Apart from Lukasz Fabianski, Arsenal have an almost completely clean bill of health. Abou Diaby and Andre Santos are probably lacking match fitness, but the big blow is that Olivier Giroud missed training all week with a cut to his knee and will face a late fitness test.
I am predicting a pretty standard and full-strength starting XI, but the lack of injuries also means that we will have a strong subs bench. I would love to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Rosicky start, but we all know that Wenger is going to start Ramsey.
Manchester City not only have Sergio Aguero missing with a hamstring injury, but Yaya Toure is away at the African Cup of Nations and Samir Nasri is suspended. All good news for Arsenal. City have not won at Arsenal in the league for 30something years, so I am feeling pretty optimistic. Their starting XI is still pretty good, but in my opinion their bench is not as strong as ours. Also, I have a feeling that Vermaelen and Mertesacker would be much happier playing against Dzeko and Tevez than Aguero and Nasri.
Substitutes from: Pantilimon, Nastacic, Sinclair, Balotelli and a few other randoms…
1) Theo Walcott’s hattrick underlines why we really need him to sign a new contract. Walcott played well through the middle, with Giroud starting on the bench again. Wenger is obviously giving Theo what he wants in order to convince him to stay and I have a feeling that it is working. He is on 14 goals for the season, which already makes this his most prolific season so far, and is contributing plenty of assists too. He wouldn’t get this much game-time at Chelsea.
“He has done very well and it just typifies what I think he can do. He can play through the middle, I am convinced of that, and he can only get stronger in there. Overall I am pleased with his performance.
“You know, the intensity of my desire [to extend his contract] is exactly the same as it was before the game. My desire is to extend his contract, he belongs here and hopefully we can do it.”
2) Olivier Giroud deserved a hattrick too. Giroud’s cameo appearance will take somewhat of a back seat because of Theo’s outstanding performance, but the Frenchman scored 2 good goals after he came on for the last 15 minutes and also hit the crossbar late into added time. I think that he was on for a perfect hattrick. Left foot, right foot, header.
“Yes, he came on very sharp. He looked dangerous on crosses, he looked mobile, technically sound. He had as well an impact when he came on.”
3) Bacary Sagna and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain need to work on their communication. Both offensively and defensively Sagna and The Ox were not working well together. Sagna didn’t continue his forward runs and there were a lot of sloppy passes between the two. Defensively they were also very poor. Gabriel Obertan, who is not exactly the best player in the world, made it look way too easy for Newcastle’s 2nd goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t close down (in fact, he wasn’t there at all) and Sagna was forced to follow to the by-line. Obviously, AOC scored a great goal, but he needs to work on his defensive duties.
4) Kieran Gibbs was also poor defensively. Although he did work well with Lukas Podolski going forward, Kieran Gibbs was not switched on defensively. Marveaux was completely unmarked for Newcastle’s 2nd goal, as was Demba Ba for the 3rd. He seemed to glance at Ba before the cross came in, but then failed to track the run.
5) Lukas Podolski had a great game. Podolski seems to have picked up boundless energy. He was closing down well, his movement was good and he was almost definitely our best player in the first half. He grabbed a great assist for the first goal, linked well with Gibbs in the second half, and nodded in a goal after Wilshere’s fantastic run.
6) Demba Ba could be an Arsenal player in January. Earlier in the week, Arsene Wenger moved to distance himself from rumours that we are in for Demba Ba, but in a post-match interview he was quick to mention Ba’s excellent game. He did also talk about Marveaux and Tiote, so maybe I am reading too much into this, but I am still sure that Ba is near the top of Arsene’s list.
“Yes, because we were three times in front and three times they came back, but they are a team that is good going forward. I was impressed today by Ba, he had an excellent game. The midfield as well, I felt that Marveaux had a very good game. Tiote as well, they were strong. They are a strong team.”
Maybe I am being a bit harsh? After all, Diaby has made 20% more appearances this season compared to last season (6 vs 5). The stats speak for themselves.
Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott face late fitness tests, but Olivier Giroud is definitely back in the squad. We really need Walcott back as soon as possible. I don’t think that I can take another game watching Gervinho. The fact that I am happier to have Aaron Ramsey starting on the wing ahead of Gervinho says it all.
Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud
“It’s difficult because some players are still not practising so I can still not tell you exactly who will be available on Monday. Koscielny should come into the training group today, with Walcott we don’t know but Giroud is back.”
“Slow progress. I cannot give you any fixed date because we are a bit in no man’s land on that front. He is working. We are waiting for him to come back but he is not ready.”
*This is a guest blog post submitted by fellow Gooner Travis Barker. If you would like to be a guest blogger on Straight talking Gooners then please send us an email with an interesting article and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Arsene Wenger is a man that the majority of Arsenal fans admire deeply, not only for the philosophy of majestic and tactically beautiful football which attracted me to Arsenal FC all those years ago, but also the infrastructure that he and many others at the club have helped put in place today.
There is no doubt that for 15 years Arsene has been the heartbeat for AFC and the teams he has produced have played to a once thought unreachable level. I’m talking about 49 games unbeaten – never did I think I would behold such a season but come the 2003/04 season we hit the peak of our powers. Fast forward to the 2012/13 season and things are starting to look a little bit shaky; not bad, but not where we want to be.
Now this change in the air that I’m alluding to in the title is not one of over-throwing our beloved French footballing maestro but rather a change in tactics. Over the beginning of this season it is undoubtedly clear that Steve Bould has had a monumental effect on the Arsenal defensive frailties of last years blunder-full season. We are now being touted as the best defence in the premier league in this current campaign. There are of course negative effects to his influence though, where organisation and shape discipline have taken precedence over Arsenals previous free-roaming flamboyant style of play. To the extent where when in possession of the ball players will stand and wait in their pre-situated formational shape because thats where they have been told to be and hold the ball, most likely to create space (which it does). But when everyones trying to create it…who’s moving into it?
Boulds influence is good but not for Arsene’s attacking 4-3-3 formation where players holding advanced positions in slow moving build up play can often leave us wanting at the back. Therefore amidst the already pre-existing change occurring with the Bould effect surely tactics could be better thought out to adapt to the changing environment of the premier league. So as shocking as it may seem to some Arsenal fans i am suggesting a change of formation coupled with freeform attacking movement.
1.This formation allows for Giroud and Podolski to dictate how much space is available for the midfield 4 to work in. For example, if giroud is standing on the 18 yard box between LCB and LB this would create space by distracting LCB and LB allowing Theo, Wilshire, Sagna and Arteta to try and move the ball between the oppositions LM and LCM.
2.With the wingers dropped back to a now more defensive formational shape we are less susceptible to the treat of a counter attack.
3.When Arteta is in possession of the ball in the current 4-3-3 formation he can only go left to the LCM or right to the RCM as the front three are two advanced standing on the toes of the opposition defence leaving him with just one team mate either side. However in this formation if he choses left he’s not only got the LCM but the CAM and the same can be said for the right.
4.Two strikers playing in close proximity opens up a lot of opportunities in front of goals as the runs they make will draw defenders away from key areas opening up massive amounts of space as apposed to Giroud making a run being heavily marked by two CB’s and no one profits from the space left behind.
5.This formation also gives rise to not only a valuable partnership upfront with two strong, powerful strikers but also a trio-ship with the silky smooth skills of our CAM added into the mix. It allows close proximity triangles to easily form (- its called the diamond formation for gosh sake) just through the basic formational shape, giving rise to a fast moving free forming style of play that Arsenal fans so loved.
There are many more points on why this formation should be held in conversation between Arsene and Bould but i think 5 is enough at this moment in time. There are also many reasons why the 4-3-3 formation we have in place currently has resulted in such stagnant football over the last 4-5 years but thats another story for another time. I’ve babbled on nonsensically for quite enough.
Arsenal.com have revealed the Arsenal Starting XI and substitutes that will take on Manchester United at Old Trafford in just under 1 hours time.
Andre Santos vs Antonio Valencia does worry me hugely, while Bacary Sagna is back in the team at the expense of Carl Jenkinson. The midfield three of Wilshere, Cazorla and Arteta is pretty amazing. It is unfortunate that Theo Walcott played the full 120 minutes against Reading otherwise I am sure that he would have started ahead of Aaron Ramsey. Olivier Giroud gets his start; there was no way that we could leave him out after his performance on Tuesday against Reading.
Arsenal & United have met 215 times in all competitions. United have only lost to Arsenal once in the last 10 games against us, which is not the most fantastic record.
Our chances of keeping a clean-sheet are pretty slim. We have had a pretty poor defensive record over our last 11 matches and United have scored in each of their last 53 Premier League home games.
Despite losing 8-2 this time last year, it was the first time that we had scored more than one goal at Old Trafford under Arsene Wenger (& I think in the Premier League era). Our last win at Old Trafford was all the way back in 2006, when Emmanuel Adebayor scored the winner.
Don’t expect Arsenal to come out with all guns blazing. According to BBC Sport, we have scored only 1 goal in the opening 30 minutes this season, less than any other team in the Premier League. It’s not something that I had actually noticed, but we seem to make up for it in the last 10 or 15 minutes.
The BBC also says that we are 1 of only 4 clubs that have not dropped points from a winning position this season, which is pretty promising.
* I realise that some of these stats are not particularly positive or promising, but hopefully we can change that this afternoon. This match represents the perfect opportunity for us to claw back some much needed points from one of our biggest rivals and a win would give the team a huge confidence boost that could finally see us get a string of good results. A draw would not be the most terrible result, but a loss would be pretty damaging.
1) There is no denying it. Arsenal’s attack was much better when we had Robin van Persie. Olivier Giroud was on the bench (why???), and Arsene Wenger decided to start with Gervinho up front and Aaron Ramsey on the right wing. Gervinho was all over the place. He has pace, but when he get through on goal I am never sure that he will finish. There was nobody who I really felt would step-up in front of goal in the way that RvP did. The most natural finisher is probably Lukas Podolski, but he always starts on the left wing. Ramsey did ok, but we would have been a lot more effective with a bit of pace from The Ox or Walcott had they been fit.
2) You can’t afford to gift Klaas Jan Huntelaar so many chances; he missed the first two, but he was bound to score at some point. Unfortunately, Arsenal’s dodgy defending (especially Andre Santos on the left-hand-side) meant that Schalke were hitting us on the counter-attack and getting lots of balls into the box. There was too much time and too much space because Santos was always out of position. Either he was too far back and playing people onside, or he was at the wrong end of the pitch all-together. With 10 minutes left Steve Bould took Jenkinson off and replaced him with Serge Gnabry. 3 at the back against the pace of Schalke was always asking for trouble, and we duly conceded the second goal. Kieran Gibbs is still out for the time being, which is pretty worrying – I don’t want Santos to play against Rooney and Rvp!!
3) Arsenal are no longer in the driving seat in their Champions League group. The next Champions League game in 2 weeks time is Schalke away, which now has added importance. If we lose to them again then we will be 4 points off the top of the group with 2 games left. That said, although finishing second in the group is never ideal, last season we finished top in the group and got drawn against AC Milan. It’s as much luck-based as anything.
4) Despite the poor team performance, some of the younger players did pretty well. I thought that Carl Jenkinson had a good game, although there is a limit to how much you can do without the help of your teammates. Jenko kept Afellay relatively quiet, with most of Schalkes chances coming on the side that Santos was supposed to be dealing with. He also worked the ball forward really well; it’s not his fault that Gervinho was having a bit of an off-game. Coquelin also played well alongside Arteta and Cazorla, but I was most impressed with Serge Gnabry, who came on as a substitute. He made some good runs down the right-hand-side, used a bit of skill, and had arguably Arsenal’s best shot of the game. A pretty good cameo performance on his Champions League debut.
5) There needs to be a serious response this weekend against QPR. If we lose (or even draw) on Saturday then we have no hope at Old Trafford a week later. That would be more points dropped and even less of a chance that we will make next season’s Champions League.
1) As I stated in my post-match article, the international break and a few injuries are not an excuse for losing to Norwich. Chelsea, City and United all managed wins and they had an equal number of players on international duty.
2) This was not a one-off loss; these sorts of losses have not been uncommon in the past few years. Inconsistency has cost us for the last 7 seasons. What was different and most frustrating on Saturday, however, was the clear lack of effort and interest from many of the players. The performance was as far from the second-half performance vs West Ham as you could possibly imagine. In my opinion, it is 50/50 as to which Arsenal side turn up. Either we trot out a 4- or 5-1 win (we always seem to concede…), or we struggle from the beginning because nobody shows up.
3) This was the 4th consecutive league game where we have gone behind and the 8th consecutive game where we haven’t kept a clean sheet. We are still very susceptible to set-pieces and zonal-marking from corners is an absolute disaster. The 3 clean sheets at the beginning of the season (vs Sunderland, Stoke and Liverpool) are a distant memory.
4) Arsenal can’t rely on Santi Cazorla as the get-out-of-jail-free card. As fantastic as Cazorla is, no player can put in MOTM performances every week. If Cazorla isn’t on song (not that he was bad against Norwich) then somebody else needs to step up. The same can be said of Mikel Arteta, who actually won the MOTM accolade on Arsenal.com
5) Gervinho’s wing-play is extremely one-dimensional and very frustrating. He may have scored a few goals playing in the middle, but he looks completely lost in the wide position. Every time there was an opportunity to create something for Giroud, Gervinho would try to run past everybody and inevitably give the ball away. He also apparently doesn’t know how to stay onside. Lukas Podolski is also much more effective in the middle, although not nearly as frustrating as Gervinho on the wing.
6) Olivier Giroud can’t create chances out of thin air. I actually can’t blame Giroud for not taking many shots – he barely touched the ball. Gervinho was refusing to pass and when crosses did make it into the box they were normally quite poor. Maybe it’s time that we revert to a 4-4-2 formation? I think that Giroud would be infinitely more effective if he had a strike partner (enter Lukas Podolski).
7) Vito Mannone only had a handful of saves to make, but he made everything much more difficult than it needed to be. Norwich’s goal could have been avoided if Vito had palmed the shot to either side instead of straight back into the middle of the box. I know that Alexander Tettey’s shot was quite powerful, but still… Mannone also did an Almunia impression when he chased the ball to the edge of the box. I was waiting to concede our second.
8) Alex Tettey’s long-range shot led to a goal. Why didn’t Arsenal try that? The only time that I saw any Arsenal player attempt a shot from outside the box was Mikel Arteta right at the end, and it was probably our best opportunity of the game. All you have to do is get the shot on target – if it’s hard enough then the keeper might fumble it or it will fall kindly to one of your players. Norwich showed us how this is done. Arteta and Cazorla do normally try a few long-shots, but I would like to see them more often.
9) This loss leaves us in 9th place after 8 games and 10 points behind Chelsea – that’s hardly the fantastic start to the season that we needed! Arsenal can’t rely on hanging in there based on consistent Champions League & Wenger’s previous successes. If we don’t finish in the top four then it becomes increasingly difficult to claw our way back to the top. It’s a vicious cycle – you only have to look at Liverpool as evidence.
10) Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of Wednesday night’s game against Schalke. AOC only played for less than ten minutes against Norwich before he became a substituted substitute. There is also bad news for Walcott and Gibbs:
“It was a kick on his hip. It is not long-term but he will be out for Wednesday.
“I don’t see anyone new being [back] for Wednesday night. The closest will be Gibbs but he will not be ready. Walcott will not be ready [either].”
We will have the latest injury news after Wenger’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
11) The game was “too intense” for Jack Wilshere’s comeback after 14 months. Jack will have to wait for another week, as I doubt that he will play against Schalke either. However, he did play the full 90 minutes for the U21′s against Everton on Monday afternoon, grabbing an assist for Tomas Eisfeld’s second goal.
“We have to be conscious he has not played for 14 months. I would have brought him on if the game had allowed it today but it was too intense.”
Following on from our post about Olivier Giroud’s late equaliser for France against Spain,I am delighted to report that Per Mertesacker also found the back of the net, scoring Germany’s 3rd goal in a dramatic game against Sweden. This was Per’s his first international goal since he scored against Australia in the Confederations Cup all the way back in 2005. Lukas Podolski was also in action from the bench.
Misoslav Klose scored a brace and Mesut Ozil the 4th as Germany looked to be pretty comfortable against a Sweden side that were rather poor in the first half. Unfortunately, Mertesacker’s defensive performance apparently wasn’t quite up to scratch as Germany then blew the 4-0 lead that they had held at 60 minutes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring for Sweden, followed by goals from Celtic right-back Mikael Lustig and former Bolton man Johan Elmander. CSKA Moscow midfielder Rasmus Elm then completed the coemback with a last-gasp equaliser to earn Sweden a hard-fought point. The last time I can remember a team blowing a 4-0 lead in this way was 2 seasons ago at St James’ Park…
Although Germany’s 100% record in the group may not be intact, they still remain 3 points ahead of 2nd place Sweden in their World Cup qualifying group.
Hopefully we will have more good news for you tomorrow, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain possibly in action for England against Poland. The Ox was not included in Hodgson’s starting line-up this evening, but the game was postponed due to torrential rain and will now be played at 4pm tomorrow. I am not sure whether we are allowed to make changes to the named starting XI, but Alex is unlikely to start anyway. Roy promised to make several changes from the team that played against San Marino on Friday night. If you wish to see a video of AOC’s first international goal, you can find that here.
Olivier Giroud scored a late equaliser for France in their Group 1 2014 World Cup qualifier to end Spain’s fantastic run of 24 consecutive wins. Sergio Ramos had put Spain ahead in the opening half an hour, but the World/European Champions were left to rue a missed Cesc Fabregas penalty as Giroud came off the bench to score in the 94th minute with what was apparently his only touch of the game.
Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla were also on show this evening, the latter having come on in the 12th minute to replace the injured David Silva. Our little Spaniard made a pretty immediate impression, with the first shot of the match after a pretty slow start. Koscielny, however, made his impression for all the wrong reasons. The Frenchman brought down Pedro to give away a penalty that was (luckily for him) missed by none other than the aforementioned Fabregas. Spain & France continue to sit top of their group on 7 points from the first 3 games.
Below I have embedded some highlights of the game. You can skip the annoying advert at the beginning by pressing the small x in the top right hand corner and, unless you speak good Russian, you may also want to watch with the volume down so that you don’t have to listen to the annoying commentary. For some reason the Koscielny foul and the penalty are not included among the highlights.
Arsenal came from a goal down yesterday to earn a hard-fought 3-1 win over West Ham at Upton Park. A goal just before half-time from Olivier Giroud cancelled out Mohamed Diame’s solo effort and goals from substitute Theo Walcott and the superb Santi Cazorla sealed the win. Below are some of my thoughts on the game:
1) West Ham made Arsenal work very hard for the victory, but we got there in the end. The Hammers have started the season well and gave us a bit of a scare when Mohammed Diame confused/wrong-footed Aaron Ramsey and curled the ball in from the left side of the box. Per Mertesacker could maybe have closed him down a bit more quickly, and Arsenal had failed to score with 4 or 5 efforts on goal at the other end beforehand, but credit where credit is due. Diame’s first goal for West Ham was pretty special.
“We weakened a bit physically in the second half but overall it was a very important test for us today. We expected a difficult game. We were not disappointed – a game with a lot of pace, where both teams went for it in different styles. It was a good test mentally as well, because we went 1-0 down with their first shot on goal. We came back and won this game. You could say that we had a good performance today overall.”
2) Mohammed Diame was very lucky not to have been sent off. Both Diame and later Theo Walcott were given yellow cards for running into the crowd to celebrate their goals, which I find slightly ridiculous. This is definitely something that the FA should reassess. However, the fact remains that Diame was already on a yellow when he made a bad challenge on Mikel Arteta only a few minutes after he had opened the scoring. I simply can’t see how referee Phil Dowd can justify not giving him a second yellow card for that challenge.
3) Olivier Giroud’s goal shows how important he can be for Arsenal this season. The Frenchman finally announced his arrival in the Premier League in style, with the kind of goal-poachers effort that we very rarely get to see at Arsenal. The replay on ESPN showed just how far he had run to make sure that he got on the end of Lukas Podolski’s cross. Giroud’s movement is fantastic, his hold-up play and arial ability are unlike anything we have seen at Arsenal for a few seasons, and I am sure that this goal will give him the all of the confidence that he needs to pursue a long and prosperous career in North London.
“In similar situations he nearly scored like that against Olympiacos on Wednesday night. He was good today. He had the physical presence and scored the goal. That will help him a lot I think to adapt very quickly.”
4) Arsenal couldn’t deal with the arial threat of Andy Carroll. Carroll was fierce in the air and was at the focal point of many of West Ham’s attacks, even with Per Mertesacker in the team. We can be very glad that Mannone made some good saves and that Kevin Nolan squandered an opportunity from a flicked-on header.
“You never can completely control Carroll for 90 minutes. You have to fight for him and be good on the second ball. The problem with West Ham is not only Carroll, but is [also] Nolan on the second ball in the box. We could have been punished once or twice but overall we gave it all to deal well with him. He [Carroll] was really up for it I must say. He did fight from the first to the last minute.”
5) Mikel Arteta is the best passer in Europe. According to the ESPN, Mikel Arteta has made the most passes this season out of any player in any top division in Europe. I am not sure exactly where they get this stat from (it must take hours to analyse every player in Europe!), but ESPN stats are normally quite reliable and this is a stat that I have no problem believing. His passing yesterday was, as usual, superb, and he really dictates the play from that deeper midfield role. He also gives players like Santi Cazorla (who I will talk about later) a bit more creative freedom than they might have in other teams. The fact that Mikel hasn’t made a single appearance for the Spanish national team is a travesty and is a testament to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. I honestly think that if Arteta was playing in Spain he would have been given a chance in the national team. The fact that he is in the Premier League (and previously the SPL) means that he doesn’t get as much of a look-in.