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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:

Fabianski
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!

MANCHESTER CITY:
League position: 2nd
Points: 17
Goals scored: 12
Goals conceded: 5
Form: WWWWD

ARSENAL:
League position: 5th
Points: 14
Goals scored: 18
Goals conceded: 10
Form: WLLDW

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.

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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.

Fabianski

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…

"Classy" Fabianski

"Classy" Fabianski

After coming on in the 27th minute Arsenal’s second choice keeper Lukas Fabianski produced a solid performance to stop Villareal from getting a win in the first leg of the Champions League quarter final.

The young Pole feels he is ready to step in and help Arsenal continue their attempt to end their trophy drought.

“I wish Manuel all the best with his help and I hope he comes back really soon. I am maybe not ready to take over the number one spot yet – but I am ready to play.

“I respect what Manuel has done for the club. He was playing great for the last couple of months. Now the situation is like this and I have to play – I am ready.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was also full of praise for him:

“I am very pleased at the way Lukasz came on.

“Despite not even being warmed up he made two great saves.

“I was just thinking after the game how important it is to have two classy goalkeepers.

“Unfortunately one of those classy goalkeepers does not get a great number of games.

“But if you don’t have two good keepers you don’t have a chance at this level.”

That is quite a lot of praise for a 23 year old keeper. After coming on as a substitute and then producing a superb performance, it reminded me of Almunia coming on in the Champions League final in 2006. The circumstances were completely different though but Almunia let in two goals, one in between his legs but Fabianski showed great reflexes and athleticism to deny Villareal time and again. Almunia at that time was much older than Fabianski is now, so Fabianski is no doubt “classy”! I am sure he wont disappoint.

Arsenal's life...

Arsenal's life...

Moving to our returning duo of Adebayor and Fabregas now. What a difference the two make. It’s amazing really. Adebayor since returning has played 3 games. 1 for Togo and 2 for Arsenal and scored 4 goals already. Fabregas has played 2 since returning, assisting all of Adebayor’s goals in them. They give hope to the team and fans alike.

Adebayor was very much criticized before he got injured for his lack of ambition and laziness on the field. But now he is showing he is quality. You can’t score 30 goals in a season if you aren’t good enough nor can you win the African Player of the Year award for nothing. Barca and Milan were ready to pay 30m for him and it would have been money well spent had either of them been successful in their bid.

As for Fabregas, I don’t need to say anything! I doubt there would be a single person out there who doubts his quality!

1-1 it ended and Arsenal got a (stunning!) vital away goal. The result surely shifts the balance even further in favour of Arsenal.

Adebayor

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.

Almunia
Clichy     Gallas     Toure     Sagna
Denilson     Song
Nasri     Fabregas    Walcott
Adebayor

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.

The men of the moment!

The men of the moment!

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!

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.”

Set to make their much awaited returns soon

Set to make their much awaited returns soon

Arsenal’s season is starting to take a u-turn. A few weeks back we were expected to end up without a trophy once again and miss out on the Champions League. Now with a string of impressive performances people are expecting Arsenal to not only finish inside the top 4 but win the FA Cup at least if not the Champions League. The turn of fortunes for Arsenal has mainly been due to the returns of Eduardo and Walcott and the arrival of Arshavin along with other factors. Now with the impending returns of Fabregas and Adebayor things will only get better. According to Arsene Wenger the duo should be back in action at the start of next month. The Arsenal manager expects them to be back after the international break which is on the weekend starting 28th of this month. So if they are make their comebacks when Wenger expects them to then they should be available for the quarter finals of the Champions League, which is bound be a very tough tie against one of Europe’s powerhouses. Wenger said:

“After the international break Cesc should be back. He is very close – Adebayor also. We have missed a lot of players in the offensive area. Last year we lost people in different departments but this year it has been Fabregas, Adebayor, Theo Walcott and Eduardo. Their return will bring us strength.”

van Persie believes this will be 'the' year for Arsenal

van Persie believes this will be 'the' year for Arsenal

Read and comment on this post at Arsenal Zone please.

Robin van Persie has always been a very ambitious person, setting high hopes and just because this season has so far been a bad one hasn’t changed the Dutchman’s view at all.

“My ambitions are very, very high and I think they are realistic. I want to be at a level where, as a club, we are winning things, not just every four or five years but one or two trophies each year. That’s what I think this club has in its pocket. Some people might think my view is extreme but that is what I want and I want to do it here. I am not a guy who gives up. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Playing for a Champions League place is not enough. It is not my target but it is a target we have to take. It will mean the world to me if we fight again to win the title. It’s not happening now but we can do it if we give absolutely everything. We want to build something special for next year but let’s not forget this year can be special, too. From my heart, I still believe we can win the Champions League.”

Regarding his future the star striker said:

“I have a contract until 2011 and it is hard to say anything about extending that now. But put it this way, I have a friend who says the grass always looks greener in your neighbour’s garden — and he is right.”

I perfectly agree with him. Arsenal can win the Champions League and we all know it. With the injured players coming back Arsenal are a very dangerous side and fully capable of winning the FA Cup at least if not the Champions League. I see them winning a trophy this year. Regarding his future, he hasn’t given a clear statement. I have a bad feeling he will leave if we don’t win a trophy this year. Lets not hope so though.

Adebayor unsure about his future

Adebayor unsure about his future

Moving to our other main striker’s future now! Emmanuel Adebayor who nearly left Arsenal last summer has not ruled out a move away from the Emirates this summer saying:

“I find myself well here, even if, as I say in life, you can never know what will happen in the future.”

I wouldn’t mind him leaving. We have forwards much better than him in Eduardo and van Persie. Vela will soon be a better player than him too. If he want to go then get lost!

Walcott and Eduardo are back and could play a part in the FA Cup match against Burnley. Adebayor should be back for the mid-week trip to Roma and Fabregas and Rosicky are expected to be back before the end of this month.

Greats news! With all of them back in the side, Arsenal are one of the best attacking sides in the Premier League and them coming back should help seal the 4th place too, not to mention making good runs in the FA Cup and Champions League and hopefully winning a trophy. I can’t wait to see Fabregas back. We have missed him big time, especially Adebayor whose goal dried out after Fabregas’s injury!