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Fabianski – Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I always knew the lad had talent, lack of confidence was his problem. Now that confidence is on a high you can see the difference. Making world class saves, superb decision making, excellent on crosses and set pieces. Goodbye Almunia! (9)

Sagna – He was everywhere today. Superb defending and he was involved in nearly every attack as well. He sure has quite a stamina. And it seemed he’s been working on his crosses as well! (8)

Squillaci – Nothing special from him really but didn’t make any mistakes either. (7)

Djourou – Poor. Looked pretty shaky. His decision making and positioning wasn’t the best on plenty of occasions. Missed a simple header too. Not a good game. I can’t wait for Vermaelen and Koscielny to return. (6)

Clichy – Decent performance from him. Did get humiliated a couple of times in defence but other than that he was his usual self. Not bad. (6.5)

Song – His passing is still annoying and his renewed belief that he’s great going forward is a nuisance. But it did pay off today, fortunately. Got a good goal, great finish. (6.5)

Denilson – Worked really hard today. Good performance but I’ll have Wilshere over him any day. (7)

Fabregas – Our captain is just sheer class. What he adds to the team is priceless. His vision is exceptional, execution is always perfect. Missed a penalty but he made it up with his performance. (8.5)

Nasri – Excellent performance yet again from the Frenchman. He’s doing it week in week out. Scored a very well taken goal and got the assist for the 3rd goal. He’s a really skillful player and his ability to take on defenders is a treat to the eye. (9)

Arshavin – Saw some improvement today from his recent lackluster performances but still a long way to go to being back to his best. It was pleasing to see him tracking back today, something that has been his weak point from the start of his Arsenal career. He was pretty active in the attacks as well, good assist for Nasri’s opener. But he’s unable to take defenders on and beat them like he was in his early days and score some surprising goals which is worrying. (7)

Chamakh – The usual from our Moroccan. Good link up, decent runs, it was a tackle on him that resulted in the early red card. (7)

Substitutes:

Rosicky – Involved a lot since coming on but wasted an opportunity to shoot by trying to find Denilson. But it was probably because of his lack of confidence in front of goal; he hasn’t scored in quite a while. (6.5)

Walcott – Nothing to mention in his little cameo.

Bendtner – Great to see him back. He had a nice touch, movement was good and finishing was excellent. (7)

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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.

Gallas celebrates

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.

Hull will look to emulate their historic win at the Emirates last year...

Hull will look to emulate their historic win at the Emirates last year...

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:

Fabianski
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.

All of them had a great match

All of them had a great match

Almunia – 7 – Didn’t do anything wrong all match and made a decent save too. Apart from that save and a couple of punches from corners he hardly had anything to do.

Sagna – 6.5 – Yet another decent game for Mr. Consistent. But he needs to work on his crosses more.

Djourou – 5 – He was Arsenal’s worst player in the match. Didn’t do well enough in the air and failed to win some tackles. Didn’t look too confident while defending.

Toure – 7 – Superb defending from the captain. Got a vital goal and sent a delightful long ball to assist Bendtner for his second which Fabregas would be proud of!

Clichy – 6 – Not the best of games by his standard. But at least this time he crossed the ball fewer times than against Fulham. He is a hopeless crosser and yet he crosses the ball in again and again. Can someone go and tell him how bad his crosses are because he clearly can’t see it.

Eboue – 6.5 – Surprisingly good performance by the Ivorian. Made good surging runs but as usual he lacked the final ball or the finish. And in the opening minutes the ‘Pass Master’ gave the ball away a few times too! Wenger would have been surprised to see that!

Denilson – 7.5 – Brilliant performance by the youngster. He is improving a lot, especially on his defensive side. He needs to put up such performances week in week out.

Song – 5.5 – Not the best of performances from Song particularly when he was in the centre of the midfield. He was better when playing as the centre half this time.

Nasri – 7 – As usual a superb match from the young Frenchman. He was involved in most of the attacks. The only thing missing was an assist or a goal.

Arshavin – 7.5 – Arshavin was a different class. Amazing. Whenever he is on the ball one feels he will do something special. He forced some superb saves from Carson and had a great assist with that delightful delivery into the box for Toure to head in.

Bendtner – 8 – He had the best match of his Arsenal career! He showed how capable a finisher he is and why Wenger has so much faith in him. Both the goals were world class especially the second one. Unlucky not to get his hattrick. It should have been 8.5 for him had it not been for a couple of bad misses.

Substitutes:

Diaby – 6.5 – Played the 2nd half and played really well. He can take on defenders, he can send forward passes and not just sideways (unlike Song and Denilson!).

Ramsey – 6 – Made one mistake but otherwise he looked sheer quality. You can see the talent in him with his every pass. He can make passes that Denilson and Song, and even Diaby cannot. That pass behind the defender for Arshavin was superb.

Merida – 5.5 – 5.5 only because of the limited time he got. He looked impressive. He has got strength and quality.

Nicklas Bendtner has finally done it for himself and for Arsenal! After 4 matches or more than 360 minutes of Premier League football, Arsenal have scored a goal. It was a night we had been waiting for for quite some time.

Arsenal celebrate

Arsenal made a flying start with Bendtner putting the visitors ahead in as early as the 4th minute. After a corner, the ball dropped to Denilson outside the box who found an unmarked Bendtner. The Dane took the defender on, got away from him and unleashed an unstoppable strike into the bottom corner with his left foot. A superb finish from the forward who was extremely low on confidence before this match. From the football that Arsenal were playing it seemed we would finally get a deserving victory but Chris Brunt scored a stunner. The goal came completely out of the blue but if anyone thought that goal would shift the momentum of the game, they were badly mistaken. Arsenal continued to dominate with only a few attacks for West Brom. Soon after Bendtner wasted a clear goal scoring opportunity. Eboue found Bendtner inside the box after a defence piercing run but the young forward blasted his shot over the cross bar. Moore had a desperate effort on goal against the run of play but Almunia reacted well to make a decent stop. Arshavin and Eboue also had attempts on goal but both failed to hit the target. Seeing the amount of chances being created, one could sense a goal was to come soon and it was Arshavin who provided it. Sent a delightful delivery into the box which was headed in by the captain Toure. But Toure wasn’t done yet. This time he was the provider, sent an awesome long ball over the Albion defence to Bendtner who knocked the ball on with his thigh and then took a superb volley. Carson hardly had any time to react as the ball ended up in the goal. 3-1 at half time and one expected to see a couple more after the break but sadly 3-1 it remained till the end thanks to some world class goal keeping by Carson. The 2nd half had more chances than the first. Arshavin looked great whenever on the ball, though he looked completely tired out. He had two powerful shots on goal, saved on both occassions. Bendtner nearly completed his first hat trick for the club only to unluckily hit the post. Diaby had a shot deflected over the bar and Eboue missed from close range. Late on West Brom had a golden opportunity to get a consolation goal but Fortune fired the ball wide of the post. Right at the end Arshavin again nearly got his first goal for Arsenal but he was yet again frustrated by Scott Carson who produced another quality save.

The second half of the match showcased the form we have been going through. We created a host of chances and yet we could not find the back of the net. But as long as we got the win I don’t mind! We will need to step up now. West Brom are the worst side in the League at the moment so we shouldn’t get carried away with this win. We will soon be facing much tougher opposition but if we play the way we did today, apart from a bit of poor finishing and some hard luck with Carson’s brilliance.

Denilson had a terrific performance. Song didn’t do well and same for Djourou. Djourou was our worst player. Arshavin was top class. Bendtner had the best game of his life! Diaby looked decent and I was impressed by Merida’s little cameo. And Nasri was superb!

West Bromwich Albion vs Arsenal

West Bromwich Albion vs Arsenal

Arsenal’s trip to West Brom seems like a perfect opportunity to end their goal scoring drought. Tony Mowbray’s side have lost their last 4 games and Arsenal have a big opportunity to make that 5. To add to that hopeless run, they have conceded at least two goals in their last 7 games.

Arsenal as we all know are on the worst run in Arsene Wenger’s reign as Arsenal’s manager. 5 straight draws have made them drop 10 points. What makes this run hard to digest is that in all of these matches, Arsenal have dominated the game, but yet they drew as they failed to find the back of the net. If Arsenal had won these 5 games, they would have been 2nd in the League, just 6 points behind the leaders Manchester United. But now the 16 point gap has effectively ruled Arsenal out of the title race and even qualifying for the Champions League is becoming more and more difficult. Luckily for Arsenal though, Aston Villa too have been held to draws in their last 2 games so they have not been able to increase the gap between themselves and 5th placed Arsenal.

A defeat tonight, and a win for Everton would send Arsenal down to 6th place. But as Manchester United have won the League Cup so the 5th and 6th placed sides at the end of the season will qualify for the UEFA Cup so even if Arsenal unfortunately end up 6th considering their immensely poor run, they should still make it to the UEFA Cup next season so we don’t need to worry about not being in Europe at all next season!

Talking of West Brom now, their run is much worse than Arsenal’s as mentioned above and they are at rock bottom in the League table. Havent won a match since their 3-0 win against Middlesbrough 7 matches back. So looking at the situation of West Brom, Arsenal should finally end their long run of draws. West Brom have lost 17 matches already this season and hopefully Arsenal can make it 18. West Brom rarely come and just defend. They go for the win in every match which should give Arsenal some breathing space and we all know Arsenal play really well in such situations. West Brom have been hopeless against big teams. They have lost to Arsenal and Liverpool, and to Aston Villa, Chelsea and Mancheter United twice.

Tema news now. William Gallas is out with an ankle injury so Djourou will come in. Bad news there. Gallas-Toure partnership has been working brilliantly. Lets hope Gallas returns soon. He is going through the best form of his Arsenal career. Apart from his no one is back and no one else is out. The team might change though. I don’t expect Vela to get another start. Bendtner might be back.

Almunia
Sagna     Toure     Djourou    Clichy
Arshavin     Diaby     Denilson    Nasri
Bendtner     van Persie

I expect Bendtner to return but he might again be dropped and Eboue might come into the same 4-2-3-1 formation on the right.

Predicting Arsenal’s matches is becoming quite difficult now! They are on a bad run but the bad run is eventually going to end obviously. It wont continue forever. I expect the run to end tonight (my heart says so :p). 1-0 to Arsenal!

Arsenal vs Cardiff CIty

Arsenal vs Cardiff CIty

Arsenal players can now swap their national teams shirts back to the red and white of Arsenal. Arsenal are stuck in the 5th round as first they had a draw in the away game and then the replay had to be postponed due to heavy snowfall.

The FA Cup is the competition that Arsenal have the most realistic chance of winning and finally bringing to an end the trophy-less years. Arsenal are further helped by the fact that all the matches leading up to the semifinals will be home ties for them. That will be quite an advantage.

But leading up to this match Arsenal are going through a bad patch. Way too many draws for them. 0-0, 1-1, 0-0 and 0-0 in their last four games says it all. What is even more alarming is that they have scored just a single goal in their last 4 games. Arsene Wenger is also quite surprised by that run:

“It is completely unlike us, the circumstances are a little bit strange. We played against West Ham who had a very good side, we played at Cardiff which is a little bit special and then we played at Tottenham with 10 men. We are used to scoring goals and we will score goals again, don’t worry. We have always had a good forward line and we were very close to scoring many times against West Ham and Cardiff. At the moment it is difficult for everybody to score but if we keep playing well as a team I’ m sure that will come back.”

Dramatic improvement is needed. But on the positive side. Those are 3 clean sheets from 4 matches and moving a bit more back, it’s 5 clean sheets from the last 8 games.

But Wenger is not worried by the last three draws as when you look at the bigger picture, Arsenal are unbeaten in 11 games and that is quite a run. The Frenchman said:

“We want to prepare well because we know it is a very important game for us and we need to focus. We are unbeaten in 11 matches and want to keep that going in every competition — the longer that lasts, the stronger you will be. If the three draws put together don’t look good, then you must put the whole 11 games together and that looks like we are on a run.”

On the other hand, ironically Cardiff are also on an 11 match unbeaten run. In those matches they are 6 matches unbeaten away from home but it includes 4 draws and have let in 7 goals in these 6 away games. Their last four matches are much better than Arsenal’s: 1-1, 0-0, 2-0, 2-0.

This match is very vital for Arsenal. They need to continue their unbeaten run and by doing so they will stay alive in the competition in which they have the best chance of ending up with the trophy. Wenger knows the importance of the match:

“We want to transform that bit of disappointment from a draw into a convincing victory, and the team is on a good way. I believe we should focus on our way to be successful and not too much on the others. We need outstanding performances until the end of the season and the only way to achieve that is by focusing on our performances.”

Which team will Wenger go for is a very difficult guess. It’s the FA Cup. Maybe Wenger will go for a side with a mixture of first teamers and fringe players or considering the importance of the match, you lose you are out, he might go for a full strength side. I expect the first possibility. Arshavin isn’t available as he wasn’t an Arsenal player at the time of the first leg so there is one player out of contention. Diaby is injured, Eboue suspended and also Ramsey is injured. Eduardo is back and may play a part though I don’t expect him to be handed out a start. I expect the following line up:

Fabianski
Sagna     Gallas     Djourou     Gibbs
_____     Denilson     Song     Nasri
van Persie     Bendtner

Now there is a gap there. Arsenal are out of right wingers at the moment. So maybe Wilshere will be given a start on the left with Nasri on the right, or Vela on the left and Nasri on the right. I would love to see either of them play. But from what I have heard Bischoff can play in the centre and on the right and I would be pleased to see him play. He can score absolute stunners! Eduardo might come on as a late substitute.

Prediction 1-0 to Arsenal.

by Zain Shahid

Arsenal vs West Ham United

Arsenal vs West Ham United

We’re back to Emirates now and once again needing a win. Dropping points now seems unacceptable. But West Ham have always been a tough match for Arsenal. This time around also it might be a difficult encounter as the Hammers under Zola are in hot form and have managed 13 points from their last 5 games compared to Arsenal’s 12. This match will be one to keep the pressure on Aston Villa for the Champions League place. People say its a fight between the Gunners and Villa but I think Chelsea and Liverpool are also in it, especially Liverpool. But in the end with the quality that big 4 have got and the lucky wins Villa are getting week in week out, it will be the same old Big 4 at the top of the table the end of the season in my opinion. Villa should have a tricky game against resilient Wigan, who held Liverpool to a draw in mid-week, at home. Then there is the big Liverpool Chelsea match so a draw in both of the games will be of great help to Arsenal.

Arsenal will look to continue their 9 match mini unbeaten run. To add to that only Arsenal have managed to score in their last 9 league matches. To expect Arsenal not to score is madness! van Persie is in hot form, Arsenal have only not scored 3 times in the League this season and have only failed to score once at the Emirates, which ironically was against West Ham!

The defensive aspect will be very important. I would like to point out here that on the 7 occassions that Arsenal have kept a clean sheet this season, they have won all those times. So keep a clean sheet and win!

I expect the same line up as was in the trip to Goodison Park:

Almunia
Sagna     Djourou    Gallas    Clichy
Eboue    Denilson    Diaby    Nasri
Adebayor    van Persie

But Toure might get a start as he was rested in mid-week. Nasri should drift into the centre quite often and probably end the match playing there with Diaby on the left. Vela is quite surprisingly being played very less often than expected considering his impressive performances from the bench and I would want him to play at least 20 mins. The man to watch will be van Persie, no surprises here. He has scored 3 and assisted 5 of all the goals Arsenal have scored in January.

Arsenal will have to look out for Carlton Cole. The guy is good in the air and very physical. There lies a problem because Djourou isn’t too strong but if he is not played then both Gallas and Toure are not good in the air! I expect Djourou to start though.

A 2-1 win for Arsenal is my prediction.

by Zain Shahid

This season has been one of the worst in Arsene Wenger’s career at Arsenal and when you look at the trend with Arsenal’s points tally and performances overall improving since the last 3 seasons, this season has come as a big unpleasant surprise. The big question in everyone’s mind is what has gone wrong this season.

Arsenal miss their partnership
Arsenal miss their partnership

The main reason in most people’s minds would be the departures of Flamini and Gilberto. They were our main holding midfielders and who would not agree to the fact that Flamini was one of our best players of the season, second only to Fabregas. With their departures we have had to play on most ocassions without a holding player or sometimes with Song in that role and everyone knows he is just not good enough to be in our first team. And the fact that Wenger has been more interested in signing Arshavin than a defensive midfielder came as a big surprise to me. (Talking of Arshavin, Zenit have said they are waiting for a reply from Arsenal as negotiations continue; and Wenger has said he wants the deal done before the match against West Ham.) We know there has been a lack of clean sheets this season and it can be blamed on the lack of a natural holding midfielder in the side rather than putting all the blame on Gallas and Toure. But to add to that the lack of defensive cover has also been a big factor. When Gallas and Toure have been out, the far from convincing Silvestre has come to fill in or the inconsistent Djourou. If Arsenal fail to keep a clean sheet against West Ham tomorrow then they will have just 15 clean sheets so far whereas last season in the same period they had 20 and we have conceded 35 goals so far compared to 28 last year at this time.

One of the most creative midfielders Arsenal has had in recent times
One of the most creative midfielders Arsenal has had in recent times

Another reason is Hleb’s departure and with it his creativity that pierced defences open. Ok Hleb did not score as much as he should have but he was exceptionally talented when it comes to creativity. I’ll be honest, I miss Hleb. Some might say Nasri has been a great replacement and I agree, especially considering he scores a lot. But the problem lies in piercing defences open, creating a lot of chances rather than passing sideways all match. Nasri can do the job but he can’t play up to the level he is capable of on the left. Last year Hleb was played as a second striker and he was brilliant there, I see no reason why isn’t Nasri played there too. He has showed with his few performances in the centre how good he can be and especially with Fabregas out he is needed there.

Not good enough...
Not good enough…

Then comes the lack of support Fabregas got in the centre and lack of quality in midfield. This really does not need much explanation. We all know Song has been hopeless and Denilson can’t defend so Fabregas has had to worry more about tracking back rather than doing his job i.e ripping apart defences with his exceptional passing. On the wing we have seen Denilson, Diaby and Eboue. All have not played up to the mark. Imagine for instance if Denilson was in AC Milan, or Barcelona or Manchester United. Would he be in their first team? Noway! He is not good enough to be in the first team of a top European club. Same goes for Song, Diaby and Eboue. We have been just waiting and waiting and waiting for them to come of age. Will they ever be good enough? Doesn’t seem so does it?! Especially Eboue. I have always mantained he should be sold and replaced with a natural, world class winger and I stand by it.

Gone... And injured
Gone… And injured

A lot might say injuries have been the biggest setback this season. Imagine Rosicky on the left, Fabregas in the centre, Walcott on the right, Nasri supporting van Persie and Adebayor. With a defensive midfielder this attack can be the best in the world but poor us, all these guys are hardly fit together. But the point is players get long-term injuries like we have seen with van Persie in the past, now Rosicky is still out, Eduardo is coming back, Walcott and Fabregas still out; these injuries are not going to happen every year will they. That’s what everyone said of van Persie when he got injured time and time again but they were wrong. He has showed his fitness and class. He has been our player of the season so far. So if the aforementioned players remain fit, Arsenal are a side to be feared by all European power houses. They may be injured now, but they won’t be out for 3 4 months every season, hopefully not next season.

These reasons have led to defensive frailty and lack of creativity up front. Right now it’s just van Persie keeping Arsenal in the fight for the title, even though with all the poor results we have got this season and where we lie in the table at the moment thinking of winning the season seems quite unrealistic. This season looks like a fight for a Champions League place and not the title. The only very dim hope remaining is that van Persie contines the form of his life and with Nasri, keeps getting decent results for Arsenal till Fabregas and Walcott return. That might be the turning point of the season if Arsenal are still in the race for the title when the duo make their comebacks.

by Zain Shahid

Cardiff City vs Arsenal

Cardiff City vs Arsenal

Another FA Cup weekend is here and as many say FA Cup is the most realistic chance of a trophy for Arsenal this season. People might say it’s another easy fixture for Arsenal after having an easy ride against Plymouth in the last round. Even though no match is too easy, everyone will have to accept that but considering that Manchester United and Tottenham play each other, Everton and Liverpool also face each other so comparatively Arsenal are advantaged in this round.

It has been the case in recent weeks that every Arsenal match has been a virtually ‘must-win’ encounter to stay in contention for the title. In this case too it is a must win match too. It’s the Cup; you lose, you’re out and that is something Arsenal cannot afford because as I mentioned this is Arsenal’s most realistic chance of winning some silverware this season.

Cardiff are a decent side and no doubt they will make Arsenal work really hard for the win. For Arsene Wenger, the fact that it is a Cup tie makes no difference as for him every match has the same importance and he wants to win every single match. Cardiff have the advantage with the home crowd behind them and if Ramsey is to be believed, the fans at Ninian Park are really noisy and are very much behind the team for the 90 mins.

For Arsenal, they have the same old injuries with only Gallas coming back. Clichy is suspended. Wenger is not prioritising any competition so we will see a full-strength Arsenal side with the exception of Fabianski.

The man to watch for Cardiff will certainly be van Persie. The Dutchman is in hot form, arguably the best form of his career so far, and so far this month he has been involved in a goal at least in every match. On the other hand Arsenal need to watch out for Jay Bothroyd. He has been a very successful buy for the Bluebirds and will certainly be looking to inflict some damage to his old club. Arsenal’s weak link will be Keiran Gibbs. He is relatively inexperienced and as he has been transformed from a left winger to left back so there are still some weaknesses in his defending, though going forward he can be exceptional.

The expected line-up should be:

Fabianski
Sagna      Toure(C)      Djourou      Gibbs
Eboue     Denilson     Ramsey     Nasri
van Persie    Adebayor

There is still the possibility that Arsene might rest at least one of van Persie, Adebayor and Nasri considering the midweek trip to Goodison Park is of immense importance and he would not want his main players fatigued or in the worst case, injured. There is also a possibility of Gallas returninig to the first team which would mean Toure might be left out and van Persie will wear the captain’s armband once again. But as he has just returned to full fitness so I don’t expect a start for him. Vela and Bendtner might get an important start too if Wenger decides to rest van Persie or Adebayor and I certainly would love to see Vela starting. Bendtner’s, if not started, substitute appearance might be a match-turning introduction if the match is not over already by then considering the form the Dane is in. And this FA Cup tie is another chance for young Ramsey to once again impress the fans and the manager and send a message to Denilson and Song that he is knocking on their door so they’d better start performing well! My prediction is a 2-1 win for Arsenal. Lets once again hope that no matter what the scoreline, Arsenal go through to the next round!