Can Gunners get their head right to beat Man United?

Nervy times ahead, nervy times indeed. The Gunners take on their old arch rivals Manchester United tonight at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter finals and Arsenal fans can be forgiven for not feeling overly optimistic. On paper the Gunners have every chance of getting something from the game despite the facts showing the last meaningful victory at Old Trafford was quite some time away. The current Manchester United team with all due respect is one of the worst in recent times, not that I am saying the team is awful but in comparison to some of the teams we have become accustomed to experiencing during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure this current crop fall way short of those standards.

My argument falls flat when I highlight the failings of Manchester United yet they are well in the mix for a top four finish and have walked away from Emirates with three points under their belt this season. The tie is evenly balanced however the home advantage pushes the odds in favor of the Red Devils. The victory that Arsenal pulled off at the Etihad earlier in the season exhibited that there is a big away performance in them against the bigger clubs.

united beat afc

The psychological hold that Manchester United has over Arsenal cannot be ignored. When it really matters the Gunners haven’t risen to the occasion and more often than not and have let United walk away victorious. For Arsenal to come away from Old Trafford with a victory (Or a draw) it really depends on what team turns up tonight. At times when Arsenal have had their backs to the wall after a bad performance when fans, pundits et al have written them off they have responded with the types of performances that leave you scratching your head wondering why those performances are not more consistently churned out.

I believe one of Arsenal’s biggest Achilles heels is complacency, being able to motivate their selves to pull off a high intensive level of performance when things are going well. The fight is replaced with a swagger and cockiness which they struggle to switch off when things don’t go their way, the swagger soon turns to panic and loss of composure and before you know it there’s too much mess to be undone within the 90 minutes. The Monaco game is a good example of such self-implosion.

Playing against Manchester United shouldn’t require much motivation for the players, it’s a massive game but it is hoped the Arsenal come out with all guns blazing. This is the type of game where the energy of Alexis Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky needs to be matched by their team mates. When the Arsenal are firing on all cylinders there aren’t many teams that can stand toe to toe, they just need to believe in their abilities, understand what is at stake and take the game to United.

The pantomime distraction of Robin Van Persie will not play a factor due to his current injury which is a massive boost. That’s not to say there aren’t equal threats from the United side, Rooney always has the knack of scoring in this fixture and even Falcao found the net during pre-season against the Gunners however Van Persie is the one you would expect to be the greater threat given his ties to the club.

Giroud

Goal threats aside composure in front of goal is vital, Olivier Giroud is in a rich vein of form and will need to maintain that to beat United’s biggest match winner David De Gea. This season the Spaniard has saved United’s bacon in so many games this season that no chances can afford to be wasted when they arise. Danny Welbeck is due a goal and if he starts i hope he can get one over his former teammate, that really would be the icing on the cake.
There is a lot at stake tonight, the FA Cup is a realistic possibility for the winners of this tie. I may have slight nerves for the game but i do have a lot of belief in the capabilities of the Arsenal to pull off a big win. Come on you Gunners!!

Enjoy your day people.
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Gunners Prove The Power Of Keeping The Faith

Now that is more like it, what a fantastic victory for the Gunners at the Etihad. I will hold up my hands, I went into the weekend with very little hope that the Arsenal would be leaving Manchester with 3 points. It didn’t work out that way and I for sure am a lot happier for my error in judgement. The whole team put in a shift and broke the away day hoodoo against one of the bigger teams.

winners

Here are some points from the game:

Coq-blocking.

The emergence of Coquelin creates an interesting conundrum for Arsene Wenger. From one point in the season looking like his Arsenal future was as good as over the young Frenchman has returned from his brief loan at Charlton and grasped the opportunity granted to him with both hands. That’s the way football works sometimes, many promising Arsenal players have had similar opportunities and not taken them, you have to be ready and hit the ground running when it comes. Given the call for Arsene to sign a defensive midfielder since the summer it does make you wonder if Coquelin has now made up the managers mind in closing the chequebook to a new player in that position. A decision to not sign a defensive midfielder would divide the Arsenal fans but if the performance from yesterday can be repeated consistently for the rest of the season then there will be no argument to defend. A big ask but time will tell.

Giroud’s big game goals.

For all his great build up play for Arsenal, one thing that has been labelled at Olivier Giroud was the lack of end product in the big games. Many fans yearned for a top drawer striker to be the difference maker in the big games that matter. After the acquisition of players like Welbeck and Sanchez who undoubtedly have boosted the Arsenal attack not to mention the issue of a broken leg early in the season Giroud has returned to the team with a point to prove. He has come back, scored goals and showed his importance to the team. The goals are coming in the big games too as he has bagged against Manchester United, Liverpool and now Manchester City this season. With so much still to play for its great to know Giroud has risen to the challenge of competition to prove his worth.

Giroud

Sanchez day off as team stepped up.

It’s refreshing that with a more subdued performance from Sanchez that his teammates took on the responsibility and showed they have reserves of energy to win games too. Too often Arsenal fans have asked why Sanchez often looks like the only player busting a gut on the pitch. A lot of the focus pre match was on the difference Sanchez would make in the game along with Aguero but by full time it was the unsung heroes that were being uttered from the lips of the approving fans. It’s certainly exciting at the thought of the team clicking as they did yesterday AND Sanchez performing as Arsenal fans have become accustomed to.

teamwork

Bellerin didn’t sink he swam.

Many eyebrows were raised at the manager’s decision to start with Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard has grown in confidence in this his breakthrough  season however given the level of the opposition you would be forgiven for expecting Arsene to choose the slightly more experienced Callum Chambers. At moments like that you are placed in a sink or swim situation, Arsene has shown his belief in the player by selecting him and Bellerin took it head on and swam like a fish. The youngster didn’t put a foot wrong and the experience of putting in a great performance against opposition like Manchester City will be such a boost to the player’s confidence that his career can really kick on from a moment like this. With Debuchy out for a prolonged period the door is open for Bellerin to make that spot his own during the Frenchman’s absence.

Monreal did his job.

Nacho Monreal is an unsung player this season for Arsenal. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea and always seen as back up to Kieran Gibbs rather than a challenge to the left back position. Given Gibbs injury record having able back up is essential throughout the season. Monreal has come into the team and given his all whether it has been centre back or left back. He has his limitations but credit has to be given when credit is due. Monreal didn’t put a foot wrong yesterday and also provided an assist by winning the penalty for Cazorla’s penalty. Monreal is the type of player valuable to a squad throughout a long season without setting the world alight. He serves a purpose and his value is often overlooked but yesterday hopefully he won a few people over.

Ossspiiiiinnaaaaaa!

Ospina

Ospina has been a super positive these past few weeks; he has come into the side following some troubling moments from no.1 Szczesny. There’s been no fanfare, no controversy, he has just got on with his job and the team has been reaping the benefits with a succession of clean sheets. We all know how good a keeper he was after the World Cup in the summer and his acquisition should have eradicated any complacency in the goal keeping department. If not for injuries a run in the team may have come sooner but for now I struggle to see how the Colombian can be removed from first team duty. The gauntlet has been laid down for Szczesny; let’s hope Arsenal is the true winner from the battle.

Arsenal proved me wrong yesterday, I lost a little bit of faith and they slapped the sense right back into me. Forgive me Gunners…

Enjoy your day people.
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Monday Reflections On The Arsenal

Well, we’ve had a day or so to digest the game from Saturday night, the three points are on the board and the mood has slightly changed compared to last week. No repeat of Stoke Station-esque outbursts required leaving Gunners fans to enjoy their weekly dose of Match Of The Day.

It’s Monday so it gives me a chance to give my reflections of the game, not a match report as I’m sure many have been viewed since Saturday evening but a reflection of key points from the game.

giroud

Giroud’s valued return

How important is Giroud’s contribution to the team right now? He has returned from long term injury with a hunger to make up for lost time. Although scoring hasn’t been a major flaw in Arsenal’s team so far this season the fact that someone other than Sanchez has their scoring boots on is a big plus. Giroud brings attributes that none of the current strikers bring to the squad. What’s that? Sanogo you say? I actually think they are different types of players and until Sanogo adds goals to his CV then I can’t make a true comparison. During the Frenchman’s absence it was probably debated to death how his less pacy attributes would actually work with the quick fire zip provided by Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott (when he returns from limbo). Well its working fine enough for now and long may it continue.

Welbeck’s goals

With the welcome return of Giroud and his goals the gloss has been taken off Welbeck’s impact to the team. There’s no denying that Welbeck is a hard working forward and his contribution to the team so far has been satisfactory in his efforts however as a forward it’s always the goals record people value the most. We have come off the back of a run of games against lesser opposition where you would expect your main striker to really bag a few goals, like I said he has offered assists and played his part In some of those games but I still see he has the potential to be more of a regular finisher than a provider. The less prolific return has resulted in Welbeck surrendering the central striking position to Giroud and playing slightly wider, a position he admitted he was less fond of at Man United. In his favour Arsene does like to enforce interchangeable positioning by his forwards and so that door isn’t completely shut. It’s also worth mentioning that Welbeck was stripped of a perfectly legitimate goal on Saturday and so I do sympathise that he was unable to add to his tally however there were other chances in the game he could have taken also. I’ll get off his back as my frustration is only aimed at what he is capable of not coming to fruition just yet

Santi hex finally banished

It’s nice to see the Santi hex is finally over, a short while ago Santi and Ramsey couldn’t hit the back of the net despite all their efforts. Slowly but surely the signs were there that the luck was changing, Santi produced an amazing run and cross to set up Welbeck for a goal at West Brom the other week and that seemed to be the spark needed to ignite Santi’s form back to life. On Saturday both of Cazorla’s goals would not be in the back of the net a month ago but the hex is finally broken and now the mojo is back. I look forward to seeing a lot more contribution from the Spaniard from now on, it’s just a shame that Ramsey picked up an injury as he also seemed to break that hex at the same time.

Defence held firm

debuchy newc

It was nice to see the team came through the game fairly unscathed taking into account the patched up back line that started. Yes a goal was conceded but the back line dealt with what was thrown at them. Debuchy is a welcome return and his performance was probably aided that little but more given the fact he was facing his old club which sparked some extra motivation. A much tougher task is due next week when the team visits Anfield, the scene of one of our worst results last season. Chambers will return however with the news of Koscielny now being unavailable for a few weeks is a concern. Liverpool may have been swept away by United yesterday but if Raheem Sterling had his shooting boots on a draw would not have been an unbelievable outcome, the odds of Sterling forgetting his shooting boots again are pretty short. Arsene will need to make working on the defence this week his absolute priority to ensure a decent result at Anfield is achievable.

Champs league draw

The Champions League draw is today, Arsenal finished runners up so will most likely face Bayern or Barcelona. It’s an annual tradition so I will hardly be shocked if it’s either of those two are drawn as the next opponents. Whoever Arsenal do get I will be excited, you can’t beat the atmosphere in the Emirates when the big guns come to town. The only thing that is an absolute given when it comes to the champions league draw is that Chelsea will get the easiest tie of the round.

Enjoy your day people.
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Monday Reflections On The Gunners

A good weekend for the Arsenal, after the dispatching of Burnley… Eventually the Gunners found their selves sitting in the top four after all games played. All be it quite a few teams seem to be sticking in a quicksand like position where dropped points can lead to a substantial drop in the table. Apart from the cushy placing held by the likes of Chelski and Southampton the rest are cobbled together and share in being consistently inconsistent.

The events of Saturday have most likely been reviewed to death and so I will alternatively take this chance to reflect on some of key points noted from the game.

sanchez

Alexis is a gift from the Gods.
It would be hard to find anyone out there Arsenal fan or not that would not applaud the performances of Alexis Sanchez right now. The Chilean is literally carrying the Arsenal team at present and drawing comparisons with the impact provided by Luis Suarez to the Liverpool team last season. He has very much been a topic of discussion the past weekend given Arsene’s kind words in his pre-match press conference. You do have to wonder what kind of predicament the Gunners would be in considering the current underwhelming start to the season if Alexis had not been acquired in the summer. If the fighting spirit exhibited by Sanchez could be mirrored by just one or two more of the current squad then the team would benefit and provide more of a challenge to Chelsea.

 

santi jinx

Santi is Jinxed.
Anyone who has watched the last few Gunner’s games will have noticed how unlucky Carzola has been. The Spaniard has struggled to finish off a number of chances in the past few games and that continued into Saturday’s match. These are not difficult chances I am talking about here but straight forward chances that players of the quality of Santi could score with their eyes closed. It’s just not happening for him right now and I hope Carzorla takes out the time this week to say a few Hail Marys and checks his boots for signs of chicken dust to break whatever hex is over him. With Aaron Ramsey getting closer and closer to full fitness the Spaniard’s place could be under threat if the misfortune continues.

Walcott returns.
It was great to see Theo Walcott return to Premiership action. The Gunners did miss the pace he provided last season. That problem was addressed this season with the acquisition of some pacy players to the squad but Walcott still provides a unique set of skills that can be utilised once he gets into full swing. If anything patience is required as Theo eases back into the first team picture. He won’t be the answer to all our problems but if managed right he will play a significant part in any success this season.

Welcome clean sheet.

It’s always nice to get a clean sheet especially considering the makeshift back four the Gunners are forced to field at present. Yes, I know it’s only Burnley but 100% concentration is required at all times no matter who you play. A consolation conceded can lead in a slippery slope of cheap goals creeping in on a regular basis. It is important that the players who occupied the back four get into the habit of shutting teams out whilst building on their understanding week by week. Bigger tests are due in the next seven days against Anderlecht and away to Swansea so the clean sheet on Saturday was vitally important.

That’s all from me, enjoy your day people
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Football Has Finally Come Back Home To The Emirates

As the kick off to the new season draws ever closer, the feel good factor amongst Arsenal fans is as high as ever in recent times. The staggered return of the players who represented in the World Cup hasn’t halted the momentum during pre-season and the squad heads into the game with Crystal Palace fairly strong and in good shape.

The results during preseason haven’t been perfect however such is the positivity surrounding the club that logic has taken preference over heart with a greater understanding of the need to fine tune and gain match fitness over a result.

A 100% pre season record as impressive as it can be does not equal points on the premiere league table, the real stuff starts this weekend and the best chance for the team to obtain optimum points is by being in the best condition possible and ready for the season ahead.

charity shield

The Charity shield has ensured a psychological boost for the curtain raiser and it is hoped that complacency doesn’t show its ugly head. The result last year against Aston Villa was a real eye opener and a wake up call of the highest order. Admittedly Arsenal football club was in a different place this time last year, confidence was low and major question marks hung over Arsene Wenger as his inactivity in the transfer market fuelled the fans fury.

The arrival of Mesut Ozil soon changed the mood around the club and it is hoped that with the majority of business being done a lot earlier this season the club can hit the ground running and sustain a serious attempt for the premiership title.

Until the transfer window closes on September 1st the door is open for more signings to be made. The need for a replacement for departed skipper Thomas Vermaelen is strong and names such as Benedikt Howedes and Manolas have been mentioned as potential arrivals.

Up front question marks remain as to whether Arsene will bring in a marquee signing to challenge Olivier Giroud or utilise the adaptability of those available to him I.e Sanchez, Campbell, Walcott.

With Tony Pulis gone it’s not quite clear what effect it will have on the Crystal Palace players, being the start of the season brings fresh optimism and enough motivation to attempt a good start to the campaign. For the players to go into the game half-assed and without fight would put serious question marks over their right to be described and referred to as professional footballers.

The excitement of getting the campaign underway is off the chart right now so the last thing needed is an unfavourable result against a manager-less team. Three points are a must as those not directly linked to the club are gradually changing their opinion on the Gunners and mention of a league title is no longer a tongue in cheek comment. People are starting to take notice so come on Arsenal lets live up to the expectation and make it count!

mertesacker

Per Mertesacker announced his retirement from international football yesterday, I suppose you could say its the best time to bow out. Winning the World Cup is a unique and special achievement which is hard to top once you have you crossed it off your bucket list. The BFG certainly played his part in the long term plan for success and has over 100 caps having been a great servant to his country, taking away the burden of international football is now likely to enhance and prolong his Arsenal career. Good call Per.

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Enjoy your day people.
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