Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
Latest News: Arsenal draw 3-3 with Liverpool, goals came from Ramsey and Giroud (x2) - match thoughts to come!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Giroud returns to form as Arsenal cruise to victory

Arsenal returned to winning ways in the League as they comfortably beat Sunderland 4-1 on Saturday afternoon. After a troubled period recently against the likes of Liverpool, United and Bayern, it was a relief to be playing a weaker side in the form of Sunderland. It was vitally important to pick up a morale boosting win and that's certainly what we did. Goals from Olivier Giroud, Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny sealed the win as we moved to within a point of Chelsea once more. The game saw five changes from the defeat to Bayern. Monreal replaced the injured Gibbs whilst Giroud regained his place from Yaya Sanogo. Podolski came in for Ozil who wasn't included in the squad whilst Arteta and Rosicky started as Flamini and Chamberlain dropped to the bench.
Giroud and Rosicky were both on the score sheet as Arsenal beat Sunderland
The game against Sunderland saw us play some of the best attacking football we've played all season, and that was without Ozil. He hasn't been in the best of form recently but its freighting that we scored four without him in the team. He supposedly missed the game with a dead leg but truth be told Wenger was just giving him a rest and giving him a chance to recover from the penalty miss against Bayern. The quality of goals that the Gunners scored were brilliant though.

The first goal was brilliantly worked as Jack Wilshere drove into the penalty area before playing a lovely reverse ball into Giroud who couldn't miss. It was brilliant to see the Frenchman back on the score sheet after a tough couple of weeks. It was a well taken finish too, a type of chance he'd been snatching at of late though. Meanwhile his second was a precise finish also. Giroud pounced on a stray back pass from Vergini to slide the ball under former Gunner, Vito Mannone to double the lead.

The third goal brought back memories of that amazing team goal against Norwich. Cazorla, Wilshere and Giroud all played a string of one touch passes before Rosicky dinked the ball beautifully over Mannone. It's difficult to appreciate the pure beauty of it by just reading a description but it really was one hell of a goal. The fourth meanwhile came via the head of Laurent Koscielny who bagged his first goal of the season. He rose unmarked from a Cazorla corner to wrap up all three points.

It was disappointing to see us concede though. It was the first league goal we had let in since the beginning of December against Everton. The ball was whipped in and Szczesny opted to punch the ball clear rather than catching it. The ball fell to Giaccherini who let fly through a crowd of bodies for a consolation goal for Sunderland. Up to then the visitors hadn't really been in the game at all. After the tough game against Bayern we could've done with an easy game and that's exactly what they offered us. They rarely closed us down and that's what let to their downfall as we were able to string our passes together with relative ease.

There were only a few negatives from the game though, but they weren't in terms of the way we played. Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny both went off injured leading to a shortage at the back as Sagna had to play at right back, left back and center back throughout the game! Wenger did confirm after the match that the pair should be fit for next week though. That's a relief considering both Gibbs and Vermaelen remain out injured.

Giroud, Rosicky and Wilshere were all contenders for the man of the match award. It was great to see Giroud get a brace to answer all of his recent critics whilst Rosicky showed exactly why he should be getting a new contract in the not too distant future. Wilshere's link-up play meanwhile was brilliant and that awarded him with an assist for the first goal.

Next up is a tough trip to Stoke City, plenty of the top teams have gone there and slipped up so we need to be careful of that and put in another great performance that warrants three points. It may be an idea to keep Ozil out of the team again due to the physicality of Stoke but we'll have to wait and see.

The teams line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny(67), Monreal(45), Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Rosicky(73), Podolski, Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson(45), Flamini(67), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry(73), Sanogo, Bendtner.

Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Vergini, O'Shea, Alonso, Bridcutt, Ki(73), Colback, Johnson(45), Altidore(45), Borini. 
Subs: Ustari, Cuellar, Celutska, Gardner, Larsson(45), Giaccherini(45), Scocco(73).

My man of the match: Olivier Giroud.

Referee: Andre Marriner. 
Attendance: 60,012. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ten men Arsenal suffer defeat in first leg

Arsenal suffered a bitterly disappointing first leg defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday night. It was a game of ifs and buts as there were two missed penalties, a red card, a controversial referee and two goals from Kroos and Muller. It was a very similar game to the Man City - Barca game in the fact that it looked like we were going to come away with just one away goal conceded, but instead, it was two. Something that added an extra frustration to the game. There's no doubt about the commitment from the team but we were camped inside our own half for all of the second half and it was only a matter of time before the best team in the world broke us down. The line-up was close to the one that was predicted, one surprise was sprung though as Yaya Sanogo started for the second game running ahead of Olivier Giroud.

The atmosphere inside the Emirates throughout the first quarter was absolutely amazing, it was the loudest I've heard the Emirates in a while, it was absolutely rocking. And then we got a penalty. Mesut Ozil performed an amazing piece of skill to get past Jerome Boateng but then he was caught and the ref pointed to the spot. Ozil himself took it but it truly was an awful penalty. He sent just to the keepers left but Neuer was there to keep it out. It was a penalty that was clear to see left Ozil with a lot of frustrations. We had played brilliantly in the first fifteen minutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain was causing havoc down that right hand side as Cazorla saw an effort saved. Yaya Sanogo was then denied a first Arsenal goal by a brilliant save from Neuer once more.
Manuel Neuer kept Bayern in the game early on
The whole tie was to then change. Arjen Robben raced into the penalty area, tapped the ball past Szczesny who then clipped the Dutchman on his follow through. It was an accident but a penalty was awarded and our keeper was sent off. Cazorla was sacrificed as Fabianski came on after his brilliant performance against Liverpool at the weekend. He wasn't needed though as David Alaba slid his penalty wide via the post. Cue an eruption of noise from the Emirates faithful. As said, the tie was never to be the same.

We were pegged back for the rest of the game as Pep Guardiola's philosophy as a high tempo passing build up came into play. We managed to hold them until the break but the second half saw us in our own half for the majority of the 45 minutes. Lahm rolled the ball to Kroos who then curled the ball home. It was a deserved goal for Kroos who was world class all night. The final blow then came with two minutes remaining. Koscielny had gone on a run to a half way line. Flamini dropped back to cover for him but the ball was played over the top and Muller headed home.

It was a game of very few positives but one of them was that of the performance of Yaya Sanogo. I have high hopes for him after seeing him against Liverpool and now Bayern and he looks the real deal. We're set to see what he's like when presented with a goal scoring chance but his hold up play play is good and he's a big force in the air. He's proven to be decent back up to Giroud whose had a spell out of the team due to issues off the pitch.

Mesut Ozil was the main talking point from the game though. A lot of people were wrongly berating him last night. His skill to win the penalty was incredible. Yes, his penalty was truly atrocious and it would've been amazing to get that opening goal. Had we scored, it would've been a completely different game. However, people saying he had a nightmare need to look at the small details. He was effectively playing as a second left back for the second half and what I noticed from seeing us live last night is that he keeps giving the ball away because there is literally no one ahead of him to pass to. Ozil really wanted it last night and you could see that. He's played in these types of games before and had we had eleven men then he would've had a big big influence.

Another big part of the game was the injury to Kieran Gibbs. He was dealing fairly well up to then and as soon as Monreal came on, we looked a little shaky. Robben was moved out to the right hand side and despite him being the most predictable person I've seen play, he was proving difficult to deal with. Lets hope the Gibbs' injury is not too serious.  
Arsenal were in the game in the early exchanges but still suffered a 2-0 defeat
Our second leg tie will be extremely difficult to get anything out of, it will be tougher than last time round and we'll need to be absolutely amazing if we're to go through. Next up though is a league game against Sunderland. It will be a relief to get back to playing a smaller opponent after all the though games we've had. A few players could be rested whilst the likes of Rosicky and Giroud could come back into the side. We must remember though, we're still in with a chance of winning the FA Cup and the Premier League. Something that hasn't been on our side in recent seasons.

The teams line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs(31), Flamini, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla(38), Oxlade-Chamberlain(74), Sanogo.
Subs: Fabianski(38), Jenkinson, Monreal(31), Rosicky(74), Gnabry, Podolski, Giroud.

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng(46), Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Thiago(79), Kroos, Gotze, Robben, Mandzukic(64). 
Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Rafinha(46), Contento, Schweinsteiger, Muller(64), Pizarro(79). 

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)
Attendance: 59,911  

Monday, 17 February 2014

Arsenal avenge defeat last week to reach quarter-finals

Arsenal responded in perfect fashion as they bounced back from a thrashing last weekend to knock Liverpool out of the Cup. Losing 5-1 last weekend and drawing 0-0 in the week meant the side had something to prove and they certainly did that by beating Liverpool 2-1 in the last 16 of the FA Cup. It was an improved performance from what we've seen in recent weeks and it was quite a response. I must admit I was little worried when I saw who Wenger had decided to name in the starting line-up but he clearly proved a lot us wrong. Yaya Sanogo was a strange inclusion as he started his first game for the club. Meanwhile Carl Jenkinson started for the first time since mid December along with Lukasz Fabianski who continued as our 'Cup keeper'.
Fabianski was in inspired form as Arsenal beat Liverpool
Unlike our previous two matches there have been some standout performances to talk about. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's form since he's returned from injury has been brilliant. To make the cliche saying of he's been like a new signing is quite right though. With Theo out injured, the Ox has been the perfect replacement. He carried on his great run in the side with both a goal and assist yesterday in a performance that was certainly inspirational in us reaching the quarter-finals. His first goal was a well controlled finish from close range. A rare goal in the first half of a match at the Emirates.

Our second goal was a thing of beauty though. The Ox fed Ozil the ball who then played a brilliantly weighted through ball back into the path of Chamberlain. He left Agger for dead with his pace before picking out Podolski to slide the ball home on his weaker foot. Another signal of intent from the German as to why he should start more often. He now has six goals in twelve appearances this season.

Another sparkling performance and a contender for man of the match was our sub keeper Lukasz Fabianski. Often left out in the shadows he has been brilliant when called upon this season. Last season when Szczesny had a spell out of the side he was quite brilliant and yesterday he showed his class once again. The Pole was on hand to keep out several chances that fell to Suarez and Sturridge, something that not many goalkeepers have been able to do this season. Fabianski managed to keep us in the game and was a huge reason as to why we won. It's a shame he's leaving at the end of the season but you can't blame him, he's a quality keeper and he needs to be playing week in, week out. It was the second game in a row where our goalkeepers have shown their class. Szczesny was awarded the man of the match award in midweek remember. 

Yaya Sanogo did himself no harm on his first start for the club either. He was perhaps a surprise inclusion as Nicklas Bendtner wasn't even included in the match day squad. However the tall French striker played a big part in the first goal and was a presence up front. He was often isolated and was a little clumsy but he made some good runs in behind and didn't always play with his back to goal like Giroud does.

After a week of negatives in terms of not beating the same opponents last weekend and not beating United, this was a big big win, especially going into the game against Bayern. It should bring us a lot of confidence and you could see what it meant to this group of players when the final whistle went. The draw was actually made before our game kicked off and we'll play the blue side of Merseyside in the form of Everton, and once again we'll have home advantage in the quarter-finals.

The teams line-ups:

Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain(75), Ozil, Podolski(69), Sanogo(88). 
Subs: Viviano, Sagna, Gibbs(75), Wilshere, Cazorla(69), Gnabry, Giroud(88). 

Liverpool: Jones, Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Cissokho(62), Allen, Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez.
Subs: Mignolet, Toure, Kelly, Teixeira, Henderson(62), Moses, Aspas.  

My man of the match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Referee: Howard Webb.
Attendance: 59,801.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Arsenal bounce back but fail to beat United

Arsenal were left bitterly disappointed after they came away from their game against Manchester United with a solitary point in a scrappy bore draw at the Emirates. After the drubbing against Liverpool it was vitally important to bounce back and in a way we did by not losing and keeping a clean-sheet. However, it was a massive chance to regain top spot missed. Chelsea had drew with West Brom the day before and had we won we would've gone top again. Meanwhile it was probably the best possible time to face a Man United side, but once again we failed to beat a so called 'top side'. Arsenal made two changes to the side from the weekend as Kieran Gibbs finally regained his left back spot whilst big game player Tomas Rosicky came in for the Ox. Yaya Sanogo was also on the bench after five months out on the treatment table.
Wojciech Szczesny was faultless as Arsenal drew with rivals United
It was one of the most frustrating performances of the season and we once again failed to score against United this season. Like with the game against Chelsea in December, Wenger looked afraid of losing and therefore didn't take the nessercary risks that perhaps would've won us the game. The same could be said for Moyes though and it was no surprise that it fizzled out into a goalless draw.

It was a game of very few positives and due to the result at the weekend it made it incredibly hard to focus on them. Wojciech Szczesny played a blinder in goal and kept out van Persie twice. One save was absolutely sensational as he tipped the ball onto the bar (pictured) with just over ten minutes to play. It was enough to earn the Polish stopper the man of the match award as without him, Arsenal probably would've lost the game. David De Gea was equally as good at the opposite end though. He made some great saves including one at each post off the boot of Santi Cazorla.

Meanwhile the defence stretched their remarkable run of games without conceding at home. We now haven't conceded at home this year, a run that stretches back to a Deulofeu goal for Everton in December. Mertesacker and Koscielny were at their best again after slipping up against Liverpool. Meanwhile Kieran Gibbs' return to the team was welcomed as he added more solidness to the back line.

The main issue from the game though was that of Olivier Giroud. I felt like crying watching him play last night. With Theo missing we really didn't have any sort of pace in the team with the likes of Podolski and the Ox also on the bench. Giroud constantly plays with his back to goal and although it initially looked as though his hold up play is good, he constantly loses the ball and is very labored. He had three great chances that could've put us ahead but failed to take any of them. Make no mistake about it, I like Giroud and he got off to a great start in terms of goals at the beginning of the season. However what could cost us the title is our strikers. Mesut Ozil would have so many assists if we had a striker that was willing to make runs in behind and peel off the defenders. Giroud's movement off the ball is good but he doesn't make the runs required to score goals. It's becoming hugely frustrating.

Arsenal's teams of the past have been one of the biggest threats on the break but due to the lack of pace we didn't cause much trouble to the United defence. The build-up seems to be very slow and it really is hindering the way we play. The fact that we've gone so many games in a row at home without scoring in the first half sums that up.

We have more tough games to come though and we'll need to improve desperately. Liverpool in the FA Cup this weekend is coming up, a good chance for revenge. Next week is a huge clash at home in the Champions League as we take on Bayern Munich in the first leg of our last 16 tie.

The teams line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky(74), Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain(74), Podolski, Bendtner, Sanogo. 

Man United: De Gea, Rafael(45), Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia(82), Rooney, Mata(75), van Persie. 
Subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand(45), Buttner, Fellaini, Young(82), Januzaj(75), Hernandez. 

My man of the match: Wojciech Szczesny. 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Attendance: 60,021.   

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Arsenal blown away in thrashing against Liverpool

Arsenal were given an absolute hammering on Saturday as they suffered a thrashing at the hands of Liverpool. We were on the receiving end of a 5-1 defeat in which four goals were scored in the opening 20 minutes. The defeat was very costly, not just was it a terrible start to our tough run of fixtures coming up, but it also meant we dropped down to second place. The only consolation from a very bad weekend for us was that Man City were involved in a goalless draw with Norwich. One would probably think from looking at the score-line that our best team wasn't playing. You could argue that it wasn't due to the numerous injuries we have but it was still a strong enough team. Jack Wilshere returned to the side after injury in place of Lukas Podolski whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain moved out wide after his two goal cameo against Palace.
The Gunners usually solid defence this season was completely blown away by the pace and tenacity of the Liverpool front line. Until this weekend, we've been the only team to keep both Suarez and Sturridge at bay this season. We had one of the best defensive records in the League this season and also boasted the best away form in the league. The result therefore was quite staggering. We played a ridiculously high line and because of the pace of Liverpool's incisive counter attacks, it ultimately led to our downfall. It didn't help by the fact that we went 1-0 down within the first 54 seconds of the game. Suarez drew a foul from Mertesacker, Gerrard delivered the free-kick, and Skrtel fired home. Skrtel was to then double the hosts lead ten minutes later. Our zonal marking was at fault as Koscielny failed to get close to Skrtel who was allowed to head home.

Mesut Ozil once more had quite a poor game and was non-existent in yet another big game. On his day he's a world class player and has the ability to unlock any defence. However we haven't seen that enough on a consistent basis. Players like Cazorla, Silva and Mata were all far more inspirational last season, scoring and assisting on a far more consistent basis than Ozil has this season. It is worth bearing in mind that this is the German's first season in English football, and once he's got used to the Premier League, he could be an incredible threat.

Ozil was at fault for their third goal though. He was muscled off the ball too easily but it didn't help that both fullbacks were playing as wingers and were too far up the pitch. Liverpool therefore managed to break away which lead to Suarez feeding Sterling at the back post for a simple tap in. The fourth meanwhile was a perfect example of the ridiculous high line we were playing at the back. Coutinho played a great ball in behind and Sturridge was left with a simple one-on-one. Twelve minutes after the break Liverpool had a fifth and Sterling had a second. Again it was another ball that was played in behind. Szczesny made the save but the ball was then fired home on the rebound.

Anyway, onto the very few positives there were from the game. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere were the stand out performers from a very poor performance. Wilshere was a driving force and looked like the only one who had any passion during the game. As for the Ox, he proved a threat and won the penalty for our goal. Mikel Arteta was the man who took it and he dispatched it comfortably. It was too little too late by then though.

It was a disappointing result but with more tough games to come it should mean there are some excellent chances for the team to avenge itself. It was a bitterly tough result but we must move on and focus on United in midweek. We have a chance for revenge when we play Liverpool again next weekend, but in the FA Cup. We managed to bounce back after the defeats to Villa, Man City and Napoli, and we need to do that again now!

The teams line-ups:

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Skrtel, Toure, Cissokho, Gerrard(76), Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho, Sturridge(66), Suarez(86).
Subs: Jones, Kelly, Allen(66), Ibe(76), Moses, Alberto, Aspas(86).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal(60), Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil(60), Cazorla, Giroud(60).
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs(60), Rosicky(60), Gnabry, Podolski(60), Bendtner.

My man of the match: Jack Wilshere.

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Attendance: 44,701. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chamberlain double helps Arsenal to win over Palace

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain marked his return from injury in perfect fashion as he scored two goals to ensure Arsenal beat Crystal Palace on Sunday. It the was the Ox's first league start since picking up an injury in August. The win meant we returned to the top of the Premier League, and with Chelsea and Man City playing each other on Monday night, it was vitally important to get the points. That was especially after Spurs, Liverpool and United all dropped points. It was again far from our best performance but we got the job done again as we won 2-0 for the tenth time at the Emirates this season. There were two changes from the side that drew to Southampton in the week as Lukas Podolski replaced Serge Gnabry out-wide. Meanwhile Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for the suspended Flamini.
The Ox popped up with two goals as Arsenal beat Palace
Recently we've had trouble actually scoring in the first half and it's led to a professional second halves display on many occasions. That was the story once more on Sunday. Palace were extremely hard to break down in the first half and the fact that our two best chances came from set-pieces was a credit to them. However the second half saw more penetration from the midfield and wide players.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain burst forward from central midfield to get on the end of a Cazorla pass to fire home the first just after the break. Santi's form has been brilliant since the turn of the year and his ball was perfectly measured. The Ox took one touch before then lifting the ball over the keeper for his first of the season. Chamberlain was to then wrap up the points for us. He played a lovely one-two with Giroud before racing in on goal and then finding the net with an assured finish from just inside the box. He now has as many goals this season as he did in the whole of the last campaign.

This season the midfielders have all scored their fair share of goals. Ramsey was banging them in at the start of the season, and then it was Wilshere's turn. However with both of them now out injured it was the Ox's turn to score the goals. He wasn't playing in his preferred position but Wenger certainly sees his future more centrally than outwide.

The defence meanwhile put in another brilliant display. At times they were tested but Szczesny made some key saves to keep us in front. The Pole really has been brilliant this season when called upon. Meanwhile Mertesacker and Koscielny again asserted their dominance. The way Per managed to just nick the ball off of some of the Palace players feet was incredible. His anticipation and reading of the game is up there with the very best. Sagna meanwhile just has to get a new contract. After a dodgy campaign last term, he's been back to his solid best this season. Nacho Monreal had a tough time in the week against Southampton but against Palace yesterday showed why he is keeping Gibbs out of the side at the moment with a solid display.

Vermaelen, Flamini, Wilshere, Ramsey, Diaby, Kallstrom, Walcott and Sanogo were all missing from the squad which shows that we can win without some of our best players. Something that has seemed to be a key theme of our campaign so far. However the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey, who will be back hopefully very soon, will be key in the run in. 

Following this game against Palace we now have an extremely tough run where we face Liverpool twice, Man United and also Bayern Munich. Anymore injuries and I think we could really struggle. We have the potential to beat all of those teams but it'll be extremely difficult. The fixture list is a nightmare and we'll have to be at our very best if we're to come out on top.

The teams lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil(84), Podolski(72), Giroud(84).
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs(84), Zelalem, Rosicky(72), Gnabry, Bendtner(84). 

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Parr, Delaney, Gabbidon, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Bolasie, Puncheon, Chamakh(83), Jerome(56).
Subs: Hennessey, Mariappa, McCarthy, Guedioura, Bannan(56), Gayle(83), Wilbraham. 

My man of the match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Referee: Jon Moss.
Attendance: 60,005.