Arsenal v Leyton Orient – Preview & Expected Starting Line-up

Sunday, 20th February 2011

It’s always difficult to preview and predict a game like this one. As I’ve said previously it all depends on “what Arsenal team turn up”. What do I mean by this? Well, look at the Newcastle game. First half we have the world-beating, free-flowing, invincible team that all Arsenal fans love to watch. Second half, the nervous, twitchy team with no leadership and poor communication that all Arsenal fans dread.

Anyway, onto my expected starting line-up for the game against Leyton Orient:
Szczesny
Sagna Djourou Squillaci Gibbs
Rosicky Wilshere Denilson
Bendtner Chamakh Arshavin

You can also expect a strong bench, with the likes of Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie just incase Leyton Orient decide to spoil our party.

I’m pleased that Szczesny has managed to fix himself the No. 1 spot for Arsenal. I really do rate this kid highly, and I hope he continues to improve (especially with his distribution of the ball which can let him down sometimes).

Sagna returns from suspension and I predict that he will start. Diaby is still suspended. Djourou faces a late fitness test, but should be fit to start.

Predicted score line:
3-1 to the Arsenal.

I just want to make a quick note on how important it is NOT to draw today. The replay would be played on a week Wednesday. In between the Carling Cup final and Sunderland at home. Arsenal need as much rest as they can possibly get over the next few months, and adding another game to our already-busy schedule will not help us in the slightest. Especially considering the replay would be played 6 days before the 2nd leg against Barca.

Arsenal, the most impressive team this season?

Saturday, 19th February 2011

Some pundits wrote us off at the beginning of the season, but it’s almost March and Arsenal are still in 4 competitions, so lets take a look at the odds Arsenal were given at the start of the season, and the odds of winning now.

Carling Cup
Start of season odds: 16/1
Now: 1/4

We’re in the final next weekend, and I see this as a trophy that we could win easily. We played Birmingham away on New Years Day and trashed them 3-0. They haven’t made any particularly good signings (apart from David Bentley, maybe). This trophy should be a dead cert, but it all depends on whether the Arsenal boys get stage fright at the Wembley, or relish the opportunity.

Premier League
Start of season: 8/1
Now: 2/1

I honestly believe Arsenal are favourites to win the Premiership over United. Why? Two reasons:

  1. United still have to face Chelsea twice this season and Arsenal at the Emirates.
  2. Arsenal are currently the better team.

FA Cup
Start of season: 7/1
Now: 3/1

At the time of writing this, Chelsea have just been knocked out by Everton, and United are still to play Crawley later today. But I see the FA Cup as another tournament that we could progress far in this year. There are still some weak teams left in the competition that I can see Arsenal beating easily, and with a few good draws, I believe Arsenal could make it to Wembley again this season.

Champions League
Start of season: 16/1
Now: 12/1

If we manage to progress against Barcelona in 2 weeks, expect these odds to be reduced massively. However, Barca are still massive favourites to win the tournament, and I see the Champions League as the one that Arsenal fans would love to lift, and the one that will be most difficult. Real Madrid, Bayern, Inter, AC, Chelsea and Man Utd are all still in the competition and would all be difficult to beat.

The odds taken are averages of all the most popular bookies at the beginning of the season or today, they don’t necessarily represent the best or worst odds on offer.

We’ve got Leyton Orient away tomorrow, and I think it could be a tricky game. Dodgy pitch and 9000 loud fans. Lets not write Orient off too early, we still have to turn up to win! Oooh to be a Gooner!

Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona – 11 reasons why we won!

Thursday, 17th February 2011

I previously gave you 11 reasons as to why we could win, and we won. Here are my thoughts as to why we won:

  1. Our ‘Never Say Die’ attitude – we kept battling until the 93rd minute.
  2. We were the underdogs. Arsenal perform best when no one expects it.
  3. The fact that Barcelona had all the possession made us hungry for the ball. We fought for the ball and had to finish the few chances we gave ourself.
  4. Pedro didn’t turn up on the night, simple as. Would have been a different story if Pedro was the player he usually is.
  5. The referee didn’t send Song off – this could’ve been disastrous.
  6. Wilshere was world-class.
  7. Koscielny showed us why he was worth all those millions we spent in the summer.
  8. Arshavin’s recent poor form meant he wanted to prove himself once again. Took his chance fantastically.
  9. Fabregas didn’t have his greatest game, but he was still head and shoulders above Iniesta and Xavi.
  10. We were confident from our last game. An easy 2-0 thrashing against Wolves.
  11. Last but definitely not least, the support our fans gave. I’m absolutely gutted I didn’t get a ticket for the game. But the 60,000+ Arsenal fans in the Emirates gave our team that extra boost.

I know I’m going to get comments from some of you saying that we haven’t progressed to the next round yet, and we still have get a draw at the Nou Camp. But I am confident, and so should you be! Anyway, that’s 2 weeks away, we’ve just beaten arguably the best team on the planet. Lets go f**king mental!!!

Leyton Orient this weekend. Pretty sure a few of the boys will get the weekend off, and a well-deserved rest ahead of Stoke next week and the Carling Cup Final! Wonder if Arsene will play it cautious – the last thing we want is a replay 3 days before the 2nd leg against Barca.

Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona – Oh! My! God! Match Report, Player Ratings, My Opinion & Video Highlights

Wednesday, 16th February 2011

Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona
Villa (26), Van Persie (78), Arshavin (83)

Match Report
We knew it was going to be a game of chances, but WOW! What a game!

It took just 5 minutes before Robin Van Persie forced a great save from Valdes with a superb volley from a delightful cross, and the game didn’t quieten down until the final whistle was blown.

The next key moment came on the quarter-hour mark, where Lionel Messi lurched onto a through ball from David Villa. Unusually, Messi tapped the ball wide.

Alex Song was the worry of all Arsenal fans, getting booked early on in the first half. Song’s defensive role in the team obviously meant he would be picking off and stopping the Barca attack, but the Cameroonian was lucky to stay on the pitch after totting up 5/6 fouls in a row.

Barca then found their silky passing game, and finally managed to break the deadlock on the 26th minute. Messi this time reversed roles with David Villa, who managed to squeeze the ball through Szczesny’s legs and into the back of the net. 1-0 to Barca, Arsenal fans fear the worst.

Barca had the majority of chances in the first half, but Van Persie missed a great chance to equalize for the Gunners. The half time whistle blew with many fans wondering how it was still only 1-0.

The 2nd half was a different story, Arsenal were the main aggressors. Wilshere, Walcott, Fabregas and Van Persie missing chances for Arsenal.

However, with 12 minutes to go, Gael Clichy dinked a beautifully-flighted ball into Van Persie’s feet, who fired into the near post from a tight angle. Valdes left wrong-footed, and RvP equalizes for the Gunners. 1-1.

Both sides continued to swap chances, but 5 minutes later, Cesc fed Nasri with space to run into. Samir pulled back, found Arshavin on the edge of the box who took his chance perfectly first-time. The Emirates Stadium erupts as Arsenal pull back from the brink. 2-1 to the Gunners.

With minutes to go, Messi once again fires a ball into the Arsenal box. Landing at Dani Alves’ feet after brushing Arshavin’s arm on the way down. Szczesny saves the block shot, and about 30 seconds later the full time whistle is blown.

Player Ratings
Szczesny – 7; The young Polish keeper played well. A few great saves including one at the death of the game.
Eboue – 7; Struggled in the first half, but managed to turn it around in the second with some good attacking play.
Clichy – 8; Wasn’t great defensively, but that assist for RvP’s goal leaves me with no option but to give Clichy an 8.
Djourou -7 ; Found it tough against the likes of Villa, Messi and co, but worked his way into the game.
Koscielny – 9; Outstanding performance from the Frenchman. A glimpse of what is to come, perhaps?
Song – 6; A restrained performance after his early booking. Was lucky to stay on the pitch.
Wilshere – 8; Left Iniesta and Xavi with red faces. This is how a roaming central midfielder plays. What a game!
Fabregas – 7; Sloppy passing in the first, but got better as the game progressed.
Nasri – 6; Probably wasn’t the best idea starting Nasri. Not great in the first, but a fantastic run and assist to win us the game.
Walcott – 6; Played well, but not as effective as last year.
Van Persie – 8; Couldn’t find his footing early on, but scored a fantastic goal.

Subs:
Arshavin – 7; Great goal. The Russian is slowly finding his form.
Bendtner – 5; Battled hard, but was anonymous near the end.

Opinion
El Capitan put it brilliantly in the after-match interview. This is only half of the match. We still have the most difficult half to play at the Nou Camp. A great comeback from this Arsenal side, who at one stage looked as if we were going to get battered single-handedly by Mr Messi.

For me, Koscielny was the man of the match. Brilliant defending from start to finish, kept Arsenal in the game.

Bring on the 2nd leg!

Video Highlights


[Also, it’s worth noting that I predicted all 11 starting players. Arsene, when do you want me to take over?]

[Note #2; can someone tell the Transfer Tavern the score?]

Arsenal vs Barcelona – 11 reasons as to why we can be confident this time around!

Wednesday, 16th February 2011

The big game kicks off at 7.30pm GMT tonight! That’s just under 2 hours away. Here are some reasons why we can be confident about tonight:

  1. Ibrahimovic (the player who scored a brace against us last season) no longer plays for Barcelona. In his place, David Villa – a player who prefers the ball on the ground. Arsenal as a team prefer play to be on the ground, and struggle against forwards with pace. Think about the amount of goals Fernando Torres has scored against us (1 in 5/6?) to the amount of goals Drogba has scored against us (10 in 11)
  2. Samir Nasri, currently flying in the Premiership and in Europe. Scored 9 in the Premiership so far, and early contender for Player of the Season.
  3. Theo Walcott only played 24 minutes this time last year, it’s more than likely that he will start, and we all know how bad Barcelona’s full backs can be. The Englishman has scored 7 and assisted 7 times in the Premiership this season, his best tally ever.
  4. Our bench will most likely include the likes of Chamakh, Bendtner, Arshavin, Rosicky, etc. More firepower to impact the play late on.
  5. Jack Wilshere, another player who missed out last season as he was at loan in Bolton. He’s a big match player, and oh boy tonight is a big match!
  6. Barcelona failed to beat Sporting Gijon on Saturday, a side who lie 16th in La Liga.
  7. Diaby is suspended.
  8. Szczesny will play, as opposed to Almunia. To be fair to the Spaniard, he had a great game last season, but I think Chesney is a lot better all round.
  9. Fabregas won’t be carrying an injury, and is definitely on the lookout for revenge this season!
  10. RvP is currently firing on all cylinders. Expect a goal or two from Robin tonight.
  11. Puyol and Jeffren are injured, and will be missing for the trip to the Emirates.

Of course this could all be in vain and Messi could tear us apart. It all depends on what kind of Arsenal team turns up on the night, and whether Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and co. can perform as well as they did last season.

Come on you Gunners!!

Nasri to start against Barcelona & Expected Starting Line-up

Tuesday, 15th February 2011

Samir Nasri has been included in the squad, and is fit to play against Barcelona on Wednesday evening.

Yesterday, Wenger said that he would not take a “crazy gamble” on Nasri, with big games to come over the coming weeks. Including Leyton Orient at the weekend and the Carling Cup Final against Birmingham on the 27th.

The news will be a massive boost for Arsenal, who need as many resources as possible to beat Barcelona, currently unbeaten in the Champions League this season.

Unfortunately Bacary Sagna is suspended after his sending off against Partizan, so Eboue is likely to deputise.

I expect our starting line-up to look something like this:
Szczesny
Clichy – Djourou – Koscielny – Eboue
Wilshere – Song – Fabregas
Walcott – Van Persie – Nasri

Opinions, Gooners?

Chelsea lose more points at Fulham, leaving Man Utd and Arsenal to fight for the title

Monday, 14th February 2011

Good news for Arsenal fans!

£50million man Torres only made 37 touches in 71 minutes, as Chelsea drop another 2 points in the title race. £21million signing David Luiz conceded a penalty to Fulham in the last minute of stoppage time, but Dempsey could not convert and Cech saved Chelsea’s blushes.

The result leaves Chelsea 12 points behind United and 8 behind Arsenal, with only 12 games remaining of the season. Mathematically, it’s still possible. But the likelihood of United and Arsenal slipping up 3/4 games each and Chelsea winning all 12 – near impossible.

As I told listeners of Fuse FM on Sunday, United and Chelsea still have to play each other twice in the final few games of the season. Fingers crossed Gunners, this could still be our season!

Arsenal v Wolves – Preview – Links to watch online

Saturday, 12th February 2011

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin.
Subs: Almunia, Denilson, Squillaci, Eboue, Gibbs, Chamakh, Bendtner.

Wolves: Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Berra, Elokobi, Hammill, Jarvis, Henry, Milijas, O’Hara, Doyle.
Subs: Hahnemann, Craddock, Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher, Ward, David Jones, Foley.

Links to watch online
Sopcast channel 83773

The collapse at Tyneside, the review!

Monday, 7th February 2011

It kills me to write this report, not only because I had to watch Arsenal lose a 4-goal lead (the first of its kind in the English Premier League), but because my flatmate is a massive Geordie fan, and he was loving it.

The game itself was definitely a game of two halves. The Arsenal we all know and love in the first, and the complete opposite in the second.

It looked as if it was going to be a breeze for Cesc and co, with Theo putting the Arsenal into the lead early on, and Djourou scoring his first goal ever all within 3 minutes. A Van Persie double made it 4-0 to the Gunners with only 26 minutes played.

However, from then on everything went down-hill. The rest of the first half had chances which both sides missed, and along came the half time whistle.

I still don’t know how to describe the second half. Was it an Arsenal self-destruct, or were Newcastle playing out of their skins? Either way, you all know the script. Diaby got himself sent off with his immature temper, and Newcastle managed to con the referee into giving them four goals.

I don’t feel as if it’s necessary to rate the team’s performance. But just to give you a gist, I would’ve given high ratings for the first 26 minutes, and 0s/1s for the rest of the game.

The good news is that Diaby will certainly miss the next 3 games. I cannot stand watching that arrogant, rude, and technically inept player on the pitch. Also, United got beaten to Wolves, so our 1 point is technically a good result and still keeps us in the running for the title race.

I’m slightly worried as to why Djourou got taken off at half time, another injury at the back? Why oh why didn’t you buy a centre back in January, Mr Wenger? Simply, Squillaci isn’t ‘Arsenal quality’.

Anyway, we’ve got a week off and then Wolves back at the Emirates. Come on you Gunners!

Arsenal’s “foreign” team – Really!?

Sunday, 6th February 2011

There’s no doubt that Arsenal are a team full of different nationalities. Looking at our starting line-up against Newcastle, we had four French players, two English and one Polish, Swiss, Spanish, Dutch and Russian.

Looking at the recent England squad list for the game against Denmark, it appears Wenger’s philosophy has spread to other clubs across the country. Five players are from Aston Villa, four from City, three from Chelsea, two from Liverpool and Arsenal, and one each from United, Everton, Bolton, Fulham, Birmingham and West Ham.

But looking at the transfer market, there’s no wonder Wenger has delved into the European markets to buy his players. £35m for Carroll, £24m for Bent, etc, etc. Compare this with £12m for Nasri or £8.5m for Vermaelen, and you can see where I’m coming from.

There are three key points that I need to make from the above facts:
1) That Arsenal are no longer the “No-English” club that the media makes it out to be. Infact we have more players in the latest England team than 16 out of 20 clubs in the English Premier League.
2) That Ashley Cole, an England regular, was infact trained, developed and spent most of his career at the Arsenal.
3) That it was in fact Manchester United who were the first club to field 11 different nationalities in the Premier League. (Against Stoke in early January).