Arsenal have only themselves to blame in United draw

After 90 minutes Arsenal fans were left feeling frustrated at the waste of the chance to take all three points against Manchester United at the Emirates yesterday. If offered a point before the game I’m sure most Arsenal fans would take that offer but when the final whistle blew they will have looked back with frustration as Manchester United were gifted their equalizer.

afc v man u

With my rose-tinted glasses off Manchester united were in no way played off the field, they posed a threat on the break throughout and defended well but the goal conceded by the Gunners was easily avoidable. Bacary Sagna did himself no favours with poor concentration gifting the ball to Robin Van Persie, even from that point his error could be atoned however a rush of blood to the head resulted in an unnecessary sliding tackle which ended with Van Persie’s legs taken away and a penalty awarded.

The Arsenal fans groaned in frustration and you could also see on the Arsenal players faces similar emotions after having their hard work undone in a few seconds of madness. The last person Arsenal fans wanted to score in the game got his chance and took it. He didn’t celebrate must like in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford though I’m sure that respect was more directed to his former manager than the fans that once idolised him. He did not need to do anything, The Manchester united fans made sure they rubbed it in with banners highlighting Arsenal’s poor decision last summer with text such as “thanks for RVP”. The same fans that sung year after year about him being a rapist now sing a different song about the man whose goals made the difference for them taking the Premier League title.

Some points from the game yesterday:

Sagna madness

sagna tackle

Bacary Sagna had one of those moments yesterday, that moment everyone who has ever played the game at any level has experienced at least once in their life. When you make the wrong decision in a scenario which if performed 100 times you would do the right thing on the 99 other occasions. You feel stupid, your teammates look at you like you are a moron and you just want the world to swallow you up and take you away from that moment in time. Sagna will certainly have regretted his actions and I’m sure he got a barrel load from his team mates at half time. His game was definitely off for the remainder of the match as errors crept into his performance. The claims for Carl Jenkinson to be promoted to first choice grew stronger and it’s hard to argue as the Englishman has been usurped from the starting eleven despite playing well whenever Sagna has been fit to play. Arsene Wenger has shown some ruthlessness in other positions but has resisted the temptation so far to address the right back role.

Guard of honour

guard of honour

The guard of honour had been talked about all week and received a lot of press coverage. The whole ordeal had been blown well out of proportion, it lasted less than a minute and the players got on with the game. Fans booed as expected, I don’t think the Manchester United players will have sleepless nights about it, Van Persie didn’t milk it. Yes, it isn’t ideal to have to applaud a former player for his feats for a rival, it’s an embarrassment that the board and the manager will have to address but in comparison to the handshake furore of Terry/Bridge and Suarez/Evra it’s a non story to anyone outside of the club. Thank god it’s over and hopefully will never need to be talked about again.

Relaxed QPR

There is always the notion that it’s easier to play against a team with nothing to play for; I actually feel there’s more potential for a banana skin in such games. Arsenal travel to freshly relegated QPR for their next game and on paper it looks like a straightforward victory for the Gunners. With nothing to play for why would QPR even be bothered with the outcome? It is for that very reason that a carefree team playing with no pressure can be a massive threat. Arsenal does have something to play for and nerves can creep into their performance. I actually believe if they were not relegated and needed points to salvage chances of survival the psychological mindset of the QPR players would have been all over the place and played into the hands of the Gunners. With no pressure and there being a Spurs connection in their team I am pretty sure any points will be hard earned.

Enjoy your day people.

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Is it stick or twist with Bayern game around the corner?

F.A cup duty today for the Arsenal as Blackburn takes the trip down to the Emirates. There is a lot of uncertainty in how exactly we will approach this game. We have the massive first leg of the last 16 in the Champions’ League against Bayern midweek and that will surely have a bearing in team selection for today’s game.

For Arsene it must surely be one of his biggest selection problems this season. The defence seems quite threadbare due to some overlying injuries and the luxury of loaning out defenders for the season. Not 100% sure who benefits best out of some of our loans out; the club or the players?

Right now it would slightly more reassuring having Johan Djourou around for today’s game, it avoids the dilemma of rushing back Skipper Thomas Vermaelen or Laurent Koscielny with Tuesday in mind. We have the option of Ignasi Miquel stepping in at the back but a centre back pairing of Miquel and Mertesacker would be seriously exposed to any attack with pace. Sagna is an option but should we really be in the position of calling on our first choice right back to now be our saviour in the middle.

Sagna was immense against Sunderland when called upon in a time of need but that really should have been a one-off. We should not really have to rely on him there again. Arsene has talked up the value of Sagna in that position but I really feel we are playing Russian roulette with that one.

sagna afc

Besides Carl Jenkinson is suspended today so there is a vacancy at right back if Sagna was shifted. Could we become even more makeshift at the back and play Coquelin there or draft in Yennaris?

It seems a few younger players may be given a chance today taking into account injuries, suspensions, pending Champions league tie and level of opposition today. Arsene could be onto a hiding for nothing regardless of who he plays; he could be blamed for resting players for the competition in which we have the best chance for winning silverware or he could be blamed for risking players despite a massive game against Bayern days away.

All I do know is Blackburn cannot be taken lightly with the memories of Bradford still so fresh in the minds of the fans and players. We lost that day with our strongest team at the time, not a young player in sight and so it proves ability is not in question but mental focus to raise your performance for  your Blackburn’s’ and Bradford’s’ the same you would for your Spur’s and United’s’.

ox shoots

Jack won’t be risked and that is understandable, we should have enough quality to not have to rely on Jack’s presence on the field today. I just hope whether it’s a young or experienced player on the pitch before the game the importance of a victory is drilled home. We really cannot afford to lose today, a draw is not ideal either but not the end of the world. Posters of the Bradford game put up around the dressing room could do the job of a thousand words from the manager. Many larger teams have already been knocked out by lower opposition, home advantage is no given right of a win.

Despite some meaty battles with Blackburn over the years helped in part by the ground work set by Mark Hughes and his thug approach; I did not expect the same level of tension from this game today. Hughes is long gone, Savage is no more, and the chicken people don’t quite know what they want in a manager meaning most history between the clubs is nonexistent. So I couldn’t foresee any bad blood or antagonists in the game, that is until the news broke yesterday of David Bentley making a return to his old club.

bentley oh dear

This news changes the dynamics of the game completely as he is eligible to make his debut against Arsenal. The way he left the club, his ownership by Spurs, his personality in general is enough to generate unwanted attention and distraction. He will be up for the game no doubt and the last thing I could bear is a Blackburn victory inspired by his appearance. Old boys returning with opposition has been hit and miss with Arsenal and I pray it is a massive miss today. He is a waste of space who had it all before him but wanted more with half the effort put in. players like him belong on the scrap-heap and I for damn sure don’t want a performance against Arsenal to be part of his recovery.

Please Arsenal if you ever needed any more motivation it has presented itself in the form of Bentley. Take us into the next round please and keep him in your pocket .Perfect opportunity for Gunnersaurus to Harlem Shake in his face…

Enjoy your day people.

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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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Stuttering win against QPR halts the losing streak – AFC

A win is a win is a win, the boys made hard work of it but we came out from a horrible week with the three points on the board. Even the best win ugly from time to time and given the low confidence throughout the team of late those points gained against queens park rangers will go a long way towards restoring our lost mojo. The weather was cold, the rain was spitting down and such factors were enough to add to the frustrated vibes felt by the fans. We needed something to raise our hopes; I had mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was worried a scapegoat would be picked out from the game if things didn’t go to plan. The names I had mentioned were Gervinho, Andre Santos and Vito Mannone. The current bad feeling had me fearing a repeat of the booing that greeted Emmanuel Eboue a few seasons back.

From my list Gervinho wasn’t selected in the starting line up so that saved him from the venom of the frustrated fans if he misplaced a pass. It seems Santos was the focus of most frustration; at times it was down to some parts of his game but given the negativity he has received over the past week he was blamed when things weren’t his fault. Such is the life of a footballer he is going through a bad period right now so he will need to work that extra bit harder to win back the fans confidence. His partnership with Podolski on the left hand side hasn’t clicked so far and so in comparison to Keiran Gibbs he is in the side by default rather than merit. His confidence does seem low at the moment and that was evident from his body language, fans in the stands are less forgiving and are sure to let you know how they feel about your performance with a few expletives thrown in. If we did not manage to win the game I am sure our cuddly Brazilian would have received the criticism full barrel at full time.

Mannone came though the game with little incident if I recall, when he came out for the balls in the box he made sure he connected. I remember one mis-kick in the second half but the ball still reached an arsenal player. He actually ensured our victory with an excellent block in the last minute of the game.

I guess I have so far ignored one of the most important factors from yesterday’s game, which was the bold decision by Arsene to start Wilshere against QPR. Our midfield gem has not featured for the first team in over 18 months and it was a surprise to many Wenger took the risk. Bacary Sagna was also restored to the line up at the expense of Carl Jenkinson and I can probably see the psychological boost Wenger tried to bring to the team by adding our two long term absentees.

It was especially great to see Jack back in the team and he slotted into the midfield seamlessly. His class was evident for all to see: the trademark gliding past his man, the deft flicks and control were all still there and gave the fans a reminder of what we have missed for the past year and a half. To be honest the performances of Jack and Bacary were the only positive from a very flat performance from the team. We really struggled to take the game to QPR and although the threat of losing a goal was under control many of our attacks just didn’t get going. The times when we did carve out a chance Julio Cesar was on top form to thwart anything that came near his goal.

I feel from our starting 11 we lacked the required pace needed to stretch the QPR back four; we really struggled to get in behind their defence and made it slightly easier for them to defend against. As with all teams Mark Hughes brings to the emirates he ensured his players would frustrate at every opportunity, there was time-wasting even during the first half. This riled the home crowd and was surely part of Hughes plan to turn the fans against their team; the longer the game went on the more likely the fans would turn on the players.

For all the good Podolski and Ramsey can do on the ball they don’t possess the pace to really give the full back something to think about. The arsenal attack was screaming out for something to inject some new impetus. That came when Wenger finally introduced the returning Theo Walcott into action, Gervinho was added soon after and the change brought about instant results. Now the QPR team were forced further back, their fullbacks were kept on their toes and the chances came for the arsenal.

Although we looked more likely to score in the game the real turning point was the sending off of M’bia. The defender was deservedly red carded after stupidly lashing out at Thomas Vermaelen after initially winning a free kick after a tussle. That played right into our hands and the extra man advantage only added to the pressure on the QPR defence. Julio Cesar was on a one man mission to prevent an arsenal victory as he pulled off some excellent reflex saves to keep the score line level. At times it seemed like it just wouldn’t be our day as the ball would bounce and ricochet anywhere but into the back of the net. Finally the goal came courtesy of Mikel Arteta and I don’t think I have witnessed a scruffier goal before. Cesar managed to fling himself to deny a Giroud header as the ball bounced out Ramsey fired in a shot which deflected and looped in the air, Arteta got his head to the ball only for it to bounce of the bar, when the ball dropped the Spaniard was first to it to poke it hope from literally on the line.

There was a massive sigh of relief from the whole of the emirates that we finally took the lead. All we needed to do was retain possession and see out the last 5 or so minutes against the ten men. Easier said than done, as is the arsenal way we still managed to present QPR with two clear cut chances. They really should have taken one of their chances but for arsenals benefit I’m glad they didn’t.

On reflection it was important on so many levels that we got the three points in this game, with a trip to old Trafford next week to continue the bad run of results could have been the worst preparation going into the game. The midweek game against Reading holds no relevance as the squad for that game will probably not include any players that will start against united. I don’t even think Jack who has long been mooted to play in the Capital One game will be involved now after his appearance yesterday. We have a week where I hope we will get some positive news on the returns of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby and Gervinho who was stretchered off yesterday. We have some unfinished business from last season we need to address with the boys from Manchester and Jack just might swing things in our favour.

Enjoy your day people.

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Wilshere performance helps erase bad feeling – AFC

Well we have some positive news to help soften the bad feeling from our inept display against Norwich at the weekend. Fortunes can change so quickly in football, we went into the international break on the back of a good win against London rivals west ham. We returned from the international break with our worst performance of the season. The fallout from that has left arsenal fans dreaming of the return of Jack Wilshere to the team.

A few weeks back we were looking at our squad and assessing that jack can take his time, his place in the team was in good hands as we were grinding results and earning plaudits. A few unfortunate injuries have now hit the squad and now things don’t look so rosy. It’s not quite panic stations yet, this is one result and we are more than capable of bouncing back from the setback.

Yesterday the arsenal reserves played an u-21 fixture against Everton, the line up included all three of our long term absentees in Wilshere, Sagna and Frimpong. All three managed to play the full 90 minutes and further their potential returns to first team action. It definitely is the type of news us fans would like to hear especially given the fact that Jack influenced the game. In the 2-1 win Jack was involved with both of our goals and is on course for a first team berth against Reading next Tuesday.

The news is exciting that he is managing to play games without any setbacks; physically he seems ready to return but football is more than physicality. Jack will need to be ready on a psychological level to make challenges and be on the end of them again. Long term injuries give players time to reflect, time to miss what they were used to and become cautious of how easy they can lose it all again. Jack is a tenacious player and I’m sure it won’t be before too long he is throwing himself into challenges full blooded, the confidence will return with each game.

The news of Jack returning does tend to overshadow the developments of Sagna and Frimpong’s recovery but understandably Carl Jenkinson has filled in the right back role well enough to make Sagna’s return less urgent. Emmanuel Frimpong in all due respect is more of a fringe player than first teamer at the time of his injury, even though he was on loan. he does have a part to play in this team and with the departure of Alex Song he has every opportunity to prove to Wenger that there was a ready made replacement in house rather than the need to acquire Yann M’Villa during the summer.

That’s it from me today

Enjoy your day people.

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