Lukas Podolski has emerged as an injury doubt for the Bayern Munich game on Wednesday evening after revealing on Twitter that he is still recovering from a small injury. Our German forward scored our only goal against Bayern 3 weeks ago, but may be forced to sit out the trip to Munich.
No details have been given about what injury he has picked up or when it happened. All we do know is that he played about 20 minutes against Spurs last weekeend and seemed ok. It is, of course, extremely frustrating because he is one of our potential match-winning players. On his day is is fantastic to watch and often unstoppable. He will be a big loss.
More information will be available when Arsene Wenger gives his pre-match press conference, and we will know if he has travelled to Munich pretty quickly once Arsenal release the details of the 18-man squad. As far as we are aware, the only other injuries are Sagna, Gibbs and Diaby. Sagna and Diaby are expected to have recovered in time to face Bayern, but Gibbs is still short.
With the big game fast approaching, we want to know whether other Arsenal fans think that there is even a small possibility that we can beat Bayern Munich and progress to the Champions League quarter finals on Wednesday evening.
Most of us are fully aware that this could be our last match in the Champions League for a short while. If we lose to Bayern & don’t finish in the top 4 of the Premier League then it’s goodbye Barcelona and Real Madrid, and hello Metalist Kharkiv and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. This time last year Arsenal scored three first-half goals against AC Milan at the Emirates but could not quite complete an epic comeback from 4-0 down at the San Siro. However, the difference between this year and last year is enormous for a number of reasons.
The first thing to mention is that the current Bayern Munich team are (in my opinion) a better side than AC Milan were last season. Bayern have reached the final in 2 of the last 3 seasons and are running away in the Bundesliga. We also went into last season’s match against Milan in relatively good form and with high spirits, having just beaten Spurs at home and Liverpool away.
You must also not forget that the second leg is in Munich and that the majority of the comebacks in the second leg are done at home. For example, only last season Chelsea overcame a 3-1 deficit to win 5-4 on aggregate against Napoli at Stamford Bridge. However, arguably the biggest difference is that this season we don’t have a match-winner of the quality of Robin van Persie up front. Walcott can be fantastic at times and Cazorla/Podolski are also brilliant, but I am worried that Olivier Giroud has the potential to be rather anonymous. I just don’t see us scoring 3 goals, probably 4 if (when) Bayern get their home goal. I really hope that the team can prove me wrong!
We have confirmation of the Arsenal starting XI and substitutes to take on Bayern Munich in the first leg of our Champions League last 16 tie at the Emirates Stadium.
We have been unbelievably lucky with injuries. Vermaelen & Koscielny are both fit so we have a very strong defence. The midfield (Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla) picks itself. Aaron Ramsey appears to be starting on the wing, with Podolski on the other wing & Walcott in the middle. Giroud on the bench. No Gervinho.
Arsenal subs: Mannone, Diaby, Rosicky, Giroud, Ox-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Jenkinson.
There is no doubt that the FA Cup represents our most viable chance at a trophy this season. However, with the Bayern Munich game only a few days away, I am pretty sure that Arsene Wenger will be looking to rest a few of our key players against Blackburn. The key is striking a balance between the two matches. On the one hand, of course we want to win the FA Cup. On the other hand, we have to remember that we can qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning it. As ridiculous as it sounds, Chelsea did it last year when they were definitely not the best team in Europe, so there is no reason why we can’t do it too. As long as we are still in the competition, we are in with a shout.
Arsenal have never been knocked out of the FA Cup by a lower league club under Arsene Wenger.
This is the 8th time that we have played Blackburn in the FA Cup (W4,L3). Blackburn beat us 1-0 in the competition in 2007 and went on to reach the semi-finals.
You will all remember when we beat Blackburn 7-1 at the Emirates Stadium last season. However, this was not the biggest win that we have had against the Lancashire club. We beat them 8-0 in the 1932/1933 season.
Given the defensive injuries that are piling up, and that Carl Jenkinson is suspended following his red card against Sunderland, we are left with very limited defensive options. Nacho Monreal is not eligible to play in the Champions League because he is cup tied, so he will almost definitely start. With Jenko suspended, Sagna will probably move back to right-back, with Miquel & Mertesacker in the middle.
My midfield prediction is Diaby, Coquelin & Rosicky, which allows us to rest Arteta, Cazorla & Wilshere. Wilshere may have recovered enough to make it onto the bench, but he will more than likely be rested because Wenger won’t want to take the risk. Coquelin & Diaby can play deeper roles in front of Miquel and Mertesacker, with Rosicky in the CAM position. Aaron Ramsey could play, but I think that Wenger will want him for the Bayern game.
Up front we have Gervinho back from the African Cup of Nations and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, so you can rest Walcott and Podolski. Giroud in the middle. This is not our strongest team by any stretch of the imagination, but it should be enough to get past Blackburn and put us through to the quarter finals.
Having won just 1 of 5 Premier League games played since the New Year, there can be no more excuses if we drop points at home to Stoke. Bar the signing of Ignacio Monreal from Malaga as a last-minute replacement for Kieran Gibbs, Arsene Wenger failed to bring in any other new faces in the January transfer window. Le Boss insists that he is not worried because our squad is good enough to contend for the Champions League places as is. I am going to disagree, so I guess it’s up to Arsene to prove me wrong.
While we did come back from 2-0 down to rescue a point against Liverpool on Wednesday evening, many felt that that was not enough. We had several chances to kill off the game when we were on top so it could possibly be looked at another two points dropped at home. Given the result on Wednesday, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of today’s game.
Stoke are also coming into the game in a horrible run of form. The Potters have taken just 2 points in their last 5 Premier League matches, so this could be just the game that we need to get our season back on track. History in this fixture would seem to be on our side. Arsenal have won their last 10 home games against Stoke in all competitions; the last time they beat us at home was at Highbury in August 1981.
Team news & predicted starting XI
With Kieran Gibbs out for up to six weeks with a thigh strain, new signing Nacho Monreal could be in line to make his Arsenal debut less than 48 hours after joining the club. I am not even going to consider playing Andre Santos, while Thomas Vermalen (who could also cover at left-back) faces a late fitness test for an ankle injury. With Vermaelen out injured, the centre-back pairing should be a very obvious one.
Mikel Arteta is back in the squad after three weeks out with a calf strain, but I doubt that Arsene Wenger will put him straight back in the starting line-up. Aaron Ramsey has actually been quite good in central midfield alongside Jack Wilshere, but I would guess that Wenger will prefer the physical presence of Abou Diaby against Stoke.
The front 3 of Walcott—Giroud—Podolski would seem to pick itself. All three are in fantastic form, so the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky will have to be content with a place on the bench. Gervinho is still at the African Cup of Nations, with the Ivory Coast due to play in the quarter-finals later today.
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City We should have the necessary quality to rip the Stoke defence apart. However, we seem to be conceding goals left, right and centre, so I am sure that Stoke will score at least one.
We need all 3 points. No ifs, no buts, no excuses. Anything less than a win at home to West Ham is not simply not good enough. This is our game in hand – the game that balances out the table. We need to make the most of it.
Arsenal have taken 1 point from 3 league games so far this month (vs Southampton, City & Chelsea). We could have signed somebody earlier in the transfer window who could have helped us in the big games. However, that didn’t happen so we just have to move on. There is a week left in the transfer window, something needs to be done.
Our recent record in this fixture would seem to suggest that there won’t be too many problems. We have won 8 and drawn 2 of our last 10 games against the Hammers in all competitions. That said, Arsenal have been very unpredictable lately and anything could happen. This is, after all, the Premier League.
One player to watch tonight will be Mohammed Diame, who is being heavily linked with a move to the club. When Wenger was asked about Diame in his press conference, he said:
“He has a great presence in the games. I’ve seen him in games where he’s had a big impact, for example against Chelsea where he had a big impact where he came on. They have many players who can be dangerous, but he can drive the midfield.”
Diame apparently has a £3.5m buy-out-clause in his contract, so I guess we will see what happens. He is cheap and has plenty of Premier League experience. Enough said.
Team News & Predicted Arsenal Starting XI:
With injuries to Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin, and given that Wenger has said he is not sure whether Diaby is probably not fit enough to start another game, we are not left with many central midfield options. Frimpong, Arshavin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can all play centre-mid if necessary, but I think that the easiest and most likely option is to partner Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, with Cazorla just in front. Tomas Rosicky seems to have returned to full training, but he will definitely not be fit enough to start. He might get a place on the bench. Lukas Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain have both recovered from illness over the weekend and should be available.
Arsenal.com have revealed the Arsenal starting XI and substitutes to face Swansea in the FA Cup 3rd round replay at the Emirates this evening. The game has been moved to an early kick-off (7.30pm GMT) due to TV scheduling on ESPN for all those of you who are watching in the UK.
The team is one of the strongest available to us. Lukas Podolski drops to the bench, with Francis Coquelin coming into midfield. It looks like Santi Cazorla is playing on the wing, unless Wenger has gone for a 4-4-2 with Walcott just behind Giroud. Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta are missing through injury. Koscielny is suspended.
Arsenal substitutes: Mannone, Jenkinson, Santos, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin, Podolski
Arsenal’s continued hunt for a new striker this January appears to have run aground after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar signed a new contract with Schalke and Fernando Llorente insisted he is happy to stay in Spain.
With Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh out on loan, there are only three recognised strikers at the club – none of which have made the centre-forward position their own this season. Theo Walcott has proven he can do it alone against the Premier League’s weaker teams but Sunday’s quiet display against Manchester City surprised few online football betting pundits.
Granted, a red card just nine minutes in did not help matters, but when Arsenal did have the ball in a promising position – especially on the wing when Bacary Sagna moved forward – there was no aerial presence in the box as Vincent Kompany towered over the tiny Walcott.
Even when Olivier Giroud entered the field, Arsenal could not get a real effort on target, exposing the confidence crisis in Wenger’s attacking unit when they are under pressure to perform.
What Wenger needs this January is a striker in form and self-assured in his own ability. Maybe someone like Gary Hooper, Celtic’s 18-goal striker who has not only terrorised SPL back fours but scored crucial Champions League goals for the Scottish title holders this season.
Hooper was instrumental in Celtic’s qualification for the Champions League knock-out stage, a development that surprised experts offering football tips, and inspired both Norwich and Southampton to reportedly line up £5m offers. Wenger must realise that this opportunity, at such a cheap price, could make the difference for his side this season.
At just £5m, Hooper would fit in well at Arsenal and make the centre-forward position his own. He is strong, holds the ball up well and has an eye for goal. He has already stated he would not mind playing in the Premier League to boost his England potential – an ambition Wenger already hopes to achieve in a number of his young players.
*This is a guest blog post written by a fellow Gooner who is passionate about Arsenal Football Club. If you would like to send us an article for consideration, then please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
1) Mikel Arteta was missing from the squad to face City yesterday, with Abou Diaby drafted in as his replacement on his return from injury. After the game Arsene Wenger confirmed that Arteta is out for 3 weeks with a groin injury. There was no mention of why Tomas Rosicky was not on the bench.
2) Finding “players of a calibre of Arteta, available in January” is very hard. With Arteta injured & Diaby injury prone, Arsenal almost definitely need to sign a new midfielder in January. However, the longer that the transfer window is open and we don’t make any signings the more worried I am becoming.
3) Abou Diaby needs some time to settle in (again). Diaby played ok on his return from injury (- he made a few good tackles and interceptions), but his passing was very poor. He needs to look up before he decides where he is going to put the ball. It is good to have his physical presence, but we need more from him in Arteta’s absence. He will need a few games though.
4) A mixed day for Wojciech Szczesny. Our keeper saved a penalty and played well to stop Carlos Tevez going around him, but his distribution really let him down. His kicking was very poor, and he waits for way too long on the ball, tempting the opposition to press him. One of these days he is going to misjudge his timing and make a hideous mistake. It also makes it very difficult for Arsenal to play on the counter attack.
5) Laurent Koscielny deserved a red card. At the time I felt that the sending off was a bit unfair; Mike Dean had essentially killed of the game as a spectacle before it had started. However, having seen the replays and spoken about it with friends I understand that 1) it’s not up to the referee to ensure that the game is a spectacle and 2) according to the letter of the law there was no choice but to send him off. The rugby tackle that Koscielny performed on Dzeko was risible and he will have to accept the 3-game ban.
6) Vincent Kompany maybe did not deserve to see red. Again, at the time (in the stadium) it looked like a bad tackle. Kompany definitely got the ball and says that Wilshere overran it, making a collision inevitable. However, others are saying that it was a dangerous challenge because he did have both feet off the ground. City are appealing the card and I have a feeling that it will be overturned.
Speaking after our 2-0 loss to Manchester City at the Emirates, Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Mikel Arteta will be out for around 3 weeks with a calf injury. The good news is that Abou Diaby, who was drafted in to replace Arteta, seems to have got through the City game without too many problems. This is extremely important given the games that we have coming up in the next few days/weeks. We play Swansea (h), Chelsea (a), West Ham (h), Liverpool (h) and Stoke (h) within the space of 18 days.
“He has a scan on Monday, [he will be out for] approximately three weeks. It is a strain on his calf. Of course [it's a blow]. In midfield he gives us stability, experience and tactical knowledge. We will miss that.”
Whether Arteta will be out for 3 weeks or 3 Arsenal weeks remains to be seen. The difference is quite big. Abou Diaby seemed to be 3 weeks away from a return for about 3 months. This injury will almost definitely put further pressure on Wenger to bring in some new players in January. However, Wenger concedes that players of Arteta’s level are hard to come by at this time of year.
“We are in the market, but to find players of a calibre of Arteta, available in January, I wish you good luck. We try very hard, believe me. We have a team around me who analyse everything. We select targets, I watch them… But it’s difficult to speak about any names.”
“Diaby became stronger during the game. I feel he was like the team. He started very slowly and became stronger in the second part of the game. I took the gamble [to replace the injured Mikel Arteta with Diaby] because I feel that it was needed. It’s good that he came through well. He will become stronger very quickly.”
Diaby himself then spoke about his return and how he felt about the City game:
“I feel good physically. Of course I have been out for a long time so I am not at my best, but importantly I did not get any reaction [against Manchester City]. This is good for the future.
“I knew the day before the game that I was starting, so I just had to prepare for that. I had been out for a long time, so I did not expect to be on the pitch so quickly. But it doesn’t matter, you just need to be prepared and see how it goes.”
A full match write-up will be published later. I was at the Emirates and would like to watch some highlights (especially of the red card incidents) before I write anything.