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This season is shaping into one we could all remember in the years to come. To make that happen Arsenal would love to get a win in Spain against Villareal.
But Arsene Wenger, unlike us Gooners, refuses to count Arsenal’s chances in the Champions League. The Arsenal manager said:
“We are super outsiders because all of the favourites are Liverpool, Manchester United and Barcelona. I think tonight is a 50:50. We are super-outsiders to win the trophy of the Champions League because when you look at the bookmakers, we are not in there.
“It puts a little less pressure on you but once you are on the pitch, it doesn’t change too much.
Villareal will come into this match after a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Almeria but apart from that set-back they haven’t been doing too badly. WWLWL. Both the defeats have been away from home and the last time they lost at home was way back in December when they lost 2-1 to Barcelona. Since then they have won 5 and drawn 2 at El Madrigal. It’s a decent enough record to at least force a draw from Arsenal but if the Gunners play like the way they have been lately, there will be no stopping them!
We are all quite aware of the hot form Arsenal are in at the moment. 7 consecutive wins (if you count the penalty shootout victory as a win) and unbeaten in 22 matches in all competitions.
Moving on to team news now. Samir Nasri is back after sitting out the win over Man City because of flu. van Persie and Eduardo remain out of the squad due to groin injuries and cup-tied Arshavin will also not feature. So Wenger can use the same formation he used against Man City on the weekend with Nasri filling the void in midfield left by Arshavin.
Clichy Gallas Toure Sagna
Nasri Fabregas Walcott
If Fabregas is on song just like he was on Saturday, I see Arsenal coming back home with a lead in hand. He is an exceptional talent. And then Walcott can keep making those defence piercing runs and Adebayor keep finishing the way he is capable of and we should all but guarantee a place in the semis after just this leg!
Realistically speaking though, a draw seems the most likely result but a win for either side is still quite possible.
And lets not forget this Villareal held Manchester United to goal-less draws both at and away from home.
We just can’t stop winning now can we! Yet another brilliant performance from the Arsenal as they gain a 3 point lead over Aston Villa which might not last long if Villa win against Liverpool though it seems highly unlikely as the Reds are in hot form. One thing is confirmed after the thrashing though, the gap between Chelsea and Arsenal is down to just 6 points.
It was yet another typical Arsenal performance. The free flowing passing football that we were so used to seeing last season was missing this season but not anymore. 4-0, 2-1 and through to the semis of FA Cup, 3-1. You can’t ask for more! The starting line-up surprised me as Diaby played instead of Song. Song is going through the form of his life and I am not the biggest of fans of Diaby. But the young Frechman would soon show us he deserved to start! Arsenal made a good start when Gallas failed to make contact with the ball from a decent van Persie corner. Next up van Persie sent Bendtner through but the angle was now against the Dane. He had a shot but it was a comfortable save for Harper. Newcastle were starting to press more and had most of the possession and they were soon to be rewarded for it. A cross sent in. Almunia tried to punch it away but couldn’t. Tried to retrieve the ball from Taylor but appeared to have brought the Newcastle man down. Penalty given. The clinical finisher Martins stepped up to take it. Went for the bottom corner but Almunia dived the right way and saved! What a start to the match. At this point in time Newcastle manager would be regretting his decision not to start Owen who surely would have put the penalty away. The next real chance came Arsenal’s way. van Persie finds Arshavin inside the box. The Russian takes the ball away from the defender making space for the shot and lashes at it but a superb block by Steven Taylor to deny him his 2nd goal for the club. Both the teams are having turns at getting goal scoring opportunities! Martins plays a neat ball to Lovenkrands. He is about to unleash the shot just inside the box but Clichy steps in and clears it away for a corner. A vital clearance and at that time I was scared Clichy might give away a penalty afterall he is an expert at fouls inside the box! Arsenal’s turn now. Arshavin given the ball at the half way line. Gets away from one defender… two… goes for the spectacular and wow what an effort. Hits the bar but exceptional stuff by the little Russian. Next up Nolan crosses in to Lovenkrands. A clear goal scoring opportunity but it goes begging. Arsenal break away. Diaby on the ball but gives it away cheaply. Newcastle’s turn again. Martins gets the ball. Turns. Has a shot but just outside the post. Then van Persie is picked out by a great ball by Nasri. The Dutchman controls well but in doing so Harper came right in front of him and made an easy save. Next up a chance for Bendtner to have a shot on goal but instead he finds van Persie. Steven Taylor with another goal saving block this time denying van Persie. He was reminding me of John Terry with his blocks! Half time. What a half of football. Both the sides had their chances but Arsenal had the better half. Diaby was hopeless and needed to improve.
Second half’s first real chance was from an Arsenal free kick. Arshavin to take it. Sends a delightful delivery into the box, headed in by Bendtner. Arsenal broke their deadlock and Newcastle did the same 47 seconds later. Newcastle went for a pressing attack straight from the kick off. Martins tried to get away from Gallas to have an opportunity to shoot. But Gallas did the job for him. Attempts a hopeless clearance giving the ball back to Martins who slams the ball into the bottom corner. There was nothing Almunia could do. Game on once again. But Arsenal didn’t make the scoreline last long. 5 minutes later Diaby tries a one-two with van Persie which gives him loads of space in front of the goal. He kept going and when defenders drew near from both the sides he powerfully sent the ball into the roof of the net! Who would have expected Diaby to score! Unbelievable stuff. 3 minutes later van Persie picks out Nasri who must have been surprised with the amount of space he got. Smashed the ball into the bottom corner at the near post. 3-1 with 4 goals in 10 minutes! Chances came Denilson’s and Gallas’s way. Denilson’s shot saved by Harper and Gallas failed to get sufficient contact on his header from a corner. van Persie had a chance. One on one with Harper but in trying to round the keeper the angle became too tight and the chance ended. It was all Arsenal now. Bendtner poorly heads wide from a Sagna cross. van Persie shoots over. The last chance of the match fell to Diaby but his effort strikes the post. 3-1 it ends and a deserving victory for Arsenal.
Defensively Arsenal were poor at times today. We are seeing defensive lapses in nearly every match now. Improvement needed. On the positive side the wing backs played well. Sagna sending in decent crosses in and Clichy was very effective going forward, did not attempt his hopeless crosses and was sound defensively making a goal saving tackle as well. The central midfielders were lost all match. I can’t wait to see Fabregas back again. Nasri and Arshavin were too good. They pulled all the strings for Arsenal. Everything they did was just perfect. Bendtner once again worked extremely hard. His movement on and off the ball is quite good. Once he improves his finishing he can become a very good forward. van Persie is missing too many chances but at leas he is getting the assists.
I think we can start hoping for a top 3 finish even. Add to that Arsenal having quite a chance in the FA Cup and you can’t rule them out of the Champions League just as yet.
It may have been a frustrating night and an average performance but still a win is a win and that’s what matters in the end.
The game started in disastrous fashion for the hosts. They could not get into their quick passing football at the start and looked uncomfortable when in possession and they paid the price for it. Hull pounced on the first available opportunity. Barmby took a shot that took a huge deflection off Djourou and lofted over the helpless Fabianski. 1-0 to the visitors and it seemed Hull were up for another upset at the Emirates. But Arsenal had other plans. That goal was a wake up call for the Gunners. After that they started to dominate and that continued till the end. But occasional opportunities for Hull remained and they got one very soon after the first goal. A free kick given away by Gallas just outside the box and we have seen Geovanni score from that range before. His free kick was nearly a body blow for Arsenal. Heading for the top corner but Fabianski dived and punched the ball out for a corner. A world class save to deny Hull a dangerous 2-0 lead. After that chances kept falling Arsenal’s way but no clear cut chance. It remained 1-0 at half time and Arsenal needed to improve if they were too keep alive their dream of winning the FA Cup. van Persie was quite surprising in the first half. He looked helpless whenever he recieved the ball and couldn’t do anything noteable. Diaby was as worse. 90% of his passes were to Gallas and Sagna. He looked too hesitant to make forward passes.
Wenger’s half time talk reaped fruit for Arsenal. The second half was sheer domination for Arsenal. They nearly broke the deadlock with a Diaby header from a corner but the ball went wrong side of the post. Then a header cleared off the line came to Song with his back towards goal. The Cameroon international tried an athletic effort but once again off target. The pressure was mounting but Arsenal failed to convert their opportunities to goals. With 20 minutes remaining I feared this is not our day. Visions of Arsenal vs West Ham came to my mind and this match seemed just like it. Chance after chance but they couldn’t score heading for defeat. Even when Nasri and Bendtner came on, the number of chances increased but the goal was still lacking. Eventually substitute Bendtner got away from two defenders inside the box and was at a very acute angle towards the goal. He picked out the unmarked Arshavin at the far post. The Russian instead of attempting a difficult finish from a tight angle found van Persie right ahead of the goal, he too was unmarked, and he did not make any mistake. Lashed it into the top of the net with a first time effort by his right foot. Finally Hull’s resistance had snapped thanks to some poor defending. After that Hull could not do what they had been doing all match – time wasting. So as they tried to attack, Arsenal’s attacks became more dangerous. The winner came with just around 5 mins to go. Once again a substitute was involved. Nasri’s free kick lofted into the box. Three four players and the keeper went for the ball and eventually it landed to Gallas who was expecting the ball to come to him. A simple header to make it 2-1. Hull were furious as they claimed Gallas was offside and replays suggested they were right. But it seemed Myhill could have had the last touch before the ball fell to Gallas. Because of the number of chances they created Arsenal deserved to win!
Fabianski had a very good match. He was not at fault in the goal and apart from it he was brilliant. Sagna worked his socks off. Equally impressive at defending and attacking but it was his poor clearance that set up Hull’s opening goal. Djourou was poor. Gallas was solid. Gibbs was terrific. Unbelievable performance from the youngster. I was particularly pleased with his crossing apart from defending and runs. He is like a young version of Clichy except that his crosses are much much better. He has a great future ahead of him. Arshavin was exceptional yet again. He can pick out brilliant defence piercing through balls out of nowhere. Amazing. Song was good once again, solid. Diaby was very poor in the first half but better in the second. Walcott was great as expected. Vela and van Persie were poor mostly. Vela had a bad day but he is far more capable than how he played today.
Moving to some controversial issues now. Phil Brown accused Fabregas of spitting at Hull’s assistant manager Brian Horton. What a hopeless accusation. I can’t even imagine Fabregas doing such a vulgar act. What a bad loser Brown is. Just because you have been dumped out of the cup by fat better opposition doesn’t mean you put out baseless accusations. Fabregas has immediately denied it saying he hasn’t done it on the pitch even so why would he do it when he is not even playing. Its odd that Brown is the one making the accusation not the victim himself! It kind of shows someone is just lying. Trying to take his anger out on someone! But it’s not proven yet. I sure hope Cesc didn’t do it.
As for Wenger not shaking hands with the lizard-face, it was Brown who rushed down the tunnel first I think. Even if he hadn’t gone down first he looked disgusted and not in the mood of a handshake so nothing Wenger could have done really. Bad loser Brown.
In a match in which there was no standout performer for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s club still managed to win the tie on penalties. It ended 1-0 to Roma after extra time and they deserved it. But as Wenger said the mental strength of the young Arsenal side was unbelievable.
Arsenal knew coming into this match that if they score just one goal, Roma will have an uphill task of scoring 3 to go through. But on the other hand an early goal for Roma would put the tie right in the balance and that is exactly what happened thanks to some poor defending by the Arsenal back four. Totti sent a weak, low cross in. Gallas tried to stop it but couldn’t, Toure attempted to clear it with his left foot but couldn’t. It came to Taddei who let it run to the unmarked Juan at the far post. Clichy should have been there marking the Brazilian but instead the young left back was in no man’s land. Juan collected the ball and slammed it past Almunia to make it 1-1 on aggregate in just the 9th minute of the match. It was game on. Roma kept pressing but so did Arsenal. Diaby had a chance from a corner but he could not get sufficient power behind his header. Then a golden chance for Roma to put Arsenal under immense pressure. Motta had a powerful shot which was punched away by Almunia straight to Taddei but Almunia denied Taddei with a fingertip save. To end the first half, the referee made a bad decision, though for us it was a good one! Clichy apparently had brought Motta down inside the box but the referee waved away the appeals for a penalty, wrongly it seemed. It was quite an even first half but Roma had the better chances. Arsenal had nearly 60% possession but despite that they had failed to create a clear cut goal scoring opportunity.
The second half saw more of the same with Roma clearly being the better side. There were a few half chances for both sides. Bendtner nearly went one on one with Doni but a misplaced pass by Eboue wasted a could-be golden opportunity. Baptista had the best chance of the match. Totti sent a great ball to the Beast which he somehow failed to control, if he had managed to control it he would have had Almunia at his mercy. There was another decent chance for Roma but Sagna made an amazing tackle to end the attack. Normal time ended with everyone looking fatigued apart from the substitutes.
Extra time showed how tired out everyone was. No real attacks from either side and as it was nearly 4am here, the 30 minutes made me really sleepy! It was time now for penalties. The mental strength of the youth of Arsenal against that of the experienced Roma.
Substitute Eduardo stepped up to take the first penalty of the shootout. He had a very poor substitute appearance so far but I just knew he was going to score. But he shocked us all with a poor penalty. Too close to the keeper. At this moment I felt this is not our day. Pizarro came up and dispatched his penalty and van Persie did the same. Then the unexpected happened again. Vucinic of all people hit the penalty straight at Almunia and well done by Almunia too. Then Nasri scored and so did Montello. When Denilson came, I had a bad feeling he is going to miss the penalty. The Brazilian smashed his penalty straight down the middle but fortunately Doni had dived. Then Totti expertly scored his penalty. Walcott did the same and Sagna, Toure also scored but their penalties were canceled out by Aquilani, Brighi and Riise. Diaby then converted his spot kick and Tonnetto blasted his over the bar and the Gunners were through to the quarter finals! The stadium was silenced as Arsenal players were jumping around with joy, hugging each other and waving towards the traveling Gooners. It was a victory that towards the end, I was losing hope of but the Gunners did not let their fans down. It may not have been a performance to remember but its the result that matters and Arsenal got it.
One has to admit we are extremely lucky to go through. There was a clear penalty for Roma not given. That Baptista chance would have easily been put away on any other day and most of our penalties were easily stoppable if Doni had dived the right way. I think only Nasri’s and van Persie’s penalties were good, others were all stoppable (though I don’t exactly remember). It was very nice to see luck on our side for a change! Luck is vital. You don’t win trophies just by pure class, you need luck too and it seems Arsenal had loads of it last night. Hopefully that can continue for the rest of the season! We may have gone through but it was not a performance to be proud of. We need to make ammends. If we can’t create chances against Roma then it would be far more difficult against the likes of Manchester United and Barca. Only Almunia and Sagna played well. Others were average. Gallas and Toure weren’t bad either but their mistake for the goal could have proved costly. So defensively we looked sound. On the attacking front though, dramatic improvements are needed. On the positive side, we still have the Champions League and FA Cup within our sights.
Almunia – 7 – Didn’t do anything wrong all match and made a decent save too. Apart from that save and a couple of punches from corners he hardly had anything to do.
Sagna – 6.5 – Yet another decent game for Mr. Consistent. But he needs to work on his crosses more.
Djourou – 5 – He was Arsenal’s worst player in the match. Didn’t do well enough in the air and failed to win some tackles. Didn’t look too confident while defending.
Toure – 7 – Superb defending from the captain. Got a vital goal and sent a delightful long ball to assist Bendtner for his second which Fabregas would be proud of!
Clichy – 6 – Not the best of games by his standard. But at least this time he crossed the ball fewer times than against Fulham. He is a hopeless crosser and yet he crosses the ball in again and again. Can someone go and tell him how bad his crosses are because he clearly can’t see it.
Eboue – 6.5 – Surprisingly good performance by the Ivorian. Made good surging runs but as usual he lacked the final ball or the finish. And in the opening minutes the ‘Pass Master’ gave the ball away a few times too! Wenger would have been surprised to see that!
Denilson – 7.5 – Brilliant performance by the youngster. He is improving a lot, especially on his defensive side. He needs to put up such performances week in week out.
Song – 5.5 – Not the best of performances from Song particularly when he was in the centre of the midfield. He was better when playing as the centre half this time.
Nasri – 7 – As usual a superb match from the young Frenchman. He was involved in most of the attacks. The only thing missing was an assist or a goal.
Arshavin – 7.5 – Arshavin was a different class. Amazing. Whenever he is on the ball one feels he will do something special. He forced some superb saves from Carson and had a great assist with that delightful delivery into the box for Toure to head in.
Bendtner – 8 – He had the best match of his Arsenal career! He showed how capable a finisher he is and why Wenger has so much faith in him. Both the goals were world class especially the second one. Unlucky not to get his hattrick. It should have been 8.5 for him had it not been for a couple of bad misses.
Diaby – 6.5 – Played the 2nd half and played really well. He can take on defenders, he can send forward passes and not just sideways (unlike Song and Denilson!).
Ramsey – 6 – Made one mistake but otherwise he looked sheer quality. You can see the talent in him with his every pass. He can make passes that Denilson and Song, and even Diaby cannot. That pass behind the defender for Arshavin was superb.
Merida - 5.5 – 5.5 only because of the limited time he got. He looked impressive. He has got strength and quality.
Arsenal’s trip to West Brom seems like a perfect opportunity to end their goal scoring drought. Tony Mowbray’s side have lost their last 4 games and Arsenal have a big opportunity to make that 5. To add to that hopeless run, they have conceded at least two goals in their last 7 games.
Arsenal as we all know are on the worst run in Arsene Wenger’s reign as Arsenal’s manager. 5 straight draws have made them drop 10 points. What makes this run hard to digest is that in all of these matches, Arsenal have dominated the game, but yet they drew as they failed to find the back of the net. If Arsenal had won these 5 games, they would have been 2nd in the League, just 6 points behind the leaders Manchester United. But now the 16 point gap has effectively ruled Arsenal out of the title race and even qualifying for the Champions League is becoming more and more difficult. Luckily for Arsenal though, Aston Villa too have been held to draws in their last 2 games so they have not been able to increase the gap between themselves and 5th placed Arsenal.
A defeat tonight, and a win for Everton would send Arsenal down to 6th place. But as Manchester United have won the League Cup so the 5th and 6th placed sides at the end of the season will qualify for the UEFA Cup so even if Arsenal unfortunately end up 6th considering their immensely poor run, they should still make it to the UEFA Cup next season so we don’t need to worry about not being in Europe at all next season!
Talking of West Brom now, their run is much worse than Arsenal’s as mentioned above and they are at rock bottom in the League table. Havent won a match since their 3-0 win against Middlesbrough 7 matches back. So looking at the situation of West Brom, Arsenal should finally end their long run of draws. West Brom have lost 17 matches already this season and hopefully Arsenal can make it 18. West Brom rarely come and just defend. They go for the win in every match which should give Arsenal some breathing space and we all know Arsenal play really well in such situations. West Brom have been hopeless against big teams. They have lost to Arsenal and Liverpool, and to Aston Villa, Chelsea and Mancheter United twice.
Tema news now. William Gallas is out with an ankle injury so Djourou will come in. Bad news there. Gallas-Toure partnership has been working brilliantly. Lets hope Gallas returns soon. He is going through the best form of his Arsenal career. Apart from his no one is back and no one else is out. The team might change though. I don’t expect Vela to get another start. Bendtner might be back.
Sagna Toure Djourou Clichy
Arshavin Diaby Denilson Nasri
Bendtner van Persie
I expect Bendtner to return but he might again be dropped and Eboue might come into the same 4-2-3-1 formation on the right.
Predicting Arsenal’s matches is becoming quite difficult now! They are on a bad run but the bad run is eventually going to end obviously. It wont continue forever. I expect the run to end tonight (my heart says so :p). 1-0 to Arsenal!
by Zain Shahid
2 matches, 2 draws, 4 points dropped. And Wenger says we are in the title race! We have seen two hopeless performances from Arsenal and if we continue this way then say goodbye to Champions League football and the revenue that comes with it. Yesterday’s match was one in which we did not have a single clear cut chance and that explains Arsenal’s story.
From the start till the end we dominated possession. It’s becoming a trademark of Arsenal now, dominate 60+% possession and still don’t win! In the first half the closest Arsenal came to scoring was Diaby’s deflected header hitting the bar. Some good runs and crosses by Nasri. I was really impressed to see how quick he is. He was the only Gunner in the first half who played above average. Diaby wasn’t bad either though. Eboue gave the ball away too often but I felt sorry for him when he got injured. He had a good match if you don’t look at the number of times he gave the ball away!
Arsenal forgot the first half and made a fresh start in the second half. But still lack of penetration. Collins and Upson again proving too hard to break down. Arsenal’s attacks were all limited to outside the box. Just a one decent chance in this half too, the header that was helped on to the keeper by Adebayor. I think he should get a haircut because his hair acts as a cushion and slows the ball down when he heads the ball! In the final 20 mins or so, Nasri was nowhere to be seen. Diaby looked tired. There was a big sense of urgency about Arsenal’s play in the end which we haven’t seen much this season but eventually it came down to nothing. Toure’s shot out of nowhere was the closest we came to scoring in the whole match.
In the end it was two points dropped. Two points dropped at home and with a trip to White Hart Lane next up, I think we should start hoping we at least end up finishing 5th and not worse than that! The lack of quality in the final third is what led to two lost points. The lack of penetration is getting more and more annoying.
Almunia hardly had any work to do. Sagna was yet again brilliant. Gallas and Toure were midfielders rather than defenders because all match the ball was in West Ham’s half. Clichy made really impressive runs forward. The midfield looked decent but they could not break down the 9 man defence. Adebayor was hopeless. I have no idea where has his talent which we saw last season disappeared. Bendtner was average. Nothing special from him. Nasri’s was the only standout performance yesterday. van Persie got too little time to do anything but hopefully the rest he got will lead to a man of the match performance against Cardiff on Tuesday! I have high hopes from the FA Cup now as I start to lose hope from the Preimer League.
by Zain Shahid
We’re back to Emirates now and once again needing a win. Dropping points now seems unacceptable. But West Ham have always been a tough match for Arsenal. This time around also it might be a difficult encounter as the Hammers under Zola are in hot form and have managed 13 points from their last 5 games compared to Arsenal’s 12. This match will be one to keep the pressure on Aston Villa for the Champions League place. People say its a fight between the Gunners and Villa but I think Chelsea and Liverpool are also in it, especially Liverpool. But in the end with the quality that big 4 have got and the lucky wins Villa are getting week in week out, it will be the same old Big 4 at the top of the table the end of the season in my opinion. Villa should have a tricky game against resilient Wigan, who held Liverpool to a draw in mid-week, at home. Then there is the big Liverpool Chelsea match so a draw in both of the games will be of great help to Arsenal.
Arsenal will look to continue their 9 match mini unbeaten run. To add to that only Arsenal have managed to score in their last 9 league matches. To expect Arsenal not to score is madness! van Persie is in hot form, Arsenal have only not scored 3 times in the League this season and have only failed to score once at the Emirates, which ironically was against West Ham!
The defensive aspect will be very important. I would like to point out here that on the 7 occassions that Arsenal have kept a clean sheet this season, they have won all those times. So keep a clean sheet and win!
I expect the same line up as was in the trip to Goodison Park:
Sagna Djourou Gallas Clichy
Eboue Denilson Diaby Nasri
Adebayor van Persie
But Toure might get a start as he was rested in mid-week. Nasri should drift into the centre quite often and probably end the match playing there with Diaby on the left. Vela is quite surprisingly being played very less often than expected considering his impressive performances from the bench and I would want him to play at least 20 mins. The man to watch will be van Persie, no surprises here. He has scored 3 and assisted 5 of all the goals Arsenal have scored in January.
Arsenal will have to look out for Carlton Cole. The guy is good in the air and very physical. There lies a problem because Djourou isn’t too strong but if he is not played then both Gallas and Toure are not good in the air! I expect Djourou to start though.
A 2-1 win for Arsenal is my prediction.