This season in the English Premier League has been one of the most closely fought with not just Arsenal and Manchester United running neck and neck, but also the third place team, Chelsea so close to the second placed team that any goof up from the top two teams can lead to them climbing up. Between Arsenal and Man Utd,the lead has been passed just once around Xmas time and Arsenal have since then steadied the ship.
Manchester United smell a chance in the next two fixtures of the league as they take on the minnows Fulham and Derby and 6 points here could put pressure on Arsenal not to slip up. They need a win at home against Aston Villa, overcome AC milan in what could be a season defining match and then beat Wigan away. This could prove to be a very tricky month for Arsenal as the schedule for March looks like this :
H Aston Villa
And in between the Villa match and Wigan match, there is the all-important match at San Siro, which if this young team wins, can be a booster to the entire team to go further in Europe.How Wenger will rotate his resources in the absence of Eduardo and Van Persie’s continued absence is the key. “Bendtner and Adebayor cannot play together” has been heard enough and I think if there is one person who can fix it, it could be Wenger. How he moulds this team in this crisis situation is the key to this season.
Villa is one of the teams I like to watch mainly for Young and Abgonhalor. But for tomorrow I wish and pray that Arsenal put it past them and we get all the three points so that we can go into the Champions League on a high. C’mon Gunners
Eduardo’s injury in the beginning of the match shook up the entire team and ended in a bitter end to the match. Arsenal recovered from a goal down thanks to some inspirational play in the second half from Walcott but conceded in the last few seconds of stoppage time to a very very rare moment of madness/lapse in concentration from Clichy.
1 goal advantage is always under risk as Arsenal found out sadly in this match where an equaliser in the last few seconds made it look like a defeat and got Man Utd closer to Arsenal. A could have been eight point lead was turned to a six point lead before Man Utd take on Newcastle. It was a day where the Ref also for the decisions wrong. It was one of those days. The freekick given against Flamini which resulted in the first goal was never there and the penalty given against Clichy was also a wrong decision. clichy clearly touched the ball and it was NOT a penalty. These are championship deciding decisions which need to be given that weightage before pointing to the spot.
But you might ask what was Clichy thinking when he left the ball to be collected by the Birmingham player when he should have been clearing it away from the box. Gallas’ reaction was also a little on the hyper side. He was very emotional after the defeat but he is the team captain and he cannot be at the other half when the opposition is taking a penalty. Having blamed the referee I think the team also had to take their chances and take a two goal lead with all the chances they got. Adebayor in particular had an off day and he missed many chances. One in particular when he could have passed to Bendtner who was clear.
It is the business end of the premiership and Arsenal cannot lose steam. They have lost four points to Birmingham this season and they cannot afford to lose anymore.
Eduardo’s injury seems to be very serious and this could mean that Arsenal will have to get Persie ready in double quick time and Bendtner and Adebayor to start in every match till then. Walcott might also get the nod to partner Adebayor in a couple of them when Eboue is back from suspension. May Eduardo recover soon and get to play in Euro 08.
The young Arsenal team had a go at the aging Milan team but the Italians held good and were also a bit lucky in not conceding atleast a goal. Milan is probably the biggest european team to play Arsenal at the new Emirates stadium and it was a match which was exciting though the score remained 0-0. This was coming after a bitter loss to Man U in the FA Cup so it was all the more creditable for Arsenal.
Toure got sidelined early in the first half and Senderos coming in his place played like the 2006 Senderos we know who took us to the finals of the CL. He hardly had a step wrong in last night’s display and was better than Gallas and with Toure going to be sidelined for a couple of weeks, this is good news for Arsenal. Clichy& Sagna returned to the flanks which meant staibility. Milans hardly had any shots on goal.
Second half saw a rejuvenated Flamini, Fabregas, Hleb combination working well with the advancing Eboue on the right. The midfield came good and they had a few shots at goal.If only Fabregas and Eboue done better with their chances, Arsenal would have gone to San Siro in better spirits. Eduardo hung around the left flank and Adebayor was alone in front trying to go behind the defenders and he did give them a tough time. But I hope his chance in the second minute of stoppage time would not come to haunt us in the return leg. He was unchallenged for the header and it hit the cross bar. Against good teams like Milan you only get chances like this and you have to take it.
I think overall the team played well and I think in San Siro either we have to score first and ease pressure and open up Milan or wait till the last quarter to tire the Italians and strike back. I would prefer they do the first option. We would have to be far more ruthless in our approach in the return leg and our midfielders need to slot the ball home from outside the box.
Now back to the 5 point lead in the premier league.
Man U 4- 0 Arsenal
It could not have got worse and the only positive I see is that it was the FA cup and not the Premier League or the Champions League.
Clichy and Sagna do make a lot of difference to the team and what is frightening is the back on both these fronts are not good enough to step up to their levels. And Eboue crowned his stupidity by stamping Nani on the groin and deservedly getting sent off. It just added to the misery of a team already 3 goals down.
And Milan on wednesday nite would be another tough tie coming at this stage of a demoralising defeat. I am sure this team is good enough to beat Milan if not atleast draw the match. Given Milan’s strength and experience in Europe, a win at Emirates would be handy to take to San Siro. I will try to write more on that tomorrow.
For all the faithful readers of my blog, I am really sorry for the long delay in posts…Work has been hectic and has been taking me places and finally I am on holiday in Kerala, after an year. Kerala is one of the few football crazy states in India (after the fanatic West Bengal, Goa and to some extent Sikkim and North east).
It has been a great weekend for Arsenal with Man Utd losing to Man City and Chelsea and Liverpool sharing points. Arsenal dominated most of the game against Blackburn Rovers and in India it was at 1.30 AM (better than KL, it would have been 4AM there). Senderos rose high, unchallenged to score the first in the 4th minute and Adebayor scored a well taken shot 2 minutes before the end of the match. I thought Hleb, Sagna, Gilberto (lot of you might not agree) had a good game. Flamini and Fabregas missed a coupe of chances, but I wont complain if we keep a clean sheet, score 2 goals and get 3 points.
Not much time to write more…enjoy till the weekend biggie against Man Utd.