Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Match Thoughtzzzzzz

What an exciting game of football that was!

Arsenal missed a good opportunity to restore their place at top of the league with a unexciting draw against Chelsea. Here are some match thoughts:

Mike Dean was the worst man on the field. It cannot be a coincidence that Arsenal have played fifteen games with Mike Dean and only win one. That’s a 6.7% winning percentage. Dean did nothing to change the minds of Arsenal fans yesterday after a woeful refereeing display. Those two big decisions that he had to make in the first half were both incorrect, as Mikel should have seen red while Walcott was brought down in the box. Maybe the penalty call was trickier, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t have shown red to Mikel. Also, Mike Dean’s control of the game was pathetic at times.

Arsenal are not the same team of a month ago. Unfortunately, the results aren’t coming in anymore, and that is due to the recent lackluster performances we have been putting in. We haven’t been terrible in recent weeks, but our passing and play has felt so one dimensional. The last time we actually beat a team due to our quality was against Hull five games ago. We have to start playing better against the big teams if we are going to mount a serious title challenge. Fortunately, we have beaten all the smaller clubs so we are still in the mix.

Giroud is not clinical enough. First off, let me say that Giroud is an excellent number nine striker and one of our most important players. Unfortunately, he isn’t enough. Giroud is not the player he was when he arrived, as his work ethic has gone up tremendously along with his ability. However, he will never be that striker that is required to win a team  a league, and if we had the striker yesterday, we would have gotten the three points. There is no question about our need for a new striker, it all comes down to whether or not Wenger is willing to get his chequebook out.

The real title race starts now. This is undoubtedly the closest title race I’ve seen since I started watching football, mainly due to the amount of teams who are fighting for it. Who would have thought that Everton and Liverpool would both be where they are at right now? It’s simple who is going to win it this season, and that is whoever is most consistent. Arsenal need to get back on track as our next two games are really going to be a test of character, belief, and desire. Whether or not the players are mature enough is the question.

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Man City 6-3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts

The results in football matches can be ambiguous as we all know. Today, the scoreline reflects the game very well.

Man City away is the toughest fixture in the league. There has been absolutely no question about that when you look at their record at home this season. Coming into the match, most Arsenal fans would have been pleased to get a draw, some skeptical fans hoping for a win. What surprises me is the tactics that Wenger employed for this match. We all know that City are going to score goals, it’s inevitable. This season, only Hull have conceded less than three goals at the Etihad. Now we also know that Arsenal can score goals, but away to City, we were never going to outscore them, which was what Wenger’s game plan actually was. Overall, it was a disappointing performance to cut our lead back. Here are some match thoughts.

Wenger should have started Arteta. Now more onto Wenger’s choice of tactics for the game. The first mistake of the game was not playing with two holding midfielders. Arteta has been solid this season between him and Flamini they have protected our defence well. City has such a strong midfield, and their full backs get up so often; our defence ended up being exposed on numerous occasions. For the first time in quite a while, our defence was extremely poor, and I believe that a big part of that is due to our midfield’s inability to help out. Our string cheese defence lost us this game.

Walcott deserves a chance up front after his performance. The one silver lining of this match was our attacking ability and in particular Theo Walcott’s performance. It is rare for teams to score at the Etihad, with only Wayne Rooney and Lukaku managing that feat before the match. Walcott managed to get a brace and was unlucky not to score a third. The amount of diagonal runs Walcott made was very encouraging. In the past, finishing has been Walcott’s problem but if he plays the rest of the season like today, then I don’t believe that people will be saying the same thing about Walcott at the end of the season. His second goal was very Henry esque, which I’m sure will please Gooners everywhere.

Having said that, we need a world class striker. Don’t get me wrong, Giroud has been one of our best performers this season. However, he isn’t good enough to play every single weekend like Van Persie, nor does he possess the ability to do well against some clubs. In recent weeks, we have had some tough tests: Dortmund, Liverpool, United, and Everton to name a few. Those are all games in which Giroud has failed to perform, and today was his worst of the season. Giroud has several qualities that he is very good at which makes him a valuable asset to our squad, but most of the qualities he possess don’t work with the bigger clubs. For example, Giroud is one of the best in the league at playing those delicate one two passes. Against top clubs, he hasn’t been able to because teams know how to stop us. Another problem with Giroud is that he is slow and not the best dribbler of the ball which causes our counter attacks to break down easily. Now, most of the qualities he has make a good striker, which he is, but he isn’t what we need every single week.

We didn’t really play badly. This is sort of a contradiction to most of the stuff I have said earlier, but in all honesty, we played all right. The problem is that we played against Man City at the Etihad by trying to score more goals than them. Besides our defence acting as bystanders for most attacks, we created opportunities and scored some well worked goals. I thought that Ramsey did really well along with Walcott. They were probably our two stand out performers of the match and against any other team, their performances would have led to a good victory. Unfortunately, if we are to be title contenders, we also have to beat the big guns, which we have not been able to do this season.

Now onto Monday for the Champions League draw. We’re going to have to play one of the weaker teams like Barca or Real, so I’m sure that this game will be a warm up for one of those.

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea: Match Thoughts

Arsenal came storming out of the Capital One Cup with a 2-0 loss at home against Chelsea. Here are some belated match thoughts.

Arsenal are lacking depth in size and quality- If there was one thing that was really made clear to me while watching that match was the difference in depth between Arsenal and Chelsea. It is really quite embarrassing how Chelsea were able to start their non starters and still be able to play Mata, De Bruyne, Essien, Luiz, and Eto’o. Mean while, Arsenal started almost our strongest team (people who are saying that Arsenal put out a weaker team are clearly in denial) with Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud and Rosicky all playing. First off, Rosicky is the only one who should have played yesterday and maybe Jack Wilshere, maybe. Many players are in need of a break and another 90 minutes of hard fighting by some of the players is clearly not going to help their fitness needs. Secondly, the reason we started those players is because they really are our only options. It is amazing how small our squad is when compared to Chelsea. They are able to start Eto’o and have Demba Ba on the bench while we are able to start master Bendtner and have Park on the bench. Chelsea our favorites for the title by many people just because of how strong their weakest link is.

Arsenal Still Need to Spend in January- Let me start off by saying that I am thrilled by the way that the team has played this season and the way in which things have occurred. On transfer deadline day, I was very pleased with the Ozil signing yet I was still disappointed by the fact that we didn’t sign anyone else. Ozil is a great player, but he is not going to be enough to give us a team capable of becoming the best. We can still win the title, but it is only going to get tougher unless Wenger splashes some cash in January. If I was in Arsene’s shoes, I presume he has some big feet, I would be looking for a striker who is able to score and dribble the ball. The two players that come to mind are Suarez and Rooney. If we are able to sign one of them, we will have a squad that I will be confident in saying that we can beat anybody in the world. That’s how close we are to achieving greatness, One player. It will be difficult to get Rooney or Suarez, but if it can happen for any amount of money this January, we should try our hardest to get one.

Mata puts Chelsea 2-0 in front.

We Didn’t Play Badly- We didn’t play good by any means, but it isn’t like we were terrible. You can tell that we wanted it more than Chelsea, the only problem was that it felt like boys against men, and that is a terrible feeling to have in football. I don’t want to signal anybody out just yet, but we were very, very immature in some areas. You can see the experience, physique, and quality that Chelsea had in the squad, Our midfield is probably the best in the country, but last night, we were shown what we have been missing, a strong holding midfielder. Maybe it’s not fair to criticize as we didn’t have Flamini in the squad, but if you take him out of the equation, we have no players who can play that position well. Those of you who say that Arteta is good there aren’t looking at the big picture. He is good for calming things down and passing the ball to more advanced areas from that position. He is nowhere near as good as Flamini when it comes to taking the ball off of players and stopping opposition attacks. Is defensive midfield an area in which Wenger should strengthen in January. I wouldn’t say so, but if an injury were to occur to Flamini, we don’t have much cover there.

Jenkinson Needs Some Loan Time- Oh Carl, what to say. First off, many supporters like him because of his love for the club. I appreciate that he is one of us and wants to do his uttermost best for the club, and he showed last night how much he was willing to try to do well for the team on many occasions. Unfortunately, his mistake was costly and it wasn’t unpredictable. There were a few times in the game yesterday where he was just horrendous in defence. His clearances were awful and his decision making was just as poor. When going forward, he did a better job of breaking down our attacks than he did Chelsea’s. It was clear to everybody in the stadium that he needs some more experience in order to play for a big club. A loan out is the best option, as right now I don’t feel confident with him stepping in for Sagna. Despite all of his negatives, it will be hard to fault him for his commitment and work ethic. There is probably no other player in the team who tried as hard last night to make something happen. Unfortunately, the quality just isn’t there at the moment. If he is going to fulfill his potential, it is most likely going to have to start at some other club.

What did you feel about the game? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts

So Arsenal extended their place as leaders of the Premier League for another weekend. Anybody who thought that going to Crystal Palace was going to be easy was mistaking, as there are no easy games in the league.  In the end it was a hard fought out victory but a deserved one. Here are some match thoughts.

Wenger Got his Tactics Spot On- Wenger had a bit of work to do today, with Flamini coming off injured and Arteta getting sent off. He surprised us all by bringing in Gnabry for Flamini since the young German is naturally a winger while Flamini is a defensive midfielder. I thought that it was a mistake but Gnabry added some dimension to our football and Crystal Palace still weren’t able to break us down, despite being without a natural holding midfielder. When Arteta got sent off, Wenger once again made the right call by bringing on Wilshere and Monreal to the midfield. We played as if we still had eleven on the pitch, so credit goes to Arsene for that. The strange thing is that we looked more dangerous with ten than we did with eleven.

Szczesny with his MOTM award.

Szczesny Deserves Some Praise- Our big Pole has been in scintillating form this season, but most of it has gone unnoticed due to Ozil, Ramsey, and the fact that we keep conceding penalties and flukes. Szczesny was on top form today and without him we certainly wouldn’t have won. There was one period were he made two saves in quick succession that were absolutely sublime. They kept us in the game and now we are sitting pretty at the top of the league.

Giroud Needs Help- In my honest opinion, I wasn’t too impressed with Giroud today. A lot of Arsenal fans will criticize me for saying that, but that’s just what I feel. He wasn’t bad by any means, it’s just that he felt like a weak link whenever he got the ball. Giroud is at his best when we are going forward so that he can lurk around the penalty box. Unfortunately for him today, we didn’t really have those kinds of moments, which meant Giroud had to come out deeper than usual. His dribbling skills are certainly not the best and he is not the greatest passer; those are skills that aren’t necessary to be a good striker, it’s just that we need to have a striker who can play like that for games like today. If we had a partner for him like Rooney or Suarez than there is no doubt we would have a more lethal front line. Of course, he did take his goal well to give him some confidence.

Gnabry and Ramsey are Exciting to Watch- Let me start off by saying that Gnabry is not a complete footballer at the moment and I would not want him to be starting almost every week. However, he has shown in almost every game he has played this season that he has bags of potential. Today, his movement was very promising. He almost reminds me a bit of Ronaldo, especially with the way he won the penalty. The only difference between him and Ronaldo was that there was actual contact between the two players. He still has a long way to go, but as long as he keeps doing what he is doing, there is no doubt in my mind that he can become the next big thing, like Nicklas Bendtner and Walcott before him.

Now onto something everybody knows, Aaron Ramsey can almost be considered world class. That is depending on your definition of world class. The way that he plays is so positive, it reminds me a lot of Zidane. He has found his personal move, the roulette, as he attempted it on a few occasions today. His cross for Giroud was superb at the end of the game, along with his dribbling and passing. The scary thing is that Ramsey is still only 22 years old, meaning that he has a good five years to become better. Gareth Bale is going to be wishing he can play like Aaron Ramsey.

The last thing that I want to mention is that we play Chelsea in the Capital One Cup this week, and I am hoping for a completely changed XI. When you see Ozil and Giroud sucking air at the end of the game like they way they were, you know it’s time for them to have a break. It looks like the Great Dane is going to get his chance to shine next week!

Arsenal 1-2 Dortmund: Disappointing Performance = Disappointing Result

What can you say about the result? Some people believe that we didn’t deserve it, others thought we did. The truth of the matter is that we lost an important game and are now heading into some very important Champions League matches. We are yet to play Dortmund away and Napoli away, so if we are to achieve qualification, it is going to be very difficult.

We started the match with a predictable starting eleven, as I didn’t expect Cazorla to play two games in a few days. Rosicky took his place, while Ramsey started ahead of the injured Flamini. We lacked a couple of things in the match, and Flamini and Cazorla not playing probably had a big effect. First off, Arteta is no Flamini. We didn’t sign Arteta to be the hard man in midfield who wants to break other players bones. That is what we signed Flamini for, and him not being in the middle of the park really showed some of our weaknesses. Secondly, Cazorla is important to our creativity. Today, we had an entire Dortmund defence blocking Ozil, making sure he wasn’t going to sniff out an opportunity for any of our other players. When Cazorla did come on, you can see what a good player he is, especially compared to Wilshere. Cazorla is a creator, someone who is able to make things happen. It seemed like Wilshere would rather be anywhere else, but maybe the knock he received had an effect on his performance.

Dortmund’s first goal came after a defensive mistake.

The first half was painful to watch at times. We allowed Dortmund to come at us over and over again. Our passing was so risky and uncreative, we weren’t able to have some sort of tempo to our passing. Dortmund’s first goal was pathetic from our defence, in particular Aaron Ramsey. What he was trying to do there was beyond me. It seemed like he wanted to give Dortmund the ball. The less said about it the better. One player who did impress me in the first half was Giroud. He fought for everything and even managed to score a real striker’s goal. Unfortunately, his link up play wasn’t working today and that affected our tempo.

The start of the second half wasn’t much of an improvement. We had to wait for Dortmund to get tired before we were able to have a go at them. Unfortunately for us, we conceded a bad goal on the counter attack. Conceding like we did is very painful to watch. It is like watching a kid get run over by a car. You know it is going to happen, but you can’t dare to look away. Sagna was out of position due to him trying to create something upfront. It was a costly gamble, and one that could just prove to fatal.

After the game, Wenger spoke to Arsenal.com:

on the match…
It was a game of high intensity but very few chances. Dortmund were well organised to stop us from playing, and I must says as well that we were not as good as we can be offensively. Some of our players were not as fresh as they were recently. But we put ourselves on the back foot with the first goal and naive for the second goal. If you look at the number of saves our keeper had to make tonight and you concede two goals, you can say that we can only look at ourselves for not being mature enough in situations like that. If you cannot win the game, you don’t lose it. Especially in the second half when we were on top, we made things difficult for ourselves by giving them the second goal.

on the state of Group F…
It is tight and difficult for us, but possible. You have three teams with six points, and we have played twice at home and once away, so that means we need a result away from home – but we can do that.

on picking the players up…
A disappointment like that is part of what makes a team grow. I feel that some players, physically, are a bit jaded at the moment and it is a bit down recovering physically.

With Napoli beating Marseille today, the group hasn’t become any easier. It will be difficult but with a bit of luck and support, we can still qualify. COYG

Arsenal 4-1 Norwich- Now That Was Better

The scoreline flatters Arsenal a little bit, but if we played the whole game like we did in the last ten minutes, we could have hit ten.

Arsenal started the match with good news as Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, and Bacary Sagna were all selected to play. It surprised me a bit that Wenger had chosen of all of them to start as Sagna was only 80% fit yesterday and Cazorla hadn’t received any game time since the NDL. Aaron Ramsey ended up starting from the bench as he received a much needed rest.

Arsenal started the match well and on 18 minutes they got their reward. Jack Wilshere started with the ball in his own half before passing it to Cazorla who passed it back to Wilshere who flicked it up to Giroud who re-flicked it back to Wilshere who calmly slotted it into the back of the net. It is really a goal that you need to watch to  fully grasp and understand it’s sheer brilliance. Wilshere is on a roll now having scored two goals in two matches in the Premier League. It was his first league goal at the Emirates and hopefully this little run he’s having isn’t going to end anytime soon.

To be honest, Arsenal played poorly for the rest of the half, especially once Flamini had to come off. Norwich had so much more possession and Arsenal just waited around without really having a go at winning the ball back. The half time whistle came at a good time as the players seemed to be experiencing some fatigue. The second half didn’t start that much better for Arsenal and we struggled to get a tempo going. Norwich looked the more dangerous of the two sides but they never really tested Szczesny too much.

The second goal came at a perfect time for us as Norwich were starting to get a foot hold on the game. Giroud’s wonderful cross found Ozil’s head as he steered home a very nice header into the back of the net. It was a striker’s goal scored by our record signing, who actually played as a striker for Germany against Ireland last week. Norwich were not done yet and found a lifeline in the 70th minute when Howson’s volley found it’s way past Szczesny. It made for a more composed finish to the game by Arsenal.

Ozil celebrates scoring. Picture from Arsenal.com

Bendtner came on for Giroud to try and wrap up the three points for us. He received an ironic cheer with his first touch from the supporters, but he did do okay in his time. Ramsey won us the game in the 83rd minute when his Messi like movements faked out at least 27 Norwich players before finishing with aplomb. Aaron Ramsey has to be the biggest surprise of the season after Ronaldhino’s teeth correction. He is a totally different player now and I am so thrilled for us to have him on a long term contract. Gareth Bale will be hoping to become the next Aaron Ramsey.

Arsenal scored their fourth when Rosicky’s cross found Ramsey who delightfully steered it back to Ozil. He couldn’t miss and got his second goal of the game. Unfortunately, there was no time for a hat trick but he will be able to try again on Tuesday when Arsenal entertain Dortmund at the Emirates.

On Arsenal.com’s post match interview with Arsene Wenger, he was full of praise for the side:

on the first goal… 
It was certainly one of the best [Arsenal] goals, one that I enjoyed the most as well because it was a team goal. It had combinations and the speed which you always like your team to play with, unfortunately it doesn’t happen always. This one was a mixture of technical quality, speedy thinking, quick reaction and as well being calm in front of goal. It had nearly everything you want to have, combined speed and calm and relaxed attitude. It was a great goal. I think we have scored some good goals this season already. All the goals were great, but the first was exceptional because it was improvised, combination play.

on the game…
We won 4-1 and their keeper had a good game. But I think as well that Norwich played well, so it is strange. They made it difficult for us. We had a difficult period between 30 and 60 minutes where we struggled a little bit to keep our game going. I would come out of the game thinking Norwich is a good team.

That just about concludes it from me. Not much else to say besides WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE STILL!

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal- Lucky Escape

If there were any doubts over West Brom’s quality since the start of the season, the last two performances by Baggies have surely convinced people of their quality.

Last week, West Brom proved to people that they certainly were no pushovers, as they beat Utd with real ease at Old Trafford. It was never going to be an easy game coming into the Hawthorns, and having seen what West Brom can do in previous weeks, we were prepared for a battle.

Arsene’s only change to the side that beat Napoli 2-0 on Tuesday was the introduction of Wilshere in place of Tomas Rosicky. Somewhat of a strange move in my opinion, considering Wilshere had lighten up the headlines quite recently. I felt Rosicky did very well against Napoli as he showed why experience can be vital for us this season. The squad still clearly lacks depth, as our striking options were limited to Bendtner on the bench.

West Brom started the match with a bit of fire in their belly . It seemed like every ball being pumped into the box was going to be a dangerous ball to work with. I must say that Arsenal handled the majority of the pressure well and were even able to create a bit of a tempo at times. The only thing missing was the final ball unfortunately, as it seemed like almost every time we got the ball into a good position, we would try and make something happen that was clearly never going to be pulled off. There were a couple of poor players in the first half, most notably Jack Wilshere and Carl Jenkinson. One thing that I have to say about Jenkinson is that he does put in an excruciating amount of effort into everything he does, unfortunately he just isn’t of the same level as Sagna. Wilshere seemed more of a ghost of a player, as almost every single West Brom player was able to knock him off the ball with ease. Of course the match wasn’t made any easier thanks to some poor officiating by Lee Mason who was abysmal to say the least. West Brom scored a deserved goal after lots of pressure towards the second half. Their ball into the box was usually very dangerous and for once the Arsenal defence were left stranded thanks to a great header by Yacob. The match entered half time at 1-0.

Arsenal started the second half with a bit more pace, but a bit less composure. This was evident by the amount of balls that Arsenal failed to deliver to a player into the box as well as the amount of passes going astray. To be fair to the players, West Brom were playing with ten men behind the ball and hardly let Arsenal change direction of the game. They had to do something and unfortunately almost every chance created ended in disappointment. West Brom played well in the second half and didn’t just try to get the draw. Fair play to them for actually trying to score a winner as most teams will just shut off when they were at a decent result against a top club. Arsenal’s goal came from almost nothing as Ozil did well to play in Giroud, who sent the ball to Rosicky who set up Wilshere to strike a sweet volley from outside the box. It took a deflection but take nothing away from the skill and technique used by the young English midfielder. Arsenal’s only other good chance came shortly afterwards and once again, it was Wilshere who was involved. He set up Giroud with a delightful through ball and unfortunately, Myhill stood up strong to deny the Frenchman. There were not really any other clear cut opportunities and the match ended one all.

Wilshere scored with a well struck volley.

Overall, it is definitely a point won rather two lost. You would expect Arsenal to play a little better but all credit goes to West Brom, they were actually decent. Anyways, coming to the Hawthorns is never easy as many teams have been beaten there. A point sends Arsenal back up to first in the league thanks to having scored more goals than Liverpool.

Speaking after the game to the media, Wenger talked about the performance.

“Pleased? No because I want to win but if you ask me if it was a fair point over the 90 minutes I would say yes. Why? Because we were 1-0 down just before half-time and straight after half-time Anelka misses a chance for 2-0 and that would have made it difficult. After that I have some regrets because when we came back to 1-1 in the last half an hour we had the chances to score a second goal but we have shown spirit to come back and we did give it our all until the end to try to win. But they did as well and they have many players who can provoke one against one on the break and run with the ball so they made it difficult for us and they defended very well. West Brom confirmed today why they won at Manchester United because they have good pace in every position and they have a huge squad. When you think today Anichebe was not there and they had Long and Morrsion on the bench. Dorrans was not in the squad so they have a massive squad of quality players.”

“I feel it was important not to lose once we were down today and that is the most important thing. For the mental comfort it’s good to remain top after two away games.”

Wenger seems disappointed not to have won as any good manager would be. However, we have to remember that the race to the Premier League title is not a sprint it’s a marathon. You aren’t going to win it by trying something crazy in every match. The key to the title is consistency, and so far, Arsenal are the most consistent team in the league. If we can keep that up, I have no doubts that we will be up there when the curtains start to draw to a close.