Category Archives: Match Preview

Valencia Preview and Thoughts on Arsenal’s Top Four Ambitions

Image result for ramsey injury

It’s been like a ghost town here and like Arsenal, blogging consistency has become a problem for me. I really thought it was a North London thing, as those cocking cockerels bottled it in their new stadium against Ajax, but it seems like the shortcomings of the team affects some fans in more ways than one.

Enough about their squabbles, and let’s focus on why we are here – Europa League semis with the only hope of silverware just three games away, if you catch my drift. We were at this same stage in Arsene Wenger’s final season but Atletico Madrid and their annoyingly amazing goalie, Jan Oblak, ensured that we crashed at this hurdle. It was really painful bearing in mind that we didn’t lose in both legs, but that Antoine Griezmann away goal, no thanks to Laurent Koscielny of course, proved to be the nail in our final coffin. We are here again with a seasoned Europa League specialist, Unai Emery, that famously won this competition three times in a row with Sevilla, but if recent form is anything to come by, I wouldn’t raise my hopes so much.

I vividly remember watching us run Manchester United over the park at our own backyard and I thought that we had enough in the tank to secure a top four finish, and even though I was scared about our wretched away form, I still harbored some hope that we could pick up the points required to bring us closer to Champions League football. My dreams don’t look like coming through unless some monumental cock up happens with our west London neighbors, Chelsea. It’s also disheartening to know that the Europa League also offers them a chance at UCL football, just like us, so it’s clearly down to who wants it most.

It hasn’t really boded well for English teams in the Champions League semis with both Tottenham and Liverpool disgraced in their games against Ajax and the mighty Messilona. Arsenal host Valencia tonight with a chance to put themselves in a strong position for the second leg in Mestalla next week.

To team selection, I would expect Petr Cech to play ahead of Bernd Leno, as he’s the usual Europa League goalie, and with Emery getting some success with his 3-4-1-2 setup, I would be surprised to see his best three center backs, Skhodran Mustafi Laurent Koscielny, Skhodran Mustafi Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Skhodran Mustafi Nacho Monreal as the starting back three, flanked by Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. There will certainly be no Aaron Ramsey for the rest of the season, and he went to Instagram to issue an emotional goodwill message to the fans. Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka will play behind Mesut Ozil, who will provide the ammunition for the deadly striking duo, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Valencia will certainly be no pushovers, but like Arsenal, they are not in good form with back to back losses in La Liga against Atletico Madrid and SD Eibar, dropping to sixth place on the Liga Santander. The Eibar game was quite interesting, as the twelfth placed side ran the show in Mestalla, having more attempted shots and shots on target in the game, earning themselves a good 1-0 win. The Gunners will still need to be careful about the threat Rodrigo and the experienced journeyman, Kevin Gameiro, could pose.

Here’s to a good game of football and more consistency from me (I hope).

Sayonara

Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily.

Visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page.

Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List

Southampton Preview: Rotation Imminent?

Image result for koscielny goal southampton

Following the emphatic win over CSKA Moscow on Thursday, it’s expected for the manager to field a side capable of getting the goods against a struggling Southampton side but I believe rotation is imminent to keep the squad fresh. There are some decisions that are quite easy for Arsene Wenger with David Ospina’s groin injury ensuring that Petr Cech remains in goal today and certainly on Thursday.

I expect the boss to shake things up in defense. Sead Kolasinac is need of a game, and I believe Nacho Monreal deserves a breather today. With Laurent Koscielny still nursing his Achilles tendon injury, I’d expect him to sit today’s game with the likes of Calum Chambers or Rob Holding pairing with Skhodran Mustafi. Hector Bellerin will probably retain his place in the right fullback position.

I’d expect some shuffles in midfield with the likes of Mo Elneny making another case to stake a claim for first team football. Aaron Ramsey had such an amazing outing on Thursday and he’d want to build on that performance, so Granit Xhaka might be rested. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s knee injury is likely to rule him out till the end of the season, so this offers the likes of Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck to feature consistently on one of the flanks, as well as showing the boss what they are capable of, so it would be a nice audition nonetheless.

With Arsenal’s Europa League slots more or less assured, a victory will be good for momentum as the Gunners have picked up a rich vein of form which is a stark contrast from how they started 2018 with a series of horrible losses that made everyone request for Arsene Wenger’s head on a plate. Let’s just hope the good form continues.

Sayonara

Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily.

Visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page.

Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List

Our FA Cup Title Defense Starts at Nottingham

Image result for lucas perez nottingham goal

Winning three FA Cups in the last four seasons is really one of the best feelings in life knowing that despite our usual consistent shortcomings in the Premier League, the FA Cup has offered the Gunners some solace and our lads then to turn up in style when we play in this competition. I still vividly remember celebrating the 2014 FA Cup in Bheerhugs, Ikeja City Mall that ended our long trophy drought for nine years. Emotions ran wild and the 250,000 fans attendance in the bus parade showed how much it meant to everyone.

Four years later, Arsene Wenger has added two more FA Cup trophies, taking Arsenal’s count in the competition to 13, much more than any other club. It’s also worth noting that Wenger is the competitions most successful manager. Good times, yeah.

Like every campaign, most Premier League teams start from the third round and we have already seen some unique results over the past two days. Liverpool’s 75 million quid man, Virgil van Dijk, earned a spot in the back pages when he headed in what proved to be the match winner in the FA Cup Merseyside derby. Romelu Lukaku returned from his scare injury to score the match clincher for Manchester United as Jesse Lingard continued his mean goalscoring streak. Then there was the imperious Manchester City that sent Burnley to the cleaners with their bamboozling style of attacking football that leaves no prisoners. There were also some interesting draws as Fleetwood Town held Leicester City to a stalemate, Bournemouth had to leave it late to salvage a draw against Wigan Athletic, while last season’s beaten finalists, Chelsea, could only muster a draw against Norwich in Carrow Road and earn themselves a replay at home. On a sad note, struggling Stoke City lost to Coventry City, adding to their wretched vein of form and it was too much for the owners to handle as Mark Hughes finally lost his job.

After several top half finishes in his four-and-a-half year spell in the club, things went awry for the manager and his side and we know how cruel and unforgiving this beautiful game can be. I guess I’d be seeing him on SuperSport Premier League MatchDay Live with the other failed coaches. Oh well.

Today’s opponents, Nottingham City, clashed with the Gunners last season in the Carabao Cup and were on the end of some lethal finishing from Lucas Perez. Shame things didn’t pan out so well for the Spaniard as he currently plies his trade in Deportivo de la Coruna. Nottingham is currently managed by Gary Brazil after Mark Warburton lost his job and the caretaker manager’s first game against Leeds United ended in a draw. They are currently 14th in the SkyBet Championship and while today’s clash against Arsenal offers a nice spectacle for the fans, they would be hoping for some improvement in the coming weeks as they search for a new manager. From an ex-Gunner perspective, Armand Traore would be looking to catch up with the lads from the team he spent the formative years of his career in.

It has been confirmed that Arsene Wenger will not be at the dugout for this game as he starts his three match ban from the FA, but the boss has confirmed that he will shuffle his pack ahead of the fixture,

“I will rotate a little bit because we have also come out of a very high-loaded period,” he said. “We played three big games in six days and twice we were away, followed by a big game at home.

“We have to keep our level of focus, of urgency, because the third round is very difficult especially when you play away from home against a Championship team.”

The Gunners would be without Nacho Monreal (ankle), Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), Granit Xhaka (groin) as well as the long term absentees, Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Olivier Giroud (hamstring) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles). With half an eye on the Carabao Cup semifinal against Chelsea, I’d expect the manager to feature the likes of David Ospina, Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker, Mo Salah Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Reiss Nelson, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott. I believe these guys would be good enough to do the job required of them.

Sayonara.

Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

Visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page.

Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List