Saturday, February 6, 2016

Arsenal 2015-2016: February

Tuesday February 2, 2016 Arsenal vs Southampton 2:45PM EST

Back to the league and a weekday meeting with Southampton at the Emirates. Southampton have been mediocre this season, but when Arsenal went to St. Mary's last month, they completely humiliated the Gunners by a score of 0-4. It was a major hit in what is supposed to be Arsenal's year to win the league. Now it's payback time and hopefully Arsenal will seek retribution and get back to winning ways.

I had to work today so I set my DVR to record the match. When I got home I immediately went to watch the match and was disgusted to find out that instead of the Arsenal game I had recorded Man United and Stoke. Of course I skipped that I went to find out what happened in the Arsenal match.

Upon seeing the result, I am glad that this was the one match that I missed.  Arsenal had 67% of the possession, but in the end it amounted to nothing as the match ended 0-0. Aside from the fact that it was two points dropped, it was Arsenal's third straight match without scoring a goal and their fourth straight league match without a victory. Definitely not the results a team going for the title want.

The disappointment will fade, but if Arsenal don't get back on track now, it'll be a great opportunity lost. For now, they have dropped in to fourth place.

Sunday February 7, 2016 Arsenal at Bournemouth 8:30AM

Arsenal need to right the ship now or they can forget about any title hopes. They go in to this match in fourth place. With the surprising Leicester defeating Manchester City on Saturday at the Etihad, they now sit atop the table eight points ahead of Arsenal. Even with a win, Arsenal will only move up to third place. Even worse than being behind Leicester, is being behind Tottenham who won again Saturday.

Bournemouth sit in 15th place and this is a perfect match for Arsenal to get back to winning ways. Nothing short of a victory will be acceptable with a meeting with Leicester next week on deck.

It's back to winning ways for Arsenal as they take all three points in a 0-2 victory. Both goals came in the first fact they came within two minutes of each other.

Mesut Ozil was the first to get on the score sheet with a cool finish in the 23rd minute. Then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain silenced his critics with an angled shot that found the back of the net and pretty much sealed the victory for Arsenal.

While possession was pretty evenly split and Bournemouth had more attempts on goal, the outcome never seemed in any doubt.

After going without a win in recent weeks it was essential that Arsenal got back on track. Yes it's just Bournemouth, but so much of the game is fueled by momentum and it's nice that Arsenal have regained some momentum.

Sunday February 14, 2016 Arsenal vs. Leicester City 7AM EST

Arsenal host the surprise team of the season Leicester City at the Emirates and the ass kissing by the pundits of Leicester in the build up has frankly been nauseating. It's time for Arsenal to stop the fairy tale and send Leicester back to reality. Arsenal won the the away fixture earlier this season 2-5 and they need to secure all three points today. It's actually amazing to think that a match against Leicester City has this much importance., Leicester City? They almost got relegated last season. It's been a great story but enough is enough. Arsenal MUST show that they are capable of winning the league and the time is NOW to prove it.

It was looking like it was going to be another one of those frustrating days but then Danny Welbeck's head met Mesut Ozil's last gasp free kick in the 5th minute of added time. Instead of a 1-1 draw Arsenal struck with the last play of the match and walked away with all three points.

Referee Martin Atkinson played a major role in the match, but not in a good way. He missed clear fouls on Arsenal players and then awarded Jamie Vardy a penalty for purposely falling over Nacho Monreal's leg...i.e. he clearly cheated. Vardy scored the undeserved penalty right before the half and the frustration level around the Emirates was obvious by the loud booing directed at Atkinson.

Perhaps feeling a bit guilty for his crap refereeing, Atkinson started pulling out the yellow cards and within ten minutes of the restart Danny Simpson saw red for a second bookable offense. Finally, things looked to be going Arsenal's way.

Arsene Wenger brought on Theo Walcott for Coquelin in the 61st minute and the striker rewarded his manager with the game tying goal in the 70th minute from a sublime Olivier Giroud assist. With 20 minutes left and a man advantage the match was very winnable.

Arsenal were pouring it on but the winner wasn't coming. Then in the 83rd minute, Danny Welbeck was introduced to the match after a ten month absence. 

Four minutes of injury time were added and as the match was down to just 30 seconds on the clock, a great thing happened....defender Marcin Wasilewski committed an unnecessary foul giving Arsenal a free kick. Mesut Ozil set the ball in and there was Welbeck, back after ten months out injured, to score the winner.

The celebration was wild, the stadium went nuts and Arsenal are now just two points behind Leicester. The only bummer is that Spuds won and remain above Arsenal for the time being tied on points but with a superior goal difference.

Arsenal need to use the momentum picked up from this match and move forward. The title race is on.

Saturday February 20, 2016 7:45AM Arsenal vs. Hull  FA Cup  Fifth Round

Once again attention turns to the FA Cup as Arsenal continue in pursuit of their third FA Cup trophy in a row. As fate would have it, it's Hull once again for Arsenal. Of course Arsenal defeated Hull in the 2014 final and dispatched of them again last season on their way to FA Cup glory in 2015. This year Hull finds itself top of the Championship with promotion to the Premier League their top priority.

While Hull fights for promotion, Arsenal are also in a title chase in the EPL and have a small match against a team called Barcelona coming up in just three days time. With priorities in mind and upcoming fixtures both teams are expected to make changes to their starting lineups.

Arsenal have added depth to their squad and with the return of injured players such as Danny Welbeck and Francis Coquelin, Arsene Wenger has options when looking to rotate the squad.

Here's hoping that the third time is a charm and Arsenal defeat Hull to move on to the last eight of the FA Cup. Let's retain OUR trophy!

We killed them. Just look at these stats: 69% possession, 24 shots for Arsenal to just 6 for Hull, 11 shots on goal for Arsenal to just 1 for Hull, 11 corners for Arsenal versus 1 for Hull. Reading those stats one would guess that the final score was something along the lines of 5-0, or maybe 3-0 or at least 2-0 or if Hull were very lucky maybe they just lost 1-0. While the stats tell one story, the final score told another.

After totally dominating Hull for 90 minutes, it's going to take another 90 to decide a winner. After all that, Arsenal couldn't score and the match ended 0-0. Arsenal's fixture list is busy, but a trip to Hull will be scheduled over the next few weeks as Arsenal will have to replay Hull for the chance to move on to the 6th round.

If Arsenal can win the replay, they will host Watford at the Emirates for the right to move on to the semi finals at Wembley.

Rather than dwell on what should have been or at least could have been, Arsenal are going to be a lot more clinical in front of goal. It's sadly become a frequent problem for Arsenal...match domination without a victory.  Arsenal fans would gladly take less control of the game if it came with wins.

Tuesday February 23, 2016 2:45PM EST Arsenal vs. Barcelona Champions League Home Leg Round of 16

Can miracles happen? No one is expecting Arsenal to win against Barcelona. They're perhaps the best team in the world and have a strike force of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. BUT, they still have to play the game and you never know until the final whistle.

There's a part of me that wouldn't be too upset if they were out of this tournament so that they could concentrate on the league and the FA Cup. The other part of me says that's a cop out and if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. A Champions League trophy, however, far away it may seem, would not be a bad piece of silverware to have in the trophy cabinet.

So here's hoping that Arsenal can do the impossible and beat Barcelona. At the very least, let's hope they do us proud.

Miracles can happen, but they didn't happen today. The final stats show that Barcelona dominated the match with an overwhelming amount of possession and double the total of shots from Arsenal. In the end the final 0-2 scoreline is respectable from an Arsenal point of view, but it really could have been so much different.

Arsenal defended valiantly in the first half and were able to keep the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez off of the score sheet. While they weren't winning the possession, the defensive alignment worked brilliantly. At the interval the amazing stat was that Barcelona did not register one shot on goal.

Arsenal on the other hand had several chances but were unable to break the deadlock.  The best chance came to the Ox who was unable to get power on his shot.

In the second half Barcelona broke the deadlock when they caught the Arsenal defense sleeping in the 71st minute. Up to that moment it looked as if Arsenal were holding out for a 0-0 draw at least. It was a typical Barcelona goal...scored by Messi with set up courtesy of Neymar and Suarez.

The most questionable move from Arsene Wenger came with seven minutes left in the match when he substituted Coquelin with the always questionable Mathieu Flamini. It didn't take Flamini long to ruin what had been a closely contested match. He fouled Messi in the box within moments of his arrival. Messi coolly slotted home the penalty and that was that.

There's the old saying it aint over till it's over. However, when it comes to Barcelona versus Arsenal....we pretty much know it's over. The return leg at the Nou Camp will be an exercise in damage control.  There's no shame in losing to the best team in Europe, but giving away cheap goals never helps your cause.

Next up is a visit to Old Trafford with three very important points on the line.

Sunday February 28, 2016 Arsenal at Manchester United 9:05AM

This used to be one of the top fixtures in the EPL season. That was when Arsenal and United were battling it out for league supremacy. Since then the oil barons have bought in to football and Chelsea and Man City started spending like drunken sailors out for a night on the town.

Arsenal are within striking distance of the top of the table. Manchester United are treading water while waiting for a life preserver. Their season has been abysmal and each week there's a new crack in the armor. Arsenal are coming off of a loss to Barcelona while United are celebrating their comeback victory over a small team from Denmark with a name something like jkdlelslakdkeldkja.
There's a big difference though. Barcelona are probably the best team in world football while jkdlelslakdkeldkja is the equivalent of playing a non league side.

With that in mind, this is a must win for Arsenal. They are by far the superior team and anything but a victory would be both an embarrassment and a kick in the gut to Arsenal's title chances. They won the corresponding fixture earlier in the year with an easy 3-0 victory. That day they put the game away early scoring three goals within 20 minutes. Let's hoping we see something similar today.

An added motivation is the now fit Danny Welbeck getting a start up front against the manager that stated he wasn't good enough for Manchester United. Welbeck got sweet revenge last season when he scored the winner versus United in the FA Cup. It would be great to see more of the same today.

It's taken me several days to come back to this blog and recap what was an abject pathetic performance. Losing to Manchester United is one thing, but losing to a team of scrubs, no names and players playing out of position is just plain embarrassing. I have always defended Arsenal, but the term "bottlers" has been thrown around about the club on a regular basis. I am beginning to agree that they are indeed a group of bottlers. Every time there's a chance to get an advantage or dispel any negativity surrounding the club, they fail and they fail miserably.

Arsenal were sunk by an eighteen year old making his Premier League debut. Now if Marcus Rashford goes on to become the new Lionel Messi, then we'll look back and say we saw the beginnings of a superstar. However, it's more likely that we'll look back and just laugh at how Arsenal allowed an unknown kid to look like a combination of Messi, Pele and Ronaldo.

There's really no reason to go over the details. In short, Arsenal passed the ball about a lot, scored a couple of goals, but basically wasted a ton of possession and looked inept and feeble on offense. Theo Walcott started up front yet I had to check the names on the team lineup after the first half to see if he really was playing. He was basically invisible. Outside of Ozil and Welbeck and maybe Koscielny the players failed miserably. They really should be ashamed and embarrassed as they lost to an inferior team in a match they had to win.

So, there are no more excuses or you can kiss any chances of a title goodbye. Even worse, Tottenham are above Arsenal and could be champions if their current form keeps up. Get it together now Arsenal.