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Thursday, 12 June 2014

World Cup Preview; Groups G & H

In the final part of my preview ahead of this year's World Cup in Brazil, I explore both Groups G and H.

Group G:

Germany: The Germans are being tipped as widely one of the favourites to go far, and maybe even win the tournament. They've finished in third place at the last two World Cup's and came second in 2002. It will be up to Joachim Low's 'nearly men' to go further and win their fourth world title. It's extremely hard to pick a weakness in their squad. They have arguably the best keeper in the world, a mix of youth and experience, a solid defence, a vast amount of creative players and Miroslav Klose who is just two goals away from scoring the most goals at a World Cup finals by an individual player. Aside from Brazil, I think Germany are one of the teams with the most pressure on them at this years tournament. Prediction: I think they will at least makes the semi-finals and could possibly go onto reach the final and maybe even win it.

Portugal: They go into this World Cup with possibly one of their worst crop of players they have ever had. Saying that, they do have the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo who has the potential to win games on his own for Portgual. They reached the finals through a play-off win over Sweden and their side not having a renowned striker means they may not live up to their full billing. Their defence looks decent but in Bruno Alves and Pepe they may pick up a lot of cards, meanwhile their midfield will probably be ran by Joao Moutinho of Monaco. Prediction: Behind Germany it's a three horse race to see who will qualify in what is being named the Group of Death. However, because of Ronaldo I think they'll just about scrape through.

Ghana: In 2010 the Ghanians managed to reach the quarter-finals and have the potential to perhaps go far again but will probably come unstuck against Germany and Portugal by their leaky defence. They have a great midfield and attack with incredibly depth though which means they should be fine when it comes to scoring and creating goals. Kevin Prince-Boateng, Asamoah Gyan, Essien, Muntari and the Ayew brothers will be big players for them. Prediction: Have the potential to harm Portugal and therefore may make it out of the group, I think they'll just fall short and finish third though.

USA: The Americans may have a tough time at this years World Cup but have plenty of experience. However, their defence could be exposed against the greatness of the attacks of the other teams in their group. They themselves have a decent attack in Dempsey and Altidore. They meanwhile have Jermaine Jones who used to play for Schalke and also Tim Howard in goal. Landon Donavon was surprisingly not included in the squad and that could prove to be a mistake. The US managed to draw with England in 2010 but you feel that Germany and Portugal will be a bridge too far for them in Brazil. Prediction: Bottom of the group having not won a game, a dismal tournament for Jurgen Klinsmann's men.

Group H:

Belgium:  Belgium could prove to this years surprise package and are filled with some amazing talent that could see them go far in the competition. The finished top of their qualifying group having not lost a game and they'll look to take that form into Brazil. For all their amazing talent, Hazard, Kompany, Witsel, Courtois etc, they could struggle due to Benteke being out injured and Lukaku only just returning from an ankle injury. Therefore their hopes could rest upon young Divock Origi to score the goals. What could get them far though is their extremely solid defence and the strength in depth in the midfield department. Prediction: I think they'll top the group but the last 16 could be the limit for the Red Devils.

Algeria: This time round the Algerian's will be hoping that they can actually score a goal at this year's tournament, let alone get any points in their group. In South Africa they didn't score a single goal but this time round a lot of their players play in Europe's top five leagues. The man to watch for them will most likely be Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli. Their forward line doesn't look great but they have depth in midfield and that could be crucial if the Algerian's want to progress. Prediction: Like with 2010, I think they'll finish bottom of their group having not won a game.

Russia: The Russian's go into this World Cup managed by former England boss Fabio Capello and could cause an upset along the way. It's a very interesting group and it's hard to tell who will probably follow Belgium into the last sixteen. Like with a few of the other teams in Brazil, they have a good mix of youth and experience to call upon. Ignashevich is a very experienced defender whilst their goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev isn't too bad either. Alan Dzagoev impressed at Euro 2012 and is their main creative outlet. Meanwhile, they will be relying upon Alexsandr Kerzhakov to bag them the goals needed to progress. Prediction: Second in the group, but knocked out in the last 16.

South Korea: With the group the South Koreans are in, they have the potential to get out of it but they don't usually seem to click when it matters. They're in poor form going into the World Cup and a 4-0 defeat to Ghana proved that. Their defence will probably be their man downfall but their midfield and striking department isn't all that bad. Park Ji Sung usually seems to perform well for South Korea whilst the also have ex-Sunderland player Ji Dong-Won and Leverkusen's Son Heung-Min to call upon. Meanwhile, Ki from Sunderland and Lee from Bolton have both been included in the squad. Prediction: I've said with many teams that they have potential and South Korea are one of those nations that definitely fall into that category. I can see them getting out of the group, but I can also see them failing, and that's what I think they'll do by finishing third in what looks an interesting group on paper.

World Cup preview; Groups E & F

Carrying on from my previews of the first four groups yesterday, I now take a look at groups E & F at this year's World Cup in Brazil.

Group E:

Ecuador:  This will be just the South American's third appearance at a World Cup final's and they've been placed in a pretty interesting group that could become quite tight with the teams in it. They're a team with plenty of pace in their attacking areas and that is outlined by former Man City striker Felipe Caicedo and Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia. Frickson Erazo should bring them some solidity at the back and will be used to the conditions as he currently plays for Brazilian side Flamengo. They recently drew 2-2 with England which means on their day they could perhaps cause an upset for the French and Swiss. Prediction: Fourth in the group having lost every game.

Switzerland: The Swiss are ranked pretty highly in the FIFA World Rankings, and are one of the seeded teams believe it or not. They are an extremely efficient side and were the only team to beat the 2010 winners Spain at the last World Cup. I wouldn't be surprised if they went far in the competition but with people favouring the American sides, they may come unstuck later in the tournament. They have a nice mix of youth and experience which should serve them well. Barnetta is one to watch, as is Bayern's Xherdan Shaqiri. Their defence meanwhile consists of Djourou and Senderos which some might feel is a big fault. However, in Diego Benaglio they have a solid goalkeeper. Prediction: Second in the group behind France but to bow out in the last 16.

France: The French go into this competition off the back of a disastrous 2010 campaign which sparked a lot of controversy within the French national side. They only qualified for these finals through a play-off too and even with that they were 2-0 down to Ukraine after the first leg. However they now look a rejuvenated side and their worst looks to be behind them. You feel they will be a little short when it comes to the latter stages but they do have some real quality in the team. They'll have to live with the absence of Frank Ribery though who will miss the World Cup through injury. They look very solid at the back, have some good creative outlets and have Giroud & Benzema up front. Prediction: Despite their recent troubles I'm tipping them to top the group and go onto reach the quarters.

Honduras: Like Ecuador, this will be Hondorus' third appearance at a World Cup. They managed to finish above of Mexico in qualifying which is an achievement but you can't see them doing particularly well in Brazil. They drew 0-0 with England meaning, like with Ecuador they could perhaps spring a few surprises knowing they can match one of the better sides in World football. Their ability to score goals will be reliant upon Carlo Costly whilst they also bolster Stoke's Wilson Palacios, Hull's Maynor Figueroa and Wigan's Roger Espinoza. Prediction: Won't get out of the group but will win their only game against Ecuador to finish in third.

Group F:

Argentina:  Argentina are being tipped as one of the favourites to win the tournament but I personally can't see all the hype. The conditions are being talked about a lot and that's probably why pundits see them going far. Many of their renowned players don't seem to perform on the biggest stage of them all though. Lionel Messi will be absolutely pivotal but he is yet to really show what he can do internationally. Their star studded attack is obviously one of the main reasons they could go far, Aguero and Higuain with of course Messi is freighting. Their midfield is perhaps the only weakness in a squad with Di Maria being their main creative outlet. Zabaleta, Garay and Mascherano means they should be solid at the back though. Prediction: Definitely have the potential to go far in the competition. I think at most they can reach the semi-finals but other people seem to think differently.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: This is Bosnia's first appearance at a World Cup finals as an independent nation but it's difficult to predict how they'll do. They do have some extremely good talent and if they play well then they could be a team to watch in Brazil. Edin Dzeko of course will be pivotal to their side, as will midfielder Miralem Pjanic. They meanwhile boast goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and if he has a good tournament, then Bosnia could be a difficult team to score against. Prediction: May well make it out of the group but their lack of major tournament experience could prove to be their downfall. I think they'll finish second in the group though but get knocked out in the last 16.

Iran: Now, I'm going to admit, my knowledge of Iranian football isn't very extensive, and that probably just about sums up their chances at this year's World Cup in Brazil. They are managed by former Manchester United assistant manager, Carlos Queiroz which means they certainly should be tactically astute. Their main player will probably be Fulham's Ashkan Dejagah whilst they also have former Bolton man, Andranik Teymourian in their squad. Prediction: Not really difficult to predict how they'll fare in Brazil, bottom of the group without winning a game.

Nigeria: The Super Eagles come into this tournament off the back of a continental win with the African Cup of Nations at the beginning of last year. They meanwhile also participated in the Confederations Cup so will have already had experience of what to expect in Brazil. They could perhaps make it out of their group but they will be reliant on their attack which consists of Emenike and Odemwingie whilst also bolstering the non-scoring Shola Ameobi. They have pace on the wings in Moses and Musa but their defence, against Argentina, will probably be ripped to shreds. Prediction: Third in the group, just behind Bosnia.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup Preview; Groups C & D

Following on from my take on Group A and B, here's a preview of what's in store in terms of Group C and D in Brazil.

Group C:

Colombia: Colombia’s first World Cup since 1998 will see them have to go through a campaign without their talisman Falcao. They are expected to do well at this year’s tournament and that’s even without their star man who scored nine teams in qualifying. In attack they still have Jackson Martinez, Bacca and Adrian Ramos who will guarantee you goals though. Meanwhile, they have a talented midfield with the likes of Guarin, James Rodriguez and Barca bound Cuadrado. Prediction: Will safely get out of the group but will get knocked out in the last 16.

Greece: Group C has the potential to be very interesting and Greece will be one of the teams trying to finish second in the group to Colombia. They are a well organised group of players but they could struggle in the intense Brazilian heat. They are an extremely experienced side as well and bolster the likes of Samaras, Karagounis, Salpingidis and Katsouranis. On paper they don’t look like such a bad side but lack that extreme quality that is needed on the big stage. They will probably be over reliant on Mitroglou’s goals. Prediction: Despite what I’ve said about them, I think they’ll finish bottom of what will be a tight group.

Ivory Coast: The elephants never seemed to have lived up to expectation despite the fantastic array of players they have in their squad. They’re deadly going forward but their defensive capabilities could be questioned, and if they are to perform they need to sharpen things up defensively. Gervinho, Drogba and Yaya Toure are all big players and if they do well Ivory Coast should do well. Prediction: Second in the group but knocked out in the last 16.

Japan: Japan seemed to play fairly well at last year’s Confederations Cup and therefore may fancy their chances in Group C. On their day they are an extremely dangerous side but many of their players have proved to be extremely inconsistent. Honda and Kagawa are great creative outlets meaning Okazaki should score goals throughout. They meanwhile have the hugely experienced Endo in midfield and Southampton’s Maya Yoshida at the back. Prediction: Third just behind Ivory Coast. 

Group D:

Uruguay: The South American side are expected to do quite well, providing they get out of their group of course. In South Africa they finished in fourth place, and arguably, many of their players are now a lot better. Luis Suarez of course will be crucial, as will Cavani. Their defensive, like a few sides at the World Cup, can be questioned but in Godin and Muslera they have some reliability. Prediction: Will get out of the group in either first or second place.

Costa Rica: Costa Rica, as one of football’s minnows probably have, aside from Australia, the toughest group if you consider their football status. They have only qualified for three World Cup’s aside from Brazil and you can’t see how they’ll get any points in this group. Their defence doesn’t look great but in Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz they have quality going forward. Prediction: Bottom of the group with no points.

England: Perhaps the lowest expectation for an English World Cup squad in a very long time means we could actually surprise a few teams. Our preparation hasn’t exactly been amazing but our team is very exciting if you compare it to the one we took to South Africa. Wayne Rooney is yet to show what he’s made of at international level and he’ll be crucial to whether we go far in the competition. What is encouraging though is our defence looking solid, and our pace going forward. The conditions definitely don’t suit us though and we’ll have to be extremely patient and take our chances in this tough group. Prediction: We’ll just about scrape through the group, and could go onto reach the quarter-finals.

Italy: Before preparation began for the World Cup I saw Italy as a serious threat to our position in the group, however, on second thoughts they don’t actually look a great side. Their form isn’t great and their opening fixture against England could fizzle out into a boring 0-0 draw. They have obvious qualities in the form of Pirlo, Balotelli and Chiellini but seem to lack that deadly end product. Prediction: I’m going to be brave here and say they won’t get out of the group like four years ago. It’s certainly all up for grabs in Group D though.

World Cup preview; Groups A & B

Although this is an Arsenal blog, it’s come to that time of the year where it’s hard to take your eyes off of international football with the world uniting in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Over four parts, I’ll be previewing the teams, two groups at a time, playing in this year’s football festival.

Group A:

Brazil: The hosts and possible World Cup favourites go into this world cup under the expectancy of a nation. Their last triumph came in 2002 and they’ll be eager to put all the political unrest behind the country as they bid to win the competition for the sixth time. They won last year’s confederations cup which if that is anything to go by, then they’ll have a very successful tournament. Neymar will be pivotal to any success they have and their defence is very solid with the likes of Dante and Thiago Silva at the back. If there’s one issue, it’s in the forward department; Jo and Fred are their main outlets ahead of a very talented midfield. Prediction: I think they’ll reach the final, and may well go onto win the whole thing.

Croatia: The Croats reached the finals via a play-off victory over Iceland. As far as I’m concerned Group A is wide-open in terms of who will finish behind hosts Brazil. Croatia have a very tough start as they face the hosts themselves and because of that could face an uphill struggle against a Mexican and Cameroonian side who the conditions will be favourable for. They do have a very talented squad but whether they can cut it at international level on the biggest stage of all remains to be seen. Their strike force consists of Mandzukic, Jelavic, Eduardo and Olic so they won’t be short going forward. Meanwhile they have the creative talents of Modric and Rakitic. Srna, Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka mean they aren’t too shoddy at the back either. Prediction: It’s tough to predict who will finish second but looking at their squad I think they might just make it through to the last sixteen.

Mexico: The Mexicans have gone into this year’s competition in poor form and for that reason may not do that well when it comes to Brazil. The conditions will favour them but their best has yet to be seen. Carlos Vela is still refusing a call-up to the national side so the hopes rest on Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez. A few of their players seem to be growing old, Rafeal Marquez who used to play for Barca had a good 2010 campaign but is past his best, as is ex-Fulham full back Carlos Salcido. They do have a reliable centre-half in Espanyol defender Hector Moreno though. Looking elsewhere, Guardardo, Giovani and Herrera will be looking to provide Hernandez with the chances. Prediction: 3rd in Group A.

Cameroon: Their golden era of talent seems to be coming to an end and their squad looks very thin on the ground in terms of quality. They’ll most likely be battling it out with Mexico for the wooden spoon in the group but their brand of football and lack of creative players mean they could be in for a very troubled World Cup. Their goals will be relied upon by record scorer Samuel Eto’o. Their defence doesn’t look altogether that bad though, and you can’t help but feel their best tactic would to be ‘park the bus’. Alex Song and Mbia will be holding whilst N’Koulou, Chedjou, Bedimo and Assou-Ekotto will probably line-up at the back, all of those four play their trades in Europe. Prediction: Hard to see them winning any games, will probably finish bottom of the group.  

Group B:

Spain: The 2010 winners go into this World Cup as perhaps the only European side that can realistically win in Brazil. They arguably have a greater pool of players than in 2010 but it can be argued that some of those players lack experience. Saying that, it didn’t seem to matter for the Germans in South Africa with their youthful squad. The Spanish however seem to have the perfect mix of youth and experience within their ranks. The 2013 Confederations Cup showed that they can’t play with the same tempo that they’re so used to and therefore a change in tactic will perhaps be needed if they’re to retain their title and continue their dominance. Xavi, Iniesta, Ramos/Pique and whoever they chose to play upfront will be crucial. Prediction: At least the semi-finals, have the potential to go on and lift the trophy.

Holland: Under the stewardship of new Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands have a manager with huge experience and that could prove crucial in what could be a tournament to forget for the Dutch. Their first game is a repeat of the 2010 final against Spain which is an incredibly tough fixture. They didn’t lose once in qualifying though which is an encouraging sign. There’s no doubting their attacking quality with the likes of Robben, van Persie and Sneijder creating and scoring goals but their defence remains an issue. Prediction: Will face a tough battle to get out of the group and I think they’ll finish third.

Chile: They’re being tipped by many to go far in the competition due to the fact that the competition is being held in South America. That’s fairly understandable and they have some players that could really shine at this year’s competition. They managed to finish third only to Argentina and Colombia qualifying and even finished above Uruguay. They meanwhile beat England 2-0 in November 2013. With players such as Barca’s Alexis Sanchez and Juve’s Arturo Vidal they have the potential to go far. Other notable players include David Pizarro, Gary Medel of Cardiff, Beausejour of Wigan and Isla from Juventus. All of the players above should mean Chile are a threat going forward, especially with Eduardo Vargas up front. Prediction: Second in the group, ahead of Holland. Could be worth putting a couple of quid on.

Australia: You have to feel sorry for the Aussies with the group they’re in. They’re highly unlikely to win a game and the Socceroos are probably in for a dismal time in Brazil. The players they fielded throughout qualifying were of a higher quality and experience than the ones going to the World Cup. Many of their notable players haven’t been picked but they still bolster Mile Jedinak, Mark Bresciano and of course Tim Cahill. You can’t see them having anything but from a disappointing campaign and they could leak a few goals on the way too. Prediction: Bottom of the group.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The wait is finally over!

Nine years of hurt are finally over! Arsenal's long wait for a trophy came to an end on Saturday evening as the Gunners defeated Hull 3-2 at Wembley after extra time to win the FA Cup. Goals from Cazorla, Koscielny and Ramsey sealed the win in a memorable game which saw us finally win a piece of silverware. It was a spirited, gutsy and brave performance as Arsenal came from 2-0 down to win the cup with just over ten minutes remaining. The line-up was probably the best Wenger could've played on the day as Fabianski continued in goal and Mertesacker and Cazorla returned after being rested against Norwich. Sagna meanwhile played what looks set to be his last game in an Arsenal shirt.
Arsenal's trophy drought finally came to an end as they won the FA Cup
The way we started gave me visions of Birmingham City all over again. Goals from Chester and Davies within eight minutes gave Hull City a two goal lead. The marking for the first goal was criminal as Huddlestone drove an effort which fell into the path of James Chester who managed to divert the ball home. Their second meanwhile saw Fabianski palm the ball straight to Curtis Davies who found the net from a tight angle.

A key thing about this squad is their determination and strength of character though, and that's what certainly helped us through in the end. On seventeen minutes Santi Cazorla helped us on our way and got us right back into the tie. The Spaniard who I thought was brilliant on the day scored an absolute peach of a free-kick. Our first one since 2012 as it happens.

After that goal it looked as though we were destined to do everything but score. Mesut Ozil failed to connect with a ball into the box from Podolski whilst Giroud and Cazorla were both denied penalties and Livermore also handled in the area. However, Laurent Koscielny managed to bundle the ball home from a corner to equalise with just under twenty mintues to go.

Who better to win the game than Arsenal's player of the season, Aaron Ramsey. In the second half of extra time Giroud back-heeled the ball into the path of the Welshman who fired home at the near post to win the FA Cup for the Gunners - cue wild celebrations from everyone in red!

It really was a fantastic moment and hopefully it'll lead to more success in the future. I'm so happy for this crop of players and they really have deserved it. I'm absolutely delighted for Wenger who we've stuck by and he has produced us with an FA Cup trophy after nine years of hurt. The joy on his face after the game was clear to see and it certainly was a moment to savour.

It's incredibly hard to put into words the emotion that was going through every Arsenal fans body when the final whistle went, but the scenes in Islington and outside Wembley pretty much summed it up!

So, we've ended 2013/14 with fourth place and a trophy. A pretty productive season and if you had offered me that after the opening day and before we signed Ozil, I would've bitten your hand off. Enjoy the World Cup and I'll see you guys when it all gets going again in a couple of months time.

The teams line-ups:

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla(105), Ozil(105), Podolski(61), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere(105), Rosicky(105), Sanogo(61).

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Bruce(66), Chester, Davies, Rosenior(102), Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Quinn(74), Fryatt. 
Subs: Harper, Figueroa, McShane(66), Koren, Boyd(102), Sagbo, Aluko(74).

My man of the match: Aaron Ramsey.

Referee: Lee Probert.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Arsenal end league season with win over Norwich

Fourth place and 79 points. That's what we've achieved in the League this season. It's certainly a Premier League season that could've been. Manchester City were victorious but led the pack for the least amount of days out of this season's top four. Arsenal on the other hand, spent the most time at the top. We still have the FA Cup final to come next weekend which will hopefully bring success. The Norwich game was a great way to end the league this campaign. Aaron Ramsey ended it the same way he started it whilst Carl Jenkinson also grabbed a goal. It was a convincing performance and we played really well against an all but relegated Norwich side at the time. The team line-up brought about many changes as Cazorla and Mertesacker weren't in the squad and were rested. Fabianski started for the first time in the league in 2013/14 whilst Sagna started at centre back.
Ramsey and Jenkinson were on the score-sheet as Arsenal beat Norwich
It was a game of little significance for Arsenal as we had already secured fourth place. Previous final days have seen us needing a win in order to get Champions League football. There was no drama on Sunday though as we ran out comfortable victors against a Norwich side with little fight left in them. The first half was a slow affair but end to end. Giroud and Podolski both could have put us a goal ahead but Ruddy was having an outstanding game. Aaron Ramsey's goal was one Ruddy couldn't keep out though. Giroud dinked the ball towards the back post in which the Welshman unleashed a sumptuous volley right into the top corner. It was Ramsey's tenth league goal of a breakthrough campaign.

Carl Jenkinson notched Arsenal's second goal and it was the young full-backs first goal for the club. I'm sure everyone involved with the club was delighted for him. He celebrated like it was a last minute strike of great importance but can you blame him really? If it was an audition for the likely departure of Bacary Sagna it was a very good one. He looked fairly solid down the right hand side and got up and down the pitch well.

Bacary Sagna, who does indeed look set to leave in the summer will be a huge loss. Despite two leg breaks in recent years he's been one of our most consistent players. It'll be incredibly difficult to find a right back as committed as Sagna, who in 2013/14 has proved himself to be very versatile at times. He's played at left back and in this game had a brilliant game at centre back which I thought merited him the man of the match award.

Jack Wilshere made his return after a couple of months out whilst Abou Diaby also made his return to first team action for the first time in 13 months. Both of them coming on in the second half was extremely encouraging and both looked comfortable on the ball. They've been two of the most injury prone players and it'll be key that they remain fit next season.

It was interesting to see that Wenger went with Fabianski instead of Szczesny for the final league game. That could've been his final game for the club as who starts in the final next week remains to be seen. I won't complain either way because both have been outstanding this season. Fabianski deserves it because of his role in the Cup this season but Szczesny is our number one.

Anyway, lets hope that 2014/15 brings us better fortunes in the league and we can mount a title challenge until the very end. First, the FA Cup final awaits!

The teams line-ups:

Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Turner, Bennett, Olsson, Redmond(75), Tettey(58), Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Elmander(58).
Subs: Bunn, Whittaker, Bennett(75), Fer, Murphy, Loza(58), Hooper(58). 

Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Sagna, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey(63), Rosicky(74), Ozil, Podolski, Giroud(74).
Subs: Szczesny, Monreal, Flamini, Kallstrom, Wilshere(63), Diaby(74), Sanogo(74). 

My man of the match: Bacary Sagna. 

Referee: Lee Mason
Attendance: 26,848.    

Monday, 5 May 2014

Giroud goal seals win in final home game

With Everton losing to Manchester City a day earlier, the game against West Brom no longer had any real significance for Arsenal. Everton's defeat meant that before we even played we were guaranteed a place in the top four. The 1-0 win over West Brom asserted our position amongst the top four teams in the country as we stretched the gap to seven points over the Merseyside club. Olivier Giroud's goal fourteen minutes into the game was the difference as we played our final game at home in the 2013/14 campaign. The line-up saw just one change to the side that beat Newcastle on Monday as Mathieu Flamini replaced Aaron Ramsey who missed out through a slight thigh problem. Meanwhile Abou Diaby was back on the bench for the first time in over a year having been out of the side for so long with yet another injury.
Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of the game
One loss. That's all we suffered at home in the league this season, a run of unbeaten games that stretches back to the opening day against Aston Villa. Our season looked as though it wasn't going to go well from that point on, but in theory it got better, but then slightly worse again. We've lead the Premier League this season for longer than any other team but come next weekend it will not be us lifting the trophy. That job will be over to Liverpool or Manchester City as we sit in fourth place for yet another year. However a Champions League spot, and an FA Cup final to come, means we've had a very productive season.

The win over West Brom on Sunday afternoon signified that it was a typical end of season game. We have nothing to really play for and you could tell with the intensity of the game. The match perhaps warranted more than one goal and had it been earlier in the season I think we would've pushed harder for it. Podolski, Ozil and Cazorla all passed up pretty decent chances during the game but it was Olivier Giroud who tucked away his opportunity.

The Frenchman impressed a lot against West Brom and his performance was reminiscent of his early season form. His goal was a well taken one as he got ahead of his marker to find the net from Santi Cazorla's corner. Giroud's start of and end of season form has been brilliant. In his first five games he bagged four goals and in his last 5 games he's found the net three times. Whether or not he'll be the main striker next season though remains to be seen. Surely we'll sign another forward though won't we?

Mesut Ozil also put in another good performance after his brilliant display against Newcastle and he looks back to his best again. The impetus of Aaron Ramsey was of course missed but with Arteta and Flamini we had a more disciplined midfield line.

Bacary Sagna put in another very consistent shift in what could potentially be his final home game in an Arsenal shirt. His contract is up at the end of the season and he is yet to renew his current deal. If Sagna does leave it'll leave a massive hole in that Arsenal defence. He's been one of our most consistent players during his seven years at the club, and it'll be very difficult to find a right back as good as him that is available to sign.

We now have one league game left which is against relegation threatened Norwich who will desperately trying to win in order to stay up. Wenger may well chose to rest players for that game ahead of the FA Cup final the week after though.

The teams lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal(80), Arteta(62), Flamini, Cazorla(70), Ozil, Podolski, Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen(80), Jenkinson, Kallstrom(62), Diaby, Rosicky(70), Sanogo.

West Brom: Foster, Dawson, Lugano, Olsson, Brunt, Amalfitano(80), Mulumbu(86), Dorrans, Morrison, Sessegnon, Berahino.
Subs: Myhill, McAuley, O'Neil, Yacob, Sinclair, Vydra(86), Anichebe(80).

My man of the match: Olivier Giroud.

Referee: Mike Jones.