Monthly Archives: August 2008

Champions League draw

Arsenal qualified in style netting an aggregate of 6 goals against FC Twente over two legs while Liverpool huffed and puffed its way to qualification…There certainly is something about Liverpool and Champions League…Lady Luck always shines on them!!!

So the Groups are like this and I have put my predictions on the same.

Group A
CHELSEA – Qualify
Roma – Qualify
Bordeaux
CFR Cluj

Group B
Inter Milan – Qualify
Werder Bremen – Qualify
Panathinaikos
Anorthosis Famagusta

Group C
Barcelona – Qualify
Sporting Lisbon – Qualify
Basel
Shakhtar Donetsk

Group D
LIVERPOOL
PSV Eindhoven
Marseille – Qualify
Atletico Madrid – Qualify

Group E
MAN UTD – Qualify
Villarreal – Qualify
CELTIC
Aalborg

Group F
Lyon – Qualify
Bayern Munich – Qualify
Steaua Bucharest
Fiorentina

Group G
ARSENAL – Qualify
Porto – Qualify
Fenerbahce
Dynamo Kiev

Group H
Real Madrid – Qualify
Juventus
Zenit St Petersburg – Qualify
Bate Borisov

Games will be played on the following dates:
16/17 September
30 September/1 October
21/22 October
4/5 November
25/26 November
9/10 December

This time around I will be supporting Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Lyon in Europe 🙂

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Filed under Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Champions League, Lyon

Poor display from Gunners

In what will be a wake up call to the team for their poor performance and the Manager for a impending transfer buy, Arsenal lost to their West London rivals Fulham by a goal. I have not seen Arsenal play so badly for a long long time and every player on the field was pathetic. This means that Arsenal have 3 points from 2 matches and are in the second half of the table.

Wenger started with a team which had Eboue and Denilson at the centre with Toure back in the squad, pairing up with Gallas. The opposition played their cards well and cut off supply from the Gunners midfield to the forwards. It was certainly not helping when your supposedly creative midfielder, Denilson is having such a bad match.In the first part of the first half I hardly remember Adebayor touching the ball. Denilson ended up hitting more wrong passes than correct ones and Walcott again had a average match.

The goal came from a corner which could have been defended as Gallas found himself a pace short and ended up losing his player who poked it in. Gallas was again found wanting in this match. Clichy and Sagna also had a bad 90 munites compared to the high standards they set. Toure was responsible for giving away the corner which resulted in the goal. And he was forced to make that tackle due to his own mis-judgement.

Nasri showed a glimpse of his skills once in a while, but if he wants to be successful in this team, he needs to be more consistent in his game. Eboue had a ok match except for his antics but again he is not the answer for our need in the centre of midfield. Ade had a header which hit the vertical and Van Persie had three free kicks which were wasted. We better get a right footed freekick taker as well or train one of them for that as we are found wasting too many chances.

We can only hope that Wenger will take out his chequebook and get Alonso to play alongside Fabregas. Where are you Cesc, we miss you.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Craven Cottage, EPL, Fabregas, Fulham

Away at Craven Cottage

After deservedly getting 3 points from their match against West Brom, though just by a solitary goal, Arsenal travel across the city to meet Fulham at Craven Cottage on week 2 of this season. It was heartening to see Manchester United being held by Newcastle at Old Trafford but the way Chelsea demolished Portsmouth is trouble for all the other teams in the league. Chelsea this season increasingly looks like the team to beat.

On the injury front, Fabregas, Rosicky and Diaby are still not available for selection. Alex Song is back from Olympics and if he has got enough rest, should be playing in the centre of the park with Denilson. Samir Nasri seems to have shrugged off his injury that kept him out of the French squad. That should be interesting. On the other hand, Fulham would be missing Andy Johnson whom they signed from Everton dues to injury.

Wenger should look to start the season like he did last year when we had 8 wins in 9 games. That is the kind of start which can drive the confidence in this young side and give them the momentum to chase the title. Chelsea slamming in 4 goals against a team United failed to score (Community Shiled) is bad news, especially when you see that the goalkeeper who let in 4 is David James!!! Eboue’s position is a debating point across many an Arsenal forum and I would like to see him be the first choice replacement for right back or winger. If things go well, maybe Vela will also get a chance to play in this match.

Toure should be starting the match with Gallas alongside him. Another interesting bit of transfer was the signing of Silvestre from Manchester United. He is 31 and French and is a versatile player who can play as a central defender or left back. It seems he has come cheap at 750k pounds. Smart Purchase? Yes. But every Gooner is looking forward to Wenger buying an experienced holding midfielder to strengthen the team than such buys. As of now it is a wait and watch game from Wenger’s side and he will in all likelihood throw in a surprise come the transfer deadline.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Chelsea, Craven Cottage, EPL, Fulham, Silvestre

Arsenal 1-0 West Brom: A decent start

Samir Nasri scored his first goal in the Premiership for Arsenal in his Premiership debut to give Arsenal 3 points in a match which was closely fought and you could argue that Arsenal deserved to win. West Brom playing in the Premier League afetr 2 years of Championship football gave Arsenal some tough moments. But in the end Wenger will be happy to start the season with a win.

Wenger started the match with a team many would not have guessed. Djourou partnered Gallas at the back, Eboue and Denilson were in the centre of midfield and Adebayor partnered Bendtner upfront. Well, that was three changes in the team in each part of the field. I thought Djuorou had an excellent match, he infact looked more reliable than Gallas. The West Brom forward Ishmael Miller did give some scare to the back four with his frequent muscular thrusts forward. Bendtner loked lively but some of his through balls were not accurate and he did provide some aerial threat in a couple of corners. He can be given a chance against some of the lower rung teams like West Brom if Wenger intends to start him and give him some experience.

Central midfield is a problem area for Wenger and if he thinks Eboue is the answer to that then we have a problem. Wenger must have seen something in Eboue to merit him that place, but he still needs to show a mature attitude on the field to merit am acknowledgement from the fans. With Xabi Alonso and gareth Barry cup tied now in Europe, does Wenger intend to cut a deal on a cheaper price for these two or get someone else outside these two. This should be an interesting thing to watch out for. But Denilson had a decent match and Samir Nasri on the left was flowing with the ball whenever he had possession. I cannot wait to see Rosicky and Fabregas also back in the team so that we can have three really creative players in the midfield.

Adebayor did take a couple of shots and tried a Henry like curl (which never curled) but he still needs that finishing touch which has been missing in him since last season. He will score goals but when you see some of the missed opportunities to score or to pass you feel sad for him. Van Persie came in and did try a shot which was close, but in getting his left foot to take it he missed the opportunity. Walcott did bot trouble anyone and sometimes you feel if he can be so inconsistent. He can lose his place in the team if he doesnt do anything worthwhile in the next couple of matches.

The goal came as early as the fourth minute and it was the result of a cut in from Denilson which was neatly placed into the goal by Nasri.  

Some of us Gooners in Bangalore caught the match together in a pub called J cubez. It was quite some fun and we hope to see many more of such matches together.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Denilson, Djourou, EPL, Nasri, Samir Nasri, West Brom

2008-09 Season: Contenders – II

Liverpool

Having finished the league without any honours, Liverpool will once again start their campaign in the hope that they will be able to challenge for the Premiership. Rafa’s primary target was to get Gareth Barry from Villa but the owners were not keen on shelling out 18 mil on him, instead they bought a proven striker in Robbie Keane. I seriously believe that Keane and Torres would be able to provide the goods upfront with Gerrard also contributing. But if you leave out these three and to some extent Mascherano the team is hardly any quality. With Gerrard not in the team they struggled against their Champions League qualifier opponent also.

Rafa Benitez is never known to make any sensible buys except for lets give it to him, Torres. But in Reina they have one of the best goal keepers in the league. And he has kept them in contention in a lot of matches, including their last competitive fixture. They have bought Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund – free), Andrea Dossena (Udinese – undisclosed), Vincent Lucas Weijl (AZ Alkmaar – undisclosed) Diego Cavalieri (Palmeiras – undisclosed) and David Ngog (PSG – ÂŁ1.4m) other than Robbie Keane. But honestly how many of them will finally make us sit up and take notice, needs to be seen.

Prediction: Finish 4th

Arsenal

When you get beaten in the Champions League by some controversial penalty decisions and you finish 3rd in the league, you wonder if the team did very well despite some stars leaving the team and some very crucial injuries. Eduardo, Robin van Persie, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna were among the injured for most of the season and except for Eduardo and Rosicky everyone will be fit once again. Though at the start of the season the players on the injured list include Cesc Fabregas, Rosicky, Diaby and new signing Bischoff. the other one missing is the Olympian, Alex Song.

There has been many a comment passed on why Arsenal is not buying a defensive midfielder to replace Flamini and a central defender as cover for Toure or Gallas. Wenger probably believes that he has the back up for the defensive part and has made his intention clear in getting a holding midfielder before the next leg of the Champion’s League encounter with Twente FC. There are just three new signings – Aaron Ramsey (Cardiff – ÂŁ5m), Samir Nasri (Marseille – ÂŁ11m), Amaury Bischoff (Werder Bremen – undisclosed) of which Nasri is probably the only proven player, bouhg to replace Hleb. He has Carlos Vela back from loan who has experienced the La Liga last year. But Wenger will probably be thinking that Persie and Rosicky are back from injury and are like two new signings. Walcott’s biggest problem has been his inconsistency and he will get more starts than last year hopefully. Bendtner would be waiting in the wings to pounce on any let off from Ade or Persie. The team is strong once we buy a new holding midfielder and I cannot wait to see the match against West Brom though Fabregas is not starting.

Prediction: 2nd place in the League and probably Champions League winners 🙂

My team for this season

Almunia

Sagna Toure Gallas Clichy

Walcott New-signing Fabregas Rosicky

Adebayor Persie

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Filed under 2008-09 season, Aaron Ramsey, Adebayor, Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Champions League, EPL, Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Gerrard, Liverpool, Rafa Benitez, Robbie Keane, Song

Amsterdam reveals Arsenal fragilities

Despite Arsenal retaining their Amsterdam tournament crown the event itself exposed some of the issues that could cost the Gunners in the season to come. After a tremendous comeback in the first game against Ajax, where the side showed a lot of grit and determination to come from two goals to win 3-2, the second match against Sevilla was a little more worrying.

Taking into consideration the quality of the opponents the young Guns were facing it was still a worrying sign that Arsenal’s squad is rice paper thin. Despite this being another pre-season tournament when Sevilla stepped up their game Arsenal were just blown away. The first half was very impressive, taking the lead early on through Carlos Vela who looks to be a phenomenal prospect for the coming and combined very well with Nicklas Bendtner in attack.

Arguably Arsenal’s strongest department is the attacked minded one, the Gunners all ready have two world class strikers in Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie with another on his way back to fitness in Eduardo. However behind them there are emerging talents in Vela and Bendtner with Theo Walcott capable of playing up top should Arsenal suffer a plague of striking injuries.

However when you start to move back through the team cracks begin to appear and the alarm bells start ringing. Going back to the second match against Sevilla the Arsenal midfield’s oldest player at the start of the game was 19-year-old Mark Randall, who you can hardly call experienced having made just one Premier League appearance.

The rest of the midfield consisted of Aaron Ramsey, who looked good going forward but unreliable when defending as he gave away the ball far too many times for my liking. The Gunners also had Jack Wilshire, who looks like another potential superstar and was actually the only midfielder who didn’t look light weight when in a physical confrontation. Finally completing the midfield quartet was Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who looked cumbersome and extremely slow, eventually being switched to left-back with Kieran Gibbs moving up where Thomas enjoyed a better time of things.

Now if these are the replacements for the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri then Arsene Wenger will be praying that none of his first choice midfielders pick up an injury. Once again it’s a question of Wenger putting his faith in the kids, but judging by what we saw at the Amsterdam tournament that faith may be misplaced. Obviously the Gunners won’t be facing opposition of the same quality of Sevilla every week, no offence to Hull or Stoke! However they will be facing a different type of opposition, the likes of Bolton and Wigan won’t be playing short, quick passes and will use a lot more physicality. See what the odds are that Arsenal can over come that physicality here.

As Arsenal have demonstrated over the past they don’t respond well to be bullied around the park, anyone remember losing to Sheffield United not so long ago? My biggest fear is that we could suffer the same fate when Arsenal travel away from home. Looking at the defence doesn’t fill me with hope either, although I was impressed with the way Johan Djourou performed, he outshone his Swiss counter part Philippe Senderos.

However that’s were the praise stops because once again Justin Hoyte showed he is no where near good enough to play for Arsenal. Why Wenger continues to press forward with Hoyte is beyond me because he was skinned time and time again by Diego Capel. I thought that his performances in the humiliating defeats to Manchester United and Tottenham would have been enough to seal his fate. Wenger should take however much Middlesbrough are offering and run. The other thing that worried me about the Arsenal defence was Gibbs playing at left back, surely Armand Traore should have been in there. Now if Traore was injured then I can understand but then that raises another worry that if Gael Clichy and Traore were to pick up an injury then we would play someone who is normally classed as an attacking midfielder at left-back.

Now there is no way Wenger is going to be able to solve all these problems before the transfer window shuts but with 20 days left until it does close the French magician can sure up the midfield, hopefully with the signing of Gohkan Inler who looked a decent player in Euro 2008 with Switzerland. A defender would be nice as well and never count Wenger out on shocking everyone by bringing in someone, much like he did last year with Lassana Diarra. We can only wait and see, whilst I hope that all my doubts are laid to rest within the opening weeks of the season. Check out Arsenal’s odd for the new season here.

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Filed under Adebayor, Ajax, Amsterdam, Arsenal, Denilson, Djourou, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Mark Randall, Sevilla, Van Persie, Vela, Walcott, Wenger

This one is for India

India’s first individual gold in Olympics!!!

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Filed under Abhinav Bindra, Beijing, India, Olympics 2008