Monthly Archives: January 2014

Southampton 2 Arsenal 2: Post-Match Thoughts and Player Ratings

13/14: Southampton 2-2 Arsenal - Santi Cazorla

In one of the most shambolic first half performances I’ve ever seen from an Arsenal side, the Gunners came back to life in the second 45 minutes and did very well to grab two quickfire goals before a trademark lapse in concentration handed Southampton a chance back into the game.

In the wake of Arsenal sharing the spoils in the battle of St. Mary’s, Gooner Daily accesses the team’s overall performance with the player ratings listed below,

DEFENSE

Wojciech Szczesny: The Polish goalie could have done better for the first goal he conceded but he grew in confidence as the match progressed. He made some outstanding saves to keep his team in the game. 7/10

Laurent Koscielny: The Frenchman was a beast in the first half, making a lot of crunchy challenges as well as some vital interceptions. 7/10

Per Mertesacker: The BFG worked in tandem with Koscielny but he was sloppy and he struggled a bit in a couple of occasions. He failed to anticipate the pass that led to Southampton’s equalizer. 6/10

Bacary Sagna: Bar his assist to Olivier Giroud for Arsenal’s first goal, Sagna had a torrid game and it was his lapse in concentration that led to Southampton’s equalizer. 5/10

Nacho Monreal: I’d really hoped that a consistent run of games would have made Monreal’s game better, but he put up his second worst Arsenal performance after that horror outing at the Etihad. He was bullied like a kid for the first goal and had a nightmarish game. Just when he had the chance to redeem himself from a Mikel Arteta pass inside the box, he launched his shot into orbit. 3/10

Kieran Gibbs: The Englishman didn’t play long enough to get a rating. N/A

MIDFIELD

Mikel Arteta: His return to full fitness was very timely but Arteta looked out of sorts and could dictate the tempo of the game for his side. He will come back to his best with a consistent run of games. 6/10

Mathieu Flamini: The Flamster was rested for the game against Coventry so that he could be fully fit for the game against Southampton. What did Arsenal get in return? – an inexplicable and extremely dimwitted two-footed lounge on Morgan Schneiderlein that made the referee send him off. He really let his team down. 5/10

Mesut Ozil: Ozil was one of Arsenal’s poorest performers in the first half but he returned to the pitch a rejuvenated man after some counsel from the manager. The German schemer was involved in everything good from an attacking perspective and he capped it up with an assist. 7/10

ATTACK

Santi Cazorla: The Spaniard is Arsenal most in-form player with four goals in four games. Despite the fact that Lukas Podolski had a stormer against Coventry, Cazorla replaced him on the left flank and did well to score a well-taken goal. 7/10

Serge Gnabry: Since breaking into the starting XI in the wake of Theo Walcott’s injury, the young German starlet has had a consistent run of games. However, he was very ineffectual in the course of the game but he was replaced by the Ox with 20 minutes left to spare.  6/10

Olivier Giroud: Lacked supply from his teammates in the first half but he helped his team defensively. He also scored a very improvised finish in a difficult situation. 7/10

The Ox and Lukas Podolski didn’t play long enough to get ratings.

Do you agree with these ratings? Please share yours with your comments.

Sayonara.

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Southampton Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Dear Boruc…some deja vu please

With the FA Cup fourth round nothing more than a distant memory, all focus has been shifted to the mid-week Premier League fixtures and the Gunners head to St. Mary’s to take on a Southampton side that has endured a mixed campaign thus far. With fellow title contenders, Chelsea and Manchester City playing tomorrow, the Gunners will have a golden opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.

After a rather solid start to their Premier League season with five clean sheets in their first nine games, Southampton were in third place and the media lauded their aggressive style of play where the players closed down their opponents with such frantic pace but after the loss of their chief enforcer, Victor Wanyama, to injury, their fortunes changed for the worst.

Back: Wanyama is in the Saints squad for the first time since December 4

The Saints have managed just three victories from their last 13 games and they have surprisingly conceded 20 goals in the last 11 league games, having let in just five goals in their opening 11 matches. Since their 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates, they have managed a meager two wins from 11 games, which has seen them drop into mid-table mediocrity.

Despite their recent slump in form, they have 31 points from 22 matches, their best tally at this stage of a Premier League season since 2002-03, when they had 35 points. They finished that season in eighth place. They’re also renowned for their ball retention (58% ball possession) abilities on the pitch in the Premier League, second only to Swansea (59%).

Arsenal also has to be mindful about the threat Jay Rodriguez could pose. He’s the Saints leading goalscorer with 11 goals and he scored in their last tie against Sunderland in the Stadium of Light. According to EPL Index, Rodriguez has registered 100% shot accuracy in no less than six games this season, which shows how accurate the young man can be with the ball. He has created four clear-cut chances and he has had 822 touches to his name so far this season.

Arsenal are the third highest scorers in the Premier League with 43 goals and also have the best defensive record in the top-flight, conceding just 19 goals (10 clean sheets) this season. Arsenal’s tally of 51 points is their joint second-best total after 22 top-flight matches of a season. They had 52 points in 2003-04, when they went unbeaten all season.

The game would be of some significance to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as he plied his trade for Southampton, scoring nine goals in 36 League appearance in their time at League One.

To injuries, Wanyama is close to full fitness but this game would be too soon for the lad. They would be without the services of Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez that would be out till Spring, while Pablo Osvaldo remains suspended by the club after an altercation with Jose Fonte on the training pitch.

Arsenal on the other hand, gave some deserved rest to a couple of key players in the FA Cup clash against Coventry and we would expect a couple of returnees in various positions. Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen are all believed to be close to a return to the first team, all three could possibly feature in this clash. Tomas Rosicky is still nursing a nose injection but Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby are out for all eternity, I guess.

I’d expect Wojceich Szczesny to replace his compatriot, Lukasz Fabianski but we could see Bacary Sagna return to first-team action in place of Carl Jenkinson. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini would play alongside Jack Wilshere with Mesut Ozil supplying the firepower to Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and hopefully, Lukas Podolski.

My predicted lineups are,

Southampton 4-2-3-1 football formationArsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation

Let’s hope that the Gunners would captalize on Southampton’s shortcomings.

Sayonara.

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A Tale of the Emirates Stadium, the Home of Clean Sheets

Emirates Stadium

It’s really disheartening to know that the Gunners haven’t won anything since their move to the magnificent state-of-the-art Emirates stadium in 2006. The club’s eternal home, Highbury, witnessed trophy-laden years under so many managers from the days of football revolutionary, Herbert Chapman, to the club’s current stalwart on the dugout, Arsene Wenger.

Under Arsene Wenger, the club has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a couple of Community Shields but there have been some near misses in the forms of the 2006 Champions League final, the 2007 Carling Cup final and not so long ago, the disappointing 2011 Carling Cup demise against Birmingham City.

However, there’s a renewed sense of optimism brewing among the manager, players and fans alike, and they unanimously feel that this may be the season the club ends its long-standing trophy drought. This can only be actualized by the club’s performances on the pitch and despite an early Capital One Cup exit in the hands of Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea team, the Gunners are currently in pole position in the Premier League, recently surged to a FA Cup fifth round berth with a tasty clash against Liverpool and there’s still some business in the Champions League against the almighty Bayern Munich.

Since defeating the Bavarian outfit in the tail end of last season, the Gunners went on a hot away streak before suffering a stinging defeat to one of the poorest Manchester United sides you’d ever see. Gooner of Steel celebrated the team’s scintillating away form with a well-written and researched article that’s worth a read.

This season, Arsenal harbored hopes to make the Emirates Stadium a fortress but the performances at the Emirates Cup raised a few eyebrows. The campaign went to a worst possible start when Aston Villa grabbed all three points at the Emirates courtesy of a brace from Christian Benteke and some horrendous refereeing from Anthony Taylor. That defeat sparked an outage on social networking platforms and the Wenger Out Brigade were in full voice.

Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa: Benteke & Luna sink 10-man Gunners

The Gunners next home game was against a Fenerbahce side they had dismantled in Turkey and it took an Aaron Ramsey brace to put the encounter to bed. The only downside to a satisfying victory was the hamstring injury suffered by Lukas Podolski which dented his chances of a regular place in the first team.

On transfer deadline day, Andre Villas-Boas and his new-look expensive Tottenham side arrived at The Home of Football, as those folks in Arsenal Arsenal call it, but it took an Olivier Giroud deft finish to settle the contest. After securing two clean sheets in the first three games at the Emirates, Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron dented the record when he scored the consolation goal in the game tagged as the “Mesut Ozil” show.

Ozil opened his goalscoring account as the Gunners kept a clean sheet against Napoli in the Champions League but despite the fact that the Gunners ran riot past Norwich with goals from Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, the visitors managed to score what proved to be a consolation goal, thereby denying Wojciech Szczesny a clean sheet bonus.

Arsenal’s next two games at the Emirates were nothing to write home about as they slumped to a 2-1 loss against Dortmund and this was followed with a Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea. Wenger had not defeated his Portuguese counterpart, Jose Mourinho, in eight outings, and the defeat in October made it nine.

November turned out to be the month of clean sheets for the Gunners and their defense faced their sternest test yet when they came up against the world-famous “SAS” (Luiz Suarez and Daniel Sturridge) combination but the Arsenal defense kept them at bay all game long. Giroud and Wilshere scored braces in the routine 2-0 wins over Southampton and Olympique Marseille respectively.

In December, the Gunners kept another clean in the home victory over Hull City but the impregnable run of clean sheets was ended by a powerful strike from Gerard Deulofeu in the 1-1 disappointing draw with Everton and this was followed by a goalless stalemate against Chelsea (Wenger fails to win Mourinho yet again).

In 2014, Wojciech Szczesny and the Arsenal defense have done their parts in ensuring that they haven’t conceded any goal at home and in the clashes against Cardiff, Tottenham, Fulham and most recently, Coventry, the Gunners haven’t conceded any goal. This means that in 18 games played at the Emirates this season, the Gunners have kept a whooping 12 clean sheets, with just a goal conceded in their last 10 home matches.

While the clean sheet record at home can be lauded as a truly remarkable feat, Arsenal’s resolve will be tested when Manchester United (February), Bayern Munich (February) and Manchester City (March) come to town.

Nonetheless, kudos must go to Wojciech Szczesny for his tremendous saves, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker for their telepathic understanding, Nacho Monreal/Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna/Carl Jenkinson for balancing their attacking and most importantly, defensive play superbly.

The midfielders like Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini also do their bits in protecting the back four but I must commend the ageless Czech maestro, Tomas Rosicky, for his tireless running, amazing work rate and of course, those crunchy tackles.

Finally, Olivier Giroud also deserves some credit for being Arsenal’s first line of defense and even though he’s not scoring in industrial quantities like Robin van Persie, you can’t doubt his commitment to the cause, his superb linkup and his aerial prowess that is used both offensively and defensively.

Here’s to the Emirates Stadium, the home of clean sheets.

Sayonara.

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