Monday, March 28, 2011

Liverpool's Luis Suarez: The Striker That Wenger Should Have Signed for Arsenal

 Liverpool were languishing in mid-table and even the faithful Anfield supporters had thought that this season was destined for another huge failure. However, with the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as manager, it has reinvigorated the club who have enjoyed an excellent run in the Premiership which includes wins over Chelsea and arch-rivals Manchester United.

Even if the club does not secure an Europa league place, the season will be considered a success if Dalglish is appointed as the permanent manager and they fight till the end of the season. One of the new manager's huge decisions was the decision to sell Fernando Torres and bring on board, two quality strikers in Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.

Carroll had an injury which led to a delay in beginning his Liverpool career but Suarez has already been hugely influential for the club. He has had a hand in five goals in as many league matches which shows the impact he has had. Before the signing of Suarez, Liverpool did not have movement in their attacking half due to the lackadaisical performances of Torres and the general inability of some of the players to make creative runs.

However, Suarez has dropped deep and spread the ball well and has provided movement to Liverpool. He has enjoyed an excellent partnership with Kuyt and importantly, established an excellent understanding with Raul Meireles, who has arguably been Liverpool's best player since Dalglish took over at the club.

There will always be questions asked of a striker from  the Dutch league as to whether they can cope with the physicality and pace of the English Premier League. Suarez has dispelled these doubts in his short time at the club and seems destined for a bright career in the Premiership. Damien Comolli and other Liverpool officials should be applauded for their persistent efforts to sign the striker from Ajax while the new owners have provided the necessary funds and support to Liverpool FC.

But one manager, who could be looking at Luis Suarez as a lost opportunity is Arsenal manager Arsene
Wenger, who considers players above £20 million as above the budget for Arsenal. However, the performances of Suarez have highlighted that the gamble would be worth it. Wenger spent close to £10 million for Thierry Henry, which was quite high at that time and the value that they obtained is measured in the trophies that the Gunners won.

Though Arsenal have a quality centre forward in Robin van Persie, the Dutchman has frustratingly missed a number of matches for Arsenal due to unfortunate injuries. Suarez can play as a replacement for Van Persie in times he is injured which is a huge advantage for the Gunners. The problem with signing a quality forward is that he needs to play regularly but with the versatility of Suarez, he could be eased into the team and can play regularly.

Andrei Arshavin has been inconsistent for some parts of the season but is finally capturing his best form. Suarez could have replaced the Russian and could have provided the impetus to the Gunners. With pace, strength, skill and great shooting ability, he is the finished product who could have brought success to the Gunners.

Wenger has commented that he is unable to find players though he has the money but Suarez is one of those players that he should have invested in. Though Liverpool FC is traditionally a great club with a brilliant history, Arsenal FC have a better chance to win trophies in the near future and can offer Champions League football from the outset.

Arsenal could have offloaded the likes of Nicklas Bendtner or Carlos Vela to reduce the cash spent on the transfer since the duo have not been integral to the Gunners this season. While Chamakh has been an excellent signing for the Gunners, he does not possess the quality of Van Persie or Suarez which is why signing Suarez would have been a master-stroke by Wenger.

Tottenham was also interested in signing Suarez but with all due respect to the Spurs, they cannot be called a big club alongside the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal which is one of the reasons why Suarez declined the move. However, Arsenal could have attracted the Uruguayan and they also have former Ajax captain Thomas Vermaelen who could have helped him settle at the club.

Despite his recent struggles, Fernando Torres was a great striker for Liverpool but his departure has provided the Anfield faithful with another superb player in Suarez. The moment he jinxed past three Manchester United defenders to set up the goal for Kuyt, a new star had arrived for Liverpool; one that could take them back to the greatness.

While Suarez has influenced Liverpool's surge to the top six, Arsene Wenger will be pondering over a decision which could have brought trophies to the empty trophy cabinet at the Emirates.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arsenal FC: Could Jens Lehmann add Leadership to the Gunners?

Arsenal's Manuel Almunia made a number of important saves in the games against Barcelona and Manchester United and has the opportunity to establish himself as the no.1 keeper for the Gunners. The injuries to the in-form Lukasz Fabianski and talented Wojciech Szczesny has provided the opportunity for the forgotten Spaniard to show his quality. However he might have to fight for his place with none other than his old rival Jens Lehmann for the place.

Lehmann was training with his former club in England in order to gain his coaching badges but is apparently ready to answer Arsene Wenger's call for an emergency keeper signing. The injuries to Fabianski and Szczesny which have ruled them out for more than two months have left Wenger with few options and young James Shea made the bench against Manchester United.

The German goalkeeper retired this season after a two year spell with Stuttgart and looked set for gaining experience for being a goalkeeping coach at Arsenal. However the tendon injury to Szczesny has meant Wenger has to sign an emergency keeper and he did admit that he had a keeper in mind. Though he did not reveal the name, the media reports are concurring that the keeper most likely to join the Gunners on a short term contract is Jens Lehmann.

Lehmann is regarded as one of the finest keepers for Arsenal in the last decade and many supporters believe that Wenger failure to replace him with a top notch goalkeeper is one of the reasons for the title drought. The German was excellent in the 2003-04 "Invincibles" season which was the last time that Arsenal won the Premier League. With only 10 games to go in the League, the Gunners have a good chance of regaining the trophy after seven years.

At the age of 41, it is expected that he will not be possessing the same quality that he showed in his prime. But he has the experience of winning titles and his mentality will add something different to the dressing room and he will be of great help to Wenger in inspiring the Gunners who are currently down on confidence.

He has made mistakes in the past but if he still has good fitness, it will be an intelligent decision by Wenger to sign Lehmann. There are not many good options for a good emergency keeper and he might have had to sign a Championship keeper. However, Lehmann has vast Premiership experience and will instruct the defenders on what to do in tricky situations. He has excellent leadership qualities and that is exactly what the Gunners need in this situation.

He might not be the ideal keeper that Arsenal require to win the League but he will certainly be an important member in the squad and as Sol Campbell showed in the previous season, a leader will always be useful in these title run-ins.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Arsenal FC: Should Arsene Wenger Sell Russian Dynamo Andrei Arshavin next summer?

The Arsenal manager will have time to think about his side's prospects of ending their frustrating title drought by clinching the EPL title this year. Arsene Wenger and his team have endured a tough time in the last three weeks and they will need to show the maturity and mental toughness to produce good results in this title run-in.

From the next game, every single point they drop could decide the title in favour of Manchester United and the Gunners will need to win all the remaining fixtures in order to keep the destiny of the title race in their hands. There are already a section of Arsenal fans who do feel that Wenger can only take them this far and it requires a new manager who can drive them to trophies. However, the majority of the Arsenal board and the majority of the fans are prepared to give time for the French tactician, who is the greatest modern-day manager in the history of the club.

Arsene Wenger has often admitted his desire in keeping Andrei Arshavin at the club but the Russian is yet to sign an extension to his current contract, which expires at the end of the next season. Arsenal are a club which is run on a sound business model and it would make financial sense to sell Arshavin if he refuses to commit his immediate future to the club.

The Russian has impressive statistics to his name and is currently Arsenal's leader in terms of assists. However, his performances have not been consistent and he has come under scrutiny for some below-par performances. However, since the goal against Everton after coming on as a substitute, Arshavin has been close to his best and has played with a lot of confidence that was missing in the earlier part of the season.

Competition from Walcott

Despite his good performances, he is not assured of his place in the eleven due to the emergence of Theo Walcott who is currently injured. Walcott has performed admirably this season and has adds a new dimension to the team with his pace and direct running at defenders. At the age of 21, Walcott needs to play regularly and has justified the faith shown in him by the manager this season.

Nasri has been in sensational form this season which has earned him a place in the starting 11 whenever he has been fit. The Frenchman's versatility has also worked in his favour as he has played many games in different positions for the Gunners. However, if the midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Jack Wilshere are fit, then that would leave only the slots for wingers available.

Arshavin has been benched for some games this season and he has admitted that it has been tough for him. He is a player who thrives on confidence and has the ability to change the game with his brilliant creativity but his inconsistency has led him to be dropped in favour of English International Theo Walcott.

The Cesc Fabregas Situation

At the moment, it is debatable whether Barcelona will make efforts to sign the Spanish midfielder this summer. However, if they do try to sign and Cesc Fabregas is interested in the move, it is likely that Arsene Wenger will grant him the move he covets and could be playing in a Barcelona shirt next season. The Frenchman is not the type to spend big money to sign a replacement for Fabregas and there is a possibility that Nasri could play in that role.

In that case, Arshavin will be Arsenal's first choice winger on the left and he will be provided with many opportunities. However, Wenger could also promote either Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey which would mean Nasri and Walcott would continue on the wings. Arshavin would be an extremely useful player to have if the influential Fabregas leaves the club as the Russian has the armoury to unlock any defence in the world.

Arshavin's Experience Invaluable to the Team

This Arsenal team has a number of players who have not won many trophies and do not have enough experience at the top level. Arshavin is a senior International who has captained his team in many big games and his experience could be invaluable to the team. Also, he has the ability to influence the team when the chips are down and that is a characteristic which many youngsters could lack at the top level.

It is evident that Arshavin is an influential player for the Gunners even if he is not in the best form and that is the primary reason why Arsene Wenger would like to hold on to the creative Russian. Arshavin's experience could help in the title run-in and he could have a major impact on the team.

Promising Prospects: Ryo Miyaichi, Carlos Vela and others

Arsenal have a number of talented youngsters who could stake a claim for the left midfield and some of them are on loan in order to gain experience at the top level. Ryo Miyaichi,who was loaned out to Feyenoord, is currently in excellent form producing some exciting performances for the Dutch club. It is clear that Miyaichi needs to develop more physicality and also, another loan spell would suit him to hone his skills better. He is an undoubted talent but one more year of regular top level football would make him more suited for Arsenal.

Carlos Vela has been loaned out to West Brom but he has not enjoyed much playing time which is strange considering he has performed quite well when given the opportunity. Vela needs more playing time before he can challenge for first team places or else, he could only be a squad players.

There are other youngsters like Henry Lansbury, Connor Henderson and Jay Emmanuel Thomas who are quite talented but it will be some time before they can be integrated into the first team.

Arsene Wenger is a manager who does not like to spend much on a player and there are not many wingers in the world who could replace a quality player like Arshavin in the Arsenal team. If Wenger does identify his transfer targets, it is likely to cost him quite a big amount. Eden Hazard was one of the targets but his recent long term contract with Lille indicates he will not be moving this summer.

Arsenal need Quality Players to Win Trophies

The Gunners are in the midst of a frustrating title drought which adds to the pressure on this young team. In this situation, it is better for Arsenal to hold on to their quality players who can win games with their brilliance. Andrei Arshavin is a quality player who has the ability to notch important goals and also, contribute in breaking down may defences with his superb creativity.
Arsenal are in a strong financial position and are in no need to sell their best players. If Arshavin does not sign a new contract, it is better to lose him at the end of the next season which will hopefully add trophies to the cabinet. By the end of next season, the likes of Miyaichi, Lansbury and Vela would have been better equipped to deal with the challenges at the top level and can fill the void left by Arshavin.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cesc Fabregas Transfer Saga: Should Arsenal Allow Him to Move to FC Barcelona?

Cesc Fabregas has played with injury and pain and has made his best efforts to conquer trophies with Arsenal. The captain has been inspirational for the Gunners on several occasions in the past but he is not a natural leader and his captaincy has come under the scanner many times this season after their spectacular collapses against Tottenham and Newcastle. Though there are many critics who have criticised him for his leadership, his presence on the pitch for the Gunners has been sorely missed in the last few weeks.

The Spanish midfielder is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world and is arguably Arsenal's most influential player in recent seasons. Fabregas is the creative hub around which the team revolves and his presence in midfield allows more freedom for Jack Wilshere who has established a brilliant understanding with him. Though he has developed into a world class player at Arsenal, the lack of trophies at the club has frustrated him.

He has tried his best to win trophies with the club but injuries to many key players have derailed the challenge in recent seasons. In this season, he has struggled with recurring hamstring injuries which is a worry for the long term future of the player considering the struggles encountered by Michael Owen in the past. Wenger has managed this Arsenal team to immense success in the past but his frugality in the transfer market have played a part in this trophy drought.

Fabregas has enjoyed success with the Spain National team in the World Cup and the European Championship but has had little to show in terms of silverware in his time at Arsenal. However, the former Barcelona youth player has seen his friends at FC Barcelona conquer many trophies and build a legacy. Barcelona have a team that is capable of beating any team in the world but they would like to sign their former youth player.

The midfielder, who laid the assist for the goal in the World Cup final, has admitted that he would love to return to the club if they do require his services. The Blaugrana have sought the services of the young midfielder and made official bids to sign the Arsenal captain. However, Arsenal's reluctance to negotiate any deal and Wenger's excellent relationship with Fabregas made the transfer impossible last summer.

Though Fabregas has a long term contract with Arsenal, it is likely that he would move from Arsenal before the end of the contract. The Gunners will find it extremely tough to persuade their captain to stay if he does want a move from the Emirates. Wenger is a manager, who does not like to hold on to unhappy players in the squad and if they do not win the EPL this season, there is a good possibility that he will let Fabregas leave if the offer matches Arsenal's valuation of the Spanish International.

Though replacing a midfielder of his calibre is extremely difficult, Arsenal have two excellent youngsters in
Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere who have an important role to play in the long term future of the club. Ramsey has completely recovered from his long term injury and could still play an important role in the title run-in this year. Wilshere has been the revelation of the season without a doubt and has cemented his place in the starting 11 with excellent performances throughout the season.

Arsenal could manage to sign an experienced attacking midfielder for less than half the money obtained from Fabregas while they could also strengthen their team with an experienced Premiership defender and a defensive midfielder to provide depth to the squad. The money which will be around the fee paid by Chelsea to obtain Fernando Torres could be utilised to bring a number of quality players to the club.

However, if Arsene Wenger decides to invest the money in the Arsenal savings account, the trophy cabinet is certain to remain empty. He must replace the outgoing Fabregas with a quality midfielder for Arsenal to challenge for trophies next season. The decision on whether to sell Fabregas boils down to two things: the EPL title this year and Fabregas' decision.

If Arsenal do lift the EPL title, there is still a good possibility that Cesc Fabregas will stay but if they do not, it is unlikely that Wenger will be able to convince his captain to stay on. If Fabregas does leave the club, there will be a number of issues to consider for the Arsenal manager including the decision of captaincy but it does not spell doom for the club in any way.

Wenger must spend to buy proven performers for Arsenal and utilize the money obtained from the transfer to invest in more quality players to supplement the likes of Van Persie, Nasri and Wilshere. At the moment, the Arsenal manager will not entertain any thoughts regarding the transfer of Cesc Fabregas because they must concentrate on fighting till the end of the season.

The Frenchman will know that he will have a great opportunity to persuade Fabregas to stay if they do win the EPL and it will be another reason why Arsenal and Wenger, in particular, will be desperate to achieve consistency at this stage of the season.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Arsenal FC: Why "Mad" Jens Lehmann should be no.1 goalkeeper ahead of "Calamity" Almunia

Jens Lehmann was present on the bench for the Gunners for the first time this season after he had signed a rolling contract in the last week. Arsenal had a tough trip to the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion knowing that only a win will bring confidence to the side who had been eliminated from all cup competitions in a fortnight.

Aaron Ramsey made his first start for the Gunners in more than a year and Arsenal named quite a strong team to face West Brom. The Baggies had the lead when Reid scored from a corner with Arsenal defenders not quite sharp enough. From then on, it was an uphill battle for the Gunners who had plenty of possession but did not create too many clear-cut chances.

Robin van Persie hit the cross-bar and Ramsey, who was following up, managed to only shoot straight at Scott Carson. But without their captain Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song, they lacked the drive in midfield and toiled their way in search of a goal. In the second half, Wenger hauled off the unimpressive Denilson to bring on Marouane Chamakh to partner Van Persie.

Arsenal were building a good spell of pressure when Almunia proved that experience makes no difference for some players. It was a clearance from West Bromwich Albion which led to the second goal. Odemwingie was isolated and had no support from his team mates. He was shielded by Squillaci whose positioning if not the best was certainly not the worst. Almunia took a stupid decision to come out of the box to clear the ball and all the striker needed to do was to roll it into the empty net.

It is quite likely that had Djourou been present, Arsenal would not have conceded the opener and if Szczesny had played, he would not have made such a useless decision. Though Szczesny made an error in the Birmingham game in the Cup final, it was due to a communication error than a goalkeeping mistake. Szczesny has shown great maturity in the games this season and Fabianski has shown that he can be consistently good for the Gunners.

Arsenal's late fightback salvaged a point for the Gunners but the bitter taste left by Almunia's mistake is hard to take for an Arsenal supporter. In the reverse fixture at the Emirates, Almunia was the no.1 keeper and had performed decently in the few matches before the game. He made a good penalty save but made "school-boy" errors in the game which cost the Gunners all three points. It seemed at that point that his Arsenal career was over with Fabianski and later Szczesny impressing in his absence.

Arsenal's extraordinary bad luck meant that both their keepers would get injured and Almunia would again get the chance to be the no.1 keeper till the end of the season. Almunia was excellent in the game against Barca where it was only shot-stopping. His horrible decision making and his inability to control the penalty area have led to Arsenal squandering a number of points in the last few seasons.

Almunia was again handed the chance to redeem himself against West Brom and has cost Arsenal another two points. In seven league appearances, Almunia has cost Arsenal five points which could have been avoided had he not made errors. On the other hand, Lukasz Fabianski has made 14 appearances and the goal by Carroll is the only goal that he could have probably done better. In games against Wolves, Everton and Manchester City, he was one of the best performers and even won some man of the match awards.

Szczesny has made eight appearances in the league and has won a number of plaudits for his faultless performances in the league. Almunia has been given a number of opportunities by Wenger and he is clearly below the standard of an Arsenal keeper and has contributed to Arsenal's trophy drought with his numerous errors including one against Birmingham last year which was the start of the slump for the Gunners.

Jens Lehmann was signed by Wenger and cut a frustrated figure after the error by Almunia. "Mad" Jens and Almunia have had a cold relationship in the past and despite all that Lehmann has said after joining, he will gladly accept the challenge to fight for the no.1 keeper slot. The German has already won trophies with the Gunners and knows what it means to play for a team like Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger would not have provided an opportunity for Jens Lehmann if he was not convinced of the German's reflexes and fitness. Lehmann has two weeks to have more training but should be given the chance by Wenger to start ahead of Arsenal for the game against Blackburn Rovers. He is sure to have a go at the defenders if he is not pleased with their efforts and his experience and command is what Arsenal need at this juncture.

Almunia's career should have ended against West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates back in September but Wenger must ensure it ends after another horror show by Almunia against West Brom at the Hawthorns. Lehmann was dispossessed of the no.1 keeper slot by Almunia and must be provided with the honour of stripping the Spaniard's goalkeeping slot for Arsenal.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Barcelona vs. Arsenal: Assessing the Battle of Xavi and Messi vs. Fabregas and Robin van Persie

It was a night to remember at the Emirates as Arsenal defeated Barcelona for the first time ever with goals from Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin cancelling out the lone goal from David Villa. The Gunners showed the fight and hunger to defeat the Spanish giants and were rewarded for their endeavour as they take that slender advantage to the Nou Camp.

The Barcelona players stressed that they were the better team on the night though the result did not reflect that but did accept that their profligacy in front of goal had let Arsenal off the hook. Pep Guardiola’s team were the better team for 60 minutes in which time they had scored through Villa and also managed to create many more chances.

Lionel Messi was amongst the chief culprits on the night missing a host of chances which was uncharacteristic of the Argentine wizard. But the Argentina International will try his best to make amends and reproduce that scintillating performance against the Gunners one year back.

Messi is a player who is capable of producing the magic capable of bewitching the best defenders in the world and he will be required to be at his best to ensure that the Blaugrana do not suffer an early exit from the tournament. Laurent Koscielny had his best game of his Arsenal career against Barcelona and will again need to be at his best in order to shackle the brilliance of Messi.

During the course of this one year between the last two meeting, much of the controversy involving the two teams have been about the future of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas. The Catalan club tried their best to bring back their former youth player but Arsene Wenger and Arsenal stood firm in confirming that the player was not for sale.

The saga did damage the relationship between the clubs and the signing of Barcelona youth player Jon Miquel Toral just before the first leg added spice to the tie. Fabregas returns to his home in Spain but with an aim to defeat his former club. Though many critics have questioned his commitment to the Gunners, he has always put in his best efforts for the club which has helped him develop into a world class player.

The Spanish midfielder was not at his best against Barcelona in the first leg but he did create spaces for his team mates and his vision helped Arsenal produce good attacking play though they had less possession. His pass to find Nasri which lead to the second goal was very important and his presence on the pitch will be enormous for the Gunners.

His return to the Nou Camp will be emotional personally but being the professional that he is, he will look to perform for the Gunners in a manner which will make the Blaugrana all the more interested to take him back. He is expected to replace the excellent Xavi Hernandez when the Spanish legend retires.

However Xavi has been as consistent as ever and his influence on the game will be a key factor for Barcelona. The Spanish maestro will spray passes all over the pitch and link all the attacking riches of their team with beautiful passes. He is the chief creator for the team and Arsenal will need to stop his regular supply of through balls to the forward line. The trio of Busquets, Iniesta and Xavi play in triangles which are impossible to break down but it is likely that Busquets might have to play the role of a centre back due to the absence of two regular centre backs, Gerard Pique through suspension and Carles Puyol through injury.

The Barcelona backline will be relatively weak for the game as opposed to their first choice defence and Arsenal’s attacking talents including the likes of Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri will try to take full advantage of that. But the player who made the difference in the first leg and could again have a huge role to play is Robin van Persie who stunned Victor Valdes by scoring from an extraordinary angle.

Van Persie was expected to be out till the beginning of April for sure and even the most optimistic of supporters would not have been expecting him to feature in this game. But it has been the shock inclusion of Van Persie which has given the Gunners a huge boost ahead of this game after their draw against Sunderland. The Dutchman’s presence is bound to provide confidence to the Gunners and he has the ability to conjure brilliant goals from nothing.

Though Messi and Fabregas will be the names around which most of the discussions revolve, they must have the support from all the other players, especially Xavi Hernandez and Robin van Persie, respectively. This is a game which will feature some of the best talents in the world and it will be 90 minutes of intriguing action which will separate the winners.

The stadium will be completely filled and the vibe that they generate will also be important for the Blaugrana. It is all set for the game to begin and let us hope for an exciting match between two of the most positive teams in the world.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Arsenal FC: Why Koscielny and Djourou Are More Important Than Van Persie's Injuries

There have been many questions raised regarding Arsenal's capability to win titles and many have written off the Gunners after the injury to Robin Van Persie. The injury to Van Persie could be a huge factor but Arsenal are still firmly hanging onto the coat tails of United. Though the Red Devils are the favourites in the title race, the Gunners have a great opportunity to snatch the title by being consistent during this time of the year.

The Gunners suffered a morale sapping defeat against Birmingham in the Carling Cup final but the defeat of Manchester United by Chelsea provided a huge boost to Arsenal's title hopes. The performance against Leyton Orient was largely pleasing for Arsenal supporters after the loss and has provided them renewed hope in the three competitions. But many Gooners are still skeptical of Arsenal's title hopes due to injuries sustained by various players.

Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Thomas Vermaelen are very important players who are currently injured but apart from Vermaelen, the rest will be back in this month. But the reason why supporters fear that their team will be short is the injury to key striker Robin Van Persie, who was in scintillating form prior to the injury.

Van Persie has had a history of injuries in his Arsenal career and many people point to his injuries as the reason for Arsenal's failures in the last five years. The Dutch striker is capable of conjuring many magical moments which has contributed to the Gunners having a successful run since the turn of this year. However, his injury has ruled him out for three weeks but as has been the case in the past, it could turn out to be more than that before the Dutchman starts for the Gunners.

This has led to many Arsenal supporters doubting their title credentials and how they could cope without the talented striker. One of the main reasons why the Gunners should be confident is the presence of two fit and experienced strikers in Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner. Though the former has not been in good form, he has shown to be a very capable player and is one of the main reasons why Arsenal remain in the title race.

Nicklas Bendtner was excellent at this time of the year, last season when he netted many important goals including the one at the Nou Camp. He is never short of confidence and is expected to play a key role in Arsenal's title challenge this year. Many believe that Van Persie's injury was the reason for their inability to win last year.

However, the fact remains though Arsenal's scoring rate dropped considerably, it was not in attack that they floundered last year. The Gunners did not defend well and injuries to Johan Djourou and William Gallas left the Gunners with little defensive options as a result of which they conceded a number of goals. Wenger admitted after the last season that they had lost the title due to slack defending and overhauled the defence this season.

The injury to Thomas Vermaelen at the start of the season has been a huge blow for the Gunners and the new signings, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci needed time to adjust to the rigours of the Premiership. Though they both seem capable players, their partnership has been poor for the Gunners which has contributed to their inconsistency this season.

It is no coincidence that Arsenal's superb form this year has been with the defensive partnership of Djourou and Koscielny. It was a surprise selection from Wenger when he fielded this partnership for the game against Chelsea and dropped Squillaci after a decent performance against Manchester United. But Djourou has been immense this season and has repaid the manager's faith with some commanding performances at the back.

Though Koscielny has been criticized by a number of people this season, he has excelled beside the Swiss International and has been integral for the Gunners. It was his mistake which cost the Gunners the Carling Cup but one should not slaughter the lad based on one error. He is the reason why Arsenal are in with a chance of beating Barcelona and was outstanding at the Emirates in that game.

Koscielny and Djourou have been helped by the impressive performances of Wojciech Szczesny and the fullbacks Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have also been solid at the back. Arsenal have been miserly in conceding goals when Koscielny and Djourou have played together and they have developed an excellent understanding which has provided stability.

Thomas Vermaelen is expected to return for the last few games of the season which could yet prove vital for the Gunners but these two's performances have made it possible for the Gunners to be solid without the presence of the talented Belgium International. There were many people who had written off Arsenal after the injury to Vermaelen and Van Persie at the start of the season but Djourou, Koscielny, Chamakh and Nasri have proved that they can be inspirational for the club.

Van Persie's loss will be a big blow for the Gunners considering his superb form this year but the solid performances of Djourou and Koscielny coupled with the ammunition provided by Fabregas, Nasri and others should be enough to demolish quality opponents. Arsenal have an excellent opportunity to win the season despite the injury to Van Persie because Koscielny and Djourou have built a solid partnership that they have lacked in the past, which has been the cause for their downfall.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Arsenal's Marouane Chamakh Could Be the Key Factor in the Gunner's Title Chase

Arsenal supporters were distraught by the defeat against Birmingham City at Wembley in the Carling Cup final and it was further bad news that their best striker Robin van Persie was injured in the game. The Dutchman has had a long history of injury woes and though the initial prognosis rules him out for only around three to four weeks, supporters will be anxious with regard to his recovery considering that it could turn out to be longer than that for the talented striker.

However, the Gunners were handed a morale boost in the title boost due to the defeat of Manchester United against a rejuvenated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal proved that they can cope without the imposing presence of Van Persie against Leyton Orient, whose golden run was halted by the Gunners at the Emirates.

With the game against Sunderland on Saturday, it could prove to be extremely important as to which decision Wenger takes regarding his strikers. Marouane Chamakh scored for the first time for the Gunners in around three months while Nicklas Bendtner scored a well taken hat-trick which proved that he has the calibre to be a top class striker in the future.

Wenger has shown a tendency towards favoring the Dane striker ahead of the Moroccan for the role of the lead striker in the recent past and Bendtner is looking completely fit and on form. It is likely that Bendtner will get the nod for the game against Sunderland while Chamakh continues his wait to recover his superb form at the start of the season.

It is surprising that Chamakh has endured a lot of criticism for his current loss in form which has been mainly due to a combination of fatigue and loss in confidence. He started in plenty of games for the Gunners this season and is one of the main reasons why Arsenal are still in the race for the Premier League title.

Injuries to Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner could have ruined Arsenal's season but the Moroccan's full efforts ensured that the Gunners will have a physical presence upfront. He said that he had lost his edge due to the number of games he played and that he would be rejuvenated by March. As it turns out, Van Persie will be injured for the whole of March and it is up to Marouane Chamakh to lead the Gunners in this tricky month of fixtures.

Bendtner has also done extremely well since making his comeback but his versatility could be utilized by Wenger considering that Tomas Rosicky has not been at his best this season. Though critics have questioned Chamakh's abilities,  a striker who is able to score 11 goals by the end of November in his debut season in the Premiership is a quality player and if he is given a run of games, Chamakh can regain his form and confidence.

Nicklas Bendtner's goals and assists towards the end of the last season proved to be extremely vital but ultimately in vain as the rest of the team could not step up to the title run-in due to plenty of injuries. However, with the Dane in good form and Marouane Chamakh to support him, Arsenal have two strikers who are capable of leading the Gunners to victories in the absence of the influential Robin van Persie.