Tag Archives: mourinho

Arsenal Revive the FA Cup

Manchester United’s participation in the Club World Cup in the early part of this century was widely reported to be the reason for the FA Cup’s demise.

The club decided to prioritise the tournament instead of the oldest cup in the world, and the devaluation of our domestic cup was such that it was put on the back burner in terms of importance for clubs.

The influx of money has seen the tides shift yet again though, and now, with the dial of competition firmly ramped up to 11, the once-derided FA Cup has now risen, phoenix-like from the ashes.

It’s now seen as a saviour from ignominy. The Champions League is a pipe dream for most clubs, the Premier League is a trophy that requires a huge slice of luck with injuries, as well as top level consistency.

It means that clubs need to maximise every opportunity to lift silverware – and the FA Cup is a genuine chance to keep supporters on board and keep the club relevant when it comes to transfer targets.

Success breeds success, so having your name etched on the cup means that next season gets a firmer foundation to build from. It also makes the lustre of the club a little more alluring for any potential new players.

Our own relative woes have exacerbated the FA Cup’s rise to prominence once more. Winning the Cup in 2014 against Hull, and in such dramatic circumstances that really turned heads at other outfits.

Then, when we won it the next year by smashing Aston Villa, we not only regained it, we yet again saved our season with the lifting of the old cup.

Two seasons ago was perhaps the best example. We slipped out of the Champions League places for the first time since 1996/97, we also slipped below our hated neighbours for the first time in over two decades, but the fact we won the FA Cup, meant we had silverware in our trophy cabinet.

The ‘drought’ we suffered between 2005-14 may seem a long time, but as the top teams get better and the gap becomes more disparate, decades between cup wins will become commonplace for most.

It means any cup win should be embraced – just look at City and United in recent years when winning the League Cup. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are considered to be among the leading lights of world football management – and lifting this cup meant a fair amount to them.

The FA Cup is a grand old competition, and our previous wins are amongst our most glittering. The recent cup wins are among them. The 2014 final snatched from the jaws of defeat especially seems vivid upon recall. The Cup matters hugely.

Being knocked out by Nottingham Forest last season smarted a fair bit, and FA Cup fixture weekends without our club – the most successful side in FA Cup history – seemed a tad remiss.

We can glow with pride at the fact we’ve won this famous cup more than any other side – but we can also take a little satisfaction that we’ve reminded other clubs that the Cup is well worth winning indeed.

It grants you a European place, it gets you a slot in the Charity Shield – but it also gives us fans a memorable day – and those memories are what binds fans to a club.

Arsenal Vs Man United Match Preview

So, it’s time for another round of Arsenal versus United.

This game has been the poster boy for the Premier League for decades. It may have tumbled down the pecking order a little in recent years with the surfacing of Chelsea and City, but it matters no less to us fans.

Now, there is also the added bonus of inflicting misery on Jose Mourinho – who doesn’t want to do that?

Both teams are in form. United have won four of their last six – their losses were against Chelsea and Huddersfield – and they lie in second spot, four points above us before the game.

We have won four on the bounce since our loss to City, and have conceded precisely zero. That is the key to any confidence we carry into this game. Our defence has been exemplary and the trio of Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are really acting as a unit.

They will need to when facing Lukaku, Pogba and Rashford.

They possess very different traits, so we will be stretched. Our midfield has to be awake to the runs of Pogba, so the improved showings of Ramsey and Xhaka is crucial to our hopes.

In terms of who makes the team, our fantastic 5-0 win over Huddersfield in midweek came at a cost. Alexandre Lacazette was subbed at half time due to a groin injury, and he may be ruled out for the foreseeable. Seeing as December is crammed full of fixtures, he could miss a fair amount of games.

Step forward Olivier Giroud. He scored two in the second half of our 5-0 smashing of the Terriers, and he will need to be at his best against United.

We were all surprised when Wenger named a full team for the Huddersfield win. We all expected a few changes to prepare for this match, but Wenger opted to maintain rhythm and an unchanged side, aside from the inclusion of Ozil.

Now, the argument must be made that if players can’t maintain levels for three games in eight days, then the level of professional sportsmen they claim to be must be called into doubt. On the other hand, this is arsenal, and fitness is no god-given right.

Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are both available for inclusion, and Jack Wilshere will be hoping his positive cameo against the Terriers will do his stake no harm.

United have a wealth of options in attack, with Rashford, Ibrahimovic, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Lukaku and Lingard all vying for a limited number of spots. Jose will have his defence drilled though. Away from home against a rival, he will have his team set up not to lose, rather than all out to win. Professional, pragmatic, but bloody boring.

We are still unbeaten at home, and we need to continue that if we are to keep the pressure on the top3 – and keep the gap between us and that lot down the road.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Man Utd – Match Preview

Kickoff – 1600GMT

Before our humbling at the hands of our North London neighbours last weekend, the situation was clear;

Win the rest of our games or the lucrative and vital Top4 slot is out of our grasp.

Now, our team stand on the precipice of our worst season under Arsene Wenger. To make matters worse, he next faces a manager who he has never defeated in the Premier League.

Tomorrow’s match versus Manchester United now leaves us with the daunting reality that we could win the rest of our games and still be barred from entering the VIP section that is Champions League qualification. 

Five games remain in our league campaign, and all five must be victories. We then must sit on the edge of our seats and wait for Liverpool, City and United to slip up. The way things are right now, this is quite easily our worst season. 

So, how do we defeat United and salvage any semblance of hope?

Firstly, United have a huge task in fielding a competitive team that isn’t suffering from fatigue or injury. After defeating Celta Vigo in Spain on Thursday, Jose Mourinho has intimated that he may rest some of his first teamers as the Europa League takes priority. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Ashley Young ruled out through a combination of injury and suspension, and Marcus Rashford looking to be in pain when he was substituted on Thursday, Mourinho will surely ring the changes. 

Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney may well be part of his plans and so too should be Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. The England pair were thought to be injured, but it has been revealed that they will be in the squad for the game. 

Arsene Wenger will also have his own players returning from injury, with David Ospina and Shkodran Mustafi both back in training. Will the German defender’s return to action see Wenger shift back to a back four? Or will we continue with the Back 3 experiment? The jury is out in regards to fan’s opinion, but no one can predict what Wenger will go with. 

A big dilemma is what our midfield will look like for this game. In his last press conference, Wenger said that Granit Xhaka only has a ‘little chance of playing.’ That leaves Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny to fight it out for the two spots, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed since playing as a wing-back in our new formation. 

A lot will depend on Alexis. The Chilean has been responsible for keeping our slim hopes alive, but his record versus the big boys leaves a lot to be desired. He has just one goal in the last nine games against the teams above us, and Sanchez must finally show everyone what he can do against top class opposition – even if it is to entice another team.

United have won the last four games that have followed Europa League games, so they will be prepared. They will also come to the Emirates well drilled and hard to break down. We must utilise pace and movement and abandon the plodding, sedate passing of more recent seasons. We must find the Arsenal of old if Arsene Wenger is to finally vanquish Mourinho and Arsenal are to keep up the chase. 

Twenty four games it has been since United tasted defeat. It is going to take an almighty effort for that to be broken, but break it we must. The least we expect is effort. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Ramsey, Gibbs, Theo, Ozil, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline – Screw it – 2-0 to The Arsenal #UTA

Welcome To The Premiership Pep

It seems there may just be a little more substance to the claim that the Premiership is the toughest League in Europe after all. 

Pep Guardiola, fresh from constructing what many profess to be the greatest club side in recent memory – Barcelona circa 2009 – and leading Bayern Munich to another inevitable Bundesliga, his arrival at Manchester City was meant to signal the herald of a new era of domination at The Etihad. 

With seemingly bottomless funds to acquire the cream of Europe’s talent, and a manager that had crushed all comers who foolishly stood in his way in Spain, Germany and the rest of the continent, it was the portents of doom for the rest of the Premier League.

No one told them though.

As of this current moment, Manchester City stand not at the zenith of the competition they were supposed to win, but eight points away from the top. 

This sees Pep Guardiola in uncharted territory, as he not only struggles to keep his side’s credentials as title contenders, but also to ensure a vital Champions League spot for next season. The fallout from City not achieving a top four spot should be earth shattering, but the underlying fact of the matter is that this is not the perfect storm that sometimes befalls an unwitting manager. 

It is entirely his own doing.

Pep joining City was the worst kept secret in football, and the club announcing his acquisition during the previous season whilst Manuel Pellegrini was still at the helm was a bad PR exercise and harmful to the team when there was still much to play for.

It did mean that Guardiola could identify targets before he took the wheel at The Etihad, and that would give him ample time to construct a side that could play the style he wanted. The possession-based football which had garnered so much adulation and silverware.

Guardiola utilised City’s powerful chequebook and signed John Stones, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo and Nolito to the tune of just over £170m. He also felt he had seen enough of England goalkeeper Joe Hart to judge that he was incapable of playing out from the back to a sufficient standard, and loaned Hart to Torino.

The only defensive signing he made was John Stones – for nearly £50m. This was the same Stones who the season before had been left out of the Everton side due to poor form. Stones had only played two full seasons at the top level, so a £50m fee was a bit steep even if Stones had shown glimpses of real potential. 

With City’s backline creaking in Pellegrini’s last season before being replaced by Pep, the new manager’s first error was overlooking the one weakness that could derail his grand plan before he could fully implement it. 

Vincent Kompany, the lynchpin of City’s two title wins, had played less than half of their games in 2015-16. His injuries were totting up and showed no signs of being rectified, so an experienced head in the centre of defence was required to help Stones tow the line. Another centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, was allowed to leave on loan to Valencia, as defensive troops thinned yet further.

This left Nicolas Otamendi and Stones as their first choice pairing. The aging Pablo Zabaleta was still effective but was far below the level he had set himself previously, and Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were solid, but also were not at the level they had shown in years gone by. Then there was Aleksander Kolarov, who could take a mean free kick but defensively was not the most watertight in a positional sense.

These were the men who would be charged with providing the solid foundation on which Pep’s mesmerising football would sit on. Then there was Claudio Bravo.

The keeper who had played under Pep at Barca could spark attacks with his passing from his box, and was drafted in as first choice in place of Joe Hart – a tried and tested Premier League keeper who had shared the golden glove award in the season before. 

It is a move which has backfired terribly. Claudio Bravo has looked anything but assured in the frenetic pace of the Premiership, and this change of speed has seen his normally cool dealings with the ball morph into bouts of hot panic amongst the City faithful.

Despite these errors of judgement by Guardiola, it seemed as if the side had enough about them – especially in attack – as by the end of September, they were without loss in the league and sat above their rivals. It led to the media waxing lyrical about the manager and declare an early end to league proceedings, as Guardiola had began in ominous fashion and would surely continue in the same fashion that he had done in Spain and Germany?

Many great football icons and minds have said that it is easy to win when you’re already winning, but getting back on the horse is a far more difficult job once you’ve been dumped unceremoniously on your backside. A true test of mettle would be how Guardiola and his men would deal with a loss. 

The month of October saw City fall to tottenham, draw with Everton, get humped by Barca, draw with Southampton and lose to Man United before ending the month with a face-saving win at West Brom. One loss had snowballed into five games without a win. Pep was feeling the heat and it appeared as if teams had figured out that City were still a side in transit. They were trying to play in the manner that their manager wished, but the Premier League does not allow for a recovery period or a term of adjustment. It kicks you when you’re down and taunts you for trying to get back up.

Since then, City have dropped points a further five times, and yet the media have pointed at the fact that the Spaniard is still coming to terms with a new country, a new league, a new squad. What has been overlooked is his financial outlay, his terrible planning in terms of transfers, and his indignant refusal to switch tactics.

Pep has had ample cash to rectify the shortcomings he now faces in his team’s defence. He instead opted to go with what he already had at his disposal, aside from John Stones. There would always be a period when Stones’ lack of experience would cost him, and with a lack of cover and Pep seemingly unable to choose a settled back four, it has seen performances littered with errors. 

Then we have the fact that the side he inherited is more than capable of winning the league. The man he replaced at The Etihad – Pellegrini – had to put up with the fact he was embarrasingly replaced as boss before his last season had ended and yet he still took his side to the top four. They have riches in their side that would walk into the majority of teams across the continent. 

The media’s refusal to unleash these criticism’s that they would have no hesitation to fling at his rivals has seen a rise of ignorance toward Guardiola’s failings. The man who was apparently infallible is now overseeing a team which is not performing at their best – and has not done since September. They have lost to big teams and small, and in Europe they may have progressed to the latter stages again, but isn’t this the least that should be expected? 

Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp. These managers have made a rod for their own back by their continued standards. If they slip, then to varying degrees they will face the heat from the flashing bulbs and myriad of questions from the paparazzi. By an extension of their own excellence, they now have to answer to all and sundry when there is even the tiniest of slips.

Pep Guardiola oversaw football from the gods at the Nou Camp, and maintained the superiority that Bayern had cultivated in Germany. With each of these sides though, he was picking up a team which was already crafted. He has never built a side from the ground up, or even had to patch up a squad that was severely wounded.

He has been allowed to concentrate solely on tactics as he has taken over a team which already comprised all of the parts needed. At Barca, Frank Rijkaard had won La Liga twice and the European Cup. The Dutchman had overhauled an underachieving side with a subtle blend of youth and new signings, and the trophies that were netted were a signal of the work that Rijkaard had done. When Guardiola took over, the side he inherited were already present. He obviously made some changes and took them to the next level, but fundamentally, the foundations were already there. 

When he arrived at Munich, he was handed a side that had just won a treble of German Cup, Bundesliga and the Champions League! 

At City, he had a team that needed a little TLC, but he was still given a team that was worthy of contending for honours. He wasn’t exactly given a team that needed a radical overhaul. 

He has never been at a post that required him to change a side, or to even patch it up. All the sides he has managed have had a sqwuad that is more than capable of cutting it at the top. This City side is the nearest he has come to performing all the tasks that every manager at every other club has to contend with, and he is showing his relative lack of experience. 

The Premier League is another factor in the equation which sees Pep struggle. In Spain, he had to contend with the giants of Real Madrid, but other than their perennial rivals, they had precious little in the way of obstacles to stop them on their way to La Liga. Similarly in Germany, it is another two horse race.

In the Premiership, it may have been the same case a few years back, but in the last ten or so years, there have been at least three or four sides at the beginning of each campaign that could have potentially gone on to win the competition. This season, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, tottenham and United will all be in the mix for the top four. All viable opponents which stand in the way of not only the title, but enabling City to sit at the top table in Europe.

His recent press conferences have seen the Spanish boss become rankled with questions that Wenger, Klopp, Mourinho and the rest are old hands at batting away. These queries are not exactly barbed, but yet the clipped responses and bristling words that Guardiola have thrown back are classic signs that the man is on the back foot. 

Pep will get the time he needs to oversee the changes he needs to make in order for City to play in the fashion which saw Pep’s Barca rule Europe, but in the meantime, his stubbornness to change his tactics as his men struggle to adapt has seen other teams take advantage. Change is good, but more often than not, it needs to be done incrementally. Just ask David Moyes.

Guardiola is still a top manager, but for the first time he has work to do. The time and funds he needs will be provided to him, but if he refuses to adapt his tactics and continues to ignore the gaps in his defence, then time and money will matter little.

The crown on Pep’s bald head is slipping. Welcome to the Premier League. 

Mourinho and Wenger – The Class War

On the eve of a titanic tussle between two teams, the usual fare from the respective managers is to talk about team selection, and to talk up their opponents. This shows that they take the threat seriously, that their own team is more than ready to match whatever is thrown at them.

The press conferences pre-match are a chance to peer behind the veil of secrecy that shrouds these clubs that are now businesses. The managers offer delectable nuggets of information surrounding preperation, and each syllable offers the opportunity to surmise and interpret life at the training ground. It is fascinating, but at times it offers up a stalemate between the prying press and the defensive chief in front of the cameras.

Jose Mourinho though, doesn’t do convention. Tradition is bucked wildly whenever a topic of passion is tossed toward him. One of these subjects he cannot ignore and gnaws on chronically is Arsene Wenger. This weekend was no different.

Instead of talking about the merits of his team and how they are aiming far higher than where they currently reside, the Portuguese boss opted to aim a bony fingered prod into the chest of his French rival – and in turn, he answered his own query.

Courtesy of The Independent newspaper, when Mourinho was asked about Arsene, in an attempt to stoke the old flames of adversity which have burned now for over ten years, Mourinho said of him and the titles they both had won:

I have three, I think. Mr Wenger has three or four – I don’t know. Does that mean we should be respected even in periods where our results are not the best? I think Mr Wenger has that respect from all of you. I don’t think I have especially because my last Premier League title was 18 months ago. It was not 18 years ago. 

Again, this comment offered a fascinating glimpse at the inner workings – but of Mourinho’s thinking, rather than the inner sanctum of a club. 

It is common knowledge that the two old foes cannot abide each other. They both are the antithesis of each other. Much like a classic comic story thread, the two are opposites. Mourinho complained of a lack of respect, and that he should be offered the same as his counterpart, but would Wenger ever lower his guard enough to aim an attack like this?

Wenger has had his fair share of run-ins, with Ferguson, Jol, Pardew, Allardyce and a few more, but whilst his actions on the sidelines have often raised eyebrows and exhibited a well-concealed temper, the Frenchman hasn’t often peeled away the veneer which reflects the majority of journalists barbed arrows. 

When Wenger has a press conference, the onus is on the representatives from each media organisation to wriggle past the defensive mines that Wenger has placed, and attempt to manouevre him into a cul-de-sac where he cannot rely on his usual armour of dry wit and deflection. 

It is like a duel. With each question and succinct answer, it is an unheard swish of a fencers foil. A delicate flick of the wrist, and the journalist’s laden question – instead of burying itself deep in the targets psyche and craw – finds itself somehow lying futile on the floor.

After over twenty years, Wenger has perfected the art of combining a soundbite that sates the writers, and also never truly revealing his modus operandi. Why give information away when it could prove vital?

Mourinho on the other hand, grasps each question from the baying masses with abandon. He is a journalist’s dream as he cares little for what they write – or does he?

He weaves and concocts, and when it works, it adds to the high turrets and walls of the seige mentality that is the foundation for most of his successes. He takes the heat from his players, and acts as a shield. It is martyrdom at its finest, but it isn’t pretty. 

The main difference is when they are both under duress. Wenger’s composure is a still lake, and when ripples occur, he manages to keep them under the surface. Mourinho creates a foaming, thrashing lake that garners headlines and exposure. 

In his post-match press conference, after Arsenal secured a barely-deserved point thanks to a late header from Olivier Giroud, the contrast between both managers was palpable. 

Whilst Wenger admitted his team were lacking – even inferring they may just suffer from a mental block playing at Old Trafford – Mourinho’s offerings were laughable.

His words were not veiled, he aimed straight for Wenger. He did not bolster his sides confidence, he just went all out, swinging wildly for his opposing manager, his nemesis. 

Mourinho claimed that Wenger had FINALLY beaten him, after twelve attempts in the Premiership

It was a dig to show that Mourinho still had the upper hand, and still had his precious record of never losing to his enemy. 

It speaks volumes though, that despite Wenger never defeating Mourinho in the Premier League (seven draws and five losses after this weekend), the playing field in terms of public opinion is even – or even tipping in the balance of Wenger.

In truth, shouldn’t success earn respect? Yes, but it isn’t just silverware that constitutes this most precious commodity. Wenger’s longevity may be in part due to the aims of the board, but his adaptability and where he has brought the club has given him a begrudging respect from the press. Mourinho though, is blinkered to the constant undermining that Wenger has had to deal with.

Arsenal are not beloved by the press. The team that constructs such beauty, but is intertwined with frustration, is constantly held up as a failure due to their lack of first silverware, and now a title. They are the posterboy for underachievement, even though standing next to them in the same Premier League outfit is Liverpool and tottenham – teams who have won less despite spending the same, and occasionally more. 

Wenger’s defensive stance is down to years of exposure to the armament of the press. Mourinho’s constant attacking stance is now down to his struggling.

Jose has never truly had to deal with scrutiny, as he has always had a constant stream of tangible success to back himself. Now that he has skulked away from Chelsea, and now helms a struggling United side, he is exposed. What happens when we no longer have shelter, and we have to face a threat? We revert back to our basic hardwiring, what is intrinsically built into us. Fight or flight. 

Mourinho is in uncharted territory, and he is showing us is hand. He is not talking of the strengths of his team, he is whinging. His comments smack of a selfish streak. He is thinking of himself, not of his team. What does it matter if you are not afforded a certain level of respect, when your team is underperforming? 

It simply isn’t true that he is not respected either. What is happening and that he is failing to recognise is that he is under the spotlight after his struggles at Chelsea, and now at United. The glowing halo has slipped, and now he must sweat under the glaring light like every other manager has done – including Wenger.

The difference is, Wenger has applied sunscreen. He’s done this before. Wenger bears the tan from the rays, but he is now accustomed to the heat. Mourinho is the equivalent of the pasty ginger kid who really should be anywhere but on a sunbed. 

He must get used to the scrutiny, or he will continue to give papers headlines. Not only that, but he will continue to crack. He could learn something from the man he continues to pin pictures of on his office dartboard. 

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal – 5 Key Points From The Game

Much like last season, United were there for the taking.

Thankfully though, the result didn’t correlate too, as supersub Olivier Giroud thumped in an equaliser to cancel out Juan Mata’s great finish. 

The team selection carried a couple of surprises, as Aaron Ramsey was brought into the side on the left of attack, and Mohamed Elneny was given a start alongside Francis Coquelin, with Granit Xhaka on the bench. The rest of the side picked itself, aside from Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard has been ruled out for a month at least with an ankle problem picked up in the North London derby, and this gave Carl Jenkinson his first Premier League start in a Gunners jersey since May 2014.

Perhaps surprisingly, Jose Mourinho opted to leave Captain Elbows (Marouane Fellaini) out of the side, and opted instead for finesse, with Ander Herrera getting the nod. Wayne Rooney was left on the bench, with Marcus Rashford hoping to do as well as his Premier League debut last season, when he bagged a brace in the 3-2 win.

The first half was a cagey affair, but there were chances. Alexis Sanchez should have done much better with a header in the box, which he screwed horribly wide. United were not to be undone though, as they tested Cech on a couple of occasions, which the Czech dealt with well. It was a see-saw half, but the 0-0 scoreline at half time was probably fair.

There was a flashpoint in the first 45 though. Nacho Monreal and Antonio Valencia were shoulder-to shoulder going for a ball in the Arsenal box, and Valencia fell to thr ground. Replays show that Nacho’s arm was across Valencia – but since when did that constitute a spot kick? Mourinho was apopleptic with rage at the ignorance from Andre Marriner, but it was never a penalty. 

The second half was a different affair entirely, as United stepped up their pressing, and it paid dividends. The Gunners struggled to exit their own half with Elneny and Coquelin run ragged as they tried to deal with the runs of Herrera, Mata, Rashford and Pogba. On a sidenote, Herrera really has a flair for the flamboyant, there were at least three occasions where he went to ground as if he had taken a shotgun shell to the abdomen, but the contact was little – or none. Something to watch out for in the future. 

The weight of pressure finally told, as Nacho – who had been given the biggest workload by the errant Ramsey – failed to go with his runner, and Herrera cut a ball into the box which Mata expertly met with a first time finish. The Spaniard was unmarked as the defence were ballwatching, and the punishment was severe.

The last twenty minutes of the second half were similar to the first twenty, as United continued to press, but Arsene Wenger shuffled his pack and came up with a hand, as Olivier Giroud found the net from fellow substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain’s perfect cross from the right.

There was much more that occurred during the game, but here are 5 keypoints from the game that really stood out:

Giroud saves the day again – but he must stay as a Plan B

The bearded Olivier Giroud again saved the day with a goal when coming from the bench, just like against Sunderland, and his aerial prowess and linkup play really is an excellent answer to a defence which has our side nonplussed. He is garnering success as the swift change in attacking type is unsettling after facing a certain way for 70 minutes, then having to revert to another method to keep out the bothersome Giroud. The Frenchman will get his fair share of starts, but at this current time, we need to keep working on Sanchez up front, as the signs are that he could be dynamite.

Alexis is the way forward

Whenever we did threaten, it was via the Chilean. With his thigh heavily strapped, he could’ve shirked his duty, but he tracked back, and ploughed a lone furrow up front. Eventually through starvation, he dropped deeper and deeper to try and spark something. He proved a real test to the United defence, and that was all on his own. His goal record when playing up front is testament to what damage he can cause, and the more he plays there, the better he will be. He can undo teams by himself, and while he will have better days, he was still one of the few brighter players.

Ramsey must cement a fixed position

Aaron was our weak link in thi game, and there may be some fervent fans who will disagree, but it was crystal clear that out on the left was not the position to bring the best out of the Welshman. To be honest though, he did himself no favours. He is always full of effort and running, but his positioning was a liability which United nearly exploited – and should’ve done. The reason Antonio Valencia was awarded the MOTM award was because he was afforded the whole of the wing by the absence of Ramsey. This left Nacho double-teamed and undermanned. Ramsey has talent, we know this, but a vague sense of where he plays – and a tendency to be shrugged from the ball too easily – may cost him. This game was one to forget for Rambo.

Jenkinson must take his chance – and it was a good start

Considering it was his first Premiership start for Arsenal since 2014, Jenkinson performed well. He was forced to deal with a lively Marcus Rashford for the majority, and he snuffed out the majority of the threat. He didn’t quite offer the outlet we are used to with Bellerin in the side, but that is to be expected. Plus, this wasn’t the game for rampaging full-backs. It was a solid start from Carl, and he will get the run in the side he craves with Bellerin out for a month. Let’s hope he continues to do well.

Arsenal tactics were wrong

We don’t often see our team play full pelt and truly put our talent on show. When we play our passes at breakneck speed and the runs from each player are unpredictable and frequent. When we do, the results always go in our favour. All teams in the League, with perhaps the exception of City and Chelsea, are not on our technical level, and would not be able to cope with what we are capable of. What is the usual far is we wait and react to our opponents. We are simply reactionary. It is ponderous and frustrating, as it is akin to seeing Max Whitlock playing hopscotch. We should be doing more, especially in this game – and come to mention it, last seasons 3-2 loss was very similar. Mourinho had PHIL JONES and MARCUS ROJO in the centre of defence. All we had to do was attack them, and they would inevitably crumble, but instead we gave them the initiative time and time again. I know it is November, but we are far better than this!!!

There were other highlights that missed the cut, such as Shkodran Mustafi pretty much snuffing out every cross from Antonio Valencia – and there was many -like Oxlade-Chamberlain finally showing he has an excellent end product, and Cech giving us that edge of top class experience he has which made a hige difference. 

It was a point gained after an ungainly performance, but we are still unbeaten since the opening day. We may have lost some initiative, but we showed a fair amount of bottle. We can turn this around, but the next game in PSG, which is no cakewalk. 

Keep working and keep the belief. November was never going to be pretty. 

Manchester United Vs Arsenal – Preview

With the atrocious record Arsenal have at Old Trafford, the last thing we needed was bad news before the game.

That is exactly what was dished out during Arsene Wenger’s press conference though – with the info regarding the availability of vital Spaniards Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin.

credit to Getty Images
On Thursday, Wenger ruled out Bellerin for roughly four weeks after suffering an ankle injury during the Gunner’s last Premiership game, against tottenham. He will miss up to eight games, and not only will he miss this crunch clash, he will be ruled out for the last two fixtures of Arsenal’s Champions League group stage – those being against Paris Saint Germain and FC Basel.

His compatriot Santi Cazorla is also no nearer to a return, as his achilles injury has not healed sufficiently. Even worse is that Wenger confirmed he can not pin down a date for the return of the two-footed midfielder. 

There is room for optimism as we look to this game, as the squad is in ruder health than in many previous seasons, and backup for each position is more than adequate. 

The cover for the players concerned is Carl Jenkinson and a pick of Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka, and it will be a combination of two from those three midfielders that will make up the engine room for the trip to Manchester. Perhaps even the energy and runs of Aaron Ramsey could get a shock recall?

Carl Jenkinson has played well in his few outings thus far this campaign, but the English defender must take his chance while he has it in his grasp. The fan favourite bleeds Arsenal, but if he is to have any future at the club he adores, then he must reassure his boss that he can seamlessly drop into the side and lessen the impact of losing a player of the ilk of Bellerin.

The rest of the team more or less picks itself, aside from two slight niggles. Alexis Sanchez only flew back from international duty with Chile on Wednesday, and after playing on Tuesday against Uruguay despite nursing a troublesome hamstring, Alexis must be fitness tested before taking to the side. 

The other worry is the form of Alex Iwobi. The youngster had to dip eventually after such a blazing start to his professional career, but the dilemma is – do you allow him to play through his bad run, or do you bench him and give someone else a shot? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed recently, and could replace the Nigerian. Iwobi, whilst struggling for form and comabtting poor decision making, has still shown a fantastic ability to pick a pass. 

The choice is Wenger’s.

Jose Mourinho has his fair share of issues to deal with as well, especially with his defence being the opposite of the normally watertight plan of the Portuguese manager – so there is a ray of hope. 

He still has plenty to choose from elsewhere though, but his continuing selection of Marouane Fellaini in the centre of midfield smacks of desperation. When he can take his pick from Schweinsteiger, Mata, Carrick, Herrera and Blind to name but a few in the centre, it shows he is looking for an anchor that simply isn’t one. He is known to prefer a powerhouse in the middle, and if he goes with type again and picks the fuzzy-haired Belgian, then Xhaka, Walcott and Ozil can really take advantage.

United have won two games out of their last five, and are struggling to find a footing, but Arsenal have not won at Old trafford since 2006. This shocking run of results looked to be at an end last season when we travelled to Manchester with United barely able to put a team together and were patched together with youngsters who had barely any top-flight experience.

It didn’t matter though, as United ran out 3-2 winners. Arsenal practically handed the game to the home side with some lackadaisical defending and some prosaic attacking. There was no energy and the plodding players got exactly what they deserved – nothing. 

Hopefully, lessons have been learned. Arsenal again have a great chance to end the Old Trafford hoodoo, and if Alexis is fit and firing, Theo is in tune and Mesut Ozil is fully refreshed after resting during the international break – the Gunners can grab three points and keep pace at the top of the league. 

Predicted lineup – Cech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline – let’s be optimistic – 2-0 Arsenal, with Alexis and Theo scoring. 

Jose and Zlatan – Clash of The Ego’s

Original post on Goonersphere.

The dirty, funky guitar strummed him into a relaxed state. Listening to his favourite band – Coffeepot Drive – always was a precursor to his best plans, and this one was going to wreak havoc upon the Premier League and more importantly – Arsene Wenger.

His head bobbed as the bass guitar reverberated around his plush surroundings, and he swivelled around in his executive leather chair.

The last precious piece of his nefarious mental blueprint was due to walk in any minute now…..


Continue reading Jose and Zlatan – Clash of The Ego’s

Arsene 1-0 Jose

The oversized trophy we regained after this single goal victory over Chelsea will not be valued in the same way as our F.A Cup or our gold Premier League silverware. In fact, it means very little in terms of accolades.

The victory that obtained the 2015 Community Shield however – and who we vanquished for that matter – are what really matters. Continue reading Arsene 1-0 Jose

Community Shield 2015 – Does it Matter?

The 2nd of August sees Arsenal given the opportunity to defend silverware at Wembley again – after doing the same thing so comprehensively in their 4-0 drubbing of Aston Villa in the F.A Cup.

Unlike that glorious reclamation of the oldest football competition in the world though – does the Shield actually matter in the grand scheme of things? Continue reading Community Shield 2015 – Does it Matter?