Monthly Archives: September 2016

It Was Like the Chelsea Game All Over Again…

Theo Walcott celebrates scoring against Basel

Arsenal 2-0 FC Basel

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

It was kinda awkward when I learned that Arsenal were going to wear our away kit in a home game. I can only recall seeing this in FIFA but it didn’t , matter – Arsenal was about to host Basel with Group A for the taking. As expected, Wenger kept the faith with the same side that has been in great form with the only exceptions being Granit Xhaka coming in for Francis Coquelin and David Ospina getting the nod ahead of Petr Cech.

The Gunners began the game in blitz mode barraging Basel’s goal with waves after wave of attacks. The match opener arrived when Santi Cazorla teed up Alexis Sanchez on the edge of the area and he lofted an inviting ball that was headed at point blank range by Walcott. He had to do really well to evade the post as his momentum pushed him to that direction. Walcott doubled his money after he connected superbly with Alexis before drilling a shot that crept past the goalie. For a man that started the season pretty poorly, Walcott is on fire!

Then there were the misses, or will I say, the excellent goalkeeping from Basel’s Vaclik. The lad showed off good reflexes to stop Nacho Monreal from scoring his first goal in many games and there was also a time he stopped Hector Bellerin when he had a rare foray forward. However, there was nothing Alexis could do to get past the goalie. Shot after shot, Valcik made himself really big when he faced the Chilean and the Gunners could easily have been out of sight by halftime. According to the statistical folks, Arsenal had 17 attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes with seven of them on target.

Just like the Chelsea game, the Gunners  took their feet off the pedal and were almost punished when Bjarnason was unmarked at the edge of the box. The Icelandic international sent a swerving shot that was nudged over the bar by David Ospina. For a keeper that had nothing to do all game long, that was a stunning save. There were more cracks at the back when Sporar found himself clean on goal but Ospina held firm to deny the striker a good goalscoring opportunity. Late on, there was a chance to make it 3-0 when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dribbled past the keeper but his attempted pass to Sanchez was blocked by a Basel defender.

It the end, it was a satisfying game with the Gunners dominating from start to finish. Walcott rightly ended the Man of the Match and took out some time to talk about his newly-found chemistry with Alexis and we have seen the benefits of having the Chilean maverick leading the line. The team has really gelled and it’s great to see everyone performing so well. The Kostafi combination at the back has been awesome and the full backs have been doing their bit to support offense and defense effectively. Mesut Ozil’s has blown hot and cold but he really needs to work on his shooting accuracy.

All in all, it felt like the Chelsea game all over again.

Amazing attacking display in the first half, mature and calm display in the second.


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The Gunners Give Chelsea the Blues

Theo Walcott scores against Chelsea

Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool earning victories in the game week, the onus was on Arsene Wenger’s men to keep up with the leading pack. After the faltering start to the campaign, the Gunners had gathered some momentum with wins over Watford, Hull and Southampton but their resolve was to be tested against a ‘big’ team in the form of Chelsea. The visitors had a bright start to the campaign with three wins from three but their away draw with Swansea was followed by a home loss to Liverpool, revealing the cracks in the defense.

Arsenal attacked their South West London neighbors right from the onset but they had to thank Gary Cahill for a defensive blunder that gifted them the opening goal. The English center back mistimed his intended pass to Thibaut Courtois that was anticipated by the effervescent Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean bore down on goal, waited for Courtois to commit himself, before chipping the ball over the hapless goalie to make it one nil to the Gunners.

Arsenal made a fast start to the game as Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring following a mistake by Chelsea's Gary Cahill

The fans were still basking in the euphoria of grabbing the lead but the team doubled their money when Mesut Ozil combined with Hector Bellerin that squared Theo Walcott for an easy tap in. On the day Wenger made his 20th anniversary, Sanchez scored in his 100th Arsenal game and Walcott scored on his 350th. These lads sure have a sense of occasion.

Conceding those two early goals opened Chelsea up and they did their bit to reduce the deficit but with a calamity like David Luiz in the defense, you would expect more gaping holes, and they were punished when Sanchez combined with Ozil to put the Gunners three up before halftime. Going 3-0 up against Chelsea is something that has not happened in a very long time and it sent the fans into delirium but there was a second half to look forward, and it was important for the lads to keep their concentration in check.

Up stepped Kieran Gibbs, who came up for Alex Iwobi and did his bit to protect Nacho Monreal with minimal fuss. There was a moment when Diego Costa was close to pulling the trigger but Gibbsy made a great interception. Sanchez looked spent and the boss brought on the bearded Olivier Giroud to wind down the clock but Petr Cech had to remain alert to parry a Michy Batshuayi shot late on. The team held on for a famous victory and you could see how it meant to them. Chelsea was one of those bogey teams that have made life quite uncomfortable for Wenger and it was wonderful.

The defending was virtuoso with the Kostafi combination keeping Diego Costa in their pocket for the entirety of the game. The calmness at the back was very welcome and I’m happy to see Bellerin and Monreal picking form too.

On the flip side, there is concern over the fitness of Francis Coquelin. Despite Granit Xhaka’s goalscoring exploits, Le Coq retained his place ahead of the Swiss big-money signing but succumbed to a knee injury and left the field in clutches. Sadly, Wenger also confirmed that it was the same knee he hurt last season, and I’m hoping he wouldn’t be out for a long time. Yes, there is depth in the forms of Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny but ‘Coqzorla’ had formed a formidable partnership in midfield.

All focus would be shifted to the Champions League encounter against FC Basel. More on that in the coming days.


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Lucas Perez Pops his Arsenal Goalscoring Cherry

Granit Xhaka

Nottingham Forest 0-4 Arsenal

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With half an eye on the Chelsea game, it was expected for Arsene Wenger to make wholesale changes to the side and the squad he featured last night was a testament of current depth in the squad. Emi Martinez usurped David Ospina as the Capital One Cup goalie and he had Rob Holding and the fit-again Gabriel Paulista as the center back pairing. Kieran Gibbs captained the side but I was rather surprised to see Aishley Naitland-Miles as the right back, but those concerns were put to rest when I read that Matt Debuchy had some fitness issues. The midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny was very solid with Jeff Reine-Adelaide playing the Ozil role. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chuba Akpom flanked Lucas Perez.

If there was any game we needed Lucas to get into the scoring sheet, it was this game. A certain Olivier Giroud scored his first Arsenal goal in a League Cup fixture against Coventry and he has gone on to score 82 goals for the team. His niggling toe injury kept him out of the side so it was all on Perez to turn up with the goods as an expectant crowd watched.

While we were waiting for the attackers to open the scoring, Arsenal took the lead when Xhaka sent in a surface-to-goal piledriver with that hammer of a left foot. The astonishing part of the goal was the little back lift he required to smash in such a rocket. I’m pretty sure opposition defenses would close him down like Hell when he’s in the edge of their box.

With the Gunners breaking the deadlock, the game opened up and a neat ball to Akpom in behind the Forest defense saw the forward fouled by former Chelsea man, Michael Mancienne (good to know he’s off the ugly looking Rastafarian dreadlocks) and Perez stepped up to score his first Arsenal goal from 12 yards with a well taken spot kick. That goal must have given him a morale boost because he went on to score his second of the night with a brilliant solo effort. After receiving the ball on the edge of the box, Perez showed his pace and upper body strength to shove off a defender before using his neat dribbling skills to waltz past the goalie, Skopjovic, like he wasn’t there. With an open net in front of him and an opposition defender trying to scythe him down, he showed some composure to tuck the ball into the net to put the game beyond doubt.

Perez then scored from scorer to provider as he teed up the frustrating Ox that made it 4-0. A performance he can be very proud off.

Whether it puts him in contention for a start against Chelsea, I don’t know, but Perez has made a case of himself for his manager, and the headache of selection for the Chelsea game will be strictly Wenger’s business. Will he still stick to Alexis Sanchez up front against Chelsea or has the new boy showed him that he can be a force to be reckoned with?

On the night it was a great day in the office and we will wait for tonight’s results before knowing who Arsenal will face in the fourth round.

Till then, Sayonara.

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