Category Archives: Arsenal

What Should we Expect from Arsenal this Season?

Can we trust them to deliver?

So the transfer deadline day has come and gone but there was no activity in North London. The red half at least.

Winning yet another FA Cup trophy was a good platform for the team and the players were aiming higher as well. The preseason campaign was wonderful and beating Chelsea in the Community Shield was a springboard for what I thought was going to be one Hell of a campaign. Arsenal had won every preseason game so it looked like they were taking no prisoners.

Then West Ham came to town and it was back to Ground Zero.

I was shocked with what I saw at the Emirates – the finishing was atrocious, there was little or no cohesion in the team’s play and to top things off, the veteran world class goalie had a nightmare debut. The win against Crystal Palace was scrappy no doubt, but it was highly welcome, bearing in mind that the team had lost three points in the curtain raiser. Then there was the game of two halves against Liverpool and most recently, that terribly disappointing win against 10-man Newcastle.

After witnessing the opening four games of the Premier League that saw the Gunners pick up seven points from a possible 12, there was a conclusion that was unanimously agreed by everyone connected with the club – the finishing was a major concern, not creativity and if the lads continued to throw away chances, it would do more harm than good in the long term.

The quickest ‘solution’ would have been for the club to delve into the transfer market to sign that forward that would improve the team but the manager made it clear that he wasn’t going to sign any player for the ‘sake of doing it’, which obviously meant that if he didn’t see anyone better than what he currently had, then there’d be no activity. There were a few targets here and there but in the end, no deal was brokered to bring any player to North London, which essentially means that we are heading into the full campaign with our current crop of players.

So what should we expect from Arsenal this season?

Starting with the team, the shaky defensive start to the season has become more stable in recent games, with two clean sheets on the trot against Liverpool and Newcastle. While the Gunners would have Petr Cech and some last-ditch defending to thank for the shutout against Liverpool, it was a different prospect against Newcastle but the home side’s red card ensured that the team would be on the back foot and it was a good clean sheet nonetheless.

Arsenal’s defensive resolve would be tested when they visit Stamford Bridge this month but I hope to see improved performances from the regulars while the backups would still put in a shift when they’re called upon. From what I’ve observed this season, Arsene Wenger’s regular back four is the combination of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the defense with Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin on the flanks. This means that there would be times when the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Matt Debuchy, Gabriel Paulista and Calum Chambers would have to put a decent shift when they are called upon, like the latter duo against Liverpool. Following Mertesacker’s illness, Gabriel kept his place and was solid.

In midfield, the Gunners are relatively stocked and even with injuries to Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere, the blow hasn’t been felt but Mesut Ozil’s absence was felt against Newcastle. With the manager’s failure refusal to sign a holding midfielder, it’s evident that he’s laying his eggs in a Francis Coquelin basket with Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini serving as backups. The Aaron Ramsey conundrum seems to continue and it seems that Santi Cazorla would remain in the deeper role, thus inhibiting his attacking prowess, for the good of the team. Arteta was faced with a similar situation and it seems Santi has followed suit.

My major concern is in attack. Alexis Sanchez isn’t up to scratch (you can’t blame him really), Theo Walcott isn’t a center forward (those misses against Newcastle tho!), Danny Welbeck’s fitness is a major concern and Olivier Giroud… well.

Wenger wants goals to come from the entire team and I’m hoping the players repay the faith the boss has shown in them with his reluctance to add a new player. It speaks in volumes for Arsene Wenger and the club. I just hope that it doesn’t come to

For competitions, I’d be honest. Arsenal doesn’t have a squad capable of winning the Champions League and it won’t be an easy feat winning the Premier League. The least I expect from the league this year would be a meaningful title challenge and I hope to see it come to pass. The squad’s best shot at silverware would be from a familiar source, the FA Cup, and with Wenger’s penchant for fielding ‘weakened’ teams in the Capital One Cup, I guess it’s just the FA Cup to be mindful about then.

There are a lot of games to look forward too, and I can only hope that the team matches the expectations of the fans.

Sayonara.

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Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal: Super Signing ‘Own Goal’ Does it Again

Newcastle 0 – Arsenal 1 (Coloccini o.g. 52′)

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference (via Arsenal.com)

After playing the last game of the previous week, the FA, in their infinite wisdom, decided that Arsenal was going to open the proceedings this week with an away fixture against Newcastle. Steve McClaren’s side was still buzzing after securing a priceless point at Old Trafford and I wondered whether Tim Krul was going to continue his heroics against the Gunners.

It didn’t take long before Krul picked up where he left off, making a close save from Theo Walcott, that had started in place of Olivier Giroud. The game was cagey affair but it was meant to spring to life when Hector Bellerin was clearly impeded in the box. For some strange reason, the ref turned a deaf ear to Arsenal’s appeals for a penalty and the game progressed. The ref was under the spotlight again when Aleksandr Mitrovic stamped on Francis Coquelin, and without thinking twice Andre Marriner brandished a red card to the Serbian forward.

With the home side losing a man, McClaren adjusted his tactics for his side to play really deep and they did their bit to smother the Gunners and deny them any space whatsoever. A window of opportunity arrived when Alexis Sanchez fired a shot that was parried by Krul, Walcott used his blistering pace to get to the ball but his shin lofted the ball over the bar, much to the dismay of the Arsenal faithful watching the game. By his huge standards, that was some miss.

From then on, the game had an erratic feel about it, with the Gunners wasteful in possession and playing without any urgency, despite having the numerical advantage. The breakthrough finally arrived early in the second half when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired a shot that was deflected into the net by Newcastle’s skipper, Fabrizio Coloccini. Own Goal has been a vital signing for the Gunners these days, scoring winning goals against Crystal Palace and now, Newcastle.

Ox would have had another chance to make it two when Nacho Monreal provided a superb cut back but he failed to get the ball under control.

Wenger made a couple of substitutions to alter the flow of the game but in the end, Arsenal went back to North London with three points in the bag, as well as propelling up fifth place in the table. From an attacking standpoint, the game was a disappointment for Arsene Wenger’s side as they failed to provide any cutting edge to put Newcastle to the sword. Yes, the Magpies defended really deep but there were moments when the Gunners should have at least, let one rip from distance but they stuck to their intricate passing philosophy and that didn’t reap much fruit.

Another talking point would be that blatant penalty that was denied by the referee. The standard of officiating in the Premier League keeps dropping with each passing season but that would go down as one of the key decisions that would have turned the game on its head.

However, I’m grateful for three valuable points and the Gunners can go into the international break feeling much better about themselves.

Sayonara.

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Reviewing Arsenal’s Opponents in the Champions League Group Stages

                                          Arsenal vs. Bayern… an interesting prospect

With the qualifiers done and dusted, it was time for the UEFA officials to go through the process of the draws and as you’d expect, it was an occasion that was graced by football figureheads and dignitaries from all over the world. In the end, 32 of Europe’s finest were paired into eight groups as shown on the table below.

Final Champions League Draw

Group                                          TEAMS
A Paris St. Germain Real Madrid Shakhtar Donetsk Malmo SK
B PSV Eindhoven Manchester United CSKA Moscow VFL Wolfsburg
C SL Benfica Atletico Madrid Galatasaray SK Astana
D Juventus Manchester City Sevilla Borussia Monchengladbach
E FC Barcelona Bayer 04 Leverkusen AS Roma BATE Borisov
F Bayern Munich Arsenal Olympiakos Piraeus Dynamo Zagreb
G Chelsea FC Porto Dinamo Kiev Maccabi Tel Aviv
H Zenit St. Petersburg Valencia Olympique Lyonnais Gent

Group D has been widely regarded as the ‘Group of Death’ (there’s always a group of death every season but it’s never cliche) and it’s going to be very interesting to see how Manchester City performs in Europe this season. Despite being juggernauts in the Premier League, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are perennial underachievers in this competition and they would be hoping to strive for greatness this season.

Of all the English sides, Chelsea has the easiest run-in but Manchester United has tricky opponents in the forms of VFL Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow.

How about the Gunners? For the past five seasons, Arsene Wenger and his squad haven’t gotten the hurdle of the first knockout round, losing twice to Barcelona and Bayern before AS Monaco added to the team’s embarrassment. This season, Arsenal will lock horns against three teams to earn a right to play in the knockout stages yet again.

Here’s a quick review of the Gunner’s opponents.

Dynamo Zagreb (Croatia)

The Croatian outfit has had many great exports to the footballing world in recent times with the likes of Luka Modric, Eduardo da Silva, Alen Halilovic and Mateo Kovacic coming to mind but the current crop of players aren’t household names even though the likes of Angelo Henriquez (bought from Manchester United) and playmaker, Paulo Machado, are worth mentioning. Machado joined the club last season, bringing with him a wealth of experience garnered from his days at FC Porto and Olympiakos.

Dinamo Zagreb are currently leading the MAXtv Prva Liga with 13 points after seven games, with Zoran Mamic’s side winning three games and drawing four. Most of the goals this season have come from Armin Hodzic (six goals already) so the Gunners would have to be mindful about the threat the striker would pose. The young Bosnian actually began his career at Liverpool but he failed to make the grade before he was shipped out to Zagreb.

06/07 Dinamo Zagreb 0-3 Arsenal

Cesc Fabregas scoring Dinamo Zagreb in 2006

Arsenal and Dinamo have met a long while ago in the Group Stages of the 2006/07 Champions League campaign. Goals from Cesc Fabregas (brace) and Robin van Persie gave the Gunners a resounding 3-0 win in the Maksimir Stadium and in the second leg, Freddie Ljungberg and Mathieu Flamini scored the goals that handed the Gunners a 2-1 victory. Dinamo’s only goal of the night was scored by a certain Eduardo da Silva, who would become a Gunner the next summer.

Dinamo Zagreb would be regarded as the whopping boys of the group.

Olympiakos Piraeus (Greece)

Olympiakos won the Greek Super League for the fifth year in a row, edging out fierce rivals, Panathinaikos, with a massive 12 points. They also won the Greek Cup after defeating Skoda Xanthi, making it another ‘double’ campaign. Konstantinou Mitroglou smashed in 19 goals for his team, after a disappointing spell at Fulham.

Despite the fact that Olympiakos had a stellar campaign in his domestic league, the Greek giants had a torrid time in Europe – first of all, missing out of qualification to the knockout round after finishing third behind Atletico Madrid and Juventus but they were afforded a chance to continue their campaign in the Europa League. Olympiakos didn’t even go beyond their first hurdle in the second-tier European competition, losing to eventual finalists, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.

Vito Mannone’s legendary blunder against Olympiakos

This season, Olympiakos has began the campaign with a 3-0 win Panionios, as they look to pick up where they left off last season. They are very familiar with playing against Arsenal, as both sides have played six times with the Gunners winning their three games at home and the Greek side beating the Gunners in the Karaiskakis Stadium. This would give the Greeks some measure of confidence knowing that they’ve always beaten Arsene Wenger’s side whenever they visit Athens.

Olympiakos would be sure-fire favorites to make the Europa League slot in the group.

FC Bayern Munich (Germany)

Bayern Munich would be among the favorites to win the big eared trophy they last won in 2013 under Jupp Heynckes but since Pep Guardiola took over, the Bavarians have been very unfortunate, losing in two semifinals against Spanish opponents – Real Madrid two seasons ago and FC Barcelona last season. The Germans won the Bundesliga last season and they had the likes of Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski to thank for the goals they contributed to the team’s cause.

This season, Guardiola has added some South American spice to his team with the acquisitions of Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal. Costa netted on his debut in the 5-0 thrashing of Hamburg while Vidal opened his account for his new club from the spot in a German Cup match against Nottigen.

The Germans are odds-on to top the group but they’d have to go through Arsenal to prove their mettle.

It’s going to be a very tough group and I hope the Gunners play their best over the course of the six games.

Sayonara.

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