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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.

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Rosicky - Could be back much earlier than expected!

Rosicky - Could be back much earlier than expected!

We all thought Fabregas was going to surprise us with an earlier than expected recovery. But Rosicky! Not a single person on this earth would have expected that!

The Czech international has been out for over a year with a hamstring injury and could be back in just about 3 weeks! Can you believe it! And we had thought we would only be able to see him next season!

As you may have read on Arsenal.com an ecstatic Wenger said:

“Tomas needs three weeks to play in training fully fit. He is still doing special training but in three weeks he will join in with the first team. It will be three weeks to play in the Reserves, touch wood. Rosicky looks very good in training, he looks unbelievably strong. Fabregas looks good, Diaby will come back. Rosicky is three weeks, Cesc four weeks, Theo two weeks.”

This means all of them should be back for the last 6 matches of the Premier League which includes matches against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. This season is suddenly taking a u-turn. We all looked down and out with once again nearly no hope of a trophy but suddenly we are on a 12 match unbeaten run, Arshavin is here, Eduardo is back from his long term injury and now Walcott, Fabregas and Rosicky are weeks away from return. I am quite hopeful of finishing inside the top 4 and winning the FA Cup now.

Nasri Believes Arshavin is an Excellent Player

Nasri Believes Arshavin is an Excellent Player

One of Arsenal’s best players this season Samir Nasri is confident Arshavin will make quite a mark at Arsenal. Nasri has played against the Russian during his Marseille days and says he was quite impressed. Arshavin brings creativity and Arsenal have been lacking that lately. But the young Frenchman believes Arshavin will not be the ultimate solution to Arsenal’s problems as Arsenal need their injured players back. Once they are back, Arsenal will soon be fighting for the trophies in the three competitions they are in.  Nasri said:

“I played against Arshavin when he was at Zenit St. Petersburg and I was at Marseille, he’s an excellent player. He will give us that little bit more penetration and incisiveness which the team have been lacking recently.

“I don’t think it is a central midfielder that Arsenal have been lacking. What we have really been missing is the injured players and when they come back you’ll see a different face to this Arsenal team.”

The young midfielder also mentioned that Arsenal’s style of play suits more against big teams:

“Arsenal like to play football so when we play against a skilful team who also like to come out and play it is easier to play because there is more space to exploit. When Manchester United came to the Emirates we had the opportunity to play well ourselves. When we are at home to teams who come here and keep things tight we have found things more difficult.”

A lot of people out there feel Arsenal can only win the FA Cup if they don’t have to face Man Utd or even Chelsea or Liverpool for that matter, but they should know how good Arsenal are against big teams. Nasri has said it spot on.

Arshavin - Nice Hair!

Arshavin - Nice Hair!

Talking of Arshavin, he has brought his trusted hairdresser to London as his wife doesn’t trust the hairdressers of London! Arshavin’s wife Yuliahas has been quite critical of London’s people and all and before Arshavin joined Arsenal she had critisized English food and that if he moves to Arsenal it will be quite hard finding good food for themselves. Now its London’s hairdressers turn! Their hairdresser to be flown to London from St. Petersburg Volkov said:

“Yulia superstitiously distrusts hairdressers in London and insisted that her husband paid for his personal stylist’s trips to London for his hair cuts.”

Arshavin will be funding the trips for the stylist whenever he needs a haircut. So much for loyalty! Hope Arshavin turns out to be as much loyal to Arsenal too! Volkov said:

“Before Andrei left Russia I cut his hair shorter than normal so that he wouldn’t need me too soon. It’s easy to work for him. So far he liked everything I did. I’ve changed his style from glamorous Vidal Sassoon to simple ‘streetwise guy’ and I had no complaints from him or Yulia.”

Wenger - "Man Utd Look Untouchables"

Wenger - "Man Utd Look Untouchable"

Arsene Wenger has finally admitted Arsenal are not in the title race anymore.

This season has been a relatively poor one for Arsenal and they are not only 12 points behind leaders Manchester United but 5 points below 4th placed Chelsea which makes even the Champions League qualification difficult for them But Wenger may be giving up on title hopes, which was quite obvious, he is confident Arsenal can secure the final Champions League berth. Arsenal are on a 12 match unbeaten run which gives Wenger all the hope that if they keep on performing consistently they should finish 4th at least:

“We’re very consistent and on a very strong run. We missed scoring the goals that we’re capable of recently, but are very consistent and promised ourselves that we’ll give everything until the end of the season.”

The Frenchman also conceded Manchester United are too good at the moment and look ‘untouchable’. Like most people out there Wenger also feels it will be United who will end up Premier League Champions:

“Manchester United look untouchable because they’re 12 points ahead and have a game tomorrow against Fulham they’ll certainly win. Their results are very consistent. They win 1-0 and you think during the game that they may drop a point or maybe more, but they always manage to find somewhere the resources to win the game.

“If they win their game in hand they’re 15 points in front, which means they need to lose five games. Say they lose one against us, then they still need to lose another four games. They haven’t lost four games all season yet, but we’ll try. I believe our basic target is to get into the Champions League.”

It may seem nearly impossible for Man Utd not to finish at the top, especially as all the matches against the other members of the big 4 for them are at Old Trafford. But for Arsenal to clinch the fourth place, there are a lot of things in their favour. They are on quite a decent run, their next 7 fixtures are against smaller teams whereas the next 7 fixtures of Aston Villa include Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd. So that can help Arsenal to leapfrog Villa. On the other hand Chelsea are going through a bad form and just have a new manager who will hopefully take time to settle in so combine a good form of Arsenal with a bad form of Chelsea and you might get Arsenal overtaking Chelsea! With Dudu back and straight away looking better than he was before getting injured, Fabregas back at the end of this month and probably Walcott back at the same time. Arshavin to make his debut soon so things are looking great for Arsenal at the moment and along with a Champions League place, I am getting hopeful they have quite a chance of winning the FA Cup.

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.

Arsenal vs Cardiff City

Arsenal vs Cardiff City

Arsenal fans may be desperate for trophies but this season is shaping up into one in which qualifying for the Champions League seems more important, at least to Arsene Wenger it does.

“I still believe that the first trophy you want is qualifying for the Champions League.”

As it seems, its looking really tough for Arsenal to claim the final Champions League berth but if they somehow manage to do it, it sure will seem like a trophy! But the excitement will wear off soon. We all want real silverware. The next step after qualifying for Champions League will be:

“Then win the Premier League and win the Champions League, then other trophies you go after. We were very close in 2006 and we have been in the Champions League every year. That is what you want to achieve first again but, of course, we want to win trophies.”

Take the Premier League out of that list! We all want to win it and its really hard to accept we are out of the title race but at the end of the day we have to think realistically and admit we are not in the title race. Champions League is obviously the best we can get but it will be very very tough. The FA Cup seems like our best chance of winning any silverware this season.

Apart from that Wenger along with praising Cardiff’s last year’s FA Cup run thinks it wasn’t too special as at the last part of the run, the big teams were all out so it was easy going for them. Indirectly Wenger is saying they can’t beat big teams! Mind games!

“They had a run, and it was a fantastic run,” said Wenger. It is still magic because anybody would love to play at Wembley. But the final part of that run was when all the big teams were already out.”

“We have been to Wembley in the FA Cup in 1998, but not since. At the moment we are too far away to say that we will get there this year, but we will give everything to get there. The players are motivated for the Cardiff game and want to win.”

No surprises there.

Meanwhile Cardiff manager Dave Jones insists they have an advantage going into the FA Cup replay as all the pressure is on Arsenal. Maybe he is forgetting his team will be playing at Emirates:P But yeah good attitude. If Hull can beat us at home why can’t they.

“They’re at home tomorrow night, Arsene has the bigger team and the bigger stars – so all the pressure goes onto him. But he has that week-in, week-out anyway.”

“To outsiders looking in, most clubs playing against higher division teams will be expected to lose. But this is the FA Cup. And as we know from last year, things can happen. There are always chinks in a team’s armour. The difference at Premier League level is, if you give them an opportunity, they’ll more than likely take it. Give them even half a chance and they’ll sniff it out. At our level, it might take one or two goes at it.”

“If we go there thinking we haven’t got a chance, what’s the point of turning up? We will give our utmost to get a victory, as we always do. And it’s not out of our reach to do that. A few weeks ago, I watched Derby County beat Manchester United – and they’re world champions, never mind champions of this country. I don’t think Derby players went into that game thinking they couldn’t get something from it. What we’ve got to do is try and get our noses in front so we’ve got something to hang on to. You’ve got to play your own game and be at your best to stand a chance.”

Now that is a very positive attitude from the Bluebirds’ boss.

And considering the recent results of Arsenal: 0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-0, Cardiff will surely give Arsenal a run for their money. Arsenal need to improve dramatically if they want to stay in the FA Cup. FA Cup is always full of surprises and there is no reason not to accept that there is a chance of Arsenal losing on Monday. But still lets have high hopes. Arsenal have the squad to go all the way so why not!

Burnley celebrate the opening goal

Burnley celebrate the opening goal

Giant killers Burnley have claimed yet another Premier League scalp in West Brom. The FA Cup replay saw the Championship side thrash Tony Mowbray’s side 3-1 at Turf Moor. This means if Arsenal truimph against Cardiff at the Emirates on 16th of February, they will once again play Burnley, who knocked the young guns of Arsenal out of the League Cup. Burnley have already defeated Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham and now West Brom.

fabregas02

"Now my only worry is that I recover as soon as possible"

Apart from that Fabregas says he wont go anywhere near Nou Camp. The Spaniard said:

“I’d have liked to have gone to watch Barcelona at the Nou Camp, but I wanted to avoid all the speculation about my future. Now my only worry is that I recover as soon as possible to return to Arsenal and help my team.”

No surprises there. Once again the Arsenal captain wastes no time in addressing speculations regarding his future. Hope he returns earlier than expected. He has the will and I am sure he can do it. Arsenal need him back big time!

Arshavin - Can't wait to start playing!

Arshavin - Can't wait to start playing!

Meanwhile Andrei Arshavin had a session with the fans. The new Arsenal player looked very excited and claimed that he has been a Gooner for quite some time now. He says he joined Arsenal because he likes he club’s style, Arsene Wenger and a few players. The forward is already looking to spur Arsenal’s silverware ambitions.  The Russian said:

“Arsenal’s aim is to win the Premier League title and be European champions. That is always the target for this club, so everybody knows that.

“I have already had a training session, and I am pleased with how I have been welcomed. Everyone has been very hospitable.

“I’m yet to train at the stadium but I’ve trained at the training ground and I was happy with how they took to me. Everything was very good, everyone was welcoming, asking me what I needed and things.

“We trained for an hour and a quarter, in the gym and then on the pitch. I got a positive impression from my new team mates. They believe in me.”

“Arsenal play very fast and attacking football that I really like, and there are many creative players.

“Wenger is a great man, and I never thought I would be able to play in his team.

“Here in London, I have had three or four interviews in English. It is clear that I am unlikely to speak without making errors, but it seems to me that I am being understood. In any case, I have only had to resort to using an interpreter a few times in these interviews. Naturally, I will improve.

“Naturally there are problems with English because I don’t know the language very well and can just chat about basic every day things.

“And today I was sitting in the changing room and it was all French – now that’s a language I have a lot of problems with*laughs*! But I hope we will get over the language barrier and everything else very quickly.”

Looking quite confident and happy from the start! As always the players have made a new player feel at home and that is very vital for one to settle at a new club. It’s good to see he has already had interviews in English. Learning the language will be vital for him to settle in quickly. He seems really confident and hopeful. That’s really good.

by Zain Shahid

NASRI-ARSENAL-WEST-HAM2 matches, 2 draws, 4 points dropped. And Wenger says we are in the title race! We have seen two hopeless performances from Arsenal and if we continue this way then say goodbye to Champions League football and the revenue that comes with it. Yesterday’s match was one in which we did not have a single clear cut chance and that explains Arsenal’s story.

From the start till the end we dominated possession. It’s becoming a trademark of Arsenal now, dominate 60+% possession and still don’t win! In the first half the closest Arsenal came to scoring was Diaby’s deflected header hitting the bar. Some good runs and crosses by Nasri. I was really impressed to see how quick he is. He was the only Gunner in the first half who played above average. Diaby wasn’t bad either though. Eboue gave the ball away too often but I felt sorry for him when he got injured. He had a good match if you don’t look at the number of times he gave the ball away!

Arsenal forgot the first half and made a fresh start in the second half. But still lack of penetration. Collins and Upson again proving too hard to break down. Arsenal’s attacks were all limited to outside the box. Just a one decent chance in this half too, the header that was helped on to the keeper by Adebayor. I think he should get a haircut because his hair acts as a cushion and slows the ball down when he heads the ball! In the final 20 mins or so, Nasri was nowhere to be seen. Diaby looked tired. There was a big sense of urgency about Arsenal’s play in the end which we haven’t seen much this season but eventually it came down to nothing. Toure’s shot out of nowhere was the closest we came to scoring in the whole match.

In the end it was two points dropped. Two points dropped at home and with a trip to White Hart Lane next up, I think we should start hoping we at least end up finishing 5th and not worse than that! The lack of quality in the final third is what led to two lost points. The lack of penetration is getting more and more annoying.

Almunia hardly had any work to do. Sagna was yet again brilliant. Gallas and Toure were midfielders rather than defenders because all match the ball was in West Ham’s half. Clichy made really impressive runs forward. The midfield looked decent but they could not break down the 9 man defence. Adebayor was hopeless. I have no idea where has his talent which we saw last season disappeared. Bendtner was average. Nothing special from him. Nasri’s was the only standout performance yesterday. van Persie got too little time to do anything but hopefully the rest he got will lead to a man of the match performance against Cardiff on Tuesday! I have high hopes from the FA Cup now as I start to lose hope from the Preimer League.

by Zain Shahid

Wenger - Admits Arshavin deal is 90% done

Wenger - Admits Arshavin deal is 90% done

Arsene Wenger has finally admitted that negotiations with Zenit over Arshavin are in their final stages. So far Wenger had been tight-lipped whenever questioned about the progress on signing him, however finally the Arsenal manager accepts that Arsenal seem close to signing the Russian. Wenger said in the post Everton match interview:

“There is nothing new, because today I have been focused on the game, and I did not pick up any phone calls so nothing has happened. It was 90 per cent that I will be able to give you more in the next two days. Remember in this job the other 10 per cent can be more important than the other 90 because people can change their mind quickly.”

So as we were told by Zenit, it seems Arshavin’s wage demands are the only obstacle to the transfer. Hope he makes the right decision and agrees to Arsenal’s terms!

The goal that rescued a point

The goal that rescued a point

Meanwhile Arsenal made a great escape at Goodison Park and manage to come out with a point. It seemed Arsenal’s little unbeaten run was going to end, but the Gunners showed great character and in injury time with around a minute remaining, van Persie scored a gem of a goal. Some might say its two points dropped and some will say its a point gained. As the season progresses we might get to know how costtly these two points can be or how helpful the point may be. Right now what everyone will be looking at is that Arsenal are now 5 points outside the top four, and 8 points adrift of the leaders, who also have a game in hand. So the situation looks grave. To hope of winning the title now, seems more and more unrealistic. Lets hope we see better performances and results in the FA Cup and Champions League.

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!