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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.
We knew that this afternoon we will have to fight with a physically well-prepared team. They played a very disciplined game, to finish quickly go back to try to shut us free zone.
It seemed that they wanted to play only on …
Mido today brought a lot of problems. They regularly supplied him with long balls. As a result, the onslaught ended with the fact that they managed to score from a corner. Been earned. After that, the game did not change. Perhaps the outcome of the first half could have been different. If fortune favoured Wigan Athletic, we could have lost in the first half 0-3. We had a serious problem. Perhaps the game would have been made, but this football thing, that when the best players leave the field, sometimes the events unfold at 180 degrees. Today, after replacing Mido has been the case. He went away, and we immediately leveled by. When the scoreline remained the same, Arsene threw in the fight. Some of the leaders of our team: on came Adebayor and Van Persie. They, of course, increased the onset. We have stuff. Account has been 1-2. Since then we had a lot of free space, but for this team, we are very good. We are a class team, we have the best players, we are technically great, so their points of use, and they are – no. Everything is simple: we are Arsenal, but they are Wigan…. Although, they could decide the outcome of the meeting in the first half.
Yes, in the first half you did not meet the expectations of fans. Maybe going to the game, you were sure that the game will end with a triumphant score?
No, in England that does not happen. In the Premier League you cannot relax before the game, and on 96 minutes. In the English championship there are a lot of goals in the last minute. Therefore, these thoughts before the game we just were not in my mind. Wigan Athletic did not let us play the very first minutes of the match, stopping us on every inch of the field, sometimes acting quicker than us. It seemed to me that this team is physical and looked very decent. However, we and our coach knew that once they get tired, we can take advantage of it.
So, the first goal. You hooked the ball over, they saw a partner…
Yes, I noticed. I think that wasn’t bad.
Soon, you played brilliantly in the pause, poking the ball between the legs of one of the players
Cesc was well opened. I had only to give him the ball.
You read the game and scored the next goal! Tell me you were not ever in a pub with the man who gave you that pass?
No, but, in principle, for such a transfer, I am ready to bring it to the pub;) Because he gave me to pass, even better than Cesc:)
After a goal is scored, Fabregas, Adebayor, and other players are trying to jump on your back. Is it heavy burden?
They have not yet manged to do it! When they are able to do so, we will talk about it:) And today we have made the result.
You missed a game in the Champions League. Fans expecting to see a fresh, rested AA.
I understand that should help the team this season in games only on the island, because other players have given all the forces in the League. Therefore, I try to play as good as possible for this reason including…
Andrew, how to get home?
In London, we arrived. During the flight I watched with interest as the guys had a typewriting race on Bluetooth!
Who is the fastest?
On two flights Wolcott managed to overtake Cesc, Bendtner, Nasri and others.
What else are pleased with today Andrei Arshavin?
Yesterday it came from Julia. She chose a home which we will soon move to. I think that this will be an additional impetus for my adaptation to England.
1-1 it ended and Arsenal got a (stunning!) vital away goal. The result surely shifts the balance even further in favour of Arsenal.
The first half started in disastrous fashion for Arsenal. Early on Clichy had to clear off the line and it hinted what was to come from Villareal tonight. After just 10 minutes Marcos Senna unleashed a 25 yard thunderbolt. Almunia was helpless despite full stretch dive as the ball ended up in the top corner. Just like away at Roma, we were trailing very early in the game.
But the goal awakened the Arsenal. After some clever work by Walcott and the Fabregas, the ball came to Nasri whose shot was pushed aside by Diego Lopez. Arsenal also forced a couple of corners but were unable to convert either of them.
The start went from bad to worse as Almunia had to go off with an ankle injury just around the half hour mark.
His replacement Fabianski immediately had some serious work to do. First saving a shot from Senna and then denying Capdevilla from the rebound.
Things were not looking good for Arsenal. This time Song tripped Rossi outside the box and the Italian forward fell on Gallas, injuring our ex-captain. He had to be taken off on a stretcher for an injury that according to Arsene Wenger looks bad and the Frechman’s season may well be over.
A few half chances came Villareal’s way but the final chance of the half fell to Arsenal. Adebayor was fouled outside the box. Fabregas found the back of the net from the resulting free-kick but the referee wasn’t pleased. He brandished a yellow card at Fabregas, possibly because the Spaniard had taken the kick too quickly. The free kick was retaken. Toure had a go at it but hit straight at the wall.
That was the end of a poor first half for Arsenal. If they kept playing this way in the second half, it could easily have been a defeat for Arsenal but the Gunners had other plans.
Arsenal were a different side right after the second half whistle. There was an urgency in their attacks and their swift passing seemed too hot to handle. Chances came Nasri’s and Adebayor’s ways but it remained 1-0.
In the 66th minute Fabregas chipped the ball to Adebayor. The Togolese forward chested the ball and then drilled the ball into the far corner with a stunning overhead kick. The El Madrigal was silenced.
Nasri and Walcott had opportunities to seal the win but couldn’t take them. Senna also threatened with another long range effort but it went wide.
1-1 it ended and Arsenal deserved it. With Almunia and Gallas out, they still managed to avoid conceding and on the other hand kept their cool to get the equaliser after a poor first half.
One would fancy Arsenal to get a win at the Emirates so Arsenal should go through but it could get interesting if Villareal put up a fight just like Porto did at Old Trafford. We aren’t into the semis yet but we are nearly there.
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.
What a match! 15 minutes before the match the starting line-up made me really excited. We had been waiting for so long to see so many first team players in one side and today was the day. The line-up promised an exciting game and it lived up to its expectations.
Walcott on the right, Arshavin on the left, Denilson, Song and Fabregas in the centre. If Nasri didn’t have flu this would have the perfect midfield. Anyway Adebayor was back alongwith Fabregas. He was the lone forward as van Persie and Eduardo didn’t feature due to groin injuries suffered during the international break.
The first chance of the match fell to Manchester City as Denilson’s attempted clearance fell to De Jong who tested Almunia but the Spaniard had no problem making the save.
But Arsenal looked bright from the start. Fluent passing which Man City had no answer to and they were soon rewarded for the good start. Robinho brought Sagna down near the touchline and the returning captain stepped up to take the free kick, sent in a delightful delivery into the box which Adebayor powered home with a standing header. Poor defending by City and they paid the price for it. What made the first goal look better was that it was Fabregas assisting Adebayor, both of whom are returning from long lay-offs.
But the goal sparked a surge of attacks from the visitors. Richards was sent through by Wright-Phillips but the shot expertly saved by Almunia and the Fernandes found himself right in front of the goal with the keeer at his mercy. But the holding midfielfer isn’t the best of finishers around and it showed. Lashed at the shot and it hit the outside of the post. Surely Bellamy or Robinho would have put that away. Arsenal needed to defend better to avoid giving away such chances.
Surprisingly it was Toure who had the next Arsenal chance. Made a piercing run but in the end the angle was too tight to beat Given. He still had his shot saved by Given. Chances also came Arshavin’s and Song’s way but it remained 1-0 at the break.
The second half started with Arsenal’s dominance continuing and they got what they got at the start of the first. A goal! Fabregas’s inch perfect chipped pass over Dunne found Adebayor. The Togolese forward rounded off Given and made no mistake with the finish.
Man City were down and out after this goal. Song headed wide, Denilson shot wide and Walcott had a fair few attempts but most went wide and one punched away by Given. Eboue came on and looked full of energy and nearly made it three but he is never going to learn to finish is he! He lashed at the shot and as expected it went hopelessly wide. Bendtner also had a decent chance but he couldn’t conrol his final shot. Ramsey had a go too but none could make it 3.
We saw today just how much Denilson and Song lack on the attacking front. Fabregas was truly amazing today and showed how much we missed him. Adebayor before getting injured couldn’t get goals but I had said at that time he is nothing without Fabregas and you saw it today! It was a near perfect performance today and hopefully we can continue the momentum to Spain so that we can go into the 2nd leg of the Champions League quarter final with a lead.
To end a good day for Gooners Fabregas yet again assured Arsenal fans of his future at Arsenal saying:
“I am very happy at Arsenal and have said it many times – but I cannot control what the media say.
“When they speak for me, I cannot understand it because only my friends, family and the boss know what I think.
“It is just a story which will go on and on – even if I was to say that I would retire here.
“I am proud to be captain of this club and see my future at Arsenal.”
They say all is well that ends well and it looks like this season, after a far from decent start, might end just the way we wanted it to!
Theo Walcott is all set to spend another spell on the sidelines as the winger has now injured his knee. The young Englishman who had just recently returned from a horrendous shoulder injury had been pulling the strings for Arsenal along with the impressive Arshavin for Arsenal in the recent matches and his injury comes as a big blow to the Gunners.
Arsenal had been counting on the returns of their injured players including Walcott to give finishing touches to their brilliant runs in the FA Cup and Champions League but Walcott’s injury is a big setback. The extent of the injury is still not known but Wenger expects him not to be available for England’s coming fixture so he could be out for a few weeks at least.Arsene Wenger revealed the news on Arsenal.com:
“Walcott got injured today in training. We have to test it, he has a scan on his knee today. We are surprised and worried. He was in very good form coming back and that is very bad news for us and for England. For the rest of the season might be too long, but he’s out of tomorrow’s squad and he could be out of the England squad. He locked his knee so it could be a cartilage problem. He did it walking back from training. He was fully normal during training but maybe it only came out when he stopped. We have to see how he responds today and I hope it’s not really serious.”
Lets pray the injury isn’t serious and that he gets back as soon as possible.
Alongwith Walcott’s injury comes some good news which will be overshadowed by the bad news. Eduardo returns and is in the squad for the trip to St. James’s Park. Eduardo can’t fill the temporary void left by Walcott but his return is a welcome one.
“Eduardo played just over a week ago against Roma – he had a minor injury and he is in the squad tomorrow. Manuel Almunia is fit too.”
Hopefully now Eduardo can put away the simple chances that come Arsenal’s way but have been wasted by Bendtner and van Persie in recent matches.
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.