Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football

Arsenal update: is Cazorla more effective without Wilshere?

By Stefano on March 18th, 2013

Ok, so it is just a theory, but it seems to be one that more and more Arsenal fans are discussing and that is the possibility that Arsenal aren’t always at their best with both Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere in the team.

And trying to accommodate them both might not be in the club’s best interests.

So here’s the theory. Cazorla is a wonderfully versatile player. This season Wenger has played him on the left wing, as a conventional central midfield player and in the hole behind the striker. He has also wandered on to the right wing from time to time.

In theory his versatility makes him a manager’s dream. However Cazorla seems to be at his most comfortable when playing in the middle of the park pushing forward, not stuck out on the wing. And that’s a position that suits Jack Wilshere’s game too.

The difference between the two is that Wilshere is excellent at making runs from deep positions carrying the ball with him past midfielders. With Cazorla, his bursts are shorter, but he is better than the Englishman at wiggling his way into goal scoring situations, and at the moment that is something that is sorely lacking in the Arsenal team.

Against Bayern Cazorla was pushed out left again to accommodate Rosicky and ended up having a quiet game. Against Swansea, with a more central position, he was able to make those trademark runs and get into stronger attacking positions.

What Cazorla is genius at is getting close to the box and then taking on defenders or threading balls through to other attackers. He did it many times in the game against Swansea and looked Arsenal’s best player by far.

Without Wilshere it gave Wenger the option of adding a more defensively minded midfielder to work with Arteta. On Saturday it was Diaby, who to be fair had a poor game. Ramsey has played in this position recently and looked very solid.

What potentially is an option for Arsenal going forward is to link Cazorla up to a more mobile striker – Jovetic being the current favourite, but it needs to be a striker with pace and great positional sense (which aren’t really Giroud’s strengths). The pair could be deadly for Arsenal next season.

I should add that Arsenal looked fairly strong until Wilshere’s return, although admittedly they had lost a couple of games just before he came back. Also on several occasions this season Wilshere has been the only Arsenal player worthy of wearing the shirt.

The big question remains though – where does Wilshere fit in? He is surely wasted as a defensive midfielder.

If Wenger can work out to get the best of them playing together Arsenal will boast an incredible midfield.

As for the short term I wonder how often we will see Wilshere again this season. So maybe Wenger needs to play Ramsey alongside Arteta (thereby also offering more protection for the defence) with Cazorla pushed right through the middle?

Who knows? Maybe that Champions League position is attainable after all.



Football

Is the David Villa to Arsenal story dead if Barca offer him a new contract?

By Stefano on March 18th, 2013

The Daily Mail this morning is running with a story that Barcelona are about to offer Arsenal target David Villa a new contract. The 31 year old was hankering for a move in the transfer window as injuries had pushed him down the Catalan club’s pecking order.

However after some excellent recent performances the club have decided that they want the striker to stay at the Nou Camp and the Mail says that a contract extension – his contract expires in 14 months is on the cards.

So should Arsenal fans be concerned? I don’t think so.

Villa would have been a superb addition to the squad on loan during the winter window and I think his goals would have guaranteed a CL placing for the Gunners. However the team needs some new younger striking blood, and as he is likely to be priced out of Napoli’s Edinson Cavani Arsene Wenger has identified Fiorentina’s 23 year old Stevan Jevetic as a more suitable long term replacement for Robin Van Persie.

I think the door on the Villa transfer for Arsen Wenger shut over a month ago. Besides if Arsenal fail to quality for the Champions League I can’t imagine that Villa would sign anyhow.

Of course the story may have more twists and turns, especially if Vila is dropped again.

But I don’t think Wenger cares too greatly now anyhow.



Football

Arsenal update: Vorm in, Mertsesacker out…

By Stefano on March 18th, 2013

Arsenal’s search for a keeper continues and the latest name to be thrown in the ring is the man who they put two past on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger is apparently now keen on Swansea’s Michel Vorm ,who at the very least would be a replacement for Lukasz Fabianski and may even supersede Wojciech Szczesny as the Gunners’ long term number one.

He wouldn’t be that cheap though. The player has three years left on his contract and several other clubs, including Barcelona, are apparently interested too.

Meanwhile German club Wolfsburg have targeted Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker for a summer move. The defender, whose performances have been inconsistent for The Gunners this season, would be reunited at the club with their sporting director Klaus Allofs who previously signed the player for Werder Bremen in 2006.

Allofs said

“Everyone knows what I think of Per. If he is for sale, he will always be of interest. He was the leader at Bremen and I also believe he is the leader in the Germany team. If he is for sale, he will always be of interest.”

There is a strong possibility of a serious shake up of Arsenal centre backs in the summer with Thomas Vermaelen allegedly a target for Barcelona.



Football

Spurs striking dilemma; Why Ade Should Get Nod Over Defoe

By Stefano on March 15th, 2013

Spurs’ striker situation this season has been peculiar. At the start of the campaign, Andre Villas-Boas opted for Jermain Defoe as his lone forward, despite the permanent signing of Emmanuel Adebayor, who was probably more suited to that role. Defoe performed well early on, combining goalscoring with impressive movement and improved link-up play.
Surprisingly, Villas-Boas switched to a 4-4-2 to accommodate both together, even after the initial setback of Adebayor’s dismissal at Arsenal when that formation was first tried. However, this was largely due to the struggles of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey in Spurs’ attacking midfield role, and the arrival of Lewis Holtby means Villas-Boas is less inclined to play both strikers, despite opting for them together at the San Siro in midweek.

Now, we’re back to the situation at the start of the campaign. Villas-Boas has stated his admiration for Defoe, but in recent weeks he’s been far from impressive. In the confident home victory over Inter, he seemed to be going for personal glory rather than setting up his team-mates to put the tie to bed; and against Liverpool last weekend, his mistake contributed to Liverpool’s winning goal.

Therefore, Adebayor is probably a more likely choice this weekend against Fulham. Martin Jol’s centre-back pairing of Philippe Senderos and Brede Hangeland is impressive in terms of strength, but Adebayor’s pace might be more vital. Fulham have often depended upon Aaron Hughes to sweep up behind one of the centre-backs, but without him Fulham lack mobility in the centre of the side. Defoe is, arguably, the more logical option tactically, but his recent performances haven’t enhanced his reputation in Villas-Boas’ mind.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally published here.

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Football

Why Fabianski should keep his place in the Arsenal team for the Swansea game

By Stefano on March 15th, 2013

Arsene Wenger sprung a surprise in midweek, leaving out first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for the trip to Bayern Munich, and selecting his fellow Pole Lukas Fabianski instead. Fabianski performed well Arsenal’s ultimately futile victory, making a couple of fine stops on his way to a clean sheet, and now Wenger faces a selection dilemma ahead of Saturday’s trip to Swansea.

Although Fabianski has played understudy to Szczesny in the past couple of campaigns, he was originally Arsenal’s number one, and it’s highly likely Wenger will select him at the Liberty Stadium. Fabianski retains many admirers at Arsenal, both for his goalkeeping ability and his professionalism since being demoted to back-up, and it would be a surprise to see him dropped after such a fine display.

His major weakness is his inability to command his penalty box, and therefore a trip to a side like Stoke wouldn’t be the ideal game him. But Swansea are the complete opposite, keeping the ball on the ground and threading passes through to Michu, so the job of Arsenal’s goalkeeper will be about shot-stopping, rather than claiming crosses.
That plays into Fabianski’s hands. He lacks the physical capabilities and sheer presence of Szczesny, but is probably better at making saves. Szczesny has conceded some poor goals in recent weeks, so Fabianski deserves his chance, and should start this weekend

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally published here.

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Football

Arsenal update: Wenger names squad for Swansea – more injuries

By Stefano on March 14th, 2013

Arsene Wenger has just given Arsenal.com the scoop on who is in the squad for the game against Swansea this weekend, and it isn’t great news.

Firstly none of the players already out are going to be back for the crucial tie.

Wenger said

‘Sagna and Podolski will not be back. And Wilshere, as we know, is out as well. So the only one who will come back is Monreal because he was not qualified for the Champions League.’

Monreal’s return is of course a massive relief because guess who is injured again? After playing very well for much of the game against Bayern, Kieran Gibbs is going to get the weekend off

Wenger said

‘I think he will be out on Saturday. He had a little reaction on his thigh. He is not injured but we have to be cautious with it. He might be out.’

On everyone else Wenger said

‘Apart from that everyone who played [at Bayern] should be OK. There are bumps and bruises after a game of that intensity but that should be it.’

The game against Swansea could define the season for Arsenal. Dropping any points at all could see them start to drift behind Chelsea and Spurs in the race for Champions League places. Arsenal last played at Swansea in the FA Cup earlier this year where they managed to secure a draw. The season before The Swans won 3-2 in a very memorable game.

Interestingly Swansea also have a game against Spurs coming soon.

 



Football

Spurs’ AVB says English clubs will one again rule Europe

By Stefano on March 14th, 2013

After Arsenal’s brave, but still very painful exit from the Champions League at the feet of Bayern last night, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has been talking today about how he believes that English clubs will bounce back in Europe soon.

In referencing Arsene Wenger’s warning that this season’s results were “a massive wake-up call” for English football AVB told the Evening Standard.

“I’m not sure it sets a pattern for the future. We speak about the game between Manchester United and Real Madrid and had United won they would have been in a good position to go on and win the trophy.

“We would have wanted to see more because it doesn’t look very good for the English teams but it can change. I don’t imagine Premier League teams will stop being able to compete in the Champions League. We had last year’s winners in Chelsea and not so long ago [in 2008] Manchester United, too.”

Tonight Spurs take on Inter Milan in the Europa League with a 3-0 advantage from the home league. Talismanic winger/striker Gareth Bale is suspended but Spurs ought to really have the firepower to hang on to that lead against an Inter team that have only won only two of their last eight Serie A matches.

A solid victory could set Spurs up for yet another crucial game this time in Premiership against Fulham.

If the side drop points as they did against Liverpool last week, it would open up the race for third and fourth place with both Arsenal and Chelsea ready to pounce.



Football

Could Arsenal profit from the Man City clear out? Dzeko, Barry, Nasri?

By Stefano on March 14th, 2013

A few weeks back I wrote a story about why Man City’s Sami Nasri should be mulling over a return to the Emirates. I was expecting a huge amount of negativity about the prospect from Arsenal fans, but weirdly enough in the poll that ran with the article a majority of Gooners wanted to forgive and forget and would welcome the player back.

Well according to the Guardian Nasri is one of several high profile players who are on their way out of The Etihad in the summer.

The paper suggests that Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri head a group of 11 whose futures are in doubt.

This is because of the huge pressure on Roberto Mancini to compete with his rivals from across the city. The players simply aren’t deemed good enough any more.

So might Arsenal be in a position to profit from the release of one or more of the players?

I think that it is unlikely that Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League next season. It will be close but I think next season will be all about rebuilding a side that will ensure a top four finish and go on to mount a series Premiership challenge in the 2014-15 season. So the club needs players who will guarantee that the team qualifies for the Champions League next year as well as providing the building blocks for something better.

An awful lot of these players have done just that with City. Sure they may have been attracted by the huge wages, but they helped take city from middle table to Premierhsip winners.

What Arsenal need at the moment is three things. Leaders, winners and players who have excelled in the Premiership. Man City are offering players that have all three of those attributes.

So yes I would welcome Nasri back and Wenger has been a long term admirer of Edin Dzeko too. Kolo Toure, and especially Garth Barry could well be very useful squad players whose bags of experiences could help bring on Ramsey, Wilshere, Jenkinson and the rest of the Gunners’ youngsters.

As much as I would love Arsenal to spend £70 million on marquee signings – they simply won’t be able to compete with their rivals for Jovetic and Falcao. The club need a degree of stability in the Premiership and the Man City cast offs could certainly help them there.



Football

Arsenal fans – what would be a good result tonight? Can we scrape a win?

By Stefano on March 13th, 2013

There were a few brief moments a couple of days back when I saw a glimmer of hope. I looked at that Bayern team sheet and thought, well no Ribery, Robben or Schweinsteiger. Several of the players that inflicted so much damage at The Emirates are missing. If only Giroud could oblige us with an early goal, then maybe just maybe.

Sadly that brief flame of optimism was extinguished as soon as it became clear that Jack Wilshere would be sitting by the pool in his Dubai hotel not bursting through the Bavarian defence.

The enormity of the task facing the Gunners tonight has been emphasised by two key points.

1 Bayern Munich have won all three of their home games in the competition this season and scored an impressive 12 goals. they have let in three. Arsenal would need to double that figure were they to progress.

2 Not even Arsene Wenger believes that Arsenal have a prayer. He might have said ‘football is football and that anything is possible’ at his press conference. But choosing to bench so many of his star players Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott suggest that he isn’t banking on it.

So Gunners fans what would be a ‘result’ for Arsenal tonight?

Are you in the ‘anything as long as we don’t hammered’ camp? Or do you think that Arsenal could at least score and maybe even get a draw in the Allianz Arena?

Or is a win a possibility?

Let us know in the poll



Football

Will Liverpool and Arsenal be competing for the same players this summer?

By Stefano on March 13th, 2013

There’s an interesting interview (reported by The Telegraph and others) where Brendan Rodgers talks about his transfer plans for next summer.

First up Rodgers doesn’t see a major restructuring of the team which has hit form recently.

“There is no doubt there is a natural rebuilding that will come with the likes of Jamie Carragher retiring. I am happy with the squad if I can then put another three or four quality players to it,”

In words that echo a certain Arsenal manager Rodgers states…

“It is quality we are after, not quantity. We see Coutinho and Sturridge’s quality in January, if we bring in another three or four players of that quality and add that to what we have got then we have got a strong squad.“You want between 20 and 22 players. I’m talking about two in every position and your three goalkeepers. Then below that having young players who can support that.

“Of course you have an ideal target, but we are getting to a situation now where, for me, you have to have three players and if one doesn’t come off you have to be comfortable with the other two. If you get one of those you are happy. There is a lot of terrific work going on with the scouting department getting those lists together.

There are more interesting parallels with Arsenal too. At the current time it seems unlikely that either side will be playing Champions League football next season which will mean that they are unlikely to compete with Europe’s big guns for the likes Jovetic and Cavani. Also, as Wenger knows all too well, both managers will be painfully aware that the Continent’s top sides could be targeting their marquee players.

One player that the two clubs are likely to tussle for is Ashley Williams, the in form Swansea centre back. Rodgers’ relationship with the player could give Liverpool the edge, especially if neither side has Champions League football on the table.

Williams would be a tailor-made replacement for Carragher bringing solidity and leadership to the heart of the Liverpool defence.

There are several other players that both clubs could be competing for.

Ajax’s Christian Eriksen will be on his way to the Premiership next season and could interest both sides. Arsenal are also very keen on another possible Liverpool target Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona and Bilbao’s controversial centre back Fernando Amorebieta could end up at the club that doesn’t land Williams.

The big question for Rodgers is how much money he feels he needs to spend to create a squad that will be challenging, at the very least, for Champions League football next season. The interview suggests that he will have a £20 million kitty. Is that enough? If  Rodgers wants more then the club will have to sell players. There are fringe players, like the out of form Skrtel, who could prise some cash, but there remains the option of cashing in on the club’s prize asset – Luis Suarez.

It would be massively unpopular with the fans but Suarez’s sale could add a significant wodge to that the cash reserve. Bayern Munich are rumoured to be interested in the player while the Daily Mail reported recently that Atletico Madrid are targeting Suarez to replace Radamel Falcao should he leave the La Liga side.

It might free up funds for the club to launch a bid for Xabi Alonso of Real Madrird, who could rejoin the club he spent five seasons with to finish his career. The 31 year old has certainly been in sparkling form for the club. Rodgers would also have to invest heavily in a new striker or two.

Is it a gamble worth taking?

It will be interesting to see of the club manage to offload flop striker Andy Carroll this summer. Liverpool paid £35 million for the player and it will be fascinating to see how much of that money that manage to recoup.



Football

Arsenal update – How bad is the Wilshere injury? Bayern team news and more

By Stefano on March 13th, 2013

Worrying times for Gunners fans as Arsene Wenger admits that his star midfielder could face a longer lay off than the three weeks that were discused yesterday.

Wilshere’s injury is alarmingly similar to the one that kept him out of football for the best part of a year and a half and Wenger suggested yesterday that the England player could need a long lay off.

Wenger even admits that he might have played Wilshere too often this season.

At his conference Wenger said…

“Nobody knows if it could happen again. The other ankle transformed so we don’t know.”

“Maybe I have overplayed him,” said Wenger. “ We are in a position as well where you always need your best players.”

“There is a fear that this is how the last injury started. The last time it deteriorated into a stress fracture. That’s what we don’t want to happen.

“With the history we had last time we said OK, it’s bone bruising, let him continue to play and it transformed into a stress fracture. That’s why the specialist said we cannot take this gamble.

With no Wilshere it seems that Arsene Wenger might be tempted to write off the Champions League against Bayern tonight and play a weakened team, thereby saving key players for the Premiership clash with Swansea at the weekend.

The Mail reports that key players could be rested including Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla who are likely to be replaced by Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin in midfield.

Arsenal are already without Lukas Podolski and Jack Wilshere through injury which could mean starts for Gervinho and Tomas Rosicky.

Also the defence could have an English flavour with Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson expected to play.

Arsenal’s out of sorts keeper Wojciech Szczesny is also likely to be an absentee replaced by Lukasz Fabianski and Andrei Arshavin may even get a Champions League cameo.



Football

Nightmare for Arsenal: BBC confirm that Jack Wilshere will be out for three weeks

By Stefano on March 12th, 2013

Not good news for The Gunners as they bid to recover their Champions League tie against Bayern while pressing for fourth place in the Premiership.

The BBC (Radio Five Live) has confirmed that the club’s key midfielder, Jack Wilshere, will be out of action for at least three weeks. There’s more here.

As the player has stayed in Dubai it seemed obvious that he would miss the Champions League tie against Bayern tomorrow,. However three weeks also means that Wilshere will miss games against Swansea and Reading and maybe be a doubt for the game Against West Brom at The Hawthorns on the 6th April.

With Abou Diaby also injured Wenger will almost certainly draft in Tomas Rosicky and play him along side Aaron Ramsey and Mikkel Arteta.

There are some bloggers who fear that Arsenal are being economical with the truth about the injury and that Wilshere won’t play again this season. This is fuelled by the fact that it is an ankle injury and it was an ankle injury that kept the player out for a season.

So does this finish off Arsenal’s hopes of a Champions League slot?



Football

Arsenal update: Wilshere out, Podolski to Juve? And Raul Albiol targeted

By Stefano on March 12th, 2013

The big news today focuses on the upcoming Champions League game against Bayern on Wednesday. And what looked like just about possible for Arsenal, now looks like impossible. After a series of injuries dogged the German side, the Gunners now have to deal with the absence of their talismanic midfielder Jack Wilshere.

According to The Guardian Wilshere is still in Dubai nursing an ankle injury that he sustained in the game against Tottenham not training in the Allianz Arena.

Also not on the plane in Lukas Podoslki who also has injury problems. The Sun repotrs that the German forward is a target for both Juventus and Atletico Madrid.

Podoslki has netted thirteen goals for Arsenal this season and has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been criticised by his manager for at times not working hard enough.

The Sun reckons that £15 million could be enough to prise the player from Arsenal. Personally, I think that this is a non-starter if Arsenal qualify for the Champions League. However if Arsenal finish fifth – or even sixth – then the likeable German could be on his way.

Lastly a quick update on two key Arsenal targets. Firstly Arsenal are apparently keen on Real Madrid centre-half Raul Albiol. The player has been rather peripheral to Madrid in the last couple of seasons and has undoubted game reading and leadership qualities – which are sorely lacking at Arsenal.

Finally Arsenal target Stevan Jovetic has told the press that he won’t be sidetracked by questions about his future.

He told Sky Italia

“The transfer market? It has been talked about my contract and my future since the beginning of the season and I have to repeat myself: I just [think] about getting Fiorentina into Europe. I’m focused to score as many goals as possible and to make lots of assists for team-mates.

“In June we’ll see. I think only to the good of the team, of Florence and of our fans, the rest doesn’t interest me.”



Football

Arsenal update: Ribery out, Robben iffy, Schweinsteiger suspended – could the Gunners have a chance?

By Stefano on March 11th, 2013

So good news for Arsenal as they prepare to face Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League tie.

Bayern are going to be without key players – quite a lot of them.

The man who was the architect of the Bayern win in North London, central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, is suspended as is defender Jerome Boateng.

Bayern have also let it be known today that winger Franck Ribery will miss the match with an ankle injury. Normally this wouldn’t be much of a problem for the Germans as they have Arjen Robben, however the Dutchman has a calf problem and may also miss the game.

Of course the Bayern team will start with Kroos, Gomez and Lahm, but the absentees will give Arsene Wenger’s men a degree of confidence that they might get some kind of result. A draw is possible, maybe even a win. Beating Bayern 3-1 or better would be astonishing, but manager Wenger hasn’t ruled it out.

He told Arsenal.com

“We just have to convince ourselves that we can do it in Munich as well. Yes, the chance is small, but the chance makes the impossible possible. That would be a great credit for our team to do it. We have to try to achieve it.”

Arsenal’s injury list is significantly shorter. Bacary Sagna is probably out – but he will be replaced by the reliable English defender Cark Jenkinson. Arsenal are likely to be without Abou Diaby too, but they still have plenty of midfield options.

Kieran Gibbs may return at left back too which is great news for the Gunners, as Bayern targeted the team’s makeshift left back, Thomas Vermaelen, in the first leg.

So can The Gunners pull of a shock victory – might they get near to a 3-1 victory? What do you think?



Football

Arsenal update: Victor Wanyama, Micah Richards and St Etienne pair targeted

By Stefano on March 11th, 2013

A couple of days Alex Song ago hinted that he might like to return to North London after his disastrous season at Barcelona. But according to the Metro Arsene Wenger isn’t tempted. He has set his sights on
Celtic’s combative midfielder Victor Wanyama.

The Keynan has been very impressive this season, especially in the Champions League and Wenger is keen to land a player that he knows could be secured for less than £10 million.

The deal that could change all this is if Barcelona follow through with an offer for Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen. It could then mean players heading to The Emirates (Song, Villa?) in return.

Another player who could be wearing red and white come the summer is Man City’s Micah Richards. The player who has been a long term target of Arsene Wenger could be leaving City in the summer and may possibly be seen by Arsenal as a replacement for Bacary Sagna.

The Mail reports that in addition to Richards, Maicon, Wayne Bridge, Scott Sinclair and Roque Santa Cruz are among those likely to move on.

Although he is undoubted talented the player has struggled with a series of injuries that have kept him out of the City team.

Finally The Mirror reports on how Gilles Grimandi has been spending his time recently. Arsenal’s scout has apparently been keeping tabs ion the St Etienne pair Stephane Ruffier and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

French international keeper Ruffier has had a great season with St Etienne among the meanest defences in Ligue 1.

Meanwhile Gabon centre-forward Aubameyang is the second top scorer in the division.




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