Thursday, November 19, 2015

Arsenal 2015-2016: November

Wednesday November 4, 2015 Arsenal at Bayern Munich 2:45PM EST Champions League Group Stages Match Day 4

Despite the amazing 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich on Match Day 3, the task facing Arsenal in terms of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League is monumental. Of course Arsenal put themselves in a hole by losing to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos in the first two rounds, but with three matches left qualifying for the last 16 is still possible.

Making today's match even more difficult are several factors:

  • Bayern are one of the best teams in Europe and want revenge for the last match in London.
  • Arsenal are without a number of key players including Theo Walcott, the Ox, Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and more.
  • Arsenal are preparing for this weekend's North London derby with Spuds as they continue to chase the EPL title.

So here's hoping that Arsenal can get a positive result today and keep the club's Champions League hopes alive.

Well that was a colossal mess. The final score of 5-1 was flattering. Bayern Munich are just at a different level and frankly seem a sure bet to make it to the finals next Spring. 

After Robert Lewandowski's header gave Bayern the lead in the 10th minute, Mesutz Ozil equalized and it was game on. Unfortunately, the goal was disallowed for a phantom handball. From there it was all Bayern. Giroud got one back in the 69th minute but it was game, set and match way before that.

Arsenal still have a chance to qualify for the knock-out rounds, but there are a lot of things that have to fall in to place for this to happen. Of course the obvious thing that Arsenal need to do is win the last two group matches versus Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos.

Sunday November 8, 2015 Arsenal vs. Tottenham 11AM EST

Regardless of the midweek humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich, the North London derby is a match that Arsenal are always up for. With Arsenal near the top of the table and the fact that Tottenham are, well Tottenham, means that this is a match that we need to win, should win and must win.

So, what do you think of Tottenham? What do you think of shit? Come on Arsenal.

In the end, the points were shared. Overall it was a disappointing match from an Arsenal point of view. The team looked slow and lethargic in the first half. Things got worse when the new poster boy for English football, Harry Kane slotted home in the 32nd minute. Regardless, I was confident that Arsenal would come back and win the match.

Arsenal upped the tempo a bit in the second half and looked threatening. Still a goal never came. Finally in the 77th minute Arsenal scored from an unlikely source. Three minutes after Kieran Gibbs entered the match as a sub he was in position in front of goal to meet a Mesut Ozil cross and put the ball in to the back of the net. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job and Arsenal were back in the match.

The go ahead goal never came and it was a point a piece. Arsenal had the chance to jump Manchester City in the table after their 0-0 draw with Aston Villa, but remain second on goal differential.

Next up is a two week international break which for many of the players will be a welcome break and it gives our injured players (Ramsey, Walcott, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Bellerin) a chance to heal and get back on the pitch.

Saturday November 21, 2015 Arsenal at West Brom 10AM EST

The two week international break is over and it's back to the league today for Arsenal. With a true title challenge on, it's imperative that Arsenal pick up maximum points from games like this. After a rather tough run of fixtures, Arsenal are finally graced with matches against a number of the teams towards the bottom half of the table. (After West Brom comes Norwich, Sunderland and Aston Villa).

It's games like these where Arsenal need to show that they have what it takes to be champions. As we've seen time and time again in the league, you really can't take any team lightly. Facing a team managed by Tony Pulis was always a bit of a battle, but his days at the helm at the Cavemen of Stoke are over and West Brom thankfully doesn't possess thugs like Ryan Shawcross and Charlie Adam.

Here's hoping that the match is as easy on the pitch as it is on paper and Arsenal walk away with all three points.

What a nightmare of a match and a nightmare of a performance.  Of course that means a return to the #WengerOut brigade and all the negative whining and vitriol that comes with any Arsenal stumble. In addition to Arsenal blowing an opportunity to go top of the table and stake their name as title contenders, they also lost midfield rock Francis Coquelin to injury that will keep him out for three months.

 It all started well with both teams feeling each other out.  The breakthrough came in the 28th minute when Olivier Giroud headed in a free kick from Mesut Ozil. Unfortunately it all went downhill from there.

West Brom equalized in the 35th minute from terrible Arsenal defending, but that was just a prelude to the disaster that was yet to come. When Coquelin limped off in the 14th minute Mikel Arteta came on as a substitute. Arteta soon proved that the venom directed at him from Arsenal fans might be warranted. In the 40th minute Arteta scored the winning goal...unfortunately it was for the other team. Whatever the hell he was trying to do on defense who knows, but he inexplicably ended up putting the ball in to the Arsenal net.

But wait, it gets worse. Alexis was fouled in the 74th minute and the ref signaled penalty. The usually reliable Santi Cazorla stepped up, slipped and sent the ball sailing over the net.

After that it was same old, same old Arsenal. They had 73% of the possession, 3 times as many shots on target and once again couldn't turn their domination in to victory.

The only guys that looked like they came to play were Ozil and Alexis. Other than that, everyone needs to get their act together or take a seat on the bench. Unfortunately with all the bodies currently out, there is no more room on the bench.

Tuesday November 24, 2015 Arsenal vs. Dinamo Zagreb 2:45PM Champions League Group Stages Match Day 5 

So now it's on to the Champions League for Arsenal and it's simple what they have to do to even have a chance of If Arsenal win and Bayern top Olympiakos today, then Arsenal will go in to Match Day 6 with a chance of making it to the knock out rounds despite the tremendous hole the club put itself in.

Some are saying Arsenal should give up on the Champions League and concentrate on the league. Personally, that's a pretty lame thought for a club of Arsenal's level. If Arsenal want to finally join the European elite they have to take every match seriously and put in a strong performance. I'd be really disappointed if they didn't do that despite all the injuries the club currently has.

Talk about Jekyl and Hyde. After this past weekend's shambolic performance against West Brom, the Arsenal that we saw today might as well have been a completely different group of 11 players. However, outside of the now injured Coquelin, it was the same team and gladly it was a very different performance.

Ozil and Sanchez ran the show. Ozil got the breakthrough in the 29th minute from of all things a header. Four minutes later it was Alexis with Arsenal's second. Alexis put the game to bed in the 69th minute and Arsenal's Champions League hopes are still alive.

Arsenal dominated this game and never looked in much danger, which makes it even more ridiculous that they were beaten by Zagreb in Match Day One.

With Bayern defeating Olympiakos, it comes down to Match Day 6 when Arsenal travel to Greece. If the Gunners win by 2 or more goals, they are through. The fact that they even have a chance after the club's horrendous start to the group stages is amazing.

In addition to Ozil and Sanchez, almost every other player on the pitch put in a good shift. For those that declared Arsenal's season over (yes there were some alarmists that actually said that) after losing Francis Coquelin for three months, Mathieu Flamini played well in his place. The defense was solid and both Santi Cazorla and Joel Campbell looked good throughout the match.

Now it's time to take this good form and get back to the task of trying to win the EPL title.

Sunday November 29, 2015 Arsenal at Norwich 11:15AM EST

It's time for Arsenal to get back to what they do best and that is winning. Starting today with Norwich, the team has a run of matches against the bottom clubs in the table. This is when Arsenal must pick up points.

The EPL table still seems a bit off with Leicester City at the top and one of the worst Manchester United sides I've ever seen still hanging around. A win today and Arsenal are level at the top with Manchester City and Leicester. If the team win by more than four goals then they go clear atop on goal differential.

Either way, these are matches that Arsenal must win. Let's hope that last week's horrendous performance and result at West Brom was just a blip.

Once again it's a major let down for Arsenal against a team that they should easily be handling, After last week's loss at West Brom it was important for Arsenal to take advantage of another match against bottom of the table competition.

Mesut Ozil opened the scoring in the 30th minute and it was looking like they had control of the match.  Unfortunately, in the end it was another match where Arsenal dominated possession (63%) but failed to win. Some poor defending by Gabriel allowed Norwich to draw even two minutes before half time. Gabriel had come on in place of Laurent Koscielny who hobbled off after just 11 minutes.

Arsenal were unable to get the go ahead goal and they had to settle for just one point. Even worse was the news that Alexis Sanchez would be joining Coquelin, Wilshere and the rest of the injured Gunners.

With Manchester City winning, Arsenal now find themselves in fourth place; two points behind City and Leicester and one point behind United.