Burnley vs Arsenal: Premier League preview 

  

Having won seven consecutive matches, Arsenal go into Saturday evening’s clash with Burnley as the team in form, picking up thirty points out of a possible thirty three in the last eleven Premier League fixtures. Burnley on the other hand, are fighting relegation and will certainly not go down without a fight in their own back yard. Having picked up points against Chelsea, Sp*rs, United and City, Burnley should not be taken lightly.

After a thumping victory against Liverpool at the Emirates last Saturday, Arsenal have illustrated the level of their performance, and there are no excuses for that level to drop. While Burnley are more defensively secure and hard working at home, it is a winnable game and offers the chance to continue our momentum into the FA Cup semi-final next week.

  

“They are quite efficient at home because they have made 18 points from 26 at home. Therefore we have to produce the expected performance on the commitment, on the focus and on the quality of our game.” – Wenger on Burnley.

In terms of Arsenal team news, overwhelmingly, five players are back from injury – Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Wojiech Szczesny and Aaron Ramsey all return which will provide a selection headache for the manager. The likes of Calum Chambers, Tomas Rosicky and Chuba Akpom could potentially lose their place in the squad.

 

In my opinion, squad depth is good and competition is healthy. However the flip side to this is that, with Lukas Podolski, Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo all returning from their loan spells at the end of the season, some of Arsenal’s players who are low down the pecking order may leave the club this summer.

The last time Arsenal played Burnley away in the Premier League was in 2009 where Cesc Fabregas scored Arsenal’s only goal in a 1-1 draw. The only four players who are still in the squad now as they were then are Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott (all featuring) and Jack Wilshere (unused substitute). Interestingly, Mike Dean was the referee in that match six years ago, and he will referee the game again tomorrow.

Have a splendid Friday, everyone. Let’s all hope for three points tomorrow! Follow me on Twitter @TheChileanPele.

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Arsenal and the free kick question – who should step up in big moments?

Imagine (and you may need to be creative here!) that Arsenal have miraculously made it to the Champions League final, and are up against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. The score is 2-1 to the Blues but they are down to nine men with two defenders sent off. Arsenal have won a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the box and central in relation to the goal. It’s the 95th minute of five added minutes in stoppage time. Last kick of the game, with a potential Champions League trophy resting on this set piece. With Özil, Alexis and Cazorla all standing over it – who should step up?

Mesut Özil takes a deep breath. Why should he take it? As a calm man under pressure, he has proven on countless occasions this season, particularly in recent fixtures that his pin point accuracy can really test the keeper and, as demonstrated against Liverpool, find the back of the net. He obviously has a superb technique and, in games like Monaco and Newcastle, either been denied by impressive keeping or the woodwork. With his calmness under pressure along with his genuine ability and technique, Mesut Özil would be an appropriate choice.

Alexis Sanchez eyes the ball. Why should he take it? Early in the season, the Chilean was taking every set piece. His erratic style and unpredictability makes him a significant candidate in a situation like this, where nerves may take over. Having already scored an amazing free-kick earlier in the season against Southampton, that cracker into the top corner illustrated his eye for goal. His curl, dip and power gave the keeper no chance, and he has almost replicated that on several occasions (with Stoke in mind). 

  

Santi Cazorla stands on his tip toes. Why should he take it? Having scored numerous free kicks during his time at Arsenal, he would be another popular choice – and my choice. His impressive technical ability on set pieces made him Arsenal’s principal freekick taker for two seasons. He has also proven that he can step up under pressure with that screamer in the FA Cup final. With such two footedness he also brings about that unpredictability factor of Alexis and merges it with the technique of Özil. His cutting edged accuracy also makes life very difficult for the goalkeeper, and he has proven that he can place as well as smash. That is why he’d be my free-kick man in the aforementioned situation, however unlikely it might be!

  

Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool: match report + player ratings

Three goals in eight minutes towards the end of the first half secured a 4-1 victory for Arsenal over their top-four rivals Liverpool. A penalty for Liverpool mid way through the second half was cancelled out by an added time cracker from Olivier Giroud which rounded off a splendid afternoon at the Emirates. 

  

Arsenal started in a surprising way with an unsurprising team – Santi Cazorla started as a deep midfielder with Aaron Ramsey on the right wing, as opposed to the anticipated system of Ramsey deep with Özil on the flank and Cazorla higher up the pitch. 

It was the Welshman who had the first chance of the game where a defensive mistake led him clean through on goal, but his weak left footed shot was saved and cleared. Arsenal continued with a lot of the possession and both Alexis and Cazorla had half-chances. 

Liverpool however seemingly settled and had a massive chance to take the lead, with Markovic through on goal but his attempt to square it for Sterling to tap into an empty net was too heavy. Subsequently Coutinho had a shot wide and Sterling again just missed a shot from the top of the box. 

It was Arsenal however who took the lead – in the 36th minute – with Hector Bellerin curling a beauty into the bottom corner with his weaker foot. It started with an inch-perfect long ball from Özil to Ramsey, who laid it off for the oncoming right back who cut inside, turned a challenge from Moreno and curled it home.

  

Not long after, Arsenal scored again – this time through a brilliantly placed free-kick from Mesut Özil. The German himself won the free kick and stepped up to curl the ball past the keeper into the same corner Bellerin scored in. As Gary Neville would say, ‘the keeper should have done better’ but take nothing away from the accuracy of the free kick. It was brilliant to see.

  

It got even better on the stroke of HT when Aaron Ramsey turned away from his man to play Alexis Sanchez in. His first touch got the Chilean away from the defender and as the ball sat up perfectly, Alexis hammered an unstoppable strike past the helpless Simon Mignolet.

  

Liverpool looked more threatening after the break with Daniel Sturridge coming on for Lazar Markovic, and Arsenal were forced into a change with Koscielny picking up a groin strain and Gabriel coming onto replace him.

Sterling gave Liverpool a tender lifeline as he won a penalty through a poor challenge from Hector Bellerin. Henderson just about scored it despite Ospina getting a hand to it. But in stoppage time, that man Olivier Giroud iced the Arsenal cake as he unleashed an impressive cracker from the top of the box past Mignolet’s far post after Alexis had played him in.

  

All in all it was a brilliant performance, and as the MOTD pundits said, it was no less than Arsenal deserved.

PLAYER RATINGS:

David Ospina: 7 – improvement on his kicking, solid, but probably should have saved the penalty.

Hector Bellerin: 8 – brilliant game, brilliant finish, penalty his only mistake really. 

Per Mertesacker: 8 – very assured and solid. 

Laurent Koscielny: 7.5 – gave away the ball a couple of times and went off injured. Nothing serious though. 

Nacho Monreal: 8 – another brilliant game, a bit sloppy near the end but covered well and supported attacks.

Francis Coquelin: 9 – another massive game, brilliant in possession, commanding off it. World class performance.

Mesut Özil: 9 – a class pass from him led to the first goal, a class free-kick brought about the second. Was skilful in possession too.

Santi Cazorla: 7.5 – hit the post and improved in the second half, but was sloppy and careless in possession in the first half.

Aaron Ramsey: 7.5 – unusually deployed on the right flank but got two assists and had a good game. 

Alexis Sanchez: 8.5 – amazing for his goal, 20 in the season, worked hard off the ball and showed Liverpool what they missed out on.

Olivier Giroud: 8 – scored a great goal at the end, worked much harder than he has in previous seasons and has scored 7 in 6 for the Gunners now.

  

Well, that was fun! To both watch and write about. Anyway, have a good week folks.

Arsenal vs Liverpool: Premier League preview

  

Arsenal host Liverpool in the lunchtime kick off this Saturday as Arsenal endeavour to continue their fine run of form and take a huge leap forward in the battle for top four. The gap between the Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers’ men is six points, and a win for Arsenal could effectively kill Liverpool off creating a nine point gap with seven games to go. A win for the visitors however would minimise the gap to a mere three points and open the top four race more widely.

  

The last time these teams met was back in December when Arsenal had one of their worst performances of the season, but drew 2-2. Liverpool took the lead late in the first half through Coutinho until Arsenal equalised immediately after via Debuchy’s header. The Gunners took the lead in the second half courtesy of Giroud but a Martin Skrtel header late into injury time ended the match at 2-2. The late equaliser made it feel like a loss, but in hindsight we were lucky to come away with a point.

 

The last Premier League home encounter was a much merrier one, with two brilliant goals from Cazorla and Ramsey seeing Arsenal run out 2-0 winners and silencing the in form striker partnership of Suarez and Sturridge. The Gunners will be looking to replicate that performance and seal victory on Saturday.

TEAM NEWS: 

Danny Welbeck is injured and may miss the fixture, and Tomas Rosicky is ill so may also not make it.

However, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta all featured on Arsenal’s youth 4-0 win over Brentford.

For Liverpool, it seemed that Sturridge and Sterling would be out but while the former is 50-50, the latter is likely to be fit and start. Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel are of course suspended.

Anyway, let’s hope we can maintain our run. Just three losses since Christmas in all competitions is very impressive and we wish it continues. Have a good day folks.

Summer business – transfer incomings and outgoings

This summer will be Arsene Wenger’s penultimate if he sees out his contract and leaves at the end of the 2016/2017 season. Therefore there is bound to be a lot of activity as the French manager will look to go out in style and give the coveted Premier League trophy one more go. 

Wenger has proved that he is willing to spend, now that his club are no longer under financial constraints over paying off the debt of their stadium. The £42.5 million and £35 million arrivals of big names in Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez are respectively testament to Arsene Wenger’s willingness to spend, and with more top class players needed, this summer could be the window we bring them in.

Firstly, outgoings. Rather than refer to the release of players like Abou Diaby, I will focus in more on the larger money transfers that could occur.

1) Lukas Podolski (£12 million). The experienced German is likely to be one to go, what with his lack of game time this season when he was at the club and his disappointing form at Inter Milan where he is currently on loan. Podolski, despite being popular on social media, cannot replicate this popularity with the manager who has openly stated that Podolski does not fit into Arsenal’s new system of high pressing. As clinical as the forward may be, he is very lazy defensively and cannot work in this style of play. He will be 30 in the summer and will almost certainly move on from the Gunners.

   

2) Joel Campbell (£10 million). The young Costa Rican World Cup star has played very few games for Arsenal and has found himself very much a part-player. He has failed to score in an Arsenal shirt and found himself down the pecking order at the start of the season. He was loaned to Villareal as a part of the deal to sign Gabriel, and has not been extraordinary there either. He is very young and Arsene Wenger said in the summer that Campbell was part of his plans, but with Walcott’s return and Danny Welbeck’s signature it is very difficult to see the Costa Rican  have a future at the club.

  

3) Theo Walcott (£20 million). The 26 year old, who of course has that British premium to boost his price, has had very little game time this season and has even struggled to get in to the team during squad rotations. His versatility, pace and eye for goal demonstrate his ability and talent. However he has struggled with Arsenal recently, and with complicated ongoing contract negotiations Arsenal may well look to cash in on him this summer.

  

Given Arsenal’s reported war chest of £40 million in addition to the £42 million raised with the three above transfers, Arsenal may have an expenditure of £82 million.

1) Paulo Dybala (£30 million). The Argentinian striker is young, quick and clinical which is just what Arsenal need in front of the likes of Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla. Dybala has been compared to Aguero due to his creative style of play. He is only 21 and Arsenal are confirmed to be in for him. Given his potential, £30 million may look too much now but may prove to be a bargain in the future.

  

2) Morgan Schneiderlin (£20 million). The defensive midfielder is young, proven and wants Champions League football. He’s got Arsenal written all over him. Coquelin has been impressive this season, but in big games like Monaco at home, he has been unable to deal solely with an attacking midfield trio. A partnership between Coquelin and Schneiderlin would be one I would hope to see at the Emirates, and with Arsenal in a good position to maintain their consistent run of Champions League qualification, it is entirely feasible to see the Southampton midfielder in an Arsenal shirt next season.

  

3) Mats Hummels (£32 million). Would be the perfect addition to our squad as he’s experienced, full of energy and a fan of the Premier League. He acts as the last line of defence which would benefit our unproven keeper, and is a leader. He has a taste of victory with none other than a World Cup medal, and would be an improved replacement for fellow compatriot Per Mertesacker.

  

Follow me on Twitter @TheChileanPele. Have a good week folks.

Newcastle vs Arsenal: Premier League preview



Arsenal head over to St James’ Park for the 15:00 kick off as the Gunners look to maintain momentum in their pursuit for second place. Arsene Wenger’s men will have the opportunity to remain in third place at the very least going into the international break next week. 




Arsenal enter the game as the team on better form, with five consecutive wins in both the Premier League and all competitions. However in typical Arsenal fashion, we cannot take this game for granted and ensure that we play with the same intensity that we have done recently. 

Newcastle seem to be struggling in somewhat of an injury crisis that essentially leaves them a little short for the game this afternoon. 

Arsenal, while not facing an injury crisis, could see a few changes to the side that beat Monaco 2-0 midweek. Alexis Sanchez, who’s been a bit off recently with one goal in eleven games, could be rested as the manager believes that fatigue is a significant factor behind this. 

“I have been [tempted to rest him] for a long time. It’s just that every game now is so important now, you always have hesitation to do it.”

It seems that the manager is facing a bit of a conundrum, but our squad depth certainly offers some alternatives. Theo Walcott could feature instead of the Chilean, Tomas Rosicky could also replace him, or even Aaron Ramsey could come in with Mesut Özil dropping out wide. 

However, Alexis Sanchez’s goal drought could be playing on his mind and then the best play to put him at eased would be to continue playing him.

Furthermore, Santi Cazorla has played the second most number of minutes in the squad (only Per Mertesacker has had more) so he may also be a man to rest, particularly with some worthy replacements like Aaron Ramsey on the bench. 

The team that I would personally play: Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey, Alexis, Özil, Welbeck; Giroud

Anyway, hope we come out of this with the three points and continued momentum. Have a good afternoon everyone. @TheChileanPele

Monaco 0 (3)-(3) 2 Arsenal: match report + player ratings

The familiar phrase of “glorious failure” rang round the minds of Arsenal fans on Tuesday night as a spirited performance saw the Gunners knocked out of the Champions League on away goals (ever heard that before?).



Arsene Wenger knew that his side had a mountain of a task ahead of them on Tuesday, and so decided to put out an attacking line up with what turned into a 4-4-2 midway through the first half. Giroud’s hold up play coupled with Welbeck’s threatening runs caused trouble for Monaco, and Arsenal got the breakthrough in the 35th minute when Welbeck played in Giroud, whose initial effort was saved by the keeper but as the ball bounced back, the French striker hammered it into the roof of the net with his right foot.

The goal injected confidence into Arsenal’s game, and they continued to press with Danny Welbeck almost making it two nil two minutes later, but was denied by a fortunate (to say the least) block from Abdennour. As the commentary box put it, Arsenal were so far on the front foot that they “wouldn’t want this half to end”. 



The team in blue continued to look aggressive in the second half, with Özil testing the keeper with a free kick heading for the top corner. Monaco had a brief spell of possession subsequent to this.

Arsenal responded dangerously by sending on Aaron Ramsey for Francis Coquelin, a move that seemed to have worked as Ramsey influenced more energy in Arsenal’s attacks. Walcott then came on for Welbeck as the tie became end-to-end. 

In the 79th minute, Özil found Monreal whose cross came to Walcott who hit the post, until Ramsey fired the rebound in.



Gibbs came on for the left back for pace but Arsenal couldn’t find the winner.  Giroud and Alexis came close after a free kick in the 84th minute but it was Monaco who progress to the next round of the Champions League.

Player Ratings:

Davis Ospina: 7 – made some good kicks but in a game where we had 71% possession, he wasn’t involved as much.

Hector Bellerin: 7 – good runs forward, made up for defensive errors but improving by the minute.

Per Mertesacker: 8 – 97% pass completion, did everything necessary on the rare occasions he came forward.

Laurent Koscielny: 8.5 – covered well, 96% pass completion and did well in the box.

Nacho Monreal: 7.5 – apt defensively and involved in the goal.

Francis Coquelin: 8 – played very well, provided cover for the defence and was only taken off for goals.

Santi Cazorla: 7.5 – lost the ball unnecessarily a few times but made incisive passes and whipped in some good free kicks.

Mesut Özil: 7.5 – tough first half but thoroughly involved in many attacks. Good ball retention too.

Danny Welbeck: 7.5 – good but not great. Played as a second striker for most of his game and unlucky not to score.

Alexis Sanchez: 6 – not his best game, fouled all night but fatigue could be catching up with him.

Olivier Giroud: 7.5 – missed a few half chances but grabbed a goal neatly. Should have scored late on.



Monaco (3) vs Arsenal (1): Champions League preview

Arsenal travel to France to face Monaco in the knockout stage of the Champions League with a massive task ahead – to score three goals without reply in order to qualify for the quarter finals.



Monaco entered the tie as the underdogs, but ran circles round Arsene Wenger’s men at the Emirates and came out as 3-1 victors, crucially with three away goals. They have been in fine form of late, having been unbeaten in their last five games which included a draw against PSG. 

Arsenal go into the match at the Stade Louis II Stadium needing to score three if they want to progress further than the last sixteen for the first time in five years. This is Arsene Wenger’s first chance to visit his former club’s stadium as an opposition manager, and despite the chances being slim of progression, he will be pushing his team to work their socks off and earn passage through the last sixteen.



Centre back Gabriel Paulista seems to have recovered from a hamstring problem and will travel to Monaco while Mikel Arteta has also returned to training after his ankle injury.

Tomas Rosicky is not part of the squad after recurrent illness and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) stays out, along with Jack Wilshere (ankle).



Predicted Arsenal XI: Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Alexis, Cazorla, Özil; Giroud

Welbeck misses out, but personally I think that it is necessary because Ramsey’s link up play with Giroud is impressive as well as his balance to the team. Other than that, it’s pretty self explanatory. 

Anyway, have a good evening all. Let’s all pray and hope for the so-labelled “#MiracleInMonaco”.

Arsenal 3-0 West Ham: Giroud fires Arsenal to one point off second

Olivier Giroud scores his fifth goal in as many games against West Ham to secure three points for the Gunners, and close the gap on Manchester City for second place after their 1-0 defeat to Burnley this evening. 

Arsenal dominated the first half, and were denied a stonewall penalty when Theo Walcott was brought down by James Collins just in front of the keeper. 

The English winger demonstrated how rusty he was in his third league start this season as he missed a few other clear cut chances too, despite making quality runs forward. 

Some fine saves from Adrian denied Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez goals, but a lovely piece of work on the stroke of half time between the aforementioned German, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud saw the Frenchman hammer a belter past the impressive Hammers goalkeeper off the woodwork. 

Özil cooly played the ball into the box for Aaron Ramsey who took it in his stride and Giroud took over from there, lashing the ball into the net.

West Ham started the second half on the front foot, with Matt Jarvis coming close and Sakho posing a threat. However, Arsenal got that goal they needed to kill the game off in the 81st minute when a throw came into Giroud who dummies it for Ramsey to knock it back to Arsenal’s target man, and he created space for Ramsey to side foot home. 

West Ham looked to go for it consequently, and Wenger brought on Flamini for Özil to add a more defensive balance to the side. However, to everyone’s surprise (including his own I am sure!), it was the French defensive midfielder who got Arsenal’s third with his first touch.

Santi Cazorla linked well with Giroud and crossed across goal to find Flamini at the far post for a tap in his first goal in twelve months.

It rounded off what was a good day for Arsenal, with City dropping three points and opening up the race for second. 

Arsene Wenger praised his side, calling it an “important and convincing win”. He acknowledged that despite the weak period at the start of the second half, his side’s metal strength secured concentration and firmly established themselves as the winners.

Here’s hoping to a miracle in Monaco now, folks. Have a good weekend.

Wenger on Coquelin: “I thought I would let him go”



Ever since the Vieira days, barring Gilberto Silva, Arsenal have never really replaced the French midfield powerhouse. Patrick Vieira provided the perfect cover in front of his defence and gave the necessary balance for Arsene Wenger’s team.

Francis Coquelin was sent on loan to Charlton, but injuries to Flamini and Arteta left Arsenal short in that area and Coquelin was recalled from the Championship club seemingly for cover. Ever since he has been back at the club however, the Frenchman has made a massive contribution sitting in front of the defence, particularly starring in the match against City in January.



Wenger has revealed that initially, Coquelin wasn’t too pleased to come back.

He wasn’t happy when I called him back. He thought I had just called him back for cover.

However, having recently penned a new long term deal at the club, Coquelin seems perfectly satisfied playing at the Emirates and for the Gunners.

The manager has admitted that before the midfielder had become almost undroppable, it looked like he was on his way out the club.

In my mind, I thought if he doesn’t play at all till Christmas, I would let him go somewhere else. You let the boy go. 

Coquelin is now a key component in the Arsenal team, and the 23 year old has shown his potential and knowledge. 



However, despite his excellent form, lack of competition has seen a slight drop in discipline and, particularly against Monaco, leaving the defence exposed as he was caught too high up the pitch. Therefore it is still imperative that Arsenal sign another, more experienced defensive midfielder to provide the quality Arsenal need and more competition. 

Just some food for your thought before United, folks. Have a good Sunday.