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Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0: Gunners Miss Out on Chance to go Top

Arsenal, Arsenal team news, Arsenal news, Arsenal transfers, Arsenal transfer news, AFC, Gooners, Gunners, Mesut Ozil, Arsene Wenger, Wenger, Chelsea, CFC, Chelsea team news, Chelsea transfer news, Chelsea transfers,

Emirates Stadium (Premier League)

Player Ratings – Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

After the spanking in the hands of Manchester City, the Gunners had nine days to recharge some batteries, right some wrongs and come up with a performance worthy of a team vying for the Premier League crown in May. The Gunners had failed to turn up in some “big games” this season and their performances against both Manchester clubs was nothing to write home about.

Wenger made four changes from the side whooped by Manchester City as Kieran Gibbs replaced the atrocious Nacho Monreal, Thomas Vermaelen replaced the injured Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta replaced Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky filled Jack Wilshere’s boots.

Early on, the Gunners started feeling the pressure as Gibbs gave out a cheap corner. Shortly afterwards, Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta worked in tandem to create a chance for Frank Lampard but his miscued his shot. The Chelsea players tried to match the Gunners pound for pound and there were some heated challenges and rash tackles that saw a couple of Gunners hit the deck.

Arsenal launched an insightful attack from the left with Gibbs floating in the final ball but John Terry was on hand to make a good block. Aaron Ramsey threaded a neat through ball to Bacary Sagna that took the ball on his stride before swinging a deep cross but Gary Cahill got to the ball before Giroud.

Ramsey was culpable of giving the ball away and Chelsea launched a counter attack through Hazard but Ramires blasted the final ball over. The Chelsea onslaught continued with Hazard at the thick of things yet again as he deftly chipped the ball to an onrushing Lampard whose shot slammed the underside of the bar.

In the build up to an Arsenal attack, Mikel Obi made a rash lounge at Arteta but the ref waved play on. Mesut Ozil made a run with the ball before finding Theo Walcott. The Englishman tried to evade his marker and was slightly nudged but he hit the turf like someone that had been shot by a sawn-off shotgun. Arsenal’s penalty appeals fell into deaf ears.

Right at the end of the first 45 minutes, Ozil had a shot that was blocked by a brick Chelsea wall. Rosicky hit the rebound but his effort sailed wide off the mark. In the second half, Arsenal had a few half chances but Lampard fired a long range shot that was easy pickings for Szczesny.

Ozil was involved in an altercation with Branislav Ivanovic after the Serbian’s boot almost hit the German schemer on his face while defending a throw in. Ramsey got himself some stick from some of his players and the crowd when he sportingly cleared the ball out for Ramires to receive some treatment. 

The chance of the game appeared when Ramsey noticed an unmarked Giroud on Ivanovic’s blind side. The Welsh phenom dinked the ball to Giroud’s path on his favorite left foot but the forward wasted the golden opportunity.

Olivier Giroud missed chance vs Chelsea

It was truly a terrible miss from the forward and he was going to miss another clear cut opportunity when Gibbs worked hard with Rosicky to square the ball to Giroud but his shot was parried by Cech. For a striker that was anonymous in front of goal all game long, these two quickfire chances presented him with a chance to write his name in Arsenal folklore but as expected, he was found wanting.

For those that want Arsenal to invest in a new forward, I guess Giroud has given them a chance to increase their decibel levels. At the twilight of the game, Sagna had a header that was blocked on the line by Azpilicueta. The ref’s whistle was met with a groan of disappointment from the Emirates faithful as the Gunners failed to capitalize on yet another golden chance to return to the summit of the Premier League.

The poor run of form continues and we can only hope that the Gunners return to winning ways against West Ham in Upton Park at Boxing Day.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2: Mourinho’s Dominance Over Wenger Continues…

No cigar: Mesut Ozil (centre), Aaron Ramsey (right) and Laurent Koscielny look dejected after going two down

Looks of shame on their faces

Emirates Stadium (Capital One Cup)

Chelsea – Azpilicueta 26′, Mata 67′

With half an eye on the crucial top of the table clash with Liverpool this weekend, Arsene Wenger fielded a relatively strong squad ahead of the Capital One Cup encounter against Chelsea with fringe players like Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal, Carl Jenkinson, Ryo Miyaichi and Nicklas Bendtner all getting run outs as well as some first team regulars.

It’s also worth noting that Bendtner made his first start at the Emirates in nearly two and a half years and in the entirety of the game, he was a peripheral figure in attack. His first telling contribution of the ball was a tame header that went straight to Mark Schwarzer in goal after Monreal had lofted a cross that was deflected off Cesar Azpilicueta.

Chelsea threatened through Kevin de Bruyne but his effort went straight to Lukasz Fabianski’s path. Ryan Bertrand skinned Jenkinson and crossed the ball to a Samuel Eto’o that was tightly marked by Laurent Koscielny but the Cameroonian forward still managed to get a back-heeled attempt on goal that skewed wide.

Aaron Ramsey found some space in midfield and chipped a delightful ball for Miyaichi, but the young Jap dinked the ball over Schwarzer and Gary Cahill was on hand to clear the ball to safety.

With close to half an hour gone, Chelsea launched a counter attack through Eto’o and when Michael Essien latched onto the ball, he was tackled by Tomas Rosicky and the ball sailed effortlessly into orbit. Jack WIlshere had his eyes on the ball but he left it for Jenkinson that decided to have a Nastastic moment as he made errant header to Fabianski but the ball was intercepted by a determined Azpilicueta and Chelsea was one to the good.

In it goes: Lukasz Fanianski (left) is unable to get off his line quick enough to close down the Spaniard

Azpilicueta almost changed from a Chelsea hero to zero when he misplaced the ball to Monreal’s path but the Spaniard’s shot missed the goal by a lick of paint. At the start of the second half, Willian fashioned a chance for Eto’o but his rasping drive went wide off the mark.

Shortly after a deflected Ramsey shot, Arsenal had a chance to level the contest when Koscielny intercepted the ball in midfield before feeding Cazorla. The Spanish magician fed Bendtner with a threaded ball but the Dane backed the goal and fed Ramsey instead of having a bite at the cherry. With Ramsey quickly smothered by a Blue wall, he attempted an impudent chip but it was too far off.

Ozil’s introduction into the game was meant to serve as a catalyst to change Arsenal’s game for the better but things got worse as Chelsea doubled their money through Juan Mata. A swift Bertrand throw-in was headed by Eto’o before Willian cushioned the ball for Mata. The Spaniard used his “weaker” right foot and smashed a piledriver past Fabianski.

Not again: Fabianski picks the ball out of the net for the second time in the evening

Fabianski picking the ball out of his net for the second time. What a shame

Wenger decided that he had seen enough from Bendtner and summoned Olivier Giroud in his stead, Giroud almost made an instant impact when he latched on to Wilshere’s loose ball but he fired a shot from an acute angle that was blocked by Schwarzer. Chelsea almost rubbed salt on Arsenal’s wounds when Azpilicueta feed Essien who in turn teed up an onrushing Ramires. The Brazilian eaed past a lounging Vermaelen and lobbed Fabianski but Koscielny blocked the shot on the line.

Wilshere attempted a long range effort that sailed over the bar and there was a comic moment when David Luiz, Eto’o and Azpilicueta all suffered infectious muscle strains simultaneously. Late on, Wenger withdrew Ramsey for the forgotten figure, Park Chu-Young and after weak efforts from Santi Cazorla and Ramires, Phil Dowd decided that he had had enough.

****

Player Ratings

Fabianski (6) didn’t show enough bravery to block the first and might had done a bit better for the second.

Jenkinson (3) put up his worst performance since that humiliating 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford. As if the problems in this world are not enough, Jenkinson commits a blunder that led to a goal, was torn apart defensively and his crosses in attack are downright erratic.

Monreal (7) tried to make things happen from the left and even had a shot that drifted wide.

Koscielny (8) made interception after interception and he was always alert to potential dangers.

Vermealen (6) didn’t really stamp his authority on the game as he would have liked.

Ramsey (7) was industrious in midfield, had a couple of shots and almost created a lovely assist for Miyaichi.

Wilshere (7) had a few neat touches all game long and acted as a fulcrum to instigate attacks from midfield.

Rosicky (7) was as sleek as grease. As always.

Ryo (6) was probably overawed by the opposition as he failed to make any impact all game long.

Cazorla (7) didn’t really influence the game as expected but he had a couple of shots that drifted away.

Bendtner (5) was a ghost in attack and offered no threat whatsoever in attack.

Ozil and Giroud (6) failed to influence the game when they were brought on.

****

After a long time out of the English game following stints with Inter and Real Madrid, Mourinho’s impeccable record against Wenger currently stands at zero losses, four draws and five wins.

With the Capital One Cup out of the way, Wenger would have to reevaluate his team and make some key decisions ahead of the Liverpool game this weekend. Bendtner’s lethargic performances has shown that a new striker would be needed in January and Jenkinson’s naivery was exposed yet again as he has proved that he has a lot to learn. Sagna should sign da ting already!

It’s sad to see how things panned out but the real business starts now with quickfire fixtures against Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United. It’s fair to say that Arsenal’s ambitions will be put to the test in these fixtures.

Sayonara.

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Chelsea Preview: A Good Chance to Rotate the Squad

Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho

An epic rivalry renewed

After some grueling Premier League, Champions League and international football action, the Capital One Cup has taken center stage as the 16 teams left in the competition battle out to claim the crown last won emphatically by Swansea last season. Unfortunately, the Swans were ousted in the third round by Birmingham City which ensures that they won’t even have a chance to defend their crown.

Arsenal has been in a rich vein of form recently but there have been some dents along the way as Arsene Wenger’s men dropped two points to West Brom in the Premier League as well as dropping all three points at home to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

Arsene Wenger is renowned for fielding his young Guns in this tournament as a breeding ground to further enhance their football education but he selected a much-stronger side in last season’s quarterfinal against Bradford City but the Gunners were made to rue their profligacy as they lost through the lottery of penalty shootouts. However, Wenger has promised to field a relatively strong side tonight,

“I will rotate against Chelsea, but play with a team that has a good chance to qualify,

“It will be an interesting game. They have a very large squad so we will know we are playing another Premier League team, and on our side, we are at home. So it will be interesting.”

Arsenal has won the competition in two occasions (1987 and 1993) but in Arsene Wenger’s tenure, they’ve always reached the latter stages of the competition with two final defeats to Chelsea in 2007 and Birmingham City in 2011. Only two teams – Liverpool and Aston Villa – have won the tournament more than Chelsea, who have lifted the trophy on four occasions.

Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea to a 2-1 win against Arsenal in the 2007 Carling Cup final

Chelsea’s manager, Jose Mourinho, is returning to the Emirates for the first time in six years and it’s also worth noting that Arsenal hasn’t won the West London outfit in close to two years with the Blues winning home and away against the Gunners in the league last season.

With Mourinho having the luxury of a large squad to choose from, I see the Portuguese manager offering starts to his African powerful midfield duo of Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel, two players that have found games had to come by this season. After his error of judgment against Cardiff that led to what proved to be a consolation goal, David Luiz has been frozen out of first team action and I see him making a return to on the pitch duty and he’d definitely have a point or two to prove.

With the plethora of attacking midfielders in Chelsea’s disposal, Mourinho could hand starts to the attacking midfield trio of Kevin de Bruyne, Juan Mata and the Brazilian’s representative in the Black Eyed Peas, Will.i.an. With Mourinho using a single center forward and with the likes of Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o getting a lot of playtime this season, Demba Ba could be given another chance to strut his stuff. It’s also worth noting that Arsenal was close on sealing an eleventh hour loan move for Ba but it was cancelled by Mourinho as he wasn’t ready to “strengthen a rival“.

At Arsenal, the injury worries keep piling up as Mathieu Flamini (groin) joins the treatment table with the likes of Theo Walcott (abdominal), Lukas Podolski (hamstring), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby (both knee) and like Mourinho, Arsene Wenger has a large squad to choose from while giving some key players like Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud some well-deserved rest.

Arsenal’s skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, has featured sparingly for the Gunners this season and this game will give him another chance to prove his worth to the squad. Nacho Monreal is another player that has lost his place in the team to the incumbent left fullback, Kieran Gibbs, but he has been used a lot as a substitute this season. In attack, the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, would be given another chance to show what he’s made of.

The youngsters like Carl Jenkinson and the exciting Serge Gnabry would be given run outs and its heartwarming to know that the young German winger has signed a new long term contract with Arsenal. I wonder why the Gunners are still wasting time in securing Bacary Sagna’s future as he’d be free to approach other clubs from January 1, 2014.

Here are my expected lineups for both sides,

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

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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Surprises and Milestones – Part and Parcel of the Beautiful Game

In the past three seasons, the FA Cup has been won by Roberto M’s…

Roberto Mancini in 2011…

Roberto Di Matteo in 2012…

Roberto Martinez in 2013…

And probably Roberto M-Wenger in 2014 :D

****

With no Arsenal football yesterday, I was spoilt with a plethora of options on what to do with my day. I was this close to calling a female friend of mine for us to watch a movie in Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, when I realized that there were two matches that would be of particular interest to me.

Following their welcome draw against Tottenham, Chelsea had been on my good books albiet temporarily and I wanted to see how they would pan out against an Aston Villa side on the rise. There was also the FA Cup final to watch as Wigan’s participation in the tournament ensured that Arsenal was going to wait till Tuesday to host them.

With Chelsea on the driving seat to end the season as the best London team in the land despite harboring Europa League aspirations, Arsenal still stood an outside chance of leapfrogging their West London rivals provided they dropped points at Villa Park.

Aston Villa’s top scorer, Christian Benteke didn’t help his team’s cause when he received his marching orders but the resilient Villa side was this close to salvaging an unlikely draw…then Super Frankie popped up with the goods yet again.

Frank Lampard began his career in West Ham and was a vital cog in the engine of that Hammers side that boasted of raw talent like Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Frederic Kanoute and Jermaine Defoe. When that team suffered the ignominy of relegation, they were bound to lose a considerable chunk of their key players, and Chelsea swooped for Lampard, a move worth its weight in gold.

Since then, the hunchback of Stamford Bridge has been downright consistent, averaging at least 20 goals in every season he played. If that’s not amazing, then I don’t know what the word means. To top it all off, people tend to forget that Lamps is a frigging attacking midfielder blasting in more goals than your present day center forward.

In the closing moments of yesterday’s game, Lampard equalled the all-time goalscoring record for Chelsea which stood at 203 goals and if he manages to spoil David Moyes farewell party next week with a goal, he will put his name in the history books as Chelsea Football Club’s highest goalscorer of all time.

In as much as I don’t give two *coughs* about Chelsea, their trigger-happy manager-sacking chairman, Roman Abramovich, and fans, I’m a lover of the beautiful game and I’m paying my respects to a model professional for the young midfielders coming up.

Despite all the great things Frank Lampard has achieved in his trophy-laden glittering career, it’s astonishing to know that he and Steven Gerrard didn’t achieve things with the English National team.

As the saying goes, there are three certain things in life – Death, taxes and England losing on penalties.

Speaking of penalties, that would have been a way to settle the FA Cup final but judging from the lineups of both sides, everybody (me included) had already written off the relegation-threatened Latics.

This season’s FA Cup has seen its fair share of giant killing with the likes of Luton Town easing past Norwich, Oldham knocking Liverpool out and Arsenal shamefully losing at home to Blackburn.

The FA Cup is a very unforgiving tournament where you can have all the attacking verve and possession but when a ‘lesser opposition’ takes the initiative, it’s usually to devastating effect.

For instance, take Arsenal’s FA Cup campaign this season. After going a goal down through a decisive Miguel Michu finish, Arsenal had to summon Lukas Podolski from the bench and he leveled the contest with a well taken goal. Just when we all thought that Kieran Gibbs’ brilliant volley was enough to send Arsenal to the fourth round, a lapse in concentration allowed Danny Graham to earn his side a replay at the Emirates.

In the fourth round, Arsenal visited lowly Brighton and Hove Albion but they had to come back from behind twice before sealing the tie afterwards. When Blackburn came visiting, Wenger had half an eye on the Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich, so he decided to rest some of his big guns and was duly punished.

That’s the spirit of the FA Cup.

Congratulations to Wigan for tearing the script and securing an unlikely success while the club still floats in relegation waters. I sincerely hope the Arsenal should send them some more Champagne because I certainly wouldn’t mind to see some drunk and hungover players wearing a blue striped outfit on Tuesday night.

Sayonara.

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The Battle for European Qualification Continues – Who Will Win the War?

Champz

 

The past weekend had some mouthwatering fixtures with the destinies of many Premier League teams on the balance yet again. Aston Villa’s 6-1 romp of Sunderland was certainly an eye-opener for the enigmatic and energetic Paolo Di Canio, and he will be hungry for blood when Tony Pulis and his Rugby lot come visiting tonight.

The weekend’s fixtures saw Aston Villa’s resurgence continue with a Gabby Agbonlahor-inspired win over Norwich, giving Paul Lambert the pleasure of relishing a victory over the team he managed last season. Elsewhere, there were boring goalless stalemates in the Merseyside Derby, when West Ham hosted Newcastle and when Swansea hosted Manchester City.

Since their Capital One Cup triumph, the Swans have been a shadow of a team that terrorized opposition defenses with Miguel Michu grabbing all the headlines with his goalscoring class and trademark celebrations. He and the rest of Michael Laudrup’s men have taken their foot of the pedal in recent weeks.

Despite their Les Miserables adventure in January, Newcastle United is seriously flirting with relegation which is big disappointment from a manager that was honored with the Manager of the Season award by his peers the last season. With his contract believed to have been extended to 2020, the Newcastle hierarchy will be under the spotlight if Alan Pardew screws this up in the climax of the season.

Queens Park Rangers and Reading have already suffered the ignominy of relegation, so teams above them have been fighting hard to secure their Premier League status and usual relegation dogfight customers, Wigan Athletic, took a giant stride with a win over West Brom. Reading played for pride against Fulham and went back home with three points in a game the Royal’s forward, Adam Le Fondre, made history for being the substitute with the highest number of Premier League goals in a season.

Every football lover kept half an eye on three key fixtures last weekend – Tottenham’s home clash against Southampton, Arsenal’s visit to relegation-doomed Queens Park Rangers and Manchester United’s home clash against Chelsea.

The Gunners had began the weekend in third place harboring false hopes that Southampton could cause an upset in White Hart Lane. Just when a draw seemed to be on the cards, the hottest player in English football struck a thunderbolt from that impeccable left foot of his to grant his side all three points, leapfrogging Arsenal to third place albeit temporarily.

Gareth Bale, the Man on Fire

The onus was on Arsene Wenger’s men to perform in the late kickoff against Queen Park Rangers and they got off to the best of starts with Theo Walcott hitting the 20-goal mark in the 20th second of the game. Arsenal fans had hoped that it was going to be the beginning of a rout but after 90 frustrating minutes, it was the three points that was all that mattered…

Not another abject performance…

Not another ineffectual Lukas Podolski outing in the middle…

Not Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to make changes that would impact the game…

Not the fits of despair, frustration and High Blood Pressure I was having as I had this funny hunch that Queens Park Rangers were going to snatch a crushing equalizer…

Just three bloody absolutely vital points.

Arsenal’s highest earner popped up with the goods yet again

That nervy victory was enough to propel the Gunners back to third place and many had hoped that Manchester United would at least make Chelsea drop points to pave the way for one hell of a clash against Tottenham on Wednesday but the Blues had enough in the tank to see out a side that has been a force to be reckoned with in their home ground. Prior to yesterday’s narrow loss to Chelsea, Manchester United have always scored at home since the days Adolf Hitler ruled Nazi Germany.

As expected, the game had its fair share of controversy with Rafael receiving his marching orders for a malicious challenge on David Luiz. If Chelsea had dropped any points in Old Trafford, Wednesday’s game in hand against Tottenham would have been regarded as a must-not-lose game but with Rafa Benitez men sitting comfortably in third place, a win for Tottenham would see the North London outfit go level on points with Chelsea, plummeting Arsenal into Europa League territory with just two games left.

The goal that propelled Chelsea to third place

This coming weekend, Chelsea will visit Villa Park to play an Aston Villa side still on their toes with the likes of Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Sunderland and even Wigan waiting for the Villans to slip up. It’s certainly not going to be a stroll in the park for the Blues but I’m tipping a squad of that quality to see out any threat Aston Villa would pose.

With Arsenal’s weekend’s opponent, Wigan, gearing up for a FA Cup final against Manchester City in Wembley, the Gunners will have to wait till Tuesday evening to host the FA Cup finalists in their last home match of the campaign. This also means that Arsenal would have known the outcome of Tottenham’s away trip to Stoke, which will add a little bit of pressure at the start of the game against Wigan. The Latics would be as stubborn as they usually are but I can predict that Arsenal would ease past them with consummate ease.

On the final day of the 2012/13 season, Chelsea would host Everton, Tottenham hosts Sunderland while Arsenal visits Newcastle.

With Everton assured of a Europa League berth, they could allow complacency creep into their game, allowing the Blues to secure maximum points as well as Champions League qualification. If Sunderland manages to secure their Premier League status before clashing with Tottenham, Gareth Bale could have the chance to add to his impressive goal count courtesy of a lax display from Paolo Di Canio’s side.

This would mean that Arsenal will have to defeat Newcastle and hope for the worst for their Champions League aspiring rivals. Olivier Giroud’s return to the team would be highly welcome, as Arsenal fans have opened their eyes to see his worth to the team since he was out suspended. There are so many forwards linked to the club, but that business has do be done in the summer.

Should Tottenham fail to grab maximum points in Stamford Bridge, two wins against Wigan and Newcastle will be enough to grant Arsenal Champions League qualification, as Arsene Wenger’s men would have 73 points in the bag. If Chelsea manages to get a draw against Spurs, before beating Aston Villa and Everton, the interim manager would have secured a Champions League berth with 75 points, and should he manage to win Tottenham as well as winning other fixtures, Chelsea would finish the campaign as the third best team in the land with 75 points, with Arsenal grabbing the final Champions League spot, dooming Tottenham to the Europa League.

This ultimately means that the onus is definitely on AVB’s men and it’s fair to say that their own destiny is in their hands. Three wins on the bounce against Chelsea, Stoke and Sunderland would see the Whites grab an impressive 74 points, which would see them usurp Arsenal in fourth place even if the Gunners win Wigan and Newcastle.

The battle for European qualification has been very intense this season, but unfortunately, only two teams can win this war. The million dollar question will be; Who would miss out on Champions League qualification – Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham?

Sayonara.

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