Category Archives: Match Report

Arsenal 1-2 Brighton: Gunners Lose Ground on Top Four Qualification

Arsenal 1-2 Brighton: 3 talking points from crushing top four blow

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 1-2 Brighton (Odegaard 89′ | Trossard 29′, Mwepu 67′)

Arsenal XI (4-3-3): Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Xhaka; Sambi Lokonga, Smith-Rowe (Nketiah 62′), Odegaard; Saka, Martinelli (Pepe 74′) Lacazette

Following the 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, Arsenal was expected to gain maximum points against Brighton, with their arch-rivals, Tottenham, gaining momentum with sights on the coveted fourth spot for Champions League qualification. Losing Kieran Tierney to a season ending injury, coupled with Nuno Taveres’ pathetic display, was a very bitter pill to swallow, but losing Thomas Partey to his recurrent thigh injury as well, made our already thin squad even thinner. 

With the manager clearly lacking trust in Nuno Taveres, the only recognizable central midfielder, Granit Xhaka, was asked to deputise at left back, allowing Sambi Lokonga to fill in at midfield with Emile Smith-Rowe and Martin Odegaard playing ahead of him. Not to be critical of Nuno Taveres and Lokonga, but in all honesty, they are not ready for first team football at Arsenal. In the games they have managed to play, they have struggled so badly, and their performances were clear indications on why they have rotted on the bench all these weeks. Nuno’s inexperience was on show with the first Crystal Palace goal he ducked when he should have hit the deck for a clear free kick as he was impeded by Joachim Andersen. For the second goal at Palace, he was so far off from Gabriel that the team became exposed when Andersen’s pass found Jordan Ayew, so it was no surprise to see him yanked out at halftime.

Sambi Lokonga on the other hand, had a stinker yesterday, offering little or no protection to the backline in front of him, and he was found wanting as both goals conceded to Brighton came from similar positions at the edge of the box, where a certain Partey would have been on the prowl to mop up any opposition attack in his bid to do his job, which is providing defensive support to the team. Due to Taveres’ short comings, Xhaka was removed from the position where he would have provided support to the backline, leaving Lokonga to do a job he has shown he’s not capable of.

Odegaard’s brilliant drive turned out to be nothing more than a consolation, and with Tottenham destroying Aston Villa away, the Gunners are now three points behind Spurs with just a couple of games left to play. I know there is a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season, but losing at home to Brighton is a major setback and a big blow to our top four qualification hopes.

Let’s hope things work out for our good in the coming days and weeks ahead, as we play Southampton next before the game in hand against Chelsea.

Sayonara.

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Premier League Roundup: Newcastle Resurgence, Bielsa Under Threat and Welcome Eriksen

Christian Eriksen makes Brentford debut to complete remarkable return to  football | Marca

Christian Eriksen makes Brentford debut

With no Premier League action for Arsenal, I spent the entire Saturday as a neutral watching Premier League games and hoping our fellow Top Four hopefuls would falter. Without further ado, here’s a quick review of Saturday’s Premier League action.

Lunch Time Premier League Fixture – Leeds 0-4 Tottenham

Once upon a time, Marcelo Bielsa was lauded for his side’s attacking play, when it was quite evident that they have always been careless at the back. This season has taken a surprise turn for the Whites with wins hard to come by and defeats the order of the day. Prior to the lunchtime fixture with Antonio Conte’s Tottenham, Leeds had an unwanted record of four straight Premier League defeats while conceding three or more goals. The record holders are Sunderland with five games.

The game itself wasn’t that exciting, with Tottenham donning one of the ugliest jerseys you’d ever see, but the opener came Ryan Sessegnon drilled a cut back that crept past the entire Leeds defense before it was finished aplomb by Matt Doherty. Seems the defender is back in favor, having lost his place to Emerson Royal. The second goal was comedic to say the least as a moment arrived when Leed’s Diego Llorente should have challenged for the ball, but he just ran past it because he was more interested in tracking his marker. The intelligent Serie A signing, Dejan Kulusevski, fired a near-post drive that found its way past Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal. The third goal showcased more shambolic defending when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had all time in the world to pick his spot and loft a threaded overhead pass to Harry Kane that showed up his great technique to fire the ball to the far post.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min break Premier League record - Futbol on  FanNation

This jersey is quite an eyesore

The icing on the cake arrived when Kane sent in a sumptuous pass to Heung-Min Son that controlled the ball  before slotting it past Meslier. Apparently, that Son goal turned out to be a Premier League record as it was the 37th time Kane and Son assisted each other for a goal in the league. The previous Premier League record was held by Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba with 36 goal contributions between them. 

The current top five are 

Harry Kane / Heung-Min Son 37 goal contributions
Didier Drogba / Frank Lampard 36 goal contributions
Thierry Henry / Robert Pires 29 goal contributions
Sergio Aguero / David Silva 29 goal contributions
Darren Anderton / Teddy Sheringham 27 goal contributions

This result has put Marcelo Bielsa’s position under huge threat with former RB Leipzig and Salzburg manager, Jesse Marsch, currently earmarked to take over from the Argentine boss. I will certainly miss his press conferences with his translator, as the wily old manager blatantly refused to learn any English.

Goal Rush Premier League Fixtures

After the lunch time fixture, it’s always fun waiting for the ‘goal rush’ fixtures with so much Premier League action happening at the same time. 

Brentford 0-2 Newcastle

It what was proving to be a relegation dog fight, Newcastle’s cause was helped early on when a VAR check saw Josh Da Silva brandished a red card for his stamp at Matt Targett at the edge of the area.

Brentford ace Josh Dasilva sent off for horror studs up challenge – but Mike  Dean originally gave foul AGAINST Newcastle

Mike Dean doing what Mike Dean does best

Newcastle opened the scoring when the diminutive Ryan Fraser swung a cross with his left foot and the ball was headed home by Joelinton. That was the Brazilian’s first goal since when Man started walking on the Moon, so you could see how much it meant to him. The match winner was scored by the former Gunner, Joe Willock, after he latched onto Fabian Schar’s through ball and dispatched the ball with all authority. One major highlight of the game was the arrival of Christian Eriksen to the pitch, after the events that surrounded him in Euro 2020. He didn’t offer much from an attacking perspective but it was really good seeing him strut his stuff on the pitch doing what he loves. The result also saw Newcastle soar high to 14th place, which aligns with their current hopes to remain safe in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Burnley

It is always good seeing former Gunners do well, and that can be said of Patrick Vieira at Crystal Palace, but the inconsistency of the team leaves a lot to be desired. Fresh from their pummeling of Watford, one expected the Eagles to have enough in the tank to see out the Clarets, but in the end, but teams shared the spoils of battle. The match opener arrived when the exciting Michael Olise showed off some good footwork on the right hand side before swinging in a cross that was finished confidently by Jeffery Schlupp. The visitors got their equalizer when Luva Milivojevic slid in to score an unfortunate own goal from an Aaron Lennon cut back.

Manchester United 0-0 Watford

The game was dominated by the decision of the interim manager, Ralf Rangnick, to drop Harry Maguire to the bench ahead of the visit of Watford to Old Trafford. Early on, Cristiano Ronaldo hit the post and latched on to a cross that saw him beat Ben Foster in goal, but the offside flag spared the Watford goalie’s blushes. The game was marred with miss after miss from the home side and some heroic defending from the away side as both teams ended in a stalemate. Awesome result for Arsenal by the way.

Brighton 0-2 Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard’s side arrived at this game in woeful form, winning just one out of their last seven fixtures, but Brighton was in equally poor form, losing three of their last five. The opening goal came from an unlikely source when Matty Cash controlled a defensive clearance and blasted the ball through a crowd of bodies that entered the net with some assistance from the post. The game clincher was pretty much Route One stuff as Tyrone Mings received a throw from Emi Martinez before launching the ball over the top to Ollie Watkins path. The forward had the difficult part of shoving off the challenge from the defender but he executed a calm finish under pressure to give his side all three points.

The Late Kickoff – Everton 0-1 Manchester City

The Citizens now have it all to do with their fellow title rivals, Liverpool, cutting the gap to just three points. With the Reds in Carabao Cup final action today, Pep Guardiola’s side had the opportunity to extend the lead to six points, but had the threat of a former player, Frank Lampard, now handling the reins in Goodison Park. It was a tight affair with City dominating the proceedings from start to finish, but the clincher came through when Bernardo Silva’s cut back ricocheted off Ben Godfrey, and with Michael Keane unable to reach the ball, it fell nicely to Phil Foden who wasted no time in sidefooting the ball past Jordan Pickford.

Summary

After a good Saturday’s Premier League action, the changes were evident on the table with Manchester City on 66 points, six clear of Liverpool, while Manchester United are stuck on 47 points, with Arsenal two points behind and three games in hand. Tottenham’s win put them on 42 with West Ham, keeping their European hopes alive as well, while the biggest movers up the table were Newcastle on 14th place and 25 points. For the droppers, Brighton’s current slump has seen them stay at 10th place, while Leeds United is floating above relegation waters with yet another defeat with a meagre 23 points. Everton has 22 and Burnley has 21 but both teams have two games in hand, that could see them usurp Leeds. Further down the table, things are looking precarious for the Hornets and Canaries, with Championship football around the corner.

Sayonara.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 2-1 Wolves: Late, Late Drama

Jose Sa's late own goal gives Arsenal dramatic late win over Wolverhampton  Wanderers - Eurosport

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 2-1 Wolves (Pepe 82′, Sa OG 95′ | Hwang 10′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Cedric (Nketiah 76′), White, Gabriel, Tierney (Taveres 90′); Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli (Pepe 71′); Lacazette

I expected an unchanged lineup from the Brentford game in my preview post, but a stomach bug prevented Emile Smith-Rowe from a starting berth, allowing Gabriel Martinelli to return to the starting XI in what would prove to be a pivotal encounter in the Champions League qualification race.

Arsenal and Wolves were in a rich vein of form, and Wolves are renowned for having one of the meanest defenses in the competition, so the Gunners had it all to do, when the opening goal arrived thanks to yet again another defensive blunder from Gabriel. The defender was under pressure from Raul Jimenez and sending the ball to Row Z was a plausible option, but he chose to pass the ball to Aaron Ramsdale without having any awareness of the Hwang Hee-Chan on the prowl.

Wolves star Hwang scores from Gabriel and Ramsdale mix up

The Korean forward received the ball on a platter, skinned the Arsenal goalie before sidefooting the ball from an acute angel to an unguarded net. A bad start almost became worse when Jimenez received the ball in between the center pairing of Gabriel and Ben White, but his usually exquisite finishing let him down on that occasion.

Wolves matched the Gunners pound for pound and it was always going to be an uphill task getting something from the game against a side known for protecting their leads. Arsenal kept probing but at the end of 45 minutes, the visitors still remained ahead and one imagined it was going to be one of those nights. Hwang almost got a brace when he crept in behind the defense and was one on one with Ramsdale, but the Arsenal goalie had the smallest of touches that guided the ball away for a corner. 

The Gunners didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the second half and kept pressing but Jose Sa in the Wolves goal kept making important saves after saves. Martinelli was the first player to be yanked off with Pepe replacing him, causing the manager to switch tactics with Saka moving to the left to allow the Ivorian strut his stuff on the right. Up next was Cedric for Nketiah with the Gunners going for broke and one wondered if Wolves were eventually going to crack – and crack they did!

The equalizer arrived when Pepe showed off his amazing technique to receive a ball from Nketiah on the turn and slot it in with his left before Sa had any chance to close him down. Martin Odegaard dinked the ball over the defense to Nketiah’s path that wasted no time in providing a carefully-threaded cut back to Nicolas Pepe that had to calm the ball down on the turn before guiding it home.

Arsenal vs. Wolves score: Nicolas Pepe inspires Gunners to vital three  points in race for Champions League - CBSSports.com

The goal lifted the crowd at the Emirates as they spurred on the lads to push for a winner. Arsenal was on the ascendancy so a second goal was very possible, and the team’s cause was helped when the fourth official raised his board and six minutes were given.

The circumstances around the match winner, so late in the game, were very pulsating, as the Wolves goalie had just saved a goal bound shot from Saka. Pepe charged on the ball to protect it from going out as a corner, then combined with Odegaard and Lacazette, before prodding the ball to Lacazette’s path on the edge of the area. The Arsenal captain let it rip and the ball somewhat deflected off Romain Saiss’ feet and somehow bundled its way pass Sa in goal to make it 2-1, sending the Emirates into raptures.

EPL: Sa's own goal gives Arsenal dramatic win | The Nation

The celebrations for the goal and the final whistle showed how badly everyone connected with the club wanted this. The manager was full of praise for his lads and stated that the match winning goal belonged to Lacazette in his mind, even though the statisticians have tagged it as a Jose Sa own goal.

The victory put Arsenal on 45 points, one behind Manchester United in fourth place with two games in hand. Yes, there is still a lot of football to be played between now and May, but you can just smell that Champions League aroma you want to taste it! There is no Premier League football for the Gunners this weekend, so Arteta and his men will have enough time to prepare for the home clash against Watford next weekend.

Till then, let’s just bask in the euphoria of what has been another well earned victory following some late, late drama.

Sayonara.

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