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The Super Sunday encounter between Arsenal and Manchester City can rightly be called a battle of ideologies. Cash rich Manchester City have not been shy of spending money. They have made a completely new team over the last year or two spending lavishly. Arsenal, on the other hand, with Arsene Wenger at helm have been the least spending Premier League side. They have persisted with project youth in the past few years with not more than a couple of additions each year. Tomorrow we may well find out how right Wenger is when he says “You can’t buy success.”
We usually don’t term games this early in the season as must-win. But its getting the 3 points especially in big matches like the one tomorrow that help to keep those must win games to a minimum in the final stages of the season.
The trip to City of Manchester Stadium used to be an easy ride for Arsenal till 2006. But since the influx of virtually unlimited money at City, Arsenal have managed to avoid defeat just once in the last 5 trips to Eastlands. Not to forget last season’s 4-2 defeat – a result that was overshadowed by Emmanuel Adebayor’s infamous stamp on former teammate Robin van Persie. Neither of the two might feature tomorrow though. Van Persie, as usual, is out injured and Adebayor has fallen out of favor with manager Roberto Mancini.
What’s more worrying for Arsenal is that they have a horrible away form. They have not kept a clean sheet in their last 15 away games and have won only one of their last eight Premier League away games. It really makes one wonder whether Arsenal can manage to get the 3 points tomorrow. Looks doubtful, honestly speaking.
As for the team news, City have an extremely short injury list. Balotelli, Jo and Toure are the only big names doubtful for tomorrow. Balotelli and Jo will surely not be missed with the form that Carlos Tevez is in. 28 goals in his last 31 Premier League appearances, including 7 already this season, says it all. It is this remarkable form that has forced Adebayor to the bench. But the lanky forward did get a hattrick in the Europa Cup in midweek so he will surely be contesting for a start against the club where it all started for him. New boy David Silva is also starting to fulfill his potential and could pose a serious threat to the weak Arsenal defence.
Arsenal’s absentee list is a lot longer than that of City. Almunia, Frimpong, Ramsey, Van Persie, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Wilshere (suspended) will all be missing. The list has shrunk a lot in the last week or two. Sagna is back, so are Walcott, Bendtner and Fabregas. The captain’s return is a timely one considering the little man running the show from midfield this season, Jack Wilshere, is suspended. The probable line-up will be:
Sagna Squillaci Djourou Clichy
Nasri Song Fabregas
Walcott Chamakh Arshavin
Fabianski is turning out to be a reliable goalkeeper. You don’t have mini heart attacks anymore whenever he’s called into action, and instead you really fancy him to pull out a save or make a good punch. Sagna is back fit and I would prefer him over Eboue because he’s better defender defensively. The back two pick themselves since they’re the only options we have unless Koscielny makes a surprising recovery from his back injury. At left back I wouldn’t mind either of Clichy or Gibbs but Wenger will probably go for Clichy’s experience. Nasri has been Arsenal’s best player this season so he’s an automatic selection. Song is the only holding midfield option we have. Fabregas picks himself. As for Walcott, I think we really will need his pace and direct approach in a big match like this because as Wenger said the first goal decides the game in most big matches so better to start him than bring him on as a super sub. Of course you can’t drop Chamakh. He’s been The Man so far. Involved in nearly everything – tracking back, good link play, assists, winning penalties, scoring goals. And we all know Wenger wont drop Arshavin so lets not argue about that!
League position: 2nd
Goals scored: 12
Goals conceded: 5
League position: 5th
Goals scored: 18
Goals conceded: 10
Lets hope Arsenal can turn their away misfortunes around and turn up with a performance we’ve all come to expect from them at home. With Chelsea getting a win today, not dropping points is all the more important now.
24 birthdays but none as bad as this. That is the story of Lukas Fabianski. Started the match by nearly conceding as he needlessly came off the line and ended it in the same fashion, except that this time he conceded.
Not many Arsenal fans were expecting a defeat considering the form they were it. It seemed we were invincible, but not anymore. FA Cup was the tournament we had the greatest chance of winning but we will have to wait yet another season now for it. To expect winning the Champions League is more hope than expectation. It seems another trophyless season it will be now…
It all started with bad news and ended with bad news as well. Denilson and Diaby preferred to Arshavin and Nasri. Wenger did manage to give a logical explanation as to why Nasri was not started but Arshavin. That was an unbeliavable decision. He had not featured in the mid-week match against Villareal so he was fresh and daring to have a go at Chelsea. Yet he is dropped. Wenger said when you have 8 matches in 24 days you can’t expect to play the same 11 in every match. But wait Arshavin didn’t play the last match. No reason to drop the best player of Russia in such a big match. Complaints later lets talk about the match.
Fabianski as expected was in goal. The same back four as against Villareal ahead of him as Gibbs passed a late fitness test. Walcott on the right, Fabregas, Denilson and Diaby in the centre. van Persie playing on the left and Adebayor the forward. The line-up raised a lot of eyebrows but Wenger isn’t a man who listens to others does he.
The match started with Arsenal clearly looking the better side. But that didn’t last. A howler from Fabianski nearly let Drogba give Chelsea an early lead but his header cleared off the line by Gibbs. Chelsea soon had another decent opportunity for Drogba. But the Ivorian’s touch too heavy and the chance went begging.
Chelsea couldn’t get the early lead but Arsenal did. Against the run of play Walcott put Arsenal ahead. Adebayor had the ball on the left flank, played a neat pass to Gibbs whose cross came straight to the unmarked Walcott inside the box. The youngster took the shot with his unfavoured left foot and it needed a deflection off the hand of Ashley Cole to beat Petr Cech.
Arsenal had got the goal but that was the only advantage they had as Chelsea continued to dominate. With a midfield comprising Ballack, Lampard and Essien against Diaby and Denilson, it was quite obvious Chelsea would dominate in midfield.
Walcott was looking very lively whenever he got the ball and Fabregas was brilliant as usual as well. The two nearly combined to increase the lead. Fabregas’s through ball met by Walcott who had his shot brilliantly saved by Cech. But Walcott had wrongly been called offside. Had Cech failed to stop the shot there would have been a lot of post match controversy.
Chelsea had an immediate reply though. Great vision and a pin point long ball by Lampard found Malouda just inside the box. A sublime first touch, got away from Eboue with the second and had a shot on goal with his right foot. Through Eboue legs and into the back of the net at Fabianski’s near post. Advantage Chelsea.
At this point everyone could feel that Almunia was being sorely missed. Fabianski was looking very nervous. He isn’t the worst of keepers but probably the nerves of playing in such a big match got to him.
It was one way traffic after that goal. Anelka had a stunning effort on goal but it hit the post and out. Diaby was at fault there. Trying to play pretty football inside the box isn’t something you should be doing in the FA Cup semi final against a team of Chelsea’s quality.
Next up Essien tried a curler but it was straight at Fabianski. Whenever Chelsea came near Arsenal’s goal, one feared Fabianski would mess up.
Even in the second half, Wenger’s motivating half time talk couldn’t do the trick as Chelsea continued from where they left. Lampard had a chance but superb tackle by Toure to deny him.
Both the sides had their chances. Walcott was the main player of Arsenal. Whipping in dangerous crosses in but no one getting on the end of them. Ashley Cole was looking hapless. Both side also had appeals for penalties turned down. Drogba and Lampard also combined nicely by Lampard volley went wide.
Honestly speaking, I feared Chelsea will inevitably score. They were looking too good and Fabianski too bad.
Arshavin and Nasri came on very late on. It was too little too late though. Ok they are wonderful players but you have to be sensible enough and not expect a miracle from them by bringing them on so late in the game.
A minute after Nasri came on, the worst happened. Drogba sent through by a long ball. The Chelsea forward shrugged off Silvestre and the Frechman virtually gave up his chase. Very poor defending. Then Fabianski capped up a hopeless performance by setting up Drogba’s goal. Came off his line. Tried to stop Drogba by a half stretch of his left leg. He was never going to be stopped that easily, got away and finished it with his left foot. Toure and Silvestre got back but too late, the ball had already crossed the line. You could see how furious Toure was seeing the ball cross the line. He secretly felt this game was over.
Wenger had a final throw of the die by taking Adebayor off and bringing Bendtner on. Bendtner can be a good super sub and he nearly forced extra time. Got away from a couple of defenders and sent a cross in. Arshavin got on the end of it and had a shot. The shot had beaten Cech and was heading for goal only for Alex to step in and put the ball away for a corner. The corner saw Cech flapping at the ball resluting in another corner. Similar flapping by Cech but this time the ball was cleared. Match over. Dream over.
Drogba yet again brought tears to the Arsenal fans eyes. Dumped Arsenal in the League Cup final two years back and does the same in the FA Cup semi final this year. Arsenal fans will have to live with the regret that if Almunia and Gallas were fit maybe the result would have been different. Nothing can be done now and Arsenal are out of the FA Cup
Injuries have killed yet another season of Arsenal.
Ivanovic hardly had anything to do all match. A player of Arshavin’s quality would just have ripped him apart. But no Wenger thought Diaby would do a better job than Arshavin.
And Adebayor really needs to start fighting for long balls. Fabregas sends brilliant long balls to him. And what does he do! Makes a run forward in the vain hope that the defender might fail to head the ball and it will fall to him. That is never going to happen Ade. At least not against a team of Chelsea’s quality.
Lets forget about it now, though I just cant get it out of my mind! So one can imagine how hard it will be for the players to get over this defeat. Lets hope they get over it as soon as possible or it might even result in a Champions League semi final defeat. They need to re focus quickly. This season may seem to be over but it’s not as yet…
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.
The news of Fabregas going around lately has been the personal phone call he recieved from Ramon Calderon to convince him to sign for the Spanish giants Real Madrid regarding which our captain said:
“It’s true the president of Real Madrid called me personally – we spoke on the phone.
“But I never gave him my word that I was going to sign for Real Madrid. He asked about my progress and that was it.
“I have not given him nor anyone else the expectation that I will join them. The same goes for anyone who represents me.
“I am a person of my word and I can assure you that I have never given any club reason to believe that I would leave Arsenal.
“Nobody can say that they have agreed with me that I become part of their project. That is clear.
“I am a professional so I cannot close the door on anyone. On the one hand, you have your feelings and your passions and on the other you have your professionalism.”
But we don’t really care about it as much as we are waiting to see Fabregas back in action. And the good news is here. He is back and in contention for a starting place against Manchester City on the 4th of April. To add to that Adebayor is also back and has already scored for Togo in his first match since returning so Arsenal’s season is getting better and better. We can all feel this might be THE season for us! Our trophy drought seems to be heading towards an end it seems…
Meanwhile van Persie’s contract negotiations are progressing well according to the Dutchman himself but the only obstactle to getting him sign it is the lack of trophies. Win them and van Persie will remain ours! Read the article here.
Internati0nal break ends with bad news as always for Arsenal. This time around Nicklas Bendtner is the casualty. The Dane got off injuted in Denmark’s match against Malta half an hour into the game. Nicklas has been in good form for the Gunners lately, though his finishing has been poor at times, his work rate and movement on and off the ball hence his overall contribution to attacks cannot be questioned. Lets hope he returns soon.
He might not be a big miss as Emmanuel Adebayor returns. The Togolese international is favoured ahead of the young Dane so even if Bendtner had remained fit one would have expected Adebayor to fill in anyway. Ade returned from a long lay off in style, grabbing a goal after just 11 minutes. His good day was not as good as he would have wanted as he missed from the penalty spot later in the game. Apart from him, van Persie was also on target for his country, scoring one of Netherlands three goals.
While the Gunners represented their countries, there was business going on at Arsenal. Long time board member Danny Fiszman sold 8% of his shares to Stan Kroenke. Stan now owns 20% of the shares of Arsenal PLC. Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis mantains the move is not going to have any significant changes in the day to day running of the club:
“This is a Club that has over 120 years of history and what has happened in terms of the adjustment of the share holdings between current Board members doesn’t affect the direction that we’re headed in. It is amongst two investors, both of whom share a common philosophy with respect for the Club and a respect for its traditions. None of that is going to change.
“We have some tremendous under-pinnings at this Club; the tremendous stadium that we play in, a very exciting and developing young squad who would be the envy of any team in the world, and a fantastic manager. The Club continues to make progress and we’re looking forward to the run-in to the season. We think this could be a very successful year for Arsenal.”
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.
Arsenal may now be without Walcott but Newcastle will also be without one of their main players, Micheal Owen. According to reports the forward has been told by his manager he is not fit enough so he will start the match on the bench. Apart from Walcott Arsenal will not be missing any other players from the win against Hull City. But they do have a trio returning from injury. Almunia, Silvestre and Eduardo. Almunia and Eduardo are welcome returns but I would rather be happy with an injured Silvestre because then he doesn’t get to play! He is crap. Worst signing ever. Lets hope Wenger doesn’t play him as often as he did before the Frenchman picked up the injury.
We could see this line-up tonight:
Sagna Gallas Toure Clichy
van Persie Bendtner
I wouldn’t be surprised if Diaby starts instead of Denilson as his physical presence could be vital against the tough tackling Newcastle. And Eboue might start in place of Bendtner.
Moving to Newcastle now. They will be without Mark Viduka, Xisco, Danny Guthrie, Joey Barton and
Igancio Gonzalez. Add to that a start on the bench for Owen and Arsenal have quite a chance in this one.
Newcastle’s form isn’t the best coming into this match: WDLLD. Compared to Arsenal’s WWWWW (I have included the penalty shootout win against Roma as a win though it was 1-0 to Roma at the end of normal time).
This is yet another must win match for Arsenal. Aston Villa are faltering so another draw or defeat this weekend could mean Arsenal getting a 2 or 3 point lead over them. A win here and then for the next match against Man City we will have the services of our captain Fabregas, who according to Wenger is just two weeks away and should be fit for the Man City clash. That is awesome news! We sure as hell missed him!
Anyway I hope it will be a relaxing match today! 2-0 to the Gunners! Yeah! I am quite tired out after a match for my college football team which we won 7-0 :p so I hope Arsenal can refresh me with a scintillating performance!
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.
Arsenal will look to continue their fight for trophies from two fronts as they face Hull City at The Emirates tonight in the FA Cup. But they will be without the services of Eduardo, Clichy and Almunia for it. Eduardo injured his groin against Roma and is not fit enough to return yet. Almunia is also out injured. Clichy has been rested. Wenger also mentioned Ramsey has been rested because “he is growing in stature and a bit tired”. How come he is tired without even being given a chance to play?! That’s odd. I am a big fan of Ramsey and he surely has a bright future ahead of him but he should be given chances at least in the FA Cup. He must be feeling sitting on the bench week in week out: “Damn, I should have stayed at Cardiff.” But he has to be patient. Wenger knows how to bring up these youngsters to the top level and Ramsey should turn out to be another one of his wonders. Arshavin is a doubt for the match but he is in the squad and his involvement will be decided late on because the Russian is desperate to play. He was annoyed at Blackburn’s physical game and called them the toughest tackling team he has played against. Arsenal’s new recruit’s foot had been cut badly by Ooijer and he is in pain and had eight stitches on it. Regarding his involvement Wenger said: “We will make a decision today. He is desperate to be involved. He just wants to play.”
Arsenal will be looking to continue their brilliant form and march on on the road to Wembley. Even if Arshavin does not start, Nasri is world class and so is Walcott so we shouldn’t miss him much. Walcott really is exceptional. I have a feeling he is going to get an assist or two tonight. Who will play in the central defence is a question. Toure and Djourou were very solid at the weekend but Gallas had some rest and maybe that rest was for this game. Toure and Gallas partnership on their day is one of the best in the world. Song and Denilson are also forging a decent central midfield partnership with Song going through the best form of this life. I expect this line-up:
Sagna Gallas Toure Gibbs
Walcott Denilson Song Nasri
Vela van Persie
Quite a strong line-up but van Persie will need to improve a lot from his recent performances. Wenger is confident Arsenal can go on and do something special this season:
“Of course there is a burning desire to win a trophy and if we focus on our performances then we can create something special.”
Arsenal will look to exploit Hull’s poor form. Just 2 wins in the last 9 games for The Tigers. But despite coming into this game as big underdogs, Geovanni isn’t at all worried by the fact that they are coming into this game with a poor form and play against a team that is in hot form:
“It is another game where we can prove ourselves. The FA Cup is important because it can help everybody’s confidence. The target is go there and win. It is a big game and Wembley will be important. Everyone wants to get there. My dream is to be at Wembley.”
I think Arsenal should prove to be too good for Hull but they will surely put up quite a fight. It will be a close encounter but Arsenal should come out on top. Hull cannot afford to sit back and defend so that will be of immense help to Arsenal because the Gunners love to play against teams that like to play football and attack them. An early goal for Arsenal could provide a deadly blow and Walcott’s pace is dangerous enough to do that just like we saw against Blackburn. I predict 2-0 to Arsenal.
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.