Monthly Archives: August 2014

Leicester Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Leicester v Arsenal

Rambo returns

Saturday’s football action showcased the excitement of the Premier League as Manchester United continued to struggle under Louis van Gaal. The most shocking result of the day was Mark Hughes’ Stoke City side going to the Etihad to grab all three points but no game on the day could match the enthralling encounter at Goodison Park with Diego Costa making his mark for his new club against the Toffees with two well taken goals.

Today begins with Aston Villa hosting Hull and this is followed with another Spurs versus Liverpool clash. Tottenham fans don’t have fond memories of this fixture because last season, Liverpool scored the goals that made the club dismiss their two managers but under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino, Arsenal’s fierce rivals has been on the ascendancy but I’m still certain that the Gunners would celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day at the end of the season. It’s as sure as death, taxes and England’s national team losing a game on penalties.

The football action will end with the Gunners taking a trip to King Power Stadium to play recently-promoted Leicester City. The team has acquainted themselves well to life in the big time as they fought hard to claw an equalizer from the jaws of defeat in their first league fixture against Everton but this was followed by a routine defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge despite Kesper Schmeichel’s goalkeeping heroics.

Schmeichel had a great game against Chelsea

Leicester had the best home record in the Championship last season, winning 17 of their 23 fixtures and only losing twice, averaging two goals per game in their run to winning the SkyBet Championship. However, the Foxes have won just one of their last 14 Premier League home games (D9, L4) – a 3-1 victory against Portsmouth on 8 May 2004. The last time both sides met was in the 2003/04 season where the Gunners went through the entire campaign without losing a game. The Gunners were a goal down thanks to a Paul Dickov strike but two goals from Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira placed Arsenal in the history books for years to come.

It’s also worth noting that Arsene Wenger has never lost a Premier League game against Leicester. However, he was in charge when the Gunners were ousted from the FA Cup fourth round in 2000 following a penalty shootout with the Foxes. The last time Leicester recorded a Premier League win against the Gunners was as far back as 1994 and in 15 games after that they have drawn five and lost 10 times to the Gunners.

This season, Leicester City would be looking to the vast experience of Argentine international, Esteban Cambiasso, that left Italian giants, Internazionale, after spending the best part of a decade with the club. At 34, he has seen a whole lot in his football career and he was an essential part of the class of 2010′ that won the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. However, with his paperwork not sorted out on time, this game will be too soon for him.

To team news, I don’t see the Gunners making much changes from the side that narrowly sealed qualification into the Champions League with a nervy victory over Besiktas. With David Ospina still nursing his mysterious thigh injury, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal. I really hope that the Colombian goalkeeper recovers in time to play Arsenal’s Capital One Cup third round encounter, or Emiliano Martinez would probably get the nod. The defense pretty much picks itself with Nacho Monreal deputizing in the injured Kieran Gibbs’ stead, Matt Debuchy on the right with the Mertesielny Axis of Awesome, according to Arseblogger, doing their thing in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

Mathieu Debuchy's clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

Debuchy put up a dogged display before getting sent off

The Gunners put up a rock-solid defensive display against Besiktas and their resolve was tested when Debuchy received his marching orders from a soft booking from the card-happy ref. Prior to his red card, Debuchy had a great game on Wednesday day and he’d be proud of his teammates that they held the fort when he was in the dressing room. Monreal is usually known for being tad erratic sometimes but credit has to be given when it is due. The Spaniard and his compatriot in front of him, Santi Cazorla, were awesome in their defensive output and he fed a lovely ball for the Ox that wasn’t finished off.

On the back of such a defensive display, I don’t expect the manager to chop things up at the back.

In midfield, Mathieu Flamini will continue to hold the fort in front of the back line and it was surprising to see him not pick a booking against Besiktas. With the fans still clamoring for that defensive midfield signing, they should bear in mind that the Flamster is what they have except Arsene Wenger swoops for a new DM between today and transfer deadline day. Jack Wilshere had a stormer in the box to box role against Besiktas and I see him retaining his place in the squad, despite the return of the Welsh Jesus, Aaron Ramsey, following his suspension.

This would essentially mean that Santi Cazorla would displace the Ox on the right flank with Mesut Ozil playing from the left, a position he’s obviously not comfortable in. In attack, the fans would be hoping for Alexis Sanchez to build on his first Arsenal goal and he would have to lead the line in Giroud’s absence until the Gunners sign a new forward.

Premier League Form

Leicester: D L (18th)

Arsenal: W D (5th)


Leicester: James (shin), Upson (foot)

Arsenal: Arteta (thigh), Gnabry (knee), Gibbs (hamstring), Sanogo (hamstring), Ospina (thigh), Walcott (knee), Giroud (lower leg)

Predicted Lineups

Leicester City 4-4-2 football formationArsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation

This promises to be a good game of football and with teams like Chelsea and Swansea City, yes, Swansea City already notching up maximum points from their handful of games played, the Gunners wouldn’t want to be left behind.

Gooner Daily Prediction: Leicester 0 Arsenal 2


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Thoughts on Arsenal’s Opponents in the Champions League Group Stages

Champions League Group D

Arsenal are paired with Dortmund yet again

After the hard work was done in the qualifiers with Arsenal edging past Besiktas on a nervy Emirates night, it was time for the UEFA Champions League draws and as expected, there were a couple of oooohs and aaaahs with each passing draw. However, Arsenal was the first seeded team in Group D and they have been paired alongside Borussia Dortmund (yet again), Galatasaray and Anderlecht.

Without further ado, Gooner Daily reviews each of Arsenal’s opponents, ranging from their performances in the previous campaign, the current campaign, players to watch out for as well as the final predictions for the group.


As expected, Anderlecht won the Belgian Pro League last season (taking their tally to 33 titles) with Massimo Bruno and Aleksandr Mitrovic spearheading their attack. They had started the campaign with a Belgian Super Cup victory over Genk (Bruno scored the only goal) but as the season progressed, the Anderlecht fans suffered heartache in the Belgian Cup as the team lost on penalties to Westerlo in the seventh round of the competition.

Bruno celebrating with his teammates

The Belgian side also suffered a dismal Champions League campaign last season as they were paired in the same group with Paris St. Germain, Olympiakos and SL Benfica. They lost their first three games without even scoring to guarantee their elimination and to make things worse, they conceded five goals at home to PSG with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring four. Anderlecht managed to get a 1-1 draw in Paris and that turned out to be their only point of the competition as they lost their remaining two games to stay rock bottom at the group.

At the end of the campaign, Bruno smashed in 16 goals while Mitrovic followed him closely with 15 goals.

This season, Anderlecht fans were saddened to see their top scorer (Bruno) leave for Red Bull Salzburg but they began the campaign with a Belgian Super Cup win over Lokeren with Mitrovic picking up where he left off in the previous campaign. In five Belgian Pro League games played this season, Anderlecht is in pole position with Mitrovic leading the club’s scoring charts.

Mitrovic is Anderlecht’s main man this season

He may just be 19 years of age but Arsenal would ignore Mitrovic at their own peril. After plying his trade in the Serbian League, Mitrovic switched to Anderlecht last season and he scored 16 goals in 39 appearances averaging roughly a goal every two games. He’d be a player to watch out for in the group.

Galatasaray SK

The Turkish giants challenged on all fronts last season and they reaped their rewards with a Turkish Cup victory at the end of the season. There were managerial switches as well with Turkish legend, Fatih Terim, and Italian hot head, Roberto Mancini, getting some time in the dugout. Galatasaray began last season with a couple of preseason encounters, which included participation in the 2013 Emirates Cup. After winning FC Porto in their opening encounter, the Turkish side won the trophy through the help of their talismanic striker and Arsenal’s Kryptonite, Didier Drogba.

Drogba placing a penalty past Szczesny

Their Emirates Cup success was followed by a Turkish Super Cup victory over Fenerbahce with Drogba scoring a late goal in extra time which turned out to be the deciding factor between both teams. Galatasaray also featured in one of the hardest Champions League groups last season as they were paired with Real Madrid, Juventus and FC Copenhagen. Their match opener against Real was a horror show as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged himself a hat-trick. They went on to draw with Juventus in Turin which proved to be a pivotal moment in the group because a victory over the same opponents in a snow-laden pitch (second leg) was enough to book the Turkish side a Round of 16 berth.

In the Round of 16 clash against Chelsea, talk of Drogba’s return to a place he once called home dominated the back pages but the Ivorian’s performances over the course of both legs was very shambolic. Maybe he was overwhelmed by the sense of occasion and the way the fans sang his tunes. In the Turkish league, Fenerbahce sealed off the threat of their rivals to win the title with Galatasaray finishing in second place but with the club facing a ban from UEFA, Galatasaray took their slot.

This season, Drogba returned to Chelsea leaving the goalscoring burden for that season’s top goalscorer, Burak Yilmaz. With a new coach in the form of Cesare Prandelli, the Turks lost their Super Cup tie to Fenerbahce on penalties with Selcuk Inan, Felipe Melo and Yekta Koutulus missing their vital spot kicks.

Burak Yilmaz will be a threat

With Drogba gone, the Galatasaray’s goalscoring burdens rests on the capable hands of Burak Yilmaz that is coming off a campaign where he smashed 18 goals for the team. The goal haul is nowhere near the 32 goals he scored in his debut season with the club but Yilmaz is a player I really admire because of his keen eye for goal and predatory instincts. Let’s hope that the Gunners would do their but to keep him in check.

Borussia Dortmund

Since Bayern Munich’s return to dominance, Dortmund has played the role of second fiddle as they lost out in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal Cup to the Bavarians last season. However, Dortmund began the campaign well as they instilled the first defeat to Pep Guardiola in the German Super Cup but Bayern showed their superiority in the league leading Dortmund with a whooping 19 points as well as scoring the goals that broke their hearts in the German Cup final. To rub salt to Dortmund’s injuries, Bayern snapped their top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, on a Bosman, which didn’t go down well with the Signal Iduna Park faithful.

Dortmund also locked horns with Arsenal in the group stages last season with the Germans winning at the Emirates and the Gunner returned the favor at the Signal Iduna Park.

13/14: Dortmund v Arsenal - Aaron Ramsey

However, with the Gunners losing to Napoli and Dortmund beating Olympique Marseille, it went down to the wire with the Italians crashing out of the competition despite having 12 points. Dortmund eased past Zenit in the Round of 16 but they couldn’t replicate their 2012/13 heriocs against Real Madrid and they were outsed from the competition.

This season, Dortmund began the new campaign like the previous one, beating Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup but the game will be fondly remembered for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Spiderman celebration, a style he also used from his St. Etienne days.


Aubameyang has already netted three goals and Dortmund would seek to exploit his raw reserves of pace in their bid for silverware this season. Arsenal’s defense has to be mindful about him.

Qualification Prediction

I’m no Paul the Octopus or soothsayer but judging from the qualities of the teams in this group, Arsenal and Dortmund will have enough in the tank to see them through but they’d have to be careful about the threat Galatasaray will pose. With no disrespect to Andrelecht, but the Belgian side is here to ‘complete the numbers’.


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Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0: Alexis Fires the Gunners into the UCL

The marquee signing finally opens his Arsenal goalscoring account

Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 45′) – Besiktas 0

Emirates (Champions League)

Player Ratings (via the Mail) – Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

This was a game of utmost importance to the Gunners and the fact that no goal was scored in Turkey made things a bit uncomfortable at the start of the clash. In recent times, Arsenal had played six qualifying Champions League double-legged and have always excelled into the group stages but this game served as a real test of the team’s nerve and character.

In the space of one week since the last fixture between both sides in Turkey, the Gunners had lost Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud to injury while Aaron Ramsey sat the game out due to a suspension. Per Mertesacker also retained his place with Calum Chambers relegated to the bench. Arsenal almost drew first blood when Jack Wilshere showed great movement to evade two markers before teeing up the Ox. The winger accelerated with the ball before drilling a cross that was blocked.

Sanchez showed off his work rate to win the ball before threading a neat through ball for Wilshere but the maestro’s shot missed by a lick of paint. Besiktas’ goalie, Zengin, made a mess of his clearance that went straight to Santi Cazorla’s path but the diminutive midfielder’s first-timed shot was wide off the mark. Besiktas’ first meaningful attack arrived when an over the top ball was sent to Demba Ba in behind Arsenal’s center back pairing but Wojciech Szczesny showed good anticipation to race off his line and claim the ball.

Sanchez had a sniff at goal from a free kick but it was easy pickings for Zengin. Arsenal launched a counter attack when Cazorla spread a cross-field ball for Mesut Ozil but the German wasn’t in the same wavelength with Sanchez. Mustafa Pektemek was almost afforded a clear chance at goal but Matt Debuchy showed great awareness to make a superb block.

Wilshere had a great game

Wilshere strode forward with the ball before feeding a pass to Sanchez but the Chilean’s poor first touch allowed the ball to go beyond his control. However, Sanchez was to have the last laugh as he latched on to a loose ball to side foot the ball home from another attack instigated by Wilshere.

Alexis Sanchez

Debuchy sent Ox through on goal with a lobbed effort but the keeper raced out of his line to make himself big so the English winger had to make do with a corner kick. Wilshere sent another disguised pass to Sanchez but the goalie was on hand to make another superb save. Arsenal continued to ask questions of the Besiktas defense and the Gunners were almost two goals to the good when Debuchy nodded Cazorla’s dipping free kick to the side netting.

Mathieu Flamini carelessly offered Ba clear chance at goal with a poor clearance but the Senegalese forward didn’t take the initiative, much to the relief of the Emirates faithful. Arsenal kept knocking at the Besiktas’ defensive door and almost made the lead more comfortable when the Ox fired Monreal’s drilled cross straight at the goalie. For a player of his quality, I expected better from point blank range.

Things became a bit uneasy when Debuchy was sent off for his second bookable offence with put his team in a rather precarious situation.

Mathieu Debuchy's clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

Mathieu Debuchy’s clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.


Ozil had to be sacrificed with Chambers filling the void created at the right full back position. Chambers did well to drift forward and drill a cross to Sanchez but the Chilean hotshot blasted his effort over the bar. The dying moments of the game were very nervy and an equalizer almost arrived when Ba failed to latch on to a cross that was missed by Per Mertesacker.

Wenger talked about Sanchez’ performance, transfer speculation and shared some information about Giroud’s injury. The French bloke had a successfully surgery and would be out for the remainder of the year but as it stands, Wenger confirmed that he doesn’t have anyone in his sights at the moment.

However, he would be concerned about the teams he’d face in the Champions League group stage as the draws take place today.

Thanks, Alexis Sanchez, the football SI Unit for Work Rate, for sending the Gunners into the group stages for the 17th season in a row.


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