Tag Archives: wembley

Up For The Cup

If glory was easily achievable, it wouldn’t shine so brightly.

Silverware is in hot demand, and is more fiercely contested now than it ever has been.

Not so long ago, the League cup was treated as a runaround for the youth teams, to blood our club’s latest prodigies in a safe environment that carried zero risk or ramification for the season.

Even the institution of the FA Cup took a bit of a hammering at some point but now?

Every competition is an opportunity.

Our current FA Cup run is a rare bright spot in a season of beige’s and grey’s. Aside from the changes new boss Mikel Arteta is making, our season has been dragged into obscurity through poor results.

The FA Cup however, carries a promise of another special day.

fa-cup-wembley-pitch-800

We are lucky enough to be able to recall some recent Cup wins. Even discounting before 2014, we still have three FA Cups to our name, each with their own memories and day that we can recall with crystal clear clarity.

It lights up a season, and in the future when we recall a certain campaign, it doesn’t matter of our league position was underwhelming.

All we will recall is lifting the cup.

The problem with our chances this season however, is that the remaining teams in front of us is an all Premier League affair. No lower league teams to face, no plucky resistance to shatter when our Premier League class eventually tells amidst sapping energy levels.

If we want to lift the cup again and rescue this season from ignominy, we will have to do it the hard way.

That is predominantly how we normally like to do things, but with both Manchester teams and Chelsea still in the draw, we will need to overcome some rather large hurdles.

Still, that is how memories are made. No one expected us to win in 2017, but in what will forever be known as the “BFG Final” we prevailed thanks to a masterclass of defending from the retiring Mertesacker – and yet another cup-winning goal from Aaron Ramsey.

The FA Cup represents a chance to get our hands on some serious silverware again – something our neighbours can only dream of and have frantically attempted for a number of decades now. Go all the way, and we make history once again.

Our Europa League adventure ended woefully and prematurely. We only have this and our remaining Premier League fixtures left of the campaign. We cannot forget about our slim opportunity to qualify for Europe through the league, but in terms of rotation, if we have a chance to preserve the legs of our top players for the cup, then we have the squad to do so – and do so we must.

Finishing in the top four will be prioritised by the club hierarchy as the monetary gains that come from the Champions League far outweigh the purse that comes with walking up those famous Wembley steps and lifting the cup.

But from a fan perspective?

Nothing beats a cup final day.

 

Chelsea and spurs Money Woes is Deja Vu for Gunners

The current situations of Tottenham and Chelsea are, first and foremost, hilarious.

Chelsea owe billionaire owner Roman Abramovich over a billion pounds in unpaid, interest free loans that the Russian has forked out since his time as Oligarch of West London.

The money has seemingly dried up at Stamford Bridge. Case in point was last season’s curb on spending that led to Conte having an unhappy attempt at regaining the title with an ageing and limited squad.

Now, plans for a lavish new stadium to replace the decrepit Bridge have been canned, with Chelsea accountants having kittens and waylaying any plans for growth in an attempt to get out of the red and back in black.

Chelsea and their plans for a new stadium

Then there is Tottenham.

Our neighbours in North London are currently way over budget for constructing their new home, as they seek to complete it in time for the 2018/19 season.

At this moment in time, this is looking unlikely, and an option to retain Wembley as their home ground next season is looking more and more likely to be taken.

The money situation is not healthy either for spurs. With the new stadium causing Daniel Levy to dig deep and the playing staff failing yet again to win a trophy, tottenham are on the precipice.

Do they spend what available loot they have to keep their key men? Or do they put it toward strengthening, and cash in on one of their big players?

The likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli both know that if they were to talk to interested parties, they would be hearing figures that absolutely dwarf their current deals. They know they can get far more elsewhere, so a contract extension must be a lucrative one for both of them.

Then there is the likes of Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Eric Dier. All are wanted elsewhere, and all would command far more than they currently earn at spurs.

Levy knows this, but if he pumps all of the available cash into keeping them, then the status quo remains, and they can’t significantly strengthen. Pochettino has worked wonders at the club, but the bottom line is that even with their current squad, they are still potless.

So something must give.

Meanwhile, Gooners are sitting back and enjoying the cash crises that both clubs are embroiled in.

You see, we’ve been there, and we had to make those tough calls, we had to shed our leading lights, we had to endure the cheap purchases that risked much. We had to pay back the bills – and yet we managed to do so whilst maintaining a Champions League place.

What Arsene Wenger managed to do in the years that followed the completion of The Emirates is nothing short of miraculous, and should be seen as one of his finest achievements. He managed to keep a side that contained the likes of Philippe Senderos, Manuel Almunia and Andre Santos, and kept them on the straight and narrow, instilled the same attacking values that he had done throughout his tenure.

Chelsea enjoyed the fruits of Abramovich’s deep pockets unhindered for nearly fifteen years, spending lasciviously and flagrantly ignoring the concept of a healthy balance and an independent outlook to club ownership that didn’t involve relying so heavily on one man.

Now the piper is knocking on the door and wants to collect.

Chelsea, in order to truly keep their place amongst the elite, NEED to move to a new stadium, to build that complex. The longer they stay at The Bridge, the worse their situation will get, and the risks become ever greater.

Spurs need to ride out 3-5 years of cost-cutting and balancing the books. These years will either see them maintain their position as one of the perma-Champions League clubs, or they will slip and find it much harder to find their way back.

What about us though?

Well, we’ve got our new home, and we’re raking it in – but with our new owner almost invisible and minding the pennies, it isn’t as if we are out of the woods. It means that the positions that our London cohorts find themselves in is a leveller – and the next few seasons will be us duking it out for the supremacy of the capital.

Should be a real slugfest.

Carabao Cup Final – Arsenal Vs Man City Preview

Despite our inability to muster any form of consistency throughout a turbulent season, we’ve somehow got a great chance at some silverware.

The League Cup has been derided for many years, but in recent seasons, some of the elite have gone all out to claim the trophy. And what’s not to desire?

It is a Wembley trip for fans, it’s a trophy in what is becoming a lethal battleground for glory. to win a cup is harder than ever, so Arsene Wenger must be delighted we’re just one game away from lifting silverware.

It also represents the only domestic trophy he has never won, and winning it would mean he joins an elite group of managers. His opponent that blocks his path to the annals of history though, couldn’t be much tougher.

Pep Guardiola’s City side are walking away with the title and are looking a tasty bet for the Champions League, although it is rather early to say. We’ve only beaten them once in the last five games and we sit a massive 27 points behind them in the Premier League table.

There are strands of optimism to latch onto though.

Claudio Bravo will be taking City’s goalkeeping spot ahead of the effervescent Ederson, and the former Barca man may be talented, but his own way of commanding his area has not translated well to our shores. He represents a weakness in the City juggernaut.

Then there is the defence. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are well covered by Pep’s attention to detail and his need for an effective press, but when pressured, their insistence to play out from the back can be preyed upon.

Still, we need to be at our best to use these weaknesses as weapons, and we haven’t been anywhere near that for some time. We’ve hit splashes of form – our North London Derby win earlier in the season was particularly effective, and our games against Chelsea have shown we can knuckle down and play a different way.

They’ve been few and far between though.

In terms of team news, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is cup-tied, so it looks as if Jack Wilshere will take his place in the side. Mesut Ozil should return after illness and Aaron Ramsey – he who is making a welcome habit of having an impact in cup finals – looks set to return too.

In defence, we should be able to recall Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal to our defence. That is a huge boost as without them we are as weak as kittens fighting off any form of attack – and City have one of the best.

Gabriel Jesus is available for selection, but with Aguero on form it may be a place on the bench for the fit-again Brazilian. Kevin DeBruyne will provide the ammo, but Raheem Sterling is nursing a muscle strain and could miss out. Fabian Delph is suspended.

There will be many key areas that we need to win on the pitch if we’re to harbour any hope of upsetting the odds. Midfield is certainly the most important.

If Granit Xhaka and Rambo can take control in the engine room, then they can make sure that City’s defence is kept in a pressure cooker, and when they play out from deep, we can keep a high line and eke out mistakes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is vital to this plan.

The Gabon striker is lightning-heeled, and if he presses effectively, then the likes of Otamendi, Stones or Laporte and Gundogan could be pushed into corners. Pivotal to City is David Silva.

The little Spaniard so often provides the link between DeBruyne and midfield, and if he’s allowed any space, then the battle is lost. Xhaka needs to pick up his runners more effectively, and if he does then half the battle is won.

Another talking point has been whether to use a 3-man defence. It seems to be better suited to combat City’s attack, and when Nacho is more central, then we seem a little tougher to beat.

This could prove to be a turning point in our season, a catalyst. Or it could be a false dawn. Either way, we should be giving everything to this cause – something our players can’t claim to have done for a while.

Predicted scoreline – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Aubameyang

Predicted scoreline – 3-2 to The Arsenal. #UTA

North London Derby Preview.

Could this match matter any more than it does?

No, and it amps up every season, especially with our neighbours starting to make a nasty habit of looking down on us.

This current North London Derby is no different, but the ramifications for the loser of this tussle are huge for either team.

We sit in sixth place, and four points behind spurs. If we lose this game,then we’ll have a massive seven point gap to traverse just to get to fifth spot. It would probably signal the end of our Champions League spot hopes, placing even more importance on our Europa League campaign.

So, it is quite obvious that we have a little more to lose than Pochettino’s lot.

They will still feel the burn should we do the double over them this season with victory.

A win for them could see them rise to the heights of 3rd spot, but should they lose, they’ll be likely five points from 3rd, and a mere point above us – with low confidence and a tough tie against Juventus in their midst.

One thing we have in our favour is that they did play in midweek. It may have been League Two opposition, but Newport County gave a fantastic account of themselves at Wembley, and tottenham used more than a few first team regulars in order to despatch their FA Cup opponent.

Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Heung Son-Min, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks were among the eleven, and should they be selected they’ll be lacking that ten percent of energy that we’ll have after our weeks rest.

In Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference, our manager revealed that Nacho Monreal will thankfully be fit to take his place in the side, but the jury is still out on Petr Cech who was injured during our 5-1 win over Everton last week. David Ospina stands by to deputise.

Wenger has a selection headache too.

Aaron Ramsey scored a hat-trick in his last outing and the Welshman is surely a shoe-in for a start in this game.

But who partners him in midfield?

Granit Xhaka has been on point when it comes to his distribution, but wedging him into the DM role that clearly doesn’t fit him isn’t working. We could try fitting in Mohamed Elneny in a three man central midfield, but what of Jack Wilshere? The England man has been one of our best players in recent weeks and with his passion for Arsenal – a start in the NLD is a must, surely?

Then there is our attack.

Our new boys, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, both hit the ground running, and their partnership is a huge plus for us. They start, and obviously Mesut Ozil does too,but that means Alexandre Lacazette could be on the bench again.The Frenchman has so much quality that he should be a guaranteed starter, but our attack already has three, if Lacazette starts alongside Aubameyang, Ozil and Mkhitaryan, then we need a formation change.

Will Wenger change things up after such a handsome win though? Changing a winning team is not something Arsene does often, so Lacazette may again start from the bench.

We need this win for our league hopes, never mind bragging rights. We’ve got enough in our locker to do it, but our 2-0 win earlier in the season showed that we need to have an active press, and attack using the speed we have.

Plus, we’ve got our Wembley record to maintain.

Predicted lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Win 2017 Community Shield! 

Published on The Arsenal Review.

Arsenal came from behind to defeat Chelsea on penalties and win the 2017 Community Shield.

Whilst some denounce the Community Shield as nothing more than just another friendly, there are some reasons that unfolded on the pitch to suggest Arsenal can be quietly confident this coming season. 

Arsene Wenger was unable to call on leading lights Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, as well as Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny, so his selected eleven was a weaker one than he would have preferred. 

Alex Iwobi came into the team and Danny Welbeck was in the attacking three also. Per Mertesacker came into the team to once again haunt Chelsea, with Mohamed Elneny taking Rambo’s midfield spot.

Antonio Conte had the luxury of a nearly complete squad, with only Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko missing. It meant Chelsea went into the game as favourites, but just like the FA Cup Final – Arsenal paid no heed to their underdog tag.

The Gunners were faster out of the blocks, with Alexandre Lacazette looking in good touch and Hector Bellerin getting forward to great effect.

It would be Lacazette who would have the best chance too, linking up well with Bellerin before curling an effort onto the post with Courtois beaten. 

Before that, Gary Cahill smashed his elbow into the nose of Per Mertesacker, forcing the German off with blood pouring from the wound. On came new boy Sead Kolasinac, and the Bosnian would make a big difference. 

Chelsea did have one opportunity, and one they claimed should have been a penalty. William went down and referee Bobby Maddely booked the Brazilian for simulation. Upon close inspection, it could have gone either way as there was contact, but Willian did make the most of it.

Half time came and went and it was Chelsea who started the better in the second half, and Victor Moses broke the deadlock.

The Nigerian, the villain of the FA Cup Final in May, chested down a header from Cahill and slotted past Cech. 

The Blues started to gain confidence, but the ten minutes of pressure after the goal they exerted came to nothing.

It would cost them dearly.

Granit Xhaka stretched Courtois with a ferocious long range strike, but Gooners had to wait until the 82nd minute for the equaliser their team deserved.

The 80th minute saw Pedro plant his studs on the Achilles of Elneny, and the Spaniard was sent off. The resultant set-piece saw Xhaka float in a tantalising ball which Sead Kolasinac met and he headed into the far corner.

There would be no extra time, so penalties were the order of the day. This would be the first fixture where the order of the takers would switch to the new ‘ABBA’ format. The reason? 60% of the sides who took the first penalty in the old format would win.

So, history was made, and Arsenal again were successful in a shootout, with Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata missing their efforts and Arsenal converting all of theirs.

The Shield was won, and again they had won a trophy with holes in their side. It was the display which pleased most of us though. Tough but swift in attack at times, Arsenal look well equipped for the coming season. 

This may or may not constitute a trophy, but it is definitely a great start. 

Community Shield Preview

Published on The Arsenal Review

The season finally gets underway with this fixture. The Community Shield has been the curtain-raiser for many years, and this season starts with a London derby with plenty of expected fireworks to look forward to.

Last season saw the Gunners edge out their West London opponents in terms of amount of victories – one apiece in League wins, with Arsenal grabbing the decider with their victory in the FA Cup Final – but Antonio Conte winning the title in his first season means the Blues will start this fixture as favourites.









Last season means precious little however. Both sides will be fit and raring to go after both clubs have enjoyed extensive series of matches home and abroad, so there should be no lack of rhythm or final ball. 

This event is meant to be a friendly, but it will be anything but as both sides will be eager to score psychological points over the other. Both outfits will be expected to be near the top come the end of the season, and a winning start over a rival is something that may be a big boost – and a huge dent for the other.

Both sides have already met in pre-season, with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners in Asia. It may have smarted, but this game carries far more weight.

Arsene Wenger has said in his Press Conference that his squad is nearly completely injury free, so the Gunners boss has some difficult calls to make. The only omissions from the squad will be Santi Cazorla and Gabriel, as well as Francis Coquelin. Will Wenger opt for the 3-5-2? Or will he fall back on his old faithful – the 4-2-3-1?

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were carrying knocks but are expected to make it, but what of Alexis? The Chilean has just returned to training, will he come straight back into the team? In truth, there is an embarrassment of riches in attack for Wenger, with Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette all vying for the striker spot.

If Wenger does go for three at the back, will Shkodran Mustafi miss out? The German has missed the majority of training, but is technically fit and available for selection. If Mustafi does miss out, will it be Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny or Per Mertesacker that will partner Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal?

So many questions, but Antonio Conte has just as many quandaries. With Alvaro Morata, Kevin Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko added to an already bulging roster, what will Chelsea’s eleven look like? Will the success of last season dictate Conte’s selection? Or will Morata and co get a baptism of fire? He will have to make do without Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury.

Whoever makes the team at Wembley, they will surely know that this is no ordinary ‘friendly.’ Both sets of fans will want this trophy badly, as will the Managers, although they will be loath to declare their wanting. This match matters though, make no mistake.

Chelsea are favourites for this game, but they were overwhelming favourites in May – and look how that turned out.

Potential Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.


Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal.

Arsenal Win The 2017 FA Cup!!! 

The FA Cup is back in the rightful possession of Arsenal for a record 13th time, as against all odds, the Gunners pulled a virtuoso performance out of the bag and bested favourites and champions Chelsea.








Few would have given Arsenal a chance before kickoff, and the bookies agreed. They couldn’t be blamed though, and Gooners who were looking upon this Final with a bleak realism were merely taking all things into consideration.


First choice goalkeeper Petr Cech ruled out through injury, and backup keeper David Ospina rusty. Our defence was down to its bare bones, with Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs ruled out before the game. Uncertainty hanging over not only star players Alexis and Mesut Ozil, but also our manager.


Not to mention the most disappointing league campaign in the last two decades.


We were going into this game with our backs to the wall. Chelsea had won the Premiership on the back of an incredible run of results. They had seen off all comers and were going into the game looking to complete the Double in Antonio Conte’s first season at the club.


It went from bad to worse when Per Mertesacker was named in Arsenal’s starting XI. The German defender had not started a game in 13 months, and despite his knowledge, defensive nous and leadership qualities – his lack of match sharpness against Costa, Hazard and co would surely cost the Gunners dearly?


Not this time.


Mertesacker and Arsenal emphatically answered doubters and dragged Chelsea from their pedestal with aplomb. From minute one to minute ninety four, Arsenal were superior in every department across the lush Wembley turf. Our ramshackle defence kept Costa stifled. Hazard, Pedro and the other Blues widemen were too busy taking part in defensive duties to go rampaging forward. 


When they did wriggle free, Monreal, Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain stuck to them and never allowed these dangerous players that inch of space to turn and create havoc.


Then there was our midfield of Xhaka and Ramsey. It seems it has taken this performance for all to recognise what the Swiss star offers. He was robust in the tackle, astute in his positioning and always available for the ball. Ramsey provided the bridge between defence and attack, and he was absolutely tireless. He was also the goal hero as he was in 2014. 


Mesut Ozil never stopped probing and he was as busy as anyone has been this season. The German deserves plaudits for his inspiring performance, and Alexis did what Alexis always does.


It really underlined how important it is to keep them for next season.


The first half of the game was the pattern of the whole game. Chelsea struggled to keep a grip on the movement of Arsenal, and the best opportunities went to the Gunners.


The first real chance resulted in the deadlock being broken, and it was inside five minutes. The ball looped over the Chelsea defence and Ramsey was well offside. He left it for the onrushing Sanchez who put it past Courtois, but it took referee Anthony Taylor having a confab with the linesman before it was awarded.


Then, Sanchez put through Ozil, who saw his effort cleared off the line by Cahill, as Arsenal started to roar up the gears.


Then, Welbeck met an Ozil corner well with a header, but it hit the post, before Ramsey hit the post with the loose ball. Chelsea were on the ropes and Arsenal were throwing flurries to finish the fight.


Then, a neat move saw Welbeck through on goal, but a combo of Courtois and Cahill again saved Chelsea and it meant that for all of Arsenal’s superiority, we were still only a goal up. We had read this script before.


There had been a few sniffs at goal for Costa, but Mertesacker’s positioning was perfection each time the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard threatened.


A crucial moment came early in the second half, when Victor Moses couldn’t cope with Welbeck on the flank and wrestled him to the ground, earning a booking. This would turn out to be more than a mere booking. Minutes later, Bellerin found space and his low effort was well saved by Courtois. The same pattern was emerging, Arsenal were on the throttle, with Chelsea scrabbling for purchase.


Then, Chelsea were on the attack. Moses twisted and teased Oxlade-Chamberlain out on the right before attempting to cut in. 


The Ox went with his man but was sensible in his harrying. Moses went down in the box like Piers Morgan’s career, and lo and behold – previously anti-Arsenal referee Anthony Taylor again utilised common sense and booked Moses for diving – thus Chelsea were now a man down.


Arsenal were clearly on top of things, and they now had a man advantage. Things were looking rosy – but all Gooners know that nothing can be taken for granted.


And so it proved.


A ball in the air was chested down by Costa in the box, and it gave him an inch of space to fire in a volley. Ospina had been on top of everything so far in the game, but his weak effort to save it was not enough and it gave Chelsea parity when it seemed the game was walking away from them.


Welbeck came off to a deserved ovation and was replaced by Olivier Giroud – and the Frenchman wasted no time in getting busy.


He found himself in the box and he squeezed in a cross. Ramsey had ghosted in between two defenders and headed it into the net – and Arsenal had regained the lead just two minutes after giving it up.


This Arsenal side had let themselves down so many times in the league, but this performance needed to be finished with a cup win – such was the level of excellence from each and every Arsenal player.


Bellerin nearly capped off the game but put the ball wide, and then Chelsea got a chance to again equalise undeservedly. Diego Costa barged in and volleyed from close range, but Ospina saved well. Ozil then was in acres of space, chopped inside his man and opted for the near post, but the post denied him.


It was enough though.


Arsene Wenger’s men had left it all on the pitch, and it meant this was Arsene Wenger’s seventh FA Cup win – which makes him the most successful manager in Cup history. Arsenal are now also the most successful Cup team in history.


This was perhaps the sweetest win from the last three though. We defeated a powerful opponent, defied all odds and we didn’t just scrape the win – we ensured Chelsea couldn’t handle us.


Let us enjoy this. Let this be a reminder that despite us missing the Champions League next season, despite our shaky league form – we are capable of being the team that we have seen in the past. We are capable of being the great team that our players want us to be.















So, the FA Cup is back home. Arsene Wenger has masterminded another Cup for us and another placard for The Emirates.

Forget the speculation that will engulf us in the summer, just for a moment. Let’s wallow in this.


This win is exactly what we will remember in years to come, and tell our kids and grandkids about.