Giroud on Fire as Against Ease Past Boro

Olivier Giroud

Arsenal 2 (Giroud 27′, 29′) – Middlesbrough 0

Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With Blackburn’s resounding win over Stoke as well as Bradford City’s victory over Sunderland, the message was clear to all that lower division teams have become a force to be reckoned with at the FA Cup. Arsenal’s opponents arrived at the Emirates on the back of a comfortable victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, so Arsene Wenger knew that there was no room for complacency.

It was evident that Wenger was going to rest a couple of his key starters and it was no surprises when Wojciech Szczesny got the nod ahead of David Ospina. In defense, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs and finally, Gabriel Paulista started with Mathieu Flamini replacing the Coq in the anchorman role. The attacking setup had a rather familiar look but I was quite surprised to see Alexis Sanchez start, despite his struggles on Tuesday.

Arsenal’s first meaningful attack from from a dead ball with Santi Cazorl using his left foot to swing in a free kick that was parried by Middlesbrough’s goalie. The midfielder’s ambidexterity is really puzzling I must confess. Arsenal continued to press with Cazorla locating Gibbs with a sumptuous pass in behind the defense but Gibbs’ cutback was easy pickings for the goalie. Cazorla found Gibbs again with another delightful ball but the fullback wasn’t in the same wavelength but that’s what you get when a fullback finds himself in a No. 9 position… Tell that to Jordi Alba.

Chambers launched an attack from the right and found Danny Welbeck that attmepted a neat back-heeled pass to Sanchez but Kenneth Omeruo was on hand to make a vital block. Welbeck threaded a perfectly cushioned pass to Olivier Giroud that wasted no time in sending a curler goalwards. The keeper’s parried effort fell kindly to Sanchez in a rather acute angle and his rebound hit the side netting.

Arsenal finally got the goal they deserved when Cazorla sent another awesome pass to Gibbs. The attacking fullback located Giroud with an inch-perfect drilled cross that was smashed home by the Frenchman. It was a goal that had ‘Arsenal’ written all over it.

reu_2190239

While the fans basked in the euphoria of scoring a goal, Arsenal went two up when Giroud showed off his amazing technique to fire a first-timed volley into the net from a Sanchez corner. Trust me, it was heavenly stuff from Giroud. That was his seventh FA Cup goal in his last 11 FA Cup games.

Sanchez and Ozil conncected superbly witht the German maestro sending a through ball to the Chilean but the goalie showed good reactions to anticipate the ball before Sanchez could do any real damage. A defender mopped things up after the goalie spilled the ball. Middlesbrough’s first attempt, a rather tame one, came when Adomah let one rip from quite some distance and that turned out to be target practice for Szczesny.

Arsenal turned up the style with some intricate passing and after showing some reluctance to shoot initially, Flamini fired a shot that was blocked. The follow up fell to Welbeck but he fired his effort wide. Welbeck had another sniff at goal when Chambers teed up a chance for him but he lobbed his effort wide off the mark. Ozil showed quick movement to fashion a chance for himself that was saved and Gibbs had a blasted effort that was saved by Boro’s custodian in goal. The undisputed save of the game came when Alexis nodded in Cazorla’s dead ball at pointblank range and everyone at the Emirates were shocked to see how that ball didn’t go in.

Wenger brought on Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott for Alexis and Welbeck but another great chance fell to Cazorla after some brilliant passing play but he blasted his effort over the bar. Wenger decided that Giroud wasn’t going to get a chance to score his first Arsenal hat-trick when he replaced him with Chuba Akpom but the striker didn’t make much of an impact though. Arsenal’s last meaningful attack arrived when Rosicky sent a lovely pass in between two Boro defenders for Walcott and the Englishman fired a shot that was parried by the goalie. Late on, Kike nodded in a cross that clipped Szczesny’s post.

With seven victories recorded in the seven FA Cup games played so far, we will have to wait to see how the Preston vs. Manchester United game pans out. Let’s just hope for another favorable draw in the quarterfinals.

Sayonara

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Middlesbrough Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

On-loan Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford

The FA Cup fifth round kicked off yesterday with some teams picking their sixth round tickets and while there were no draws to earn replays, Blackburn’s 4-1 demolition of Stoke was a message to Premier League teams that there are certainly no pushovers in this competition. Some may feel that Geoff Cameron’s red card tilted the odds in Blackburn’s favor but the scores were level when he received his marching orders. Elsewhere, my compatriot, Brown Ideye turned up the style in West Brom 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, another compatriot of mine, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, made his return to English football as he scored the winner in Reading’s win against Derby County, and finally, Liverpool’s resurgence continued as they defeated Crystal Palace.

Blackburn, Reading, West Brom and Liverpool have booked their quarterfinal tickets but they’d be anxiously waiting for the results of today’s FA Cup fixtures. Aston Villa and their new manager, Tim Sherwood, would take on fellow strugglers, Leicester City, Bradford City, fresh from their triumphant run at Stamford Bridge hosts Sunderland and defending champions, Arsenal, would take on Middlesbrough.

Boro are in a very rich vein of form and they’re currently second in the Skybet Championship following their 2-1 win over Blackpool in mid-week. Aitor Karanka’s men have the same points with the table toppers, AFC Bournemouth, but have a lesser goal difference. They’re currently on a 10-match unbeaten run which includes six successive victories, so the Gunners will have their work cut out for them. The last time both sides met was as far back as 2009, with Cesc Fabregas getting both goals in a 2-0 victory. This is the eighth time Arsenal and Middlesbrough have been drawn together in the FA Cup, with Arsenal winning five of the previous seven and Boro two.

Team News

Arsenal fans would get a chance to see the new signing, Gabriel Paulista, today. He has been doing his bit to settle in and learn the language but this would be a good platform to begin his Arsenal career. Arsene Wenger confirmed in his press conference that Wojciech Szczesny would feature ahead of David Ospina, which makes it clearly evident that he’s officially Arsenal’s No. 2, till you know, an injury or a blunder from Ospina would bring him back to the first team. The defense would be shuffled up a bit with Kieran Gibbs and Calum Chambers coming in for Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin. I would expect Laurent Koscielny to be rest which essentially means that Per Mertesacker will partner Gabriel in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

In midfield, Jack Wilshere just returned to full fitness but I wouldn’t expect him to start straight away. Maybe a couple of minutes in the second half would do him some good ahead of the all-important clash against AS Monaco. Francis Coquelin would get a breather with Mathieu Flamini protecting the back four in his stead while I see Tomas Rosicky partnering Mesut Ozil in the middle of the park. In attack, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are still in need of more games and I see them flanking Olivier Giroud that would spearhead the attack.

Injury Updates

Arsenal: Sanchez (knee), Ramsey (hamstring), Gnabry (lack of match fitness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Abou Diaby (calf) and Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder)

Middlesbrough: Ayala (hip), Williams (Achilles), Damia (knee), Forshaw (cup-tied), Kalas (cup-tied)

Team Form

Arsenal

  • Last Five Games: W W W L W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 2 Leicester 1
  • Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (18)

Middlesbrough

  • Last Five Games: W W W W W
  • Last Result: Blackpool 1 M’Boro 2
  • Leading Goalscorer: Grant Leadbitter (12)

Predicted Lineups

Arsenal 4-1-4-1 football formationMiddlesbrough 4-2-3-1 football formation

Prediction: Arsenal 3 Middlesbrough 1

See you in the quarterfinals.

Sayonara.

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What I Love About Arsenal this Season

Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund odds

In Nigeria, today was meant to be the day scheduled to the presidential elections but with the date moved to due to *coughs*, it’s time those lovebirds to do what they do best on a day dedicated to love, loving, love making and you know, the whole nine yards.

With love being the order of the day, I felt it would be nice to write about a few things I loved about my dear club this season…

Business in the Transfer Window

Arsenal has had the unwanted tag as being known as a “selling club” due to the mass exodus of some star players in the past. But while selling players isn’t a bad thing entirely, Arsenal was faulted for not replacing the departed blokes with players of equal or better quality. This season, all that changed.

Lukasz Fabianski rightly left to Swansea in search of first team football as he couldn’t challenge his compatriot, Wojciech Szczesny, for the No. 1 spot but Arsene Wenger replaced the Pole with David Ospina, one of the standout players for Colombia in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It took Ospina a while to stake a claim for the first team shirt due to injuries but Arsenal fans are reaping the benefits of Arsene Wenger’s wisdom yet again, as Ospina has displaced Szczesny to make the No. 1 shirt his.

Further up the pitch, Bacary Sagna left for the greens bench of Manchester City and he has been replaced by Matt Debuchy. Gabriel Paulista came in to replace Thomas Vermaelen which essentially means that the new addition s(not replacements) in the team were Calum Chambers and Alexis Awesome Alexis Adorable Alexis Alpha Male Alexis…sorry I got carried away (you can’t blame me)

Square Pegs in Round Holes that Actually Worked

Sometimes, injuries pave the way for some other players to get a run-out in the first team but when you ask a player to feature in an unfamiliar position he’s not used to, it could be a challenge. Astonishingly, the story was different at Arsenal. With Debuchy injured most of the time, Calum Chambers, then Hector Bellerin were tasked with putting shifts on the right wing but when Laurent Koscielny suffered niggling injuries, coupled with Vermaelen and Ignasi Miquel sold, Nacho Monreal was asked to play at an unfamiliar center back position and despite his initial struggles, he put up solid consistent performances in that position, even doing better than Per Mertesacker, a natural center back back by trade.

Nacho Monreal Arsenal

Further up the pitch, the plethora of options in central midfield prompted the manager to try his 42.5 million pound man, Mesut Ozil, on the left wing. The player didn’t do well in that position and suffered a long term injury that sidelined him for a while. Since his return from injury, Ozil has been a different beast, scoring and assist like he’s renowned for on the left wing while Santi Cazorla continued to do his thing in the middle.

Better Away Performances in the Premier League

Last season, for a team challenging for the Premier League title, Arsenal’s away form was downright shocking against their rivals. Arsenal shipped in six at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge, five at Anfield, a solitary goal against a shitty Manchester United side and even three unreplied goals against Everton at Goodison Park.

This season, the Gunners have visited four of the five aforementioned venues and have recorded one win, two draws and a defeat at Stamford Bridge (2-0 was disappointing nonetheless than but I’d take over a 6-0 thrashing anytime). Liverpool had to score a very late goal to salvage a point against the Gunners but the reverse was the case at Goodison Park with the Gunners grabbing a draw from the jaws of defeat. At the Etihad, the Gunners put up a resolute performance to grab all three points.

The Emergence of Some Youngsters

This season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has lived up to that potential we knew he had with some solid performances and his goal in the Champions League this season was one that rolled back the years. With Theo Walcott’s injury layoff and Alexis Sanchez versatile enough to play on the left flank, the Ox featured predominantly on the right and played with such intelligence that bellied his youthful years.

In defense, Hector Bellerin is another lad that saw his chances due to injuries to senior players and he has been very consistent with his placed effort against Aston Villa crowning his efforts. Calum Chambers is another youngster that has excelled admirably this season in the appearances he made. His versatility also ensured that he featured as a center back and a right back.

The Resurrection of Francis Coquelin’s Career

For all the talk of the Gunners to get a defensive midfielder, it’s quite astonishing to know that the Gunners looked from within to sort out the issue they had in this position. I love Mikel Arteta’s lego hair, his composure, influence, passing range and the way he dictates tempo but he isn’t the kind of defensive midfielder an attacking team like Arsenal needs. Times without number last season and even in the handful of games he played this season, he was carved open by opposition attacking midfielders, leaving the Gunners in precarious defensive situations.

Since Coquelin happened, a whole lot has changed. His tackles, interceptions and composure on the ball ensures that his teammates had confidence to attack with the mindset that they have a dependable general in midfield that can mop things up. His stats on WhoScored are on a different level of awesome.

That’s it folks.

Do have a lovely valentines day celebration with that special someone.

Sayonara

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Lukas Podolski Set to Return in the Summer?

 

 

Everyone associated with Arsenal football club is quite familiar with Lukas Podolski’s abilities.

He’s clinical in front of goal, launches surface to goal torpedoes from his left foot, predominantly a left winger, has good off the ball movement  and is a lovable character off the field of play. And like every other player, Podolski has his own flaws – he’s not adept playing as a center forward, he can’t hold up play, he becomes anonymous in games more times than none and most importantly, he doesn’t really fit into Arsenal’s style of play. Arsene Wenger prides himself in a technical style of play that involves a lot of fluid movement of the attackers and unfortunately, Podolski isn’t in this class but with 29 goals in 75 appearances for the team, he has been played his own part in the Gunners successes.

This season, he has scored three goals (all in the Champions League) for the Gunners but he became disgruntled with lack of playing time and he was quite vocal about it. At the start of the winter transfer window, Roberto Mancini of Internazionale signalled his intentions of snapping the German on loan and the star grabbed the opportunity with both hands. However, the player was unhappy that Arsene Wenger didn’t give him a ‘goodbye note’ when he departed for Milan,

“He [Arsene Wenger] said nothing to me. He did not call or say goodbye. I don’t need flowers or a kiss from him but it’s about respect, about saying goodbye. For me, respect is important. I did everything for the club I could possibly have. I don’t believe I did anything wrong”

I watched Inter’s match against Juventus with the hope of seeing Podolski make his debut. The German came on in the 54th minute for Zdravko Kuzmanovic and he hit the ground running with a neat assist for Mauro Icardi. Inter ended up losing that game but I felt Podolski had a nice start to a new chapter in his career. However, Podolski went on to make five more appearances for the club and he hasn’t registered his first goal yet. A few days later, Inter signed Xherdan Shaqiri from FC Bayern and the Swiss winger went on to score against Sampdoria in his Coppa Italia debut. Inter recently published their Europa League list and the only addition to the list was Lukas Podolski  Xherdan Shaqiri as he was preffered to the German.

According to Tuttosport, Roberto Mancini has been ‘underwhelmed’ with the impact made by Podolski and he’s odds on to return to the Emirates this summer. This bit of info wouldn’t particularly go down with the Podolski camp because I’m pretty sure that he was hopeful to do enough for Inter to retain his services. At Arsenal, Podolski’s chances are very bleak so I’d expect him to force a move away from North London if he returns after his spell with Inter.

I still believe that there’s a lot of time for the German to change Mancini’s mind but he has to continuously feature in games and at least, try to make a significant impact. Inn honesty, I’ve never really been a fan of the Serie A but I try to watch the games there from time to time, and I’d be monitoring Podolski’s progress in the coming weeks.

I think it’s time to move on to other things. I have a lot on my table.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Injury Update: Ramsey Out for One Month

Arsenal news: Aaron Ramsey expected to be out for at least four weeks

Aaron Ramsey set the Arsenal world alight last season with his breathtaking influential performances last season and scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final was his zenith. However, with such high standards set last season, it was only normal for the fans to at least, expect more from the ‘Welsh Jesus’. He began the season well by scoring Arsenal’s second goal in the Community Shield and a week later he netted the winning goal in the Gunners victory over Crystal Palace.

He got on everyone’s bad books when he got sent off against Besiktas but as the weeks progressed, the goals dried up for the midfielder and he made it a personal quest of his to get among the goals for the team rather than focusing on doing his job on the pitch. Then a recurrence of his December 2013 hamstring occurred in the North London derby and he was sidelined for a considerable chunk of time. With many midfielders playing in superb form, there was no pressing need to bring Ramsey back but he made a comeback against Galatasaray and scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen as a football fan.

Ramsey has notched up six goals for the Gunners this season but his overall play has been a real cause for concern this season. Somehow the ghosts of the 2011/12 season are hovering around the Welshman and he doesn’t seem to do the ‘simple things’ anymore. Now, he’s all about trying to over elaborate things and making that odd pass. My most concerning issue about Ramsey this season has been the way he surrenders possession to the oppositions and more times without number, he has put the team in a precarious situation.

Arsene Wenger was right to place him on the bench against Leicester on Tuesday but as the game progressed, Leicester gained some momentum after scoring their goal, so it was important to bring a player of Ramsey’s abilities to add steel to the midfield. After spending less than 10 minutes or so on the pitch, Ramsey hit the turf and signalled to the bench that his time was up. The midfielder tried to stand up again but when he hit the deck the second time coupled with Mathieu Flamini stripping for action, the writing was on the wall that he had suffered another muscular injury.

Wenger’s post-match press conference didn’t help matters as the manager clearly stated that he was ‘worried’ about the Ramsey injury situation,

“It looks like a hamstring [injury]. I don’t know yet how bad it is but visually it didn’t look good, when a guy stops straightaway and sits down, it’s not good news. He has a recurrence of a few muscular injuries. We haven’t found out why”

According to the Telegraph, Ramsey is set to be out for four weeks. There’s also a potential for that time to be extended as Wenger would want to allow the Welshman recover fully before bringing him back into action. This also means that Ramsey is set to miss this weekend’s FA Cup fifth round clash against Middlesbrough, as well as the Champions League clash with AS Monaco. There are two Premier League fixtures against Everton and QPR around the horizon with the second leg against the French juggernauts at St. Louis III Stadium.

With Jack Wilshere still out injured, Ramsey’s absence would pave the way to either Tomas Rosicky getting an extended run of games, or Mesut Ozil returning to the middle with a more natural winger playing on the left wing in his stead. Like Ozil, I hope Ramsey returns stronger and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Sayonara.

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