Category Archives: FA Cup

Preston 1-2 Arsenal: Giroud to the Rescue, again!!!

Olivier Giroud v Preston North End

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

It’s been ages since I published any article on this blog. Apologies for the hiatus but I’ve been involved in a whole lot of things and with no one to hold the fort, there have been a lot of cobwebs in this place.

So I dashed away from a wedding reception I attended to ensure I made it to a bar in time to watch Arsenal’s game against Preston. With the prior knowledge that some of the big guns were going to be rested, as well as the niggling injuries and a certain Mohamed Elneny joining his country on international duty, Arsene Wenger didn’t have many options on his team selection strategy for the team.

However, he had places for David Ospina in goal as Petr Cech got a breather, but Kieran Gibbs hadn’t recovered from his knee injury on time, allowing Nacho Monreal to continue as the left back. Laurent Koscielny was rested to accommodate Gabriel alongside Skhodran Mustafi but it was very interesting seeing Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a right back ahead of Carl Jenkinson. I strongly believe that Jenks is leaving on loan to another English club this January, but the boss probably didn’t want to cup-tie the lad. The paucity of options in midfield saw the RamXhaka combination with newly crowned CAF Youth Player of the Year, Alex Iwobi, in the Ozil role. Lucas Perez and the Ox flanked the captain of the night, Olivier Giroud.

To be honest, the first half was pure shite from an Arsenal perspective. Preston scored an early goal from a young bloke called Robinson, they had a drilled effort across the goal that would have put them two up if any player touched the ball, and they even had a chance that Monreal cleared off the line. It was that kinda half for Arsenal. Going into the break with a goal behind a lower division team was embarrassing to say the least and everyone demanded a response which Arsenal obliged.

Straight from the restart, the Gunners pressed hard for an equalizer and found it from Ramsey, a player that had been bereft of goals all season long. Iwobi has to be hauled for some brilliant player in the link up to the goal. The early equalizer settled some nerves and the visitors continued to push for the winner but it wasn’t forthcoming. Just when we thought that we would have an unnecessary FA Cup replay on our hands, the Gunners nicked it right at the death, thanks to Giroud. Ramsey played a good ball to Perez who noticed the French forward in his path then he executed a neat back-heeled pass. For a lad not renowned for his speed, Giroud reacted really swiftly to Lucas’ pass and bundled the ball into the net to send the Gunners to the fourth round.

Olivier Giroud v Preston North End

The highlight of the night was the return of long term injury absentee, Danny Welbeck, to first team football action. He almost capped with with a brilliant curled effort but the Preston goalie denied the forward a fairytale comeback. In the end, it was a job well done from Wenger’s men and they’d be hoping to put up better performances as the season progresses.

Like Bournemouth a couple of days ago, the Gunners were terrible and for some reason, the defense is no longer impregnable, as the team continues to leak in goals from all classes of opposition. All focus would turn to Swansea away.

More on that game in the coming days ahead.

Sayonara.

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The Morning After that Disappointing Cup Exit

Arsenal players rue missed chance

For a season that promised so much, things are looking rather bleak for Arsene Wenger and his team. After so much unnecessary talk of how the players held some top secret closed doors meeting where nuclear launch codes were shared among the lads, it was back to the same feeling of frustration and despair as Arsenal allowed Watford to come to the Emirates and leave with a victory – a game the Gunners dominated from start to finish. We all know possession of the ball isn’t enough – it’s what you do with it that matters.

There were the missed chances, as you expect from a pathetic profligate team like Arsenal. Mohamed Elneny was culpable for the kind of misses we the fans usually throw abuses on Aaron Ramsey. Then there was the goal from Olivier Giroud that was rightly ruled offside. Could he have timed his run better? Of course, yes! With more missed chances I feared that the visitors would show the Gunners how to finish and sadly, I was right. Odion Ighalo used his strength to shove off Gabriel before placing the ball past David Ospina. Its moments like that they showed how important Laurent Koscielny is to the team because I would have been confident that he would not allow a forward bully him like that, inside his box.

After waiting for Wenger to find a replacement for Thomas Vermaelen, Gabriel Paulista has shown that he has a lot to learn and it’s unfortunate to see how his naivety is costing us games. Not like I’m a fan of the blame game but there have been games were better basic defending from a better defender would have been enough to quell a lot of attacking threats. He may grow in strength to become an Alessandro Nesta or something in the future but at this moment, he’s looking more like a liability than an asset.

With the Gunners chasing the game, Watford hit them on the break and I wondered where everybody was when Guerdiora was allowed to pick his spot to send a piledriver through Ospina into the net. A part of me feels that the Colombian shot stopper could have done better but with the Gunners trailing with two goals, I knew the game was over.

Wenger ‘responded’ with three substitutions of Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott. Two of the three made their presence felt in the game, while Walcott proved yet again to be a waste of a substitution. Welbeck huffed and puffed but finally made his mark when he latched onto a brilliant back heeled pass from Mesut Ozil to side-foot the ball home. Iwobi and his Fransceco Totti-esque socks showed great movement and confidence with the ball. His moment of glory almost arrived when he fired a shot that hit the post and ricocheted off the goalie but Welbeck’s rebound was poor to say the least.

At the end, it was Watford that went to the semis and the Gunners are set for more misery with the fact that Tottenham are closing the gap on Leicester with another win over relegation-bound Aston Villa. Everyone will be waiting for Rafa Benitez to work his magic on Newcastle as they take on Leicester tonight but one wonders where the Gunners will go from here.

I like Arsene Wenger and everything he has done for this great club but I’m really scared for him right now. The team has become so impotent in front of goal, especially at the Emirates, and so many players are underperforming below what they are usually capable of.

I am filled with sadness today but as an Arsenal supporter, I must keep the faith that something, could still happen in the Premier League. I have already written off our chances in the Champions League because of the sheer brilliance of FC Barcelona but as long as it is still mathematically possible to win the Premier League, I will not give up hope.

Sayonara.

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Gunners Demolish the Tigers at a Great Cost

The France international does the 'rocking baby' celebration with team-mates following the birth of his son on Monday night

Hull 0-4 Arsenal

Match ReportMatch Highlights Post-Match Press Conference

With the Gunners failing to do the job at home, they were afforded another chance to make things right against Hull and with the team such in a wretched run of form, it was a welcome game. Arsene Wenger had confirmed that he would rotate his squad and he was true to his word with the likes of Calum Chambers, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Iwobi, Joel Campbell, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all returning to the side. Many believed that it was a game for Giroud and Walcott to make their marks because from the look of things, they have been usurped from the center forward berth by Danny Welbeck.

The game had a dull feel early with David Ospina showing good reactions to make a double save to spark the game into life. However, Arsenal suffered their first casualty of the night when Per Mertesacker and Nick Powell clashed heads and the BFG came out second best, suffering a laceration on his eye. A couple of treatment from Gary O’Driscoll, the captain signaled to the bench that his time was up and he was replaced by Nacho Monreal, a player just returning from a knock of his own.

The match opener arrived when Giroud latched onto a mistake by David Meyler and he did well to send the ball through Eldin Jakupovic’s legs to put the Gunners ahead. It was also a personal milestone for the French striker that had been in a lengthy goal drought but he was motivated by the birth of his son, Evan.

At the start of the second half it was business as usual but there was another cause for concern when Gabriel Paulista suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury, forcing the manager to summon Aaron Ramsey. With Ramsey arriving on the pitch, Chambers was drafted back to his favored  enter back role, with Flamini playing as an auxiliary right back. Arsenal’s second goal was scored by another player in dire need of them and the Walcott of old was on show as he kept his composure to receive Campbell’s brilliant pass before side footing the ball home.

After spending just 16 minutes on the pitch, Ramsey signified to the bench that he had suffered an injury too, forcing Wenger to make the final substitution of the night, as Jeff Reine-Adelaide made a cameo appearance. Arsenal scored their third when Giroud reacted quickly to Walcott’s cross and he used his right foot to flash the ball past Jakupovic to put the game beyond doubt. Walcott added the icing on the cake when a shot that beat the goalie in his near post.

After his goalkeeping heroics at the Emirates, Jakupovic was brought back down to Earth as he was on the end of some battering by Arsene Wenger’s men. The gaffer provided some updates on the injury-stricken players in his press conference,

“Mertesacker is just a cut on his eye and looks to be very short. Gabriel is a hamstring and Ramsey is a thigh problem. To me, the most serious looks to be Ramsey. He has a thigh problem, I think it is a thigh strain.”

Per Mertesacker

With a cut on his eye, Mertesacker can be patched up and ready to lead the team out on Sunday when the Gunners host Watford but Gabriel’s hamstring injury can see him sidelined for a couple of weeks. Ramsey’s thigh strain is a problem because I remember how it kept him out for close to four months in the 2013/14 season. Injuries always pave the way for other to make their marks and with Laurent Koscielny still struggling for fitness, I expect Chambers to play alongside the BFG on Sunday while the medical team would be sweating to get the French defender fit for the Barcelona game. Ramsey’s injury will afford Mohamed Elneny a chance to get an extended run-out in the team and I’m hoping these injuries come to a halt.

It was a wonderful win for the team but it came at a great cost.

Sayonara.

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