FA cup preview and team news for Arsenal vs. Everton

Arsenal’s tough test of games returns after having two games against sides that were considered to be easy opponents, even though it didn’t quite work out that way. The Gunners were expected to attain wins against Sunderland and Stoke however a slip up at Stoke meant that Arsenal continue to fall away from top spot in the league.

It doesn’t seem too long ago that the horrors of February were amongst us. A disastrous defeat to Bayern Munich and a thrashing by Liverpool condemned a poor couple of games for the Gunners which also saw us draw with Manchester United 0-0 at home.

But now Arsenal will be hoping to get their season back underway once more with victory in the FA Cup quarter-final draw against Everton. A win will take Arsenal to Wembley for a semi-final tie and Arsenal will be hopeful that Everton will not be as tough as we have already witnessed this season.

Everton have been one of the best sides in the Premier league this season and were persistently in the top four for the opening months of the season, however like Arsenal, results haven’t quite gone as expected and they too will be hoping progression is looming for them in the FA Cup.

For Everton, the FA cup is their only chance of silverware and I suppose you could slowly start to suggest the same thing for arsenal, despite the Gunners only being 4 points behind the leaders. I certainly think that a loss tomorrow will also damage our league hopes.

Arsenal must step their game up and I think the main threat from Everton will be their pace down the wings. Two speedy wingers, that also possess of a bit of skill, before being joined with Lukaku, is a frightening prospect. However it’s something Arsenal will have to control without any slip ups and also remember to have our own attacking possession at the same time.

For Arsenal, I’m sure you are well aware of the injury news surrounding Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny. Neither are expected to play a part with the former being ruled out for as many as 6 weeks. Therefore whilst playing a strong side, Arsene Wenger may go with:

Fabianksi
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen Gibbs
Arteta Flamini
Podolski Rosicky OX
Bendtner

I have a funny feeling Bendtner may start up front for the Gunners if available, otherwise we will once again be reliant on Olivier Giroud. I would say Sanogo cannot play in such an important game but bearing in mind he featured against Bayern, nothing is impossible at the moment. Fabianski should retain his place in goal for the FA Cup, whilst the contentious Ozil will probably feature at some point during the game.

It’s going to another tight game for Arsenal and their is certainly no denying that. However with the spirit and belief that Flamini has banged on about with pride all week, it’s very plausible for Arsenal to go through to the semis of the world’s oldest cup competitions.

Nicklas Bendtner’s selective memory of his Arsenal career!

The famous Danish international Nicklas Bendtner has watched Arsenal fans celebrate the new contracts awarded to Thomas Rosicky and Per Mertesacker, and the clamour of opinion wanting Bacary Sagna to extend his current deal, but no-one seems to care that his own contract is set to expire this summer!

On the contrary, most Gooners can’t wait to see the back of the big-headed immature pain in the ARSEnal! It is not so much his lack of committment to the Arsenal cause when he actually got a few games, it was the way he conducted himself outside the club. We can all remember the first time he was caught with his trousers down on his way out of a nightclub….

Since then he has had a few drink-driving incidents, including smashing his car up driving home one night: plus a few more nightclub incidents, once famously when he came out of a Copenhagen club when he had told his club he was recovering from injury, and then tried to get a free pizza! And of course how many times has he turned down clubs because they weren’t in the Champions League (or wouldn’t pay him what he THOUGHT he was worth) while he believed he was good enough for Barcelona….

Remember his time at Sunderland where he actually scored 8 goals, before going to Milan and scoring a big fat ZERO, and he opened his big mouth and said things like: “I will never go back to Arsenal. If I can have it my way, I will never play for them again.

“After my car accident I never really got the chance to earn a spot in the first team. That is over one-and-a-half years with no real chance to prove myself”.

Well it seems that Bendtner himself remembers very little of all this, and is now desperate for Arsenal to offer him a new contract. He said, “I have been very positive and I feel I have shown every time I have played that I want to play there. I don’t think I have ever like pulled my socks down and been like `f*** this, I don’t care`, but I have played like I had a future there, and I am going to continue doing that until the end of the season, then we might part ways.

“I will have no hard feelings I have had a good time there, and if it does finish for us, then I am going to be a bit upset, but that is football, that is life.

“I have, for example, talked to clubs who say they have heard this or that story about me. So I have to tell them that it is not true. Of all the things that I have been associated with I have only done one thing wrong and that was in Copenhagen [where he was arrested for drink driving]. Regardless of this I have, bit by bit, in people’s eyes been made into a psychopath.

“You have to try to stay professional about it, I work for myself and if I do get the chance to play, then I am an Arsenal player still and I will do everything I can to help the team, which is what I have been doing. It is hard, though, when you feel like you have something to contribute, but do not have the opportunity. But I know the situation I am in and if that has an effect on why I don’t play, then that is up to the manager.”

So his reputation is all just in other peoples minds, and he has been a model proffessional all his life? Pull the other one Nicklas!

Enjoy your next career in the Danish Second Division if you can even find someone to employ you there…..

Wenger’s words and Team news for Arsenal v Coventry

Tonight Arsenal will face Coventry City in a strange sense of Friday night football for this 4th round FA Cup tie. The Gunners go into the game full of confidence having kept up their title challenge for this season, with a good run of wins, the latest coming against Premier League strugglers Fulham FC.

Coventry may not be Premier League or even Championship opposition for the Gunners to face this time around. However sometimes this can go against you and in the opposition’s favour as everyone expects the big guns to win. Wenger has made it very clear that the team will prepare for this game in complete seriousness and train as if it was against any other opponent that they would face on a weekly basis.

In Wenger’s pre-match press conference, he said: “We have to prepare seriously for this game, because we are on a good run and it will be really not welcome at all not to take this game seriously. We are still in a moment of our lifetime, this team, where we want to gain respect and through our attitude is the best way to gain respect.

“Football maybe is the only sport which can make it so unpredictable and that is why it is so interesting as well. If you have two or three divisions’ difference in basketball or rugby, volleyball or handball, you cannot do it, but in football you can. It (Blackburn last year) was the first time in 16 years that we lost against lower league opposition in the FA Cup, so that was a great warning. At the moment, this is just our next game and we want to win it.”

Personally I’m expecting a win, albeit not a big one. I don’t think Wenger will put out a very strong side and certainly not our best team because he will want to keep everyone fit and ready for the continuous Premier League title challenge. Therefore I think Le Prof will put out a team gelled with both youth and experience, in order to give the Young Guns a chance, with that inspiration of experienced talent and professionalism to get the job done.
My starting line-up would be:

Fabianski
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen Gibbs
Flamini Zelalem
Gnabry Cazorla Oxlade-Chamberlain
Bendtner

I’d quite like to put Emiliano Viviano in that line up to give the Italian a chance, however considering he hasn’t played since joining the club on loan for the season, I don’t think Wenger will be taking any chances at all and it seems as if he was just a backup option if needed to be called upon with the departure of fellow Italian Vito Mannone. Gibbs should return after being displaced in the side by Monreal, whilst I also fancy a punt of Gedion Zelalem, who was supposed to feature during the Spurs game in the last round. Gnabry is likely to keep his place, whilst the Ox could make his return for 90 minutes in this FA Cup clash. Bendtner could also return if deemed fit enough.

Without sounding too confident I’m expecting Arsenal to completely outplay our opponents, but not win by an overpowering score line because of the team we are likely to field. Hopefully it’s a fantastic performance and Arsenal make it one step closer to Wembley.

Wilshere was Arsenal’s shining star for Cardiff win

Arsenal 2 – 0 Cardiff City Player Ratings

Szczesny – 7.5
Didn’t have too much to do but when Cardiff had the occasional counter attack, he was aware and made a crucial save a minute before the final whistle.
Sagna – 8
It is remarkable how he’s returned to his usual assured self after what was a very poor season for him last year. He was defensively very solid and was decent in the attacking third.
Mertesacker – 7.5
He didn’t do anything bad defensively and was very solid but I have down marked him from an 8 simply because he missed two very good chances with his head when it was 0-0. He should’ve scored at least one even as a CB.
Koscielny – 8
Just quality defending by our French centre back and he was doing his best to start attacks as well as the clock ticked on.
Monreal – 7.5
Defensively struggled a little bit but provided very good width offensively and combined with Cazorla well.
Arteta – 7
Didn’t have to do much with his defensive output as Cardiff rarely threatened. However, he was pretty decent with his forward passes today. They didn’t split Cardiff open but gave others the opportunity to do so.
Flamini – 6
Didn’t really offer us much at all. This game wasn’t suited to him as there was no real need to defend and he can’t really offer us anything in attack. We played much better when he was substituted off.
Walcott – 7.5
Very good today and put in some brilliant crosses that should’ve been finished by Mertesacker and Bendtner. He did well for his goal and is proving why he’s one of the most productive wide players in Europe.
Wilshere – 8 (MOTM)
We saw glimpses of his old self today as he rode challenges whilst somehow still holding the ball coming out of it. Created a lot of openings and made space with his movement in the second half. He’ll still struggle this season for consistency but as long as he gets games, he’ll be back to his best next season.
Cazorla – 7
A lot better from him today. Created good chances and the majority of his passes came off today.
Podolski – 5
Very poor. He lacks movement, can’t hold up play, isn’t tall enough to reach crosses and his first touch/passing is not even close to Giroud’s. Just doesn’t seem suited to the lone striker role.
Substitutions:
Bendtner – 7
He came on and made a lot space with his hold up play and passing. Had a couple of chances to score and managed to net a very important winner. It’s a shame he’ll probably be out for the next two to three weeks.
Rosicky – 7.5
Provided the much needed injection of pace in our attack and his directness ensured we kept applying pressure to Cardiff’s defence. His substitution was vital to our win.
Vermaelen – N/A
Only came on for a few minutes.

Arsenal go down 6-3 thanks to poor defence and officials

Arsenal started the game very shakily, with City able to move the ball quickly and creating some chances. We got back into the game but we then proceeded to concede from a corner. It was played in and Koscielny unaware of Aguero’s movement let the Argentinian volley the ball into the net. 1 – 0.

We managed to get back into the game fairly quickly as Ramsey pressured Yaya Toure into a mistake and was able to quickly spread the play to Özil who passed the ball across the box to Theo who coolly finished the ball into the net. 1 – 1.

But our defending had been very poor up until now and City capitalised again thanks to a good ball over the top by Yaya to Zabaleta who crossed it into Negredo who passed it into the back of the net. 2 – 1.

In the build up to that goal, Koscielny sustained a serious injury and had to be substituted off for Vermaelen. The second half began with a City goal thanks to some sloppy passing from Özil in our final third that gifted Fernandinho the ball where he proceeded to curl the ball into the net. 3 – 1

We managed to score again thanks to some brilliant work by Theo who got in behind and side footed it past Pantilimon. 3 – 2.
But the pattern has been set and City scored again almost immediately thanks to Navas’ low cross beating Vermaelen before Silva beat Szczesny. 4 – 2.

We had lost all defensive shape trying to get back into the game and City scored again with Fernandinho beating Szczesny again. 5 – 2.

We scored again with Sagna crossing the ball into the box where Mertesacker nodded it home. 5 – 3.

It wasn’t over yet as we conceded a penalty late on. Yaya Toure put it away with ease. 6 – 3.

All in all, it was a terrible game from a defensive point for Arsenal. We had absolutely no control of the game and terrible midfield performances by Flamini and Wilshere particularly.

Poor refereeing compounded the game with two wrongly ruled out goals and a denied stonewall penalty. So Arsenal created plenty going forwards and but for the decisions could have had 6 goals ourselves, but to let 6 in is just not like us and if you do that you will probably lose.

It was another defeat, but not a disaster and should not be too bad for the players’ confidence.

Has Arsenal boss done another Ramsey with Bendtner?

If Arsene Wenger can turn around the Arsenal career of Nicklas Bendtner, it would be an absolute miracle, but if anyone can do it, then Le Professeur is certainly the man. After all, Wenger has done this sort of thing before, most recently with the man of the moment Aaron Ramsey.

It is strange that every Arsenal fan seems to think that they were really on the young Welsh internationals side and always believed he would come good, because I seem to remember a time when his inclusion on the team sheet would have the average Gooner reaching for the panic button.

The fact that Wenger stuck with Ramsey has been proved right, but the manager was getting slaughtered for continuing to play him in the last couple of seasons and Ramsey must have been aware of the groans and shouts of frustration from his own fans when he put a pass wrong or shot wide of goal. One of the only things Ramsey had going for him then was the unflinching support of his manager, and the same can be said of Bendtner this season.

The big Dane took the first step to proving Wenger right on Wednesday, with a goal and a very good performance considering his lack of games in the last tear or two. Wenger has spoken about his qualities and how he always believed he could cut the mustard as a Gunner, and Bendtner seems to be responding in kind.

Forhet winning the title this season, forget the invincibles. If Bendtner turns his Arsenal career around and gets the fans back on track like Ramsey has done, it will be the most amazing thing that Wenger has ever done.

Arsenal on alert as Dzeko edges closer to Man City exit!!

After seeing Arsenal fail to score against Manchester United, one of the key questions raised was that Arsenal’s attacking options still aren’t the greatest despite the position we are currently in, topping both the Champions League group and the Premier League.

Arsenal have Olivier Giroud as their main striker, who had a cracking start to the season, but has since trailed off with his form along with a few other top players at the club. After the closure of the transfer window most fans were left disappointed with the fact we hadn’t signed a striker, however the majority saw past it to recognise that if we could keep Giroud in top form as well as injury free, then he alone may be enough to led the team’s attack until January at the very least.

However the drop in form, which has almost seen Giroud look scared to shoot, has left many fans worried that if the goal scoring dries up from midfield as well, then we may need to start thinking about pushing that panic button. At the moment, the club’s only real centre forward back-up is Danish international Nicklas Bendtner, who has surprisingly played 7 games in all competitions so far this season. However, Bendtner is yet to score a goal on his return to the Arsenal side and so he doesn’t look to be much help.

We also then have Chu Young Park, who is another player to forget before you start to riddle it down to the likes of Chuba Akpom. Of course we also have Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott, who admittedly can sometimes play the strikers role very well, they can be heavily inconsistent and right now what the Gunners need is a striker who can be on top form every single game. Suggestions of Luis Suarez and Karim Benzema being high on Arsene Wenger’s lists are sure to be mentioned come January; however could Manchester City and Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko be an answer to our troubles?

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time we were linked with Dzeko and Wenger has supposedly looked towards signing him from City in the past, however with the front man finally beginning to get fed up with playing second fiddle at the Etihad Stadium, could it be Arsenal’s time to pounce? With just Giroud to compete with, Dzeko would be able to get the regular playing time he so clearly wants.

I definitely think Dzeko is a good player and I would have loved to see him play for the Gunners because whenever he seems to play for City, he always notches a few goals. A powerhouse on both the ground and in the air, Dzeko’s ability is top class and he should definitely be first choice at a top European club. However the main reason why I think Arsenal probably won’t or shouldn’t go for him is the fact that he is quite similar to Giroud. If we are going to buy another striker, he needs to be good with his feet and pacey both on and off the ball, because otherwise we will have two similar players fighting for one spot and what we need now is a plan B.

If the price is right, Arsenal could well move for Dzeko and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, I just think that there may be better suited players for the situation that the Gunners currently find themselves in.

Arsenal Review – Great chance missed at Utd but pretty good week

So after what was a very good week of football for the Gunners with two very important wins against fellow Premier League contenders Liverpool, and Champions’ League group rivals Borussia Dortmund respectively; it all turned down to Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford, but unfortunately we couldn’t produce the same sort of result and bowed out in a 1-0 defeat.

The result was perhaps not entirely fair because it was a game of two halves. Manchester United had the first half in the bag as Arsenal struggled to produce any real effort on goal, whilst we were also quite prone to becoming worried when United were on the attack. However it was a completely different game in the second half and at some stage Arsenal had 68 per cent position compared to United’s 32. However percentages do not win you games because at the end of the day, our opposition was clinical on one set piece chance, coming from ex-Gunner and seemingly public enemy number one Robin Van Persie, compared to Arsenal who had several chances in the second half which because of a few players we failed to really take advantage of.

Bendtner was one player who had a fantastic chance, as did Gibbs and most notably Giroud, who could have had a decent crack at goal on several attempts. Our midfield was really missing from the game as the trio of Ozil, Cazorla and Ramsey failed to perform. Sagna was on his game as was Gibbs and I thought Vermaelen did relatively well after being thrown into the mix with Mertesacker’s absence.

The thing that has made this defeat all the more annoying is the fact that elsewhere in the league the results were so good for Arsenal. Chelsea’s draw and defeats for Spurs and City respectively put Arsenal in a pole position to extend the lead even further however we couldn’t take advantage and instead Liverpool are just two points behind the Gunners now.

The thing is, although it’s disappointing to lose to United when we were so confident that we could finally take some points away from Old Trafford, at the end of the day, it’s not all over because we still lead in the premier League and I think the wins against Dortmund and Liverpool were more important that against United.

Now we have the international break, before returning to Premier League action with Southampton. The Saints are sitting nicely in 3rd place so again it’s a very tough test for the Gunners, however it’s vital that we knock them back and in fact pick ourselves back up because otherwise we could start to see what so many people see of the inevitable decline.

Arsenal practice for Hallowe’en with Horror Show against Chelsea

Last night Arsenal endured a night of horror as for the second time in a week we lost at home arguably to greater opposition. Yesterday Arsenal witnessed defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the Gunners own back yard of the Emirates. The 2-0 loss secured the stat of being the first time since the early months of 2013 that Arsenal failed to score a single goal and overall it was a game full of disappointment.

Hapless chances, poor passing and critical defensive misunderstandings all came together to make a tiresome and dreadful game to watch and that’s without even considering the defensive mix ups. But let’s be honest for a second, whilst there may be a few who think we were unjustly done, and that we were perhaps slightly unlucky, getting off the bandwagon of being top of the league, let’s sit back into reality and think, we were beaten by the better team on the night.

Chelsea had a far stronger squad, better tactical game and a perfect relationship on the pitch. Arsenal lacked in all of these areas and although I wouldn’t go as far as Ray Wilkins did and suggest Arsenal were shown a mockery by Chelsea, it was a very disappointing cup tie from an Arsenal fan’s perspective and I respect the fact we were beaten by the better team on the night.

A poor performance from all the players really, not just the defenders and one defender in particular. Carl Jenkinson may not have had the best game but he still has quality, how many times have you lauded Jenkinson on a good performance before? Every player has a bad game and although his mistake is not condonable, the player we should really be turning to, to ask the questions of is Bendtner who to put it lightly did absolutely nothing all game. No targeted shots, no attempts to find space, lack of passing qualities and perhaps most importantly lack of effort to actually do anything when the ball was heading his way. Bendtner was absolutely diabolical and if Wenger still expects the fans to be supportive of the Great Dane like he said yesterday, then Le Prof will be in for the unexpected.

We cannot blame Arsene Wenger, nor can we blame certain individuals. Each player had their role to play, some did, some attempted it and some did absolutely nothing but at the end of the day as a team they weren’t good enough and got beaten by a far more dominant Chelsea side. Oh well onwards and upwards, next up 3rd place Liverpool in the league, who sit just 2 points behind the Gunners, we are in for a cracker!

Arsenal must use Youth and Experience to compete in Capital One Cup

Chelsea have beaten Manchester City 2 – 1 at Stamford Bridge thanks to once again another Joe Hart howler. Now they set their sights on the Capital One cup match against Arsenal at the Emirates. And although are going to play the second string, it will not be an easy game for Arsenal.

Even though Chelsea will be playing the game only two days after their previous game, they will still field a very menacing line up. The likes of Willian, Mata and De Bruyne didn’t even start for Chelsea today meaning that we can expect those three behind Eto’o. That’s how ridiculously good their squad depth is at the moment and that’s why I don’t think we can take them lightly. Without starting any of the same players, Chelsea can field a side like this:

Schwarzer
Azpilicueta, Luiz, Ake, Bertrand
Essien, Mikel
De Bruyne, Mata, Willian
Eto’o

I personally don’t care much for the Capital One cup this season. It’s the least respected trophy of them all and is only cherished by fans of small clubs like Tottenham. We have bigger fish to fry and we need to capitalise on this good start we’ve had in the Premier league this season. Liverpool on Saturday will be well rested whilst we’ve had to play three games in Europe as well as them not having to play a cup game midweek thanks to being knocked out by Manchester United.

But we also can’t be humiliated by Chelsea under Mourinho. We all despise that club and the manager. We can’t allow our loyal fans to watch us get decimated by a far superior Chelsea team on the day. That’s just not on. I expect us to play a more experienced side (mainly our defence) to cope with Chelsea’s extremely strong attack whilst deploying some younger players like Akpom and Gnabry to ensure that our experienced players aren’t overplayed whilst our top youngsters get a feel for a big competitive game.

I’d be surprised if we managed to beat Chelsea on Tuesday but we can’t just take a beating regardless of our small squad. We need to employ a mixture of experience and youth and hope that we can overcome Chelsea’s superior squad. Something like this:

Fabianski
Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal
Hayden, Frimpong
Gnabry, Rosicky, Miyaichi
Bendtner

That is not a bad side and should make for a good game and avoid a real hammering. If they can get us through to the next round, it will be a nice bonus.