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Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal Europa Lge Semi 2nd Leg

So, our season hinges on this match. Our 2nd leg of our Europa League Semi-Final versus Atletico Madrid is the biggest game of our season, and we’ve got an almighty task ahead of us.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal in the 2nd leg of the Europa League Semi Final.

The Spanish side have settled into their new home – the Wanda Metropolitana – and their defensive record is up there with the best in the business. They have conceded only four goals at home all season in La Liga – a stat that has been bandied around by everyone attempting to paint a picture of how difficult it will be for us to progress to the final.

A first european final since 2006, and a much needed salve on a campaign that has barely even flattered to deceive. Our Premier League hopes were never really lifted, and with just three games left in the season, we face a fight with Burnley for the ignominy of 6th spot.

Hardly form to strike fear into Atletico and their firebrand manager Diego Simeone – but if it weren’t for a foolish mistake at the back, we would have won the first leg. We played with verve and on the front foot, and the fact we are all so disappointed with a 1-1 draw shows that we really turned up and perhaps deserved a little more.

Still, a defensive lapse has been a symptom of our team thus far, and those brain-farts really need to be reined in if we are to harbour any hopes of reaching the Europa League final in Lyon.

In terms of our team, yet again Arsene Wenger opted to rest his Europa League team for our Premier League efforts, well, the majority of them. The lineup that lost to Manchester United on Sunday will be vastly different to who lines up against Atleti tonight, so Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal will come into our defence, and Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck will most likely be included.

That means the impressive showings of Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will likely be on the bench, although if any of them are to be included, then AMN is the likelier of the two to get the nod. Granit Xhaka needs defensive cover and while Aaron Ramsey offers much, when it comes to offering a guardian behind Xhaka, that is not exactly his strong point.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one who should make the cut after playing and scoring in the weekend, and the Armenian’s guile will be sorely needed to pierce a formidable Madrid defence.

Diego Godin is the lynchpin of Simeone’s side, but it won’t be the Uruguayan who poses the threat. Antione Griezmann has already showed his ability to score despite living off breadcrumbs for the majority of a game. Diego Costa is also fit and ready to go, and the double act will score goals if we switch off – which means that’s bad news for us.

Saul Niguez is another who can change the game, so we’ll have our hands full. We need to keep it tight at the back, and also score.

What is required is perhaps our best display in quite some years. Think our 5-1 at the San Siro. Our win at the Bernabeu. Our 2-1 win over Barca.

Trouble is, those results happened some time ago. It’s time to make some more memories.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitraryan, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 1-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich – The Preview

This match is exactly what the football doctor ordered. 

After our poor performance at Anfield in the weekend, falling out of the Champions League places and our star player reportedly rowing with the rest of the squad, the visit of German giants Bayern Munich is not the best opportunity for returning to some semblance of form.

The first leg of this Last16 tie saw hope quickly vanish for the Gunners once Laurent Koscielny went off through injury, as within nine minutes of the captain leaving the field, Bayern had scored three goals.

This tie is beyond any realistic hope of rescue, but a win over Ancelotti’s men could restore some pride and some momentum after recent results have ground the cannon to a halt.

Arsenal will more than likely play their strongest side, even if this game could be perceived as a dead rubber. Mesut Ozil has been ruled out again through illness, but what of Alexis Sanchez? Surely, even if the Chilean is at odds with some teammates, Sanchez must play?

Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka did not put up a good account of themselves against Liverpool, and with Aaron Ramsey now fit and raring to go, the Welshman must be a good shout for a start. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also playing well, could we see a wholly different midfield combo? 

Alex Iwobi has been indifferent of late, but with regular playmaker Ozil already confirmed as missing, the man known as ‘Big17’ will more than likely retain his place. Olivier Giroud returned to the side in our last match, but a lack of service did not help the Frenchman in his bid to hold down a spot. Will Arsene again opt for a direct approach?

Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez have performed admirably in their last appearances, and the England striker and Spaniard must be hoping for a chance. They cannot do much more, although with Welbeck having played only three days ago, Wenger may opt to conserve his fitness.

On the face of things, with our squad so strong in numbers, the odds of rotation and to include hungry players is strong. Perhaps a shake up to remind some players their place isn’t guaranteed is exactly what is needed.

There are no signs Carlo Ancelotti is taking this tie lightly despite already having one foot in the Quarter-Finals. Mats Hummels, Franck Ribery, Xabi Alonso and Arjen Robben were all rested in the weekend and all are expected to feature. 

Arsenal do possess a great record at The Emirates in the Champions League, but the majority of the losses they have incurred have been in the knockout stages. There is a sliver of hope though, as Bayern have won one of their last six away games in the Champions League. 

Slim our hopes may be, but we have beaten them before, and we can do again. We will not progress, that chance was dropped in the first leg, but we can win and remind everyone – including our own players – that we are capable of so much more.

A protest is planned before the game and banners will apparently be displayed during the game. Whether we agree or not with the methods, we have all witnessed a lot of games where we have been sub-par. We are all at our limit, and some display their displeasure in different ways. As long as the team is supported during the game then that is all that matters.

I will be attending the game and you can expect a detailed match report after the match, and I can expect a hoarse voice the next day as I will do what I always do when I go to the game – I will sing and chant until my throat cannot take any more.

Predicted Lineup; Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Theo, Iwobi, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – Call me crazy, but I’m going for a 2-0 win. 

Arsenal 2-1 Burnley: 5 Key Points 

The last ten minutes saw two penalties awarded and Arsenal snatch victory from the jaws of embarrassment with an Alexis penalty.

Arsenal looked to have scraped past a battling Burnley thanks to Shkodran Mustafi’s first goal in an Arsenal shirt, but a 93rd minute penalty from Andre Gray gave Burnley a share of the spoils.

Burnley turned up to The Emirates with an appalling away record – 1 point from 27 – and a gameplan to frustrate the home team. It worked a treat, as a combination of stifling tactics and some questionable refereeing saw Arsenal nearly drop valuable points that no one could foresee.

The first half was an exercise in frustration as there was a premium on clear cut chances, and Burnley looked to hit on the break. Both teams flattered to deceive, but 74% of Arsenal possession tells its own story.

The second half was a typical Arsenal half. Firstly, in the 59th minute, Mustafi scored his first Arsenal goal via a corner, and the script was going according to plan.

Less than ten minutes later, Granit Xhaka saw red for a typically full-on challenge on Steven Defour – and this was where the game changed. From there, Burnley looked to bombard the Gunners aerially, but it looked like they were going to hold on.

Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi were both nursing injuries but dragged them selves through the minutes, but in the 3rd minute of seven stoppage time minutes – Jon Moss blew up for  a Burnley penalty.

Andre Gray converted and it looked to all that Chelsea would see all of their rivals drop points. The Arsenal spirit finally flickered though, and they snatched an unlikely winner.

Ben Mee gave away a penalty only three minutes after Burnley had grabbed an equaliser, and Alexis was the hero, as he scored to take Arsenal to second.

Arsene Wenger was sent off late on as he remonstrated with assistant referee Anthony Taylor, and this will be under the spotlight in the media for days to come. 

There was a lot to take in, but here are 5 key points from the game:
Xhaka needs to alter technique

The Swiss star had a past littered with red cards before joining, and now he has two sendings off in his first season. It is great to see him gung-ho, but it is clearly not working in the Premiership. He needs to. Hänge how he retrieves the ball, as he almost cost us.
Jon Moss strikes again.

Xhaka’s  two red cards? Both given by Jon Moss. Who was the assistant ref? Anthony Taylor. Xhaka can have little excuse, but Moss gave a chequered display with his decisions. He was a huge factor in this game.
Ramsey on fire

The Welshman was a decisive role at both ends of the pitch, and he looks to be improving with every match. Long may it continue.
Alexis back to the centre please

We are better with the Chilean as striker. Such is his prowess that he is effective anywhere, but his strike rate tells its own story. We looked stilted and we nearly paid the price. 
Alexis in defence

His chasing and tackling in the pressure-packed last twenty minutes was one of the biggest reasons why we held on. He was brilliant in aiding our beleaguered defenders, and his appetite for the ball is a delightful asset.
Phew! What a relief. I’d love to hear what you all think. It’s quite clear we were not at our best, but we won and that is the ultimate goal. An improvement will be necessary! 

2015/16 Season Review – Part 2. January – May.

Originally posted on Goonersphere

This second part continues the trawl through the thirty eight games we call a Premier League season.

The first part concentrated on August through to December, and this part will be a focus on the second half of our league campaign.

Amongst the numbers, we will hopefully be able to discover what dropped points hurt us the most, which are easily rectifiable – and which mistakes must be erased if next season we are to go one better.

Strap in tight, here we go –

Continue reading 2015/16 Season Review – Part 2. January – May.

It’s Happened Again – For The 21st Year……

We had plenty of time to adjust to it.

Any occasion in which events go against the grain, it is difficult to acclimatise to the new settings.

We had the whole of the second half of this season to wrap our heads around the fact that our neighbours – who for so long squirmed under our boot – had finally wriggled free of our supremacy and were going to reverse tradition.

Continue reading It’s Happened Again – For The 21st Year……