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 vs Dortmund preview: Round 2

We welcome back Laurent Koscielny to the squad after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with his achilles injury. He took part in the first team training session yesterday and Wenger said he should be okay to make the squad. Welbeck didn’t feature in any of the training photos so whether the slight hamstring twinge he felt against United is worse than initially thought or just precautionary, we don’t really know.

Szczesny and Walcott will both miss the match for injury. The keeper left the field against United after being slightly embarrassed and not dominant of his area, which means Martinez starts. I was hoping we’d be seeing Ospina pushing for the number 1 spot but funnily enough he’s also out injured.

Walcott will also miss the match through a slight niggle he has picked up, which is due for the course when returning from a lengthy injury. Whilst on the topic of lengthy injuries, Jack Wilshere will be out for up to three months with ligament damage in his ankle and could require surgery. The young Englishman was just picking up on a good run of form which is a major shame for him but maybe not so much for Arsenal.

I expect to see the Arteta – Ramsey axis return in the deeper midfield positions with Cazorla just ahead, due to Ozil’s absence. Could Jack’s absence see the resurgence of Ramsey? I hope so. The Welshman who was outstanding last season has slipped back into bad habits of old. I keep banging the same drum but he needs to start playing a more team role rather than trying to perform flicks and trying to do everything himself.

As much as we love seeing Jack drive through the midfield, this could force our midfield to solidify as we potentially have less chance of losing the ball due to these runs.

I think we’ll see Chamberlain and Alexis start out wide and either Welbeck or Sanogo up front. Could Wenger give Podolski a chance? Possibly, but I see him being used more as a 75th min sub. Alexis has run himself ragged so far and is need of a rest soon before breaking down. That could be our match against West Brom.

In the press conference yesterday, Arsene Wenger said something that seemed to rub a lot of fans the wrong way:

“I especially believe in my players, and in their quality and spirit. I personally feel that there’s a very strong bond inside the team and the club, and that this team will have a very strong season. I am ready to bet with you on that.”

 

If Wenger’s interpretation of a “strong season” is finishing fourth in the final months of the season, then I’m sure that statement may be true. The difference is that most other people’s interpretation of having a “strong season” is challenging for the league and a cup.

Let’s hope we pull out a result tonight to lift spirits in and around the club as it’s feeling very miserable currently.

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United: Not unexpected

A miserable day of travel, due to line closures meaning I had to get two trains and two tubes to the game, was topped with a miserable match. We lined up perfectly, tactics seemed to be spot on, formation was dangerous but our finishing was poor again. The one change I would have made to the starting lineup was Cazorla or Rosicky for Ramsey. The Welshman is not the player he was last year and gave the ball away far too much.

The opening ten minutes gave everyone optimism for the result as we were dominant and Manchester United looked a nervous wreck. Their makeshift defence was even worse than our makeshift defence. Van Gaal even lined up with three at the back and a crocked Luke Shaw playing wing back.

When we did break through their defence and got shots away, they were straight at De Gea. There were times where he made some decent saves to keep us out but we really should have tested him better. Jack Wilshere had two golden opportunities.

The first was a drive through the middle (his trademark) and shot directly at De Gea when either side would have been a goal. The second was from a poor kick from De Gea, under pressure from Sanchez, which ricocheted off Ramsey and found its way to Wilshere who ran through the defence and once again shot directly at the keeper. Either side and it was a goal or even a simple pass sideways to the open Alexis Sanchez who had a tap in.

Once Jack missed those opportunities everyone around me grumbled and muttered that we won’t get a result now. That’s the atmosphere that the club has now bestowed upon the fans. There is no positivity around the stadium as we know we don’t take our chances and all of our games appear scripted. We have plenty of possession and apply pressure only to be countered on a quick break and concede with the opponents first shot.

Welbeck had a good header from a corner (shock!) go over the bar and an audacious back heel attempt go wide. Di Maria curled one just wide. Jack was lucky to not get a red card as he pushed Fellaini with his head, probably in frustration as the Belgian is all flailing elbows and pushing in 50/50s.

Man Utd opened to scoring through an own goal by an unlucky Gibbs. The ball came in and for some reason Szczesny and Gibbs both went to challenge it. Was there no shout from either player? Szczensy went down injured, shot back up but the resultant shot-cum-cross hit Gibbs leg and went in. The keeper was down for a lengthy amount of time and was replaced by Martinez. On further inspection, Fellaini actually backed out of challenging the ball and pushed Gibbs in the back towards Szczesny.

Arsenal seemed to throw everything forward trying to equalise and fell victim to our most common enemy, the counter-attack. It happens game after game and I even spoke about this in yesterday’s blog. We had far too many players in the oppositions half, including Mertesacker who fancies himself a striker, that a simple ball to Di Maria left us 2 on 1. Di Maria and Rooney turned Monreal inside out, who had actually had a decent game, only for Shrek to dink the ball over Martinez.

All the fans had enough and were flooding out the exits. Wenger made his final sub with around 15 minutes to go, as usual. Giroud almost made an instant impact from a corner as he met it with a header. Could Giroud’s absence this year explain why we are so poor at defending and attacking corners? Something we were more effective with last year.

In the end the fans that stayed were treated to a sublime finish from Giroud. I also think if we had a fit Ozil then he would have played in place of the woeful Ramsey and opened up their defence again and again. But hey ho. Giroud offers a lot more to this team and we thought when he played week after week.

After the game, Wenger had this to say about our defensive performance:

“I don’t know why we had nobody at the back at all – you could see straight away that giving a two against one in your own half means you will be punished against these players.”

 

Really Arsene? The team and players you are paid over £7million a year to coach and you have no idea why you had nobody at the back? Considering this has now happened more than three times already this season it is becoming a joke.

At 1-0 down I was expecting someone to step up as a leader and offer the players encouragement and force the game. Monreal tried but no one took notice or didn’t want to take notice. In the teams of old they would have assessed the situation and adapted to what was going on. This is how Wenger instructs his teams to play, with no instructions but to just ‘play their game’. It worked superb with previous teams due to the players and their strength of character, intelligence, leadership, experience and awareness. This team lacks all of them and needs to be instructed how to play.

“At the end of the day we were not efficient enough in the final third, defensively, and we made a mistake at the back which they took advantage of. That’s the story of the game. We had plenty of chances. Their keeper is man of the match. That tells you the story of the game.”

 

Yes, their keeper was man of the match because we made every shot easy for him by shooting directly at him. We are simply not clinical and ruthless enough against anyone anymore. What made this defeat hurt most of all is that this Manchester United side is the worst one, as well as being depleted, that I have ever seen.

As soon as we went a goal down our “tactics” and shape went out the window. If you want to win games you need to be disciplined and there was none after we conceded. Maybe Wenger should take a leaf out of his predecessor’s book and re-learn how to not lose a game before trying to win a game. He even has one of Graham’s disciples on  his management team. Mourinho is a manager who, in big games, always opts to not lost first and then try to steal a win if the opportunity arises.

Arsenal 2 – 2 Manchester City: 2 points dropped or 1 point gained?

We started yesterday’s game brilliantly, full of energy, high pressing, pace and power. Our midfield contended for every ball and managed to win it, nearly every time, then looked extremely dangerous coming forward. The first 25 minutes was the best I have seen us play all season, so far. Danny Welbeck so nearly opened his Arsenal account with a sublime chip on Joe Hart, we all thought it was in, till the clang of the post.

Of course, the Arsenal way lately, after being on top for a good period of the game and failure to convert our chances, saw City break into space down the left and score with their first real attempt. The ball did fall kindly for Navas, as the players seemed to stop concentrating and presumed it was going out for a throw, but Navas anticipated the spin to keep it in and flew down the wing to set up Aguero. Flamini was tracking the Argentine but let him come across him to fire into the net.

Up until the goal there was non stop singing from the entire Arsenal fans, but that goal deflated us slightly for 5-10 mins but then it picked up again. We knew we had to get behind our players and get them to lift their heads up again. Which is a very hard task with Ozil, he looks disinterested out on the left. There were the odd few moments he sprung into life and charged forward but a lot of game his head was down.

The referee was atrocious, as City players got away with scything down Arsenal players without a caution. Eventually Zabaleta and Lampard were booked on the 7th or 8th foul. There was another moment where Fernandinho should have received a second yellow for kicking the ball away but again Clattenburg bottled it.

Second half we started brightly again and a wonderful display of interlinking passes, involving Jack Wilshere, eventually saw him finish with an outstanding right footed dink over Hart. A finish any striker would be proud of. The crowd went crazy, apart from the one woman who was on her phone all match in front of me, she let out a polite clap then went back to Instagram and Twitter.

 

Not long after there was a slight scramble in the box which saw the ball come out to Wilshere, who headed the ball back into the area to Alexis Sanchez who hit it on the volley. What a goal that was by the Chilean.

The woman again still looking at the phone looked around in shock that everyone was standing up cheering again, oblivious. I really don’t understand why these people go to the games. They are also the most likely ones to complain there is no atmosphere when they are the ones helping to kill it.

arsenal fan phone

 

With around 15 minutes to go, Debuchy fell extremely awkwardly and his leg buckled. It looked a nasty one and the paramedics came on with oxygen and stretchered him off. Let’s hope it’s not a break or ligament damage and will be back soon. But not long after this City equalised through a Demichelis header. He was totally unmarked when we had 10 or all 11 players in the box. The flaws of a zonal marking system get shown up once again. Was Debuchy’s injury playing on the mind of the players? Probably, but you need to wait till after the match to start thinking about it.

Ramsey, again, had a poor game by his standards, in fact he has been poor all season so far. You have to question whether he was truly fully fit after his injury playing for Wales. I’m sure he’ll get back to his confident self and start bossing the game again, once he gets back to full fitness. Ozil is not happy stuck out on the left. He is the world’s best number 10 and needs to be played in that position, not out wide where he has to track back, as that’s not part of his game. Look at Cesc at Chelsea, he is being played in his best position and he can’t stop assisting.

Welbeck also went down and got replaced by Chamberlain, but thankfully it was only cramp. Bright start to his Arsenal career and just a shame he didn’t manage to bag that goal. Who knows, if it went it then we could have become rampant, with the way we started the match. But I’ll leave you with this lovely bit of strength from Jack Wilshere.

Jack the future DM or will he go on a Bender?

The talk last night was that Jack will be made the new defensive midfielder unless we bring someone in. That someone seems to be currently between Lars Bender and Schneiderlin. We all know the story here so I won’t go into too much detail. Jack started as a number 10 but as he got injured his career faltered slightly and hasn’t progressed as we would have liked. He is still a quality player on his day and just needs to get over his niggles. Wenger did play him in a deeper role initially to help his education of reading the game and maybe his future does lie there.

Our boys have landed in New York for their game against the New York Red Bulls. The Arsenal YouTube channel has also been producing a mini video log of this.

We’ve signed 15-year-old Georgios Spanoudakis who is of Greek and German origins. He joins our youth setup under the exciting Jonker and is supposedly a real talent. Joel Campbell is under the watchful eye of AC Milan, possible swap for Balotelli with a buyback option? Especially with number 45 now being available, due to Eisfeld joining Fulham, which is Balotelli’s favourite number. I know I know…I’m just putting random things together to make news now.

There is little else going on to discuss at the moment. I’m sure we’ll get a glimpse of the squad training ahead of the match on Saturday.