Wenger Agrees Gunners “Maybe Not Firing On All Cylinders” Yet

Wenger-New4-AFCWith just four points to show for their first three games of the 2015-16 Premier League season, it’s quite clear that Arsenal are not firing on al cylinders at the moment, that they have not reached their optimal level of performance and much improvement is needed if they are to mount a real title challenge this season.

For you or me to say such a thing of the Gunners is plainly obvious. However, for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to speak the same sentiment would be something of a revelation. On Thursday, though, speaking in his weekly press conference ahead of his side’s trip to Newcastle United on Saturday, Wenger placed the blame for the slow start squarely on the shoulders of his players — kind of:

“Maybe we do not fire on all cylinders at the moment, not everybody is ready physically. By definition, finishing is [cyclical], it goes in cycles, finishing qualities come and go, and you do not always know why, but certainly at the moment we want it so much at home that we want to force it. It doesn’t look natural enough.”

“Our results away from home and goalscoring opportunities and finishing percentage has been higher recently. … Teams come and defend very deep at home (Emirates Stadium). As long as we have not scored the first goal, it’s maybe more difficult to open the defenses. In recent games, that’s what happened to us.

OK, so Wenger didn’t exactly tell his players, “Start performing or you’re gone,” but he maybe, kind of, sort of, almost started to say something that vaguely resembled as much?

Sure, he ended up by blaming other teams for playing in fear of his side, but it’s still incredibly rare to hear the manager of one of the Premier League’s top teams say anything other than, “I thought we played well.” For instance, Monday’s 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Liverpool seemed to fall completely on the deaf ears of both Wenger and Brendan Rodgers.

If Arsenal are to mount a real title challenge this season, that “cycle” had better come full circle in a hurry, because with that defense they’re not going to win many games on the back of a clean sheet.


Arsenal Champions League Draw Details

updated-champions-league-trophyArsenal will be hoping to take their cup winning successes in the FA Cup over the past two seasons into Europe by progressing beyond the last 16 for the first time in five years, a feat not enhanced by facing former conquerers Bayern Munich for the third time in four seasons after being drawn against the German club in the group stage.

Arsenal’s Champions League Opponents
Bayern Munich: Pep Guardiola’s side won the German league last year and have eliminated the Gunners in two out of the last three seasons.

Munich captain Philipp Lahm told Uefa.com:

“It’s great we are meeting two old friends, Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, when we play Arsenal.”

Olympiakos: All three of Arsenal’s Champions League away games against the Greek champions have ended in defeat.
Dinamo Zagreb: The Croatian champions beat Albanian champions Skenderbeu 6-2 on aggregate in a play-off to qualify.

Arsenal club secretary David Miles told BT Sport:

“The draw started very ominously but we are relatively happy with it overall.”

Will Arsene Wenger be pleased with the draw?
Arsene Wenger will have hoped to have avoided bogey team Bayern Munich who eliminated them from the competition at the last 16 stage in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, but at least a second placed finish looks virtually guaranteed.

Which players will the Gunners have to watch out for?
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side carries a cast of star players including Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben but Germany’s unorthodox World Cup winner Thomas Muller – who Wenger was reportedly interested in this summer – will carry the greatest threat to the Gunners’ suspect defence.

Arsenal’s Champions League Fixtures
16 September: Dinamo Zagreb (A)
29 September: Olympiakos (H)
20 October: Bayern Munich (H)
4 November: Bayern Munich (A)
24 November: Dinamo Zagreb (H)
9 December: Olympiakos (A)

What Premier League games do they have after Champions League trips?
European travel can often impact a team’s domestic form on their return with the Gunners facing:

Chelsea (A) – September 19
Manchester United (H) – October 4
Everton (H) – October 24
Tottenham (H) – November 9
Norwich (A) – November 29
Aston Villa (A) – December 12


Koscielny To Miss Newcastle Trip

Koscielny And MertArsenal defender Laurent Koscielny is expected to miss this weekend’s game against Newcastle.

The French international missed the 0-0 draw with a back strain, a problem compounded by the absence of Per Mertesacker with illness.

It was the first time Arsene Wenger was without both of them at the same time since March 2012, a game against Wigan that Arsenal lost 2-1.

Mertesacker, however, is likely to be available again and should line-up alongside Gabriel who had a good display against the Mugsmashers.

Meanwhile, Calum Chambers, who really struggled against Liverpool on Monday night has been full of praise for Petr Cech who is imparting his wisdom on the training ground.

“It’s good to train with him,” he said. “He’s always talking to me and helping me to improve my game, which is really useful.

“In training he’ll come up to me during the session or after the session and say, ‘This was good, you could maybe do this or try this’.

“It’s always great to have someone who can help you.”


North London Derby In League Cup Third Round

mind_the_gap-logoLondon rivals Tottenham and Arsenal will lock horns in the third round of the League Cup. Arsene Wenger’s side will travel to White Hart Lane in the week commencing September 21.

Huge game for two clubs that have had a slow start to the season and the pressure will be ramped up on Arsene Wenger or Mauricio Pochettino depending on the result.

Elsewhere in the draw, there is a midlands derby as Aston Villa and Birmingham City met, Liverpool face a potential banana skin at home to League 2 Carlisle, holders Chelsea are at Walsall, and Manchester United play Championship leaders Ipswich at Old Trafford.

The Capital One Cup third round draw in full
Middlesbrough vs Wolves
Norwich vs West Brom
Hull City vs Swansea
Leicester City vs West Ham
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Tottenham v Arsenal
Manchester United vs Ipswich Town
Liverpool vs Carlisle United
Crystal Palace vs Charlton Athletic
Fulham vs Stoke City
Sunderland vs Manchester City
Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday
Reading vs Barnsley OR Everton
Preston North End vs Bournemouth
Walsall vs Chelsea
MK Dons vs Southampton


Cech Pleased To Make Amends With First Clean Sheet

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech revelled in a strong performance as he helped the north Londoners take a point from their home match with Liverpool after a 0-0 result.

The 33-year-old shot-stopper redeemed himself in front of his home supporters following a disappointing Emirates Stadium debut on the opening weekend, making a some quality saves to thwart Philippe Coutinho and Christian Benteke in the first half.

Cech, who was at fault for both goals in the 2-0 loss to West Ham two weeks ago, says he has worked hard on the training ground after his poor first showing and was surprised to see clean sheets at both ends of the pitch against Liverpool.

“The first game it was the opposite of this,” he told Sky Sports.

“When you start at new club you want to start well and that didn’t happen against West Ham.

“I went back to work after the West ham game and needed to get ready. Today I was always in the right place.

“It was hard to believe there were no goals after all the chances.”

Arsenal have now failed to score in their opening two league matches at home for the first time since 1979 after Aaron Ramsey’s first-half strike was controversially ruled out for offside.

However, despite falling five points behind rivals Manchester City, Cech maintains his new club can still mount a significant tilt at the title.

“I still believe we have players with a lot of quality and young players with quality, I believe we have the potential to do well,” he added.

“There are 35 more games to be played and plenty of points to win. We can put together a run and only time will tell what will happen.”


Wenger Post Match Reaction: Referee Got It Wrong On Ramsey Goal

Wenger-New4-AFCArsenal manager Arsene Wenger left frustrated by Michael Oliver’s decision to disallow Aaron Ramsey’s early goal during the goalless draw against Liverpool on Monday (24 August).

The French boss admits Brendan Rodgers’ side dominated the first-half but believes that the goal of the midfielder earlier during match could have changed the whole game.

“Yes (It was not offside). I cannot say the opposite. It was a regular goal. It was a period of the game where we maybe had the most problems defensively but it’s a regular goal. I can’t see why it was cancelled. It’s clear and on that front. You cannot say that Liverpool can complain,” the manager said after the game.

“I didn’t ask (Oliver) for any explanation. What does it change? It’s about decision-making and he got it wrong. I could see live that he could not be offside. He started his run behind his man. I could see it from where I was but I thought maybe the angle on TV was different. It was not and I must say that Liverpool played well in the first half. We were insecure defensively and we gave them many balls. We created trouble for ourselves but even in the first half we had chances.”

Wenger was forced to deploy Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista in the hearth of his back-line after Per Mertesacker was ruled out with illness and Laurent Koscielny with a back injury.

The former Southampton defender made some mistakes in the first-half of the game but managed to overcome the situation in the second.

The manager admitted he was tempted to replaced the young defender at half-time but hails his response in the second half of the game to help his side secure a clean sheet.

“He (Chambers) responded well. It was important for him. You sit there and you wonder how far he can go without losing competitive confidence. In the second half he did well. He’s a good footballer and he will come out of that stronger, with the belief that when he had difficult moments he can come out of it stronger,” he said.

“You’re always tempted. I wondered whether I needed offensive players on the pitch. I knew that the most important thing for us was to get to half-time at 0-0. We knew the second half would be different.”

Meanwhile, Wenger admits the Gunners once again lacked clinical up front after his side failed to score in five of their last six Premier League home games, including the defeat against West Ham in the first game of the campaign.

“That will not last. It’s a fact, I agree but I believe that we know we can score goals and that will come back,” he said.

“The sharpness is missing a little bit in some players. I would like to give credit to Liverpool as well. They defended well, they were quick to close us down and we had problems getting out of position. With the domination we had in the second half, as long as you don’t score the first goal, the team doesn’t come out. We had the chances but we are still missing a little bit of a spontaneous attitude to finish what we start well.”

“We have started very averagely, I must concede, because we have four points after two home games. Maybe we won the most difficult game away from home. At home at the moment we haven’t scored.”

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Arsenal Still Winless At Home This Season

cech-saves-afcArsenal and Liverpool had to settle for a point each after a richly entertaining game of two halves beneath the Emirates Stadium drizzle implausibly finished 0-0 on Monday. With Arsenal centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny absent – the former ill, the latter laid low by a back problem – Liverpool dominated the first half, hitting the woodwork twice and seeing Petr Cech produce an astonishing save to deny Christian Benteke.

The hosts took control in the second half, Alexis Sanchez striking the post, but Liverpool held firm for a result that left them two points below leaders Manchester City – the only team in the English Premier League to have won their first three games – and three points above Arsenal. A goalless draw seemed an improbable outcome for much of the match, such was the sheer number of chances, but having seen his side beaten 2-0 by West Ham United in their first home game, it was Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who would have been the most relieved to avoid defeat.

The evening’s first bombshell landed when Arsenal’s starting line-up was announced, revealing that Mertesacker and Koscielny would both miss a league game for the first time since a 2-1 loss at home to Wigan Athletic in April 2012. Their deputies, Calum Chambers and Gabriel, had never previously played together at centre-back and Liverpool lost little time attacking them.

Inside the first three minutes, Benteke shot wide from Emre Can’s pass and then teed up Philippe Coutinho for a shot that thudded against the crossbar. But Liverpool exhibited defensive frailties of their own and after Sanchez had headed over, Aaron Ramsey scored from a sensational Santi Cazorla pass, only to be denied by an offside flag.

It was then Cech’s turn to dig his team out, the Czech goalkeeper producing an extraordinary stop to prevent Benteke from poking in Roberto Firmino’s low cross at point-blank range and then brilliantly tipping a shot from Coutinho onto the post after the Brazilian had embarrassed Hector Bellerin. Arsenal belatedly settled in the second half, occupying the full width of the pitch when in possession and making deeper inroads in the Liverpool third.

Olivier Giroud volleyed wide, before a slick combination involving Mesut Ozil, Cazorla and Giroud culminated in Sanchez bursting onto a lay-off from the Frenchman and slamming a shot against the post. In search of an extra out ball, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers sent the pacy Jordon Ibe on for Firmino, but Arsenal continued to press, with visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet forced to claw away a close-range shot from Giroud and field a curler from Ramsey.

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined the fray for Arsenal in the closing stages and the latter almost crafted a breakthrough, first with a low cross that Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel prodded a foot wide of the post and then with a skidding drive that Mignolet had to parry.


Wenger: Alexis Is As Good As Suarez

alexis-sanchez-afcArsene Wenger believes that Alexis Sanchez is on the same level as Barcelona superstar Luis Suarez.

The Chile international enjoyed a superb debut campaign at the Emirates, scoring 25 goals and providing 12 assists in all competitions following his £35 million move from Barcelona.

Wenger believes that Alexis is one of the finest players in world football, and has compared his ability to that of Suarez, who played a key role in Barca’s historic treble-winning 2015-16 campaign.

“Sanchez and Suarez are at the same level. Suarez is a central striker and Sanchez is more a wide player who likes to go up and down and is involved in dribbling, but they have similarities,” he told reporters.

“Sanchez has that desire to go forward and provoke, he is a guy who provokes chaos in the defences because he has a go at them. He does not go across, he goes straight. His desire to go forward, to provoke opponents, to run at people, creates danger.

“And he plays to win in every single game. I have had players like that before, players who want to win so much, but he has the style as well.

“What Sanchez has is that, in the first two yards, he is lightning quick. He has that explosive attitude linked with his spirit and that makes him even more spectacular.”

Arsenal are currently preparing to face Liverpool on Monday, and Wenger admits that he expected Alexis to move to Anfield when the club sold Suarez to Barca, while he believes that the Chilean is constantly improving.

“At the start, when I saw Suarez went to Barcelona, I thought that is the obvious deal, one going one way and the other, the other way,” he added.

“So I had not much hope. But I met Sanchez’s agent in Brazil at the World Cup, I had a few meetings with them, and I could see [there was an interest in Arsenal].

“He is already better than he was when he arrived. In his final finishing there is room for improvement, in his final ball he is already much better, his vision is quite good and incisive.

“I was surprised that he came on the market.

“Sometimes there are so many big players in the other big, big clubs who are good but do not play.

“So after a year or two of them not playing, you can get a good deal. Sanchez is a case. Pedro is another case. Arjen Robben is another – he was at Real Madrid, let’s not forget.”

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Wilshere Out Until After International Break

Jack-Wilshere-FACupArsene Wenger has confirmed Jack Wilshere will miss England’s forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers as he is still recovering from a fractured fibula.

“[Playing before the international break] is a bit too optimistic, it’s too early to think he would be playing for England. After the international break he has a chance, but before the international break he has no chance” said the Arsenal boss.

Arsenal’s first match after the international break is Stoke at home on 1 September. That is followed by the first Champions League match of the season and then Chelsea away the following weekend.

While it will be great to see Jack back in action, when everyone is fully fit, does Wilshere get into Arsenal’s starting XI?

I am not sure he does. Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil are all ahead of him at the moment in my opinion.

While the return of Wilshere makes the overall Arsenal squad stronger, I am not sure it changes Arsenal’s starting XI.

Thoughts? Do you agree or disagree that Wilshere is more of a squad player these days rather than a first team regular?


Arsenal v Liverpool: Team News And Possible Line-Up

santii-carzola-afcArsène Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Monday night’s game against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.

“From the Palace game we have no injuries and we have still Wilshere, Welbeck and Rosicky to come back. And we have no suspensions. So we should have a similar squad for the Liverpool game.

“Rosicky is progressing nicely but he is far away. Wilshere should be the first back from those players, he is making good progress.”

So can we expect any changes from the team that started against Palace?

We know that Cech will be in goal and that the back four will be Nacho Monreal on the left and Hector Bellerin on the right with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker at the center of the defence.

Despite playing at home, I expect Wenger to start with two holding midfield players, which will be Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin.

That leaves an attacking three in front of them, and I expect that to be Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey. I would love to see Wenger find room for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, put I cannot see who he would replace in the line-up.

Up-front I expect Wenger to continue with Olivier Giroud, which would mean that Theo Walcott will once again start on bench,

Who do you think will start against Liverpool?