Wenger: We can qualify

Wenger-New4-AFCArsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed the performance of Mesut Ozil as the Gunners beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Ozil was on the scoresheet, as was Alexis Sanchez with two, to keep Arsenal’s hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive.

Bayern Munich’s 4-0 win over Olympiakos means the Gunners must win by two goals or a one-goal victory margin of 4-3 or higher when they travel to Greece on Dec. 9.

Wenger is quoted by the BBC as telling BT Sport:

“It promises to be a very interesting game [against Olympiakos], but at least we have a chance.

“I think Mesut Ozil had an outstanding first half, he has got the taste for scoring now. I have never seen Ozil in the box so many times as in the last five or six games.

“The Europa League is not the target — let us give everything to remain in the Champions League.”

The Frenchman added in his postmatch news conference:

“I believe the speed of our passing gave Zagreb a problem. It was important to not concede first.

“We have to win. Let’s forget that for now and focus on Norwich on Sunday. It was important for us to respond straight away as confidence can drop quickly.

“This time we go to Olympiakos looking to qualify. It will be tough but I believe we can do it.”


Wenger Blasts UEFA For “Accepting Doping”

drugsHe speaks up one week to criticise UEFA’s complacency on drugs cheats – then Arsenal get a visit from ten members of the organisation’s doping control unit the next.

Coincidence? Arsene Wenger couldn’t possibly say. But it might just be that he has ruffled a few feathers with his very public belief that football has its head in the sand over drugs. Just like athletics did.

“I don’t remember we have been visited (by doping control) before.” said the Arsenal boss. “We have nothing against it. I called for more blood checks. That’s a major issue.

“I said before that I want better controls. And we got better controls straight away.” he smiled.

It is no laughing matter for Arsenal, however. Fighting for their lives in their Champions League Group F, they face a Dinamo Zagreb team that benefited from the contribution of midfielder Arijan Ademi on September 16.

The Macedonian played all 90 minutes of Zagreb’s 2-1 win that night. He may have since been banned for four years but his club have remained in the competition because UEFA rules allow the result to stand if just one player in a team is caught doping.

There is a precedent for that controversial UEFA approach. Wales failed with a bid to replace Russia at the 2004 European Championships after playmaker Igor Titov failed a drugs test.

“It doesn’t look logical,” said Wenger. “Especially if you test only three players.

“It’s a surprising rule. You cannot say that they had a doped player but the result stands. That means you basically accept doping.”

Whatever Arsenal’s shortcomings that leave them in such a perilous Champions League state, Wenger is absolutely right to question the desire within football to deal with the doping problem.

A drugs scandal remains ongoing in athletics, where a World Anti-Doping Agency report has accused Russia of running a “state-sponsored” doping programme.

Although UEFA currently take blood and urine samples in and out of competition, they test only two players from each squad after European games. Even then they only do that if have the personnel on site to do so.

It means that if players are inclined to cheat, the temptation for some could be too great.

“If you look at the psychological tests that have been done for 20 years, the temptation is natural.” said Wenger.

“When a guy is second – I speak about track and field – there is only room for the hero, that means the winner.

“The second nobody cares about. So when he sees he arrives second and the first cheats, he thinks what have I to do.

“The temptation is of course there. Nobody cares about the second, and sometimes the second is maybe the guy who doesn’t cheat.”

Asked whether his players had ever returned during the dressing room after a match convinced that the opposition had been “on the juice”, Wenger paused, then took the more diplomatic route.

“I don’t remember that.” he said. The Arsenal boss would prefer this season to be remembered for a group stage recovery and a successful advance into the latter stages of the Champions League.


Wenger On Gunners Central Midfield Options

Coquelin-afcArsène Wenger says Francis Coquelin’s absence is a “good opportunity” for other members of his squad to prove their quality.

The Arsenal manager confirmed on Monday that he will be without the French midfielder for “at least a month” after Coquelin sustained a knee injury at West Brom.

Wenger has Mathieu Flamini as a ready-made replacement, but says he will also consider Calum Chambers.

“We don’t know yet [how big a blow it is to lose Coquelin],” the manager said. “It is of course a disappointment to lose him on the longer term but we have players who can compensate. We have lost a player of quality for a while and we know this can happen during the season.

“We have players who play in this position, like Flamini. We have players like Chambers [too], because he has been educated as a central midfielder.

“Sometimes this is a good opportunity for other players to turn up and show they can do the job.”

Wenger confirmed that Aaron Ramsey will be available again after a month out with a hamstring injury, but he may not play him against Zagreb on Tuesday.

“I have 24 more hours [to decide],” he said. “He’s had just one training session with the team and of course that’s a bit risky. But I haven’t completely decided yet.”

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Arsenal Week In Review

Emirates_NightArsenal were in great form away from home in the Premier League before the trip to the Hawthorns on Saturday with 31 points from a possible 36, while the Gunners had scored against West Brom in their last 18 league games, which is a Premier League record. However, Tony Pulis’ Baggies were always going to be a tough team to beat and that proved to be the case. There was some good news ahead of kick-off for Arsenal with full-back Bellerin returning to the starting line-up, while Gibbs started in a more advanced role having been an effective substitute in that position against Spurs. The game itself started on a bad note for the Gunners with defensive midfielder Coquelin coming off injured and being replaced by Arteta. Soon afterwards, Sanchez got his free kick from the edge of the box over the wall but Myhill saved comfortably, before Sanchez won a free kick on the opposite edge of the box and Ozil swung it in towards goal with Giroud getting the final touch to make it 0-1 to the Gunners in the 28th minute.

The Baggies then won a freekick in a similar position seven minutes later and Brunt swung it in on his left foot only for Morrison to connect well and volley the ball into the far corner for the equaliser. Five minutes later, in the 40th minute, McClean beat his man down the left-hand side and played the ball into the box. With no West Brom players lurking, Arteta let the ball hit off him and go into the back of his own net to give the Baggies a 2-1 half-time lead. West Brom continued to threaten in the second half with centre back Olsson hitting the bar with a header from a corner but it dropped onto the line rather than crossing it before a Baggies player was called offside for the rebound. With very little going their way, the Gunners appeared to have been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card when Brunt was adjudged to have been holding Sanchez in the area and a penalty was awarded. Cazorla stepped up having scored his last six penalties but he slipped as he made contact with the ball and it hit his standing foot and flew over the bar.

It was a bitterly disappointing moment for both Cazorla and Arsenal and, with six minutes of regular time remaining, it was one they were unable to recover from, succumbing to their first league defeat since September (match report).

That loss leaves Arsenal in 4th place in the league, two points behind unlikely leaders Leicester City and only behind Manchester City on goal difference after the Citizens lost at home to Liverpool. The Gunners now have a must-win Champions League game against Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates on Tuesday before they make the trip to Carrow Road on Sunday to play Norwich City in the Premier League.


Coquelin Expected To Be Out For Three Months

Coquelin-afcA bad weekend got even worse for Arenal fans with the news from L’Équipe journalist Bruno Constant that Francis Coquelin is facing “most probably” at least 3 months on the sidelines after injuring his knee in the first-half against West Brom.

Coquelin went down in the loss to West Brom on a 50-50 challenge with Claudio Yacob, and manager Arsene Wenger said after the match

“it looks to be more severe with a knee problem.”

The midfielder reportedly left the Hawthornes on crutches after the loss and while we have not heard anything official from the Gunners, the number of rumours suggest a longer recovery period than a shorter one.

More than a few Arsenal fans wondered why the club did not sign a capable backup to Coquelin this summer, but Arsene Wenger decided to stick with the squad he had.

Unfortunately that move has now backfired as the Gunners head into a must win Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb in midfield without Coquelin as well as fellow midfielders Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and Tomas Rosicky. That leaves Mathieu Flamini as the only remaining midfielder on the senior team, an alarming thought for Arsenal fans considering the number of games Arsenal have between now and the New Year.

Normally you expect Coquelin’s injury to force Wenger to buy in the January transfer window, but the Arsenal manager is reluctant to buy players at the best of times, never mind when the value of players are inflated in January.

Do you think Wenger will buy a defensive midfielder in January, or will he hope to get by until some of his injured midfielders get fit?


Wenger Post Match Reaction: We Were Unlucky

aw-hands-outArsene Wenger bemoaned his side’s luck after Arsenal lost 2-1 at West Brom on Saturday.

Olivier Giroud headed the Gunners in front at the Hawthorns, but the hosts came from behind to win thanks to a James Morrison volley and a Mikel Arteta own goal.

Santi Cazorla also slipped as he took a penalty late on, firing the spot kick over the crossbar, and Wenger admitted they had bad luck against Tony Pulis’ side.

“It was a bad day – we were really unlucky today,” he said. “I believe we never deserved to lose this game.

“I believe we gave everything to win it. Maybe, if I could say one part where the focus was not 100 per cent, it was between 35 and 45 [minutes].

“When we were 1-0 up it became a bit too easy [for West Brom], especially on the set piece where we knew exactly what was happening.

“[Morrison] didn’t even need to head the ball, so defensively I believe we were not at our usual level. Offensively we were unlucky because we missed many chances.”

Arsenal have been plagued by injuries in midfield all season, and their cause will not have been helped after both Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta had to be taken off.

“Arteta looks to be a muscular problem, and Coquelin a knee problem,” said Wenger.

“But it’s too early to say how severe the damage is.”

The Gunners have yet to win in November, and go into Tuesday’s clash with Dinamo Zagreb needing victory to keep their slim hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive.

Arsenal’s failure to finish their chances was a concern for Wenger, but the Frenchman is confident his side can recover from the disappointment.

“It was a bad day and bad luck, but as well you want to see your players in these kind of situations because you know sometimes it happens,” he said.

“We are of course a very disappointed dressing room tonight, but now we cannot change it.

“We have to bounce back and learn the lesson from what happened to us today.”


Gunners Lose Chance To Go Top

giroud-celebratesJames Morrison and Mikel Arteta’s own goal cancelled out Olivier Giroud’s first-half opener as the Gunners suffered a frustrating reverse.

Cazorla slipped and skied his spot-kick in the final 10 minutes and Mesut Ozil hit the post, but Arsenal could not recover from a nightmare five minutes despite dominating.

It was just Albion’s third win in 19 Premier League games against the Gunners and their first in their last 10 meetings.

They did it, though, by scoring twice with just one shot on target as the Gunners controlled every aspect except the scoreline.

And Arsene Wenger’s worries grew after he lost Francis Coquelin and Arteta – who replaced Coquelin – to injury.

A quiet opening was only punctuated by Boaz Myhill claiming Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick while Arsenal were forced into an early change as Arteta was brought on for Coquelin.

There was little joy for the visitors until they unlocked the hosts from the simplest of set-piece goals in the 28th minute.

Sanchez was fouled and Ozil swung in a delicious delivery for an unmarked Giroud to head in from six yards.

It should have settled Arsenal, but instead Albion hit back with two goals in five minutes.

There had been little sign of any attacking threat from the hosts but they levelled in the 35th minute when Morrison looped a 10-yard volley over Petr Cech after Chris Brunt’s excellent free-kick.

Five minutes later they were ahead when Salomon Rondon and James McClean combined and Arteta was left helpless when he turned in McClean’s cross from close range.

The Spanish midfielder’s awful afternoon ended three minutes after the break as Arsenal’s injury problems got worse and he limped off to be replaced by Mathieu Flamini.

Cazorla floated a lovely ball to the far post and McClean slipped, leaving Campbell with a clear sight from six yards but the Costa Rica international fluffed his lines and failed to hit the target.

It had been all Arsenal but Albion almost sealed the points in the 71st minute when Jonas Olsson’s header struck the underside of the crossbar.

But Arsenal’s pressure looked to have paid off with seven minutes left when they won a penalty after Brunt hauled down Sanchez.

It infuriated the hosts but they survived to claim victory when Cazorla slipped as he shot and looped the spot-kick over the bar.


Arsenal Premier League And Champions League Tickets

Emirates_NightThrough our ticket partnerships, were are able to offer Soccer Tickets Online readers tickets to all Arsenal games home and away, including European Champions League. If you have never been to the Emirates, check out our directions below as well as the seating chart.

Champions League
24 Nov: Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb – Buy Champions League Tickets
9 Dec: Olympiakos v Arsenal – Buy Champions League Tickets

Premier League Schedule
November 28 Norwich City (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets

December 5 Sunderland (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
December 12 Aston Villa (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
December 19 Manchester City (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
December 26 Southampton (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
December 28 Bournemouth (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets

January 2 Newcastle United (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
January 12 Liverpool (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
January 16 Stoke City (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
January 23 Chelsea (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets

February 2 Southampton (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
February 6 Bournemouth (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
February 13 Leicester City (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
February 27 Manchester United (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets

March 1 Swansea City (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
March 5 Tottenham Hotspur (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
March 12 West Bromwich Albion (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
March 19 Everton (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets

April 2 Watford (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
April 9 West Ham United (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
April 16 Crystal Palace (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
April 23 Sunderland (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
April 30 Norwich City (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets

May 7 Manchester City (A) – Buy Arsenal Tickets
May 15 Aston Villa (H) – Buy Arsenal Tickets


Getting To Emirates Stadium

By Tube and Rail
Arsenal (Piccadilly Line) is the nearest tube station, around three minutes walk from the ground. Finsbury Park (Victoria, Piccadilly Lines and Great Northern rail) and Highbury & Islington (Victoria Line, North London Line and Great Northern rail) stations are around a 10-minute walk – these should be slightly less crowded.

  • Click here for a comprehensive map of London train routes.pdf

King’s Cross is the main connecting station for national rail and many underground lines. From here you can travel to the ground via the Piccadilly Line (to Arsenal) or the Victoria Line (to Highbury & Islington). Alternatively, a short overground rail journey of one stop will take you to Finsbury Park station.

Please note: Holloway Road station will be exit-only before and after matches with pre match eastbound trains non-stopping. Drayton Park is also closed on match days.

Crowd management after matches at Emirates Stadium
To ensure safe entry and exit from local stations, a managed queuing system will be in place.

Arsenal station
Queuing will be outside on Gillespie Road.

Finsbury Park station
Queuing will be outside on Seven Sisters Road/Isledon Road and St Thomas’s Road/Rock Street.

Highbury & Islington station
Queuing will be on the south side of Holloway Road. Spectators are advised to follow the route down Holloway Road as no direct access to the station or queuing system will be available from Highbury Fields.

Hornsey Road from Benwell Road to Holloway Road
Closed to pedestrians, emergency access only.

The junction of Drayton Park/Holloway Road
Police controlled crossing point where supporters will be queued and assisted across Holloway Road as quickly as possible.

By Bus

Bus is a fast and convenient option with connections passing the ground on all sides. Main bus stops are located on Holloway Road, Nag’s Head, Seven Sisters Road, Blackstock Road and Highbury Corner. High frequency services will take you within a five to 10 minute walk of the ground and direct routes cover much of north and central London.

Further information on buses is available through www.tfl.gov.uk or consult the maps of local bus routes below.




Arsenal Week In Review: Week Of Missed Opportunities

aw-hands-outArsenal were hoping for a miracle when they travelled to the Allianz Arena to play Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The Gunners picked-up a very important 2-0 win against Bayern at the Emirates but there was a sense that the German side were in the mood for revenge when they met on Wednesday.

There were plenty of ominous stats regarding Bayern’s home form this season with Lewandowski scoring 13 goals in seven games and the team scoring an average of four goals in every game. The Gunners also suffered a late blow when Koscielny was ruled out with a hip problem and replaced by Gabriel. And Arsenal only managed to hold out for 10 minutes before Thiago found Lewandowski in acres of space, after Gabriel tried to play him offside, and the Polish striker capitalised with a well-controlled header into the corner to make it 1-0. The Gunners responded well and were gutted when Ozil’s goal was ruled out for handball after some great passing and an excellent cross by Monreal. It was a cruel blow and the Gunners were dealt a knockout punch when Lewandowski turned provider and teed-up Muller who kicked his volley into the ground and right into the corner to make it 2-0. It was another sign that luck was on the side of Bayern and a team like that doesn’t need a help-in-hand, especially when they’re playing at the Allianz. Muller soon tested Cech again before Alaba put it beyond Arsenal with a long-range left foot curling shot into the top corner to make it 3-0 right before half-time.

Robben came on for the very impressive Coman in the 55th minute and the Netherlands international, returning from a long lay-off, wasted no time before getting on the scoresheet with his first touch, a fine left-footed finish into the top corner from just outside the six-yard box after a cut-back from Alaba. Arsenal continued to have a go, despite knowing that the game was lost at this stage, and they came close when Cazorla played a nice one-two with Giroud but Neuer saved his volley, which lacked any real power or conviction. However, Arsenal persevered and Giroud continued his good goal-scoring run after chesting down a Sanchez cross before finishing with a scissor-kick volley into the corner. It was a nice moment for Giroud, who played well, but Bayern continued to create chances and Robben almost bagged another when he was played through on goal but, having hesitated before rounding Cech, Debuchy made a very good recovering challenge.

However, it wasn’t long before Bayern added a fifth to make it 5-1 in the 89th minute when Costa made a surging run towards the Arsenal goal before he unselfishly passed to Muller who finished clinically from the edge of the box with a precise pass into the corner of Cech’s net. The defeat leaves the Gunners at the bottom of Group F, six points behind Olympiacos, who scored a late goal to beat Dinamo Zagreb, which means Arsenal will rely on other teams’ results in order to have a chance at qualifying for the next round.

The Gunners were hoping to pick themselves up from that midweek demolition by Bayern when local rivals Spurs arrived at the Emirates for the north London derby in the Premier League on Sunday. Koscielny was the only change from Wednesday after he returned from injury to replace Gabriel in the starting line-up. Arsenal controlled the early possession but were unable to carve-out any openings and it was Spurs who managed to break the deadlock in the 32nd minute when Rose had time to pick out a pass just inside his own half and his through-ball found Kane on-side and straight through on goal where he was able to curl the ball past Cech and into the far corner. It was the second failed attempt to play a striker offside this week and this time it was Koscielny who stepped-up too late only to leave himself with too much ground to make up before Kane struck.

Giroud had two excellent headed chances; the first was a little behind him and he was therefore unable to keep it down as it skimmed over the crossbar before he found himself unmarked in the box a few minutes later but he glanced his effort wide of the far post and then slammed the ground in frustration as knew that he should have levelled the game. The equaliser finally came in the 77th minute and it was from a very unlikely source in the form of substitute Gibbs who managed to get on the end of a sweeping Ozil cross to the back post. The full-back, who had only been on the field for three minutes, managed to stick his left foot out and direct the ball just inside of the near post. The Gunners then pressed for a winner but had to settle for a point which was a decent result given how well Spurs played but Wenger will still be disappointed that his team couldn’t take advantage of Manchester City’s draw earlier in the day.

Wenger will also be concerned with how sloppy Arsenal were in possession with a passing accuracy which was only 75%, having averaged approximately 85% so far this season.

That point means Arsenal are still behind City on goal-difference as they head into the international break with a visit to West Brom on Saturday November 21st in the Premier League and then a vital home game against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday the 24th, which they must win, while hoping that Bayern beat Olympiacos, in order to keep their Champions League dream alive.


Wenger’s Thoughts On North London Derby Draw

Arsene-Wenger-pensiveArsène Wenger spoke to the media after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. This is what he said:

on his emotions…
When you are 1-0 down it is a mixture of relief and regret. I think if we were really clinical we would have won it in the last 15 minutes. But if I tried to be fair, I must say that the point is a fair result.

on Giroud…
He is very angry.

on Arsenal’s start…
I think mentally we did fight. I cannot say we did not have the right commitment. I was not disappointed. Cazorla is normally the guide in our game

on Gibbs being the saviour…
He played there when he was a kid. Always when he comes on, he balances our team. I had very limited offensive options on the bench. It gave me as well an opportunity to put Alexis on the other side where he could give me a different option. Overall it worked, but he gets in good positions and shows he is an intelligent player.

On the game…
It was a very intense game with complete commitment from both sides. We suffered in the first half because Cazorla was at 30 per cent of his potential, he was dizzy. I was sitting there thinking do I take him off or not? You never know, maybe it will get better. At half-time I took him off, and in the second half we had a bit better balance.

On the team’s response…
The team have shown great mental resources, we refused to give up. Tottenham had a good moment at 1-0 in the second half, where they had one or two good chances in the game. In the end, it is a fair point for both sides.

On Cazorla’s dizziness…
He is not sick, he was just dizzy and could not move, you could see that on the pitch. I did not really know what he had, so at half-time I took him off, I hope it is nothing bad, but it does not look like it, because he says he is alright now.

On whether the break comes at a good time…
We have 10 players out. I hope during the international break we do not lose more, but we should get some back like Ramsey, like Chamberlain for maybe just after the break. Players like Sanchez, who have played many games, they go out and play two games again.

On training the players the same…
We adapt individually. It is always like that in every team, there is a collective part that everybody absorbs and the individual part is adapted to every person, considering their characteristics that intervene in a injury, how you sleep, how you eat, how much sleep you get, these are things that can influence an injury. It is a very sensitive subject and a very complicated one that we try to work out. On the other hand you have players who are injured because their body does not take it.

On the other injuries…
Debuchy finished tired because he played against Bayern, and played today, and had not much competition, but he looks alright. 

On the feeling in the squad…
When you are 1-0 down so it’s a mixture or relief and regret because if we were really clinical we would have won it in the last 15 minutes. Giroud had the chances to score. But if I try to be fair I must say the point is maybe a fair result.

On how Giroud is feeling…
He is very angry.

On disappointment with with team’s start…
I think mentally we weren’t at the races. We did try, you could not say we did not have the right commitment, I was not disappointed. I just saw that Cazorla, who is usually the guide in our game, didin’t get the ball. And Tottenham is a good side when you play with one player less and you have to make the game …and so in the offensive build-up Ozil was a bit isolated in the first half with not many options. Usually they combine well together.

On if he’s surprised or pleased that Giroud is angry…
I’m pleased. When you see players happy to miss chances you can worry. He is a real goalscorer, he did try. In the last two games, against Bayern and today he worked extremely hard and maybe he wanted too much to score in the end, and especially the opportunity he had in the six-yard box, but that can happen. 

on showing character…
I think we have shown character today because we were a bit on the ropes and we responded. Every time we have a disappointment I feel we respond well in the game after. When you look at the results again today you see Villa-City 0-0. Liverpool lost. We played 1-1. It just shows you that the championship will be extremely difficult for everybody. The mental qualities can have a big influence in the future and I think we need these qualities.

On whether a chance has been missed…
You can say that to City as well. I think if you look at a longer distance in the last six games we’ve had five wins and one draw. So overall I am disappointed that we haven’t won the game but if you look at the recent period as a block it can happen that in six games you can drop points. 

On the points Cech is worth…
I don’t know. I have not done the mathematics yet. But he has shown again how important he is and that maybe goalkeeper is maybe the most underrated position in football because there is a moment where he can keep you in it. If you go 2-0 down its bye-bye.