Manchester United v Arsenal: Pre-Match Thoughts

Arsenal can’t be considered title contenders until they play real times. Forget the likes of Napoli, Dortmund, Tottenham, and Liverpool, we need to prove to the rest of the country that we are able to beat the 8th best team in England in order to be considered serious title contenders. This game is getting a lot of hype and the boys will certainly be up to it.

The last time Arsenal beat Utd at Old Trafford was in September of 2006. I remember that game very well, almost too well. There were many chances for Arsenal to win it including a missed penalty and a goal line clearance following the resulting corner, but we had to wait until the 86th minute for Adebayor to slot home the winner. What a match that was. Hopefully, there will be a similar result. Anyways, here are some pre-match thoughts:

Arsenal need to play the same way they played in Germany- Arsenal have been able to win in two different styles this calender year; play near dominance passing football or defend first-attack second. Arsenal did the latter against Bayern and Dortmund in Germany and look at the results we achieved. If we can keep Utd at bay for the majority of the game and break well, then we would have a good chance at winning. When Arsenal tries to play possession football against more physical teams, we usually get punished. Wenger has to get his tactics right for this one.

Aaron Ramsey needs to be our Zidane- Amazing how we signed a player that is relatively close to Zidane’s caliber, yet he isn’t getting all the plaudits. They are rightfully going towards the best Welshman in the world, Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey has been played in a plethora of positions in his Arsenal career, but I believe it is time that he is placed into one firmly, and that is the number ten position. He has showed quality going forward on many occasions this season, including quite a few good runs midweek against Dortmund. While Ozil is supposedly our number ten, he is more of a creator than a scorer. Ramsey is the one who has shown more drive coming forward, and that is why we need him to play higher up the pitch, right behind Giroud.

Consistency and determination is key- Arsenal are going to win the league this season if they maintain those two things. The reason we are first come down to those two things specifically. When you look at why we have fallen short in previous years, it is because we have shown fear and vulnerability, attributes of losers. Utd have come up on top in previous seasons due to having the fear factor and being so consistent with their results (even though some referees had a big part to play in their league position). This season, they have lost both things and are looking as vulnerable as ever. The reason why they can’t be taken advantage of yet is because of their resiliency, another thing that Arsenal have been lacking in previous seasons. How many times have you seen Arsenal lose a game and then sort of collapse in recent seasons? It has happened far too many, unlike United who have had the ability to keep going, even when the tough get tougher. Winning the league doesn’t come by luck, it comes by getting into the best possible position, not by waiting for it too happen, but by creating the opportunity for it too happen.

Rooney is delusional- It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Rooney scored a hat trick against us, as he scores against us just about every season. What does surprise me is how he was talking bad about Arsenal earlier, saying that we are not real contenders. Well I think that’s what the translators were able to decipher from the mumbles that came out of his mouth. Anyways, if Rooney is saying that we can’t be considered real contenders, then what does that make United? Rooney is going to have to be up for the relegation battle considering his logic.

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Arsenal v Liverpool is Potentially One of the Most Important Games of the Season

It’s been a long time since Arsenal and Liverpool were both coming into a game with both sides hoping to end up on top of the table. Liverpool have been in a slump over the past couple of seasons and are finally looking like a real football side again. It will be a real test of how far they have come against Arsenal, as we are currently the best team in England.

Arsenal-v-Liverpool-Jamie-Carragher-Theo-Walc_2893185

Walcott against Liverpool last season.

In the reverse fixture last season, Arsenal were trailing Liverpool 2-0 thanks to goals from Suarez and Henderson. Arsenal came back from behind thanks to quickfire goals from Walcott and Giroud, but unfortunately the Gunners were unable to provide a winning goal. This time around, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the scoreline was the same. Liverpool and Arsenal are the two best attacking teams in England arguably, and have two of the most unpredictable defences. Most of the goals we have conceded have been avoidable, and I’m sure that is something that Wenger is hoping to fix in the coming weeks. It seems like at least 80% of our goals conceded were due to lapses in concentration rather than good attacking play from the opposition, so we are going to have to be at our sharpest in the back.

The game has gained more intensity due to the situation with Suarez and Arsenal over the Summer. Who can forget the infamous £40m+1 bid? We have gotten into a messy situation with Liverpool thanks to that bid, but in all honesty, Liverpool have been the side that have acted the more immature over it. Many Gooners are torn over whether or not they would have wanted Suarez in the team. I personally would have been thrilled to have Suarez in the team because he is undoubtedly the best player in the league. You can say what you want, but if he didn’t have racial-cannibalistic problems than he would be in the media due to his sheer talent. He or Rooney would be my perfect signing in January, although both look very unlikely.

Moving back onto the game, I am hopeful that Giroud has a stormer. I believe that he will make a difference in the game, whether it’s good or bad depends upon which Giroud shows up. We have seen the best of Giroud this season, but we have also seen a couple of poor moments by him. He has improved greatly, and that is really all that you can ask for. It still seems to me like he isn’t quite fit enough to last a full ninety minutes, but others will disagree. He is going to have to be at his best due to the amount of chances I believe he is going to have. Having watched Liverpool this season on a few occasions, they have given up many chances in every game. Brendan Rodgers hasn’t found his best defensive pairing, and considering there defence consists of an aging Kolo Toure and new signing Sakho, I doubt that we are going to have to “find a way” past their defence. It is a shame that Walcott isn’t fit because I feel like he would explode in this sort of game.

So it is going to be an important game come the end of the season. Arsenal and Liverpool are both on form and neither will be looking to drop points. Great football is expected, which means a boring nil-nil draw is more likely on the cards. Who would be in your starting XI and why? Leave a comment below. Also, follow the Gooner Monkey on Twitter!!!!

Arsenal v Borrusia Dortmund- Match Preview

Crazy Dortmund Banner

It is a game that is expected to be oozing with quality football. England’s in form team versus the free flowing football of Dortmund. It is Arsenal v Borrusia Dortmund, and it is expected to be a spectacle.

Coming into this game, we are in a very good position. Six points from Marseille and Napoli is great, but now we face arguably our biggest threat, Borrusia Dortmund. If we win, we will be in pole position to qualify for the last sixteen. If we lose, Dortmund are back on track following their defeat away to Napoli. It is going to be close, but great teams should be able to get out of tough groups. That’s why City and United have been failing in the past couple of seasons.

If there is one team that I hold a high respect for in Europe, it is Borrusia Dortmund. From their style of play to their fans, I appreciate almost everything about them. I have said before that Jurgen Klopp would be my ideal successor to Arsene Wenger, who is not going to be signing a contract any time soon. Arsenal and Dortmund are similar in a number of ways, and that is why I feel that tomorrow’s game will be special.

Wenger is expected to rotate the squad a little bit so expect to see some changes in midfield. Flamini is the only player completely ruled out, so Wenger is still going to be able to switch it up as much as he likes. I would be surprised to see Cazorla start, with Rosicky being his likely replacement. It looks like Ramsey will start, although I know that Wenger wants to give him a rest. Wenger also wanted to give a rest to Ozil last weekend, but he is too important to just leave out, especially for a game like this. Unfortunately, Podolski and Walcott are both a not going to be fit for another few weeks so we are going to be a bit short in the forward position.

Speaking before the game on Sky Sports News, Jurgen Klopp revealed his thoughts over Arsenal:

“This team missed one player and maybe it can be Mesut Ozil,” said Klopp.

“He is technically perfect, he is fast and has developed a drive to goal. He is very intelligent and can play in any team. He has everything, is a natural and it works very well.

“That is why it was a great idea from Arsenal and not so from the one team who let him go. One year ago no one thought it was possible they could play brilliant football without (Santi) Cazorla.

“Now they have some injuries and still look strong with (Aaron) Ramsey and (Jack) Wilshere, (Tomas) Rosicky is back in shape and (Olivier) Giroud, he is one of the best strikers.

“As a supporter this is one of the most beautiful types of football to watch.

“Who is strong enough to be champions in the Premier League is of course strong enough to go to the final of the Champions League.

“Now they are back in the race for titles and we want to stop them.”

It is great to have the fear factor back. We have been to much of a pushover in the past couple of years so a little bit of intimidation is much needed. Ozil alone has offered quite a bit a change to the way other teams see us, as now we have someone that opposition players know to be Word Class.

It will be a tough game tomorrow, but with a jumping atmosphere and a good start, the team will definitely have more belief. Dortmund have some very good players, so maybe Wenger can also do a little scouting as well. That’s all from me, COYG!

Arsenal v Norwich- Match Preview

It seems like an eternity since the last time Arsenal played. Thankfully, this eternity is set to end tomorrow as we host Norwich City at the Emirates.

My biggest concern for the match was whether or not Ozil and Cazorla were going to be fit in time. Wenger pretty much confirmed that they are both fit, but it looks like Cazorla isn’t going to start due to lack of match fitness. It seems unlikely that we are going to be able to see the orgasmic link up between Ozil and Cazorla tomorrow, but it is great nonetheless to have them back. Sagna is also 80% fit, but a start for Jenkinson seems the more likely.

Last season, we had a bit of a tough time against Norwich, but in the end it became one of our games of the season. If you remember, we were 1-0 down in the 85th minute when Arteta equalized from the spot. Giroud and Podolski scored in the dying moments of that game to win it 3-1. It was an absolutely fantastic victory last season, and a great game, but I am hoping for something a bit less pressurizing. Norwich are in the relegation zone and Arsenal are top of the table, so you would expect for fans and players to be confident coming into this game. If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching football in the past years is that you can never ever underestimate a team. Each game is going to be difficult, there is no way around that. We have had troubles at the Emirates for some reason, and a good start is an absolute must for tomorrow.

Last time we played at home, it was against Napoli and we were explosive at the beginning of the game. Ozil scored his first goal in the red and white and he assisted Giroud for us to have a 2-0 lead after fifteen minutes. That is probably the only time I can remember in recent history of us being comfortable at home. It seems like we are able to play our game better away for some reason.

Anyways, our injury problems are becoming less and less. Podolski, Chamberlain, and Walcott being the only first team players still out of the squad. Unfortunately, they are all vital assets to our team and we will still miss them. We are a bit short in the wings with our only natural players there being Gnabry and Miyaichi. Ozil and Cazorla have played there before and although the latter hasn’t really impressed me on the wings as he does in the centre of the field, Ozil has shown some quality playing in that position and I hope he will play there tomorrow. Rosicky is another option along with Wilshere.

I don’t like making predictions about Arsenal matches as I feel like whenever I do, I jinx the team or something, so I’m just going to say that the team needs to fight hard and play together like they did against Napoli. The fans must also be in full voice as well to make a rocking atmosphere at the Emirates. COYG

Arsenal v Napoli- Match Preview

Arsenal fans may finally be able to get their wish tomorrow, watch Higuain score a goal at the Emirates. Unfortunately for us, it won’t be in an Arsenal shirt.

Arsenal face Napoli tomorrow in what could be a critical match in this media dubbed group of death. Napoli beat Dortmund 2-1 at their home stadium last time out, while Arsenal took on Marseille in France. At the current moment, us and Napoli are the two sides who have three points, but as always, the Champions league is ever so unpredictable.

Napoli has a squad that excites me like an Emile Heskey birthday cake. They are under new management and ultimately have started an exciting new project. Many of their players happen to be former Real Madrid players, which is unsurprising since their manager, Rafa Benitez, has been trying to emulate the Madrid team ever since Valencia. Some of these players include Higuain, Callejon, and Raul Albiol. Arsenal fans will have much knowledge over one of these players, as he was on the verge of joining Arsenal over 50 times during the Summer. Amazingly, the transfer of Higuain to Arsenal never panned out and now we are stick with some chap named Nicklas Bendtner.

Speaking to the media before the match, Wenger declared that he had tried to sign Higuain:

“We were working on two or three targets and he was one of them,” Wenger said. “It didn’t come off in the end, that doesn’t take anything away from his quality.

“Napoli took advantage of that at the right moment, it’s more about timing as well.

“In the end Real Madrid sold two great players, one of them went to Napoli, one [Mesut Ozil] went to Arsenal so it’s 1-1 on that front.”

Wenger has a weird of way of communicating. For example, last weekend he said that Ramsey plus Ganbry’s age equaled 40 something and the week before that he said that Ozil and Flamini both cost £21m. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with what he is saying, it’s just that he may be getting up their in age and his mind may be completely lost. Anyways, I believe that Higuain is a great player and I am sad that we didn’t sign him. We probably need someone like him more than Ozil, although Ozil is a better player overall.

Rafa Benitez also spoke to the media before the match:

“I am expecting a strong team because I think Arsène Wenger is the best coach in the Premier League,” said Benitez. “Wenger is a great manager, a great person and someone who knows the league here in England.

“He has experience in Europe, Arsenal is always top four and he is doing a great job. Hopefully he can win [the Champions League], but another year, not this one.”

I have always been indifferent towards Benitez but he is definitely a manager I respect. Some of these managers just seem like idiots but he seems like he is committed to whatever club he is trying to manage, no matter how hard the fans are trying to kick him out. He is taking a daring approach to the season with this Napoli squad, and I expect him to do well in a rather tedious Italian league. A return to the Premier League is inevitable for him, so maybe could he be Wenger’s successor. I sure as hell hope not.

Usually I would make a prediction before the match but I have the power to ruin games so I’m not saying anything. Meander your thoughts and create your own ludicrous predictions, I will have no part in it. Anyways, come on you Gunners!

Swansea v Arsenal- Match Preview

The games are starting to come thick and fast now, and unfortunately, they won’t be getting easier any time soon.

Fortunately for Arsenal, there is a real convergence of the team now. We have come a long way in the last six months when you think about it, and it has all been for the better. If you look at the big picture, we have gotten rid of dead wood, kept our entire starting players, signed a world class player, and grabbed big results against some very good oppositions. If you compare Arsenal to almost every other team in Europe, you would have to say that we have definitely been one of the better sides over the past six months. A win tomorrow would only add to our overgrowing confidence and team chemistry.

Monreal scored in this fixture last season. Photo from Arsenal.com

There is something about going away that worries me about Arsenal. Strangely, we have been racking up all of the points on the road, while failing to capitalize in many of our home games.  Still, when we play away, we usually don’t get in control of the game and seem to just have that little bit of luck in order to win. While we are at home, we always seem to have possession but our quality in the final third is usually lacking due to the opposition taking that approach to “park the bus”. Even when teams don’t park the bus we still have trouble at home, which is a bit worrying.

Anyways, going to Swansea will be difficult and I am not expecting any fat lady to be singing at any point during the game. I have been highly impressed with Swansea over the past season, having won the League Cup and produced some of the best football in the League. I was fairly impressed with the performance against Liverpool which ended in a 2-2 draw. They were unfortunate not to win but two errors costed them the three points. There will be no room for error from any side tomorrow as both teams need the three points to help reach their respected targets.

There aren’t any new injuries to report of, and the squad will most likely be the same as last week. Walcott had successful surgery and is set to be out for around 5 weeks. Cazorla is set to be joining the squad soon and so is Tomas Rosicky. With the amount of players coming back, we are going to have an entirely different team in the next month!

Speaking before the match, Arsene Wenger talked about the recent praise he had received from majority share holder, Stan Kroenke:

“I am very honoured to have the support of Stan Kroenke,” said the manager. “That he thinks I can help the Club is a huge confidence vote. That is something for me that is very positive.

“I said I want to focus on the quality of our season and I don’t believe that anybody can question my commitment to this Club. I want to feel that I do well and then the question of me staying will be secondary after that.

“The good thing with me, if I have one quality, [it’s that] you don’t need a lot of talks to extend the contract I have.

“I don’t know [when I will sign a new contract]. When we find time. I don’t think that’s the most important problem at the moment. It’s straightforward and I don’t think there’s anything more to add to that.”

There is never any doubt to the matter that Wenger will sign a new contract. It’s a matter of when not if. Some Arsenal fans will agree and some won’t, although more and more fans are backing him. I have to admit that I have been inconsistent with my opinions over Wenger. A month ago, I felt he should he be sacked and he didn’t know what he was doing. Now, I’m back to the Arsene is God mode. You have to have respect for him no matter what team you support and there aren’t a lot of managers like that. He is an admirable man and I hope that he is able to leave Arsenal on a high note rather than a sour. Surely winning the Champions League would be the pinnacle of his career that he is so desperately trying to reach.

So a big game tomorrow in Wales, let’s hope we can be the twelfth man and pick up a 2-0 victory as we did last season.

West Brom v Arsenal- League Cup Match Preview

Arsenal will enter the Capital One Cup with a match against West Brom at the Hawthorns. Wenger is widely expected to field a mixed squad with players who are not usually in the starting XI.

Usually, Arsenal will have the first round of the League Cup to experiment with different players. This season, it is going to be very difficult for Wenger to change this squad too much, considering all the injuries and lack of depth we have in the squad. An example of this would be young German forward Serge Gnabry. He has lots of potential but virtually no experience, yet he is expected to start for the first team matches in the coming weeks. Having too much pressure on young players so early can halt their growing process.

Speaking before the match, Arsene Wenger talked to Arsenal.com about one player in particular, Nicklas Bendnter.

“He had nearly gone somewhere else [in August] and in the end he stayed because it didn’t work out and we needed him here,” the boss told Arsenal Player.

“Now he can convince everybody. We are open-minded, we believe in his qualities. I personally believe in his qualities. It’s just down to attitude and fighting [spirit]. When he has that, Nicklas can be an unstoppable striker. He gets his chance. Our job is about that. Take your chance.

“Fans forgive you everything as long as you produce the performances on the football pitch. That’s what people want. I think our fans have a positive attitude towards Bendtner and they will be behind him. Only you can create that with your performances.”

It is sad that we have resorted to playing Bendtner, especially since the last time he played for Arsenal was against Liverpool at the Emirates a couple of seasons ago. Since then, Bendtner has had unsuccessful loans at two clubs, including relegation threatened Sunderland and Serie A Champions Juventus. Bendtner was widely expected to leave Arsenal in the transfer window, but stayed due to shortages up front. It won’t be a pretty site seeing the big Dane in the starting XI tomorrow, but it is better than having nobody.

Actual non-editeded picture of Bendtner

Overall, I believe the squad is going to be fairly strong. I sincerely hope that Ozil, Giroud, Sagna, Mertesacker, Flamini, and Ramsey are given breaks. We have a much more important game at Swansea on Saturday, one that we must put out a strong side against. Our record to Swansea is sort of poor, so we will be hoping to pick up three points at the Liberty Stadium.

It will certainly be a tough game tomorrow, especially since West Brom are likely to field a mature starting XI. Let’s hope for the perfect start to a competition that will see us laugh all the way down to Wembley.