Sunday, 5 October 2014

The last few weeks

Apologies it's been so long since I posted, I've had a manic few weeks at work and just haven't found the time. I was going to post before today's game but never got around to it. So I'm just going to run over the last couple of weeks.

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

We went into the Tottenham game with high hopes due to their lackluster start to the season. Wengers decision not to start Alexis was strange as myself and friends assumed it was due to an injury. We started brightly but the game levelled out and shortly after the half Flamini was played into trouble by SZCZ then fumbled to give them possession which Chaldi finished. The goal sparked us on and after pressing and pressing we finally equalised. The thing that concerned me most about this was the fact that it seemed to take a Sp*rs goal for us to actually look like we wanted to win. Still we can only view it as a point gained.

Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray

In contrast to the Tottenham game, the Champions League game midweek was an outright walkover. With Ozil deployed in the middle where he just belongs, we bossed the game. Danny Welbeck scored his first career hat-trick and Alexis added another. The only sour note on the night was that SZCZ got himself sent off for pole-axing a Gala player. They scored the resulting penalty but overall it was a dominant performance from the Arsenal.

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

The game today was a huge game, especially considering what happened last season at the same venue when we went down 6-0. We went out looking to make a statement against the team that I think could go all the way. The game started cagily with neither side really making progress, Alexis shot from 35 yards and it cruised wide of Courtois' post. As the half wore on both sides started to open up when a well worked move saw Hazard blatantly fouled in the box. He stepped up and put his side 1-0 to the good.

We picked up the second half and pressed for the equaliser with no luck. Our fear of shooting meant we ended up going nowhere. It's not we don't have players who can't shoot it's just they really don't seem to want too. Our timidness as always cost us and as Fabregas lofted a ball between out centre backs Costa ran onto it and lobbed SZCZ and the game was done. Wenger made some bizarre substitutions and nothing changed. We lost, that disgusting cretin of a man Mourinho walked off without a handshake. He's a vile human being and the sooner everyone is rid of him the better.

None of that changes the fact that we're 9 points off the chase and our short lived title challenge is over. Even with so long left, we're not up to it against the big teams and 9 points is a huge gap. We can only right it off as one game and move onto Hull which now lies after the tedium of an international break. Let's hope we come out of it unscathed. 

Right I'll be back before Hull with a preview of the match. Until then, enjoy your weekend. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Man City (H)

After a rather tedious International break we return to league action tomorrow with a huge game against Manchester City. It's one of those "season defining" games early on that the press bang on about and in our case with good reason. Last season we took just 5 points against the top 3 sides in the league. We lost all of the away matches against them conceding 17 in the process. Tomorrow represents a chance to build some much needed confidence going into the next spell of the campaign.

We have suffered one casualty over the last two weeks, one Aaron Ramsey which is far from ideal going into this huge clash but the rest of the side are fit to play. We have Gibbs returning along with Arteta meaning that the side will take a familiar shape in my opinion with new boy Danny Welbeck leading the line. Sanchez, Ozil and Cazorla should slot in behind him with Wilshere and Arteta in the gap. City are without Stefan Jovetic who has tweaked a hamstring, that aside they are essentially at full strength and no doubt Toure and Fernandinho will bully our midfield so it could be a tough day for them all round. 

Tomorrow will be a tough day for us all round but this City side have weaknesses as we exposed in the Community Shield and more recently Stoke exposed as they beat them 1-0 at the Etihad. What concerns me though is that we have struggled to find any rhythm in any of our matches so far and if City turn up and play like they can we'll get ripped apart based on displays in recent weeks. We need to stay switched on at the back an make the most of our newly acquired pace going forward. New boy Welbeck will be out to impress and especially against old foes City.

Tomorrow is our first big test of the season and make no mistake a loss will have the media all over us like flies should we not take anything from the game. A draw is not a disaster but it's not ideal. We need to ensure that we put on a good performance tomorrow an that we get a good result to boot. Only time will tell.

Until tomorrow COYG!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Leicester + Deadline Day

After a sunny few days in Spain I'm back and annoyingly we've not hit the International break although that may be a blessing in disguise. On Sunday we played out a 1-1 draw with Leicester away on what proved to a thoroughly frustrating afternoon.

After just 20 minutes we took the lead through Alexis Sanchez with his first Premier League goal and his second Arsenal goal following his crucial finish against Besiktas. Cazorla picked the ball up on the edge of the box and scooped it over the defence to Sanogo who through a complete fluke somehow found Sanchez who smashed it past the keeper and defenders. As we looked to build on out lead Koscielny clashed heads and was rushed back on sporting a rather interesting piece of headgear. This decision proved costly bearing in mind it was a head injury. Leicester broke and the defence was at sixes and sevens allowing a simple header past SZCZ. 

The rest of the game was utterly frustrating with Arsenal struggling to get any fluidity going. There were some particularly poor performances from Sanogo who I'll come to in a bit and Ramsey who was definitely off. Chambers who replaced Koscielny almost instantly after the equaliser played well in general but showed a moment of inexperience as instead of standing his man up went sliding in and allowed the player to simply drag it back across him only to shoot into the side netting. SZCZ made a huge save in the second half one on one and we simply failed to create anything.

The frustration on social media was clear to see as people called upon the manager to buy a striker after Sanogo's poor showing. I hate to put a young player down but he's clearly not ready for the step up to lead the line and I can't help but feel he needs to clear his head and get some game time in the so called "lesser" competitions. 

As deadline day began fans were horrified to learn that Arsene Wenger had flown to Rome to referee a charity match. As the day wore on, news of Arsenal moves was non-existant until out of the blue Danny Welbeck was having a medical with us and the move was confirmed for around £16m. I'm not sure what to make of him as a player but United fans were particularly disappointed with the move. His work rate is evident and I do think with the right service when we get going that he could bang a few in for us.

However much more worrying was our lack of movement for a centre half. We are currently just one injury away from being worse than bare bones. Quite how we can go into a season with 6 fit first team defenders is beyond mind boggling. Chambers is the only senior (at age 19) stand in we have. Following that we have nobody. Arguably the player who was most likely to make the step up Ignasi Miquel has been sold, leaving us from either a) a makeshift back four with possibly the likes of Flamini in there or b) promoting a youngster.

I refuse to believe there was nobody available for the manager to sign and we are taking a huge gamble from now until January banking out our defence staying fit which let's face it we don't have the best track record of doing. However it's done now and this is our team so we may as well get behind them and see where we end up. I'll be back next week with a preview of the City game. Until then.        

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Everton (A)

Last night we played out a 0-0 draw with Besiktas in tough conditions. When you factor in the partisan crowd and the appalling state of the pitch it's no surprise than many people are happy with that result. Personally I'm always nervous of a 0-0 away from home, look at Chavski last season, but I'm more concerned about the loss of Aaron Ramsey for the next leg after he got himself sent off with 10 minutes to go. On reflection it looked harsh but with the referee being card happy, Aaron should have known better. Hopefully next week we, on our pitch, in front of our home support we can do the business.

Before that we have another tricky away trip to Everton. I'm worried about this match. Quite a lot. In our first two competitive matches following the silky display in the Community Shield we have really struggled to get going. Yes we have new players gelling with the team and yes we have players out but we can't wait around forever. We need to hit the ground running and if we don't against Everton we'll get punished. So far there have been glimmers of what we can do, but key players so far haven't performed.

Cazorla seems to be struggling for whatever reason at the moment, his delivery against Palace was shocking and he didn't really get into the game last night. I do think that with Sanchez on the other wing, whoever is on the left may be neglected but it's up to whoever is in that position to get stuck into the game. Giroud is another player who hasn't got going yet, he was an improvement on Sanogo against Palace but last night he managed to fluff his lines multiple times and his touch was what I'd expect from a 12 year old. The big Frenchman has a key role to play this season and I do think goals boost his confidence so the sooner he can find that opening goal the better.

In terms of team news we have a number of players out for the weekend. Gibbs is expected to out for the fabled 2-3 weeks so expect to see him by the end of December. Arteta was taken off last night and with only Flamini to fill in or potentially Chambers all of a sudden our depth looks a lot lighter than it was before the campaign. I don't think any of our three world cup winners will take part, the earliest I expect to see them is next week against Besiktas.

Our defence looks very threadbare and we're only two injuries away from being in big trouble. Fans are crying out for a defender to replace Vermaelen and various reports link us with Olympiakos centre back Kostas Manolas. I know nothing about him, but at 23 he has a lot to offer if we are interested in him and if Wenger is willing to buy a player they usually have something about them. However last night the Le Prof stated that we weren't close to signing anyone but he is aware we are light at the back and I suspect we'll bring in at least one more player before the close of the window.

Right, I'm off on holiday tomorrow and will miss our next three matches so until then let's hope we do the business. COYG!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Palace Review and Besiktas (A)

Our season got off to a good start on Saturday against a managerless Crystal Palace side. It was by no means a vintage Arsenal performance and you could tell that it was an early season game, but the result is all that matters and we got the right one.

We got off to a good start and created a few half chances. Our three new boys: Debuchy, Chambers and Alexis (as he prefers to be known) all started and both the boys at the back looked solid. Alexis looked dangerous and creative although he still looks a few games off being fully fit and bedded in with the team. That said Palace marked him off the pitch on Saturday and to be fair to them were very well drilled at the back. 

It came as a bit of a surprise to most when after 35 minutes Palace took the lead. We were undone relatively easily from a set piece and Brede Hangeland flicked his header across goal and in at the far post which had nobody on it. This demonstrates how important Mertesacker is when we defend set pieces, his height is such an important asset in a relatively short team and we looked vulnerable from set pieces all game. Luckily for us 10 minutes later Koscielny spun off his man and headed home to bring us level in the 46th minute.

In the second half we Palace were again solid and it looked as if we'd be denied a victory. Palace had a couple of half chances and we had a penalty appeal waved away. As we pushed and pushed, time ticked on and we looked as though we'd run out of ideas. Jason Puncheon lost his head in the 89th minute and seconds later Arsenal took the lead in the 91st minute. After a scramble of headers, Debuchy's falling volley was saved by Speroni but his parry fell to, who else, Aaron Ramsey who poked home from all of 2 yards. Harsh on Palace but we'll take all 3 points in the opener of the season. The team showed great spirit and grit to earn a result.

We now have a quick turnaround as we head to Turkey for tomorrow nights game with Besiktas. Going to Turkey is never easy for a team and after a few years out of the big time Besiktas will be well and truly up for this match make no mistake. I'm always of the idea that playing away second is a slight advantage but we'll have to make do. We have a bit of team news already and it looks as if Koscielny will be OK to play despite fears that his achilles problem had flared up again. Keiran Gibbs will not travel however after going off on Saturday having tweaked his hamstring. The Germans will not play a part in the match but the rest of the team look set to travel.

Tomorrow night is going to be a very tough one but over the two legs we have the quality to do the business and a positive result tomorrow night will put us in good stead for the return next week. I may post tomorrow but if not there will be an early post on Wednesday looking ahead to the Everton game before I head away for a couple of weeks. COYG!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Arsenal ease past City + Vermaelen Leaves

We got out first look at what seemed to be a strong team this afternoon as Arsenal breezed past a City team that never really got going. Arsenals line up included 3 of our 4 new signings: Chambers, Debuchy and Sanchez.

Throughout the first half Arsenal were the only side in it. The slick passing game was causing the inexperienced City defence problems. In the middle of the park the gunners bossed the play, preventing Toure and co. from getting going. Then the deadlock was broken. Sanogo played the ball along the front of the box and as Boyata flattened Ramsey the ball fell to the Spaniard Cazorla who flashed the ball past Caballero to put us 1 up.

20 minutes later Ramsey got in on the Wembley action, Sanogo again held the ball up well and slid it across to Ramsey. After a deft touch to lift the ball over the leg of Nastacic, Aaron fired the ball across Caballero again to make it 2-0. City got slightly better in the second half and Arsenal brought on 3 players: Giroud, the OX and Monreal. Sanchez, Koscielny and Sanogo made way. As Arsenal played their way back into control of the midfield the ball broke to Giroud who after teeing up a shot, crashed it past the City keeper from all of 25 yards. A truly great goal which rounded off a very nice performance.

Of course theres little point reading into this game as both sides were without key players, it appears that the only issue is that Koscielny has a minor Achilles problem and may miss the season opener against Palace. Aside from that there were brilliant performances from Chambers who I actually thought should have been MOTM and Debuchy. Considering Alexis Sanchez is still not fully ready according to Wenger he certainly looks like a very exciting player and I can't wait to see him properly this season.

In other news Thomas Vermaelen has left the club for Barcelona. I can't say I'm surprised but it still saddens me a little to think we're letting him go. However the captain featured very few times last season and for a player like himself he needs game time. Whether he'll get that in Catalonia I'm not sure but fair do's to him. He conducted himself phenomenally well over the last couple of difficult seasons for him and his message to the Arsenal fans and family was pure class:

After 5 years at Arsenal - and the last 2 years a proud captain too - it's time for me to move on. The club, the team, the fans, the manager, the staff and other employees, you all made me feel at home at both the training ground and the Emirates Stadium. It was a wonderful time and I feel blessed I've had the opportunity to be a part of such a great club. There have been so many wonderful games and experiences, with lifting the FA Cup as an absolute highlight. I would like to thank you all for your support, it was a huge honour to be a Gunner!

I wish Thomas all the best at Barcelona because a player of his quality and class deserves to play at the highest level for as long as possible. Wenger said earlier in the window is Tommy V left that he'd bring in a replacement so let's hope he does just that. Until next weekend when the Premier League season kicks off, have a great week.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Emirates Cup & Community Shield Preview

Our pre-season preparations were kicked well and truly into touch at the weekend as we took part in our inaugural Emirates Cup tournament. This years competitors were Portuguese treble winners Benfica, Ligue 1's runners up Monaco and err 8th placed Spanish side Valencia. In line with previous season each team plays twice and Arsenal took on Benfica on the Saturday and then Monaco on the Sunday.

Saturdays match against Benfica provided something of a spectacle as Yaya Sanogo netted 4 times against the Portuguese side along with Joel Campbell as Arsenal thumped Benfica 5-1. The side was an interesting one with the manager experimenting with formations and positions. Wenger handed new boy Luke Chambers a start at CB along with Nacho Monreal strangely. The loudest cheer of the day was reserved for Alexis Sanchez who came on during the second half and looks like one hell of a player and a very exciting prospect.

On Sunday Arsenal took on Monaco with a totally different looking team to the one that played the day before. There were starts for Debuchy and Sanchez along with Giroud who returned from holidays. We went down 1-0 to the French side with Falcao scoring a header. That said we were denied a clear penalty and were unlucky not to score. However I'd much rather get bad luck out of the way before the season kicks of properly. It's important to remember that these matches are no more than match fitness tools, the results are of no importance, plus Monaco's season kicks off this weekend so it was their last chance to get in some game time. This was reflected in their team which was from what I could tell near enough first choice.

Technically from a competitive point of view our season also kicks off this weekend in the Community Shield against Man City but once again I don't think this will serve as much more than a chance to finish pre-season preparations and give players a chance to stretch their legs. Team news ahead of this is that none of our German contingent will be back for this and some may not be back for Palace the week after either. I don't think we'll see Giroud or other players who took part in the World Cup. I think it'll be a fairly strong team that take on the current PL champions but it would be stupid to believe that risks will be taken.

As it's of little importance there will be no preview for Sunday's game, should there be any transfer news of course I will post but if not look our for the preview of the seasons opening game against Crystal Palace. Till then. Up the Gunners!