Gunners keep in the mix with victory over Spurs

Coming into the weekend it looked like a tough one for the Gunners, could they potentially lose ground on the title contenders as they prepared for a North London derby. Man city had pulled off an impressive victory taking into account they were down to ten men after ten minutes of their game v Hull City, Chelsea were likely to follow suit and stretch their lead to a morale sapping ten points. Aston Villa had something to say about that and following a crisp finish from Fabian Delph the ball was firmly planted back into Arsenal’s court.

When opportunities come your way you have to take them, Aston Villa’s win would have all been in vein if the Gunners did not get a result at White Hart Lane. Especially given the fact that Liverpool quite impressively dismissed Manchester United in the earlier Sunday kick off. They avoided their banana skin and so the Arsenal needed to follow suit and get something from the game to shove two fingers up at the doubters that have prematurely written them out of the title race.

Whether you think Arsenal will win the league or not the additional threat from teams below the top four places provided the motivation for the Gunners to do all they can to keep them at bay. It may seem farfetched to believe Tottenham, given their past 7 days were storming towards nicking the Arsenal’s position in the top four but as the saying goes forms goes out the window in derby games. The Bale inspired teams of the past have given Spurs the belief they can get something out of games against Arsenal. Not so much the matches hosted at the Emirates but certainly games at White Hart Lane provide a threat, a defeat would have sparked the ‘squeaky bum time’ comments whilst a victory would ease the pressure somewhat. A draw would have been good for Everton who have been creeping under the radar.

So taking all that into account the silky humdinger blasted in by Tomas Rosicky in the second minute to settle the game provided a welcome result for all connected to Arsenal. Mathematically it is still possible for the current top four teams to be caught but psychologically it’s a massive blow to the chasing pack.

rosicky

The goal itself was something special, the return ball to Rosicky from Oxlade-Chamberlain may have been somewhat fortunate but the finish there was no doubts over any fortune. The connection was so sweet the ball whistled into the back of the net as sharply as a bullet. The kind of finish you would expect from Rosicky. There are certain players that produce special finishes as if it’s programmed into their DNA. It can be 50/50 whether the ball flies into row Z but when they do connect correctly there is nothing more beautiful in the game of football. Andrei Arshavin had a similar knack for the special though it was his work rate that set him apart from Rosicky.

The defence as well deserve plenty praise for their performance yesterday, they stood strong and dealt with everything thrown at them. It wasn’t easy for the back four, the early goal adjusted the game plan slightly as the team were encouraged to soak up the pressure and hit on the counter. Although comfortable in the first half it was a different prospect in the second half as the expected pressure from Spurs intensified. Adebayor was always a threat and 100% concentration was needed for the entire 90 minutes. All the hard work was almost undone by a crazy moment from Szczesny when he dropped a routine catch at the feet of Chadli but a combination of Mertesacker and Koscielny doing their best Gandalf impression ensured the ball did not pass the goal line.

At the end of the day you have to take your chances if you want something in a game. Arsenal took one of their chances while Spurs wasted their gift, the stats showed that the Gunners had one of their lowest possession stats in a Premiership game but it’s what you do with the ball that makes that stat relevant.

The visit of Chelsea is next for the Gunners, never an easy game especially against a Mourinho team but the victory yesterday should give them great confidence leading up to the game. Roll on Saturday!

Enjoy your day people.
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Wembley Awaits Arsenal, Who Will Join Them?

Wembley here we come! After the dispatching of Everton yesterday in the quarter finals of the FA cup a trip to Wembley for the semi final now looms. Opponents will be decided today after the remaining three quarter final games are played.

One major obstacle in the shape of Manchester City could stand in the Gunner’s way of a second trip to Wembley in the form of the actual final. It is the utmost importance they are avoided in the draw today. That’s not to say Arsenal are not capable of beating Man City, that is every bit possible but to meet them in the final would make for a more fitting centre piece of the competition. I mean no disrespect to the other teams in the competition, they all hold a threat and recent history is likely to inspire any of the other teams that victory is certainly possible in a one-off game. Last season cup exits to Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers, not to mention that Carling Cup shocker against Birmingham City. These are all reminders that the level of the opposition does not equate to a textbook victory for the Gunners, anything can happen on the day.

Yesterday the possibility of winning a trophy became a distinct reality; under current evaluation the FA Cup holds the best chance for a trophy after Tottenham gift wrapped Chelsea three points in the Premier League game yesterday. The Chelsea result strengthened Arsenal’s position in the top four slightly however I would be a lot more content with the club’s focus being on catching the teams in front of them rather than thinking about what is going on over their shoulder from the teams playing catch up. The team owes it to themselves as much as the fans to give it 100% on all fronts until the end of the season. Priority and focus on the FA cup can be assessed a bit more once the club know who they are playing.

The fate of Arsenals destiny ironically lays at the hands of one of their former greats as Ian Wright has been granted the honour of facilitating the semi final draw alongside his son Shaun Wright-Philips. I’m pretty sure if Wrighty pulls Charlton or Sheffield united out of the hat (or bag) he may just get a statue commissioned to keep Dennis, Tony and Thierry company around the Emirates Stadium. If he pulls out Manchester City he may need to consider disabling his twitter account for a few days.

wright

In all seriousness though it is what it is, whoever Arsenal draw in the next round they know what is required of themselves to get to the final and win that trophy. The draw today is at 4pm (GMT).

Possible opponents in the draw:

Hull City  or Sunderland
Sheffield United  or Charlton Athletic
Manchester City or Wigan Athletic

Fingers crossed.

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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