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, 30 November 2014

Arsenal bounce back with win over West Brom

A solitary goal from Danny Welbeck ensured Arsenal returned to winning ways in the League as the Gunners defeated West Brom 1-0 at the Hawthorns. It was a display that saw Arsenal build on the small positives from the United game, and then the win over Dortmund to seal all three points. It was a much changed team that saw Koscielny and Giroud return as Welbeck started out-wide. Meanwhile Monreal started at left back over Gibbs as Cazorla replaced the Ox from the defeat last weekend.
Welbeck and Giroud linked up well as Arsenal beat West Brom
Despite the slim margin of victory, Arsenal were heavily improved from recent weeks, especially in the defensive area of the pitch. We know we can score goals, at least when we take our chances, but having kept two clean-sheets in two now, it's a huge positive. Laurent Koscielny's return yesterday gave the side an extra solidity and we looked far more comfortable defensively.

Per Mertesacker looked back to his best alongside the player he formed such a formidable partnership with last season. Nacho Monreal was given a surprise start at left back which was good to see. What wasn't good to see was the fact the Spaniard limped off with an injury midway through the first half. The solid defensive partnership ensured that Emiliano Martinez had a relatively untroubled display in goal, but like Dortmund in midweek, he was assured in everything he did.

However, it was Danny Welbeck that made the crucial difference on the day. His displays in an Arsenal shirt since signing have been encouraging but he perhaps hasn't scored as many goals as we would've liked. It was very interesting to see him play alongside Olivier Giroud for the first time. Welbeck was given a wider role than he has been used to at Arsenal, but he appeared to interchange positions quite nicely with both Giroud and Sanchez who completed the attacking trio. Indeed it was Danny Welbeck who scored the winning goal with a great leap to power home a header.

Olivier Giroud's return has also signaled an extra physicality in this Arsenal side that has perhaps been missing. Although his first touch wasn't really up to scratch yet, he put himself about and after his screamer against Manchester United last weekend, you can see there is plenty more to come from him in the next few weeks. The may not start together every week, but there were lots of signs to suggest that Giroud and Welbeck could form a very strong partnership together.

Santi Cazorla provided the assist for the goal in what was another impressive display. His performances this season have been widely criticised but after starting in a favoured central role against Dortmund, and against West Brom yesterday he has looked back to his best. He ran the show at the Hawthorns and was at the heart of most attacks. He had a few attempts from outside the box that were blocked or at the keeper but his assist showed immense quality. He managed to get past Wisdom with ease down the left before getting to the byline and supplying the cross for the goal.

The one concern from the game was Aaron Ramsey though. His form compared to last season has been pretty dire. His performances in 2014/15 have been reminiscent of the ones he would put in two seasons ago, losing the ball and trying to over complicate things. It's important he gets back to the basics, and starts to rediscover the form that made him a star player last term. Especially considering Wilshere and Arteta's injuries. On too many occasions against West Brom he was guilty of trying to do too much instead of looking for the man. As a team though, Arsenal were much improved.

Next up is a tough match against Southampton in the week. It'll be a big test of our resolve, and hopefully after wins in our last two matches in all competitions, we'll be able to keep that run going against a side that have been performing well above what is expected of them this season.

The team's line-ups:

West Brom: Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli(73), Gardner, Mulumbu(64), Dorrans, Brunt, Sessegnon(76), Berahino. 
Subs: Myhill, Baird, Gamboa(73), McAuley, Ideye, Anichebe(64), Samaras(76). 

Arsenal: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal(23), Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Welbeck, Sanchez, Giroud(78). 
Subs: Macey, Bellerin, Gibbs(23), Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(78), Campbell, Podolski. 

My man of the match: Santi Cazorla.

Referee: Chris Foy. 
Attendance: 24,228. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Win over Dortmund secures path to the knock-out stages

Arsenal bounced back from back to back league defeats to both Swansea and Man United with a crucial Champions League victory over Borussia Dortmund. An injury plagued squad managed to overcome an under performing Dortmund side to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League. A first goal for Sanogo and then an effort from Alexis Sanchez secured a 2-0 win at the Emirates in front of a crowd that needed desperately cheering up.
Yaya Sanogo scored his first Gunners goal as Arsenal beat Dortmund
To put it bluntly, Arsenal simply haven't been good enough this season. However, a win over a Dortmund team who were cruising through this Champions League group should give the Gunners renewed hope. It was a hugely intelligent performance from the Gunners, who showed both an attacking prowess and a more conservative approach between the defence and midfield's link-up play.

Too often over the past few seasons we've started well in the big games but failed to take our chances. Bayern last year and Man United at the weekend are prime examples of that. Against Dortmund though, our fortunes seemed to change. Yaya Sanogo opened the scoring with his first goal for the club within just two minutes. He exchanged passes with Santi Cazorla before firing under Weidenfeller much to the delight of the Frenchman.

Sanogo hasn't been shy of big game experience, he had to lead the line towards the back end of last season when Giroud was injured, and with him and Welbeck both missing, he did a good job up front. With Sanogo upfront we appeared to change the way we played. There were a lot of occasions where we looked to go into Sanogo to hold the ball up rather than in behind and it worked to great affect.

Alexis Sanchez looked a little fatigued at the weekend, which was understandable considering his international schedule, but against Dortmund the Chilean had a spring back in his step. His finish was precise as he curled the ball home from outside the area. It was an exceptional finish from a player who now has 13 in 20 this season.

Another man who had a spring back in his step was Santi Cazorla. He provided the assist for both goals and looked a lot more assured and confident on the ball. It came as no coincidence that he played a lot better in a more central role, compared to the wide one he's been used to this season.

The defence meanwhile went relatively untroubled, but when called upon, Emiliano Martinez in goal had a comfortable game. He replaced Szczesny who was injured at the weekend, and showed no signs of nervousness in what was his Champions League debut.

There were negatives though. Once again we suffered injuries and the main one fell to Arteta who looks set to be out for a number of weeks with a calf problem. The Spaniard has been a calming influence in the side this season so he'll be a big loss, especially with Wilshere's injury. Sanogo meanwhile limped off late on so here's hoping Welbeck and Giroud will be fine for the weekend.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta(66), Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain(89), Cazorla, Sanchez, Sanogo(79).
Subs: Huddart, Koscielny, Bellerin, Flamini(66), Rosicky, Campbell(89) Podolski(79).

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Ginter, Schmelzer, Bender, Gundogan, Aubameyang(60), Mkhitaryan, Grosskreutz(78), Immobile(60).
Subs: Langerak, Hornschuh, Durm, Kehl, Jojic(78), Kagawa(60), Ramos(60).

My man of the match: Santi Cazorla.

Referee: Viktor Kassai
Attendance: 59,902.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Poor form continues as United defeat Arsenal

I honestly have no idea what we have to do in order to beat United. From the first whistle we dominated them and I cease to believe how we lost the game. I also cease to believe what has happened to Arsenal Football Club in 2014/15. Over the past decade many of the fans frustrations have been taken out on Wenger, some of it has been deserved, but a lot of it hasn't, and that was shown on Saturday as we were defeated 2-1 by Manchester United.
Giroud scored on his return as Arsenal were beaten by United
The loss at the weekend has indicated that it is indeed the players fault. They have a lack of bottle and always see to throw it away when in control. The players Wenger sent out to play at the weekend were good enough to beat this United side. It was a United side that was down to the very bare bones. Okay we've had our injury problems this season but compared to Man United's we've been quite fortunate in comparison. They were forced to play Blackett, McNair and Smalling in defence, and when Shaw had to go off they had Valencia and Young as wing-backs. How on earth it took us until injury time to score a goal against a very inexperienced defence was simply unbelievable for us Arsenal fans.

It's easy to rant, and it may seem like we lost the game to a much larger score-line, but the truth is, it felt like we had. Jack Wilshere passed up one of the best opportunities to score I have ever seen midway through the first half. Had he scored that then it would have been a very different game. Arsenal were in the ascendency and were dominating United to a great extent. For once I thought we had the upper hand against them, but it was typical of us to go 1-0 down through a calamitous own goal with them yet to have a shot on target. Young's floated ball was punched away into the path of Valencia who after Szczesny and Gibbs had collided, drove the ball off Gibbs and into the net.

Szczesny as a result had to go off, and Martinez came on. Arsenal had effectively thrown everyone forward late on and were of course caught out on the counter attack. It seems as though we're destined to never learn from our mistakes, and the players just don't have that mental edge over their opponents. Rooney clipped the ball over Martinez for their second and Di Maria almost did the same but sent the ball wide in a similar situation.

In truth, Arsenal didn't look that bad at the back. A lot of the time the defence get the blame and rightfully so, but at the weekend it was the attackers fault. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was perhaps our only threat and the majority of shots we had were straight at United keeper David De Gea. Alexis Sanchez's impact was minimal too, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was rested for Dortmund despite the magnitude of the game, after a busy international break with Chile.

In Olivier Giroud, Arsenal were brought a glimmer of hope. The Frenchman has been missing since September through injury and immediately showed the passion and determination we seemed to be lacking through the game. He almost scored with his first touch of the ball (a header) and then did find the net with an absolute screamer. Arteta played the ball over the top, and Giroud unleashed a brilliant half-volley. It's worth mentioning the performance of Mikel Arteta further though. Despite the defeat he controlled the game well and made sure that the supply line to Rooney, Di Maria and van Persie was restricted throughout the game.

Too many of the attacking players chose to have a poor game though, and that, alongside the lack of bottle the players seem to have, ultimately lead to our downfall.

We've had a lot of frustrating results this season but this one has to be up there as one of the most frustrating, and bitterly disappointing. I can't remember a game that we've controlled more against one of the top sides in so long, and to then go and lose the game given the circumstances is inconceivable.

The team's line-ups: 

Arsenal: Szczesny(59), Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey(76), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere(55), Sanchez, Welbeck.
Subs: Martinez(59), Bellerin, Flamini, Rosicky, Cazorla(55), Podolski, Giroud(76).

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Blackett, Smalling, McNair, Shaw(16), Carrick, Fellaini, van Persie(75), Rooney, Di Maria.
Subs: Lindegaard, Fletcher(88), Young(16,88), Herrara, Januzaj, Mata, Wilson(75).

Referee: Mike Dean.
Attendance: 60,074. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Defence exploited as Arsenal slip up again

When will it all end? Season after season we see the same problems occurring, and season after season we fail to see those issues addressed. We can harp on about it all we like but something needs changing. The problems that could be seen from the Swansea game were nothing new for Arsenal and after the result against Anderlecht in the week you can only imagine how the fans reacted. It was inexcusable to lose a 3-0 lead in midweek at home, let alone to throw away another lead in the League in the same week.
Oxlade-Chamberlain showed glimpses of promise for Arsenal
Never have I been so annoyed as an Arsenal fan within the last week. There has been times of frustration over the last decade and that's putting it lightly. The FA Cup triumph of last season appears to all be a distant memory now. The summer signing of Alexis Sanchez was meant to benefit the squad, and it's done just that. 12 goals in 18 this season speaks for itself. However it's clear to see even for non-Arsenal fans of what we were crying out for in the transfer market. A defensive midfielder - a stalwart in the middle of the park that can protect the back four. Too many times we've seen the back four being left with absolutely no protection.

Against Swansea we were in effect left with a back two. We had started the game slowly but either side of the break we managed to up the tempo and scored a great goal on the counter through Alexis. However the problem that then arose was our lack of game management and sense of tactics. It's normally against the top sides that we get punished but the weekend saw Swansea take advantage. Before the game Wenger claimed we were getting the balance right between defence and attack. Those claims are simply laughable if you consider the way in which we conceded the first.

Swansea broke and with more than half of the Arsenal team forward they took advantage. Gibbs had to make a foul on the edge of the area as Mertesacker and Monreal has been heavily exposed by their lack of cover. As a consequence Sigurdsson curled the ball home from the free-kick.

I mentioned the lack of game management and simple tactics. Jefferson Montero was tearing Calum Chambers apart at right back and nothing was done to prevent that. Whether that was by getting the pacey Bellerin on at the break or getting Oxlade-Chamberlain to sit back. None of that happened and after Chambers had been booked it was going from bad to worse. Resultantly the winning goal came from that left hand side. Montero provided the cross and Gomis got up ahead of Monreal to head home.

The defensive frailties were once again there to be seen. In attack we had been good. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was providing the spark whilst Sanchez popped up with yet another goal. However had we replaced Vermaelen in the summer then perhaps we wouldn't be having to play a 5ft10 player at centre half. Wenger can't do anything about the injuries but our lack of squad depth has been a problem for many years now. Chambers and Debuchy came in but nothing more. Another option in the middle of the back four was needed, and with the injuries that is now evident. Koscielny is due back after the international break and his return couldn't come sooner.

Chambers could've been a viable option at centre back for the Swansea game. Especially after Monreal's showing in midweek. Chambers had played brilliantly in that position earlier in the season and you would've assumed that after Jenkinson was loaned out that Bellerin would be ready to play. However that doesn't seem to be the case and perhaps we've paid for it considering our last two games.

We'll have to come back after the international break all guns blazing. Our first game back is against Manchester United and a defeat there will mean Wenger is really under pressure, and it will also guarantee a lot of unhappy fans. As if they aren't already unhappy enough.

The teams line-ups:

Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, Bartley, Williams, Taylor, Ki, Carroll(86), Emnes(66), Sigurdsson, Montero, Bony(76).
Subs: Tremmel, Amat, Tiendalli, Britton(86), Fulton, Barrow(66), Gomis(76).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers(90), Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini(80), Ramsey(80), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck.
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Wilshere(80), Rosicky, Walcott(80), Podolski, Sanogo(90). 

Referee: Phil Dowd.
Attendance: 20,812. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Arsenal up to fourth with win over Burnley

Arsenal achieved back to back wins for the first time in the League this Saturday as they comfortably saw off the challenge of Burnley. The visitors originally frustrated but goals from Sanchez and Chambers were enough to see us move back into the top four. It was a dominant display from start to finish that once again saw Alexis star for the Gunners. He started in what was an unchanged line-up from the win over Sunderland the week before but Sanogo was back on the bench in place of Joel Campbell.
Alexis Sanchez now has 10 in 16 this season for Arsenal
Arsenal were always going to dominate this game with Burnley immediately looking to sit back and soak up the pressure. It was something they did well and Heaton in the Burnley goal had a great game and made sure it took longer than anticipated to get the first goal. It took until 70 minutes for us to finally break the visitors down in what had been a much improved attacking display from us considering the amount of chances we created compared to previous weeks.

Alexis Sanchez was at the heart of everything and could've had a first half hat-trick. He got the goal he deserved though in the second half. Chambers delivered a peach of a cross in from the right and Sanchez got up ahead of his marker to power a header home. The Chilean has been outstanding this season and although this game was against the team bringing up the table in bottom he showed what a class act he was. His trickery and ability to run at players and create chances was incredible and his form in recent weeks has seen us start to gain momentum. Sanchez also helped himself to a second in the dying moments of the game too. Gibbs slid the ball into the box and Alexis took the ball into his stride well before finding the net.

I mentioned that Chambers had a part in the first goal and he had a brilliant game and is beginning to mature into quite a player, credit to Wenger for snapping him up in the summer. Arsenal didn't particularly have much to do at the back but Chambers was solid and offered a constant threat down the right hand side with Oxlade-Chamberlain. This was of course backed up by his assist, but he also got on the score-sheet shortly after Sanchez's first. He managed to poke the ball home for his first senior goal after Welbeck's effort had originally been blocked.

The defence have been much improved in the last couple of games and that's despite not having both Debuchy and Koscielny. Monreal has slotted in at centre half and has coped well in the past two weeks and put in another assured performance against Burnley.

One of the biggest positives from the game was Theo Walcott's return to action after almost 10 months out. He injured his ACL against Spurs in January and he made his return to action with 10 minutes remaining. He didn't show any signs of rustiness and created a few chances and also made one or two for himself. Lukas Podolski came onto the field at the same time as Walcott and showed why he perhaps deserves to play more. He almost helped himself to two goals, one being brilliantly saved from close range and the other cannoning back off the post.

There's reasons to not get ahead of ourselves because we were playing a team that hadn't won all season, but it's great to see some of our players finding form and that as a team, we're finally beginning to build up ahead of steam in the Premier League.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta(63), Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain(80), Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck(80).
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Ramsey(63), Rosicky, Walcott(80), Podolski(80), Sanogo. 

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Ward, Marney(80), Jones, Arfield, Boyd, Ings, Sordell(69).
Subs: Gilks, Mee, Chalobah(80), Wallace, Keane, Kightly, Jutkiewicz(69).

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Craig Pawson.
Attendance: 60,012.