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.

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Enjoy your day people.
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Monday Reflections On The Arsenal

The Arsenal passed their test at the weekend, a Saturday stroll ensuring 3 points on the table to keep pace with those around them. Now at the business end of the season there are no more easy games, each match regardless of the opposition is a potential banana skin and it was important that the disappointment of the game against Bayern Munich in the week did not have a knock on effect to the players.  I’ve had a day or two to digest the events of Saturday and thought I would share my thoughts and reflections with you this Monday morning.

Bit of a flat atmosphere in the Emirates

For a game that produced four goals for the Arsenal the atmosphere was quite subdued inside the Emirates. The weather was nice, an early goal was scored and I suppose the urgency within the match was quelled as soon as Olivier Giroud struck the opener.

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When you compare in contrast the electric atmosphere when Bayern Munich came to town it was like matching a 100 bpm Scooter track to anything sung by Norah Jones. In fairness there is hardly any bad history between Arsenal and Sunderland to spark the ire of the fans. Another reason for the atmosphere could be related to my next point.

Best time to play Sunderland

By this I am referring to the timing of the Carling Cup Final next weekend. You could sense in the performance that Sunderland were content with getting through the 90 minutes injury free. You  would think that players would put in a good performance to ensure their name is on that starting eleven team sheet on cup final day but it has been evident year after year players just don’t want to take that risk and miss out altogether. Arsenal didn’t have to move out of 2nd gear on Saturday which you would think would lead to an event free afternoon, this moves on to my next point

Potential growing injury list

With the lack of intensity in the game on Saturday the team still managed to suffer on the injury front. It is hoped players were replaced as mere precautions rather than anything serious.  Nacho Monreal was replaced at half time by Carl Jenkinson after receiving a kick on the foot in the first half; Laurent Koscielny then went off meaning Sagna had to cover in the center of defense with Matthieu Flamini covering at left back. Jack Wilshere was also struggling towards the end of the game meaning the backroom staff will be putting in some overtime this week to patch the players up ready for next week’s game at Stoke. The defensive injuries are the biggest worries as a Monreal injury would come at the worst time following Kieran Gibbs misfortune in the week. Vermealen is rumored to be returning to the side soon and he will be surely needed if any of the starting back four have any injuries longer term.

The Legend Bergkamp

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It was a special day in the memory of Dennis Bergkamp’s legacy as a player for Arsenal. The non-flying Dutchman’s statue was unveiled on the morning of the match to a very appreciative crowd. It’s always great to see former greats return to the club and one of such standing as Bergkamp certainly brings back the good feelings of where Arsenal used to be and could one day be again. He was fully deserving of his statue and was humble enough to dedicate such an honor to his team mates and the support of his wife and family. For those who could not make it to the unveiling he made an appearance at half time to the Emirates crowd to great applause and adulation.

Ozil rested

Although the official reason was an injury to the German playmaker I am pretty sure Ozil was rested just to relieve some of the heat he endured in the past week. In fairness he has played a hell of a lot of football this season and the break could do him some good. Although he was rumored to be present at the Emirates on Saturday, Ozil still can benefit from having no football to affect him physically or mentally and start afresh next week. He still has the support of his team mates and the majority of fans despite what the tabloids say.

Mannone returns

It was nice to see the Italian return to the Emirates as a more respected goalkeeper. Mannone has certainly seized his opportunity upon leaving Arsenal and has made himself the first choice in the Sunderland team. He has proved himself to be the goalkeeper he had the potential to be whilst with Arsenal but failed to build upon. I’m sure Gunner’s fans will back the keeper 100% next week in the Carling Cup Final as he remains popular amongst them. Mannone’s career advancement has surely acted as inspiration for our very own Lukasz Fabianski to seek pastures new. He has likely glanced over at his former rival with envy and aimed to seek similar success to boost his club and country fortunes.

Enjoy your day people.
 
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Can Arsenal win a trophy this season?

Many Arsenal fans after the Aston Villa result on the opening game of the season would have bitten your hand off to be sitting in second place with 12
games remaining, especially when taking into consideration the gap at the top is down to a single point.

Despite being overlooked by the bookies at the start of the
season, the Gunners sit in a healthy position at 9/1 to win the title.
Consistency has as much deserted Manchester City and Chelsea as has recently hit Arsenal, the draw with Manchester United may not have been the ideal result but still places Arsenal up there and equally in contention for the Premiership title. Manchester City and Chelsea still have to go and visit
Liverpool at Anfield and it could leave the door open for Arsenal to step up and take the pole position.

Much focus has been made of the Gunners fixture list through February and March but that does not mean their rivals do not face tricky encounters themselves.
Looking further afield you can get some good odds on Arsenal to win any
trophy this season. At 9/2 they look a good shout to win the FA cup, Liverpool pose a big threat to those plans but with a chance for immediate revenge the memories of the 5-1 drubbing should provide enough motivation for the Arsenal players to put in a performance.

wenger trophies
For those who feel the current squad can deliver the title as well then
you can get odds of 28/1 for a premier league and FA cup double. If any
Gunners fans are feeling really confident (and that’s a big rose-tinted if) then you can get 125/1 on an FA cup, premier league and champions league triple! With the Premier League being so tight it may be difficult to call what’s going to happen but for the betting fan it makes for an exciting and hopefully profitable title chase.

If you wish to have some more sporting fun instead then you
can try the Soccer Safari slots game. Soccer Safari at RiverBelle is one of the more serious slots you will find with the chance to bet £120 a spin and
that gives you the chance to win up to £8,000 a line and a top prize of
£25,000. You can also play the game for small stakes if you wish.

Placing in order the honors the Gunners could potentially win currently I would place the FA Cup as most achievable followed by the premier league and then the Champions league. Does Arsene Wenger share that logic? Who knows, the first clue will be in the Arsenal line up on Saturday. It could be a massive error if the game with Liverpool is taken lightly, despite the leggy performance on Wednesday against Manchester United it is important that certain key personnel are available to win the tie.

Enjoy your day people.
Post brought to you courtesy of Paul Mcshane

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Arsenal are Still in the Title Hunt Despite Man United Draw

It’s been a tough few days for Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. On Saturday lunchtime, he witnessed his team’s most lacklustre performance since that day at Old Trafford in 2011, and four days later had to suffer the frustration of failing to break down Manchester United at the Emirates.
 
afc mancs
 
We always knew mid-February could define our season and, with a 5-1 defeat and 0-0 all we have to show for it so far, an air of pessimism has percolated into the minds of fans. Indeed, Arsenal’s title odds have soared from 3/1 to 8/1  on some football betting websites.
 
The squad have received most of this ire, with below-par Mesut Ozil a particular target, but Wenger himself has come in for criticism in the live football commentary for his failure to sign players in January  when our squad was burning low on fuel.
 
Sadly, history is history and if we all sit here and moan then we could end up in the situation we were two years ago, when even finishing in the top four was questionable. Let’s appreciate what we’ve got.
 
And let’s face it, Arsenal are still second in the league, just a point behind the leaders who dropped points against a much weaker team than United, West Brom, on Tuesday. Man City may have a game in hand but, as they say, they’ve still got to win it and, with their congested Champions League schedule, fitting in a home tie with Sunderland will be tough.
 
Meanwhile, Liverpool and Tottenham’s resurgences are probably just that and, with our three-point buffer over these two clubs, we should have enough to stave them off. So what’s all the complaining about? We’re in a far healthier position right now than we have been for years and both Chelsea and City have shown they are as prone to burnout as we are.
 
Thankfully, our FA Cup clash with Liverpool on Sunday gives us something different to focus on. It is evident that the stress of the title race gets to teams at some point in the season and we must not forget that we won five league games on the bounce in December/January, a feat that was never realistically going to be kept up.
 
Enjoy your day people.
 
Guest post brought to you courtesy of M. Weaver

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Football Trumps Transfer Dealings For Gunners

After the events of the last few days it was nice to get back to the part of football we enjoy the most – the football on the pitch. The closing of the transfer window presented an unwelcome distraction as at first the lack of transfer activity was followed by the questionable caliber of acquisition to the squad which then led into the revelation of the injured condition of a certain Kim Kallstrom.
Granted the whole saga involving the Swede has caused much embarrassment to fans and employees of Arsenal Football Club but until the results on the pitch are affected I couldn’t care less.
An Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain inspired performance ensured that Crystal Palace were dispatched without too much effort moving the club back to the top of the premiership table. Despite a quite flat first half as we all know games are won over 90 minutes and any apprehension to the success of Tony Pullis’s ‘park the bus’ strategy were swiftly dismissed when Oxlade-Chamberlain found the back of the net two minutes into the second half.

oxlade chamberlain
Given the recently publicized reduced midfield options at the club Arsene Wenger chose yesterday to back up his claims that Oxlade-Chamberlain could eventually develop into a top central midfielder by giving the young Englishman a start there. He certainly did not disappoint and refreshingly gives Arsene a selection dilemma for our massive game next week at Anfield.
After so-called successes in the transfer window didn’t work out quite so well for other clubs it’s nice that the Arsenal were able to exhibit their strength in-depth despite having nobody walking through the Emirates doors… well, uninjured. The injuries are temporary, same with the bans being served, so the players will return eventually to help the cause.
My personal regret is not having a striker join the ranks but I suppose if Nicklas Bendtner can build upon his new-found commitment to the club then we just may have a ready-made player to share the central attacking burden placed upon Olivier Giroud’s shoulders.
The tough run starts from now so it was important to get maximum points against Crystal Palace yesterday. It is going to be a bumpy ride so strap in and hopefully by the end we will all be smiling.
On a final note Arsene in his own words explained the events of the Kallstrom signing. As speculated he was aware of the injury to the Swede’s back and admits the deal would not have gone through if more time was afforded to the club to find another player. Always best to hear straight from the horse’s mouth, it may not be enough to calm all Gunners’ Fans but hopefully at least knowing the truth we can move on from the debacle.

Enjoy your day people.

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