Archive for the ‘Champions League 2009/10’ Category

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Porto 2 Arsenal 1: See yesterday’s blog – but we can win at home

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10 on February 18, 2010 by Highbury N5 Editor

It was a disaster waiting to happen, it was a disaster that should spell a new goalkeeper in the summer because by God do we need one. Come back Almunia, all is forgiven.

I suppose it really isn’t that bad of the face of things, we got the important away goal and are still in the tie, a 1-0 at home will put us soundly through. So is it so bad considering we were without most of our best players?

Fans are probably so angry because both goals were preventable in the extreme, the first was an incredible piece of incompetent goalkeeping and after the Stoke disaster and the FA Cup semi-final display under Lucasz Fabianski’s belt, it is hard to see him staying at the club much longer if fans have their way. The ball was crossed into the six yard box and somehow he fumbled it into the net, it was Roy Carrol-like. He has just done it too many times now and whilst he has obvious talent, there are massive question marks over his mental strength.

I feel sorry for him, for whatever reason he isn’t good enough right now to be Arsenal’s second choice, Almunia isn’t good enough to be first choice. We need a world class keeper badly, especially given our attacking game.

It seemed the damage was limited when Sol Campbell scored to make it 1-1, credit must go to Rosicky who flicked the ball back across goal – into the danger area – for Campbell to head it home. What a story, Champions League final to Notts County, back to scoring in the Champions League again. Incredible.

The goal to make it 2-1 Porto was just unbelievable. The ball was played back to Fabianski after Sol Campbell accidentally made contact with the ball, and Fabianski picked it up. A) No free kick – the back pass was unintentional.  B) Fabianski should have put his foot through it but panicked.

It got worse.

Fabianski threw the ball back to the ref quickly, who allowed a quick free kick. Fine. No problem. We have done it in the past. No complaints about that. But, the ref gave the go ahead whilst blocking Sol Campbell completely. How utterly ridiculous is that?

Then there was the penalty appeal, a blatant foul on Rosicky – cast iron. His legs were taken. Arsenal will never get a penalty again it seems, its so frustrating, on another day, with another ref the game could have been so much different.

We can’t hide the same old failures though, the naff defence and keepers who are just not up to standard, we must stop conceding if we are to go anywhere in the Champions League but I just can’t see us tightening our defence. If we were playing a better side it would be game over. This time its Porto though, who are really not very good.

It is frustrating, so frustrating but we are only at half time. We have the advantage of a three week gap until the return leg so whilst the missing players will probably not return for the Sunderland game, they should be back in those three weeks.

I said yesterday that it could be a case of damage limitation, but we made our own damage, we dug our own grave and what Cesc Fabregas described as ‘schoolboy errors’ will frustrate him more than anyone. He deserves better if I’m honest. He addressed the fans on the plane as normal after the game and promised us a win in the return leg, and we will get one, no doubts about that.

This team don’t seem to get much in the way of luck, and wouldn’t it be just their luck if we drew one of the few teams we fear in the competition? Barca, Chelsea, United and at a push, Bayern Munich. There is a lot of work to be done though.

Til tomorrow.

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Apparently ‘spineless’ – but I think we’ll nick a win

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10 on February 17, 2010 by Highbury N5 Editor

This Porto team seem to be getting  a lot of hype, but they really are not very good. Yes, they have reached the last 16 but so have CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos, they have not achieved anything special. They sold their best players in the summer and haven’t scored in something like 4 or 5 games – their manager has said they are going to set their stall out and defend. If we fall at this stage the team has failed, the only real teams I fear are Barca and the other English sides, thats all.

Of course, it is wrong to underestimate them, PSV Eindhoven dumping us out of the Champions League is still quite memorable but we should have enough to beat Porto over two legs, even with all the injuries.

Here are the missing names:

Almunia

Gallas

Gibbs

Song

Arshavin

van Persie

Eduardo

Vela

Djourou

I think thats all of them, if its not, tough – but you get the idea. The biggest misses are Song and Arshavin, the out of form Denilson will come in for Song but I think if the manager wants to get the tie over and done with today, Ramsey could come in. Arshavin has hardly been at the top of his game and a few games out will probably do him good, but we hardly have a wealth of options up front, Nasri and Rosicky flanking Bendtner is a pretty samish frontline, Id start Theo instead of Nasri.

A clean sheet is really important, but an away goal is even more important. If we can get an away goal or a one goal lead it means Porto will have to take the game to us at the Grove which always means there is more space to exploit. They do not really have a stand out forward (there’s Hulk but he is shit) that will worry our defence, a lot of always made of ‘Hulk’ but he is just a big oaf, he’s hyped and hyped but has never done anything, I think he has 2 goals this season.

Apologies for this blog being all bits and pieces.

Just a note about all the plaudits for United’s win against Milan last night. A few years back I seem to remember an Arsenal team most people said was poor go to Milan and win 2-0 –  at the time Milan had the best player in the world, a young Pato, and a much younger version of the players they currently have. Did I hear this sort of praise? Not taking anything away from United’s win but Milan are past it.

Hopefully we can get a win tonight, get on a good winning run in the two competitions we have got left to fight for.

til tomorrow.

_______

Oh pleaaaaaaaase. Give up will you. Jesus christ.

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My take on the Olympiakos experiment: Time running low for Vela?

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10 on December 9, 2009 by Highbury N5 Editor

With a starting team with an average age of 19 without the captain on the night, Silvestre, the way the team swarmed all over Olympiakos side like a plague of Locusts.

You did sense that making all the possession count was vital and sadly it was a case of the same Arsenal as no real chances were cut out, and when they were, nobody seemed to be able to finish them.

Ramsey was immense in the center of the park, his vision is second to none and you can see why people call him a young Cesc, not that Cesc is all that old himself at just 22. Merida did his hopes of more appearances in the first team no harm at all with a lovely little performance. At times he chose the wrong pass but young players tend to do that, his close control is fantastic and he can get himself out of really tight spaces in the center of the park, and what can I say about Alex Song? Simply superb. Strong, surprisingly agile. Class act.

In defence Kyle Bartley impressed me, his only mistake, and it wasn’t a howler by any means, ended up in them scoring a rather good goal. Is it just me or do we concede a very, very high volume of goals to chances in ratio?

Another mention for Tom Cruise who for a kid with a fantastic name, seemed decent going forward and didn’t really make any mistakes of note. Can cross a ball which makes a change I suppose!

Kerrea Gilbert was unconvincing I thought, its a shame to see after the impression he made a few years ago. Hopefully he can turn his career round. Fabianski was very good tonight I thought, I usually have kittens watching him but he seemed dominant and confident, a vital mix. Very nice to see.

Now, the forwards. Wilshere, Vela, Walcott. Wilshere did nothing and was the best of a very bad bunch, he has a little bit of the spoilt brat about him sometimes, at one point he ripped into Fran Merida for not playing him in but Merida had already been knocked to the ground. One decent chinking run but it ended in nothing.

Vela. For all the hype around him, he has shown very little. This is his big chance, he has got to do something soon because at the moment it doesn’t look like he’s cutting it. I don’t care what he has done for Mexico, I judge on what he has done for Arsenal and at present, its very little. Two guilt edged chances he screwed up today, could have won us the game. The only positives? Worked hard, was in the right position to miss the chances.

Theo Walcott apart from two runs, was woeful. I guess its hard to expect much from a player who has had two hours of football this season. Hopefully that wasn’t too bad-a knock he picked up towards the end.

All in all, it was encouraging the attitude the lads took out there. There is no shame in losing with that line-up against a side that is going through to the next round. You can’t look into this game too much so thats why i’ve decided to comment individually and there were some very encouraging performances.

We have to look ahead to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. Its a big, big game and 3 points are essential. Arise, Mr Arshavin.

We have the draw in the next couple of days for the next round so lets hope we avoid Milan, Bayern, Lyon. Porto would be a very nice draw but probably too nice to ask for.

Til next time.

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Arsenal 2-0 Standard: I wasn’t convinced from what I saw

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10 on November 25, 2009 by Highbury N5 Editor

“we do have to be wary of this Standard team, they have a habit of raising their game away from home and tonight we will have to be careful”

Actually, they are a very poor side indeed. I got that wrong.

I missed the first half, and consequently both the goals. Looking at various blogs and match reports we seemed to play rather well in the first half and took the foot off the pedal in the second. I hope that is true because what I saw in the second half didn’t please me much, it was similar to the Sunderland game in the way we lacked that cutting edge. I haven’t harped on about how van Persie gave us that cutting edge but we are really missing him at the moment, Wenger said any team would miss his ‘super class’ and nobody can argue that we are missing him.

Despite Denilson and Song having very good games, (Denilson making a welcome return from injury), we were shocking at the back. Liege hit the post twice and if they were a better side would have got a couple of goals at least, this is really starting to grate with me because without much of our favoured front-line we can’t outscore teams as we did before. We just don’t have the same firepower.

A quick bit on the goals though…. in their own way they were both superb, Nasri’s finish was top top class although he made it look so easy, its moments like that that show you just how good these players at professional level have to be. Denilson’s goal was superb, the sheer power behind the ball and the fact it swerved both ways bamboozled their ‘keeper and netted the Brazillian his second of the season on his comeback.

These last couple of games I have been thinking of the difference a bullying, powerful striker would make and you can’t really argue that it would give us another dimension, someone in the Drogba mold could bulldoze defences and get us very important goals. Eduardo and Vela can’t do that.

On those two, Eduardo is a class finisher, I’ve always thought that but right now what he needs is goals and he needs them quick. Vela is a player with a great amount of hype around him but he has settled here now and has to prove his worth, he isn’t doing that at the moment. We have seen him do it at Carling Cup level but we are yet to see him do anything of the sort in the Premiership. In frame he reminds me of Pato at AC Milan, I just hope he can cut it here, I really do.

We can now look at the weekend and the game on Sunday, I suggest to the boss intensive defensive drills. He can say all he wants about Sunderland only having one effort on target in the entire game on Saturday but if that one effort goes in we are at a disadvantage straight away, Chelsea have been scoring just as many goals as us in previous weeks and I somehow doubt we will be able to outscore them, we will have do defend very well too. I’m nervous about the game to tell you the truth.

The game last night gave us three more injury victims, Gibbs has a broken metatarsal so we won’t be seeing him for a long time, Arshavin has had to have his head stapled after his clash of heads with Gallas, who has a nasty swollen eye and an ankle niggle.

Great.

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Time to get back on track: Standard preview

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10 on November 24, 2009 by Highbury N5 Editor

After the defeat at Sunderland on Saturday attention has mainly focussed on the game with Chelsea next week, but at the moment that is the least of our worries as Arsenal entertain Standard Liege at the Grove tonight. A strong confidence boosting performance is vital ahead of the big game on Sunday but expect a few changes with some of the players who went away for the internationals a couple of weeks ago given a rest.

I’d expect Carlos Vela to start, maybe alongside Eduardo who needs a goal to boost his confidence, Denilson may come in for Alex Song but I’d expect Cesc to start and Samir Nasri to fill in the other midfield slot. The battle for the right will be fought out between Rosicky and Walcott, I think Rosicky will start with Walcott getting 30 minutes or so to pick up some sharpness before the weekend.

Be under no illusions, the boss wants to win tonight and to top the group, giving us the chance for a slightly easier draw in the start of the knockout rounds:

“You feel at the start we were favourites, so if we finish top, it will be like ‘job done’,”

“If you are second in the group, you could have a disadvantage in the draw for the next stage, and you do not want that.”

The minimum requirement should be winning the group, we are much better than any of the teams in the group, and I mean no disrespect when I say that.

As Wenger says though, we do have to be wary of this Standard team, they have a habit of raising their game away from home and tonight we will have to be careful not to get caught cold like last time out in Belgium.

Cesc was up for interview duty yesterday and he made some rather nice comments about staying here for the rest of his career, I certainly wouldn’t mind that at all. We all know how good he is and he seems to be loving life here in what is his seventh season already:

“I’m very happy where I am and there is very long season in front of us. The last thing I want to do is get disconnected from what I have to do which is to play football for my team and for the Club that pays me. I’m really looking forward to a great season with Arsenal.”

[The skipper was then asked if he would like to stay for the rest of his career.]

“Why not?” he replied. “I have never thought about it. I’m only 22. You never know what your career will bring but why not? I’m in my seventh season now and I’m really happy, better than ever.”

Those seven years sure have gone fast, I can still remember when he burst onto the scene as a 16/17 year old, he is not one of the very best players in the world and he is only 22 years old. He can become one of the greats in my view.

Hopefully tonight we see some real desire and urgency because we were really lacking that on Saturday, despite already almost guaranteed progression into the next round it would be nice to see the lads really go out there and play like their lives depend on it to at least heal a bit of the weekends disappointment.

I will be out when the game is on but hopefully I’ll catch the end of it, heres to an encouraging result.

More tomorrow.

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AZ obliterated/Kroenke/3 points at Wolves please

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10,Premier League 2009/10 on November 7, 2009 by Highbury N5 Editor

Another home game, another win, another game with over three goals. Nearly three months into the season and we have not scored less than three goals in a home game in any competition, it shows just how strong we have been at home this season and any team visiting the Grove will be aware of this record and aware of how strong the squad we have is.

Some fans were of the opinion the AZ game could be a bit of a bore draw because of their perceived negative tactics, how wrong they were, we tore them apart and only conceded when the game was won and we got a little sloppy. Fabregas is having a hell of a season and was at the hub of all the good moves again, Arshavin created three assists and Nasri became our 17th goalscorer so far this season – this formation could allow him to get more goals too. Cesc has eight goals already this season and is one of the form players in world football at the moment, there is no other player I would rather have in midfield.

We didn’t draw the plaudits too much after the game because apparently AZ came and had a go attacking us, I don’t remember them attacking too much. Gabrielle Marcotti was reticent to give us any praise at all (is it just me or is his head slowly sinking into his torso?). Not that it matters though, our football did the talking again.

It was the first game that Kieran Gibbs has had to step into Gael Clichy’s shoes and I feel he will do a great job. Yes he will make mistakes but thats part of developing as a player, he has all the attributes needed and I think our crossing might improve on that side as Gibbs is a far better crosser of the ball. What are the odds on him becoming the 18th Arsenal goalscorer this season?

The day after I wrote about Stan Kroenke’s share gobbling, (check the commenter from the Colorado Rapids blog with a good knowledge of Kroenke) he moved again to purchase shares taking his ownership up to 29.9%, making him unable to buy anymore shares unless he makes an offer for the whole club, a takeover, or a takeover offer can’t be far off now and it would be nice to hear from him and to confirm he has good intentions.

Moving onto another game this evening away at Wolves and the matches sure are piling up at the moment, the injures are too. The current injury list reads: Vela, Walcott, Denilson, Traore, Clichy, Fabianski, Wilshere, Bendtner, and Djourou. Thats one hell of an injury list and until midweek Rosicky was also on that list, it just goes to show how strong our squad is this season, its not that we have more numbers of players but the quality of the players we have has improved.

The Wolves game is an important one, we need to take advantage of the fact that either United or Chelsea will drop points this weekend, we lost a couple of points at West Ham and need to make up for it here because opportunities like this do not come along all that often in a season.

The Wolves boss has come out and said they will have a go at taking the game to us but you just know they will sit back, its one thing saying you will attack Arsenal, its another to actually do it. I do think we could drop points in this game so we need to go there, get the job done and take the 3 points.

Fabregas, Arshavin and van Persie will hopefully continue their fine form, not forgetting Alex Song who is doing so well in the cleaning up role behind them – the unsung hero of the season so far. The boss has been hyping up van Persie who has been in fantastic form, scoring 8 in 9 games or something like that, one of the form strikers in the league and clearly enjoying his football, to be honest any striker with service from Cesc Fabregas would be enjoying his football.

It wont be a glamour game but it could be a really, really big three points. I’ll be back tomorrow hopefully with a round up of the game.

Til then.

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AZ 1-1 Arsenal: A draw might just do the team good in the long run

In Arsenal FC,Champions League 2009/10 on October 21, 2009 by Highbury N5 Editor

I didn’t get to see much of the game last night and I have hardly had a chance to sit down today and watch the full highlights so this blog may again be fairly short.

We drew 1-1 away at AZ Alkmaar of Holland but should really have won the game and closed it out, as it happens we conceded from yet another set piece and had to settle for a share of the spoils. In recent weeks we have smashed in goals from everywhere but this little setback might just stop complacency sneaking in. Away from home in the Champions League a draw is deemed a good result but what is important is that we learn from conceding that late goal and don’t let it happen again.

We will progress from the group easily enough, its not something I am worried about at all, Wenger is equally confident:

“We are still in a strong position. We have three games left, two at home, and I believe to win one game will qualify us. What I want is for us to continue to play like we do, focus to play better.

“In football, you have to produce the maximum result with your game, and tonight that did not happen.”

There were some shocks around Europe last night, Liverpool sunk to their 4th consecutive defeat which is pretty funny, they were at ‘fortress’ Anfield which is even funnier. Barcelona lost at home to the Russian champions too.

Apologies again for the briefness of this blog. Normal service shall be resumed shortly. Till next time.