Friday, 20 February 2015

Crystal Palace (A)

It's been a long time since my last post for various reasons and a lot has happened since then including a derby defeat, progression in the FA Cup and a draw at Old Trafford in the next round. Rather than cover it all I'm just going to assume you're all following and move on.

The games come thick and fast now with FA Cup ties, Champions League matches and of course the league all starting to pick up so we travel to Crystal Palace this weekend and there's a chance to leapfrog Southampton in fourth as they entertain Liverpool at St. Mary's on Sunday. Tottenham sit just two points behind us and we need to make sure they don't steal a march going into the business end of the season. 

Crystal Palace have enjoyed a revival under Alan Pardew and will be difficult to beat away from home. Pardew's sides are always physical so we know what to expect, but we're also on a good run and it'd be good to keep the pressure on those above us. Team news is overall positive with Wilshere returning along with the OX after spells on the side lines. Sanchez overcame a knock to play against Boro in the cup and I expect him to retain his place. Impressive Mesut Ozil will be hopeful of keeping his place also. Hector Bellerin is a doubt and needs to be assessed but if not we have Chambers who can step in as cover. Ospina should regain his place between the sticks after a break at the weekend.

Palace are a side who's dangers lie in the potential pace from the likes of Zaha along with star player Dwight Gayle who can hit a ball and find the net with relative ease as Liverpool have found out on various occasions. At the back Hangerland will give Giroud a tough time with his height and build but the pace of our players going forward will cause him problems. They also have a new left back who is lined up for his first taste of Premier League which could be an outlet for Sanchez to get in behind. 

So 3 points this weekend could be very welcome with Southampton and Tottenham facing tricky games against Liverpool and West Ham respectively. Let's hope we can push on before our huge last 16 game against Monaco on Tuesday. COYG

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Aston Villa

Another solid(ish) performance last weekend against Brighton in the FA Cup, securing our passage into the next round and setting up a home clash with Middlesborough, in a few weeks time. In reality the 3-2 scoreline made the game seem a lot closer than it was, we were always in control and when Theo Walcott scored his first goal since his return from injury after 6 minutes, it seemed as if it would be one way traffic. Mesut Ozil made it 2-0 with a smart finish and Arsenal were cruising. Brighton pulled one back, but no sooner where they back in it than Arsenal finished the match off as Rosicky, who was outstanding all match, scored a thumping volley to cap his performance. Although Brighton got a second Arsenal managed to hold on.

Today we have a chance to draw level on points with 4th placed Southampton if we beat Aston Villa at the Emirates. Villa are a side who are in big trouble and have struggled this season. That said they are in desperate need of some points and we all know that Villa at home is far from a banker. We've struggled against Villa at home before and we know what they bring with them and how they play. They have the powerful Benteke upfront who despite a dry spell is always dangerous infront of goal along with the likes of Agbonlahor and Fabien Delph on the wing they have the potential to pose a huge test for us. After a wonder strike last week Charles Gil might be their biggest threat though purely because he's an unknown quantity.

In our team news Wenger confirmed earlier in the week that his is "unlikely" to risk playing Sanchez who had a slight thigh issue. I would imagine this means he'll be on the bench and will only be used if he's desperately needed. The free space in the midfield I think will probably be take but the newly fit Mesut Ozil albeit in his least favourite position on the wing. Danny Welbeck remains sidelined but is expected to be fit again for the NLD next weekend. Coquelin is expected to regain his place as the holding player in the middle of the park whether that's alongside or behind Ramsey remains to be seen. The battle at right back is on between Chambers and Bellerin. My gut instinct looking at Villa's left flank would be to play Bellerin purely because of his pace against Delph and Agbonlahor. New boy Gabriel Paulista is fit and could see some action but I expect him to start on the bench.

With all teams around us winning yesterday we need to step up and show some steele to make sure we aren't the big losers of the weekend. A win would also put some pressure on Southampton who play against Swansea in the late game today. COYG!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Brighton & Hove Albion + Signings

Well I've been away for a few weeks and what a few weeks it's been. We went to the Etihad and played a style of football I never thought I'd see Arsenal play, we set out and protected the back 4 through the simply brilliant Coquelin and a simply magical performance from Santi Cazorla. It was a big performance and hopefully we've broken through this mental block we seem to have in the big games.

Since then we've made a couple of signings. Firstly in the form of a youngster from Legia Warsaw called Kristian Beilik. He's a holding midfielder but at 17 years old I think he's definitely one for the future. The other which is all but confirmed is the signing of Villareal centre back Gabriel Paulista. He's been part of a defence that have conceded just 17 goals this season in La Liga. Joel Campbell is going the other way on a loan deal but there is a sticking point to this deal and that is his work permit. As he's not a Brazilian international there's no guarantee that he'll be granted one. That said, with a fee rumoured to be around £14m, I can't see us dropping that sort of money without being confident enough to get it sorted.

Yesterday was a quite brilliant day and a fantastic advert for the FA Cup. Chelsea crashed out at Stamford Bridge losing 4-2 to Bradford City in an amazing performance. Man City also crashed out to Middlesborough 2-0 at the Etihad. Along with those Southampton and the spuds also went out in surprise results. United and Liverpool have replays so who knows what will happen. As good as these results are they should server as a very serious warning about how dangerous this competition is. We need to make sure we aren't another victim of this mad weekend. We take on a Brighton & Hove Albion side who sit 19th in the Championship but will be right up for it today.

I expect we'll see starts for the likes of Walcott and Ozil who have been watching from the bench recently. I also expect rests for players such as Sanchez and Cazorla who desperately need them, not that you'd know by the way they've been playing recently. We have enough to get through this fixture but we just need to make sure we don't take our foot off the gas.

So fingers crossed we aren't another victim of this weekend. COYG. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Manchester City

It's been a good couple of weeks for Arsenal on the pitch, victory against Hull in the cup and then a good 3 points against Stoke in a controlling performance. But in football you can only look forward and today we take on Champions Man City away. Any wiggle room we might have been gifted by yesterdays results didn't materialise as Chelsea, Southampton, United and Sp*rs (lucky again) all won so today's game means just as much to both teams.

Last season we went down 6-3 in a bizarre game that although on the face of it looks like a demolition, I don't think it can be in the same class as the Stamford Bridge or Anfield mess. On another day we could have taken something from that match. But still we'll be eager to right some wrongs in this one and City are in patchy form, although we are too.

We're without Debuchy after the news that he'll be out for 3 months after a deliberate and unpunished push from that thugish shit Arnautovic. So I think Chambers will fill that gap on the right and it seems Gibbs is still out so Monreal will retain his place at left back. Ramsey returns to the team so he could partner Coquelin in the deep lying midfield role, Ozil is also back despite lacking match sharpness so I think he might start on the bench. The big decision for Wenger is whether he opts to keep Ospina in goal or revert back to SZCZ. My gut instinct is he sticks with Ospina but only time will tell.

City have Aguero and Kompany back in the side (of course they do) so we'll have problems defensively and offensively. Our defence will have to be on top form to keep the live wire quiet. Kompany is obviously a quality defender but I don't rate Mangala so if we can force anyone into some problems it will be him. Silva is the other player to stifle, the ugly Spaniard usually provides a moment of magic so stopping him should be our other priority.

This is a huge match for us today and anything we can take from this is a bonus, a point will take us back above Sp*rs on goal difference. A win though would keep us within touching distance of the top 4. Til next time, pray for a win.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Hull City

The Third round draw of the FA Cup wasn't kind to us really although it could have been worse. We take on Hull in a repeat of last seasons final where we needed extra time to beat them after nearly being put out of sight within the opening 20 minutes. It'll be a hard game particularly with our injury hit midfield even though we may have Flamini returning and in Wengers own words "a small chance" of Ozil making an appearance although I struggle to see it. 

After our abysmal performance at St. Mary's we need a big result today even though I'd have preferred to see us rest players who are quite clearly shattered (Sanchez). But with our team in the shape it's in currently I think we can dismiss that idea. We know that one thing is for sure and that is David Ospina will play in place of SZCZ and according to the club this was planned long before his comedy show at the weekend. Theo Walcott is expected to start which will be good for him after being out for so long. If anything he takes some of the emphasis off Alexis with his pace and penetration.

Upfront I've heard mixed news about Welbeck ranging from he has a chance to he's ruled out. I would suggest he wont play so Wenger will decide whether to put Chuba Akpom upfront or whether to play Alexis as the lone man again. In the middle Francis Coquelin may play again pairing up with Flamini this time instead of Chambers. Aside from that I don't think we have any other team news. Our defence looks set to remain the same against Southampton let's just hope the don't repeat their performance.

I'm not sure about Hull in terms of who they have available to play but I do know they've been struggling for form recently and goals which probably means they'll unload on us. They have got a goal threat from Jelavic amongst others but the big man I assume will be the one we need to keep quiet. Their defence is there to be got at if we can pull them out of shape with our pace going forward.

Big performance needed today boys, let's repeat the outcome in May.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Southampton Review

 
Our string of festive victories came to an end yesterday as we went down 2-0 away at Southampton. We started the game with our first choice back four but a makeshift midfield left us struggling to control the game as we like too. Not to mention not having a single fit striker apart from Giroud who's stupidity to get sent of the other day is proving costly. Alexis started the game upfront but never really got going.

However the most disappointing part of the game was that we gifted them both their goals quite literally. The first was poor defending from Kos combined with a SZCZ moment that reminded me more of Almunia. The pole came tearing out of his goal and forced Mane wide, but as Koscielny decided to linger in the middle rather than go to him Mane lobbed SZCZ and with a lot of spin and a strong wind blowing goal-wards the ball bobbled over the line.

The game continued and bar an effort from Cazorla that was well saved by Forster we offered very little. Then another moment of madness from the Pole in goal gifted Tadic with the easiest goal he'll ever score. A ball in it hit Debuchy and rolled to the feet of SZCZ who was on the floor at the time and instead of letting the Frenchman clear up, SZCZ poked the ball away from him and straight to Tadic.

The atmosphere in the away end was poisonous, the point proven when a fan (somehow) managed to reach the dugout and confront Wenger. Obviously not something we like to see but its so easy for our fans to turn at the moment. One moment we a string some wins together and all is well. The next we lose and it's back to tit for tat within our own ranks.

I don't know what to make of Arsenal at the moment really. Blowing hot and cold. We have Hull in the cup on Sunday and in my opinion this is a good chance to rest the likes of Sanchez who clearly is exhausted.

In other news Lukas Podolski's time at the club appears to have come to an end. The German International has made it quite clear before that he wants to be playing football and at his age I can understand that. Still I will miss him and I think he's a good option to have and in recent times has been underused in my opinion. At the moment it is unclear whether it is a loan with a view to a permanent move or just a straight forward transfer, either way it appears he's played his last game for the gunners. I wish him all the best. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Liverpool Review and QPR

I've wondered many times this season (and previous ones) where I end up horrendously frustrated with Arsenal and yesterdays match was right up there with the best of them. Appalling is not the word to describe our performance yesterday, it was without a doubt our worst performance this season. We had the lowest possession stats in match since Opta began, Liverpool had the most shots by a team since Opta began. Luckily our abysmal defending was only matched by Liverpool's shocking shooting. Unsurprisingly we went 1-0 down then somehow Debuchy headed in beating Skrtel at the far post after the ball was powered back in by Flamini.

We started the second half marginally better but the game was still ridiculous by any standard. Sanchez played as poorly as I can remember and he's clearly exhausted. Welbeck had a mare as well. If the OX was fit then I'm the fucking tooth-fairy, he misplaced every pass, gave everything away and was just generally poor. Cazorla was, along with SZCZ, one of the only positive players in the game and it was through him we took a surprising lead. He produced a brilliant run down the left and then pulled it back for Giroud who powered the ball between Brad Jones' legs. A great finish from the big french man who was also fairly good.

As the game rolled on it was so painfully obvious what was going to happen, any Arsenal fan can tell you that. Borini came on and 18 minutes later was sent off so Liverpool were down to 10 men. Any top team should be able to see a game out against 10 men. Then 6 minutes into injury time (9 minutes due to Skrtels injury) we had a corner. For whatever reason we had nobody on either post and the man who caused such a lump of injury time Martin Skrtel powered his header in across the goal. Writing on the wall but still horrifically frustrating. A point away at Anfield is nothing to be sniffed at but the manner at which is happened is what is annoying.

That's done now no point lingering wen we play in 4 days. We take on an improving QPR at home before a tricky trip across London to West Ham so we need some points desperately. Team news right now is non-existent so I can't speculate on who will play, all I know is that we need to win and there should be no reason as to why we don't. We showed what we can do against Newcastle, we need to start doing it more. QPR will be buyoed by their late win against West Brom at the weekend but at the same time they also shipped 2 goals early on so they are there to be beaten.

Obviously their man man is Charlie Austin who has been banging the goals in for fun and he's the one our defence will be tasked with keeping at bay. Mertesacker is terribly out of form and he needs support from team mates. Personally I would shift Debuchy back out to the right and put Chambers into the middle just because I think that's where we'll get the most use from him. Debuchy knows how to get back and cover when needed which I think is where Chambers lacks a little pushed out wide.

So that's Boxing Day and although Arsenal are all over the place right now, it's time to forget about football for a few days. Merry Christmas and I'll be back soon.