Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Injury Updates Post-Standard Liege Game

Kieran Gibbs is struck with injury again. After recovering amazingly quick from an injury during the international break, Gibbs fractured the first metatarsal in his left foot and will be out for around three months!

Other news: William Gallas has an ankle problem and a swollen eye, while Arshavin has some staples in his head. However, Arsene revealed that they would most likely recover for Sunday's game against Chelsea.

More news to come...


Arsenal - Standard Liege: Full Time Thoughts and Player Ratings

Arsenal - Standard Liege (2-0)
Samir Nasri (35')
Denilson (45')

1. Importance of Denilson
Arsenal were back to their beautiful, free flowing football, a stark contrast to the boring, lifeless football that was exhibited three days ago. This game showed us how much we missed Denilson, the fact that he can play alongside Fabregas (unlike Ramsey) as an attacking midfielder or a defensive midfielder (when Song leaves for ACN) makes him even more crucial to the team. We missed his never-say-die attitude which is seldom seen in the cool and calm Ramsey or the over-cool-and-calm Diaby. Through this game, we see how Denilson can stay behind Fabregas (while staying ahead of Song) to control the tempo of the game (as he can pass well) while allowing Fabregas to roam forward to attack. In the same time, he could join Fabregas in attack or launch some long range shots (like what he did today). Also, he could act as a DM in an advanced position, trying to take back the ball with his grit and determination, and if that fails, Song will act as the second DM to do the job. Denilson's multiple abilities makes Arsenal gameplay more fluid and flexible. Just a pity that Wenger would most likely deploy him as DM when Song is gone. Even though he is best candidate for that position during that time, I also feel that for him to play beside Fabregas (like what he did today) really helps the fluency of Arsenal game.

2. Gibbs Injury?
Towards the final few minutes of the game, we see Gibbs clearly in an uncomfortable state. We have to wait for his injury status. Nevertheless, I believe Traore is more than capable of playing left-back, he just needs more playing time to gain fitness and confidence.

3. Arsenal's defensive lapse in the final period
It seems that Arsenal suddenly switched off in the final period of the game, allowing Standard Liege to linger aorund Arsenal's penalty area with the ball. We have already witnessed goals concended in the final period in recent games. Currently, this is not a worrying sign because Arsenal is scoring for fun. But when Arsenal is not scoring, this can be a major problem, as we have already tasted it at Sunderland three days ago.

4. Vela, Vela
As I mentioned in the first half thoughts, I felt that Vela was very quiet. However, he became quieter in the second half! He seemed very tame and insignificant throughout the game, and was clearly overshadowed by the better attacking players, i.e. Nasri and Arshavin. Still only capable of performing in domestic cup competitions? I don't know.

Player Ratings:
Almunia: 6
Nothing much to deal with. He had the goal post to thank for his clean sheet.

Eboue: 8
Not much defensive duties to perform today, but he was really good and confident going forward. As mentioned previously, he does his best to dribble past players. Nevertheless, he still falls too easily.

Gallas and Vermaelen: 6
Not much to deal with. At their usual selves.

Gibbs: 7
Good to see him back. Was mobile and quick. Would be a pity to lose him to injury again.

Song: 9 (MOTM)
Immaculate performance. He was working industriously throughout the game, intercepting passes and tackling well. His presence is an assurance to the back four. Even tried to curve a shot at the last moments. Not sure how we will cope without him in January.

Denilson: 8
Did well. As mentioned earlier, his presence makes the game more flexible and allowed Fabregas to roam foward more frequently.

Fabregas: 8
At his usual self.

Nasri: 8
Did not see much of the ball if compared to the rest. But when he did, it ended up at the back of the net. A decent performance.

Vela: 6
Very quiet throughout the game.

Arshavin: 8.5
Was very agile and dangerous throughout the game, especially in the second half. Link-up play was excellent. A very important deciding factor for the next game against Chelsea.

Silvestre: 6
OK performance.

Walcott: 6
Still looked rusty with his usual mistakes, banging in players and running ahead of the ball. He needs to be more versatile and not purely rely on pace alone.

Rosicky: 7
Really has quick feet and an eye for passes. A valuable asset to the team.

Arsenal - Standard Liege: Half Time Thoughts

Arsenal - Standard Liege (2-0 HT)
Samir Nasri (35')
Denilson (45')

5 changes were made for this game. Eboue comes in for Sagna, while Gibbs is back to reclaim his left-back position from Traore. Denilson comes in for Ramsey to play alongside Fabregas, while Vela was given a surprise start as central forward, flanked by Arshavin and Nasri. This looks a more balanced team compared to the previous lineup.

Arsenal played their usual flowing football, with Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri and Fabregas very lively throughout the game. Vela seemed relatively quiet, hope that he will be more aggresive in the second half. Eboue also played well, defensively and especially, offensively, providing attack on the right flank.

Not sure whether Gallas will continue to play in the 2nd half after that awful collision with Arshavin. He never felt comfortable since then. Would love to see Walcott in action in the 2nd half.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Arsenal - Standard Liege: Preferred XI and Actual XI

This would be my preferred XI:
Sagna - Gallas - Vermaelen - Traore
Fabregas - Denilson
Eboue - Eduardo - Arshavin

But perhaps this will be the actual XI:
Eboue - Gallas - Vermaelen - Traore
Fabregas - Nasri
Walcott - Eduardo - Arshavin

We shall see.

Latest Arsenal's Injury Report

In regards to Arsenal's latest injury report, 
Arsene Wenger says, "Van Persie and Bendtner, they are out for longer. Clichy is not too far, I think two to three weeks. Fabianski will play on Wednesday night in the Reserves, so after that he will be available. Diaby had a recurrence of his calf injury so he is three weeks away."

Also, Gibbs is back in the squad for the game against Standard Liege. That's quick!

Who to Bring In for Tonight's Game?

As I mentioned in my previous post, having so many creative players in the same team might not be a good thing. As Arsene pointed out here, the team did not create enough in that game, such irony ya? So, considering the injuries that we have and the performance from the previous game, who should we bring in to the game, and who should we put back on the bench for tonight's game?

Players to bring in:
1. Eboue - Even though I am not a big fan of his, this guy is getting more confident, more mobile and more creative every time I see him play. Even though he is not as creative as other attacking players, but he always tries to dribble past players and he is willing to fight for the ball. I would love to see him playing on the right wing tonight. 

2. Arshavin - Among the attacking players, he is the one I admire the most. Quick, comfortable on both feet and does not hesitate to shoot. He deserves to play more, and he wants to play more as well.

3. Denilson - It's time to put him into action. If Song plays in this game, Denilson can play alongside Fab to attack from midfield. Or else, put Nasri alongside Fab.

Players to put on bench:
1. Ramsey - Not that I do not like him, I really love to see him play. But as mentioned previously, he cannot play well when he plays alongside Fabregas. Thus, it's a waste to play him if Fab is playing (unless Wenger decides to rest Fab).

2. Rosicky - Perhaps he should come on as a late sub, as physically he is still not 100% fit yet. He was not running much in the previous game. 

Can't wait to see how Arsenal bounce back from defeat. They need to regain the confidence and determination to play inside the opponent's half and to get the ball back once the ball is under the opposing player's feet. Come on, Arsenal!

Sunderland - Arsenal: Late Review

Sunderland - Arsenal (1-0)
Darren Bent (71')

I was very excited when I saw the team sheet, I could not really believe that Arsene Wenger fielded such an attacking side, especially we were the away team. Eduardo played as the central forward (as Van Persie was injured) flanked by Nasri and Rosicky, while Fabregas and Ramsey (as Diaby was injured) played in central midfield while Song covered the back four. Honestly, I have been wanting to watch how Arsenal will perform if all their exciting, attacking players were fielded. I believe this is the desire of many Arsenal fans as well.

However, few things worried me. Firstly, this team was very different from the usual lineup. As Wenger pointed out recently as he shared about his 'green lights' and 'red lights' gameplay, he said, "When you change more than three players from game to game you take a technical risk." He did so in this game, even though mainly due to injuries. Instead of opting for the more experienced and perhaps the fitter Mikael Silvestre, Wenger chose Armand Traore, who just came back from injury, to start the game as the left-back. Also, he had to field Eduardo in central forward in replacement of Van Persie. Furthermore, he fielded Nasri and Rosicky (who were not in the line up in the previous game) instead of Arshavin (perhaps because Arshavin was late to return after the international game), while Ramsey was only playing his second consecutive game beside Fabregas. There were too many changes to the side, and this perhaps explain the lack of creativity and fluency in the game. Understanding needs to be develop, and when you have so many changes to the side, the players need time to forge understanding and confidence towards one another.

Secondly, without the presence of combative players such as Eboue, Diaby and Van Persie, the team looks fragile when Sunderland attacked. Even though we had many attacking and creative players, these players lack the grit and determination to fight back the ball as the aforementioned combative players had. Thus, the team looked sloppy and lazy, not showing any desire to win the game.

Thirdly, after watching Ramsey playing two games alongside Fabregas, it reminds me of Lampard-Gerrad combination. Ramsey is too similar to Fabregas, both have the innate ability to control the pace and direction of the game from midfield, and thus, when Fabregas plays, Ramsey seemed unable to utilise his gift.

That's all for now. As much as I am worried when I watched players like Eboue and Diaby handle the ball, I realised how essential they are to the balance of the team. They provide that extra steel and determination that the attacking players cannot give.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Returning of Injured Players

A timely return.

Arsenal team and fans were totally devastated when we heard of news that the in-form Van Persie and Clichy-replacement Gibbs have both picked up injuries in international matches. However, later assessment reported that the injuries were not as serious as expected.

Now, Arsene Wenger has cheer us up further with news that Fabianski, Vela, Traore and Denilson have returned from injury. Now that Diaby is injured, who will replace him to play alongside Song and Fabregas in midfield?

Denilson? Wenger said that he would definitely be in the squad on Saturday, but it is unlikely that he will be in the first 11 as he is just returning to action after nine weeks out. Perhaps a late sub appearance. On a side note, I am really glad that Denilson is back, as he will need as many games possible before he fully takes on the DM role when Song goes for ACN in January.

I would say it will be either Nasri or Ramsey, and either one would do for me, as both are more capable than Diaby in creating opportunities and holding the ball (although I must say Diaby is a better goalscorer than the two).

Can't wait for the Sunderland game, it's so boring when international matches are being played...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Kieran Gibbs' Injury and Left Back Selection

The latest news on Gibbs from
"After being assessed by the Arsenal medical staff, the Club can confirm that Kieran Gibbs has sustained severe bruising to the bones and soft tissue of his right foot. Thankfully the foot is not fractured and his enforced absence will be short term."

We are not exactly sure how short does "short term" mean, but from the report at ESPN Soccernet, Gibbs could be back to play against Chelsea on 29th November. With Clichy injured and Traore just back from injury, Mikael Silvestre would most likely be deployed against Sunderland this coming Saturday.

I have seen Silvestre played a few times at left-back and honestly speaking, he actually did put in a decent performance - willing to run forward to overlay with the winger, tracking back in time to defend etc. (compared to his performance at central defence). So our left-back should not be such a big problem, while we wait for Gibbs to be back hopefully in a couple of weeks time.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wolves - Arsenal: Comments and Player Ratings

Wolves - Arsenal (1-4)
Ronald Zubar (og 28) (0-1)
Jody Craddock (og 35) (0-2)
Cesc Fabregas (45) (0-3)
Andrei Arshavin (66) (0-4)
Jody Craddock (89) (1-4)

Another win.

Another assuring performance that makes Arsenal fan believe even more that we can actually win a trophy this season. However, we have walked this path before, leading the title race at the first half of the season, only to fade away in inconsistencies and injuries in the second half of the season. I hope this time around, it will be different.

Today's match was not vintage Arsenal performance, and if not for the two unlucky own goals, the scoreline might be very different, as Wolves started so brightly with their attacking attitude that I think even Arsene did not expect. However, as usual, once Arsenal gets a goal, it goes on to get more. However, perhaps we really need to concentrate on not giving away late goals, as it seems to be becoming a regular pattern. I hope to see more clean sheets!

Almunia: 6
Nothing much for him to do. Should not be blamed for the only goal conceded as it was poor marking that let him down.

Sagna: 7
Was at his usual self, running up to overlay and running down to tackle. Tackles were neat.

Gallas: 7
Combative spirit. Always ready to close in on defenders.

Vermaelen: 7
Must take the blame for the conceded goal as he did not pressurise Craddock. Other than that, he was good: winning most of the headers and covering for Gibbs superbly when Gibbs could not track back in time.

Gibbs: 8
More active and mobile compared to the previous match. He is getting better by the day.

Arshavin: 8
More willing to track back to fulfill his defensive responsibilities. Scored a good goal, although at first look, I was worried that he might be injured as the defender stuck out his leg as Arshavin shot. Still, I would love to see more dribbling from him.

Fabregas: 9 (MOTM)
He is definitely on top form at the moment. It's so assuring to see him play as he dictates the pace of Arsenal's game. Glad to see him getting more vocal and giving instructions to the rest of the players in this match.

Ramsey: 8
Glad to see him on the teamsheet. Was initially deployed in DM position, until Song replaced Diaby, and that was the turn of the game. This would have been a good learning experience for him as this time around, he had to learn to release the ball much quicker than usual as Wolves were closing in quickly. Sometimes, Ramsey held on to the ball a little bit longer than needed and lost the ball in the end. He needs to play it simple, like how the rest play. Also, it was good to see him willing to run into scoring positions. He will get his goal soon!

Song: 8
I was glad that he came on for Diaby, as I don't think Ramsey was comfortable in the DM position. Nowadays, no one gets anxious when Song gets the ball. He is showing everyone why he earns his place in the first team. Composed on the ball and passing well, not to mention good tackling, he is becoming an asset for Arsenal.

Eduardo: 7
He did not see much of the ball throughout the match, but when he does, it usually ends up in a goal or an attempt on goal. Good to have him back!

Van Persie: 8
Consistent performance from our top scorer. Although he did not score, but his first touch pass to Fabregas' goal was superb. Link-up play was superb too.

Diaby (being sub out) - N/A - Carelessly gave away the ball a few times.
Nasri - N/A
Rosicky - N/A - Good to see him back. He has such a quick touch!

When all the attacking players are available (e.g. Rosicky, Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, Walcott etc.) Arsenal is certainly firing from all cylinders. I really believe this year there is a great chance we can get something!