Friday, December 31, 2010

Arsenal Player Ratings for 2010-11 season, so far; Samir Nasri bags Star performer Award

Arsenal go into the new year at third position but they will feel confident about lifting a trophy this year considering they are in a decent position in all competitions and the FA Cup is yet to start for the Gunners. With half the season gone, let us find how the players performed in the first half of the 2010-11 season.

1. Manuel Almunia: 4.5

Almunia was given a reprieve when Arsene Wenger trusted him to do the job this season. However after two or three solid performances, notably against Blackburn, he was miserable against West Bromwich which cost three points. He has since been injured and is nearing the end of his Arsenal career.

2. Abou Diaby: 6

Diaby has played decently when he has been fit. He started the season and looked like he would make good progress this season. However injuries have meant he has missed a number of weeks and it has been frustrating for the French International.

3. Bacary Sagna: 7

Sagna is back to his best this season and has been quite solid at the back. He has always been good defensively but in this season, he has made marauding forward runs and his crossing has also improved. He has provided good support to Samir Nasri and has been one of the consisitent performers this season.

4. Cesc Fabregas: 6.5

Cesc Fabregas deserves a 9 for his performances against Chelsea and even against Manchester City, he was very good. But he has been hampered by injuries and had some poor games as well. But he is back to form after the game against Chelsea and will be a key member for Arsenal in 2011.

5. Thomas Vermaelen: 6

It is hard to rate Vermaelen because he played very less number of games this season because of the Achilles injury. Arsenal would love to have him back as soon as possible.

6. Laurent Koscielny: 6

It is evident that Laurent Koscielny is a talented defender and his strength lies in understanding the game and making crucial interceptions. He has made errors this season but will develop into a quality defender with experience and when Vermaelen returns, Koscielny will benefit from his presence.

7. Tomas Rosicky: 6.5

Tomas Rosicky has been fit for almost the whole of the season so far which is great for the Gunners. He has been extremely determined to make an impact and has contributed immensely with his effort and work rate. He is certainly not back to his best but is a great player to have in the squad.

8. Samir Nasri: 8.5 – Star Player

Arsenal have lost Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie due to injuries for a lot of weeks but Samir Nasri has stepped up and performed brilliantly. He has been quite consistent and has been sensational in a number of games. His versatility has given Wenger more options and he needs to maintain his form if Arsenal needs to win the Premiership.

10. Robin Van Persie: 6

The Dutch Striker has shown flashes of his brilliance but has yet to play a run of consecutive games in what is another injury hit season. He has been eased back to full fitness and Arsenal supporters will hope he can remain injury free for the rest of the season.

11. Carlos Vela: 6

The Mexican striker started the season strongly with three goals to his name in no time but has not been given too much playing time. He has started only in the Carling Cup ties and is likely to be loaned out in January.

14. Theo Walcott: 7

Walcott started the season brightly as he scored a hat-trick against Blackpool and followed it up with a goal against Blackburn. He was subsequently injured and struggled to find enough playing time. However, he impressed against Chelsea and is starting to realize his immense potential. he has scored 9 goals so far which is the best ever for him at Arsenal.

15. Denilson: 5.5

Denilson has been solid in some games but has not shown much improvement this season. He has slipped behind Jack Wilshere and has been on the bench for many Premiership games. The Samba star is a talented youngster but cannot get enough playing time at the Emirates and has not done much to show why he must be selected ahead of Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere.

17. Alex Song: 7.5

He has been one of the best performers this season and has developed into an excellent midfielder. He is yet to find the correct balance between attack and defence but has shown he will be a world class player in the near future. He has also scored very important goals and has developed the attacking side of his game.

18. Sebastien Squillaci: 5.5

Squillaci was signed as the fourth choice defender but has played in a number of games because of injuries and suspensions. His experience is good for the Gunners but is at best a squad player. The French International does not dominate and is not great in the air as well. He also lacks pace and is not capable of being a first choice defender for the team.

19. Jack Wilshere: 7.5

He has enjoyed large amount of playing time this season and he has retained his place in the team because of his excellent performances. There were questions on whether he would be loaned at the start of the season but he has gone on to establish himself as one of the best in the team. The England International will be a player to watch in the years to come.

20. Johan Djourou: 7

There were doubts as to how Djourou would perform after recovering from a year long injury. But he has shown this season that he is a quality defender who could play in the first team regularly. He has the physical presence and the intelligence required of a defender. It is a pity Wenger cannot use him twice a week because of his previous injuries.

21. Lukasz Fabianski: 7

Fabianski had a horrible time in the previous season but has shown tremendous mental resilience to silence his critics with excellent performances. He has made one or two errors but on the whole, he has been very good and should be praised for his consistency. The Polish International should be persisted with and is winning over his doubters with his performances.

22. Gael Clichy: 6

Clichy is a quality player who has shown that he has the talent to be the no. 1 left back for Arsenal. However he suffers occasional lapses in concentration and he has been unfortunate that most of his errors have resulted in goals for the opposition. He is still a quality player and will benefit with more support from the winger.

23. Andrei Arshavin: 6

The dynamic Russian winger has not been at his best this season and has looked off the pace sometimes. He has been very inconsistent but retains the ability to create opportunities. His statistics are impressive for a player out of form but he needs to work harder and help out his team mates ( Clichy, in particular ).

27. Emmanuel Eboue: 6

Arsene Wenger recently said that the Ivorian had signed a new long term contract with Arsenal. Emmanuel Eboue. He is an excellent squad player and can play in a number of positions. He has provided good cover for Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy (in the absence of Kieran Gibbs). The defender has not committed any costly errors and has not been spectacular either.

28. Kieran Gibbs: 6.5

The England International is one of the most unfortunate players this season getting injured too many times. When he did play, he looked good and showed why he is so highly rates. Gibbs is surely one of the best youngsters at Arsenal and has a bright future ahead of him.

29. Marouane Chamakh: 7

The Moroccan striker has been an integral player for the Gunners and has made a number of appearances. He has already scored 11 goals this season and has adjusted to the Premiership in quick time. However, the striker does not shoot too often which he should improve on but on the whole, he has been great for the Gunners.

52. Nicklas Bendtner: 6

Bendtner has not had a good start to the season and is currently behind Robin van Persie and Marouane Chamakh in the pecking order and has not started as many games as he would have liked to. But Wenger has huge faith in the lad and the Danish striker could have an important role to play in the second half of the season.

53. Wojciech Szczesny: 7

The young Pole has played only three times this season but has showed that he is a quality keeper for the future. His save in the game against Newcastle was brilliant as was his point blank range block off Anderson on his premier league debut against Manchester United. The youngster is expected to be the no.1 keeper for Arsenal in the future.

Carlos Vela set for Loan spell while Aaron Ramsey returns for Gunners

Arsenal striker Carlos Vela has been linked with a number of clubs for a possible January transfer and it has been reported that a £8 million move was likely in January with many clubs interested. Many Spanish clubs including the likes of Espanyol and Valencia were reported to be interested but it seems like Arsene Wenger is not willing to sell the talented Mexican striker.

Vela is one of the most talented youngsters in the world and though he has made over 100 senior appearances, he has yet to establish himself in the Gunners’ first team. Wenger has made it clear that he will only loan him out and not sell him because he has good quality. He needs to be playing regularly and a loan move could do good for both the player and the club as Arsenal do have three fit strikers Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh and Robin van Persie for the second half of the season.

If Arsenal are only going to loan him out, a Premier League club would suit him because he would be playing every week in the same league as Arsenal which will do him a lot of good. Fulham have enquired about Vela in the past and with Bobby Zamora’s injury, they are currently struggling. Carlos Vela could benefit playing for a mid-table club like Fulham if they make a loan offer.

In other news, Aaron Ramsey is likely to return as per schedule on January 2 and will not be extending his loan with Nottingham Forest. Though some of the games have been cancelled due to snow, Ramsey has managed to gain some match fitness and made his first start for the Championship side recently.

With Abou Diaby injured for some weeks, Arsenal would be glad to have the youngster back to full fitness. Nottingham Forest are likely to ask Wenger to let Ramsey to play the game on January 3 before returning to the Emirates. The youngster has a huge year ahead of him and he will surely enjoy being back in Arsenal colours. He is surely a very talented midfielder who has great creativity and vision and Arsenal supporters will see the best of the Welsh International in the future.

Arsenal Awards 2010: Samir Nasri bags Best Player award; Fabregas makes the Worst Error

At the very beginning of this article, I apologise for the ambiguity of the title and will explain it here. This article picks out the best candidates from different criteria on the basis of their performances from the beginning of the season (the game against Liverpool) till the game against Manchester United, which is almost half of the season.

Arsenal have been very inconsistent this season and are fortunate to remain in the title race despite three home losses and defeats in crucial games against Manchester United and Chelsea. However, most of the teams have suffered from inconsistency and have not produced the desired results over the course of the season.

Manchester United are the favourites as far as the title race is concerned as they generally do well after Christmas and they are currently the leaders having two points and a game in hand against Arsenal. Chelsea and Arsenal are expected to push them for the title while Tottenham and Manchester City are the outside bets for the title though both of them would be satisfied if they can book a slot in the top four.

In this article, I shall spell out the half yearly awards with different Gunners awarded for their achievements in different fields. I would be glad to have your feedback and give our opinions/suggestions on the article.

Best Player Award: Samir Nasri

Contenders for the Award

1.Samir Nasri

2. Alex Song

3. Marouane Chamakh

This is probably one of the easiest decisions to make this season considering Samir Nasri's superb form which has made him a strong early contender for the EPL player of the season. Nasri has been outstanding this season and has already scored 12 goals.

He has always had a lot of potential but the Arsenal supporters are only starting the best of him. He has been inspirational to the Gunners and in the absence of many key players, Nasri has shown that he is ready to take the mantle.

Alex Song and Marouane Chamakh are two more players who have been quite consistent in this season. Chamakh has adjusted to the rigours of the Premiership quite well and has already notched 10 goals this season. Alex Song was one of the best performers in the previous season and in this season, he has developed good attacking skills as well and has scored some important goals for the Gunners in addition to performing well in his holding midfield role.

Most Improved Player: Lukasz Fabianski


1. Samir Nasri

2. Theo Walcott

3. Lukasz Fabianski

Lukasz Fabianski was amongst the most maligned Arsenal players at the end of the last season because of his high profile blunders in many games. After Manuel Almunia's horrendous performance against West Bromwich Albion, Fabianski has been entrusted with the goalkeeping duties. He started off nervously against Chelsea and Partizan, in which he had decent games and as the season has progressed, he has gradually showed critics why Wenger had immense faith in him.

In the last slide, I had named Nasri as the player of the season, so far. He was a good player in the last season but he has been more influential than ever for Arsenal in this season. His body strength has improved and his diagonal runs have provided him opportunities to get into the box and score goals.

The third contender may be a slightly contentious choice because Theo Walcott is only used as an impact substitute at present but he has certainly improved some of his skills, especially his composure in front of goal. He was very impressive at the start of the season but could consider himself extremely unfortunate for being injured just as Arsenal supporters were starting to see the best of the England winger, who has immense potential.

Least Improved Player: Andrei Arshavin


1. Manuel Almunia

2. Andrei Arshavin

3. Denilson

Andrei Arshavin was one of the most important players from the time he joined the Gunners but his alarming dip in form is a cause for concern. The diminutive Russian was expected to step up after his first full season but has been far from his best. He has not shown any improvement at all and the fact is that he has not looked as threatening as he was in the previous season. The statistics are decent but his performances in some encounters have drawn a lot of criticism.

Manuel Almunia was handed the no. 1 shirt for this season as well and he started the season ahead of Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny. However, he failed to keep his place in the team because of the horrendous performance against West Bromwich Albion and many injuries.

Denilson has fallen behind Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby in the pecking order and will too be happy with the progress he has made this season. He has not established his place in the team and has managed some apperances in the Premiership only due to injuries and suspensions to the other players.

This award is designed for the player who has spent most time in the hospital room in this season. Arsenal have always had a few players injured but this season seems to be relatively better compared to last time around.

The Hospital Bill Award : Thomas Vermaelen

The Contenders

1. Thomas Vermaelen

2. Kieran Gibbs

3. Robin van Persie

It is not a huge surprise to see Robin van Persie's name on the list considering he has been injured a lot of times in his career. It was a fairly innocuous tackle which made him miss around three months of action. Even after he recovered, Wenger has been cautious in using his services and has given him many weeks to regain his full fitness.

Kieran Gibbs has been unbelievably unfortunate with his injuries and is currently injured. The England International is very talented but cannot seem to be fit long enough to challenge Gael Clichy for a spot in the first team. He has sustained many injuries and has played very less number of games because of that.

Thomas Vermaelen was one of Arsenal's fittest players last season but this season he has been injured for a long time because of an achilles problem. He is expected to return in January but Arsenal's defence has done quite well in his absence. If he can return in January, then Arsenal could receive a huge boost to their title hopes.

The Farewell Award: Manuel Almunia

This award is for the player who is most likely to bid goodbye to the Arsenal faithful in January.

The Contenders:

1. Carlos Vela

2. Nicklas Bendtner

3. Manuel Almunia

Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner have slipped down the pecking order due to Marouane Chamakh's very consistent performances this season. Both young strikers have been linked with moves away from Arsenal but Bendtner recently said that he will stay and fight for his place this season. Vela is still the subject of speculation and could move on if the right offer comes.

Manuel Almunia is almost certain to move because Lukasz Fabianski has established himself as the no.1 keeper and young talent Wojciech Szczesny has shown he is ready for the big stage. Szczesny will challenge Fabianski for the goalkeeper spot while Manuel Almunia is likely to move from Arsenal having let down Arsene Wenger with some horrendous errors in the game against West Bromwich Albion.

The Best Goal Award: Samir Nasri

The Contenders:

1. Samir Nasri ( 1st goal ) vs. Fulham

2. Samir Nasri ( 2nd goal ) vs. Fulham

3. Carlos Vela vs. Bolton

It is not often that you see two brilliant goals by the same player in a game but that was the case with Samir Nasri as he scored two wonderful goals. There have been many superb goals but maybe, Nasri deserves the accolade because of his superb consistency this season and those two goals were as fine a goal you would see.

Both the goals were a result of his brilliant footwork as he weaved past defenders to slot into the goal to provide Arsenal a huge boost. The second one in particular was better because he had to slot it from a very tight angle which he did in aplomb. He went past Schwarzer but had gone too far. So he came around and slotted it from an extremely tight angle.

Arsenal are a team who like to pass a lot and the Carlos Vela goal was an exhibition of possession play from the Gunners. They had at least 25 passes and pulled 10-man Bolton out of position. Then captain Cesc Fabregas played a lovely chip over the defenders which was anticipated by Carlos Vela who had made a good run. He then slotted it past the Bolton keeper to seal the victory over Bolton.

Best Substitute Performance: Theo Walcott

I could not find too many great substitute performances which is why I spare the list for contenders. But one substitute performance which was crucial from Arsenal's point of view was from Theo Walcott. The England winger has not played enough this season despite recovering from the injury he sustained on England duty.

However with around 25 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger introduced Walcott for the ineffective Arshavin and it immediately had an impact as he added energy to the team. He also scored the all important second goal for the Gunners which helped them take the lead against Partizan Belgrade. It was important that Arsenal won the match to qualify to the next phase of the tournament which they did thanks to his goal.

Another substitute performance which was good was from Johan Djourou who replaced Laurent Koscielny due to a concussion after his collision with Sebastien Squillaci. The Swiss International looked assured and was immense at the back. He was excellent in the air and helped Arsenal to clinch the three points they needed.

Worst Error of the Season: Cesc Fabregas


1. Cesc Fabregas handball vs. Tottenham

2. Manuel Almunia howler vs. West Bromwich Albion

3. Sebastien Squillaci taking out Laurent Koscielny which led to equaliser for Fulham

Cesc Fabregas is one of the most experienced players at Arsenal and has performed extremely well for the Gunners. He is a leader in the team and is expected to show the way for the others. But on this occasion, he had his arms raised well above his head for a Rafael Van der Vaart free-kick and since it was in the box, it was awarded a penalty for Spurs. Tottenham equalised through the penalty and went on to clinch the game in the closing stages of the game.

Manuel Almunia was given a reprieve in the summer as Wenger decided to keep the faith in the Spaniard. But the goalkeeper had a horrible game at the Emirates against West Bromwich which they lost. The Goalkeeper made a horrible mistake to let in the second goal and was in no man's land for the third goal. He has not played since with Fabianski doing a consistent job for the Gunners.

The two new defenders have found it difficult to adjust immediately to the Premier League and they have both made some errors which has cost them some important goals. However, this goal they conceded clearly showed that the duo are yet to develop any sort of understanding. Squillaci had a weak header which meant they could not clear the ball immediately. Then, he tried to make amends but could only take out his partner. Dempsey threaded the ball to Kamara who slotted it past Fabianski with Koscielny on the ground.

Worst Team Performance: Braga 2 Arsenal 0

The Contenders

1. Braga 2 Arsenal 0

2. Arsenal 0 Newcastle 1

3. Arsenal 2 West Bromwich Albion 3

There have been a couple of games this season which should have been easily won by the Gunners. However, they have made a mess of it which could cost them over the course of the season. West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle have both been successful at the Emirates which is really poor from Arsenal's point of view.

In the WBA game, they were let down by the defence and horrendous goalkeeping and they did not create much until the 70th minute. Samir Nasri scored two good goals to give them a glimmer of hope but they emerged with nothing from the game. It was an abject performance from them against Newcastle and though they defended decently until the Andy Caroll goal, they did not create much during the match and they were clearly not at their best.

But the Braga game was even worse with them creating very less chances and they did not seem organised as well. Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs had decent games but apart from that, almost everyone including the captain Fabregas had a poor game. To make matters worse, they lost Emmanuel Eboue and Cesc Fabregas due to injuries in the game. Due to that insipid performance, they finished second in the group and have to face FC Barcelona in the next stage.

Best Team Performance: Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1

The Contenders:

1. Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1

2. Everton 1 Arsenal 2

3. Manchester City 0 Arsenal 3

Arsenal were at their best as they finally ended their horrible run of recent results against Chelsea. It was a performance which had very few errors, one of which led to the lone Chelsea goal. It was a comprehensive win in a derby game which could yet prove to be a turning point for the Gunners. There was not a single player on the pitch who let the team down while some were brilliant on the day. But it was clear that everyone was determined to fight hard in this game.

The Gunners are known for their beautiful passing game which has got them decent results and rarely do they fight very hard for a victory. That was the case against Everton as they showed excellent resilience to clinch three important points. Also, it was a victory coming on the back of two losses which meant more to the Gunners.

Arsenal had a bad time at City of Manchester stadium last season as supporters were treated to a celebration they will never want to see again. But they were more determined this time around and the early red card to Boyata meant that Arsenal would have the upper hand in the game. Samir Nasri was excellent in the game and also scored as did Alex Song and Nicklas Bendtner. Clean sheets are hard to come by for Arsenal and Fabianski deserves extra praise for that special performance.

Juventus to make shock bids for Robin van Persie and Edin Dzeko

Juventus are preparing huge bids to acquire talented strikers Robin van Persie and Edin Dzeko. Manchester City are the favourites to sign Edin Dzeko but the Italian club will try to tilt the balance in favour of them by offering them a deal which includes Momo Sissoko and striker Amauri. As far as Robin van Persie is concerned, they might offer Felipe Melo in order to negotiate the deal.

However as far as Robin van Persie is concerned, it is very difficult to negotiate a deal in January. The Dutch striker has developed an excellent relationship with his team mates and has a lot of respect for Arsene Wenger and the club. He revealed that he did have offers two seasons from Chelsea, Manchester City and Juventus but rejected all of them to stay at Arsenal. The talented no. 10 went on to sign a new contract with the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger has reportedly tried to sign Felipe Melo in the past but it does seem like he did not fancy a swap deal involving Gael Clichy in the summer. Emmanuel Frimpong is said to be recovering well and should be fit in another 2 months and with Alex Song in excellent form, there is no need to sign the Brazilian midfielder. Also, Robin van Persie is a crucial striker for Arsenal in the second half of the season and the Gunners would struggle to find a replacement for him should they decide to sell. Also, Van Persie’s love for the club means that he is almost sure to stay at the club.

Juventus and Manchester City tried to sign Edin Dzeko this summer but was unsuccessful in their attempts. However City are in pole position to sign the Bosnian striker but Juventus are trying to hijack the deal with an offer to Wolfsburg to retain the services of Dzeko till the summer while also offering Sissoko and Amauri. Roberto Mancini believes that this deal could be done easily and despite Juventus’ offers, it is clear that Manchester City who can dig deep into their pockets for money are the favourites to sign the £40 million rated striker.

Ex-Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor who has had a torrid time at the Eastlands is likely to move but not to another top English club and maybe a target of Juventus should they fail to land both Robin van Persie and Edin Dzeko.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barcelona Midfielder Andres Iniesta Steals The Moment Of 2010 With Dignity

With the year 2010 heading to a slow death, it has provided us with a number of beautiful moments from the world of football. It was another year when dreams were wrecked for some while some held trophies aloft. The World Cup was certainly one of the most important events in the year and Spain emerged triumphant at the end of it on July 11, 2010 through a well taken goal from Andres Iniesta.

There were many moments of glory like the goals from Diego Milito which sealed the historic Champions League victory for Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan and the goal from Giovanni van Bronckhorst for Netherlands in his penultimate game before retirement. There were moments of pure emotion which can evoke both good and bad memories.

But the moment for which the year 2010 will be remembered for will be that superb goal scored by Andres Iniesta which will go down as Spain's greatest footballing moment. The La Roja had not won the World Championship before this and after the demoralizing defeat against Switzerland, they faced an uphill task. But they conquered it as a team which will go down as one of the best to have played in the competition.

It had been a game of flying tempers and tackles but there was not too many moments of brilliance in the game. It was a decent cross by Fernando Torres which was not cleared by the Dutch defence (who were weakened by the sending-off by Heitinga) and the loose ball was won by Cesc Fabregas. The Arsenal midfielder threaded a good pass to the Barcelona midfielder who slotted it past Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg.

It brought joy to millions of Spaniards all over the world and it will forever be remembered. The Barcelona midfielder had been one of the best players for Spain and proved why he is a player who has the big game mentality by turning up when his team needed the goal desperately. He is a man of few words and is widely respected for his attitude.

He could have done so many things to celebrate the goal which is arguably the most important one in his life so far but he did what brings a smile to everyone's face. He removed his shirt to reveal the message " Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros " which translates to "Dani Jarque always with us."

Dani Jarque was a Espanyol player who suffered a heart attack which led to his death at the age of 26. The Spanish midfielder also spoke about his deceased compatriot after the final and it was a touching gesture which was applauded by all. In the recently concluded game against Espanyol, the Barcelona midfielder was given a standing ovation at the home of their fierce rivals' for that gesture.

Also, it must be noted that Real Madrid right back Sergio Ramos and Sevilla winger Jesus Navas wore T-shirts bearing the name of another deceased player Antonio Puerta. These are the sort of gestures which tend to go way beyond the world of football.

Andres Iniesta's gesture to dedicate his moment in the limelight to Dani Jarque will go down in history as one of the best moments in football and it will be the moment which 2010 will be remembered for.

Liverpool's Slump: Who is to blame? Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Rafael Benitez or Roy Hodgson?

Liverpool supporters had to endure another poor performance from the Reds who lost to relegation candidates Wolves by one goal to nil at Anfield. The Reds have now lost to Newcastle, Blackpool and Wolves all of whom could be fighting against relegation in May. They showed very little fight and it was not a surprise that they could earn nothing from the encounter.

With Liverpool supporters firmly in favour of sacking Roy Hodgson, the new owners will have a decision to make. They have already made steps in the right direction by entrusting the transfer negotiations with Damien Comolli and they will have to get to the bottom of the reason as to why this Liverpool team is woefully under-performing as they find themselves going into 2011 sitting in the bottom half of the table.

Fernando Torres

The Spanish striker is considered a modern day legend by man y Liverpool supporters and he has undoubtedly been an integral member of the team since he joined the Reds from Atletico Madrid. His quality is undoubted but he has looked a pale shadow of himself as he has not been up to his high standards.

He had a poor World Cup and his form has not been good this season as well. However even in this season, he showed his class on some occasions like the game against Chelsea where he ruthlessly scored a brace. He has been very frustrated by the lack of service and also, he has not developed proper understanding with any other striker. He looks troubled at times and he has had to feed on scraps and too much is expected of the Spaniard.

Steven Gerrard

The Liverpool captain has been one to stand behind his manager despite criticism from various quarters which has made it harder for John W. Henry to sack Hodgson which would mean going against the Captain's wishes. Gerrard has tried to inspire the Reds on his own but he has not been helped by the lack of quality in the team.

He cannot be blamed for the slump for sure but the problem is that he cannot seem to inspire the Reds to be determined to win. He seems to be a man fighting a lost cause and his performances though excellent at times have not been enough to salvage a good position in the league. He needs to play behind Torres in the attacking midfield role but often he has played deeper which means there is hardly any creativity in midfield to create chances for the strikers.

Rafael Benitez

It may seem absurd to blame a manager who left the club before the season started for the predicament that Liverpool find themselves in. But in reality, Benitez had made too many signings who were not good enough for a club like Liverpool. He built a large squad but one which was largely dependent on the performances of three or four individuals.

However he could still bring out the best from his team on a number of occasions and last season was his worst season which was due to the ineffectiveness of Alberto Aquilani and Lucas who were supposed to replace the outgoing Xabi Alonso, which was Benitez' biggest mistake in his Liverpool tenure. Also he was not helped by injuries to his best striker Fernando Torres, inconsistency of Steven Gerrard and the boardroom politics.

He is to blame in some ways but to say that he is the cause for this predicament is absurd. That is precisely the reason why Rafa Benitez still commands respect amongst the Liverpool supporters who are fully in favour of sacking Hodgson for Kenny Dalglish.

Roy Hodgson

The English manager had an excellent time with Fulham but managing Liverpool is a different proposition and he has learned it the hard way. He has more or less lost the support of the Anfield faithful and with his latest outburst at the supporters, it is hard to see how he can win them over. He has been trusted by the new owners but he has failed to deliver and after such horrible results, it is time the new owners take a decision on the future of Liverpool.

He brought in a number of players like Joe Cole, Raul Meireles, Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen but as a team they have not delivered. Cole and Meireles are talented players and when they settle into the team or capture their form, they can be good for Liverpool in the future. As far as Konchesky and Poulsen are concerned, they have no future at Liverpool and it has been a waste of around 8 million to sign the duo.

Though it is clear that Torres has not found any understanding with David Ngog, the manager has persisted with the same formation and the result has been that Torres has not been close to his best and Liverpool are lying in the bottom half of the table. Meireles is clearly a talented central midfielder and pushing him to the wing makes no sense. Maxi Rodriguez has been at his best under Hodgson for Liverpool but benching him to accommodate a central midfielder on the flanks does not make a lot of sense.

Also, he has not made himself popular by criticizing players like Joe Cole and Glen Johnson in public which will only bring down their confidence in the manager. There has been too much tinkering with the team with hardly anyone being settled in the team. He has clearly struggled to cope with the pressure and before he drags the Reds further, the new owners must swiftly end his managerial tenure with Liverpool.

If the support of the crowd is not there for the manager, that means that the club is on its way down and the new owners still have the opportunity to save the club. It is inevitable that they will lose their best players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres if they continue to persist with Hodgson.

He has not added a lot of quality to the squad and though he has got the best out of some players like Lucas and Maxi, there has also been some more addition of deadwood. Hodgson seems to have run out of ideas and it has reached a point where he cannot save Liverpool's season for sure.

Arsenal: Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie should save the Gunners' season

Arsenal are not too much behind in the title race but the draw against Wigan would have hurt them badly as it was a game which provided them the opportunity to close the gap at the top. Despite the confident victory against Chelsea, the Gunners still find themselves trailing the leaders by two points, with Manchester United having a game in hand as well.

Arsenal cannot afford to lose any more ground in the title race and need to string a good run of results and if they do remain inconsistent, it could be very hard to come back into contention for the title race. Arsene Wenger made eight changes for the clash and was criticized for doing so because Wigan could only draw the game.

However he could not have done anything about the central defence, where the only option was to play Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci considering Johan Djourou is not risked for midweek games. If the team is able to score two goals against a team fighting relegation, they are expected to win the fixture.

If they do not win, then it is more due to the poor performance of the defence than that of the manager's decision to make changes. Laurent Koscielny conceded the penalty which looked quite harsh while Sebastien Squillaci scored the equalizer for Wigan heading it past Lukasz Fabianski.

Although they could only manage a point, they do remain in the title race and the fixture against Birmingham City could prove to be an extremely important one. The last two meetings between them at St. Andrews has been bad for the Gunners as they lost ground in the title race on both occasions. The meeting in February 2008 will forever be remembered for the injury to striker Eduardo who ultimately cost him his Arsenal career and cost the Gunners the title.

Arsenal only managed to draw last season as another Almunia howler made Arsenal's task of keeping up with the title leaders very hard. However, they should be confident going into this game despite achieving only a draw at the DW Stadium.

Wenger made as many as eight changes from the side that conquered Chelsea but it is expected that he will play a strong team against Birmingham with Cesc Fabregas making a return following his suspension. The captain Cesc Fabregas is Arsenal's leader on the pitch and when he is playing, the Gunners seem to be playing with a lot of confidence especially when he is also good.

Robin van Persie is also fit for the clash and is expected to start the game which can be expected to be another feisty encounter. Van Persie's experience and leadership is crucial for the Gunners as he adds a lot to the team. His movement and creativity creates a lot of space for the midfielders to get into excellent positions.

Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie have got a lot to do and have to lift their teams. They are experienced campaigners who have tasted defeats on a number of occasions for the Gunners and will be desperate to do well. It is that time of the season that the leaders stand up and guide the others to follow the path.

Thomas Vermaelen is also an obvious leader for the Gunners but his injury has meant that Arsenal cannot completely depend on him for the second half of the season. He could yet suffer any set-back which would mean the onus is on the other three defenders to perform. But if Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie can instill confidence in the side, everyone will be able to perform at their best.

The game against Chelsea was the first time in which Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie started since the game against Blackburn in august and the duo is crucial to the Gunners. There is obviously an excellent understanding between the two which is why Arsenal tend to perform better when Cesc Fabregas plays in the attacking midfield role behind Robin van Persie.

Though all the players in the squad are important, the experienced players who are desperate to win the title should guide the Gunners in the right direction. With more than half the season to go, it is important that they start 2011 on a positive note with a win against Birmingham.

It has not been easy in 2010 where the Gunners hardly had the opportunity to start both Fabregas and Van Persie but should 2011 be more lucky for the Gunners, they will end their trophy drought in style.