Swansea vs Arsenal Preview – Kyri Christodoulou

After what happened on Tuesday night at Hillsborough it’s easy to forget that Arsenal head into Swansea game on Saturday in fine form. Beating Watford, Man Utd, Bayern Munich and Everton shows that Arsenal are in great form.

Tuesday night was just a disaster from start to finish. Firstly, the Ox going off injured and then his replacement Theo Walcott coming off injured shortly after so early on in the game.
I immediately got that feeling that this particular Tuesday night wasn’t going to go so well.

Something seriously has to be looked at when it comes to injuries. Part of the problem is Wenger’s obsession about his team being the fittest team in the league because it can win you games in the last 10-15 minutes. This has happened quite often in the past but our squad has also suffered for it for many seasons as well. The fitter you are the tighter your muscles are and the more likely you are to pick up injuries.

Had Wilshere, Welbeck, Arterta, & Rosicky been available they would have played at Sheffield Wednesday and we probably would have won. But we’ll never know that now. Arsene Wenger didn’t really have a choice but to play the likes off Iwobi, Kamara, Campbell the other night and have a very young and inexperienced bench and we paid the price against a very physical, hard working and organised Sheffield Wednesday side.

The problem we have now is we have Swansea (A) Bayern Munich (A) and the small matter off Tottenham (H) all in 8 days and we need to respond after Tuesday night. We have Wilshere, Welbeck, Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ox, Walcott, Ospina all on the treatment table. I personal think Arsenal have the starting 11 and the squad to seriously challenge or win the Premier League title this campaign but that’s if we can keep everybody fit. (1st team and squad players). If we can do that we have every chance (but its a big if). If it’s the same old story with injuries again then we’ll finish the season with nothing.

So heading into the game in South Wales on Saturday afternoon we have a big problem who plays on the right hand side.

The options are… I suppose Bellerin can play further forward and play Debuchy at RB, for me I want Debuchy nowhere near the 1st team at the moment. Cazorla, Ozil could play on the left and Alexis Sanchez on the right but who plays the middle? No Ramsey no Wilshere no Arteta, A partnership off Coquelin and Flamini would be to defensive for me. Another option would be to just play Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez on either side. It will be interesting to see what Wenger does.

For me Aaron Ramsey is a massive loss for Arsenal people criticise the manager sometimes for playing him wide right and I know it’s not his natural position but I don’t see a problem at all with him on the right. Wenger plays him on the right to accommodate Cazorla, Ozil etc but I don’t see a problem with that. He’s without question the biggest engine and hard worker in the team and tracks back, goes forward, he’s up and down always wants the ball even when he’s having a bad game and you can never fault his commitment.

Ramsey reads the game very well and even though he’s only scored once this season he’s getting himself in the right positions at the right times and that’s no coincidence, the goals will come for him. For me he is the next captain of Arsenal and hopefully he’ll be back in the team after the international break.

The Liberty stadium is a place where Arsenal have had a hard time over the last few seasons it’s never an easy place for a team to go to. Arsenal have won twice and lost twice and drawn 2-2 in an FA cup tie since Swansea got promoted to the premier league.

The two victories for Arsenal in recent seasons were certainly battles. This fixture last season in my option saw Arsenal comment suicide. The Gunners went ahead through Alexis Sanchez and with 15 minutes left Arsenal got caught on the break like they were the team chasing the game and and gave away a free kick which Gylfi Sigurdsson scored, was a cracker to be fair. After that Jefferson Montero who was a massive pain in the back side for the whole game put in a cross for French striker Gomis who scored the winner & Swansea ended up winning 2-1.

In fact the last time Arsenal beat Swansea home or away was in September 2013 at the Liberty stadium, and have played each other 4 times since then, so this is far from a easy game especially with 8 injuries and a poor recent record against the Welsh side. Having said that, Arsenal’s away record is very impressive. And if the Gunners are to be Champions come May, they need to win at places like Swansea throughout the season. So in conclusion a tough test for The Arsenal.

This is the line up I would go with,  the reason I’ve gone with Campbell is because he’s an experienced player and should be able to cope at this level, he has experience of playing at a World Cup and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Hopefully he can produce and take his opportunity in the first team.image

My prediction: “My heart says 2-1 Arsenal but my head says 1-1!”

Kyri Christodoulou
(AFC FAN)

De Luca discusses Liverpool based on the 0-0 draw with Spurs.

The view from the Lane – Spurs 0-0 Liverpool, & why Liverpool can’t finish 4th this season

Tottenham and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw at the lane, a game where the pre match talk was dominated by the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and the inevitable debate over whether these sides could make the top 4 this season.

I spent a fair portion of last week trying to justify my opinion that Tottenham were better placed than their match day opponents to qualify for one of the coveted 4 spots and the game on Saturday did all the talking for me.

I don’t think either side will make it of course, and despite being largely impressed by the way Tottenham are developing this season as a team, I’ve still not seen enough to change that view.

Let’s make the unlikely assumption though for a second that Chelsea do not turn around their disastrous start to the season, and then don’t spend £274m in January to try and correct their failings, one of these two sides will probably finish 4th this season and there is no way whatsoever it will be Liverpool based on more than this showing.

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Jurgen Klopp will have just realised the size of the job he’s walked into if the fans need him to be the saviour of this football club because he would have seen his new team are light years away from a top 4 finish never mind Liverpool’s first title in over a quarter of a century.

Managers can’t just wave magic wands I’m afraid. Yes, the new manager effect works sometimes, but only when a team are underachieving compared to their current ability. Liverpool are not in a false position. Klopps first task is to consolidate Liverpool’s position in the top 6 for the purpose of his reputation whilst assessing the players he wants to bring with him for the long haul and implementing his style upon his new football club. Time just doesn’t stand still though. All the while the season of transition carries on relentlessly around him as his injured players suffer setbacks and the same ones that contributed to the failed second half of the Rodgers reign put in more ineffective displays. I have a belief based on gut feeling more than anything else that Klopp will improve Liverpool massively over the next two to three years, but anyone expecting anything more than a top 6 finish is wackier than the German himself. Even 5th would be an achievement.

The extra 10% that players mythically put in for a new manager was there on Saturday in all fairness, although it is not supposed to last for just 10% of the match. Even during that opening 10 minutes that Liverpool’s impressive high pressing meant Spurs could not get a foothold, no real bite to Liverpool’s attack could be identified. Injured attackers missing can’t be used as an excuse. The Sturridge problem is going to be recurring throughout this season as well you’d think and Benteke does not add to a sides creativity but more relies on it coming from behind him. After those 10 minutes where the Reds threatened only from set pieces including a scrambled effort away that flirted with the Spurs crossbar, Liverpool offered absolutely nothing. No spark, no creativity, no ideas.

Spurs’s failure to win this game highlights why they too will miss out on the top 4 places, nowhere near clinical enough when dominating several games already this season and up to 10 points wastefully dropped points already that all add up to inevitable shortcomings. Their problems end there though, whereas Liverpool’s are rife right through the spine of there team.

A bad refereeing display and some wasteful Spurs finishing meant Liverpool escaped with a point, and whilst neither of those things are Liverpool’s fault or concern, what will be a concern is the certainty that Manchester City or Arsenal would have dismantled them if they were on the other side of the pitch.

Mingolet had a rare good game at the lane, two or three solid saves kept the score goalless and although neither shot was quite finding the corner, he’s still dealt with them adequately. He’s miles short of the other 5 keepers in the top 6 and over the course of this season that I expect that to be costly.

The two centre halves were dreadful despite their clean sheet, even the experienced Skirtel was outjumped, outfought and outwitted by Kane time and time again. Sakho is an accident waiting to happen. There is no left back, Moreno standing in for injured Gomez was shocking, and whilst I’m a fan of Nathaniel Clyne he can’t save this back 4 from a defensive point of view.

Henderson is a smart player, but with suddenly a huge Steven Gerrard sized armband to fill, and as it took him a year to settle to his step up to Liverpool, I expect a little time too to adjust to his new standing in following the past skippers of this great football club. In James Milner, a player I’m a big fan of by the way, we have a guy who title chasing City saw fit to release last season. We’re hearing talks of ‘returning Liverpool to Glory’ associated with Klopp’s appointment. 30 year old castaways cannot be the answer surely? Players over 30 so rarely work in this league. Milner was so far off the pace committing 3 bookable offences, the 3rd of which was right under the referees nose, so lucky to stay on the field.

In Emre Can and Lallana we saw two of Rodgers’ Suarez signings who I’m afraid just aren’t good enough to win titles. Decent players, yes, no one is saying they’re bad, but they just aren’t good enough to be first team regulars at a side with high aspirations, and need to be ushered out of the first team to support the squad. They offered little in this match where after 10 minutes Hugo Lloris was a virtual spectator. This was the worst display by a travelling side to White Hart Lane this season.

Sturridge aside, Just Coutinho now is up to the standard, and now he knows it the weight is on his shoulders, the expectations are raised. The impact that had on sterling last year was negative and whilst I’m sure Coutinho will have another good season it is a big ask for him to replicate it exactly. With Benteke relying on him for service the stakes are so high if Sturridges injury problems continue. He can be forgiven for his poor display at Tottenham maybe, although with his opponents choosing no natural defensive midfielders you might have expected more than the only highlight being a dive to try to win a late penalty. It’s an example of how the team will struggle when he has an off day, a bit like Spurs with Kane pressure can do funny things and someone needs to step up and share the burden.

So, the ramble and possibly brutal dissection of Liverpool’s starting XI by me comes to an end, and the commencement of Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding challenge has begun.
I’m excited by some of the players he may bring to League from his past as part of his long term objectives for Liverpool, as much as I am about seeing a lot more of him bringing his style and charisma to one of our country’s most famous clubs. But please please please be realistic if you want him to succeed, because he needs time. The squad he has inherited is not good enough to play champions league football, which is proven by the way they fared in the competition last year if not by my maybe ruthless review above.

He maybe knows after watching his team for the first time quite how big his job is, give him time to do his thing.

Harry talks – ‘Arsenal’s title credentials’… What are your thoughts?

Is Arsene Wenger equipped with a side that are capable of mounting a serious title challenge this year?

Based on the start to this season you have to say yes – 7 wins from the opening 10 games. Just two defeats, the opening day disaster vs West Ham and that farce of a match at Stamford Bridge (Don’t get me started on that again). As a Gooner you’ve gotta be pretty optimistic so far.

A lot has been made recently of the form of Theo and the fact that Giroud has been coming off the bench and making an impact for the Gunners. People starting to talk about the fact that Arsenal have two very different striking options at the moment and Wenger seems to be using them very well.

In the recent win over Bayern at the Emirates I thought Arsene was tactically spot on. We sat and soaked up pressure and used Theo and Alexis’ pace to hurt the Germans on the break. After half time, Bayern began having a lot of possession and we just couldn’t get out. Goal kicks were being launched up the pitch and with Theo being the lone front man and no physical match for the Bayern centre halves it was coming straight back.

On came Olivier Giroud to relieve the pressure, we now had a physical presence, someone to aim the goal kicks/set pieces at. Someone that offered a completely different threat to the one Walcott had posed the defenders all night. And hats off to Arsene because it paid off. The big man grabbed the goal that set us on our way to victory.

Saturday’s win over Everton was also encouraging and reinforced the fact that at the moment we have two very useful strikers that can both do the job. Up to now the boss has called it right as to when to use Theo and when to use Giroud.

Jack Wilshere mentioned it on ‘Goals on Sunday’ this week – there are certain games Theo is more effective and some where Giroud is the better option. Let’s hope Monsieur Wenger continues to call it right!

Enough about the strikers – and while I think they’ve been fantastic in recent weeks I also think it’s worth mentioning the form of Mesut Ozil. The German international has been much more involved in games and has contributed to the recent form as much as anybody else. I’ve been known to criticise him in the past so I thought I’d better give him the credit he’s due.

As for Alexis Sanchez… I don’t need to bore you with a paragraph, the man is simply incredible.

Aside from the talk about the strikers though I’ve been most impressed with Arsenal’s defensive record. In my view this has been the difference and this is what makes us contenders this season. We are one of four teams with the joint best defensive record in the premiership this year.

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Petr Cech has been outstanding in recent weeks and after that first game blip against West Ham has proven what a great goalkeeper and addition to the side he is. He’s pulled off wonderful saves and just reassures the defence . Not bad for £11m eh?

The whole defensive unit has improved – the team now defends as a team. In recent seasons how many times did we see our back four left completely exposed by our ‘goal-hanging’ midfield. The emergence of Coquelin and the more disciplined displays recently from the likes of Cazorla & Monreal amongst others has seen a huge improvement!

The Final player I want to mention is Gabriel Paulista… The Brazilian made himself a hero amongst Gooners after his spat with Diego Costa. (In my eyes anyway). Since then he has proven he is capable of stepping into the side in place of either CB and do a job, a bloody good job! Did I mention he’s as ugly as Martin Keown and hopefully grows into as good a player as him!

I think it’s now or never for this Arsenal squad and Wenger looks as buoyant as we’ve seen him in recent seasons. I just hope his players can keep focused and get this huge club back to the top of English football.

So to answer the original question…. yes I do think this Arsenal side are very capable and on their day as good as any other side in this division.

I do believe they CAN win the title this season its’s what Professor Arsene deserves.

Harry Symeou

Arsenal gun down United in just 20 minutes… read my thoughts here – Harry Symeou

THATS MORE LIKE IT! – Wengers men blow away Utd in 20 mins!

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It was another roller coaster week at the Emirates. After the huge disappointment of defeat vs Olympiakos, yesterday’s performance went a long way in silencing the Wenger out boys. At least temporarily.

So after the doom and gloom from Tuesday night we are now once again firm title challengers? Based on that performance yesterday and the inconsistency of the premier league all around this season you have to say yes. As always with our beloved club there were a few of those ‘just clear it’ moments and I did find myself at times thinking ‘why are you trying to play your way out of this, get rid of it!’

Having gone 3-0 up I couldn’t stress enough to my fellow Gooners how important it was to go in at half time without conceding. Not saying that United were going to come back or anything but it was important not to give them that glimmer of hope & we have Petr Cech to thank for that.

He made a crucial stop and spread himself brilliantly to keep Martial out before half time. Once again showing that at 33 he still can still produce a good save in what I believed to be a crucial moment. Your probably sitting there thinking ‘how is that a crucial moment when we’re 3-0 up?’ When you know Arsenal as well as I do and after all the talk about how fragile our defence is I just felt it was vital not to give United a sniff before half time.

Now I want to focus on that opening 20 mins, absolutely brilliant is the only way to describe it. Arsenal came out of the traps like a side with a point to prove. Our players were hungry, sharp and everything was done with such precision. We saw everything we know a Wenger side is capable of. Alexis Sanchez was immense, power, pace, skill and above all the desire to score goals. The first goal was a fantastic move and Mesut Ozil played a huge part in it and ended up with the assist. Alexis Sanchez’s cheeky back heel to put us in front was a delight to watch.

There were 74 seconds between the first & second goals, Theo Walcott running at the shaken United defence before finding Ozil to steer the ball into the corner and put the Arsenal fans into dream land. Two goals up within 7 mins, not a bad response after the Olympiakos game!

Ever since Ozil joined Arsenal I can think of many occasions where I have criticised him for not ‘taking control of the game.’ I like to see the more talented players get on the ball and dictate the play wherever possible and I sometimes criticise him for not getting into those positions often enough and scoring the goals we know he can. He’s a player with so much ability but at times he plays in such a modest way.

Certainly couldn’t say that yesterday. That was the Ozil I’ve wanted to see for so long and on a more consistent basis. Involved, sharp, creative & carrying a goal threat of his own!

Back to Sanchez ‘El Nino Maravilla’ – there’s talks of the club offering him a pay rise. My response is ‘Give him whatever he wants!’ He’s a sensational player with bags and bags of ability but there’s one thing he possesses that puts him among the worlds elite, he has an unbelievable desire to win and score goals.

His two goals yesterday proved that better that point for me. The first goal saw him come sprinting across the near post to back heel the ball into the net. This is the man playing on the opposite wing! As soon as he sniffed the chance he was on his bike and across that front post to meet Ozil’s pass. For his second goal he almost lost the ball but had the tenacity to battle through and came out with the ball to unleash that rocket of a shot at De Geas goal! Have heard so many people calling him lucky, I’d say it’s a reward for being tenacious and having more desire than your opponent to make the ball yours.

There were plenty of other brilliant performances yesterday in Arsenal shirts, all the way from the goalkeeper to the forwards. A couple of players I really wanna mention that I haven’t already are Ramsey, Theo, Cazorla & Coquelin. Our midfield at times were a bit wasteful on the ball but their work rates were brilliant… Pressing players even in the late stages of the game when your 3-0 up! ??

Just couple of points I’d like to make on Man Utd also, thought Louis Van Gaal got his team horribly wrong – they’ve been on a decent run lately and would have gone into yesterday’s game full of confidence.

For me the key mistake was including Carrick & Schweinsteiger or however you spell his name! Two very experienced players yes but two players that lack the engine required to play in a midfield away to a top club. Whilst they both were assured on the ball and calm as always, the pair lacked the mobility to plug in the gaps and Arsenal’s talented midfield were allowed to run riot.

Im still shocked Schneiderlin wasn’t included and when I saw the selection before kick off I took a lot of confidence from it. Ashley Young at LB? Options were limited for LVG but that was never going to work was it!

He’s a funny manager Mr LVG, still haven’t worked out if he’s any good or not. One thing I know for sure is United certainly don’t carry that fear factor they used to.

Away from the Emirates it’s been a good weekend for us in general. Moving up to 2nd place just a couple of points behind the leaders. Chelski slumped to another defeat & Jose’s well and truly lost the plot. He claimed that his side were harshly done by when Falcao took a tumble in the second half. But in fact the Saints were the ones denied not just one but two stone wall penalties! When he was asked about Koemans sides penalty claims he just stormed off like the petulant baby he is.

Brendan Rodgers got the chop, guess that’s bad news because Liverpool might actually get a decent manager in. Southampton will be gutted… Who’s gonna pay well over the odds for their average players now?

So in conclusion a brilliant performance from the Arsenal, tactically spot on and one for the ‘Wenger out’ club to swallow. Lethal going forward & solid enough at the back… Nobody can have any complaints after this one. Back in the title race (for now) and all is good at the Emirates, long may it continue! Anthony Martial who? Haha

Harry Symeou – AFC Fan

The Typical Week of a Gooner… By Harry Symeou

The typical week of a Gooner…

After last Wednesday’s win in the league cup away to our bitter rivals Spurs & then an emphatic win on Saturday away to the premier leagues only remaining unbeaten side I’m sure we all thought ‘that’s more like it.’

Starting at the lane, it was a pretty solid performance from the Arsenal in my view. A magical performance from Monsieur Flamini having the game of his life & scoring not one but two goals! The second of which I’ve probably seen 15-20 times and still can’t believe he’s produced that! Arsenal stayed strong and defended pretty well overall I thought. Bringing on Sanchez after the Spurs equaliser definitely was the push that got us over the line in the end. Constantly causing panic, picking up the ball in good positions and running at the Spurs back line seemed to peg them back at a time they will probably say they were on top.

Apart from the obvious positive of Flamini’s performance I want to make the point that Calum Chambers looked a lot more assured at centre back and had one of his better games. I know he scored an own goal but how many times have we seen a centre back stick his leg out in reaction to a cross and it end up in his own net. It can happen even to the best.

On a less positive note I thought Mathieu Debuchy looked completely out of his depth! Constantly Spurs were pushing down our right hand side & giving the Frenchman a hard time. Every time Spurs picked up the ball I always thought his starting position was too narrow. This was something I mentioned in the opening ten mins, Chadli & Rose in particular had the pace to constantly get away from him. A friend I was watching the game with made the point it could be his fitness? Perhaps it was…but I was baffled as to his positioning. Having seen it again, he looked both unfit and positionally all over the shop. Bottom line ‘Not good enough’ – fortunately we got away with it on this occasion.

Now onto the weekends game at the King Power – away to Claudio Ranieri’s unbeaten Leicester side. This was never going to be a walk in the park and after going a goal down il be honest, I feared the worst. Up steps Theo Walcott to make his claim to be the no.1 striker. The debate will continue as to whether that role is best for him or not but he’s certainly scoring goals when he’s given the chance. Sometimes he needs 3/4 chances and that is where the uncertainty comes from but his goal record speaks for itself.

A cool left footed finish from the England man put us level and from there on we were playing some irresistible stuff. Alexis came up with a hat trick having not scored all season and announced himself back at the King power. Fantastic performance and between the Chilean and Theo they were a constant threat on the break. Credit to Leicester though they went for us and probably should have scored more than the 2 goals they got on the day. Offensively… Arsenal in full flow. Defensively… Well probably the less we say about that the better. Probably to an extent papering over the cracks but if we go and score 5 away from home then we shouldn’t really have too much complain about.

Now onto the champions league, the one we’re all dying to discuss. As Arsenal fans we are very quick to criticise the manager and to an extent I agree with it. Before I go into the reasons I believe we lost at home to Olympiakos let’s look at the whole picture.

We were drawn in a group with arguably Europe’s top team at the moment and with two sides from Greece & Croatia respectively. Do we have the right to walk through this group? Not in a million years is what I’d say to that. Olympiakos have dominated Greek football for as long as I can remember and have a number of talented South American players in the ranks including Esteban Cambiasso (who regardless of his age brings pedigree to the team).

Dinamo Zagreb – Croatian champions, went the whole season unbeaten last year and have a few talented and very useful players themselves.

Peoples response will be ‘but they play in weak leagues’ – in my opinion people who use that excuse are naive and really don’t understand the game they are watching. Ever heard the saying you can only beat what’s in front of you? Every club in the champions league group stage is there on merit and are there because they are of a certain standard. People live under this illusion that the premier league is by far the best standard in the world – well wake up mate because it’s not. And before people start going crazy I’m not saying that the Greek or Croatian leagues are. I’m making the point that the premier league clubs don’t have this devine right to beat everybody else.

Because these sides don’t spend £40-50m on single players doesn’t mean they can’t compete over 90 mins with the likes of Arsenal or any other club for that matter. England are in danger of losing the 4th champions league spot – this tells us that English clubs haven’t been dominant for a while – it’s not under threat on the basis of one season. Yet the majority of plastic fans think we should still be battering everyone and anyone across Europe home and away.

Moving onto Tues game specifically it was an under par performance from the whole team! Yes I said it, the whole team! Not just David Ospina.

I was at the Emirates and watched us ease off after creating a couple of half chances and let the Greeks grow into the game. You could see it from the stands they were gaining confidence as the mins passed. Cambiasso pulling the strings in the middle of the park and keeping his team focused and organised. A true leader. Where was ours?

A smartly worked corner, a weak shot & a weak attempt to block the shot from the Ox led to them taking the lead. As the Olympiakos players ran over to the scorer in celebration my eyes were glued to Esteban Cambiasso who calmly walked over and made a gesture to the whole team to ‘calm down’. Again…the leader, the most experienced player in the side taking it upon himself to take ownership of the situation.

Fortunately their joy was short lived as Theo broke away and a howler from their goalkeeper Roberto gifted us the equaliser. Now we were level, 10 mins to go to half time. Where was our leader to say ‘right lads were level after a scare, let’s keep it tight go in at half time and re group’…. Nothing. No instructions from Arsene who went straight back to his seat after the goal. The next goal we conceded was a howler from Ospina – nothing more to say about that, an individual error.

Wengers been highly criticised for his selection but having said that. I bet you all thought we were gonna win comfortably and I’m sure nobody can think of times where Ospina has let us down before. So why doesn’t he deserve to start? Yesterday’s poor display was more than just one error from Ospina and he’s been made the scapegoat for it. Me personally, I’d have played Cech because I always wanna see our strongest side in the champions league. But I don’t make the decisions.

65 mins gone and Sanchez pops up with a well placed header to level it… 2-2 & Olympiakos surely now are thinking ‘right boys lets hold on to the point and get out of here’. But don’t worry lads Arsenals naivety kicks in again – where were the leaders (plural) to say ‘right lets be patient here we have 25mins to find the winner’ – ‘concentrate on not throwing this away again and push them back onto the edge of their 18 yard box and we will create something’

Obviously I can’t be sure that nobody said that but if they did my god nobody listened. Typical Arsenal …headless chickens leaving gaps every where and once again gifting Olympiakos the third and what turned out to be the winner. This is the champions league and it goes back to my previous point… There aren’t any sh*t teams in this competition so you can’t be so naive and go around gifting people opportunities. They will punish you at this level.

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Truth is I could sit & talk about why Arsenal fail in big games for hours & hours. I’m not a Wenger out man just yet but its his players that he picks and that he has brought to the club that are forever letting this huge club down.

We now realistically face the prospect of failing to qualify for the last 16 and it’s because we simply haven’t been good enough.  Is it time for a change at Arsenal? Will we keep falling short with Wenger at the helm? It’s a serious question – even for the Wenger In crowd!

From highs to lows in the space of a week – the typical life of a Gooner!

Harry Symeou – AFC FAN

Spurs 4-1 Man City – Daniel De Luca gives us his thoughts…

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The View From Park Lane

Kane’s goal drought has ended, Erik Lamela is fighting Messi for the Argentinian number 10 role, Vertonghen and Alderweireld are like a present day Nesta-Cannavaro, Eric Dier is the English Lothar Mattheus and Spurs are gonna win the Rugby World Cup.

4 Days is a long, long time in football.

Pochettino must have afforded himself a few smug grins on Saturday evening. At 12:45 Saturday a few, myself included, were starting to question the direction he was taking Tottenham in following his decision to go half strength against Arsenal in the cup on Wednesday. In his year and a bit in charge there had probably been to date no more than 5 good performances and the transfer window didn’t bring in the striker everyone associated with the club were desperate for.
Then BANG!! It happened. Spurs put in a performance that had everything a fan would want to see.
The philosophy seemed to truly kick in for the first time, and the result was spectacular against a team who have dished out many punishing defeats on Tottenham that our 3 previous managers could never truly recover from.
Redknapp’s career may forever be defined by the “what If’s” of spurs’ narrow 2-3 defeat at Eastlands in 2012. AVB was mauled 6-0 in 2013 and it really was the beginning of the end. And by the time Tottenham Tim was mauled 1-5 at White Hart Lane any last hope he had of securing a full time job with a cockerel on his Gillet was deteriorated.
Pochettino’s Tottenham put in very few good displays last term, a 5-3 win against Chelsea and an enormously one sided 2-1 win against Arsenal being the obvious picks. But players picking themselves up for a big derby performance at home when the atmosphere is up can happen in football. A come from behind victory in a midday kick off when the crowd are not quite so raucous is a different kettle of fish altogether. This is the type of result we have had so rarely over the last decade. The away wins at the Emirates in 2010, San Siro in 2011, and the first win at Old Trafford in 2012 are the only 3 that qualify. They were all hard fought odd goal wins, this was in the end a three goal cushion, and if the game lasted longer, Tottenham would have won by more. Manchester City were well and truly beaten and desperate for the sound of the referees whistle.
The most impressive thing about the result was that it had to be worked for. The away side dominated the first half so comfortably that spurs had trouble stringing two passes together in the opposition half, and when they fell behind to De Bruyen’s first half opener it was hard to see a way back especially with City in the ascendency and cranking up the pressure, often with a man over on either flank to lead the attacks. City had big players missing, of course that was a factor, and the linesmen might have wondered how they each failed to rule out a Spurs goal that did impact the momentum of the game, but Spurs seized the opportunity in a fashion that a lot of the players have replicated individually this season. Dier given a chance to a starting role this season out of position had grasped the opportunity with some incredible performances and his 25 yard pile-driver was just a cherry on the cake of an outstanding first half performance that kept Tottenham in the contest defensively and then gave belief in the dressing room when the ball crashed into the net just before half time. Dele Alli given the chance to start in the premier league against the league leaders at just 19 was outstanding as he has been all season. Nothing seems to phase this lad and we’ve got a player on our hands of unbelievable quality. Lamela getting game time due to Eriksens injury has improved no end over three performances this season and this was a level not seen by him on these shores and against a worthy opponent.
Momentum is a powerful thing in sport, and taking the lead just 5 mins into the second half having equalised seconds before the end of the first one (despite Kyle Walker being 3 yards offside in the build up) was ultimately the key moment in this game. Whilst the linesman shouldn’t have saved City on this occasion, stand in goal keeper Willy Caballero should have, caught in no man’s land for Alderweireld to nod in a simple header. When people criticise Tottenham’s transfer window I wonder if they forget that this guy was signed from Atletico Madrid for £11m. Most managers will tell you that to re-create football teams you have to build from the back. His partnership with Vertonghen is as solid right now as anything younger Tottenham fans would have seen. Just 6 games in I know, but Spurs have the best defence in the league right now. That is truly unheard of, even after just 6 games.
Then after an hour came the moment many have been waiting for, Harry Kane finishing the rebound of Eriksen’s fantastic free kick which crashed off the bar, won after some superb work from the unrecognisable Erik Lamela. The linesman should certainly have spotted Kane in an offside position – he didn’t and this was clearly going to Tottenham’s day. They say when a striker is in a rut he just needs a lucky break, and Kano certainly got it here to open his account over a month earlier that his first premier league goal last season. I’m not expecting a goal glut to replicate that necessarily but now the panic has gone away I’m sure the sight of Harry heading for a corner flag in celebration will become more frequent.
Watching Tottenham over the years as I have, makes me know that we are never safe, but this game felt different. Manchester City were getting some ball in attacking positions but never really threatening the score line. It was Spurs who were the more threatening and City were grateful the linesman had woken up to correctly disallow Son making it four. If he hadn’t touched it at all Chadli’s header was goal bound.
When the fourth did come it was Erik Lamela who capped his Man of the Match display with a deserved appearance on the scoresheet. Clinton N’jie looked impressive for his second successive cameo and turned superbly to lay on Erik Lamela to cooly round caballero when it looked for a moment that the chance might have gone. Spurs will be hoping Lamela can put in this level of performance with increased regularity, and in N’Jie there are signs that Spurs might have found the pacey handful that the squad has been lacking.
It’s easy to get carried away, and I think the team is missing the world class player sides need to finish in the league’s top 4 places over a 38 game season. But if you can’t get excited after a second half display like this then there probably isn’t a lot of point in supporting a football team.
I do wonder what difference Hart particularly might have made had he been fit to play and don’t think that can be underestimated, the linesmen obviously did their bit, and Sterling certainly needs to do a lot more for the amount of ball he gets in dangerous positions to justify that price tag. From Tottenham’s point of view though a winger of their own finally started to justify his own huge price fee, and nothing should be taken away from Tottenham, Erik Lamela, and Mauricio Pochettino. This was their day. Spurs are unbeaten in the league since the opening day and long may it continue.

Daniel De Luca – Spurs fan

DIEGO ‘DISGRACE’ COSTA ONCE AGAIN CROSSES THE LINE – Harry Symeou

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DISGRACE, FOOTBALL WORLD LEFT FURIOUS AT COSTA – Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal by Harry Symeou.

It’s Monday morning and I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal fan that’s still fuming with the officials from Saturday’s game. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Gabriel Paulista & whilst he made a sort of kicking out action against Diego Costa he was no way at fault for that whole incident.

I’ve seen it over and over again and I’m very pleased to say that Costa’s actions have been condemned by the whole footballing world, all except his deluded manager of course. The man had no intention other than to get an Arsenal player sent off from the very beginning of the incident.

If I’m honest I don’t know why I was even surprised we’ve all seen Costa’s dirty tactics and classless actions over and over again & should just expect it by now. However, Saturday’s display was something else.
For me it all began from very early on when he clearly dived under a challenge from Coquelin in the middle of the park. The replays were conclusive and clearly showed there was zero contact between the two and a free kick was awarded surprise surprise, in Chelski’s favour. This was when I first began questioning the referee… My immediate thought was ‘if you really do think that was a foul Mr Dean why haven’t you booked Coquelin? I mean if you do think there was contact it’s definitely cynical enough to warrant a yellow card no?!

At this point in the game it was 0-0 coming up towards half time, neither side had really threatened or had any decent attempts at goal. A couple of routine saves from the keepers was all we had seen at this point.

Then, just before half time it began. Costa’s antics reached a new level and we were about to witness something that in my view makes a mockery of the beautiful game and nobody, Arsenal fan or not wants to see happen on a football pitch. Koscielny and Costa are in the box awaiting a cross, Costa first of all puts his hands in LK6’s face & then blatantly swings an arm into the face of the Frenchman. Once the play has broken down Costa gets up off the floor and throws his chest (a clear sign of aggression from the Chelsea man) into LK6 again who goes down.
Gabriel comes rushing over to the defence of his partner and his first reaction is to get them apart, play the peacemaker.

Sportsmanship and peace making are obviously two things that Diego Costa doesn’t understand as he then starts on Gabriel. Constant verbal provocation and patronising pats on the chest from Costa led to Gabriel ‘flicking out’ at him. I won’t even call it a kick because it was child’s play compared to what Costa had just done to Koscielny. Gabriel was then shown a red card for the whole incident. Absolute disgrace! Was he wrong to react? Yes of course, but where was the punishment for the provocation? A poxy yellow card!? The thing that I can’t seem to comprehend is how on earth has Dean missed the whole incident with LK6 yet he notices Gabriel’s small part in the whole thing and decides to send him off only? If he really didn’t see it then I expect him to say that in his report and allow the FA to punish Costa retrospectively.

Howard Webb on BT Sport criticised the ref and even said he should have been stronger and bossed the situation and put out the flame from the start. Instead the ‘weak’ Mike Dean allowed the situation to escalate and Costa got his way.

‘Weak, biased refereeing and disgraceful behaviour from the Chelsea striker’

There’s been all kinds of reaction to it all over social media and in the press, I especially enjoyed Garth Crooks’ piece on it on BBC’s final score programme. One thing I do want to mention though was my disappointment in Arsenal legend Ian Wrights comments, having watched him on BT Sport that day I was disappointed he was so reluctant to point the finger at Costa. He was so quick to point the finger at Gabriel for reacting but it was as if he was ‘afraid’ to lay any criticism at the feet of the Chelsea striker.

Not to say Arsenal would have won the game but it certainly doesn’t help when you lose a CB right on the stroke of half time. It was always going to be an up hill struggle from there and this seriously damaged our chances of getting a result. I mean as if it isn’t hard enough to get anything at Stamford bridge let alone when it’s all going against you.

Mourinho once again lacked any class by claiming that Costa was playing the game ‘the way it should be played’ – he’s not stupid he knows exactly what his striker was up to.

And so the fued between Wenger & Mourinho continues…

Wenger was criticised by some people for his comments after the game but I for one was very proud of our manager. He stuck up for his team and pointed out (not that he needed to) exactly what Costa had done. He was also honest in saying Gabriel shouldn’t have reacted and I thought the Arsenal manager showed passion and fight in the way he defended his side. We might not always agree with his tactics and some of his decisions but you can’t doubt he cares about our club.

My final point takes me to some comments I read from Jens Lehmann regarding the incident… Jens pointed out that had this been his Arsenal side ‘the invincibles’ they would have showed more ‘togetherness’ & in his words ‘dealt with Diego Costa’. Jens went on to say that had he been Arsenal goalkeeper on Saturday he would have been straight out to defend both his centre halves. “When I was in goal for Arsenal the goal area was mine and I would police it, if I had seen my centre halves being bullied I would of been straight in the face of Costa and you can bet that Patrick and Sol would have been there too letting him know he would have to take on all of us as a team, it’s not cheating it’s showing togetherness and this Arsenal team lacks that”

I think in an in-direct way it was a dig at Petr Cech because he then said “maybe because Petr played many years for Chelsea he felt he couldn’t do this, you will have to ask him why.”

That did get me thinking though, what happened to that fighting Arsenal side that could play everybody off the park yet still had the steel to deal with those kind of situations.

But ultimately another weekend over where all we are talking about are bad refereeing calls. Bring in technology I say your killing the game!

Thanks for reading,

Harry Symeou – Arsenal fan!

LVG faces his old adversary Koeman as Utd take on the Saints! – Apostolos’ XI

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GOAL | David de Gea
I still can’t believe this man is playing in goal for us! After his collapsed move to Real Madrid on the penultimate day of the transfer window Big Dave began his reconciliation with the club that made him a superstar by signing a new deal and committing himself to another four years. The Liverpool game last Saturday had the potential to be a seriously tough test for a man who hadn’t played a minute of competitive football all season, but thankfully Benteke and co. had a thoroughly uninspiring afternoon, giving de Gea a comfortable return to Old Trafford. Sunday’s trip to St. Mary’s could be another fairly quiet game for him with Southampton starting the season badly (five goals scored and three points in the first five games).
DEFENCE | Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind
United’s defence has been arguably our most consistent and best performing area of the pack this season – a far cry to the makeshift, inexperienced appearance that presided over our defencive line-up this time last year, when Blacket and Fletcher regularly made up part of our back four! However the four players that have played together in all eight games (all comps) this season has very suddenly been forced to change as a result of Luke Shaw’s awful injury vs. PSV in the Champions League. Rojo will come in in place of Blind, who will play at left back (as he did for the majority of last season) however more worryingly is the news that Shaw, who has vastly improved from the player he was this time last year when he first joined, will be out for up to nine months. An awful incident and one that I hope he’ll be able to come back from stronger like Antonio Valencia and Aaron Ramsey before him.

MIDFIELD | Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Memphis Depay, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young
Young has been restored to the side – and rightly so – after his awesome 45-minute appearance in the Liverpool win. He wasn’t quite as influential against PSV during the week, but there is no denying he is currently a more well-rounded option on the wing; someone who can attack well and cause defences problems while also helping out his own defence when called upon.

Mata and Memphis – who we are still waiting to transfer his European form to the Premier League – are regulars for me at the moment, although I’ve heard a suggestion that Mata will be dropped to allow Herrera to play behind the striker and have Young and Depay operate on the wings. I’ve never rated Herrera as a no.10, seeing him more as a ‘later years’ Paul Scholes who can control the game in the centre of the park with his vision and passing. Add the ever-reliable Michael Carrick into the mix and that creative pairing should cause S’oton some problems.

ATTACK | Anthony Martial
Undoubtedly United’s problem area. Martial Mania has rapidly dampened after a timid performance against PSV followed his heroic cameo in the league last weekend. Rooney looks set to miss the third game in a row thanks to his hamstring, so Martial will more than likely lead the line again. Having been at the club for a few weeks now, and with the pressure placed on him to score his first goal out of the way, hopefully we will start to see a more composed, clinical side to his game. Let’s face it, we could do with the goals.

APOSTOLOS LAMBRIANIDES – MAN UTD FAN

Chelsea vs Arsenal Saturday 12:45 – Preview by Kyri Christodoulou

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Chelsea had a much needed break from domestic football this week and their champions league campaign started well when they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv at home last night. A much needed boost to the likes off Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa who got on the score sheet and a boost to the whole Chelsea team really was much needed for Saturday’s game against Arsenal. Early on in the game though it looked like it was going to be the same old when Eden hazard blazed an early penalty over the bar and into the shed end. But a routine 4-0 win is exactly what they needed at this point with Arsenal up next for them.

Going onto Chelsea’s start in the league and I don’t think anybody could have predicted the champions shocking defence to their tittle would start this way. Many peoples favourites to retain their crown before a ball was kicked. Chelsea currently sit 11 points behind league leaders Manchester City and just above the bottom three and any sort off drop points at home to Arsenal at the weekend and it really will be hard for Chelsea to make up that ground even this early in the season. Whatever your opinion on Jose Mourinho’s philosophy on football his teams usually defend well in numbers off the ball and are a very hard defensive unit to break down and it usually works more than it doesn’t were ever Mourinho has been, that’s why it’s so hard to understand even after 5 games why they have the worst defensive record in the league. Not the best time for them to loose Thibaut Courtois to injury for 2-4 months.

For me Chelsea’s trip to Goodison Park last Saturday was the perfect example off Chelsea’s season so far. Everton started the game with a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield with Kone and Lukaku as the two strikers and both off them getting in-between Zouma and Terry with ease and managed to create space and chances for the themselves on a few occasions especially in the 1st half and really gave the Chelsea defence a tough afternoon. Another Chelsea defender who has been far from his best is Branislav Ivanovic who over the years has been one off Chelsea’s most consistent and reliable players, which is a surprise considering his experience in the game, we’ve been used to the Serbian throwing himself in front off shots and bullying players for fun and being a real rock at right back and centre half in his Chelsea career. So far this season he is giving the opposition so much time on the ball, wide players beating him constantly this season and is far from the Branislav Ivanovic that we’ve seen. then there’s Matic and Mikel who sat in front off the back 4 who applied no pressure and allowed time and space on the ball for the Everton midfield, none off them tracking any off the Everton midfielders runs into the box and Everton players passing rings round them way to easy at times they were chasing shadows for a lot off the game even though Matic did produce a great strike to get Chelsea back in the game before half time. Matic is another player is season who doesn’t know weather to press the ball or sit deeper and over the past 18 months since he re-signed for Chelsea from Benfica he has been a player that reads the game well breaks up play and is also a bully in the middle off the park. in the past 5 games this season he looks confused off what his duties are and that’s very unlike him. The likes off hazard and Fabregas, two off the best players in the premier league if not in world football and on there day are a joy to watch who can’t seem to control, pass or even keep the ball for Chelsea at the moment and have been pretty much none excitant in games this season who haven’t delivered anything to Diego Costa at all. Even Diego Costa who last season was so energetic who used to come from deep link up play who used to get himself in very good positions was constantly moving around off the ball getting in between defenders and was always a threat on and off the ball, defenders last season at times in games had no idea were Costa was. Now it seems like he’s waiting for the service that isn’t coming his way and seems less confident in front off goal and is guilty off taken one to many chances in front off goal than he did last season when he does get the ball to his feet and times as well looks like he feels sorry for himself. Funnily enough last Saturday will probably one off john stones easiest games he’ll play this season. Many people have their opinions on why Chelsea have started the season so badly many people seem to think that they have a lot off problems off the field which looks like one off the cases but Chelsea looked exactly the same during pre-season and still haven’t rectified their problems. Did Mourinho not do the correct business in the summer which some people are also saying? That is also a possible explanation as well. If I’m being honest I still expect them to finish in the top 2 come the end off the campaign but that remains to be seen.

So Chelsea welcome london rivals Arsenal to Stamford bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Arsenal like Chelsea were in Champions League action on Wednesday night away in the Croatian capital off Zagreb and the Gunners were dreadful. Arsene Wenger made 6 changes to the team that beat Stoke on Saturday and it showed. I can’t say I blame Wenger for rotating the team he didn’t really have a choice with 4 games away from home in 10 days but the good news is that Arsenal will field a much stronger team on the weekend. Got to give a lot off credit to Dinamo Zargreb they had a game plan and it worked they sat with two banks off four off the ball and didn’t let Arsenal settle at all and caught the gunners on the break and it worked. Arsenal with the ball were pretty bad with no movement, creativity or imagination what so ever. Arsenal couldn’t keep the ball and kept giving it away in a very sloppy fashion. These sort off results do happen in football not just to Arsenal and it could also be a wake up call for Saturday but these wake up calls seem to happen to Arsenal way to often than they should. I still expect Arsenal to qualify from their Champions League group with 5 games left in the group but still a very disappointing night.

Before a ball was kicked this season Arsenal were a lot off people’s favourites to be Chelsea’s closet challengers for the premier league tittle until the transfer window slammed shut at the beginning off the month and not to mention Manchester City’s perfect start to the season in the league. For some reason people seemed to have forgotten about City before the season started which is strange because of the likes off Kompany, Silva, Toure and Aguero and co in that team and if they stay fit and have good seasons then I feel their the most ruthless team in the league and without question have the leagues best centre forward and have also added the likes off Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling two young and very promising players for big price tags.

Back to Arsenal and for me looked sharp, fit and exciting in pre-season and looked very promising for the start off the season but we’re shocked on the opening day by a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham (another wake up call) and since then I think Arsenal have done ok and responded well from a shock opening day defeat apart from Wednesday night in Zargreb but have certainly created a lot off chances in games but seem to be very wasteful at the moment but the goals will come at some point no question about that. I think Arsene Wenger has again put together a very good team and squad together again and even though he only brought in 1 player in the summer it was rectifying the goalkeeping situation which was a problem before but bringing in the Petr Cech was a big step forward for me. Cech returns to Stamford Bridge in Arsenal colours for the 1st time on Saturday after 11 successful years at Chelsea and managed to keep a clean sheet on his Arsenal debut against his former club in the community shield. he will probably feel mixed emotions returning to Stamford bridge for the first time as an opposition player but he will definitely get a warm reception from the Chelsea fans.

He is a top professional and world class keeper who was made 2nd choice at Chelsea in his last season after Courtois came back after 3 seasons on loan at Athetico Madrid but with Chelsea winning the league tittle you couldn’t argue with Mourinho’s decision to make Courtois no.1 goalkeeper last season, he certainly didn’t want to sell Cech to Arsene Wengers side he made that clear. Cech will want to go back there and make a statement with his new club.

Many people still feel Arsenal are still missing a top top centre forward to compete for tittle and people argue that Arsenal also needed a defensive midfield player which I also agree with but I like Coqualin who put in fantastic performances since he was called back from on-loan from Chalton in January. Didn’t have the best off games against West Ham and maybe lucky to stay on the pitch before being substituted at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace and still lacks experience in that position but since then has again put in good performances and was very good against Stoke on Saturday.

Chelsea HAVE to win and cannot afford to drop points and theirs a lot off pressure on them which as an Arsenal fan scares me. I think it can be a good time for Arsenal to play Chelsea because they are obviously lacking confidence at the moment and their is clearly problems on and off the pitch at the bridge but also you can argue its a bad time to play them because Chelsea have to respond and have to win the game. As an Arsenal fan attending the game in South West London on Saturday I can happily say that I’d settle for a point considering Arsenal’s record at Stamford bridge over recent years how times have changed When pre-abramovic era how Arsenal always used to get a least 4 points off Chelsea a season it’s certainly been the opposite since the Russian took over at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho’s long unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger came to an end when Gunners saw off Chelsea at Wembley in the community shield at the start off the season which for me is a massive mental believe that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger can believe they can beat Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

As the starting 11 for both sides on Saturday i think Mourinho Will play Terry and Cahill at the heart off the defence. I know Cahill hasn’t been in the team and has been replaced by zouma recently even though he did start in midweek in the champions league I’d expect Terry and Cahill for the experience and the they seem to have a good partnership and understanding together and both good readers off the game. I expect Chelsea to sit deep and have men behind the ball at a lot off the time on Saturday and look to catch Arsenal on the break just like Dinamo Zargreb did and Chelsea have against Arsenal in the past. Apart from that I don’t expect the Chelsea team to be much different to the side that played against Everton. I expect the two holding midfielders in Matic and probably Mikel to play and protect the back four with Fabregas Hazard and Pedro to play infront off them and Diego Costa to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

For Arsenal I’d expect the same 11 that beat Stoke last weekend I’d expect Ramsey to sit with Cazorla and Coqualin in a midfield 3 without the ball in front off the back four, for me Ramsey is an engine and he’d get behind and the ball and sit with coqualin even if Ramsey is put out wide id expect him to slot in more off a central position off the ball and cover the right ground when arsenal don’t have position and he’d also bring the ball forward quickly on the break Then you have Santi Cazorla who can spread the ball around the pitch quickly. Then Theres Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil who will be left right and central at times in the game anybody who watches Arsenal regularly will know that the likes off Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey love to rotate and switch around the pitch at times in the game and I don’t expect any different on Saturday. A lot off Arsenal fans have been saying a lot at times this season that Alex oxlaide-chamberlain should start more games but I don’t think he deserves to at the moment, ok he was injured for a long part off last season but for me when he picks the ball up from deep he’s very quick and direct and looks very threatening on the break and can probably beat most full backs in this league but his decision making and end product lets him down for me his stats with assists and goals will prove that and I think the manager doesn’t trust him so much at the moment.

Another question is who will Arsene Wenger start up top on Saturday? Will he stick with Walcott or will he go with the low on confident Olivier Giroud? People can say what the want about these two but I do think they both have certain qualities about them that are very beneficial to the team. Oliver Giroud comes deep to receive the ball and holds up play well and has good link up play and brings the midfield into play which is one off his strengths and is good in the air but what he lacks for me is pace and movement off the ball and cannot create space for himself and doesn’t run in behind defenders which is frustrating. Then Theo Walcott on the other hand obviously has bags off pace plays on the shoulder and can run in behind which centre halfs don’t particularly like especially against somebody as quick as him, sometimes it’s annoys me that Walcott is so quick but doesn’t use it to his advantage a lot off the time I’ve always said that Theo Walcott is a right forward player but I do think he can play through the middle in certain games depending on who the opposition is or what defence he’s coming up against. None off Oliver Giroud or Theo Walcott are consistent or clinical enough to be Arsenal’s number one striker to score enough league goals and fire them to win them the tittle and as much as people may disagree with me I think Arsene Wenger Knows that. However both are still more than good enough and have certain attributes to be part off a tittle winning squad. If Walcott starts I can see Chelsea sitting deep because off walcott’s pace but I don’t think that’s a good thing for Arsenal, I always prefer arsenal to play against a team who like to play higher up the pitch thats my opinion. if Oliver Giroud starts I can see Chelsea playing a little bit higher up the pitch witch may benefit arsenal but even if they do Oliver Giroud hasn’t got the pace to get in behind but can link up play with the midfield well. I think Mourinho would rather see Giroud play than Walcott at this moment in time. Walcott on the other hand can cause Terry problems with his pace and has a decent record against Chelsea and has shown up in the big games for Arsenal in the past. But who knows maybe Wenger will start both and play Giroud up top and Walcott on the right but I don’t expect him to. I’d expect Wenger to start Walcott over Giroud on Saturday even though Walcott came on as a substitute on Wednesday he only came on because Arsenal were trailing and needed a goal and it was a good finish as well but Wenger clearly wanted to rest Walcott for the weekend. Giroud is having problems at the moment with confidence and isn’t really in the Arsenal or France fans good books and he didn’t help himself last night picking up two stupid yellow cards.

It’s a massive London Derby and it’s going to be a tight game and a very interesting one and what spices it up even more is Wenger against Mourinho who have had plenty off disagreements down the years but as much as they bicker against each other I do believe their is mutual respect their for each other from both off them even though neither manager will probably admit that. unfortunately i wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea discover the form we know their capable off against Arsenal I also wouldn’t be shocked if Chelsea ended up with the 3 points and getting back on track but I hope that isn’t the case. Let’s hope the Gunners can get there first victory at Stamford bridge since October 2011 it’s due if you ask me but But I’m biased. Saying that I’d gladly take a point.

My prediction is a score draw ill happily bight your hand off for that right now and I’m going to predict:

Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal

UP THE GUNNERS!!!!!!

KYRI CHRISTODOULOU – AFC FAN

‘A Game of 2 Halves’ – Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool -Apostolos Lambrianides

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To pinch one of football’s most over-used clichés – this was truly a game of two halves. What promised to be an utterly dull, anti-climactic United vs. Liverpool encounter was transformed into something special thanks largely to a couple of stunning goals late in the game.

Firstly there was Benteke’s ludicrous overhead kick that give’s Rooney’s ‘Premier League Goal of the 20 Seasons’ award-winning effort vs. City in 2011 a run for its money. However the real story of the afternoon was the final goal of the game that came only minutes after Liverpool’s Belgian striker gave them a glimpse of hope by taking the game to 2-1.

In a substitute performance reminiscent of Kiko Macheda’s debut against Aston Villa six years ago, Anthony Martial introduced himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a fantastic solo effort – making a total fool of Martin Skrtl in the process – and sealed a 3-1 win in what turned out to be an excellent victory over our old rivals, one helped largely to the inadequacies in Liverpool’s performance.

Of course the big difference between Macheda in 2009 and Martial at the weekend is our goal-scorer this time was not a player drafted into the first team from the youth squad. This was a £36million risk that many dubbed a “panic buy” when the news of his signing broke on transfer deadline day.

Given that United had sold van Persie and Hernandez during the window, while failing to sign Falcao after his loan spell, we were left with only Rooney and the inexperienced James Wilson in attack. We desperately needed a striker…however for that sort of money, a 19-year old unknown from Monaco was not what United fans had in mind. After this cameo however, I’m sure I speak for all fans in saying I cannot wait to see what the youngster does next. With Rooney still out injured, Fellaini doing little on Saturday to suggest that he is a decent replacement up-front, and a Champions League game vs. PSV on Tuesday, we may not have to wait very long at all.

With all the Martial Mania (© the Cockney Red) however it’s easy to neglect others who played their part in the victory – namely Ashely Young, who’s break up the pitch set-up Martial for his goal.

Young’s introduction at half-time – triggered by an utterly unadventurous first 45 minutes – changed the game. Whether people like it or not (and by “people” I’m referring to those still obsessed with his reputation as a dishonest, diving player) when Young comes on for United we usually score goals. In his nine substitute appearances during Van Gaal’s reign, we have scored 13 times with Young on the pitch. In four of his most notable substitute appearances during this time – away to Arsenal in the league last November, against Preston in the Cup in February, coming on to score the last minute winner against Newcastle in March, and at the weekend against Liverpool – United were yet to score before Young emerged.

After Di Maria was sent off in the FA Cup Quarter Final vs. Arsenal last season (the game after the aforementioned Newcastle league match) Ashley Young regained his place in the starting XI – and as we saw on Saturday, with Depay still struggling to make a significant impact, he could earn another promotion. Van Gaal has previously said he “fits my profile” and it is easy to see why, such is Young’s industry and productivity on the wing.

Credit should also go to the manager here who is gaining a reputation of making pro-active substitutions at the break. Young’s introduction for the erratic Memphis was Van Gaal’s 17th half-time change as United manager and his decisive decision not only sparked life into our lethargic first-half display, but allowed us to win the game.

When called into action this season Young has been was a reliable source of innovation for the manager. After being dropped following his mediocre display on the opening day against Tottenham, Young has responded positively and will hopefully be rewarded with a start against PSV.

The headlines following Saturday’s win all went to Martial for his moment of magic in front of the Stretford End, however as we look to finally string a run of decent performance together while getting our Champions League campaign off to a solid start, it was one of United’s less glamorous squad players who sparked life into our performance that lead us to victory.

APOSTOLOS LAMBRIANIDES

MAN UTD FAN.

more from Apostolos at www.followingthetrawler.com

Sunderland 0-1 Spurs – De Luca’s view

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Harry Kane’s world famous goal drought again extended by 1, but Tottenham’s winless start to the season finally came to an end at the Stadium of Light.

Spurs started quickly out the blocks and were denied a clear penalty, courtesy of ‘the five minute rule’, the rule whereby to earn a penalty in the first 5 minutes of a match you probably need to have been shot by a centre half. Kyle walker was only fouled, and this was less than a minute in.

Spurs’ new look front 3 settled in quite well, full debutants Dele Alli and Son were seeing lots of ball early on but still no penetration of the opposition defence. Sunderland came into the game midway through the first half and Jermain Defoe clearly must have been busy deciding whether he was going to celebrate against his old club or not, when scuffing his finish on to the post. Lloris and the Spurs defence were beaten.
The through ball to Defoe from Lens was outstanding and might have served a stark reminder to the Spurs’ bench of what they have been missing in recent games, he was lively most of the match and Yann M’Vila also impressed me breaking up the play in midfield and keeping Sunderland moving. These two will have given Sunderland some optimism for what will no doubt be another tough season.

If fouls in the box are still penalties then Sunderland should have had one also, when Alderweireld tugged his arm in the box just before halftime. When players are not rewarded for trying to stay on their feet it’s easy to see why the diving problem in the league is getting worse before it gets better. Anyone who’s seen Callum McManamans attempt to win a pen for West Brom on Saturday will appreciate the scale of the problem.

From a Spurs perspective it’s becoming a big concern how much more threatening any opposition we face look when they have the ball compared to Tottenham’s languid, slow and inpenetrative approach. This has been a recurring feature of post-Bale tottenham.

The second half which was even albeit a bit dull was probably the first time this season I started to really worry about the season. The style of play didn’t really improve and nor did the urgency, and when you’re winless after 4 games I’d expect a bit more. Pochettino has been at Spurs long enough now to have the benefit of the doubt of ‘transition’, he needs to start picking the players up for these games. Son went completely of the boil, poor touches and unable to adapt to the pace, and was replaced by Townsend. Dele Alli who was Tottenham’s most impressive player was hooked for Lamela. This was a good display by Alli who at just 19 looks ready now to be a regular starter in the Premiership. His skillful run before flashing the ball across the face of goal shortly before he was subbed was Tottenham’s best play of the match so far. Harry Kane last year might have gambled at the far post, Harry Kane last year would certainly have connected with the cross minutes later that found him free 8 years out. This year, it’s still not quite happening for him, this was his least effective display of the season and he was far less influential linking the play up as previous matches.

In fairness to Pochettino the subs swang the game in Tottenham’s favour, Townsend hasn’t been great in a Spurs shirt over the last 18 months but he showed directness and pace and in constantly trying to get past the full back put Spurs on the front foot. It had taken 75 minutes to register the first shot on target and from then onwards the pressing paid off and Lamela was a key part of the only goal of the game with just 8 minutes left. It was a brilliant goal, a superb passing move including Lamela Mason and Kane before the Argentinian played a perfectly weighted pass beyond the defence for Mason to delicately chip over the advancing keeper. He was clattered for his troubles and substituted.

In typical Tottenham fashion the next 120 seconds was a struggle, Rodwell rattling the crossbar as Spurs tried to settle after taking the lead. Some other hairy moments were to follow but Spurs created further good chances of their own. Kane smashed straight at the keeper opting for power, Lamela missed the target with a header that should have been testing the keeper from close range. An ugly 1-0 win was just what the doctor ordered maybe, and Pochettino who prides himself on his teams’ fitness might have felt vindicated that Spurs started to dominate the final 20 minutes as Sunderland tired, but Tottenham are going to need more than that against tougher opponents. This squad is really light. No striker on the bench this week and with Mason potentially injured and Bentaleb out for a month it could be just Dier available for the 2 central midfield holding roles on Sunday. Dier is a centre half. Another summer has passed without any progress made in the transfer window.

Dier was given the MOTM award, Vertonghen played well at the back and Lamela was good after his introduction back in a central role, by far his best position, creating more chances in his 20 minutes that any player from either side, and Townsend was direct and effective, and Dele Alli really impressed me with the way he confidently tried to lead the attack. It’ll be interesting to see the starting XI next week and who doesn’t start Thursday’s Europa League game in preparation for Sunday’s game against Palace.

With this, and then City at home soon after, hopefully this win will provide confidence and kickstart the season. Spurs are certainly going to need to play better than this to add another win though.

DAN DE LUCA – SPURS FAN

Spurs 0-0 Everton – The view from Park Lane

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The view from Park Lane – Spurs vs Everton

3 games unbeaten, 4 games without a win, the cup is starting to look half empty rather than half full though as another winnable game ended winless for Spurs at the lane.

This is quite a significant point though in the sense we have now surpassed the “2 points from 8 games” acquired in 2008/09.

I’m happy to correct a few common media led misconceptions of the last day and a half. Tottenham played well, Tottenham DID create chances, Stones did not play like Franco Baresi, and Harry Kane isn’t tired.
Kane is tireless, never stops working, never stops moving, always dropping deep to pick the ball up and drive Tottenham forward. He missed probably Tottenham’s best chance when he got in behind midway through the first half, dallying a bit before finding Tim Howard’s big left foot. After a slow start Spurs had taken control after around a quarter of an hour and it only looked like a matter of time before the lead would come. As well as Kane’s miss, bentaleb steered just wide, Mason had only the keeper to beat once in each half and failed to find the net, Alderweireld had a powerful header tipped over the bar, and Chadli, who impressed in the first 45, skied a loose ball over the ball in the second half when he had to hit the target. How many chances are people expecting? By comparison Everton’s only chance in the first came via a Walker error and culminated in a routine save for Hugo Lloris. Vertonghen and Alderweireld were by far the more competent of the centre half pairings, restricting Everton to virtually nothing over the course of the game. When Lukaku drifted out wide to pick up possession he was comfortably dealt with by the returning Danny Rose whose improvement was one the of the few positives of last season. Lukaku was by far the most ineffective of the 2 teams’ frontmen on display and was hooked by Martinez with still a quarter of the match to play.

It proved the game changing substitution, as Naismith, clearly sent on to hustle and disrupt Spurs’ flow achieved it within minutes. Featuring in a couple of flashpoints and earning several free kicks to break the rythym. The ref got caught up in the excitement with an inconsistent session of whistle blowing and card waving that aided the disruption somewhat.

Spurs never regained the momentum in the last 15 minutes and it was clear that their best opportunities to win had been and gone. Everton conjured up a late chance to steal the points when Kone glanced a header wide with Lloris along with my comrades in the Park Lane end stood helpless in hope that the ball would miss the far post, it did, and the match ended in stalemate.

A worrying points return from Spurs for the season so far especially given the fixture list could have been tougher so far. Things are far from rosy in the White Hart Lane garden but this was not the game to use an example. A good performance, solid clean sheet, and plenty enough chances created to get the elusive first win.

Of course, the Kane “drought” extends by 1, but then of every player to score 11 or more last season none of those 18 players have managed more than one league goal. The pressure on Kane to deliver for his club is a bit disproportionate. The international break will hopefully give him the chance to see the net bustle once more and he’ll return to the lane with an extra spring in his step. It was November before he scored his first Premier League goal of the season, it’ll be few more weeks before I start to hit my panic button.

DAN DE LUCA

SPURS FAN

Dan De Luca gives us his thoughts on Spurs capture Heung-Min Son

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I didn’t jump off my sofa when the news was announced we’d completed the signing of Hueng-Min Son, I’m not on my way to the Lane to wave my retro scarf in jubilation outside the front gates.
That doesn’t mean he’s a bad signing, but not someone who makes me jump out of my skin with excitement.

Let’s look at the positives though. We’ve picked up a player who has scored goals in one of the top European leagues, his key attribute is pace, which is something that the squad is desperate for, and he’s knocked in a handful at international level including one at the last World Cup. These are all positive notes regardless of the standard.

Alright, so he’s not the big name that everyone would have wanted, but Tottenham aren’t really in the market for the real elite right now, nor do we have the pulling power or wage structure to lure one in. He’s a decent looking player with some pedigree and I don’t think there will be the same pressure placed on him as some recent signings which could be a benefit.

The price tag is still hefty at a reported £22m, and I know the fashionable thing this week is to compare everything to Pedro transfer fee, but Barcelona didn’t need him like Leverkusen need Son or indeed West Brom need Berahino, so the comparisons should die right there.

Whilst I’m not gonna rush to club shop to get Son on the back of my shirt. A lot of Koreans who don’t even know where Tottenham is have probably already placed their pre-orders with international shipping. If you’re offsetting this additional revenue against a transfer fee you’re heading back down to a reasonable value. Painful when as a football fan you’re looking at the commercial value of a transfer abroad but that’s the dark world we live in. You know Mr. Levy factored that into his equations before signing the cheque, but if that makes him see it in his heart to splash a bit of the money he claws back on a central midfielder before the window closes on Tuesday.

It’s been proved plenty enough over recent seasons at White Hart Lane that a big name and reputation doesn’t mean a thing, so the fact Son isn’t the best player on FIFA 15 doesn’t really bother me a jot. He’s got as much chance of success as anyone else. Not many people had Harry Kane in their fantasy teams at the beginning of last season, that worked out alright.

The thing that pleases me most about this transfer is that Tottenham have identified their target, quietly and under the radar, stumped up the money, and bought him to the football club. Something that hasn’t happened over the last two seasons.
It’s a positive move that may or may not pay off, but still nice to see the chairman prepared to pay what’s needed to bring a target to the squad.

Now he’s in who knows how it may work out, or whether the greatest benefits will be realised on or off the pitch. But someone at the club has got their man and will be hoping he bucks the recent trend of disappointing attackers making their way to the lane. Let’s hope his boy delivers.

Good Luck my Son…….Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

DAN DE LUCA

SPURS FAN

Apostolos Lambrianides Talks… ‘Manchester Utd’ 28/8/2015

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As much as United’s start to the season was dubbed as “easy” by the national press when the fixtures were announced in June our fourth game sees us try to beat a tricky Swansea team for the first time since the 2013/14 season. They too have started the season brightly, winning a respectable five out of a possible nine, with the opening day draw away to Chelsea being the most impressive. However in contrast to United’s goal-shy displays (two goals in three games…one of which is an own-goal) Gary Monk’s team has already netted five times.

In defence however we’re looking better than we have done in years – ironic seeing that our no.1, United’s best player for the past two seasons who has been involved in arguably the most drawn out and frankly boring transfer saga of all time, hasn’t played a minute of football this season. De Gea’s (current) replacement in goal however, Sergio Romero, has not had an awful lot to do and so cannot claim much of the credit, as the newly established defensive pairing of Smalling and Blind – protected by the brilliant Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield – have helped United have the joint-best defensive record in the league so far. Credit to Luke Shaw at LB as well who has been superb (a completely different player to the one that started his United career last summer), as has new boy and Fantasy Football favourite Darmian on the right.

Wednesday’s performance against FC Brugge in the Champions League qualifier 2nd leg was by far United’s best attacking display of the season that will hopefully inspire us to take our European form into the league. Depay, who has endured a slow, frustrating start to life in the Premier League, slid effortlessly through the Brugge defence all evening, while Mata was producing passes straight of his 2010 repertoire. Even Herrera, the forgotten man making his first start of the season, got involved with some sexy one-touch passing for United’s third as well as netting the fourth. However most encouraging of all was Wayne Rooney – lambasted by the media prior to the game for his poor form in front of goal – who bagged a hat-trick to emphatically end his 10-game run without a goal.

Still, one decent performance against Belgium’s 2nd best team is hardly anything to get too carried away with as in the league there is no denying we are very obviously struggling in attack – when “o.g” is your joint top scorer after three games you know something is wrong!

Depay has been poor, reminding me at times of a skilful yet wasteful Ronaldo circa 2005, while Mata has only enjoyed mere flashes of brilliance so far. All this has led to the delivery and support for lone-striker Rooney to be of a very poor standard. It is easy to use Rooney as the scapegoat and burden him with the blame as, of course, the only stat that will ever matter to a striker is number of times you put the ball in the back of the net, so zero out of three isn’t looking great. But that certainly doesn’t tell the full story.

It is in Rooney’s nature, both as a leader and a workhorse, to get involved and try and create opportunities for himself when no one else appears to be – it’s what sets him apart from Falcao and RVP, two players who in contrast to Rooney were deemed superfluous by the manager. His performance away to Villa a couple of weeks ago is a good example of this, where he was heavily criticised for not having a single touch in the Villa box until the 93rd minute. This stat however was rather naively used to highlight the Rooney struggling and being unable to play in this role, rather than indicate the lack of creativity and innovation from the players around him.

On Wednesday night however van Gaal’s master plan of playing Mata and Depay alongside Rooney finally made sense and worked a treat. The link-up play between the three at times was superb with Herrera, who looked far more comfortable in the no.10 role than Januzaj whom did in the first half, helped create an effective line of attack that Brugge had absolutely no answer for. Let’s hope that this is now the turning point that will spark our lethargic league displays into life.

Prediction: Swansea 1-2 United

More from Apostolos on followingthetrawler.com

Arsenal vs Liverpool – 24/8/2015 – Binul Shah

ARSENAL 0-0 LIVERPOOL 24/8/2015

First of all, that was the most entertaining match of the season so far, be it goalless, it had almost everything, end to end stuff, controversy, great phases of proper football. But a special mention has to go out to the keepers; Cech and Mignolet! Both put in an amazing performance and are the real reason it ended 0-0!

Anyway as Liverpool fan, I felt a draw was a decent result considering the fixture (Arsenal away). From losing 4-1 last season, I would have taken a draw before the game.

The big talking point of the game will be Arsenal’s disallowed goal…I will be the first to admit that I think it was a clear goal and it should have stood, but hey, this is football. The controversy makes the game alive! We all hate being on the wrong side of a rubbish decision, but sometimes you are on the right side…It all equals out at the end!

My stand out player for Liverpool was young Joe Gomez. For an 18 year old playing out of his natural position in the premier league for the first time, he was outstanding. The strength, pace and general positioning he showed was top class. He fought his own against the likes of Sanchez, Ozil and Co who are all top class players. He’s now earned his first England u21 call up, which I think is well deserved. Hoping his development continues as well as his performances, I’m confident to say I think Liverpool have real talent on their hands with this kid.

Defensively Liverpool were very good, keeping Arsenal at bay most of the time. Alot of fans have still got they’re jury out on Lovren and alot prefer Sakho. Lovren has started to show why we spent so much on him, 3 clean sheets and a good end to last season. He and Skrtel are starting to form a strong partnership which showed against Arsenal with their relentless attack in the second half. Clyne had also had a great game and is much more of an improvement the Johnson. Another Coup.

A rear appearance from Lucas it seems. Liverpool’s only out and out DM. He had a decent game, however I’m still baffed why he was replaced by Rossiter. Was that a goodbye? I hope not. Against the top premier league sides, Lucas could be key in nullifying the oppositions attacking play. In this case, Arsenal, his constant pressing in the first hour gave the likes of Cazorla a nightmare and provided us with the opportunity to attack. Can and milner were both good too, Can in his preferred position as a CM. He showed his power and drive to get forward aswell as his defensive attributes.

Coutinho and Benteke were awesome, I suppose having Koscielny and Mertersacker both out had something to do with that. Chambers was lost all evening and it showed clearly in the first half. We could have been up by 2/3 in the first half if wasn’t for the heroics of Cech. Mr. Wenger, I think you may need to strengthen your defence if Chambers is your cover. Goodluck with that.

Firmino’s debut, not impressed as of yet, defensively he was useless, leaving Clyne to defend on his own most of the game. He looked lost when we did not have the ball. I think Rodgers has some work to do in that area of Firmino’s development. When on the ball, he looked good, nifty touches and always looking to go forward which is positive. May be a little harsh seeing as it’s his first game in the premier league and he’s probably not fully fit. But he does need to step it up real soon.

Arsenal played well but lacked that killer instinct as we have come to now know is a normality for them. Alot of possession and alot of nice short attractive football, but fewer shots on target at home is not good enough for club of Arsenal’s stature. Giroud was marked out and defended the whole game, alot or responsibility was put on Sanchez and Ozil to provide and score the goals. Fair play with they’re reputation and ability. But I have one burning question for arsenal fans, why on earth did Ox not start? Against a makeshift left back in Gomez? Playing ramsey out wide? Really? I know all the attacking players or interlink and swap around, but I think that was Arsenal’s main issue. Their centre of the park was so conjested. It was crying out for an Ox or Theo on the wing…no goals at home for quite a few games is worrying for Arsenal. My opinion, stop favouring, the Ramseys, Ozils, Cazorlas and use what u have at your disposal; Ox and Theo.

To wrap it up, all in all a good game that could have gone either way. Early days yet, Anything can happen.

One last thing, Coutinho sent Bellerin back to Barcelona with his magical footwork. What a save by Cech!

Thank you for reading.

BINUL SHAH
LIVERPOOL FAN