Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cardiff - Arsenal post match thought

3 goals for 3 points. That's what Arsenal did in the match against Cardiff City. I thought the scoreline did not reflect the match as Cardiff was pushing very hard in the second half to find the equalizer before being undone by Mathieu Flamini's goal. Cardiff nearly equalized when the scoreline is still 1-0, only denied by Wojciech Szczesny superb save on Fraizer's Campbell towering header. Aaron Ramsey found the net twice and was awarded with Man-of-the-Match Award. The Welshman is leading goalscorer for Arsenal now, with 8 goals in the Premier League, 1 goal ahead of Olivier Giroud. 

Ramsey scored his first goal in this match. (Photo from

It was an easy first half for Arsenal as Cardiff misplaced numbers of passes. Arsenal dominated the game completely, and they should have scored more than one goal. However, the second half was totally different. It was a very intense and tough second half. Cardiff were a different side after the break, they were not scared to go out and attack Arsenal. Their long ball and crosses was threatening, but Arsenal stand still to it. Arsenal looked quite jaded physically in the second half, but credit to Cardiff for their pressing game in the second half. Had they been more clinical in front of goal, the result might have been different.

Cardiff has few chances to shoot from outside the box, but all their shots was comfortably dealt by Szczesny. The Poland keeper did not spill any long shot today, as he caught all the ball safely. He has been in good form recently, and looks like a different keeper we saw last year. Last year he was error prone, but this year we saw him like a very experienced keeper who continuously made a terrific save. A factor that Arsenal haven't experienced since long time ago. The good keeper made the defender confident dealing with crosses and through balls. Good defence enable the team to slowly build the game from the back. So I would say Szczesny has some contribution on Arsenal's recent form, aside from his saves.

On the other end, Mesut Ozil provided two assists for Aaron Ramsey's first goal and Mathieu Flamini's decisive goal. Actually, Ozil was fading in the second half. His passes were not at that standard, and his first touch was somewhat loose. I was wondering why Wenger subbed off Wilshere instead of Ozil, but it proved to be a good decision. However, he made that defence-splitting pass to Flamini, which led to the second goal. This is what Arsenal has been missing for long time, a World Class player. He might be struggling for most of the match, but when the thing matters, he can made one genius moment to turn the game. His first assist was also a  pure brilliance also. A chip to Ramsey and the Welshman made a glancing header, leaving the keeper with no chance to save it.

7 points off Chelsea and Liverpool when this article was being written. Players are coming back from injuries. Looks like good sign for Arsenal? Well, everything might be look good at the moment but we still need to guard against complacency. As Wenger said, it's too early to talk about title in November. Furthermore, Arsenal still need to face Everton, City, and Chelsea before the New Year. City's game would be the toughest test so far as it is an away game to a fortress, where beat Tottenham was destroyed with six goals. But I'm fairly confident that Arsenal have the ability to beat them, if they can perform at their best. Time will tell if Arsenal can win the title this year.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Arsenal vs Dortmund Post Match Thought.

It was one of those famous away win for Arsenal as they won against last year finalist Borussia Dortmund 1-0. Last year we won against Bayern and everyone saying it was a fluke because they are complacent with two goals advantage with three goals. But this time, we beat Dortmund, who are still in need of 3 points, knowing that Napoli were likely to win against Marseille. Dortmund is no joke and they are arguably one of the top 4 teams in Champions League, but we became the first team stopping them from scoring in their home for the first time since 61 games, back then in January 2011. Lightning does not struck twice, does it?
Ramsey celebrated the goal with Ozil as Arsenal win against Dortmund

Credit to Dortmund who played well, except that they were not clinical in front of goal. They were having some amount of possession - and chances, before Arsenal took the lead on 62' minutes. After that, Arsenal became more dangerous and Dortmund slowly losing their teeth on the game. No clear cut chances was created by Dortmund after that goal.  It was exactly the reverse of the previous game where Arsenal dominated the game on 1-1 scoreline before conceding a late goal by Lewandowski. In big games like this, it's not the matter of who has more possession, but it's the matter of  who takes the chances well. It was true what Wenger said, "This game is determined by small details". A lapse of concentration cost a goal for Neven Subotic, who failed to mark Aaron Ramsey during the goal.

Well, Arsenal performed very well in every department, but especially defending. Yes, we were a bit exposed early of the second half, but we were otherwise very solid. The defending was getting better and more confident especially after scoring that goal. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were bossing at the backline, making numerous vital interceptions and winning most of the aerial battle. Robert Lewandowski was kept quiet most of the time by this pair, and he failed to score goal today. Another good game showing Koscielny and Mertesacker understand and complement each other. Koscielny played the stopper role, as he is a more aggresive defender, and quicker of the pair; while Mertesacker usally sits deeper and rely on his excellent, unflappable game reading and composure. Looking at their form, it would be hard for Vermaelen to reclaim the spot in near time, even though rotation is required, especially on December festive period. You can't win anything with just two fit, recognized centre back.

A credit must also given to Mikel Arteta who shielded the backfour well. Gooners was worried of lack of protection to back four when Flamini is injured, but Arteta stepped up well on this occasion. He was brilliant in keeping possession, as he did against Liverpool, as well as being the first man closing down Dortmund players when Arsenal was being counter-attacked. I was worried when he was booked early on, but he kept his temper and was able to finish 90 minutes without sent off. This victory highlighted the importance of the deep midfielder. This Arsenal team would need someone to sit back protecting the backfour and link defender to midfielder, to allow Ozil and co to have freedom in attacking. It's either Arteta or Flamini (or maybe both, remember the 2-0 victory against Napoli). If they both not playing,  Arsenal will suffer, like when they lost against Chelsea in the Carling Cup.

Another impressive player tonight is no other than our current hottest player, Aaron Ramsey. He scored the only goal tonight, with a cool header after receiving Olivier Giroud's flick. Today He was not as lively as usual standard recently, as Dortmund's players were closing down quickly, but nevertheless he made a decisive run into the box and ensure Arsenal grabbed three points from Signal Iduna Park. His workrate is unquestionable, as usual. Ozil was mostly anonymous earlier but he made that beautiful chip to Giroud that lead to the goal. That what a genius player can do, one moment of magic even when you're not at your best form.

Rosicky played well too. He tirelessly pressed the oppostion, as well as made few great tackles. It's amazing remembering he is 33 this year.  Szczesny also made two smart save from Reus and Kuba to keep the scoreless game before Ramsey scored.

Actually everyone in the team today deserved a worthy mention, but I just want to emphasize the excellent team defending tonight. Few years back, Arsenal defence was one of the worst among Champions League participant and top four in Premier League, but this year it look difference. We defend as a unit, and generally look solid under enormous amount of pressure from the opposition. There are no silly individual mistakes done again like in previous years. We are able to keep clean sheet in a game when a goal is hard to come by and we start to be able to win ugly, keeping 1 goal lead till death. It's one of the quality the Arsenal must have if they want to win something this year. 

This away win against Dortmund definitely brings confidence and momentum ahead of United game, away again, this weekend. Keep the feet on the ground, keep aware, but play our usual ame and we can win this one. COYG! VCC!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Arsenal - Liverpool post match analysis.

Arsenal keep the top spot after beating Liverpool 2-0 in the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners opened the score via Santi Cazorla's smart finishing after a great team play. Arteta picked Sagna's run down the right, and the Frenchmen sent a beautiful cross to Cazorla who headed the ball to the post, but reacted quickly to rebound the ball, smashed the ball past Mignolet. Liverpool could've equalized had the referee not stopped the play when Sagna fouled Suarez. Arsenal sealed the game when Aaron Ramsey scored a fabulous volley kick, after receiving a nice pass from Mesut Ozil. Liverpool pushed hard to find a goal, and Arsenal were nervous on the later stage of the game. However, Liverpool failed to capitalize Arsenal's few mistake at the back, and Arsenal hang to the result and grabbed an important, deserved 3 points. This result, coupled with Chelsea's unexpected defeat at Newcastle, leaving Arsenal 5 points clear from the second place, unless Tottenham grabs a win later on.

There are few interesting points we can learn from Arsenal - Liverpool game. 

1. This team is able to bounce back.
Arsenal were heavily criticized after losing against Dortmund and Chelsea at home. They were saying it is the old same Arsenal, where once they lost a game they will lost the following game. It is never easy to win a game after you lost, especially against your rival. However, Arsenal played well today against Liverpool and showed their quality. Well, it is a bit early to talk about title in these times, while next few games will be tough, but if Arsenal can overcome it, they can prove that they are title challenger.  

2. Arteta is as important as Giroud.
Arteta played a very important role today as he kept the ball flowing from the back to the front, and he become the-always-available-to-pass option, as well as taking Liverpool's clearance and kept Arsenal playing the ball. This is one of the reason why Arsenal dominated the game on the first half. Arsenal lost to Chelsea because no one played Arteta role. Ramsey was put there but he was simply not a player to fill this role. He is a box-to-box midfield, and should not be wasted to play in Arteta/Flamini role. 

Another thing is the importance of Giroud. Yes, he might be guilty for wasting that chances after he robbed the ball from Kolo Toure, but only chipped it to the post. However, it's not his finishing which is his prime quality, it is his ability to hold up the ball, and link up with the midfield. He plays important role in Wenger's strategy now. A long ball will directed to Giroud and he will be the one challenging for aerial battle. This is complemented with his neat first touch, leaving Giroud as a good supporting central forward instead of being a killer central forward. It would be good, though, if Giroud can sharpen his finishing.

3. Bigger teams can punish Arsenal.
Clean sheet. Looks good? Yes it is, but the fact that Liverpool could easily scored three goals against us, might be worrying. Liverpool even have one goal incorrectly disallowed. Sagna lost possession and Suarez dashed to Arsenal's area before he was brought down by Sagna. The referee might have continued the game, giving Liverpool  a huge advantage as it was 3v2 in Liverpool's favor. Lucky, the referee booked Sagna and stopped the play.

This worry might sound so pessimistic because we just won the game, but a bigger, more clinical team, will punish us if we don't minimize the mistake at defending. Szczesny almost gave the ball cheaply to Sturridge but the ball bounced back. The moment later, the defence fell asleep, leaving Suarez a great chance to score one. Fortunately, his luck was not on his side today, as he struck the ball wide. The game against Dortmund two weeks ago showed how Arsenal beaten by a more clinical team. One lack of concentration during counter attack and your team is punished. One lost possession and your team is punished. With all respect to Liverpool, they were not clinical today and Arsenal were able to kept a clean sheet. Had they been more clinical, two goals could've ended in Szczesny's goal.

Well, to end, it's a big week ahead for Arsenal, and hopefully we can go through this one! COYG! VCC!