Let the season truly begin!!

Even though the season has begun long back and teams have played 3/4 matches each, the real season cannot begin till the transfer window closes and the shape of the teams becomes crystallized. This especially goes for the teams like Portsmouth who bought around 13 players in the window and sold around 11. So after major or minor overhauls in teams across the premier league and the transfer window finally shut on Tuesday we can now concentrate on football rather than the transfer gossip surrounding the game.

I will be commenting on the dealings in the transfer market of all the major teams and am beginning with the layout for Arsenal.

Arsenal sold its leading goal scorer for the last couple of years to Man City but did not go into the transfer market for any replacement. They also sold Kolo Toure and bought Thomas Vermaleen (who by the way is looking like a really good buy by Wenger) as his replacement.

Arsenal could definitely have done with some more good defensive cover both in the centre midfield and centre half positions and a better keeper should have been secured. I know finding good keepers is not that easy but that cant possibly be an excuse. But you know Wenger, and you should know that he will never agree that the existing squad is not good enough or big enough in spite of selling more players than that come in for the last few seasons at least.

I am not worried about the quality of the team we have. They are all good young players who have great futures ahead of them. What troubles me more is the fact that every year we have a few bad injuries to our players and that’s when we are faced with the apparent question of our squad not being big enough and lacking the depth to compete with our Premier league rivals. Why cant we factor in a few injuries and invest in the squad accordingly before hand?

I remember last season too, in January Fabregas was out and we really missed him bad and the team went on to draw a number of matches in a row  till Wenger eventually bought Arshavin on the last day of the transfer window and given some time he was settled he proved to be a very good signing for us. What I never understood then or even now is why Wenger has to wait till the last day of the transfer window to buy a player of Arshavin’s caliber? What is he waiting for? To get a cut price deal or what? I think that’s a big risk and should not be taken when dealing in the market for players of such high class. You never know when a rival might come in and scupper the deal for you.

Frankly speaking If Arshavin had come to Arsenal at the beginning of January, who knows how that bad run of draws might have turned out and we might even have had a chance at the title. Haggling over a million dollars cost Arsenal scores of points and in the broad scheme of things I really wonder if it was all worth it. I am glad that at least this year Wenger had his eyes on Vermaleen and closed the deal much earlier which gave the new joinee time to mingle with the team and helped his integration in the team to a great deal. The result of which is apparent in his performances from the first match itself.

I remember last summer we were trying to get Xabi Alonso from Liverpool who in turn were trying to buy Gareth Barry. Wenger went in with an offer on the last day of the transfer window which was around a million short of what Liverpool wanted. Around 12- 15 million pounds was the amount speculated then. For a player of Alonso’s class couldn’t we have bought him for what it took? For all you know it would have been us selling him to Madrid this year for more than twice the amount we bought him for. And Last season’s results could have been much different with the Spanish partnership of Alonso and Fabregas in the middle. Anyways, what’s happened has happened. We cannot change that but sometimes it pains me to see Wenger haggle over players of the class of Arshavin, Alonso or Nasri. He is too adamant and sometimes his haggling tactics backfire (like in the case of Xabi Alonso) and the negative impact of the same is very difficult to even calculate. Xabi Alonso was a smaller case to point out. Wenger’s policy has cost us many a good players in the past which includes the likes of Ronaldo (Fergie outbid Arsenal), Eto’o (Was offered by Barca in a swap deal for Henry), Wilson Palcacios who had a trial at Arsenal and we suggested him to Birmingham where he flourished and was snapped up by Wigan only to be sold a year later to spurs for a magnanimous profit.

So for all the shrewd deals Wenger has done over the years, he sure has missed quite a few too. Imagine Ronaldo having come to Arsenal instead of going to Manchester united. The last 3 years the title wouldn’t have been at old Trafford. Henry might not have left Arsenal for Barca and what not. But again we should let bygones be bygones and learn to move on.

One good piece of business Wenger has done in the past couple of years is snatching away Aaron Ramsey from under Fergie’s nose a couple of years ago. Ramsey shows so many glimpses of Fabregas when he was that age. I already think its Wenger’s plan to train young Rambo on the lines of Fabregas and groom him to take over the centre of Arsenal’s midfield before we sell Fabregas to one of the Spanish giants for a record breaking amount in a couple of years.

Arsenal teams looks to have good balance this time of the year especially with not many people out with long term injuries. We could have done with a better keeper I am sure, but Wenger decided to continue with his faith in Almunia. Almunia isn’t bad but he is prone to one off errors which can cost us some valuable points.

Defensively I think we are very well covered especially since Senderos could not be offloaded to any team. I still feel Arsenal should’ve stolen Everton’s deal for Johnny Heitinga and brought him to the Emirates and in the process offloaded Senderos to Everton (who were in dire needs of a defender to cover for Lescott’s departure to Manchester City). I rate Heitinga among the very best defenders available in the market today and he would have been a good backup for Gallas and Vermaleen. Anyways we still have Djourou, Silvestre and Senderos as backup for the centre half position. For Right back we have Eboue as a back up to Sagna and for Left back we have Armand Traore and Kieran Gibbs as backup to Gael Clichy. More than enough coverage I guess. Though the quality drop for the backup compared to the first team is immense at some places.

Given Arsenal’s new 4-3-3 formation. I’d prefer Alexandre Song over Denilson as Defensive midfielder simply because Denilson gives away the ball too easily at times. And I continue to say that Song is fast emerging into a great Defensive midfielder for Arsenal. Arsenal recently tied Bendtnar and Denilson to long term contracts and I hear one with revised terms is on the cards for Song too. Denilson can play in this position as a backup in case Song gets injured etc.

In front of Song I would like Fabregas and Nasri to play. Once Nasri is back from injury I would like to see him flourish playing his favored central midfielder role alongside Captain fabulous. Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey and Merida can play as back up for these positions in the absence of Nasri or Fabregas. Merida looked good when he came on as a substitute in one of the matches and he too recently signed a long term contract with Arsenal. Merida sure has potential and just needs to keep working hard in training to impress the manager for more minutes this season.

For the three forwards I would like Van Persie to play through the centre for the sheer reason of his height. Eduardo/Arshavin can play down the left and Arshavin/Walcott can play down the right. Obviously the front 3 formation is very fluid and they will all keep changing positions so as to make runs into the penalty box. As back up to the wide men we have Rosicky returning from injury, Walcott returning from injury soon, young Jack Wilshere with that sensational left foot of his, Carlos Vela, Fran Merida, Diaby, and Armand Traore etc. As a back up at the centre we have Nikolas Bendtnar who scored some crucial goals for the team last season. Then there are Vela and Eduardo who are natural strikers.

I think the squad has a good depth to it when you isolate each position individually. The problems for Arsenal have been when a couple of players face long lay-offs due to injury and there is not enough quality to fill the gaps.

In spite of all that I still think if Arsenals first team players can remain fit for most of the season and especially the crunch matches then we will have a really good season ahead of us and who knows a much awaited trophy might come our way.

Preferred line up: –

 

                                                        Almunia

 

Sagna                        Gallas                        Vermaleen                  Clichy

 

                                                  Alexandre Song

 

                                     Fabregas                         Nasri

 

 Arshavin/Walcott                                                        Eduardo/Arshavin

                                          Robin Van Persie / Bendtnar

 Subs: – Fabianski, Eboue, Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Walcott/Eduardo, Bendtnar/RVP, Diaby/Denilson/Vela/Rosicky/Wilshere/Ramsey

All in all I can’t say we need to replace some one in the first team (except the goalie) unless it’s with an established world class player. But the bench sure could have been strengthened to a great extent. But still if this Arsenal team cannot put up a good fight for the title as well in the FA cup and Champions league I am sure to be surprised.

 Go gunners go!!!

Arsenal v Manchester United Semi Final no. 2!!!

A wonder strike from the World’s best footballer helped Manchester United become the first English side to beat Porto at home and go through to the Semi Final of the Champions league.

The Red devils slayed the dragons in their own home ground after Ronaldo scored a stunning strike from all of 40 yards to give United the cushion they needed to sit back and absorb any attack from the dragons.

It was a classic European job by Fergie’s men.

They will now face Arsenal in the semifinal after Arsenal comfortably defeated Villareal by 3 goals.

Wonderkid Theo Walcott opened the scoring after just 10 mins with a delightfull chip over keeper Diego Lopez. Walcott was a constant thorn in the right side of the midfield troubling Capdevilla on more than one ocassions…

Adebayor scored the second at the hour mark and after the next few mins Walcott won a penalty for Arsenal. The decision was dubious and Villareal players protested to no avail.

Robin Van Persie converted from the spot to make it 3-0. Arsenal are comfortably through.

Once again we have an English side assured place in the Champions league final and who knows we might have another all English Final…

Great game by Arsenal and Good European display by the Red Devils.

Catch you all at the Semi finals again!!!

Arshavin annouces arrival

Arsenal 4 Blackburn 0. Such a scoreline is a rare reading these days for Arsenal fans but thanks to Arshavin’s dazzling performance the same was made possible on saturday against Blackburn.

Arsenal began in such style that i thought this would be one of those matches where Arsenal would score 4/5 goals. Arshavin scored in the 2nd minute itself from a Walcott cross. Walcott’s pace is sure something which was being missed by the side. Though the goal seemed to have come off a Blackburn defender, Arshavin seemed to have claimed it desperately wanting to break his duck for his new team.
Arshavin needn’t have done that though as he would have eventually scored a stunning individual goal to open his real account for Arsenal.

Arshavin scoring a stunning goal for Arsenal
Arshavin scoring a stunning goal for Arsenal

Walcott also sparkled the performance with his livewire pace. He was causing a havoc for warnock on the right side of the Arsenal attack through out the match.
Bendtnar missed a ton of chances as he couldnt get his first touch right most of the time. He contributed well for the first goal though.
Eboue was lucky to have 2 goals against his name. For the first he has to thank Arshavin whose shot rebounded off robinson for Eboue to tap in. For the second goal he has to thank Vela for getting the penalty.
I half expected Arshavin to take the penalty to go on to score his hattrick. But then Eboue stepped up and did a fine job if i may say so. Eboue indeed has been putting in some good performances off late and there seems to be a sense of urgency about him when he is on the pitch. I am in no way saying he is a good player and someone Arsenal should retain. But he is growing and needs to develop a lot more to come up to the Arsenal standard.

Eboue scored a rare brace for Arsenal
Eboue scored a rare brace for Arsenal

Song also has been putting in some good performances off late and deserves a pat on the back. I like Song more in the holding midfield position over Denilson. Lets hope Song continues the good performances and turns into a somewhat Obi Mikel type player for us.

With Aston Villa losing to Tottenham we are now back in the 4th place and in contention for the Champions league spot. We have to thank our bitter rivals spurs for the honor though…:)

We have some really tough last few fixtures of the season, so I say lets finish the challenge of Villa off by winning the next few matches in a row and distancing ourselves off Villa to a comfortable distance.

One last thing. Robin Van Persie did not feature in the match and Arsenal won comfortably. Wonder how he is feeling? He has been the best performer for Arsenal this season and the one match Arsenal leave him out and they are back scoring goals;)
Lets not read too much into it and just hope that he was getting a bit rusty after having a long run of matches without any injuries and this rest will do him good and he comes back with some goals in the next match.
Go Arsenal Go…

EPL Results & Review (4th & 5th October 2008)

Like i had told in my preview to the weekends big 4 clashes none of the matches was a cakewalk for either of the big 4’s.

One had a easy victory, one needed a slice of luck (liberal refreeing), one needed to fight back with all they had till the very last minutes of the game to get 3 points and another had to fight even harder till late into the injury time to snatch even a point from the game.

Chelsea had a relatively easy win over Aston Villa. First-half goals from Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka kept Scolari’s men at the top of the Barclays Premier League, and it could have been more but for the reflexes of Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel. The hosts, already without the services of host of their star players then saw midfielder Cole limp off as he picked up his apparent foot injury and hobbled down the tunnel. Anelka, struggling with some spasms before the match, was also taken off at the break meaning Franco di Santo got a decent run for full 45 minutes. Branislav Ivanovic also made his league debut for Chelsea and appeared to be in control with John terry in the heart of the Chelsea defence.

Manchester United needed a bit of luck as brown broke the deadlock just after the half an hour mark as referree seem to have ignored the fowl of Vidic on the Blackburn goalkeeper Brown. Once that goal happened ManU looked like a completely different side showing glimpses of the Manu of last season. Ronaldo set up Rooney for just after the hour mark for the English player to continue his decent goal-scoring form off late. Tevez and Berbatov had chances which the strikers could not finish unfortunately with the formers effort hitting the cross bar.

Liverpool left it late for Dirk Kuyt to snatch the winner before 2 goals from none other than Fernando Torres had cancelled Manchester City’s lead. Stephen Ireland scored the opened for Man city and Javier Garrido the young left back scored from a super free kick to double their lead. Rafa must have given his team some very important team talk as they looked completely in control in the second half. Man City also took the foot off the pedal and were happy defending in numbers but had to pay the Price as Torres slotted in from close range to reduce the lead by half. Man City were made to pay the price further as Zabaleta was sent off by referee Peter Walton for what the official deemed as a two-footed lunge on Alonso. Torres soon doubled the lead by putting in a header from Steven Gerrards corner. Dirk Kuyt scored 2 minutes into the injury time to give Liverpool all 3 points and leaving Mark Hughes wondering what went wrong for his side after they had taken a comfortable 2 goals lead.

In the fourth match of the Big 4’s this weekend, Arsenal’s bad form in the Premier league continued with Wenger’s boys almost facing consecutive defeats at the hands of Roy Keane’s Sunderland. Sunderland played defensively all along and left Arsenal to create very few chances. Robin Van Persie’s goal before the hour mark was disallowed after the referree deemed that ball had gone out of play before Theo Walcott crossed it in the box for RVP to score. Replays suggested otherwise. Nothing seemed to go right for the Arsenal team as the deadlock was finally broken with four minutes remaining when Leadbitter drilled the ball past Almunia and in off the underside of the bar, although the drama was far from over there. With the game in the third of four minutes of stoppage-time, Fabregas headed van Persie’s corner home to snatch a point and rescue his side. Arsene Wenger will have a lot of thinking and tinkering to do to his side who have so far shown a lot of incosistencies this season.

In some other Matches over the Weekend, Hull City beat Tottenham Hotspurs and continue to amaze all and are now sitting 3rd in the league table. Spurs on the other hand sit right at the bottom of the table with just 2 points from 7 games. Geovanni was the scorer for Hull and continues his knack of scoring audacious goals with a stupendous free kick already having scored 2 stunning goals this season.

 Everton were held by Newcastle in a 2-2 draw. Bolton ran 3-1 winners against West Ham away. Both Engalnd internation strikers i.e. Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch scored to help Portsmouth to a 2-1 victory over stoke city. West Brom defeated Fulham 1-0 to take all 3 points.

The newly promoted sides this season definitely look much better than last years. Though only time will tell if all or any of them will be in the premier league the next season too.

Below are the list of EPL results i have compiled for you, so enjoy: –

         
 
West Ham
1-3 Bolton  
  Cole 68:41   Davies 29:39  
    Cahill 33:27  
    Taylor 86:00  
 
Tottenham
0-1 Hull  
      Geovanni 8:08  
 
Chelsea
2-0 Aston Villa  
  Cole 20:45      
  Anelka 43:04    
 
Man City
2-3 Liverpool  
  Ireland 18:16   Torres 54:52  
  Garrido 40:48 Torres 72:47  
    Kuyt 90:00(1:17)  
 
Portsmouth
2-1 Stoke  
  Crouch 24:52   Fuller 47:39  
  Defoe 50:18    
 
Everton
2-2 Newcastle  
  Arteta 16:43 Scored   Taylor 45:00(1:32)  
  Fellaini 34:27 Duff 46:16  
 
Sunderland
1-1 Arsenal  
  Leadbitter 85:05   Fabregas 90:00(2:45)  
 
West Brom
1-0 Fulham  
  Bednar 60:26      
       
 
Wigan
0-1 Middlesbrough  
      Aliadiere 88:21  
 
Blackburn
0-2 Man Utd  
      Brown 30:10  
    Rooney 63:19  
         

Do leave your comments if any..