Arsène Wenger Needs a Reality Check

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Arsène Wenger’s body language in his post-match interview painted the picture of an aggrieved and flustered man.

Wenger used words “lucky” and “too easy” to describe the match, discrediting Swansea’s defensive work ethic and Łukasz Fabianski’s solid display returning to the Emirates.

Yes, statistically Arsenal dominated the match, and yes Swansea’s goal came with a bit of luck. However, this result speaks more to the club’s shortcomings than it does its misfortune.

There are many character flaws that the Gunners have managed to shake this season, but conceding against the run of play isn’t one of them.

Naiveté in knife-edge games has cost Arsenal dearly, and will continue to until Wenger can instill a sense of perspective in his players.

Wenger’s words in the post-match press conference didn’t match his actions on the touch line.

“When you cannot win a game, don’t lose it. We knew exactly what could happen. It was not even a break,” he said.

Wenger knew Swansea could score on the break, and yet he stripped his side of its most important defensive asset well before stoppage time.

Criticize Jose Mourinho all you like, but if Chelsea are playing for a win or draw in a match they’re dominating, he won’t take off his only DM.

Yet that’s exactly what Wenger did, swapping Jack Wilshere for Francis Coquelin with 20 minutes left to play.

With that substitution, Arsenal’s midfield was comprised solely of attacking players. While this imbalance in midfield can’t be directly attributed to a goal scored just outside the six yard box, it couldn’t have helped. The back four were hopelessly exposed without Coquelin’s shielding presence.

Wenger needs to learn from the teams that frustrate us. At times his insatiable appetite to win is more trouble than it’s worth.

A scrappy 0-0 at home wouldn’t have made much difference in the race for second, but throwing the kitchen sink at Swansea only to leave the pitch empty-handed is demoralizing.

At some point, Wenger needs to swallow his pride and learn to play ugly when the situation calls for it. We’ve seen this season that conservative play coupled with a sense of perspective wins championships.

I am @BergkampSpin

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Arsenal 1 – Spurs 2: I’m Not Mad, Just Disappointed

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North London is red with embarrassment, and rightly so.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has clearly seen the tapes. Most teams who press diligently in the middle of the park have had their way with Arsenal’s back line; think back to our loss to Borussia Dortmund, and the draw with Liverpool. Midfielders Nabil Bentaleb, Moussa Dembele, and Ryan Mason knew they were to be nothing more than workhorses; to let the more creative Christian Eriksen and Eric Lamela do the dazzling.

This was a game where I think our structure, more than our execution, was wrong. His performances since returning from injury have been outstanding, but I’m still not convinced that Mesut Ozil should be used in a wide position with any regularity. We know that Ozil thrives off having multiple outlets, so having him occupy one of the positions that he usually looks to pass to isn’t helping anyone. I can’t be hard on him. He put in a decent performance, and scored a great goal. Oli wasn’t fooling anyone with that shot gone wrong, though.

On the other side of the pitch, Danny Welbeck did well to compete his opposing full back Danny Rose, and was responsible on the defensive side, notably denying Harry Kane a clear chance at goal in the first half.

Defending against Spurs’ barrage for 90 minutes was no easy task, but considering the amount of chances they had on goal, I think our back line could have done much worse. Young right back Hector Bellerin did well for the most part, maintaining composure in one or two compromising situations, but there were instances where he played himself into trouble that was wholly avoidable.

Maybe it’s a sign of his youth, but Bellerin seemed naive to the fact that Spurs were keen to overload his flank, yet he continued to be sucked towards the middle of the pitch. Compress to stretch, Hector. Surely they taught you this in Spain? I know he’s only 19, but that game should serve as a bit of a reality check for him, He’s not totally ready.

Elsewhere, there wasn’t much to complain about. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were adequate at the very worst, and Nacho Monreal did well at both ends of the pitch when possible. David Ospina looked a little shakier than we’re used to, but I suspect he toughed out that early knee injury. It showed in his haphazard distribution – which is usually top notch – through the course of the match.

I can’t say it was our back five that was the problem. The real issues were in the engine room.

If our deep midfielders can’t cope with pressure, why aren’t we using a more compact shape, transition from defence to offence? Why did Welbeck and Ozil stay wide when everyone could see we had trouble breaking out of our own end? You know times are tough when we’re back to the school of thought of lumping it down field 50 yards for Olivier Giroud to wrestle with two centre backs, in the futile hope of keeping the ball.

We were disjointed, and it was ultimately our downfall. For the amount of chances Tottenham created, we did quite well only to concede two, and score one. I don’t think that’s being unkind.

It’s unfortunate, but we will lose to them the odd time. I won’t cry about it now, as we’ve got a lot of games left in this season, and silverware to defend.

Arsène summed things up quite well after the match, and offered a bit of perspective in the process:

“It leaves us with a big disappointment to swallow first and then to prepare for the next game. We have played two more away games than Spurs, who have played 13 at home and 11 away. We have played 13 away and 11 at home. It’s down to our home form now – we know we can win away from home but it will be a battle until the end,” he said to media.

The best part about early games is the amount of time left in the day to forget them when you lose.

Onwards and upwards for Tuesday against Leicester, and beyond that, there’s still plenty at stake. Nothing’s over ‘til it’s over.

I am @BergkampSpin.

BergkampBits: A look at our win against Villa

Sunday’s match was absolutely brilliant. Everything clicked. I thought I’d make a video to commemorate the odd time it’s actually stress-free being an Arsenal fan. I call this segment BergkampBits. All the stuff you want, nothing you don’t. Enjoy.

I am @BergkampSpin

Villa Thrilla from Bergkamp Spin on Vimeo.

Arsenal Win, Flamini Plays Right Wing, Good Times Had.

Arsenal won away from home against the English champions.

Not everyday you see that headline nowadays, which in itself is a bit of a shame, but the past shouldn’t put a damper on what this team is achieving here and now.

You seldom know what you’re going to get when you see Arsenal square up to a top side. Be it a continental juggernaut like Bayern Munich, or old foes Manchester United. With City, however, there’s always a glimmer of hope. You know you’re at least in for a spectacular game of football.

For some reason, it’s never a dull fixture. Part of me thinks it’s because City are the one team among the “elite” clubs that can’t seem to hide their soft underbelly. For every bit of brilliance produced by the Aguero’s and Touré’s of the team, you just know that Martin Demichelis has got a moment of madness or two in store for the 90 minutes.

I think the reason we’re so good at exposing City’s fatal flaws is because we share quite a few. On our day, we hog possession, and wait for the chances to present themselves. We often put too much emphasis on attacking, and leave ourselves unprepared for what runs the other way.

Yesterday though, we managed to put the shoe on the other foot. We soaked up pressure, and tried our luck on the counter, and it worked. While we weren’t living up to our usual standard of fluid attacking football – particularly in our passing accuracy, which left a lot to be desired – it was refreshing to see us perform so well against top opposition. Everything about the way we went about playing was carefully considered, and it showed.

It was a true team performance; we were compact, and well organized. Everyone had a job. In particular, I have to commend Alexis Sanchez and the Ox for their box to box performances. I maintain that the hardest positions to play in today’s game are the wide ones; you have to be elusive on the front foot, and dogged in your own end to be considered a top player. Even though neither were particularly effective in front of goal, they managed to give City’s flanks a tough test for 90 minutes, so good on them.

The real stars of the show were down our spine. Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, and Olivier Giroud were magnificent today. Coquelin managed to contain David Silva the entire match, not something to which many defenders can attest. You have to admire Le Coq’s reform since coming back from Charlton. You can see he’s worked on controlling his temper, although he’s still prone to the odd flare up. Not a bad thing, considering we do need a bit of steel in the middle of the park.

Olivier Giroud was also up for the contest today. His first touches were mostly excellent, and his sense of awareness is becoming better every game. His passes are connecting well, and overall, he’s finally showing that he’s ready to lead our line with confidence. He’s making his presence known in the big matches with increasing regularity. It’s been a treat to watch him grow into this role, despite it being a long and windy road.

Quick shout out to our entire back line, who, with Coquelin in front of them, looked absolutely stellar.

Lastly, Santi Cazorla. We’ve all said it before, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this match was his best in an Arsenal shirt. Once Ozil is at his sharpest, you’d imagine Arsène will have some headache trying to keep everyone happy, and playing in their optimal positions. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

Despite having Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil fit, we left them on the bench. Arsène probably felt their lack of match sharpness and less than industrious work rates weren’t suited to a high tempo, end to end match; in the end, he was right. It just goes to show that piling on the big guns isn’t always the best plan. Hopefully it makes a case for more liberal rotation in the future, in the hopes that it keeps our players off the treatment table.

I don’t have anything bad to say about that match; sorry if you were expecting a little more analysis. Everyone was brilliant in their own little ways.

It’s nice to see Arsenal on the right side of a big result once in a while.

I am @BergkampSpin

 

A Few Words Before Battle

No time to dwell on that huge disappointment now, we’ve got a monumental task in German giants, Bayern Munich. When I say “monumental”, I don’t insinuate that we have no chance at winning like the cheap rags that call themselves newspapers. I mean the “good” side of our beloved, bipolar Arsenal has to turn up, and remain for the 90 minutes. No messing about. This is the biggest game of the season so far.

Despite the dark, wafty fart cloud hanging over the Emirates, I’m confident we can get it done. Not because we’re in any way equal to Bayern, I’m not a fool. No amount of optimism could make me oblivious to the broad chasm separating us from those crazy Germans in form. No, I’m just used to the ups and downs of Arsenal Football Club. Everyone doubted us to beat Barcelona two years ago at the Emirates. I was too scared to watch it live, in fear of my stream freezing and cardiac arrest ensuing.

That amazing night, we were subject to an onslaught that only Barcelona can be associated with. Lionel Messi and David Villa were a nightmare to defend, and it looked for a while like we wouldn’t make it to the end of the match in one piece at times. Still, that nagging, quiet optimism in the back of my head refused to fade. Yes, we were taking our knocks, but Barça were wasting chances left, right and centre. We were too, but that was beside the point. The atmosphere was magnificent, the play was electric, and we looked a team who wasn’t afraid to take the game to the Catalans. Jack had the match of his life, out-playing the world’s best midfield pair like they were academy kids. Our two goals were absolutely brilliant, but Arshavin’s brace is among my top 10 Arsenal goals of all time. Controversial? Yes. It doesn’t matter, what that goal represented was (temporary) revenge for 2006, and everything Barça stood for. If I were to sum up this game with one sentence, it would be this: We started Johan Djourou and Nicklas Bendtner – and won. It doesn’t get better than that.

What does that have to do with tonight, you ask? That match is symbolic. Arsenal at their very best. Sure, we’ve undergone a massive personnel shift since then, but that doesn’t mean our attitude should change. We are the Arsenal, and we can beat you at your own game.

That sentiment held true against our 3-0 victory at home to AC Milan. I’ve never seen such a look of fear on the face of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as we tucked away our third goal of the night. No one had expected us to beat the pants of Milan, after our brutal humiliation at the San Siro. At the time, Milan were one of the best teams around. They attack fearsome, their defense tighter than Fort Knox. They were thrashing whoever they played, but we proved a lump in their throats that was tough to clear. Sure, we lost, but I haven’t been more proud of a team for their willingness to face adversity head on, and almost conquer.

While we haven’t lost to Bayern 4-0 in the 1st leg (touch wood), I don’t expect an easy game, for either team. If I were to put money on a result, it would be a 2-2 draw. Don’t expect us to keep a clean sheet against a team whose goal difference is higher than our EPL points tally. It’s gotten to the point where Manuel Neuer hasn’t even bothered to stand in between the sticks, instead warming up subs as they prepare to come on the field. Yes, Bayern aren’t exactly the leaky two-stroke speedboat we are at the moment, but it doesn’t mean they’re impervious either. Between Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott alone, I’m sure we can find an opening. Individual battles among players will be interesting, but the most anticipated one has to be between Jack and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It’s not every day we come up against one of the top 10 midfielders in the game, and as we saw two years ago against Barça, Jack can keep up with the best of ‘em. While I’m not all that confident in Giroud’s effectiveness tomorrow, the least he could do is give Van Buyten and pal a good rollicking in the air, or at least stun them with that nice mug of his. The most threatening players for both sides will be our wide forwards. With Podolski’s delivery and Theo’s pace, look for Alaba and Phillipe Lahm having to stay deep for periods of the match as they’re bombarded by our red-hot duo. If they don’t play well, we have no chance of winning.

I’m going to cut it short here, and leave you with this message: Forward. Yes, we have many unofficial mottos that help with describing our plan of attack tomorrow, but this one is the best. We can’t get pegged back, we have to be focused, and most importantly, we can’t be scared.

Come on you Gunners, march towards those Germans and give them all you’ve got!

Anders

Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: Not Pretty, But Effective

Last night was one of those European nights that we have started to become accustomed to at the Emirates. A very lacklustre start, misplaced passing and a tense atmosphere in an expectant crowd. One thing is for sure; Arsenal don’t like to do things the easy way!

On a night where we hoped to continue the va-va-voom football of the weekend, the team started out like a drunken friend of mine. Not knowing where anybody else was, looking lost and not really sure where to go or what to do.

Jack Wilshere wasn’t his effervescent best during the first period of the game. I counted three passes in about five minutes that went straight to the opposition. This passage of play summed up Arsenal’s football for the first 15 minutes of the half.

Our first real chance of note came from a Koscielny header, which rattled the bar. Following good build-up play from Vermaelen and Arteta down the left, the former swung a beautiful ball in which Dave connected with brilliantly. Unfortunately for us, it hit the bar and bounced away.

Not long after this however, were we treated to a sublime piece of skill from our Big Friendly German. Having stayed up for a set piece, he found himself in unknown territory. With Messi-esque skill, he left one defender for dead and cut back to his left. Just as he was about to score the goal of the season, a defender nicked the ball from his boot. Absolutely gutting!

These two chances seemed to kick some life into our players. Although chances were few and far between in the first half, we looked like we could score at any time if we decided to move into another gear. A prime example of this came towards the end of the half, when Podolski, who’d made a great run into the box, sliced his shot wide. It was a difficult chance but for a player of his calibre, a chance that perhaps he should have done better with.

Arsenal aside, Montpellier looked devoid of any ideas and didn’t really threaten, apart from the odd half-chance from a poor Arsenal pass.

Whatever Wenger said at half time seemed to work. Oxlade Chamberlain, who had been generally quiet in the first half, looked more incisive and kept himself more on the wing, allowing Sagna a bit more relief defensively and a willing partner in the attacking third. Arsenal started the second half with more urgency and it wasn’t long before we were ahead.

Vermaelen, who had been crossing rather efficiently with his left foot in the first half, cut back inside to his right and crossed a high, floating ball into the penalty area. Giroud, who has been one of our form players of late, knocked the ball back into the middle, where a willing Wilshere was ready to tap home. Although he made it look easy, his finish was sublime and shows that he’s gradually getting back to his best. More like that please Jack!

The goal seemed to galvanize Arsenal and deflate an already weakened Montpellier. We took complete control for the next 15/20 minutes and it came as no surprise that we doubled our lead during this period. Podolski and Giroud, who both now have 7 goals for the season, played a neat one-two before the latter lofted a beautiful ball to the left-hand side of the box where Podgoalski was on hand to smash it, dare I say it like our former captain, over the keeper’s despairing hand and into the net.

2-0. Job done? Normally you would think so, but with this current Arsenal side, you can never be too sure! With substitutions being made every few minutes, the flow of the game became disjointed and Montpellier came into it a little more. Although they never particularly threatened, you could tell that both fans and players were a little edgy.

The only other chances of note fell to Giroud, Arteta and Emmanuel Herrera. Olivier had a great chance to score against his old club, and God knows he deserved to, but his right foot shot was well saved by the goalkeeper. Had it been on his left, I’m sure the ball would have hit the net.

Arteta’s effort came from a free-kick near the left touch-line. Ala Mata and other free-kick specialists, he curled a beautiful effort in-between keeper and defenders in an area where neither are comfortable. With the keeper flat-footed, the ball almost sneaked into the far corner but just went wide. It would have been a fitting end to a much improved performance from the Spaniard.

Herrera attempted to pull one back with only a few minutes left, but his shot went just wide. Although Szczesny had it covered, if his effort had gone in it would have made for a very edgy last few minutes.

In terms of our substitutions, I was very pleased with Aaron Ramsey’s performance last night. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his, but he looked bright, didn’t lose the ball and contributed well in midfield. His fellow substitutes, Coquelin and Gervinho, didn’t really get much time to put their own stamps on the game but didn’t disappoint when called upon.

All in all, a decent performance and the three points we needed to qualify, thanks to Schalke beating Olympiakos. I don’t know whether I would like us to finish first or second in the group. Usually first place is the more preferable, but with many of the so-called bigger teams looking like finishing second, taking a weaker side to Olympiakos and accepting second place in the group might not be a bad idea.

Not the greatest performance, but nowhere near the worst. We seem have a hit a vein of form, so let’s hope that continues away at Villa Park on Saturday. Not the easiest place to go but they are struggling this season so hopefully we’ll be too strong for them.

Up the Arsenal!

P.S. A great big hahahahahahahahahahahahaha to Chelsea. As much as I don’t like Di Matteo, he didn’t deserve to be sacked. It just shows you how pathetic and petty Chelsea are.

Follow me on Twitter – Adam

 

Familiar Foes Collide, Winner Doesn’t Necessarily Take All

“This is the game of our season because it’s a derby,” Sagna told Arsenal Player. “I think we’re going to have a big atmosphere so everybody is looking forward to it.

“It’s just massive. You can feel the pressure around the stadium. You can feel the pressure on the pitch. We can’t lose that game.
Bacary Sagna

I’m always excited for the weekend. Whether it’s away at Wigan or hosting Manchester United, I’m there, up at some unholy time, cheering on the Arsenal. Come this Saturday at 7:30, I’ll be doing what I always do, Podolski jersey on my back, Sportsnet turned up full blast. This time, we gear up for the North London Derby, one of the most anticipated matches of the year. As always, we go up against the annoying little brothers of our football world, Tottenham Hotspur. Normally, I’d be fired up to squash the scum like bugs, but this time I’m not so sure. No, I’m not scared of losing to the minnows, but a there’s a slightly bad taste in my mouth before this match that I’m not quite accustomed to. There isn’t that level of intense build up that I’ve grown so used to in my short time supporting the Arsenal. Don’t get me wrong, the NLD is always a great fixture to look forward to, but it isn’t exactly the battle for supremacy that most Spurs fans believe it to be. It’s not quite so heated when your teams are in 7th and 8th place respectively, and haven’t exactly been in sparkling form, plagued with injuries. This ain’t your dad’s NLD, so don’t expect another 7 goal riot. That’s not to say that I’m not optimistic, but even if the result goes our way, it’s still a long way to the top.

Let’s say we do win, and by a ridiculous a margin as last year. Walcott grabs two, Podolski hammers home a free kick, Giroud gets his head on a perfectly square ball in the six yard box, and Cazorla scores a screamer. Everything’s good in the hood, and the Arsenal are firmly back in their rightful place once again, right? Not really, I’m afraid. I hate to be that guy, but should we run out victors on Saturday, that would be our third win in 7 matches; is that really good enough? If we were to win against anybody but Spurs tomorrow, and move up one place in the standings to 7th place, would you really be happy with that?

No matter the result tomorrow, we need to realize the NLD isn’t as important as it was perceived to be, at least not at this point in the season. Many will point to last year’s reverse fixture that spurred us into finishing 3rd in the table, after a calamitous start. That’s all well and good, but it’s often forgotten that we had lost to them before that, and it’s within reason to argue that Spurs were a weaker side at the time. Not only will tomorrow’s game be challenging, but ultimately insignificant if we carry on wearing rose tinted glasses just because we’ve beaten our shadow dwelling “rivals”.

I doubt it’ll be a match for the history books either, with both teams on playing on decidedly average, and worryingly similar form. Both teams are winless in their last two matches, both teams are struggling to create chances, and both have key players injured. Neithe team averages over 2 shots per game over the 11 they’ve both played, and both have scored the same amount of goals (18). It has draw written all over it. Obviously, a match on paper almost never pans out, so there is potential for a spectacular display of attacking football from both sides, but the numbers are heavily stacked against it.

With Kieran Gibbs still out, and many of our key players either “facing late tests” (mind games) or still out, Arsène might have to stray from this season’s familiar model of the team ever so slightly. Giroud has been in training despite a reported back injury, but if AW decides he shouldn’t play, then Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski should start in a two striker system. It get’s the best out of both of them, and gives us room to experiment with a tweaked midfield, reminiscent of the glory days, with narrow wingers and to combative central midfielders. If I had my way with the team, I’d have the lineup looking like this.

While it may not compare to the Invincibles, some of the tactics remain. Two midfielders who will bite your ankles off for the ball, wide players that dazzle with skill, and fullbacks who will kick the shit out of you. Not to mention the most important part, two brilliant strikers who have no trouble slotting it home.

With this lineup, hope for goals. Despite our recent attacking difficulties, I hope the players are ready to take their game to another level on Saturday. While a win tomorrow may be the confidence boost we so desperately need, I doubt it will inspire the same amount of confidence in the squad as it did last year. While the magnitude of the match may have been diminished slightly this time around, the sentiment remains the same: crush the Spuds.

Anders

Last but not least, take a look at the brilliant infographic on the NLD by @Dorkkly . Make sure to follow her on Twitter, she’s the best Gooner graphic designer around!

The Game Plan: 3 Steps to Beating Fulham

Coming straight after a bittersweet draw to Schalke in the Champion’s League, the Gunners will look to regain some confidence against London rivals Fulham. They play home in front a crowd that arguably have yet to witness their often fabled “Arsenal of old” but still maintain hope after their unconvincing start to the season. Their last match against Schalke 04 sums up the entire season in my view: we start off convincingly against tough opponents, keeping a clean sheet and scoring to good goals. As the match wore on, we start to fade and lose momentum, for no discernible reason. The match ends a stalemate, and everyone goes home wondering what went wrong. Despite being at home to one of the top sides in Germany, you can’t help but feel slightly disappointed in the final result. That match was there to be one, and at 2-0, you’d expect the players to see out the match away from home. They have another chance to redeem themselves this weekend against Fulham, who are 1 place below in the EPL table. Both sides have had their toils and snares this season, and both will look to make a strong showing in a London Derby.

Form

Arsenal / DLWLWL

Certainly not the best record for a top team, but come this weekend we’ll only be 11 games into a 38 game season. Time is still firmly on our side, as the team look to turn the ship around and get back to winning ways.

Fulham / WLDWDD

The Cottagers come to the Emirates in better form than their opponents, only losing once in their last 6 EPL matches. While some say that having drawn 3 times in their last 6 means that they’re likely to play on the back foot the entire match, I think Fulham will come to play for 3 points, knowing full well that we’re not at our best.

Now that we’ve got a basic idea of what the game holds for us, let’s look at 3 key points to defeating Fulham.

1. Dominate the Left Flank

Damien Duff has been in fine form for the Cottagers, scoring 3 and assisting 2 in 9 games. He’s an industrious winger with a never say die attitude that should be admired and equally feared, given our recent problems at left back. I propose starting Sagna on the left and Jenkinson on the right, as we saw temporarily when Jenkinson was first blooded in the side last season. It ensures proper cover on both sides, while also handing Thomas Vermaelen a rest. He may be the captain, but given his recent form, there should be no qualms with dropping him to the bench for one match. Laurent Koscielny needs game time as well, and it’s unfair to have him ride the pine if he’s more effective than who’s on the pitch. With Sagna behind him, Lukas Podolski will have a more reliable and experienced figure to depend on in defense, allowing to attack with the enthusiasm and effectiveness that brought him to us in the first place. Podolski has one great thing going for him on the wing, that being his link to Giroud. Both assists from Poldi have been to Giroud, and both assists have come from crosses outside the box. Of those two assisted goals by Poldi, both have hit the back of the net from a Giroud header. It’s that kind of service that Olivier requires, but the only way Podolski will be free to provide killer balls is to keep possession, and allow him to get into advanced positions without constantly having worry about tracking back.

2. Stifle Bryan Ruiz

Bryan Ruiz is their Santi Cazorla, with 4 assists and a typical wonder goal, Ruiz is the biggest threat to the team. With a reborn Dimitar Berbatov just ahead of him, it’s important to cut the supply off from the source, instead of trying to mark Berbatov, who becomes an immediate threat anywhere in the 18 yard box.Wayne Rooney did it to Arteta last weekend, and it worked wonders. Arteta was often harried and hassled, and wasn’t nearly as effective as normal. Despite playing different positions, the tactic remains the same: Mark Ruiz out of the match using Coquelin and Arteta, and you’ve won the match.

3. Give Theo Freedom

When Theo came on as a sub against Manchester United, he immediately switched places with Giroud, making him the central forward. Theo eventually returned to the right flank as play wore on, but it asks an interesting question that was answered in the return leg at Schalke. Arsène is willing play Walcott and Giroud up top together, and it worked wonders. Giroud’s strength and eye for a pass match perfectly with Theo’s speed and rekindled eye for goal. it’s a partnership that holds a lot of promise for an Arsenal side lacking goals, something almost unheard of in the Wenger era. Theo can be used to penetrate the defense at its heart, or create a lopsided back line while being deployed on the wing. Either way, he’ll be the danger man for Fulham, so don’t be surprised to see a lopsided formation with two right-sided players marking Walcott closely.

My Prediction

3-2 is the score I can see. It should be an exciting, tight affair between two teams who are desperate for points at an early stage. Berbatov and Duff should get on the score sheet at some point, while Santi Cazorla, Walcott and Giroud are also likely to hit the back of the net at any point in the match.

After the match, look out for a breakdown from either Dean or myself.

Until tomorrow.

Anders

Schalke 04 Preview

After a 2-1 loss against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, Arsenal travel to Germany to play FC Schalke 04. In the return fixture, Schalke came out on top, in an extremely unconvincing display from the Gunners. There were many problems in that game for Arsenal, and it was a hard task for any fan: watching their defense be dismantled by the front-four of Lews Holtby, Jefferson Farfan, Ibrahim Afellay and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Hopefully the Gunners can do better this time around.

Form

Schalke: WWWWWL

Unlike their opponents Arsenal, Schalke are in a very good run of form. They’ve won five of their last six. Their loss, though, was in their last game, where they fell to Hoffenheim, 3-2. The most notable of those five wins came against German champions Borussia Dortmund, where they won 1-2 in an away game.

Arsenal: WLLWWL

This record is very disappointing for the Gunners. Losing half of their last 6 games, Arsenal would love to start a winning streak against Schalke today. Losses against Norwich, their opponents today and Manchester United emphasised the reason why Arsenal fans are very fearful over their future.

Tactics

This is how I think Arsenal should line up.

A controversial part of my line up is playing Sagna in left back – I think he will be the best way to deal with our oppnents’ biggest threat: Jefferson Farfan. I also think that with illness to Walcott, and injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho, we should start Cazorla on the wing and Arshavin off Giroud. If all goes well, the Arshavin-Giroud partnership can blossom. One physically imposing, the other small, but technically gifted.

Schalke like to play attacking, free-flowing football, and we can’t let them do that – I think to win the game, we have to do something we haven’t done well enough recently: controlling the tempo of the game. We should get the ball to the likes of Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla and Arshavin, keep the ball until there’s a gap, and attack the gap enabling spaces for Podolski and Giroud to exploit.

When defending, it’s vital that Sagna and Jenkinson don’t drift too far forward. They have to go forward enough to provide an outlet should we run into a corner in possession, but their work rate and reading of the game has to be spot on. We can’t give afford to leave space for pacy wingers Afellay and Farfan down the wings. This is one of the reasons I do not think Andre Santos should play a part, and we know, from the home game against Schalke, that Farfan will target the Brazilian, and beat him on the vast majority of occasions.

Key Battles

The two key battles in this game are: Lews Holtby vs Mikel Arteta and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar vs Per Mertesacker

Lewis Holtby vs Mikel Arteta: The reason I chose this particular battle is because if you stop starlet Lews Holtby play, you virtually stop Schalke play. The young German, who is reported to be an Arsenal transfer target, is an amazingly important part of his side. When he gets the ball and sees a pass, you can be sure he can find it. He’s a great playmaker, but I trust Miki to be able to deal with him. Arteta, the most consistent Arsenal player, has a colossal job, marking this boy, and he definitely won’t find it easy. Hopefully he can stop the heart of this team, and help our chances of prevailing from Germany with three vital points.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar vs Per Mertesacker: In-form striker, Huntelaar will cause trouble to any defence, as he showed painfully at the Emirates. He will be marked by a very consistent and good player though, and I can’t say I don’t trust the BFG. Huntelaar is hard-working, strong, and good in the air. Mertesacker is tall, so the heading ability of shouldn’t be a disastrous problem. If we give him chances, though, he’ll definitely pounce, so our full backs need to work very hard to stop crosses coming in. I think Sagna and Jenkinson are capable, but if Wenger opts to play Santos, then we’ll be in deep trouble, as he’s a huge vulnerability on the left flank.

Biggest Threat

The biggest threat in a Schalke shirt for me, is Jefferson Farfan. With eight appearances this season, Farfan has three goals and three assists; each of his outings have been incredibly impressive, too. He’s given most of the full backs he’s faced a terribly torrid time, and I don’t think Arsenal’s left back will be an exception.

My Prediction

I’m going to be bold and positive, saying that I think Arsenal will win 1-2. We could struggle for big chunks of the game, but if we win the battles above, then we’re definitely capable of winning. In a dream world I’d say 2-0, but I do not see us keeping a clean sheet. Schalke’s front four are lethal, and keeping them quiet will be a monumental task.

COYG – Written by Deano Spyrou – @DeanoAFC44