Chelsea vs Arsenal Preview: Muted Performance or Goals Galore?

After yet another predictable and uninspiring performance in the Champions League, against Zagreb, we jump back into Premier League today against Chelsea. As we know, Chelsea have just come lost back to back games and we were looking the more threatening team, but after the mid-week games it feels like they may have some confidence back.

I feel this game will go one of two ways. It will either be a game that neither team wishes to lose and will be content to sit, be patient and possibly play for a draw if they can’t nick a win. Or it will be an explosive game and goals will fly in from both sides.

We all have grown accustomed to Wenger’s traditional excuses when we lose and the ‘mental strength’ cliché but in yesterday’s press conference he said he will not use the tired from travelling excuse:

“Chelsea play as well and it is part of our job. I don’t think it will be a massive problem for us, but we will see. I think we have gone down the way where we have to accept that television decides when you are going to play. We have to accept that.”

 

After the baffling team selection against Zagreb we should be back to full force today. Petr Cech returns for his second match against his former club, replacing Ospina. Bellerin, Monreal and Ramsey will come back into the team. I know people complain about Ramsey on the right, I am one of them, but Wednesday’s performance by Chamberlain demonstrated why he has been played ahead of him. When he has an off day then Chamberlain gives the ball away far too much, but on his good day he is superb.

Wenger has also commented on Cech starting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the first time:

I just want him to focus on this game and not be influenced by that. You can’t go there and wonder if you’re standing in the right goal or not. He is so experienced that I don’t need to talk to him about that. Our individual performances will be more important than what he knows. There is no massive secret in that.

 

I think Wenger will start Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman’s head is down and his confidence is shot. He has the French fans, Arsenal fans and the media on his back and it clearly showed on Wednesday that it is affecting him. But then if it was constantly being drilled into you that you are not good enough to lead the line for Arsenal from all angles, especially from Thierry Henry, then it will have a detrimental affect on your mindset.

The lineup I would love to see us play eventually would be:

my perfect Arsenal

But Theo Walcott only seems to want to play as striker currently which, in my opinion, is not his best position. He scores far more goals from coming inside from a wide position as there is more space to exploit and, most importantly, his back is not towards the goal. Of course you could swap Walcott out for Chamberlain but Walcott is the more established player at this moment in time.

I just hope we don’t kick-start Chelsea’s season with an embarrassing performance. Previous to the midweek game I would have thought we could win the game, and we still could, but currently I would take a draw before kick off. Let’s hope it is the former though.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Ozils Majestic Vision

Arsene Wenger went with the suspected lineup I posted yesterday, and after much criticism from fans on social media regarding Ramsey playing on the wing, it worked out in our favour.

Alexis Sanchez was brought back in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right, even though he is not fully fit he was fully committed and gave it his all. Hector Bellerin returned to right back and that extra pace was needed against Puncheon and Zaha.

A lot of fans were calling for Chamberlain to start ahead of Alexis after his previous performances, and due to the Chilean not being 100% match fit yet, but his work rate is unquestionable and I’m sure it lifts the rest of the team. Chamberlain is a good player to bring off the bench, much like Theo, against tired legs due to his pace and direct play.

Straight out of the gate we dominated possession and dictated play, we were superior all over the pitch. We nearly scored early on from a counter from a Palace corner. The end of the move saw Ozil feed Alexis, who hesitated for a split second, and scuppered the chance to put us a goal up. In a couple of weeks I expect to see a fully fit Alexis burying them chances.

We didn’t have to wait long after though to get our breakthrough and what a goal it was. Ozil, the creator again, whipped a ball into the box just behind a waiting Giroud who turned and hooked the ball into the corner of the net. A very agile move for the big Frenchman.

Unfortunately the lead didn’t last too long. The ball bounced its way out to the edge of our box and Ward fired low into the bottom corner. Cech had no chance as it was so precise and his view was obscured, it could have potentially been prevented if Koscielny didn’t bottle the block.

Not long after the second half started we nearly went 2-1 down after a Connor Wickham shot hit the post from the 6 yard box. We looked like we were lacking width and pace with Ramsey out wide, this led to calls for Chamberlain to make an appearance. With Coquelin also on a yellow it was clear that Zaha and Puncheon were targeting him and trying to get him sent off. Fortunately Wenger subbed him for Chamberlain and added a new threat to our attack, Ramsey came slightly more central.

We managed to scrape the win through an Alexis Sanchez header, from a Bellerin cross, which deflected off Delaney into his own net. Arteta and Gibbs came on to help out with the defensive duties and we held on. It wasn’t a comfortable game but it’s a win and three points, our first of the season. Something to build on.

Arsene Wenger had this say:

“We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond. We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well. I’m pleased because we have shown many different aspects that will be very important in the season.”

 

I thought Ozil played exceptionally and pulled all the strings, this should be the benchmark for his performances this season and aim to improve consistently. Wenger had this to say on the German:

“He was magnificent. He works harder than people thinks he does. He is not spectacular in his defending but he wants to do the job, he wants to help the team. What I liked in his game today was he made many runs without the ball behind the defenders, which is a bit new as he likes to come with the ball. Today he mixed up his game better.”

Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: Birthday double for Santi

How much did we need that emphatic win to lift the team and fans spirits? It will do wonders going into the Liverpool match next week. Especially lining up with an untested back four which turned out to be solid, bar the goal. Debuchy is very competent and centre back and will now hopefully allow us to have better defensive performances. I feel we have missed the Frenchman greatly.

So we lined up with the back four of Bellerin, who was outstanding, Mertesacker, Debuchy and Gibbs. I don’t think they really did much wrong all game apart from the goal we conceded. Mertesacker almost opened the scoring with his flick on from a corner. The midfield consisted of Chamberlain, Cazorla and Flamini. Whilst up front we had Giroud, Alexis and Welbeck.

Bellerin started the move for our first goal by making an interception, Giroud got the ball and fed it out wide to Alexis. It looked like he had over hit the pass and it was either going out or the opportunity had gone, but Alexis got an early cross in which was met by the head of Giroud, after he busted a gut to get in the box.

Only a few moments later we should have been 2-0 up. Welbeck ran into the box from the left and the Newcastle player tripped over his own feet, as Welbeck finished a cheeky little chip past the keeper. The referee deemed he had fouled the defender and disallowed it. At this point the fans in the stadium felt that this could come back to haunt us.

We got our second goal nine minutes into the second half courtesy of, the birthday boy, Santi Cazorla. The diminutive playmaker ran into the box and had every right to go over, and claim a penalty, but he stayed on his feet and chipped the ball past the keeper, who came running out, into the net. Cazorla has long been criticised with his lack of goalscoring but, as mentioned in a few blog posts ago, we play a different system without Wilshere and it suits him well.

We only had to wait four minutes for 3-0 as Bellerin charged down the right side and sent in a low cross towards the near post. Giroud was waiting and had a little stab at the ball, allowed it to roll over his foot, and hit the roof of the net. It was the sort of goal we grew accustomed to seeing RVP score over the years. You could feel the tension in the ground subside after that goal, as surely we couldn’t lose now.

Newcastle struck back, from a free kick, only five minutes after. Colback fired in a mid height cross and it was met by the head of Perez and it nestled into the far corner of Szczesny’s goal. I think Bellerin was the player who was supposed to be marking Perez and maybe a little bit of his inexperience was shown there. But other than that he provided great energy down the right hand side, especially when he ran pretty much the entire length of the pitch beating everyone.

Podolski and, the recently recalled, Coquelin came on to shore the game up and introduce some fresh legs. Whenever Podolski got the ball, no matter what location on the pitch he was, the crowd were hilariously shouting “shoot”. Going into the final minutes, Welbeck got brought down in the box and Santi Cazorla claimed the spot kick responsibility. He done a deft little chip straight down the middle to make it 4-1. Wenger then gave Maitland-Niles a few minutes to run about on the pitch before full time.

There was a lot of support for the manager during the match as “One Arsene Wenger” was belted out. It’s good to see the fans backing their manager and the team, showing it was just a minority of morons who were abusing the manager at Stoke. This doesn’t change my opinion, or plenty of others around me though, that he should heavily consider leaving at the end of the season if a top quality replacement is available.

Quick word on the referee, Lee Mason. He was awful. How Tiote got away with kicking Alexis in the stomach was bewildering. Colback got to take a free kick twice! He tried to play it short but the Newcastle player had wandered off and it was a free ball, so an Arsenal player decided to charge up the pitch but the ref pulled it back and give Colback a second chance. Welbeck’s disallowed goal should have been a goal. Luckily we won comfortably and we didn’t have the ‘referee cost us the game’ excuses come to the forefront.

There were some comments from Robbie Earle about how Cazorla scored his penalty. He claims it was disrespectful of him to score a panenka (that’s the name of the technique Cazorla used) against a young inexperienced keeper. So there is now a respectful and disrespectful way to score a penalty? Cazorla is paid good money to score and create goals, the keeper is on good money to prevent goals. How they score or save them doesn’t really matter as long as they do their job.

This is what Arsene Wenger had to say after the match:

Overall it was a dynamic game where defensively – despite the fact that we were depleted at the back – we were quite solid. Going forward we always looked dangerous. In the end we won in a convincing way. We scored four goals and that was needed. The response was strong after the Stoke City game and let’s go well over Christmas.

 

We now have a week to recover and face a poor Liverpool team.

Stoke vs Arsenal preview: Journey to the dark ages

There’s not really a lot to say in the build up to this game as we know what to expect. A stadium full of pot-bellied thugs all booing Ramsey, singing vile songs at a pensioner (Wenger) and just enjoying their team kick lumps out of ours without playing football.

This fixture has turned into one of the most heated rivalries since the incident a few years back. I do love atmosphere at games where there is constant banter back and forth with rival fans but this game has it for all the wrong reasons.

Yes Shawcross broke Ramsey’s leg and nearly ruined his career and I am sure it did, as a professional footballer, put some remorse in Shawcross’ mind. But it’s not the first, or last, time he has seen red for a dangerous tackle. So why are you booing the victim who could have lost his career?

It has now been four years since this occurred yet they persist on abusing the player and our manager. Move on and let it be. There’s no need for it any longer and it is has become extremely tiresome. Do the people of Stoke have nothing else in their lives….?

Martinez has to continue in goal today. Three clean sheets in a row and a commanding presence of his back line, as well as when he opts to collect a cross. His confidence will be high and consistency is key.

This is a game Debuchy would have been ideal to have at right back but until he is fully fit we will stick with Chambers. There are games where I feel Bellerin should start at right back but this is not one due to his size and strength. Chambers is built more powerfully and that will benefit us against a physical Stoke team.

I really hope Koscielny is fit for today and ready to continue his partnership with Mertesacker as he not only provides stability but, again, a more physical presence to Monreal in the centre back position. Gibbs is a no-brainer for me too, if fit, as he is superior to Monreal at left back. Once we get through this game we can give the players a rest on Tuesday against Galatasary.

In the deeper midfield positions we should Flamini and Ramsey continue. I think we’ll see Ramsey start deep but if we begin to get control of the ball, and plenty of possession, I expect him to start to wander forward. If there was ever a game you want Ramsey to come back into form it is this one. Cazorla is expect to retain his creative, number 10, role.

The forward line has to involve Giroud from the start today. His ability to hold the ball up as a target man will be crucial up against Stoke. The Frenchman will put himself about a lot and won’t let himself be bullied. He will also be beneficial to our defending and attacking from corners.

Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck will probably start out wide and continually switch with each other to confuse their markers. Alexis Sanchez is dangerously close to injuring himself through over exertion. Get this match over and done with and sub him off for Chamberlain, if fit. He is another player who will be definitely rested on Tuesday.

Chamberlain commented on Sanchez’s efforts in training:

“On recovery days he wants to be playing and he is not happy if he is not allowed to play the game at the end. In training, he wants to win. The other day Boro Primorac suggested that he just take it easy but Alexis went absolutely mental, found out where Boro lived, and did laps of his house all evening, shouting ‘I look tired? I look tired now, bitch?!’, until Boro had to get some young lads from the area to have a game of three and in on the lawn until he was satisfied.”

 

Pace also seems to be picking up on the Tyrone Mings story, the young defender who is playing at Ipswich.

The Palmero president, Maurizio Zamparini, has told the Italian media that he believes that Paulo Dybala is a better player than Manchester City star Sergio Aguero. The 21-year-old has been linked with move to Arsenal in the last few days and he recently stated that it would be amazing to sign for the Premier League side.

 

Let’s continue with a win and a clean sheet and get the players rested against Galatasary.

Arsenal vs Manchester United preview

Today has the potential to go either way. Both us and Manchester United have bought big this summer and had high expectations going into the season, yet have been underwhelmed with most performances. If there was ever a perfect time to beat our old rivals then it would have been last year, at home, with their weakest squad for a long time. This year they have reinforced but are suffering injuries as if they are us. The last time we beat them was in 2011 with a Ramsey goal.

The key to winning this game will be the midfield. Both teams are strong with their forward lines but dismal in their defence. The midfield who can control the ball, prevent the playmakers getting on the ball, stop the runs of pacey players out wide will win. Out defence is makeshift and lacks confidence as does theirs. If the forwards get a good run at either’s defence, without protection from the midfield, then expect goals.

Our back four will remain unchanged, as much as people are calling for Bellerin , I can’t see him being thrown on today against Rooney, Di Maria and co. So we’ll see Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs start. I think we would have seen better results with this defence if the players in front of them offered greater protection. That means not having 7 players in the opponents half of the pitch just standing around the box and getting countered.

In midfield I am unsure on who will start. With Arteta back in the squad will Wenger opt for the Arteta-Flamini axis of “big games” or go with Arteta-Wilshere in the deeper roles? Personally I’d choose the latter after Jack’s performances for England in the deep midfielder position. Or will he surprise us all and select all three at home? If not then it will be one of Ramsey or Cazorla just ahead of them.

The front three picks itself for me. Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez. Pace, strength and power. Although, again, Wenger could throw Cazorla in the wide position in place of Chamberlain. You can never predict what the Frenchman will decide upon these days. Wenger did say he has doubts over Alexis as he looked “jaded” before he went away on international duty, but the Chilean is a warrior and will put in maximum effort.

“He looked a bit jaded just before he went and I will have to check him before the United game. Don’t ask him the question because he will say he’s perfect.”

 

If there is one player who should be fired up for this match it will be Danny Welbeck. After Van Gaal’s comments about him, just after he was sold to us, he should be as motivated as ever to prove him wrong. Let’s just hope that niggle he picked up in the England Scotland match doesn’t resurface early on. We do have Giroud back in the squad for today and he could provide a huge outlet for us if the game is tight. He is a player who can play with his back to goal and hold up the ball extremely well. He is also a nuisance as he is a physical presence who can put himself about and defend from corners.

Theo Walcott was a doubt to make the squad yesterday but images emerged of him training with the squad so he may make the bench today. Again, it would be great to have a player like Theo available as he can make a difference in a tight game. If a wing back is getting free reign down the flanks then Theo can make him cautious about playing so high up due to his pace. He is also one of the best finishers at the club.

As I said at the beginning of the post, midfield is key to victory today. If we can maintain a collective defensive discipline and frustrate their players without conceding for a good 20-30 mins then we can expand upon our game.

I’m going for a 3-1 win the Arsenal today.

 

 

 

What do we do now without Giroud?

For all the people berating and moaning that Giroud is not good enough, they are now all crying that he is out injured. Fickle is the word. We all know, as does Giroud himself, that he is limited in his abilities but he plays an effective role in our system. He is the strong focal point for our attacks as he can hold the ball up well and play in the overlapping runners.

Should we have signed another top quality striker before he got injured? Yes, we should have signed one three years ago. We currently have Sanogo, Campbell, Alexis Sanchez and Chuba Akpom who can play up front, as Podolski is pretty much Wolfsburg bound. The only one truly capable of replicating what Giroud does for us is Sanogo. To play Alexis or Campbell up front we will have to change our style slightly and have a very short adaptation time.

Before we can buy the striker we need we need to qualify for the Champions League tomorrow night against Besiktas. Which strikers will we be linked with? All of them. Fernando Llorente, Falcao, Cavani, Alessio Cerci, Welbeck, Bony and of course Loic Remy.  I personally would love Falcao but I can’t see it happening.

Loic Remy could be a short-term signing with his £8 million release clause, but I think we should be looking long-term as well as short-term. Since Wenger has always planned on playing Alexis centrally, i would not be surprised if he opts for Alessio Cerci of Torino. He can play out wide and as a second striker, bringing back more of a 4-4-2  variation.

Who will we start with tomorrow night? Do we opt for Sanogo and keep with a similar system we are comfortable with or do we try Alexis Sanchez up front again. If we play Alexis as our forward then we will need to play to his strengths. That’s with balls in behind the defence and quick passing, not get to the edge of the box and slow down play with tippy-tappy passes that fall apart.

We still also need to buy a holding midfield player and a centre back, or someone who can cover both. William Carvalho is still the ideal player for this, in my opinion. If Podolski does go to Wolfsburg will we try to get Luis Gustavo in a part exchange deal? Either way we now need two signings minimum in the striking and midfield positions. If we don’t buy what we need and struggle for top 4 and not competing in any cups, with around £70-90 million in the bank, then it is totally inexcusable by the club.

All we can do for now is get behind the team tomorrow and give them our full backing to beat Besiktas to give us the best chance we have of signing the players we need.