Returning Players Make The Difference For Gunners

The season is truly spicing up at the business end of the season for Gunners. The midweek defeat for Everton by Crystal Palace sent the pendulum swinging firmly into North London hands. The events of yesterday did little to divide the two clubs. Arsenal made short work of their trip to Hull while Everton also made easy work of a supposed banana skin in the form of a woeful Manchester United team.

With top 4 confirmation in Arsenal’s hands all they need to do is focus firmly on their games, winnable on paper but in hindsight stress inducing affairs. From now until the end of the season the psychological effect of every decision in games will be massive. With every goal conceded the doubt has potential to set in and affect the players’ performances. Not every goal will be a consolation after going four goals up, it could be an equaliser or the opener in a game and it’s from such situations that prove a team’s mettle.

Many suggest Arsenal has experience of chasing top 4 in the latter stages of the season and know what it takes to see it through whereas this is new territory for Everton and the cracks showed in midweek. Valid point to a certain extent however Arsenal have usually been the chaser, catching up to and then eventually overtaking a spluttering Spurs team with the kind of momentum being exhibited by Liverpool. This season (well recently) however the spluttering, sporadic form has been exhibited by the Gunners themselves meaning they can be also be seen as travelling in unfamiliar territory.

One of the main factors (fixture list aside) that could help the Gunners see it through to the end is the timely return of some of the more creative, game deciding players to the squad. It’s not hard to deduce that many of the poor recent performances have been at the times when the team has been stripped to the bare bones. The performance yesterday versus Hull containing Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil showed a marked improvement in the Gunners. Although far from perfect it was more reminiscent of the kind of performance the Arsenal put in pre February when things were going so well.

ramsey celebrates

The verve and swagger had returned and despite having the pressure of the top 4 race hovering to upset the apple cart the Gunners were focused and determined on the Job at hand. It does make you look back with slight regret at what could have been if the injuries suffered did not occur but equally there were opportunities to address the more long term setbacks in the January transfer window.

The return of Laurent Koscielny also resulted in a long overdue clean sheet for the team, goal difference could be vital and so it was important to shut up shop. I’m not sure why but we never seem to keep a clean sheet when Thomas Vermaelen plays in the team, the goals we concede are not necessarily his fault but it was turning into some sort of hex. I think Tom next time one of those gypsy women in the street offers you one of those little flower things you better take one and give her 20 pence because you have certainly upset someone out there.

Next on the agenda is Newcastle next Monday, although a team in wretched form Arsenal learned the other week when they played a Swansea team in a supposedly similar run of form that when the pressure is on these teams can smell blood and often take advantage of it. Additionally Everton will have played their game on the Saturday so if they take three points from their game it will make things extra nervy.

Anyway, let me move away from the pessimistic doom and gloom, Arsenal won yesterday with a performance much like we know they can put in. With Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil back to boost the squad there is no reason why they cannot finish the job. The toothless performances will be a thing of the past.

Photo 21-04-2014 08 36 53

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Arsenal’s Options for Aaron Ramsey’s Temporary Replacement

Arsenal’s Options for Aaron Ramsey’s Temporary Replacement
Who will Wenger choose to replace the Welsh Wizard while he is injured?

Even if Arsenal’s triumphant 3-1 victory against West Ham boosted them into first place in the Premier League, it definitely didn’t come without sacrifice. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey suffered a serious muscle injury to his thigh with just around 25 minutes left of the game against West Ham.

Ramsey has undoubtedly been one of Arsenal’s best players this season. With 13 goals in all competitions, the Welsh Wizard is the Gunners top scorer as well. Bwin.com reports that the Welshman turned out for Arsenal 47 times last season, making him a consistent performer for the team and one which would prove a safe bet for any sports fans prior to his injury. In addition to Ramsey’s efforts, Arsenal has managed to score the first goal in the league this season more than any of the other football clubs, with 13 openers in 16 matches. It’s a shame that Ramsey will be taking a leave of absence from the pitch as his odds for scoring the first goal were very much in the favour of the betting man. In a recent interview Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger confirmed the seriousness of the Welshman’s muscle injury and reiterated that he wouldn’t be in contention for a while.

“It looks (serious),” Arsene Wenger disclosed on Arsenal.com. “It looks like a thigh strain. I don’t know how serious the thigh strain is…I don’t know how long he will be out for.”

However, in a recent update on Ramsey’s injury, it would seem that the midfielder would be absent for 3 weeks to rest his injured leg. Currently, the betting industry predicts that with the Welsh Wizard’s absence, the Gunners odds to win the premier league was at 4/1.

Aaron-Ramsey

During Ramsey’s absence, one of the players that Arsenal can replace him with is German veteran Podolski, just like what the team did in the previous match, thus moving Santi Cazorla into an attacking central midfield role.

After winning against West Ham, Wenger expressed a few opinions on Arsenal.com:
“On the pitch we had Podolski and Walcott and Giroud and Ozil and Cazorla you know when you lose the ball you can be a bit vulnerable but we had to go for it.”
From a defensive point, Wenger may have some reservations replacing Ramsey with Podolski with Wenger likely concerned with balancing the team defensively. Perhaps the Gunners’ relief will come in the form of Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere, or perhaps Laurent Koscielny. Centre back Koscielny has just returned from an injury in the latest match with West Ham and seemed to be near to his best, once more. Koscielny has been a consistent player for Arsenal and his collaboration with Mertesacker on the field has been really great, again this season.

Backs to the wall first for the Gunners

Large respect due to every Arsenal player on the field yesterday that contributed to the victory over Sunderland. On a day in which everything that could go wrong did; it was a nice surprise that the Arsenal refused to crumble and stood up to the challenge set in front of them. For all the plaudits Arsenal have received over the years for their style of football one thing they have struggled to exhibit is resilience and a backs to the wall, win at all costs attitude.

cazorla goal afc

If the top four places do come down to the wire this season the points gained yesterday will be looked back as a vital victory contributing to Arsenal’s fortunes. Experiencing the game had to be one of the most testing on the hearts of Arsenal fans; my heart was pounding so hard it took 10 minutes after the final whistle to return to a normal level.

The start to the events of the day centred around the centre back position in the Arsenal back line with skipper Thomas Vermaelen already ruled out; doubts remained on the fitness of Laurent Koscienly. Despite passing a late fitness test on Friday all was not well with the Frenchman; he was named in the starting line up but after pulling up in the warm up it was clear he could not play.

This lead to a last minute reshuffle of the defence, Arsene Wenger opting to move Bacary Sagna into the middle and drafting Carl Jenkinson into the right back role. An initial strange decision considering a centre back was available in Ignasi Miquel though given his lack of game time with the first team this season; the experience of Sagna despite being out of position was required for a potentially testing game at the stadium of light. One does wonder if the decision to let Johan Djourou go out on loan and not bring in a replacement was a wise decision if Miquel is not deemed good enough to start ahead of a right back who has never played at centre back before for Arsenal.

First half of the game Arsenal were actually in complete control, they played with purpose, passed the ball well and were fully deserving of their half time lead from Santi Cazorla’s strike. If ever there was a negative to draw from the first half it would be the wastefulness when on top. The Sunderland keeper Mignolet pulled off some great saves to keep the score at only one goal difference which gave Sunderland hope.

There were two turning points in the second half which certainly swung the game heavily in favour of Sunderland. Firstly Jack Wilshere who carried over his top form from last week’s international against Brazil finally succumbed to the barrage of fouls on him in the game. It seemed it was a Sunderland tactic to target him in the game and even as strong as Jack is he isn’t superman. After a heavy knocked he signalled the bench and was removed from play.

jack injured

The second turning point was the red card for Carl Jenkinson after he picked up two yellow cards. The cards cannot be disputed, they were bookable challenges and it is hoped he can learn from the experience. Many have been calling for Bacary Sagna to be replaced at right back by Jenkinson due to the Frenchman’s recent form but yesterday may have been evidence of exactly why Jenkinson is not ahead of Sagna right now. Jenkinson is still young, he still has a lot to learn but is a definite talent who has the potential to make the right back slot his own for years to come but Sagna has not turned into a bad player overnight. The competition is good for the team but I think absence has made the heart grow fonder with many Arsenal fans, we cannot write off a player like Sagna after a few below par games.

Going down to ten men certainly threw the game into Sunderland’s favour and from then on Arsenal had to content with constant pressure on the back foot. Aaron Ramsey stepped in as right back while Wenger still resisted the temptation to bring on Miquel. The pressure was really hard to witness but I must commend all the players who dug in to hold onto that lead, we rode our luck several times but deserved the three points. Each player has earned the right to wear a big ass chain in celebration of their efforts.

big ass chain afc

Wear than chain with pride boys

I will even forget the wasted finish from Olivier Giroud when Arsenal found themselves three on one late in the game; with options he decided to hold onto the ball and eventually blast the ball high and wide despite the better options available. Hopefully Arsene will pull him aside and have a word as a goal at that time would have sealed the win and halted the immense pressure in the game. Despite that moment he played his part in the victory and so I will not draw too much from it.

Special mention must go to Sagna, Ramsey and Szczesny  in the game, the two outfield players have split the fans faith this season but they managed to put in excellent performances yesterday despite playing out of position. They have certainly won over many of the fans with their efforts yesterday and I hope that effort will continue for the rest of the season. Keeper Szczesny pulled off some important saves yesterday to preserve the win; he did have a couple ropy moments in the game but when called upon he really pulled of the stops that showed why he is our number one.

Next up is Blackburn in the F.A cup next weekend; enough time hopefully for Jack Wilshere to recover from his knock and our injured centre backs to return.

Enjoy your day people.

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Time to move on from Villa and focus on Everton.

The mood has now hopefully settled amongst Arsenal fans; the result and the substitutions in particular left many fans directing their fury towards Arsene Wenger. A 0-0 draw is one result that is universally unwelcome to football fans; the prospect of no goals has no place in any person’s life and can result in blood boiling frustration to those who witness the event. A score draw is acceptable because at least the ball has hit the back of the net; that is unless the team draws after being 4-0 up a la Newcastle. Anyway, it seems the lack of goals was contagious as the games hosted by Swansea and Chelsea on Sunday followed suit.

The biggest gripe was behind that substitution of Giroud and the resting of Jack Wilshere. The Jack issue I suppose is easier to defend, the substitution not so much. Hopefully we have grunted and snarled all the frustration out of our systems, put Saturday behind us and now focus our attention on the tough game against Everton on Wednesday.

I do have some points concluded from the game on Saturday, they are a more constructive and reflective round-up of factors I have noticed. Don’t get me wrong I swear blue in the face, throw ornaments and kick furniture with the best of fans when a match is on however it can be better to take time to reflect on things rather than vent in the immediate aftermath. Here goes…

Ramsey can do no right.

One thing that is clear is our Welsh midfielder is not the flavour of the month with many Arsenal fans. Forget the mantle of flavour of the month it has stretched closer to the past 12 months and longer for Ramsey. In an earlier post I had highlighted the Arsenal players most likely to be the scapegoat for the season, the player to feel the full brunt of the fans fury when fortunes don’t go our way. I predicted it was a toss-up between Ramsey, Andre Santos and Gervinho and to be honest I feel that title is being shared between the three. Gervinho stemmed the flow slightly with his purple patch of goalscoring form at the earlier part of the season; Andre Santos is out of the firing line lately simply because his appearances in the starting eleven have been heavily reduced more for his own sake than anything else. Ramsey has featured more in the team than the other two players and has come in for criticism for his performances regardless of what he contributes. I am not blind there are times he has struggled in games, more so when he has been deployed in the front three. In my opinion a position not suited for him but as a player you put in a shift wherever the manager chooses to play you. Ramsey’s problem is his performances are more under the microscope from fans than any other Arsenal players, any good he does is instantly forgotten and replaced by any misplaced pass or scuffed shot. On Saturday he was not awful, the team on a whole did not click but he still came out with the most criticism, he can do now right at the moment. I feel we need to ease up on him, he may still be looking for his best form but he won’t achieve that with constant groans and abuse. He is an Arsenal player at the end of the day and we need to support every player on the pitch not alienate individuals. Save the venom for the players that showed no respect for the club and left under acrimonious terms like the Van Persie’s and Nasri’s of the world.

Is Oxlade-Chamberlain suffering 2nd season syndrome?

It hasn’t quite clicked for the Ox this season, after such a prominent first season with the Gunners that elevated him into the England squad for Euro 2012 his development this season has stagnated slightly. Admittedly he has played a lot of football, he didn’t get much of a break due to appearing in the Euros this summer and suffering a few niggling injuries this season. It’s hard to single it down to burnout because he hasn’t had much of a run in the team this season but it was quite noticeable that his performances against Montpellier and Aston Villa were quite below the standard he has set for himself. He is still young and still learning his trade so he can be forgiven for not being at the stage where he wins games single-handed by just being on the pitch. We have though, witnessed him at his devastating best last season so when he is below par it’s quite noticeable. He still has so much to bring to the team and has that bums off the seat aura about him when he is on top form. 2nd season syndrome is more about players struggling to handle the pressure of the their achievements from the season before, I don’t think Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers from that kind of pressure, he is level-headed enough and the form of Theo Walcott on the right side ensures the fans are not overly dependent of Alex to perform. I hope the 2nd season theory turns out to be nonsense from me; the best way to rubbish my idea starts with Everton on Wednesday.

Defence continues to shut them out.

I suppose the one positive you can take from a 0-0 draw is the defence has produced a clean sheet. That’s the second game in a row we have managed a clean sheet and is a sign than we may have overcome the teething problem of soft goals conceded in recent weeks. With Kieran Gibbs returning to fitness skipper Thomas Vermaelen who was deputising the left back role was dropped to the bench for the Englishman to return. Vermaelen’s form had been a bit up and down when playing in the centre of defence in recent weeks but a reshuffle at the centre of defence was probably not required and was behind Wenger’s reasoning for his choice. Whether Arsene keeps the same back line against Everton is debatable, he will have hungry, fresher players to choose from and Vermaelen may have a point to prove if selected. The most important thing is the goals have stopped leaking and we need to continue that habit now.

Arshavin deserves more game time.           

I understand our Russian 23 is out of favour with Arsene this season; he is most likely to move on in the next transfer window however I feel when called upon he hasn’t let the team down. At times when we have had players missing through injury and been forced to play players like Aaron Ramsey out of position in the front three attacking role it does make you wonder why Arshavin hasn’t been considered. I don’t have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal but I believe he could contribute more to the team than the Capital One Cup outings and the closing stages of Premiership games. Even if he is as good as out the door he has from the outside showed professionalism on the pitch, there has been no strops or rants in the press, he has just got on with it. I feel he can be utilized more until he has gone, when he does move then maybe he will let the cat out of the bag and give all the juicy details of what really went on but for now he is an alternative that can be used; we don’t have great depth in our squad but there are still players that maybe aren’t being used as much as they could.

So here they are, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section. They are just points, I can be convinced to change my views if you present a good case. What we can all agree on is three points at Everton on Wednesday would be nice.

Enjoy your day people

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Some points to address part 2 – AFC

Yesterday I raised some points to you in the aftermath of the Old Trafford game, today I continue them to you:

Is it time to cut our losses on injury prone players?

Going into the united match the squad was weakened by the loss of injured players. Now injuries are not something you can avoid, it happens to all teams, it happens to us a lot but you reach a point where you question whether lady luck is not on your side or whether you do something about it and not have to rely on luck. Abou Diaby is a player I believe in so much, if he was injury free he has the potential to be up there with players such as Yaya Toure. He started the season so well, he produced the performances many fans doubted he had in him and then he got injured. All the momentum and progress lost as he spends another sustained amount of time in the treatment room. We missed his presence on Saturday and there is no real idea of when he will return to the team.

Thomas Rosicky although injured playing for the Czech republic over the summer is another player who last season was rejuvenated in arsenal colours. He proved his worth with some awesome displays as we stormed to 4th place in the table. Despite the heroics we find ourselves in an all too familiar situation where Rosicky is spending more time in the treatment room than on the pitch.

It just seems the longer we persevere with injury prone players the more the team suffers because when those players are injured we have no other options when first choice players become unavailable. A valuable place is taken in the premier league squad by players who cannot be called upon when required. We have done this for years only for the infamous line ‘like a new player’ to be used every time they return for a 2 game run.

Is it time to be ruthless and consider shipping on the more injury prone players? i would find it hard to see us get rid of Diaby but how much longer can we rely on him to play at least 5 games in a row without injury. Before you abuse me this is just a point I am raising, I am not campaigning for us to get rid of any players. For all the improvements made by Kieran Gibbs at left back his injury record leaves us in the situation where we now rely on Andre Santos to fill the gap, this leads onto my next point.

Santos has to play

Yes, I know he was torn a new one by Valencia on Saturday but not many full backs do get an easy game against the united winger. Our Brazilian is currently going through a crisis of confidence as the current negativity surrounding arsenal football club has produced a scapegoat. Will he turn around the perception? It’s a tough one to call, all players go through ups and downs and santos is definitely in the middle of a down period. He is being blamed for things that aren’t his fault at times and currently can do nothing right.

Santos defending has not been an in-house secret the nation is unaware of. We know his attacking can far outweigh his defensive side. More suited to a wing back role rather than an out an out full back role Santos is often found wanting out on the left hand side. Can it all be down to his positional play or could the addition factors of support and team formation contribute?  It is probably a combination of all three but I have to say I don’t agree with the idea of playing Sagna or any other player out of position to fill in at that role.

Santos is the specialist full back and it’s a choice Arsene Wenger will have to live and die by. It’s a player he signed and one he will need to assess on keeping or selling at the next transfer window but I think the option of playing an out of position player ahead of him is premature. He can still contribute at left back and if he was dropped for Sagna or Coquelin then there is no point registering him to play for the club ever again. If there is any chance of him regaining his confidence that would be shot to pieces to drop him for those options. Wenger needs to address how the team can help out Santos during his bad spell rather than leaving him to the lions.

what we as fans can do to help is to get behind him, as frustrating as it can be at times. never in history has a player raised his game after receiving verbal abuse from his own fans from the stands. we have to make do with him for now so the best we can do is unite and support all the team.

OK, moving away from saturday, we have a game today and hopefully an opportunity to bury some demons in the process. a positive result today will go a long way to restoring some pride back. At present it’s not looking good with our squad now weakened by the loss of Aaron Ramsey.

One thing Arsenal are good at is pulling off results at our lowest periods in a season. And that is why despite our threadbare squad travelling to Germany a win is not beyond us. The team need to stick together, fight for each other, fight for every ball and make the chances count. it is not beyond us, we are a better team than Shalke, tonight is the chance to prove it.

Enjoy your day people.Enjoy the game

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