where was he for their goals? He can’t keep up with the pace and constantly gives away fouls. We may as well have played 4-0-4-1 or whatever it is we play now days. There was no cover in front of the defence, that was split open by the pace of the Dortmund counter.]

For their first goal, why was Immobile allowed to run all that way? Why did no one simply try to muscle him off the ball and take one for the team or a defender come out and put pressure on him? To go in at half time just 1-0 down was extremely flattering. Dortmund should have been 4-0 up.

We were hoping the manager had some stern words to add some steel back into the squad for the second half. Surely we could only improve and not make the same mistakes. I was wrong, the second half was much the same as the first.

Arteta forgot to change the batteries in his mobility scooter, so he couldn’t keep up with play. Ozil couldn’t get into the game and just isn’t hitting form at all. Ramsey has also been poor this season, finding the form of three years ago, he just can’t get into his stride. Szczesny nearly got caught being too laid back with the ball, although he did make some good saves to keep the scoreline down.

Alexis Sanchez looked like he was tired and couldn’t keep up, as much as he tried. The entire team just looked exhausted and flat-out of ideas. How do we rectify this? In my opinion, I think Ozil and Ramsey should be dropped for the Aston Villa game. Bring in Chamberlain on the left, to interchange with Alexis. Bring Rosicky into the middle of the park. He’ll provide some more energy and willingness to defend in the pivot role with Arteta or Flamini. If Wilshere’s injury means he is out for a couple of weeks them move Ozil central, where he wants to be and play Rosicky and Arteta/Flamini with him.

Danny Welbeck got into some good positions and created some good chances for himself, but couldn’t quite finish. You get the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before he starts scoring though. If only the rest of the squad could put the effort in that Welbeck and Alexis do in defending from the front. Jurgen Klopp has Dortmund playing the way I’d love to see Arsenal playing. He is the ideal replacement for Wenger, when he eventually leaves the club.

Why isn’t Campbell getting a chance on the left? Has he done something to upset Wenger? Podolski is also rotting on the bench. If neither of them are going to get played then maybe we should have sold one to raise that extra bit of cash needed for the missing defensive midfielder. Not that we should be needing to raise extra cash, considering the numbers being touted round about our “warchest”.

Let’s see how the squad and players react to this result on Saturday against Villa, who will have the wind in their tails after beating Liverpool.

Arsenal vs Dortmund preview

So we go off to Dortmund, yet again, for our first Champions League group match this season. Last year we managed to pull of a victory and Arsenal became the first English team to triumph at Dortmund’s imposing Westfalenstadion home. Ramsey scoring from an Ozil cross, which we’ll hopefully begin to see again.

As we thought we had it bad with injuries to Debuchy and Giroud, we have a few more causalities missing tonight. Nacho Monreal also misses the match and Chambers will have to see how he feels since suffering from tonsillitis. That leaves us with a back line consisting of Gibbs, Kos, Per and Bellerin. Let’s hope the young, speedy, Spaniard is up for the game tonight.

I expect to see a midfield trio of Arteta, Wilshere and Ramsey tonight. Wilshere, who had his best game of the season against Man City, should be looking to carry on his good form. Ramsey can hopefully start to get back to the form he was in last season, as he has been rather poor so far, but is still a player you can’t rule out. As for Arteta, he adds a bit of stability, compared to the lunacy of Flamini, as long as his legs don’t fall off.

Up front I’d like to see Welbeck, Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. But I feel Ozil will have license to roam and come central a bit more, due to the overlapping runs from Gibbs. As mentioned a few times on Twitter, I think we’ll see Ozil player in his favoured central position once Walcott gets back into the first team. Although you could put the Ox out on the left and replace Ramsey with Ozil, as Chamberlain would provide more cover for Gibbs. To be fair, according to everyone’s favourite new analysis tool, the heat map, you can see he does roam and is not restricted to the left.

ozil_heatmaps

Welbeck was extremely unlucky to not get off the mark on Saturday, so hopefully we he can bag his first goal for us tonight. He has given us something we have lacked for a long time, pace and power up front. Yes Alexis provides that but he is not built like Welbeck. He is tall, tricky and pacey, comes deep to press the midfield from the front and makes fantastic runs. He provides a more focal point, where the threat of Alexis can pull defenders out of position.

A player who has divided fans, since his arrival, is Mesut Ozil. The manager was quick to defend his record signing with this comment:

He worked hard against Manchester City. You see a good Ozil when you watch the game again. Then you realise his timing, his quality of the pass and something you can be frustrated during the game but you must not overreact. When you watch the game in a cool manner, you see what a good player he is. I have so many offensive players. I give him freedom to play outside and inside and he likes that. It is not easy but Ozil is a team player and he takes it very well.

 

The question tonight is, will we play in the same style as last year, which was defensive and hit them on the break. Or will we go out and play our usual game and try to break down a team who loves to constantly press with two players. Klopp is an extremely intelligent manager and I am sure he has watched our games this season and our previous encounters last season. Dortmund are also missing their star player in Reus but have regained a lost ‘son’ in Kagawa. It should be a very exciting match tonight.

Arsenal 1 – 0 Besiktas – match review

I think every Arsenal fan was nervous, to say the least, before this game. We had to win and win we did. It was a very tight match in the first half but we did have opportunities. In the second half we saw some backs to the wall defending from the entire team. The team lined up pretty much as I outlined yesterday

Jack Wilshere had a great game yesterday and was involved in nearly every passage of play. There were a couple of times when he attempted a pass he opted for the elaborate pass, which caused us to lose possession rather than take the simple option. There were also a couple of lazy passes but that was expected towards the end of the game after everyone had given their all.

Alexis Sanchez, for me, was man of the match with his performance. He was everywhere. Chasing back to defend, making he runs forward into space, dragging defenders about and winning the long ball in the air. His goal, just before half time, was well taken. Jack played a one two on the edge of the box but the return fell to Alexis in space who calmly slotted home.

The shift Alexis put in was outstanding, as shown at the final whistle where he was exhausted. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla and Wilshere also did not stop running and trying to win the ball back. Mesut Ozil even got involved a few times and was clearly tired towards the end, due to misplacing simple passes. There was one moment in particular where he could have just held the ball in the corner but opted to play a killer pass but there was no one waiting.

The referee was absolutely appalling last night. The amount of fouls that the Besiktas team got away with before getting carded was ridiculous. It evened out in the end as they amounted six yellows, although there could have been a few second yellows given.

Debuchy got sent off, for a second yellow, for the tug on another player’s shirt. Chambers got booked within 10 seconds of coming on the pitch, supposedly due to the ref not giving him the okay to come on yet the fourth official did. Szczesny got booked for wasting time for a goal kick, even though every team and goalkeeper that come to the Emirates do it, when we rarely do. We are lucky if the other team’s keepers get a yellow at least once or twice a season.

In the end it doesn’t matter as we won and achieved what we needed. After the match Wenger had this to say:

“Overall I feel we produced a performance we wanted on the technical side, on the tactical side and on the mental side. We were at the level that was requested tonight against a good team but we couldn’t finish the game off and that of course made it very difficult for us in the last 10 minutes when we were down to ten men.”

 

Wenger also had this to say when questioned on signings:

“We are open for any position as long as we feel that the player can strengthen the squad. If we find the players who we feel can give something to our squad, we will do it in any position.”

 

In my opinion, we still need a defensive midfielder who can cover at centre back. This way we could still get a striker in with the available funds. The other choice is to settle with what we have available and sign a defender and midfielder.  The problem is, no one wants to be fourth choice as a defender, which is why I hope we opt for the former option.

Besiktas preview – Sanogo or Alexis Sanchez?

Tonight is a must win match. If we win then I am sure we will buy to reinforce our squad. More on this later though. The big question tonight is who will start up front? Do we opt for Sanogo, who allows us to play in a familiar system to when Giroud plays. Or we go back to Alexis Sanchez through the middle. I’d like the latter, as long as we play to his strengths rather than slowing play down and doing tippy tappy on the edge of the box.

I think we’ll see a midfield trio of Wilshere, Flamini and Chamberlain. The forward three could be Ozil, Alexis and Cazorla. Lots of forward drive and pace in that potential lineup. We could even see Podolski start on the left instead of Cazorla, but I think Wenger will opt for someone who offers more cover to the Left Back.

The back four will have Monreal continuing on the left, for the injured Gibbs, with Debuchy on the right. The central pairing will be Chambers and Mertesacker again. Hopefully Mertesacker will be more alert this match and a bit fitter, as he and Chambers will need to be wary of the threat Demba Ba poses.

We still have a few options from the bench if needed. Sanogo, Podolski, potentially Cazorla, Campbell and the ever youthful Rosicky, who loves a big game. I would even be tempted to start the Czech over Jack Wilshere for a bit experience.

If we qualify, which we definitely have the quality to do so, we should be going straight for William Carvalho. Sporting Lisbon have reportedly lowered the asking price to £24 million, which is a no brainer. Get it done as it is a necessary position to fill. He can also cover at centre back which takes some of the pressure off Calum Chambers. The reason we didn’t sign Manolas is because Wenger couldn’t guarantee him playing time. Fourth choice CB is always going to be a hard role to fill.

Regarding our forward situation, Wenger has stated that Podolski will be staying with us. He didn’t specify how long for though. Just this match? End of the season? He said the same thing regarding Fabregas before he departed for Barcelona. Monaco are supposedly willing to let Falcao go on loan for £20 million, which includes wages.Personally, I would take this offer. The reason Monaco are letting this happen is because he probably has a pre-agreement to join Real Madrid next year.

I can’t see us bidding £50 million for Cavani whilst Ibrahimovic is injured. As mentioned yesterday, the most likely targets are Alessio Cerci and Loic Remy. I’d rather one of them two than Danny Welbeck.

We all need to back the team tonight, as this could push us on in other competitions and allows us to strengthen with the promise of European football.

Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal – Lacking

We  couldn’t get our game together again last night, albeit in an intimidating atmosphere. Demba Ba tried an audacious shot from kick off, which nearly had Szczesny beat. This summed up the way the game unfolded. As i said yesterday though,  a draw would be an okay result against Besiktas, who are clearly no push overs. We just have to turn up at home and win, business as usual.

The pitch was atrocious, chunks missing, which caused he ball to bobble about and become unpredictable. Wenger had complained about the state of it prior to the match. Matters were not helped when Mikel Arteta had to be substituted due to twisting his ankle. He was wearing a protective boot after the match, so we will have to wait for the scan results to know the true extent of the damage.

Aaron Ramsey will be missing the next leg due to receiving a red card, which was dubious and could have been prevented. The first yellow he received was questionable but understandable as he pulled back on the shirt of the player tugging on his own shirt. The second yellow came from a dive from the Besiktas player.

We played at a pedestrian pace again, as we lacked pace. Alexis Sanchez was the only true outlet until Chamberlain came on. Why he didn’t start over the sluggish Cazorla is beyond me, he needs to be starting. Cazorla is truly wasted out wide. As soon as the Ox came on he made a difference, as he did against Crystal Palace. He nearly clutched the victory with a jinking run concluding with a left footed shot, which got tipped onto the post.

Giroud started up front and had an absolute nightmare of a game. His first touch was woeful, he was getting bullied off the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sanogo start ahead of him, if fit, against Everton. I would have even liked to have seen Joel Campbell start last night, either on the wing or up front. I know Giroud can be a very effective, yet limited, striker for us but last night he was dreadful. I’d love a new striker to rotate Giroud with, once we have bought a CB (Manalos) and a DM (Carvalho??).

Our one true saving grace last night was Calum Chambers. Bar one mistake late on where he allowed Demba Ba to get an opportunity on goal, he was outstanding  yet again. He was well positioned to nullify a lot of attacks last night and was vocal, barking instructions along the back four. He has to be joint signing of the summer, along with Alexis.

Let’s hope we see the real Arsenal turn up against a very tough Everton side this weekend.

Champions League Qualifier: Besiktas

Tonight we play the first leg of our Champions League qualifier, against Besiktas. This will not be an easy match as they are a good team and have a certain Demba Ba up front for them. We’ll be missing Yaya Sanogo, Kieran Gibbs tonight and potentially Koscielny, who has traveled with the squad. I’d be slightly reluctant to use Koscielny, as we have some important league games coming up, but Champions League is also crucial. Double edged sword. Wenger had this to say on the matter:

“Financially it is a big game but it’s not that that’s the most important thing. We want to compete at the top-level, we want to fight against the best in Europe and that’s the real target of the competition tomorrow.”

 

We could bring Mertesacker into the squad early and have him line up next to Calum Chambers, with Debuchy and Monreal in the wing back positions. It;s such a shame with Gibbs, as he has the potential to be one of the best left backs in the country. But his injuries are halting his progress and even Wenger will have to consider that he may not get full seasons out of him soon.

Up front I would start Joel Campbell alongside Giroud and Alexis Sanchez. They’d offer us a lot more pace going forward to bag a crucial away goal. It’s a shame Podolski isn’t up to match fitness yet, as he would have been ideal to rotate with Alexis Sanchez / Campbell.  Wenger spoke about the fitness of our players leading up to the match:

“We had a short preparation and we know that in one week we have three big games: Besiktas home and away and Everton in between. Every challenge is different and beating a Turkish team away from home is very difficult but we want to perform at our best. Besiktas are on the back of a good result against Feyenoord [in the third qualifying round] but we’re on our toes and want to produce a good result.”

 

There’s not too much else to say on this game apart from that we can’t lose. The Champions League is obviously a massive draw for players as they want to play in the most prestigious tournament in club football. Maybe our final signings of the window depend on the result of our qualification. We’ll have to wait and see.

For all the Arsenal fans concerning themselves with Chelsea beating, relegation favourites, Burnley and crying over Cesc Fabregas; why bother? He forced his way out of the club to go play for his boyhood team. He then got told he can leave as they didn’t love him anymore and his shine had worn off. He wanted to come back and we told him no as we have Mesut Ozil and signed Alexis Sanchez. You can’t pick and choose when you leave and rejoin a club. He left when we needed him, after years of building a team around his abilities, then he expects to be just welcomed back? Focus on Arsenal, not Chelsea, not Liverpool, not Manchester City, but Arsenal. The team you support.  If you want to concern yourself with other teams and their players then you need to ask yourself some questions.

Vermaelen to Utd off and Arsenal draw Besiktas

So the Champions League play-off draw has been conducted and Arsenal have drawn Besiktas away in the first leg. I personally prefer the first leg to be away as we can go and play slightly cautiously and then let the hand brake off at home. Turkey isn’t the ideal place to play due to history of fan trouble but it’s better than travelling to Russia. They also have Demba Ba up front for them now as their main man. Speaking of Champions League, Celtic were reinstated into the competition, after getting thumped 6-1, due to Legia Warsaw fielding an ineligible player.

The rest of the draw is as follows:
Besiktas vs Arsenal
Standard Liege vs Zenit
FC Copenhagen vs Bayer Leverkusen
Lille vs Porto
Napoli vs Athletic Bilabo

Thomas Vermaelen to Manchester United now seems to be off. Good! I’m glad we are finally making a stand against selling to rivals, although it probably helps that Barcelona have now increased their offer to around £15 million. Very good business for a player who has been injured a lot recently and not played much. Now we can take that money and reinvest it back into the team.

Vermaelen, to be fair to him, has been professional regarding this whole affair. He wanted to leave earlier in the year but didn’t kick up a fuss or complain to the media. He sat on the bench, played when called upon and kept all issues internal to the club. He deserves to be playing at his age, as Wenger said in an interview, and we can’t deny him that opportunity, especially with a good offer on the table. He also got to lift a trophy in his last act as Arsenal captain. Good luck to him apart from when we play them.

The feeling I have now is that our focus will shift from the defensive midfielder role to a centre back, I am still hoping, and confident, we’ll get one of each. So with Vermaelen’s departure it raises the question of who will now wear the captain’s armband for Arsenal. I personally would make Per Mertesacker captain till Aaron Ramsey has matured further in his game. Jack is always there with a shout but I see him as more of a vice captain. Chambers could also contend for vice captaincy or even the captaincy itself in the future.

Arteta is the most likely candidate to succeed Vermaelen though. Now he has been a great player for us, as well as a leader on and off the pitch and a great mentor, but I don’t feel he would be the right choice. Arteta is nearing the end of his career and I also feel he shouldn’t be starting as many games as he was previously. He can no longer turn quickly enough when needed or keep up with the speed of the game. As I stated in one of the previous blogs, he is a a player we can bring on later in the game to help slow it down and control the ball. Per Mertesacker will nearly always be starting and is extremely vocal.

Someone also mentioned that Douglas Costa will join us on a season long loan from Shakhtar Donetsk. This is mainly due to his refusal to return to the war-torn region. Not bad if true but would someone have to go out on loan for him to have a place in the squad? Bring in the CB and DM and we should be good to go.

Till tomorrow!