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!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Arsenal come from behind to draw in North London derby

Arsenal's far from convincing start to the season continued at home yesterday as they had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with Spurs. It was a hotly contested North London derby which both sides could've won had they taken their chances. It was perhaps the most equal derby between the two in recent times but Tottenham will no doubt be more happier with the point than Arsenal. With Chelsea next week, winning this weekend would've given us a real platform to go forward. Especially with a Champions League game in the week too. In terms of the line-up, Sanchez weirdly dropped to the bench whilst Wilshere came back in from Villa in place of Cazorla.
Oxlade-Chamberlain rescued Arsenal by scoring the vital equaliser
Not beating a rival always throws up a fair amount of frustration amongst a fan base which is why I'll try and keep my moanings to a minimum this week. Many things could be found wrong with the way in which we drew to Spurs on Saturday evening. Those who watched the game will know too well of what went wrong. First things first, it felt like a loss, which immediately brings us into a depressed mood, especially when we've failed to beat our rivals at home. Four draws in our previous five Premier League games have led to a few becoming quite worried.

The continued draws have been because of numerous reasons, and I'm not trying to berate Wenger here because we are actually still unbeaten in the League. However, in order for us to kick on and start winning more games you feel as though the tactics have to be changed. The way we set up against Villa with the 4-2-3-1 formation worked perfectly and as a result we came out of the game with our most convincing performance this season. Therefore it was a bit bizarre to then turn our attentions back to the dreaded 4-1-4-1 formation that has very rarely worked this season, as proved against Spurs yesterday.

It meant that Mesut Ozil, despite his outstanding display with Danny Welbeck last week, was shunted back out wide in order to accommodate Wilshere in the middle. Playing with the four across the middle as we have done so often this season means the edge of the area gets very crowded and we have little space to work our creativity. Compare that to the Villa game, where we had a lot more time and space on the ball as a result of playing 4-2-3-1. I see it as an incredibly weird manoeuvre tactically from Wenger.

It goes without saying though that we did create our fair share of chances against Spurs and that was a positive. Most of them were restricted to being from outside the box but we did test Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal more often that not it seemed. Ramsey's and Arteta's injuries were massive blows but it did allow Ozil to play more centrally in the second half and that enhanced our performance massively.

The way in which we conceded was very much a negative. Mertesacker played the ball into Flamini who was muscled off the ball by Eriksen and then Lamela played in Chadli who fired home. It was further evidence of our need for a defensive midfielder, something that should without a doubt have been addressed in the transfer market. Wenger has said something about Diaby been tried in that role and it would be a role I'd love to see the Frenchman adapt too. It's just about keeping him fit now but I'd definitely start him against Chelsea next weekend.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was been pretty isolated on the right hand side throughout the game despite linking up well with Chambers. However, it was the Ox who popped up with the vital equaliser with about fifteen minutes left to play. Welbeck made a hash of Cazorla's ball into the box which allowed Chamberlain to follow up and smash the ball into the roof of the net for his first goal since February.

From an Arsenal point of view, our better performers came in the shape of Ozil, Koscielny, Gibbs and Chambers. The defence looked fairly comfortable throughout the game and Kieran Gibbs put in a brilliant display defensively and also did well going forward. The same goes for Calum Chambers who has adapted to life at Arsenal fantastically. He was very assured and confident for his first North London derby and seems to thrive under pressure. Before Wilshere went off he also had a very good game and his drive forward was something we lacked when he was substituted. It was precautionary after he had gone down with an ankle injury in the first half.

From what I've just said then, it is clear that we drew based on our tactics. There were enough good individual performances from the players which was encouraging. Especially when you consider many of our players have gone missing in the bigger games in recent times.

We don't necessarily have a solid platform to build on as of yet which could be a problem against Chelsea. Galatasaray will be a challenge in itself and then we'll look to go the Bridge and avenge for the thrashing we received last season!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta(28), Ramsey(44), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere(62), Ozil, Welbeck.
Subs: Ospina, Coquelin, Flamini(28), Rosicky, Cazorla(44), Sanchez(62), Podolski. 

Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose(83), Capoue, Mason, Lamela, Chadli(80), Eriksen(62), Adebayor.
Subs: Vorm, Fazio, Dier(83), Bentaleb(80), Lennon(62), Townsend, Soldado. 

My man of the match: Kieran Gibbs.

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Attendance: 59,900  

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Arsenal knocked out after disappointing performance

Arsenal suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Southampton on Tuesday night as the Gunners exited the League Cup in the third round. Sanchez's free-kick wasn't enough as a Tadic penalty and a thunderbolt from Clyne meant Arsenal failed to reach the fourth round for the first time in twelve years. It wasn't necessarily a poor performance but we struggled to create chances which ultimately led to our downfall. Wenger ringed the changes as expected, as Ospina made his debut whilst Bellerin, Isaac Hayden and Coquelin started at the back. Diaby played for the first time since May whilst Joel Campbell, Podolski and Rosicky all came into the team.
Although Arsenal conceded two, U21 captain Isaac Hayden looked assured at the back
Despite the defeat on Tuesday, a lot was discovered from the game, both in a positive light and in a more negative way. The first thing of note was the performance of Alexis Sanchez. He was different class to everyone else on the pitch and that was summed up by his goal. It was a beautiful free-kick that was sent over the wall and right into the top corner. The Chilean now has four in his last four games for the Gunners.

What was a little less encouraging was that we hardly created any chances all night and that was shown by the fact our goal came from a set-piece which is a rarity in itself. Podolski was tasked with playing upfront and he told us what most Arsenal fans already knew, that he can't play centrally. His work rate was poor, he didn't make many runs in behind and when he did get a chance he failed to stick it away. It was a lazy performance and the situation that he got himself in when in front of goal was encouraging but he wasn't his usual clinical self. The fact we only scored one was backed up our by our lack of penetration going forward. Sanchez didn't stop running all night whilst Campbell showed glimpses of his potential but overall it was a pretty average performance from the Costa Rican.

It was an average night for most of the side as many of the fringe players failed to step up and show why they warrant a starting place. I've already mentioned Podolski and Campbell but another player who didn't have the best of nights was Tomas Rosicky. His work ethic was still good but his ball retention wasn't what we expect from him and our midfield play overall was quite sloppy.

A big positive from the game was that Abou Diaby managed over an hour on his return to the team after missing all of 2013/14 but the final game against Norwich. He added a much needed presence in midfield that we haven't had and he has all the credentials to perhaps become our defensive midfielder. He's usually more of a box to box type player but with work, and staying clear of injuries, he could become a fantastic player in that role for us. After all, he can't be much worse than what Flamini and Arteta have been lately. He's a force in midfield and can carry the ball brilliantly with his strength. Something that not many of our midfielders have the ability to do.

Despite conceding two, the defence actually had a pretty solid game. We were sloppy to concede a penalty whilst Clyne's strike from outside the box was virtually impossible to keep out. A few claimed Ospina was at fault for the goal but at the rate the ball was traveling it would have been some stop to prevent it from going in. Bellerin again looked a little vulnerable defensively, as he did against Dortmund. As for Isaac Hayden, he did nothing to warrant any criticism. He put in a very solid shift, looked confident and assured on the ball and was very strong physically. After his performance against Southampton he may well be promoted into being our fourth choice centre-back considering the lack of options we have in defence right now.

Not a lot of the players involved in this game will be come the weekend though. The likes of Chambers, Sanchez and Wilshere all definitely will be as Arsenal welcome Spurs to the Emirates on Saturday evening for the North London derby!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin(85), Chambers, Hayden, Coquelin, Diaby(66), Wilshere, Campbell(71), Rosicky, Sanchez, Podolski.
Subs: Martinez, Mertesacker, Ajayi, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain(71), Cazorla(66), Akpom(85).

Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Targett(83), Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Davis, Tadic, Mane(71), Pelle.
Subs: Davis, Bertrand(83), Cork, Reed, McCarthy, Long(71), Mayuka.

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Keith Stroud.
Attendance: 59,621.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

Arsenal return to form with win over Villa

Arsenal ended their run of four games without a win in all competitions on Saturday by defeating Aston Villa 3-0. After 3 draws in the League it was important to finally show our true colours as the Gunners put in an assured performance against an in form Villa side. Welbeck scored his first for the club whilst Ozil grabbed a goal before an own goal sealed the points. It was extremely pleasing to see the side playing with such freedom after a few sloppy performances, particularly that of Dortmund in the week. Arsenal made a few changes from the game against City as the side was rotated. Chambers came in for the injured Debuchy whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla replaced Sanchez and Wilshere respectively.
Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil's link-up play was very much a positive
Arsenal's goals came within minutes of each other as all three goals came in the space of about four minutes. It was incredibly encouraging to see us be clinical in front of goal and kill a game off sooner rather than later. The first two goals were both very aesthetically pleasing. Mesut Ozil's form has dropped dramatically over the last couple of months being stuck on the wing. However, on Saturday he reverted back to his favoured central position and he repaid the manager with a goal. Welbeck played the ball through to the German who comfortably slotted the ball past Guzan. Ozil was to then turn provider as he put the ball on a plate for Welbeck who tucked home his first goal in Arsenal colours from a couple of yards out. The third goal was all Villa's undoing though as Gibbs fired a ball across goal and Cissokho found his own net.

Arsenal's quick fire goals were a big positive and showed that when we play the right way we can be extremely efficient. Wenger left behind the 4-1-4-1 formation in favour of the old 4-2-3-1 which saw us have a lot more freedom in the final third of the pitch. Ozil being back in the centre added something to our game that we haven't seen all season. A lot more space and time was created as a result of the German and he made our play look a lot more fluid, a performance that saw him earn the man of the match award. Ozil's been criticised a lot this season but back in the formation we used so often last campaign, everything seemed to click more than it has done in 2014/15 so far.

The performances of Welbeck have been a bit of a mixed bundle since he arrived from Manchester United. He's had some brilliant chances in his first two games but failed to find the net. Therefore, it was very pleasing to see him finally score against Villa. Hopefully now he can kick on and start scoring on a regular basis!

The 3-0 win meanwhile signified our first clean-sheet of the season. Kieran Gibbs adds an extra solidity to the back four whilst Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny look to be finding their feet after slow starts to the season by their standards. Wojciech Szczesny didn't have a lot to do but that was made easier by the defensive line in front of him who looked very solid. Compared to Dortmund in the week, the performance especially of the defence, was a vast improvement.

I mentioned the need for the players to get the Dortmund result out of their system in my last report and that's exactly what they did. Improvements still need to be made in the middle of the pitch you feel, as particularly the performances of Aaron Ramsey have been a little below par this season. Ramsey scored in the Community Shield and against Palace and Everton but since then he seems to perhaps be over complicating things too much. He needs to look to play a much simpler game or we could see Wilshere starting over him within the next couple of weeks. Many may be worried about the Welshman's form considering the amount of goals he scored last season but I have every confidence in him to get back to his best.

Spurs await us in the first North London derby of the season next week but before that we face Southampton in the League Cup. A chance to rest a few of the big names and bring in a couple of youngsters perhaps.

The team's line-ups:

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Clark, Senderos, Cissokho, Sanchez(86), Cleverley, Delph, Richardson(77), Weimann(45), Agbonlahor. 
Subs: Given, Okore, Lowton, Westwood, Grealish(45), Bacuna(86), N'Zogbia(77).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey(77), Cazorla, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain(78), Welbeck(77).
Subs: Ospina, Coquelin, Diaby, Wilshere(77), Rosicky(78), Sanchez, Podolski(77).

My man of the match: Mesut Ozil.

Referee: Mike Jones.
Attendance: 40,013.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Dortmund dominant as Arsenal fall to first defeat

Tuesday night saw Arsenal embark on their 2014/15 Champions League campaign after successfully fending off the challenge of Besiktas in the qualifying stages last month. It wasn't a welcome return though as the Gunners were defeated 2-0 at the hands of German side Borussia Dortmund. It was one of the worst Arsenal performances in recent years and signaled our first defeat of the 2014/15 season having been unbeaten up to now.

In terms of the line-up Arsenal made three changes, two of which were forced. Debuchy and Monreal were both out with injury whilst Chambers had tonsillitis. Defence was the place we didn't want any injuries and being Arsenal that is of course the area we now seriously lack in. Debuchy's injury and Chambers not being 100% meant Bellerin came in for his first start whilst Gibbs returned at left back. The other change saw Arteta come in for Flamini.
It was a bad day at the office for Arsenal who were wearing their new blue kit for the first time
It's difficult to know where to start with Arsenal's performance in Germany yesterday evening. It was filled with a lot of flaws, and not a lot of positives, if any. At the moment there appears to be an open debate over whether to blame the players or the tactics of Wenger for our performances recently. It can be argued that there is a bit of both involved but one of the most frustrating things at the moment is the managers inability to not change his tactics.

Many a pundit recently has picked up on our inability to change our game when we come up against the big teams. It appears as though we approach every game with the same game plan and so far this season 4-1-4-1 just simply hasn't worked whatsoever. Our full-backs bombing forward seem to be the main issue at the moment, but that wouldn't be an issue if we had an enforcer in the middle of the park. Whether Wenger tells the full-backs to effectively play as wingers or whether they chose to do it themselves remains an unanswered question but our centre-backs are being left with no cover. Last season we got opened up against the big teams on the counter attack and against City and Dortmund it's been no different.

That was evident with the goal Ciro Immobile opened the scoring with yesterday. He exploited the gap in midfield and drove into the space where the left back should be. Although he perhaps got a little lucky with a touch to take him away from Koscielny he still provided a confident finish. The second goal meanwhile was a ball in behind and after Szczesny came racing out of his goal, Aubameyang stole in to fire into an empty net.

It was an extremely poor defensive performance which wasn't helped by Mikel Arteta's inability to keep the ball in midfield. Our new skipper is definitely not the answer to our defensive midfield woes and at the moment I'm finding it difficult to find a solution to that role. It amazes me how we failed to sign a player in that position despite having the funds available. Flamini, despite being a bully in midfield isn't the type of player that we're looking for to break up play and move it on throughout the different phases. Until that problem is addressed I can't see Arsenal doing particularly well in the big games, which comes as no surprise really.

On a more mundane level Hector Bellerin had an average game on his first start for the club. His attacking play was good but he looked a little vulnerable defensively, an area which I've already touched on.

Despite Dortmund's dominance throughout the game, Arsenal did have chances in the game and all of them seemed to fall to Danny Welbeck. Despite the fact that Dortmund probably should've won the game by a much bigger margin we did have our chances. In the first half Welbeck dragged a similar chance to the one he had against City wide, before in the second half blazing a chance over the bar after turning nicely past Sokratis. It's difficult to judge him after two tough games and I'm sure he'll improve but from first sightings he does look as though he needs to improve his composure, something that was picked up on during his spell at Man United.

The players will need to get this result out of their system quickly and move on and hopefully put in a much different performance next time out. Arsenal will be looking for their first win in four matches on Saturday as they travel to the Midlands to face a high flying Aston Villa side.

The team's line-ups:

Dortmund: Weidenfeller, Durm, Subotic, Sokratis, Schmelzer(79), Kehl(45), Bender, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Grosskreutz, Immobile(85).
Subs: Langerak, Bandowski, Ginter(45), Amini, Jojic(79), Kagawa, Ramos(85).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta(77), Ozil(61), Ramsey(61), Wilshere, Sanchez, Welbeck.
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(61), Rosicky, Cazorla(61), Campbell, Podolski(77).

Referee: Olegario Benquerenca.
Attendance: 65,851. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Arsenal impressive in entertaining draw with Man City

Before the international break Arsenal had had perhaps a slow start to the season but they showed no signs of rustiness as they secured a 2-2 draw in an entertaining fixture against Man City. It was already the second time the sides had met each other this season after the Gunners victory in the Community Shield. However, this time round it was more of an evenly fought contest which saw both sides come from behind at some point in the game. Aguero opened the scoring for City before a superb attacking display in the second half led to goals from Wilshere and Sanchez. It was a goal six minutes from time that decided the game though as Demichelis found the net and City's equaliser.

Arsenal made two changes from the side that faced Leicester almost two weeks ago as Wilshere replaced Cazorla and Welbeck made his debut in place of Yaya Sanogo who didn't make the squad at all. 
Jack Wilshere ran the show whilst former Gunner Samir Nasri (right) started on the bench
This match, coming just four games into the new Premier League season perhaps held extra significance considering our form against the top sides last season. We held City to a 1-1 draw last season at the Emirates but it was out 6-3 defeat away from home that we needed to avenge for. Everything looked rosy having gone 2-1 up but we showed signs of our former selves by conceding the equaliser in such a desperate way.

Similarly to last season Wenger allowed the full backs to move on up the pitch, and because of that we almost conceded more than we did. It was because of that that we did concede though. Navas was allowed to run freely down the right hand side with Monreal no where to be seen, the Spanish winger then found Sergio Aguero who got ahead of Szczesny to put the away side in front.

Arsenal's start up to then had been promising. We'd gone close on a few occasions but it was debutant Danny Welbeck who came closest. He picked up the loose ball before dinking the ball over Hart and off the post. It would've been the dream start for a man that swapped Manchester red for Arsenal red on transfer deadline day. Welbeck offered the Gunners something very different, something we haven't had for a few years in the form of pace upfront. Walcott had played up top on a few occasions but not to a consistent level. Welbeck will hopefully provide us with that consistency, and after a promising debut will look to score goals whilst Giroud is out injured.

It was the way with which we dropped all three points that was extremely disappointing though. A corner came in and Arsenal's zonal marking came back to haunt them as Demichelis somehow found himself unmarked to head home from 12 yards. After the quality of our goals, it was a big let down to go and let the game go like that.

Arsenal's goals came from the games outstanding performers. There have been questions raised recently over Jack Wilshere's role in the side and having played in a more deep lying role for England, he was granted a more attacking one against City. It appeared to pay off as he scored the equaliser and put in a brilliant midfield display both defensively and going forward. He linked up with Ramsey for his goal before beating Joe Hart at his near post with his weaker foot. Sanchez's goal was ever more impressive though. He's had a fine start to life at Arsenal, scoring in each of his last three games. Wilshere headed the ball back into the box before the Chilean side footed home an exquisite volley. It was a goal worthy of winning any contest, but sadly it wasn't to be.

Apart from the defensive display there were two other negatives. The first was that of Mesut Ozil. He was once again asked to play out on the left flank and he was rarely involved. It's such a shame to see a player who was considered one of the best players in the world before he joined us, playing out of position. 3 assists in his last 19 Premier League games backs up just how averagely he's performed recently. No runners in behind and having to play out of position are just two of the reasons for his dip in performance. It appears that for Wilshere's benefit and inclusion in the team, Ozil is having to suffer as a result and it isn't helping the German at all. As for the other negative, that fell to Mathieu Debuchy who after a string of consistent performances picked up a bad looking ankle injury that looks as though will keep him out of action for 2-3 months.

Our next game sees us travel to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League as the group stage gets underway. We beat them 1-0 last season away from home so here's hoping for a similar result!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy(81), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini(90), Sanchez, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Welbeck(87).
Subs: Ospina, Chambers(81), Gibbs, Arteta,(90), Oxlade-Chamberlain(87), Cazorla, Podolski.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Lampard(45), Milner, Navas, Silva, Aguero(68).
Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Sagna, Kolarov, Sinclair, Nasri(45), Dzeko(68).

My man of the match: Jack Wilshere.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg. 
Attendance: 60,003. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Laboured Arsenal drop points at promoted Leicester

Arsenal's somewhat laboured but unbeaten start to the season continued away to newly promoted Leicester on Sunday afternoon. Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring before Ulloa equalised minutes later for the Foxes who came away from the game with a deserved point. As for the Gunners, it signals that many improvements are needed and the same problems that we faced last season still need addressing. Writting this on deadline day it's clear that we need to sign a striker with only one natural one in Sanogo being available with Giroud's injury. However there were positives to find despite struggling against a team we should quite frankly be putting several goals past. The line-up saw a return for Ramsey who was suspended in the week against Besiktas which meant Wilshere missed out despite impressing. The Ox was back on the bench as Sanogo started up front whilst the defence were unchanged from the 1-0 win in midweek.
Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal in the Premier League
Following Arsenal's qualification into the Champions League for a 17th successive season, everyone in the club hoped that now would be the ideal time to kick on and really display our intentions. However, a draw against newly promoted Leicester was obviously not the best result to head into an international break off the back of. It was a slow performance and we struggled to create any real chances, just as the case was against Everton last week.

As much as Giroud is slated he's a much better alternative than that of Yaya Sanogo who still looks way out his depth at the moment and signing a striker in my opinion is a necessity. Sanogo was however involved in the goal but it was typical him in the fact that his miscued shot found Sanchez who was left with more or less an open net to fire into. It was the Chilean's second goal in as many games and he looks to already be paying back his hefty price tag. 

Arsenal's defence looked a bit shaky meanwhile and that was proved by the Leicester goal. Schlupp was allowed to get down the left and then Koscielny misjudged the ball to allow Ulloa to come in and head past Szczesny who arguably could've done a little better. Koscielny had to go off though and on came Chambers who looked assertive again. Nacho Monreal continued his consistent start to the season and he looks a completely different player to last season which is hugely encouraging considering Gibbs' injury troubles.

Mesut Ozil wasn't overly impressive but looks to be finding some sort of rhythm again but Santi Cazorla who was playing in a more central role, and a preferred central role looked much better than out wide. He managed to control the game quite well but we lacked that proper penetration from midfield to kick on in attack and that's why we didn't create that many chances. Again Ozil looked isolated on the left and another German, Podolski did when he came on up front which didn't surprise me.

Next up after the international break is Manchester City which will be an incredibly tough test but hopefully we'll sign one or two players on deadline day that will massively improve the team. Here's to hoping we don't get any injuries over the break too!

The teams line-ups:

Leicester: Schmeichel, Moore, De laet, Morgan, Konchesky, King, Mahrez(64), Schlupp(70), Hammond, Nugent, Ulloa(76).
Subs: Hamer, Wood, Drinkwater(76), Cambiasso, Wasilewski, Albrighton(64), Vardy(70),

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny(27), Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla(77), Sanchez, Ozil, Sanogo(77).
Subs: Martinez, Chambers(27), Wilshere, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(77), Campbell, Podolski(77).

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Attendance: 31,535.