Beating Mourinho’s Chelsea would cap off a season of improvement for Arsenal

ozil fabregas

 

Last weekend, there was the small distraction of an FA Cup Semi-Final to take Arsenal minds off Chelsea’s clash against Manchester United. United offered a decent enough challenge but ultimately the 1-0 result was all too routine for this well-drilled, resilient Chelsea team who are proving to be the most Mourinho of Mourinho sides since his Inter of 2009/10. Even if Arsenal do beat Chelsea this Sunday, the gap will still be seven points. It does seem that their “title challenge” is over before it even began.

 

Arsenal v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Arsenal win 27/20

Chelsea win 2/1

Draw 43/20

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

However, this does not take anything away from the game’s wider significance. Sunday’s London Derby presents a real opportunity for Arsene Wenger to show that his side have made a meaningful stride forward since last season. In the first few months of this season, many critics rightfully questioned whether Arsenal were actually any better off despite the acquisition of starman Alexis Sanchez who at that point was firing on all cylinders amidst a team of underachievers. Yet Arsenal have rallied since the start of 2015 and a 2nd place finish, along with an FA Cup Final, are just rewards for their respectable turnaround.

Chelsea’s inevitable title on the other hand has come across as rather unremarkable due to the lack of serious contenders. This is somewhat unfair given how impressive and one-sided Chelsea’s early season performances were. From Thibaut Cortois between the sticks to Diego Costa up top, complemented by Eden Hazard’s consistent excellence, this Chelsea team may yet be considered one of the Premier League’s best, if only there had been some decent competition to show it as such.

 

The reason why both media and neutrals alike have been slow to praise Chelsea’s feats this season is because they are so set up in the eye of their maker.  Despite an attractive start, they have reverted to a more functional, strength-based approach that Mourinho favours. This can be seen quite clearly in the introduction of the titanic Kurt Zouma as a defensive midfielder for Chelsea’s big games. Mourinho has also engrained a siege mentality, in which the world and his wife are anti-Chelsea and also attempts to question the regime are met with little attention.

Wenger would love to end his unfortunate run and finally record a victory against Mourinho. The “specialist in failure” jibes still sting deep for the Frenchman, who is yet to beat Mourinho’s Chelsea in 12 attempts. There should be some cause for optimism this year as Wenger has broken the hoodoo of playing the big clubs. The victories away at Man City, at home to Liverpool as well as against United in the Cup, showed different strings to Arsenal’s bow. They also demonstrated that other personnel such as Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil were capable of stepping to the level that Sanchez had set from the off.

 

Sunday’s game will also mark Cesc Fabregas’ return to the Emirates for the first time since his departure to Barcelona in 2011. Had Fabregas ever played against Arsenal for Barca, he might have expected a fond reception from the home crowd but there will be no civilities this time around. While it was difficult to begrudge him a move back to his boyhood club, the subsequent transfer to Chelsea has left a sour taste in the mouths of the Arsenal fan base. This has been aggravated by the fact that Wenger turned down the chance to re-sign him and the visual evidence that he is quite clearly still up to scratch as the Premier League’s top provider, with 16 assists.

Intriguingly, Wenger is likely to employ his surprise of the season Francis Coquelin to marshal Fabregas in the middle of the park.  While Coquelin joined Arsenal in 2008, he did not make his Premier League debut until the fateful 8-2 defeat against Manchester United in August 2011 by which time Fabregas had just signed for Barcelona. After such a baptism by fire, it is pleasing to see that he has not given up the fight to be a top flight footballer following a series of loan spells.

 

On paper Sunday’s result will count for very little. However, if Arsenal can record a convincing victory with the performance to boot, they can lay down the gauntlet for next season and show that it needn’t be a one-horse race again.

 

 

Betting Instinct tip – with Chelsea preferring to keep things tight, the Gunners could all but seal second place with victory this weekend. Arsenal to win 1-0 is 13/2 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nineand a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.

Manchester United trip presents golden opportunity for Danny Welbeck and Arsenal

While fixtures between Manchester United and Arsenal aren’t what they used to be, there is still a sense that an awful lot rests on Monday night’s FA Cup Quarter Final. For the winners, it’s a chance to condemn their old rivals to an almost certain trophyless season, whilst also maintaining momentum in the all-important race for the top four.

 

FA Cup Outright Betting Odds:

Liverpool 19/10

Manchester United 5/2

Arsenal 3/1

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The game will be Danny Welbeck’s first at Old Trafford since he left United for Arsenal last summer. Welbeck made a promising start to his Arsenal career, performing well as a lone striker in place of the injured Olivier Giroud. His hard work and enthusiasm resonated well with his new supporters too, as it had done in Manchester previously. An impressive showing for England in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland in September, where he scored a brace, also supported the view that at £16 million Welbeck had been a great signing. A hat-trick in the Champions League against Galatasaray followed and Arsenal fans were starting to believe Ravel Morrison’s infamous words that Welbz was indeed “dat guy”.

However, a combination of injuries, big game misses and the return of Giroud have made the second half of this season more difficult for Welbeck. A little of the early positivity surrounding him has perhaps dried up and since Giroud’s reinstatement as Arsenal’s principal striker, Welbeck has had to make do with playing on the wing or starting on the bench. Neither player gave a good account of themselves against Monaco but it was Giroud who received Arsene Wenger’s backing in the next game against Everton and repaid that faith with a goal. This continued into the week, with the French striker scoring the opener against QPR on Wednesday night.

 

What counts in Giroud’s favour, as well as his goals, is his ability to win the ball in the air and to hold up play, enabling Arsenal’s cohort of talented midfielders to be brought into play more. Welbeck has proven to be a little lightweight in this role but on the other hand he is better at getting behind the defence with his pace.  As such, recent appearances have tended to come out wide.

It is always difficult to predict how players will perform against their former clubs, but it is worth remembering that Welbeck built a reputation at United as a big game player. He rarely shirked responsibility and performances like the one at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid two seasons ago stand out as evidence of rising to the grand occasion. He is a young player, still developing his game and the prospect of maturing alongside other English players like Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is an exciting one.

United themselves still look like a side in transition. Until recently, they had been above Arsenal in the table but Louis van Gaal is yet to pull off many truly convincing displays. David de Gea has saved them many points this season and should Welbeck start, he is likely to enjoy running at his former teammates. They are without ex-Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who has had no qualms seeing off the Gunners in the past.

 

Finally, Monday night represents a massive opportunity for Wenger to prove that Arsenal’s performance at Manchester City earlier this year was not a one-off. So long berated for his record in big games, victory for Arsenal would break a real hoodoo. Wenger has not won at Old Trafford since September 2006 – out of Arsenal’s starting line-up that day, only Tomas Rosicky remains at the club. Since then, there’s not been much to enjoy for Wenger in the red half of Manchester. Memories of being sent to the stands and abused by the United fans in August 2009 and the humiliating 8-2 defeat two years later are still fresh in the memory.

And yet, Wenger has remained one of the few constants in English football. The FA Cup has always been a trophy dear to the Frenchman and if Arsenal can see off United on Monday, Wenger could well be on course for a historic sixth. This would draw him level with the great Aston Villa manager George Ramsay and overtake Sir Alex Ferguson. With Fergie out of the picture, it is really time for Wenger to show what his Arsenal side are capable of.

 

Betting Instinct tip Arsenal to win on Monday night is 39/20 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nineand a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.

In-form Cazorla should relish Liverpool trip

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

What extraordinary times these are for Liverpool. After coming within one slip of winning a first league title since 1990 last term, they have endured an unimaginably nightmarish first half to this season. Gone is Luis Suárez and, perhaps not coincidentally, gone are the goals. The Reds, so easy on the eye as they powered through the Spring of 2014, are now a team with a distinct lack of direction and one in desperate need of inspiration. They have picked up just 14 points from the last 30 available and have already suffered defeats to the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Aston Villa. That they have only managed seven league goals all season at Anfield tells its own story.

They have been hit hard by the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge (he has not featured in a Liverpool shirt since August) while summer arrival Mario Balotelli has found life in front of goal difficult. Steven Gerrard’s performances have begun to deteriorate rapidly and Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet have suffered horrendous starts to the season. The Reds did manage to negotiate a potential banana skin in Bournemouth in the league cup in midweek, but serious questions still hang over their defensive solidity.

 

A miserable run of form culminating in last Sunday’s dismantling at the hands of Manchester United means they languish in eleventh place in the Premier League but they still have a chance of making the top four – down largely to the inconsistency of those above them more than anything else. The gap currently stands at seven points but it will surely widen quickly unless Liverpool experience a marked improvement in the next few weeks.

But things won’t get any easier for Brendan Rodgers’ men, with Sunday seeing the visit of Arsenal. The Gunners have recovered well since their calamitous defeat at Stoke City, with progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League as well as a convincing defeat over in-form Newcastle achieved since then. Olivier Giroud is back fit and firing and he has injected some much-needed impetus into Arsenal’s season. Problems still abound for Arsène Wenger’s side but for all the talk of crisis at the Emirates, they know a win on Sunday could lift them as high as fourth.

 

Liverpool v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/4

Arsenal win 29/20

Draw 23/10

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Arsenal’s fanbase has never been more divided over whether Wenger should remain in charge, but the Frenchman’s skin is thicker than most and he will be focusing solely on the job in hand this weekend. Santi Cazorla turned in a mesmerising performance in the 4-1 win over Newcastle last Saturday and he is likely to start again at Anfield. If he can rediscover his best form after an indifferent start to the campaign then the Gunners will have one of the division’s most exciting number tens. He may have just turned thirty but he still has lots to give and could very well make the difference on Sunday.

Arsenal will remain without Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey, though, who along with Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil form an extensive injury list. Nacho Monreal will hope to return to the matchday squad while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a slight doubt.

Liverpool’s injury woes are far less pronounced; apart from long-term absentees Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson is their only concern. He will face a late fitness test.

 

Despite Arsenal’s drastically reduced options they still go into this game as overwhelming favourites. A repeat of their last visit to Anfield, when they were blown away with four early goals and went on to lose 5-1, somehow looks unlikely. That was only in February but already it seems an eternity ago. Liverpool’s confidence has been shot to pieces and while Arsenal remain shaky away from home they would be disappointed to come away on the end of a defeat.

We know Liverpool have the players to lift themselves from their current predicament, but it’s increasingly difficult to see where the next win is coming from. If Raheem Sterling can display the same scoring touch he showed at Dean Court on Wednesday then they will have a chance, but the young Englishman has been inconsistent at best this season. A victory on Sunday could definitely provide them with the momentum to start climbing the table but if there’s one word that sums the Reds up at the moment it’s ‘fragile’. Any early setback is likely to derail them, and Arsenal will look to take full advantage of this.

 

Betting Instinct tip Draw at half-time/Arsenal at full-time is 9/2 with Intertops.eu

 

Jack C avatarJACK CHATTERTON is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter

Arsenal face significant Chelsea threat in Sunday’s clash

Can Cesc Fàbregas score his first league goal for Chelsea against his former employers?

Picture it now and it’s difficult to understand how it has happened: a player, playing for a team that he loves, leaves to join the side that he grew up playing for, the only other love in his footballing life. From there, problems occurred, and he had to move on. Who signed him? Only the manager who least symbolises the footballing philosophies of either side that he previously played for, in charge of one of his former club’s greatest rivals.

Cesc Fàbregas will stride out into a stadium on Sunday, wearing a shirt that no one could have pictured him in even a few months ago. He will also emerge from the tunnel as one of the most impressive players thus far in the still young Premier League season.

 

Chelsea v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Chelsea win 13/20

Arsenal win 17/4

Draw 51/20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The Spain international has been on fire since joining Chelsea, announced his return to the English game in spectacular fashion, laying on a stunning ball for World Cup winner Andre Schürrle to aid Chelsea in their 3-1 defeat of Burnley. Since then, he’s performed consistently brilliantly.

While he has not yet scored for the Blues in the Premier League, he has provided six assists in his first six games for the Stamford Bridge club. Combining in tandem with the similarly sensational Diego Costa, the former Barcelona man has been a key player as Chelsea have stormed to the top of the table.

It seems lazy to focus on Fàbregas when he’s set to face Arsenal, like the sort of thing that anyone previewing  the game could do, but the truth is that he represents one of the greatest threats to his former club in Sunday’s clash.

 

When Arsenal travelled to west London last season, they lost the midfield battle horribly, with their problems in the centre of the park contributing to a huge 6-0 defeat. Since then, Chelsea have only improved their options, with Nemanja Matić continuing his excellent form from the last campaign and the Brazilian Oscar improving his displays.

The addition of Fàbregas to the midfield mix seems to have freed the 23-year-old, who struggled somewhat under the huge creative onus placed upon him by Mourinho last season. Chelsea now possess two seriously dangerous threats in the centre of the park, with Matic also more than a simple bruiser sitting in a deep role.

On the other hand, Arsenal have struggled to put together a consistently impressive unit in the middle this season. Aaron Ramsey has been sublime at times, as he was in the first half of last season, but he will not be available for Sunday’s tie. Jack Wilshere has taken to chasing his own past-ghost around the future-pitch, never quite catching up with his own potential, although he has trained ahead of the tie. Mathieu Flamini, a revelation at the start of the last campaign, simply because he was an actual holding midfielder, is being caught up by his age. Mikel Arteta offers a hypothetical shield, but not a particularly effective actual one.

 

Arsene Wenger’s options are so limited in midfield, in terms of being able to stop an opponent, that he might turn to the apparently fit again Abou Diaby, although the Frenchman could spontaneously combust at any time between now and Sunday and no one would be particularly surprised.

It was never meant to be like this – in 2007, Arsenal climbed back to the top of the Premier League by beating Chelsea 1-0 at home, with a duo of Flamini and Fabregas performing outstandingly in the middle of the park.

The two ex-partners now face off, one a symbol of weakness and the other a symbol of strength.

Wenger also seems undecided on how to line his side up in the middle of the park, and probably needs to stick to the 4-2-3-1 that suits his players best ahead of this game. With Ramsey out injured, he needs to get Mesut Ozil into a central role where, as he proved against Aston Villa two weekends ago, he can conduct an attacking masterclass. If he is, as he was in the early part of the season, shunted out onto the left hand side, it is a waste of his talent and makes Arsenal all the easier to break down.

 

Aside from the potential for a midfield issue for the Gunners, the other most interesting duel will probably be between Diego Costa and Arsenal’s preferred defensive duo of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. The pairing have been repeatedly called one of the best in the league, although neither is particularly built for an out-and-out physical battle, which Costa offers.

There were immediate jokes about the potential for Didier Drogba to strike against Arsenal when he returned to Chelsea, with the Ivorian having held something of a hoodoo over the north London club, but Costa is like Drogba turned up to 11. If Wenger hasn’t adjusted his mindset when it comes to choosing defenders, Costa could plunder like his veteran teammate did in the past. The only plus point for Arsenal is that there remain doubts about the Spain international’s fitness, given his excursions in midweek against Sporting Lisbon and the consistent problems with his hamstring.

At the other end of the pitch, Danny Welbeck offers an interesting proposition for John Terry and Gary Cahill. While the English duo have demonstrated a good understanding, neither is particularly blessed with pace, and if Welbeck can exploit that, Arsenal could receive some joy.

 

The simple reality is that Chelsea should go into this game feeling confident, armed with threats across the pitch (I’ve not even mentioned Eden Hazard, for example), their best players available to them and on good form. It would be no surprise to see Fabregas play the orchestrator in the middle of the park either, reminding his former fans why they still, in the main, hold him in the highest regard.

Arsenal have been decent, but have not looked fluid at any point this season. As they say though, the form book goes out of the window in a derby tie, and if Arsenal can click at Stamford Bridge, it could have huge effect on the course of their season.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Another 6-0 win seems unlikely, but Chelsea to win by 2 or more goals is 8/5 with Intertops.eu

 

amitai avatar AMITAI WINEHOUSE has written for lots of cool places including The Yorkshire Evening Post and The Square  Ball, and is currently studying how to write for places like this one, which seems a bit backwards really. Follow him  on Twitter.

Arsenal vs Manchester City: Another early test for both sides

nasri-welbeck

We were on a break! And now, finally, we are not. It’s a sad state of affairs that non-tournament international football has become such a chore but a Premier League hiatus so early in the season is an irritation by anyone’s standards. Thankfully, we’ve an absolute cracker of a game to thrust us back into the swing of things.

Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off sees the champions, Manchester City, travel to the Emirates to take on an Arsenal side who have suffered a stuttering start to the season. Despite a comparatively low-key transfer window, City’s is a squad still brimming with talent and although their early-season momentum was disrupted by a home defeat to Stoke, they remain formidable opponents. Arsenal, however, are yet to click into gear. They’ve collected a win and two draws from their league fixtures, and in none of those games have they looked particularly convincing.

 

Arsenal v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Arsenal win – 37/20

Manchester City win – 13/10

Draw – 12/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

But early results can be deceptive; Alexis Sánchez has enjoyed a steady start to his Arsenal career and has already begun to repay his £35 million transfer fee with two important goals. One senses he will only get better and better as the season wears on. Even aside from Sánchez, Arsenal possess an abundance of attacking talent. Although they are yet to hit top form, it is unlikely the likes of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain will stay silent for long. Add a soon-to-return Theo Walcott to the mix and Arsenal have some of the most potent attacking options in the division. Olivier Giroud is admittedly a big miss for Arsenal, and it is unlikely he will play until the New Year, but Arsène Wenger will hope new signing Danny Welbeck replaces the Frenchman’s goals and provides the Gunners with a suitable line-leader.

Welbeck, fresh from a match winning performance in Basel on Monday, is set to make his debut against the Citizens on Saturday which should provide an interesting sub-plot to the game after his £16 million deadline-day switch from boyhood club Manchester United. While not prolific in his time at Old Trafford, Welbeck is a player who can play in a number of advanced positions and, in Giroud’s absence, is expected to be given the central-striker role he was so often denied at United. His pace in behind makes him a valuable asset in that position and, if he can discover a finishing touch, he could significantly improve his goal-scoring record – especially with such an array of creative talent behind him.

 

However, despite all the potential for fun and games in this Arsenal side, they will have to improve quickly to be able to live with City. Manuel Pellegrini’s squad are looking as invigorated as ever as they set about the task of trying to retain their Premier League crown and, after finally bolstering their occasionally-shaky centre of defence with the capture of Eliaquim Mangala, look in the perfect position to do so. Another new defensive recruit, Bacary Sagna, will expect a frosty reception on his first return to the Emirates since leaving Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer. Those sub-plots just keep on coming don’t they?

It isn’t City’s defence that will have kept them near the top of the league come season’s end though, it is their incredible range of attacking talent, perhaps one that eclipses even Arsenal’s. David Silva, Samir Nasri (human sub-plot) and Jesús Navas are all supreme creators and will provide chances for the returning Sergio Agüero and one of either Edin Džeko or Stevan Jovetić. And then there is the tour de force that is Yaya Touré. It is likely he will never better the sensational form he enjoyed last season, but his superb vision, power and ability to control games mean he is still very much City’s driving force.

 

Touré will be partnered by either Fernandinho or new addition Fernando and whichever central-midfield combination Pellegrini opts for may prove too much for Arsenal. For all their creativity, the London club has failed to strengthen in the only area it desperately needed to. They lack a high-quality holding midfielder who can protect the defence; Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are not the answers. Once again, it appears it is Wenger’s dogged assertion that no problem, however big or small, can be solved with the addition of another attacking midfielder, that could put the kibosh on Arsenal’s ultimate ambitions.

But in all honesty, Saturday’s game is very hard to read. Both teams are yet to hit their stride and while Arsenal could find themselves vulnerable in midfield, they have more than enough to cause City problems of their own. This is a huge test for two sides with title ambitions and could provide an intriguing assessment about how well equipped they both are to achieve that. Whatever happens, I’m just glad I don’t have to watch England again for a little while.

 

Betting Instinct tip – With two formidable attacks and questions remaining over Arsenal’s defensive solidity, more than 3.5 goals can be backed at 7/4 with AllYouBet.ag.

 

 JACK CHATTERTONJack C avatar is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter  or  Google+.

Arsenal start Premier League season with tricky test against Crystal Palace

Alexis Sanchez is expected to make his Premier League debut on Saturday

Alexis Sanchez is expected to make his Premier League debut on Saturday

The 2014-2015 Premier League season will kick off with what promises to be a feisty encounter as Crystal Palace travel to the Emirates to face Arsenal in one of the first London derbies of the season. Tony Pulis, a manager well known for his baseball caps and his distaste for all things Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, will look to employ the same hard tactics against the North Londoners as he did during his Stoke days. After taking over from Ian Holloway last season and helping Palace to relegation survival, Pulis has helped transform what was once a floundering side out of ideas, into a staunch, defensive contingent capable of frustrating the big boys.

 

Arsenal v Crystal Palace Betting Odds:

Arsenal win – 1.25

Crystal Palace win – 10.00

Draw – 5.50

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Palace started off their pre-season tour by demolishing amateur outfit GAK Graz 13-1 before drawing 2-2 with a respectable Columbus Crew side. The Eagles then beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 and USL-Pro side Richmond Kickers 3-0, before losing to Brentford 3-2 and closing out by drawing 0-0 with German side FC Augsburg. Pulis’ famed defensive solidity have been in evidence, while the Eagles showed promise in their performances against two MLS sides in midseason form in what were surely fitness exercises.

As far as transfer business this summer goes, Palace has managed to bring in Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff City, young goalkeeper Chris Kettings from Blackpool and Brede Hangeland from Fulham. Campbell will most likely team up with former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh, with Hangeland playing beside Scott Dann in what could be a very formidable center-pack pairing.

 

Arsenal will be looking for an easy win to start off their season, but will face a tough opponent in Palace. The Gunners have impressed –while admittedly not looking fully fit—during their preseason ventures. Arsene Wenger’s men started out by beating Boreham Wood 2-0 just to loosen the legs before traveling to the United States and losing 1-0 against the New York Red Bulls in a match that was missing many first team players. They returned to England for the Emirates Cup, trumping Benfica 5-1 in what was a rampant display of incisive football before losing narrowly to AS Monaco. Recently, they were able to dispatch the current EPL champions Manchester City with a 3-0 victory in the Community Shield.

Transfer-wise Arsenal have made a big splash this summer. Finally free of their seemingly self-imposed financial restrictions, they have made what is seemingly the signing of the season in former Barcelona man Alexis Sanchez. They also got in on the Southampton fire sale by bringing in a surprisingly ready Calum Chambers. Also signed were Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle to replace the departing Bacary Sagna and David Ospina to take over second goalkeeper duties after Lukas Fabianski left the club for a starting place at Swansea.

As well as the loss of Sagna and Fabianski, a host of youth team players have departed as well as the confident Nicklas Bendtner, and former captain Thomas Vermaelen who finalized his transfer to Barcelona recently.

 

All in all, the Gunners and the Eagles are both stronger this year than the last but history will be on Arsenal’s side. In the 33 games played against Arsenal, the South London side have only managed three wins, losing 22 of those encounters, with Arsenal doing the double over Saturday’s opponents last season. There is no reason to think the pattern will change in this match, Arsenal look poised to dispatch the Eagles once again, though it will not be as easy as in previous years.

 

Betting Instinct tip Arsenal to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game is 2.63 with Intertops.eu

 

BdykNApCQAEQ_-t ZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol,  and numerous other sports sites. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Can Arsenal bounce back from the Chelsea loss at home to Swansea tonight?

Arsenal were despondent after losing 6-0 to Chelsea at the weekend, but can they bounce back tonight?

Arsenal were despondent after losing 6-0 to Chelsea at the weekend, but can they bounce back tonight?

Well, Arsene Wenger’s one thousandth match in charge of Arsenal football club could not have gone any worse if he’d have planned it meticulously himself as they two goals down after seven minutes and a man down after 15 after Kieran Gibbs was red carded for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s handball in the penalty. All in all it was shambles from start to finish, now they face a much easier game tonight as they are at home and are facing a side with less half the points they have collected.

Arsenal v Swansea Match Odds:

Arsenal to win – 1.53

Draw – 3.90

Swansea to win – 6.00

(All first leg odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Unlike that horrific away performance at the weekend, Arsenal’s form at The Emirates Stadium is impressive as they have recorded just a single defeat in 16 matches being dumped out of the Capital One Cup by Chelsea in October. The only team to win in this particular corner of North London since is the European and World champions Bayern Munich and are Swansea equal to the task of competing at that level? Especially as Bayern needed a red card for Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny in order to make the breakthrough.

The answer is a massive no as Swansea are in shocking form right now with no win in eight matches and just one win since January. Their last away win came at relegation threatened Championship side Birmingham City in the FA Cup and they have lost five of the last six away games since then, while their last away win in the Premier League came against bottom of the league Fulham in November, ten away games ago.

In addition to this shockingly bad Swansea form, Arsenal also have won each of the last three meetings with Swansea and are unbeaten in four. However, the last match that Swansea won against Arsenal was the last Premier League clash at The Emirates last season as Michu scored twice in the last two minutes for Swansea to claim all three points. This season, however, the Spaniard has scored just two goals all season and this lack of goals in a symptom of their season that sees them just three places and four points above the drop zone. As such, I see a comfortable victory for Arsenal this evening in front of their own fans.

Back Arsenal to beat Swansea by at least two goals (Arsenal -1) @ 1.97 with GR88.com. 

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Arsenal Need to Rebound Quickly in North London Derby

Tottenham will be grateful to welcome back Younes Kaboul after his suspension was overturned

Tottenham will be grateful to welcome back Younes Kaboul after his suspension was overturned

Tottenham welcome Arsenal to White Hart Lane for the second Premier League edition of the North London Derby this Sunday. The stories of both teams have changed dramatically since Arsenal’s statement-making one-nil win at the beginning of the season. Arsenal had managed a prolonged run at the top of the table for most of the season before a rash of injuries and bad form to key players have brought them down to third, tied with Liverpool in points.

Tottenham on the other hand have enjoyed a tough season after their 100 million shopping spree in the summer. The Lilywhites have suffered their fair share of injuries, most noticeably to midfielder Sandro and record signing Erik Lamela, hindering their top four ambitions. They have also managed to sack  André Villas-Boas and replace him with Tim Sherwood, who tip-toes the line between able manager and insane chancer much too often.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal Betting Odds

Tottenham win – 2.84

Arsenal win – 2.36

Draw – 3.15

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Both teams enter the game in the back of poor results, though in different circumstances. Arsenal managed a 1-1 draw away at Bayern Munich for the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal after losing 2-0 in the first leg. The game was not without consequence as not only were they knocked out of the competition but they have lost marquee signing Mesut Özil for several weeks to a hamstring injury. Spurs themselves suffered a heavy 4-nil defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this past weekend, as the team capitulated and handed Chelsea goal after goal. Younes Kaboul was handed a three match ban after receiving a red card in the game but it has since been appealed and rescinded and the defender should be available for the derby.

Though the injury list is extensive for both teams, the game should be as competitive as history has suggested. Not only will Özil be unavailable for Arsenal but Aaron Ramsey looks unlikely to be fit in time for the match, while Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal also remain on the sidelines. Tottenham will be without Vlad Chiriches, Étienne Capoue, Erik Lamela and Michael Dawson. Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen, and Mousa Dembélé will go through late fitness tests before the match. There is good news for the teams though, Tomáš Rosický of Arsenal who was just handed an extension on his contract and should replace Ozil in the starting line-up, while the inclusion of Kaboul will be a big boost to a Spurs defense stretched thin.

Arsenal should be motivated by their draw at Bayern as they were last year after their second leg win, and will look to finish the season off strongly despite facing difficult upcoming fixtures. The Gunners still boast incredible midfield options in Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who will pose a difficult problem for a Spurs defence that has conceded 1.18 goals per game under Sherwood compared to 0.92 under previous manager Villas-Boas. Tottenham will be also looking to end the campaign on a high and defeating their rivals could boost their confidence and propel them to Champions League football, if their manager doesn’t lose his mind before then (that ship might have sailed – ed.).

Tim Sherwood has noted that he doesn’t want his players to be out-hustled and out-desired on the field, lambasting his side for their failings in recent games. Hustle and desire might prove not to be enough as Arsenal still have the superior squad and will be confident of dispatching Spurs once again this season as they fight to catch Chelsea at the top of the table.

Betting Instinct Tip – Arsenal to win after being level at half-time is 5.50 with Intertops.eu

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BdykNApCQAEQ_-tZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol, and numerous other sports sites. Follow him on Twitter.

Arsenal vs. Manchester United: another opportunity to indulge in David Moyes’ misunderstood genius

One word was on everyone's lips at Old Trafford on Sunday

One word was on everyone’s lips at Old Trafford on Sunday

Like any great auteur born before their time, David Moyes is struggling under the oppression of those who just don’t get his greatness in the here and now. Arsene Wenger has suffered similar injustices from an ignorant public over the years, with many failing to appreciate his innovation of turning a league position into a trophy.

After all, the glory of fourth place isn’t the only new idea brought into the English game by Arsenal’s long-standing patriarch. His greatest teams also introduced the idea of taking one too many unnecessary passes in the box rather than shooting for goal. In a land more used to the obvious glory of winning games, this new style of playing took some time to catch on. Thankfully, his friends in Spain—like Bowie opening up the UK to Kraftwerk—have helped him achieve mainstream popularity, and we have come to live in age in which the pass has been fetishized as something greater than a goal. As shark-faced sage-in-waiting Brendan Rodgers is known to crow at anyone willing to listen to him after games: we won the passing. And who can argue with that?

Now, before our very eyes, we are watching a similar genesis of a revolutionary footballing trend rising into the ascendency. If goals are vulgar, passes will soon be passé, but then what comes next? Crosses. Lots of crosses.

Arsenal v Manchester United Betting Odds:

Arsenal to win – 2.04

Draw – 3.25

Manchester United to win – 3.40

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The 81 crosses made by Manchester United against Fulham were not an aberration but a giant leap into a great unknown. Just as football theorists grew to better understand the game following its discovery in 1992, uncovering the assist and then the key pass in their vital research, future soccerologists will mark this season as a landmark juncture. The crossed cross and cross from within the box are upon us, and from this day on they will be known as the criss-cross or inverted-daisycutter.

No longer the preserve of FIFA and Pro Evo players, whose refined muscle memories are known to unstuck when mashing unfamiliar controller layouts, the age of launching it into the mixer from within the mixer is here. All thanks to the visionary David Moyes. When he mistakes a square for a circle—an A button for a B—he means it.

A school of thought has emerged that suggest that Moyes somehow held Everton back these past few years, but it’s now becoming clear that it was Everton who held back David Moyes. At Old Trafford he has been handed the budget to make his most vivid dreams come true, and those dreams are filled with crosses.

Forget Marcelo Bielsa and his vertical football. That now belongs to the past. The new buzz word will soon be David Moyes’ crosssectionality. Struggling to lump balls in from wide? Well, your team are lacking in crosssectionality. Playing through the middle? Suffering due to limited crosssectionality. Repeat it and spread the word brothers and sisters.

But where does this leave Arsenal? Wounded from their 5-1 defeat to Liverpool, can they weather Moyes’ coming storm? It all hangs on whether the former Everton manager can complete his life’s work and find an elusive third flank down which he can play another full-back and winger to fire yet more wide deliveries into the opponents’ area. Of course, ever the thinking man, Wenger has already moved to solve this impending dilemma by over-fielding midfielders to the point where Arsenal at times seem to pose the question of whether the concept of flanks exist at all.

Football writing hasn’t quite caught up yet to these events, with metaphysics still trailing behind the dominant genres of tactics and stats in the blogosphere. Yet that won’t stop Arsenal versus United from being the most progressive spectacle of the season. Purity is a rare thing in football, with prolific cowards such as Jose Mourinho and his ilk compromising their ideals to gain victory through problem solving and pragmatism. Not in Moyes and Wenger’s name.

Neither man will end the season with any silverware but they are already managing on a higher plane of understanding, without need of trophies or success. Like Rodgers, Moyes already knows what his victory looks like. “We got to the byline lads, and that’s all that matters”, he’ll say while tearing up with pride in the away dressing room. In the future, the byline will be all that matters.

Betting Instinct tip – With both teams involved in high-scoring games over the weekend, more than 3.5 goals is 2.90 with Intertops.eu

 

Greg avatarGREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football blog and podcast.

Liverpool Vs Arsenal: The last 3 meetings

arsenal-liverpool

At 12:45 in the atmospheric ground that is Anfield, Liverpool will be hosting Arsenal for a Premier League clash which is sure to be an important game for both. Liverpool still have several injuries hampering their defence, whilst Arsenal are missing the likes of Walcott and Ramsey out injured. Some positive news for The Gunners fans will be that the energetic Jack Wilshere could make a return from another spell on the sidelines.  Neither team really made an impact in the January transfer window, with Arsenal’s deadline-day signing Kim Källström some way off full fitness and both sets of fans feeling that their squads needed some strengthening.

Liverpool v Arsenal Betting Odds

Liverpool to win – 2.05

Draw – 3.30

Arsenal to win – 3.45

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The meetings between these two Premiership heavyweights is usually of great entertainment value. You would need to go back to January 1999 to find the last time a meeting between the two teams ended 0-0, and with the likes of Olivier Giroud and Luis Suárez on the pitch, I see no reason for this game to be any different. Liverpool haven’t beaten Arsenal since August 2012 and will be looking to use this to help cement their claims as a true ‘top 4’ side. With that in mind, I thought it’d be nice to dip my toes in the lakes of nostalgia and have a look at the last 3 meetings between the two.

 

November 2013 – Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool (Premier League)

Goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey rounded up a routine victory for Arsenal against a very complacent Liverpool side. Both sides were at the top of the table, so this would serve as a strong indicator as to how both teams might hold out for the rest of the season. Arsenal grabbed a goal against the run of play; diligence and brilliance from Cazorla allowed him to expertly volley home the rebound after his header crashed off the crossbar. Arsenal took control of the game from this stage and effectively sealed the win with Ramsey’s incredibly well-struck goal from distance. Suárez hit the post for Liverpool late on, but for them to have gained a goal and possibly a point later on, would have been harsh on Arsenal after such a commanding showing. A missed opportunity for Liverpool (how many times has that been said this season already?), but a good result for the North Londoners.

 

January 2013 – Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool (Premier League)

A wonderful game of attacking football which was helped created by some lacklustre defending from both teams. Liverpool went 2-0 up within the first hour of the game; Suárez scoring after a mistake from Sagna, whilst a typically energetic run from Henderson earned him a goal and some more respect from the Liverpool fans. Henderson needed to improve his performances for Liverpool and it was after this game that he continued to go up in the estimations of Liverpool fans. Arsenal – to their credit – refused to stay down, with Giroud pulling one back for the home side within five minutes of Henderson’s goal. Then, only a few minutes later Walcott powered home past Pepe Reina to bring things even. The attacking ensued and both teams had chances to snatch the lead, though neither was able to do so.

 

September 2012 – Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal (EPL)

An incredibly disappointing result for Liverpool as Arsenal picked up their first victory of the 2012-13 season with a spellbinding performance. Liverpool – in comparison – looked jaded and out of ideas from the off. Podolski finished expertly early on, after Cazorla had capitalised on a rare Gerrard error and fed the ball through to the powerful German international. Young Raheem Sterling (only 17 at the time) was one of the only positives for Liverpool, with Cazorla looking like a bargain for 15mil with such a mature display which he capped off with Arsenal’s second goal. Reina rather flaccidly helped the Spaniard’s shot into his own net, but it was no less than Cazorla – and Arsenal – deserved. After the game, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers must have realised what a tough task he has ahead of him in revving the Liverpool of old.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Arsenal to score exactly two goals, as they have done in the last three games against Liverpool, is 3.65 with GR88.com.