Saturday, February 26, 2011

Arsenal FC: Can Aaron Ramsey Be the Future Replacement for Fabregas for Gunners?

It is exactly one year to the day that Aaron Ramsey sustained a horrific injury due to a terrible tackle by Ryan Shawcross and while the Stoke defender has made good progress, Ramsey has still not represented Arsenal FC in any competitive game. The Welshman is currently on loan at his former club, Cardiff City and is scheduled to return to Arsenal on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger confirmed that he had good reports regarding the fitness and performances of Ramsey and that he intended to use the midfielder for the game against Leyton Orient. The Welshman is not expected to perform to his previous high standards initially but it for the better of Arsenal football club that the Welshman regains his previous form which made him one of the best youngsters in the world.

Though Ramsey has been medically fit and cleared to play football since December, Wenger has been reluctant to utilize the midfielder's services till he is completely convinced of his fitness levels. The Frenchman will want Ramsey at his best in the future which is why he has given him a lot of time to recover completely from the fractures.

He was loaned out to Nottingham Forest a one month loan and since he did not get a game after returning, Wenger was convinced to send the Welsh International on another month long loan to Cardiff. Ramsey has played around 10 games for the Championship sides and the Arsenal manager is convinced that he has the ability to contribute to Arsenal's push for the title in various competitions.

Wenger has huge faith in the ability of Ramsey which is one of the main reasons why he was devastated by the injury to the 20-year old. He has been instrumental in developing the midfielder to achieve greater glory but Ramsey's progress was cruelly halted by Shawcross and the next few months will be hard work for the youngster.

The injuries to Eduardo and Diaby are still fresh on everyone's minds and all supporters will hope that Ramsey has a better recovery both physically and psychologically than both of them. Eduardo was shaken by the horrendous injury and was never able to fulfill his immense potential for the Gunners. Diaby has shown glimpses of his potential but many recurring injuries have stalled the development of the lanky midfielder on several occasions.

Ramsey's injury is not in the joints which means he has a better chance of recovering from the injury than both the players. The Wales International was recognized as a special player very early in his career which is why he was tracked by the likes of Manchester United and Everton. However, the youngster joined the Gunners and has been superb for them on several occasions.

He has a great range of passing and his passing, strength and movement makes him one of the most gifted youngsters on the planet. The youngster was entrusted with a lot of responsibility last year as he started games quite often for the Gunners in the games before that fateful game against Stoke at the Britannia stadium.

Though he has proven to be adept as a central midfielder partnering Alex Song, his best position is that of an attacking midfielder from where he can create chances through his creativity and vision. He has also excelled alongside Fabregas but the Spaniard is likely to depart to his hometown club within the next couple of seasons.

Jack Wilshere, who was on loan at Bolton when Ramsey was injured, has made one of the midfield slots his own with a string of impressive performances including a marvellous performance against FC Barcelona. Arsenal supporters can still not see Ramsey and Wilshere play together regularly because of the injury but the duo have the capability to form a devastating partnership in midfield along with Song.

Aaron Ramsey will have to work hard and need some fortune to regain his place in the Arsenal first team in the near future. He has certainly got the talent to be a world class midfielder but with Wilshere, Song and Fabregas forming a superb trio in midfield, chances will be hard to come by and he will have to shine in the opportunities he gets in the competitions.

Ramsey is fortunate to have a great manager in Arsene Wenger who will show patience with regard to the situation of the Wales midfielder. The experienced Arsenal manager has the capability to bring the best from Ramsey and Arsenal supporters will hope that Aaron Ramsey can be the player to replace Fabregas and forge a formidable partnership with Jack Wilshere.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny: From Brentford to Barcelona to Be Gunners' Saviour

Arsenal's supporters do not feel comfortable when the Gunners take on Stoke City because of their aerial bombardment which has lead to their team conceding goals. The win against Stoke on Wednesday highlighted the determination of the Gunners and Szczesny's performance vindicated the manager's decision in the summer. Arsene Wenger was urged by plenty of supporters to sign a new goalkeeper in order to provide more security at the back.

The Frenchman was content with the quality of his keepers and provided the chance to the error-prone Manuel Almunia at the start of the season. Though he had a strong start to the season, the horror show against West Bromwich Albion and the injury he sustained in that game provided the opportunity for the fringe goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny to make the place their own.

Though Fabianski has had a tough time at Arsenal, the manager has retained a lot of faith in the youngster and has provided the lad with a number of opportunities to show his quality. The Pole who has endured a lot of criticism was nervous in the first few games he started this season but he established himself as the first choice keeper with some very good performances most notably against Wolves, Manchester City and Everton.

Wenger's persistence with these two keepers left the other two keepers Szczesny and Mannone disappointed due to the lack of opportunities in the first team. Mannone has since moved to Hull City on loan while Szczesny remained with the club and started the season as the third choice goalkeeper. Manuel Almunia's injury provided him the opportunity to be the second choice keeper and he got opportunities in the League Cup.

Szczesny has been with the club since 2007 and despite not getting many opportunities at Arsenal, he was regarded as one of the brightest young prospects at the club. With the goalkeeping position a matter of constant discussion amongst critics and supporters, Szczesny was touted by many to be the no. 1 keeper in the future.

He was loaned out to Brentford in the last season and established himself as the first choice keeper for them with a string of superb performances. He was one of the most influential performers for the lower division side and was rightly praised by the then Brentford manager Andy Scott who suggested that he would not be out of place in the Premier League.

He returned to the club in order to stake a claim for the goalkeeping position and though he was promoted ahead of Vito Mannone, he was disappointed with the lack of opportunities due to the manager favoring the more experienced Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski. His disappointment led him to issue an ultimatum that he would not extend his contract beyond this year if he did not get enough opportunities.

He subsequently calmed down and signed a new long term contract to the relief of supporters who had belief that he could go on to be the first choice keeper. Fabianski had done very well this season and it was very unfortunate for him to be injured during warm-up for the game against Manchester City. He did play the match securing a clean sheet but the injury to his shoulder required surgery which ruled him out for the season.

Szczesny who had made his Premier League debut weeks earlier against Manchester United in front of a hostile crowd at Old Trafford was given the opportunity to start games on a regular basis. The Pole has since started many Premier League games and has not looked out of place in the Premiership. He has shown great reflexes and has ensured that Fabianski has not been missed by the Gunners.

The most impressive attribute about the youngster is his confidence in his abilities which is extremely important for being successful. The goalkeeper's huge frame and strength allows him to command his area which has greatly helped the Gunners in dealing with aerial bombardment as was the case against Stoke. The youngster seems undaunted by the task in front of him and it is clear that Wenger has a lot of faith in the keeper providing him opportunities despite the return of Almunia.

Arsenal goalkeepers generally come under greater scrutiny for mistakes than any other goalkeepers and it was imperative that Szczesny did not make errors in the first few games. However, his assured and dominating performances in the last few weeks has most people convinced that he is the Arsenal goalkeeper for the next decade.

Szczesny seems unfazed by the challenges in front of him as he showed in the game against Barcelona where he had to face the threat of the world's best strikers in Lionel Messi and David Villa. He made a couple of superb saves to keep Arsenal in the hunt and his anticipation was excellent throughout the game. Though he could not claim a clean-sheet, it was another assured performance by the youngster who has made the astonishing transition of Brentford to Barcelona within a year.

He will be between the sticks for the Carling Cup final which the Gunners hope to conquer to end their long wait for a trophy. Wembley and the Nou Camp awaits the Polish International who could be the answer to Arsenal's goalkeeping conundrum for the next decade.

This article is also featured on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal and other football news

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Arsenal vs. Barcelona Preview: Samir Nasri could be Fit but Andrei Arshavin is the X-Factor for the Gunners

Arsenal cruised to a two goal victory over a struggling Wolverhampton side following another brace from Robin van Persie who has scored nine goals from his last five league games. It could have been much more but Arsenal were not made to rue for those missed opportunities by the likes of Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin.

The Gunners will have the toughest match of the season so far on Wednesday when they take on mighty Barcelona who have been impressive this season. Though Arsenal have been inconsistent this season, they have shown enough to justify that they have the armoury required to beat the Spanish giants should they play at their best. For that though, they need their most talented players to play to their potential to carve openeings in the game.

Samir Nasri has undoubtedly been Arsenal's player of the season so far and Wenger's assessment that he will have a chance to play is a huge boost for the Gunners. However, it is better for the club that he is given enough time to recover completely from his injury so that he can be fit for the title run-in. Wenger would be conscious of the number of players he lost in the months of February and March last season and will probably name Nasri among the substitutes.

This would probably mean that it will the creative Andrei Arshavin who will start the game on the left forming a forward line boasting the likes of Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott. The Gunners will need every one of the eleven players and the substitutes to have a good game in order to beat the Catalans and that includes the inconsistent Andrei Arshavin to make his presence felt on the pitch.

The diminutive Russian has the quality to influence high profile games such as the one this week and Arsenal will be hoping that he will be at his best. He has been off-colour for most part of the season and has subsequently been benched in favour of England winger Theo Walcott. However, Samir Nasri's injury has provided him the opportunity to show his class for the Gunners and he has looked close to capturing his best form after an inspirational cameo off the bench against Everton.

He has encountered much criticism about his appalling work-rate in some games and if he does not work hard, Barcelona will be provided with a great opportunity to subject Gael Clichy to severe pressure from Pedro and Lionel Messi. Arshavin needs to be switched on throughout the game and more importantly, he needs the support of fans at the Emirates who have treated him unfairly when he has had a poor game.

The playmaker has created more goals than any one else in the team despite performing well below his potential and it shows the quality of the individual. The combo of Arshavin, Fabregas and Van Persie has wreaked havoc in recent games and if they can combine well again, Barcelona will ahve their hands full in stopping the trio which allows other players including the likes of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere to exploit the spaces.

Arshavin with his quality and experience has shown beyond question that he is a player of the highest quality and he has 
contributed immensely in many big games in his time with the Gunners. But if he can inspire the Gunners to emerge successful from the round of 16 tie against Barcelona, it will be his biggest achievement in his Arsenal career.

With less than 18 months on his contract, it is still questionable whether he will renew his contract with Arsenal. Whatever happens with his contract negotiations, if he can help the Gunners emerge victorious from the battle, he will be remember as the little magician who inspired Arsenal to a famous victory.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Arsenal F.C. opinion: Johan Djourou can be the next Alex Song for the Gunners

Arsenal cruised to a two goal victory over Wolverhampton who could not cope with the quality of the Gunners. Robin van Persie scored both the goals taking his tally for the season to 12 goals only two behind the leading goal-scorer of the season for Arsenal, Samir Nasri. The Gunners kept another clean sheet which will be a huge boost to their confidence ahead of the tough encounter against FC Barcelona who are amongst the best teams in the world.

After conceding four goals within half an hour against Newcastle, it was important that there were no defensive lapses for the Gunners and that they could gain all the three points from their impressive display which could have seen many more goals but for the heroics of Wayne Hennessey. Wojciech Szczesny said after the disastrous second half against Newcastle that the substitution of Johan Djourou caused an imbalance in the side.

Arsenal supporters were hugely relieved by news that the injury to Djourou was not serious and he would be able to start the game against Wolves. The Gunners' best defensive performances this season have been when Djourou has started games for them. With the injury to Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal needed the two new signings Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci to come good to keep their title aspirations alive.

However, it has been the performances of Djourou which has provided the Gunners with a solid base to perform better. The Swiss International has established a superb partnership with Laurent Koscielny and the duo have been good when played together. However Koscielny seems to be extremely uncomfortable when playing alongside Squillaci.

Though Wenger spent around £10 million on Koscielny, it is probable that it will be Djourou who will partner Vermaelen when the latter returns to full fitness. Though he started the season as the fourth choice centre back, the quality of his performances has made Wenger install him as the first choice centre back in the absence of the Belgian.

Djourou has been at Arsenal for a long time and at the age of 24; he is proving that he has the quality to be a starter for the Gunners for years to come. However, the road has not been smooth for the defender and he has worked hard to come back from the injury which threatened to derail his Arsenal career.

Though the Ivorian born player has been at the club for a long time, he was not considered to be the first choice centre back and his quality was questioned by a number of critics. But it is credit to Djourou that he has shown a willingness to wait and has trusted his manager to give him the opportunity he deserves. Wenger has a lot of faith in him and even said to him that he had let the solid Kolo Toure leave the club to provide more opportunities for him.

He is currently enjoying a superb run of games for Arsenal and his performances have made him one of the key players of the season for the Gunners. His progress to the first team has similarities with Alex Song whose credentials to play as the defensive midfielder were questioned by many.

The Cameroon International has developed immensely under the keen eyes of Wenger and has vastly improved over the last couple of seasons. Song made the role of the defensive midfielder his own last season and this season; he has shown that he is a complete player by providing good offensive threat along with his effectiveness in defensive midfield.

Song has established his place in the Arsenal first team and is one of the regulars if fit. He has also won over the Arsenal supporters who regard him to be as important as Cesc Fabregas or Robin van Persie and his commitment to the club has been excellent as well. Djourou's progress this season could undoubtedly be the sign of things to come and he has the quality to be Arsenal's first choice defensive centre-back for the future.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Arsenal: 5 Reasons Why Samir Nasri Must Be The Next Captain For The Gunners

Arsenal will face a buoyant Wolverhampton side after their triumph against leaders Manchester United and the Gunners need to acquire all the three points to close the gap in the title race. With the Manchester derby happening before the game at the Emirates, the Gunners will look to secure all the three points as one of the title contenders is bound to drop points in the game at Old Trafford.

The Gunners had a spectacularly poor second half against Newcastle United and for the first time in their history, they squandered a four goal lead and could not earn the full quota of points from their visit. Though Abou Diaby's red card was the start of the calamitous performance, the Gunners' lack of leadership was also to blame for their performance in the second half.

It is impossible to envisage the same situation had the Gunners had a tough captain like Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams. Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is an intelligent player who undoubtedly produces his complete effort to help the Gunners win games. Although he is a tough and determined fighter, he seems to be carried too much by the momentum of a game and cannot inspire his team-mates to be resilient.

Newcastle United came into the second half  with a clear game-plan of roughing up the Gunners by robust challenges and it was inevitable that one of the Arsenal players over-reacted to the ferocity of the challenges. Arsenal were undoubtedly not helped by the negligence / incompetence of the referee to provide any sort of protection to the Arsenal players and without the presence of hard-tackling midfielders like Patrick Vieira, the Gunners were unable to cope with the physicality of the home side.

Though Arsene Wenger has defended his captain Cesc Fabregas, the French tactician must be concerned by the way Arsenal has fallen apart at times and he must consider changing the captain if that could inspire the Gunners to tougher. Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas are the two most experienced players for the Gunners but it is Samir Nasri who must receive the captain's armband and here are five reasons why he must be the next captain.

1. The Tough Street Lad

Nasri has often stated that he grew up to be tough by playing on the streets in France. He is someone who is always ready for a fight and will not tolerate being kicked by the opposition. He is not one to be intimidated by the opposition and though he can get provoked quite easily, he has been quite sensible on the pitch and has not got into too much trouble.

If there are tackles like the ones by Joey Barton and Ryan Shawcross, Samir Nasri is sure to get into their faces and force the referee to take action. He is not the strongest lad at Arsenal but is surely a tough fighter.

2. Excellent Relationship with the Fans who have supported him immensely at Arsenal

There are some players who are greeted with a warm welcome when they arrive at a club and Samir Nasri has always enjoyed great support from the club's supporters ever since he made his debut against West Bromwich Albion. He has enjoyed great support from the fans who have kept their faith in the French midfielder.

Though he did not play to his potential in the first two seasons, he has been sensational this season and that has got the Emirates faithful completely supporting him on the pitch. Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie also enjoy good relationships with the supporters but other captains like Manuel Almunia do not have good support.

3. One of the Best Prospects for Arsenal's Future

Nasri has been Arsenal's player of the season and remains integral to the Gunners' title hopes this season. He is the top goal-scorer for the Gunners with 14 goals for the season so far and has been very influential for the club's fortunes. There is a good possibility that Fabregas might leave Arsenal for Barcelona in the next couple of years which would mean Nasri will have a more important role in the future.

He is one of Arsenal's brightest young prospects and with only one more year remaining on his contract in the summer, Wenger will look to tie him down to a longer deal which will be lucrative. Also, he is amongst the fittest players at Arsenal and though he has been injured at times, he has been able to make more than 100 appearances in less than three seasons.

4. Responsibility

It is no coincidence that Nasri's best performances for Arsenal have come in the absence of the talismanic Cesc Fabregas. Though the two midfielders can work together effectively, Nasri seems to thrive when there is more responsibility thrust on his young shoulders. He has shown the capability to lead the Gunners which has been noticed by Wenger who has made him the Captain on a couple of occasions.

There are many players who shirk away from responsibility and pressure but the talented Frenchman seems to play at his best when he is under pressure to perform. He has shown good leadership skills and has the capability to inspire the team by accepting responsibility on behalf of the team.

5. Determination and Hunger to Win Trophies

Nasri has a single minded objective of winning trophies with the Gunners and it is expected that he will sign a new contract with the Gunners. The midfielder who has been compared to the legendary Zinedine Zidane has the capability to conjure something special which could provide the confidence required for Arsenal to win titles.

He works his socks off in the games and provides adequate support to the fullbacks when the Gunners are on the back-foot. He has shown the willingness to develop into a world class player by working extremely hard and it is clear that he is determined to achieve success with Arsenal.

If Arsenal can win the final against Birmingham at Wembley, then they would have ended their five year trophy drought and it could be the birth of a new era led by the inspirational Samir Nasri.