Sunday, February 1, 2015

Arsenal 2014-2015: February

Sunday, February 1, 2015 Arsenal vs Aston Villa 8:30AM EST

January ended on a positive note for Arsenal with a confidence boosting victory over Oil City at the Etihad, followed by an FA Cup fourth round win that puts the team through to the final 16.

A visit by Aston Villa to the Emirates should be a fixture that won't give Arsenal too many problems. However, as we've seen before, no club should be taken lightly. 

Last season, Villa came to the Emirates in the first game of the season and pulled a shock upset over Arsenal. This year's Villa side has very little momentum and has had a hard time scoring goals. 

Alexis Sanchez may be rested for this match due to a sore hamstring. This would be a good match to rest the Chilean and let the others lead the charge. Ozil and Walcott are back and Rosicky and Cazorla have been in great form. One other player to look for is Arsenal's new number 5, Gabriel Paulista. The centre back completed his move from Villareal last week and Arsenal finally have some defensive coverage that they have been missing. 

Here's to three points!

Wow, what is there to say, but that's the Arsenal that we've been waiting for. Even with Alexis Sanchez being rested the team put on a performance that was impressive and clinical at the same time. 

Mesut Ozil set up Giroud in the 8th minute and after that the result never seemed to be in doubt. Despite the one goal lead remaining intact in to the second half there was never any sense that Arsenal would not win this match.

Villa were unable to do much with their possession and Arsenal put the game out of reach in the second half with the returning Ozil and Walcott getting on the score sheet. When substitute Chuba Akpom was fouled by goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the amazing Santi Cazorla easily slotted home the penalty to make it 4-0. Further damage was inflected when the impressive youngster Hector Bellerin scored his first Arsenal goal from 30 yards out in the 90th minute. The final 5-0 score almost flattered Aston Villa who were played off the pitch and have now gone six league matches without scoring a goal.

With Southampton losing at home to Swansea, Arsenal are in 5th place, one point behind Manure and on goal differential behind Southampton heading in to next weekend's North London Derby. Things are looking up for Arsenal and it could be time to put things back in order.

Arsenal take on Spuds today at White Hart Lane. There's nothing else to say but as always, Spuds must be put in their place. Arsenal are on a great run of late and this is a match that Arsenal need to win to keep the momentum going and of course for bragging rights.

As for team news, Alexis Sanchez trained with the team on Friday with the hopes of being declared fit to play. Arsene Wenger has decided to look at the long term and has decided not to risk Sanchez and his tight hamstring with plenty of upcoming important matches.

Danny Welbeck is back from injury and he starts along with Giroud, Cazorla, Ozil and Ramsey. David Ospina retains his place in goal with three straight clean sheets in league action.


Nightmare, debacle, embarrassment, media and Twitter blackout. Just some of my thoughts and ways of dealing with what was a spirit crushing defeat to none other than Tottenham.

1-0 up in less than 15 minutes courtesy of an Ozil goal and confidence was growing. Then the unthinkable happened. Arsenal allowed Spuds to dominate possession and then concede 2 goals to the current flavor of the week Harry Kane. In the end it was a 2-1 defeat and I was glad that I wasn't in London to hear the abuse. There's nothing more to say except....why Arsenal lose to inferior teams such as Manure & Spuds is inexplicable and needs to be addressed. 

Fortunately there's a match three days from now at the Emirates versus last place Leicester City. Let's move on and forget about this setback.

Tuesday, February 10th, Arsenal vs. Leicester City 2:45PM EST

Nothing like a midweek match against a last place club to help fans forget about this past weekend's debacle at Shite Hart Lane. Nothing but victory will be acceptable today. There are only 14 matches left and with Arsenal having dropped too many unacceptable points so far this season, the wrongs have to be corrected NOW. Sitting behind Tottenham in the table at this point in the season is just wrong. Hopefully Liverpool can put Spuds back below us and Arsenal can move on to climbing above the boring & pathetic ManUre, the surprising Southampton and maybe even the despicable oil barons of Manchester.

This was what you would call an ugly win. Arsenal took a 2-0 lead in to the half and it looked like it could be another Arsenal romp. However, Arsenal were flat in the second half and after Leicester got one back in the 61st minute the match became more of a nail biter than it should have been.

On the plus side was the fact that Alexis Sanchez was back in the lineup and Gooners would finally get to see our prized assets of Ozil, Sanchez and Walcott together on the pitch. With Rosicky and Cazorla also in the mix expectations were high. Ozil was excellent for much of the match and was the creator of both Arsenal goals. His corner in the 27th minute was smashed in to the back of the net by Koscielny. Then in the 41st minute he sent in a blazing shot of his own which the Leicester keeper made a great save on, but the rebound bounced in front of Theo Walcott who finished what Ozil started.

On the negative side, Sanchez took a few knocks and didn't yet seem back to his high standards. Ramsey came on as a sub and within nine minutes motioned that he had to come off. The extent of the injury is not yet known. Another major negative of the match was the terrible officiating.

Mike Jones may have been on crack or something but he called the match as if he was Stevie Wonder. Leicester defender Danny Simpson handled the ball twice without a call. In fact his second infraction involved him falling on top of the ball and handling it as he got back up. Jones allowed play to continue despite the obvious hand ball and of course that's when Leicester scorer. Simpson in fact could have been issued at least four yellow cards, but he must have something on Jones as he was able to throw himself around as if he played for Stoke.

The funniest and most inane call of the match came late in the game when Mark Schwazer took a goal kick which hit Olivier Giroud in the back as he was heading back to defend. Jones issued Giroud a yellow card. Maybe it was really for the fact that Giroud is just too gorgeous, but getting a card for being hit from behind by a ball kicked by your opponent is ridiculous.

Regardless, the points went to Arsenal. Plus with Liverpool defeating Spuds, Tottenham's 3 day superiority over Arsenal ended and they are back below Arsenal in the table.

Sunday, February 15, 2015 11AM Arsenal vs Middlesbrough FA Cup  

Arsenal's quest to retain the cup continues. With Chelsea, Citeh and Spuds all dropping in the last round, a golden opportunity to do just that has been presented. Middlesbrough visit the Emirates for the 5th round and the one time Premier League club are currently second in the Championship. They cannot be taken lightly, especially after dumping the Oil Barons of Manchester out in the last round. Fingers crossed that the Arsenal get it done today!

An amazing team performance from Arsenal with many stand out players; including Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs. The final score of 2-0 doesn't do justice to the domination that Arsenal held throughout the match.

It's hard to believe that this Middlesbrough side defeated Manchester City after witnessing the team's inability to mount any real threat. Arsenal had 65% of the possession, but even when Middlesbrough had the ball they barely put any pressure on the Arsenal defense.

Despite Arsenal being in control from kickoff to the final whistle, both goals came within two minutes of each other. In the 27th minute Cazorla and Gibbs combined to set up Giroud for the breakthrough. This came about after every Arsenal player on the pitch had touched the ball. Giroud got his second in the 29th minute off of a Sanchez cross. Giroud volleyed the ball from a tricky angle in to the back of the net. It was a beautiful goal that was equally difficult as well as skillful. 

The out of favor Szczesny was back in goal and had little to do and thankfully gave him less of a chance to mess up. New signing Gabriel Paulista was solid in the back and impressed on his Arsenal debut.

Saturday, February 21, 2015 Arsenal at Crystal Palace 10AM EST

It's back to league action today and Crystal Palace away is on tap. I saw Arsenal play Crystal Palace last season at the Emirates (2-0 to the Arsenal, Ox scored both goals) and I was amazed at the level of noise that the traveling Palace fans made. That said, I expect the atmosphere at Selhurst Park to be loud and Arsenal will need to block out the crowd and get down to business. A win is a must.

This one looked like it was going to be a walk in the park after Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal the lead from the penalty spot in the 8th minute. Olivier Giroud scored Arsenal's 2nd just before the half and the match looked to be won. 

Crystal Palace deserve credit, however, for giving it a real go. Arsenal were forced to defend often in the second half and a third goal that would have made the match more comfortable never came. To be honest, even though Palace had a lot of the ball it never looked like they were going to score.

Palace finally made a breakthrough in injury time, but it was too little, too late and Arsenal walked away with the points. With ManUre losing to Swansea, Arsenal have now jumped United and currently sit third in the table.

It was nice to see Arsenal grind out a win.  Successful teams are ones that figure out how to win even when they are not at the top of their game. With Champions League action coming in four days, it was obvious that Arsenal were already thinking ahead to their meeting with Monaco.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 2:45PM EST Arsenal vs. Monaco Champions League Round of 16 First Leg

For what seems like the first time, Arsenal actually got lucky in the Champions League Draw. Instead of Bayern Munich or Barcelona, the club was drawn against Monaco. Much is being made of Arsene Wenger's reunion with his former club, but the bottom line is this is a match-up that Arsenal can, and should, win.

My enforced media lock down is over and I am finally able to speak of what can only be described as a humiliating and pathetic defeat at the hands of Monaco. It was pretty much assumed that Arsenal would easily handle the French League side, but it was the other way around. The Arsenal defense seemed to have left the building and Arsenal were caught napping three times with Monaco easily able to score each time.

Per Mertesacker was completely exposed and it was pretty clear that he is way too slow and not good enough to compete at the highest level.

When Oxlade-Chamberlain got one back in the last few moments of the match, hopes were lifted. Unfortunately that didn't last long as Arsenal lost focus and allowed Monaco to scored a third.

Giroud had a bad night and missed a boat load of chances, but to be fair, the entire team was off. So that easy draw proved to be not as easy as first thought. Now Arsenal have it all to do in the return leg at Monaco on March 17th. Arsenal would need to score three and keep Monaco off the scoring sheet in order to go through. It's possible, but the overall feeling is that Arsenal once again blew an opportunity to advance in Europe's elite club competition.