Tag Archives: derby

Arsene Wenger blasts former Arsenal defender after derby defeat

Arsene Wenger blasts former Arsenal defender after derby defeat – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Arsene Wenger has hit back at Martin Keown’s criticism of Arsenal’s defence.

The former Gunners centre-back blasted Arsenal’s defensive performance as they lost the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Saturday.

Wenger admitted the result was a huge blow to his team’s hopes of securing a top four finish in the Premier League, but he was unhappy with Keown’s suggestion that his team lacked the fight to deal with Spurs’ striker Harry Kane.

“I don’t think they lack hunger to defend,” said Wenger.

“They got caught by a super striker who is one of the best in the world. He scores against everybody.

“All the defenders in the world must lack hunger then.”

The 1-0 defeat left Arsenal sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool who have a game in hand. The Gunners’ best hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League is likely to be by winning the Europa League, but Wenger insists his team will keep fighting.

“The top four is difficult now as this is a game we could not afford to lose, but it’s too early (to focus on winning the Europa League),” he added.

“Football is not about switching off for three games and then switching it on for one game.

“Manchester United decided that once they were in the semi-final to focus on Europa League (last season).

“We are far from the semi-final and we have to fight to have a chance to come back.

“For me, it’s a very disappointing result because the priority has to be to get into the Champions League from the Premier League.

“I’m not a great fan of qualifying through the Europa League because I don’t think it’s right.

“If it’s an opportunity, we’ll have to try to take it as well. The priority is still to be in the Premier League.”

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

Can Arsenal repeat the quality performance of the last North London derby?

Last November Arsenal went into the first North London derby of the season with a touch of trepidation. It was the first game back after an Interlull, before which we’d been beaten 3-1 by Man City and serious questions were being asked of the team.

On the day we put in one of our best performances of the season, perhaps still the best despite scoring five against Everton twice because you have to take into account the gulf in quality between the opposition. Goals from Shkodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez gave us a 2-0 win, and although that was followed by victories against Burnley and Huddersfield, our Premier League form since has been patchy.

We’ve won just six of the fourteen games since that derby triumph, and although spirits have been lifted by the arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan we’ve yet to display anything like the consistency we need – and with a top four chase heading into its final stages, time is running out.

On that day at the Emirates, the win was built off the platform of a superb defensive performance. The back three of Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal were, to a man, outstanding, and the sight of both Harry Kane and Dele Alli being hauled off having had no impact on the game whatsoever was a very enjoyable one.

It’s why I think that we’ll use the same back three today. It’s not just because this is a game which is ostensibly away from home, but because it worked so well back then. Maybe it gives Sp*rs a chance to find a way to deal with it, but it’s hard to see Arsene Wenger using a back four today regardless of how well it worked last weekend. I say this knowing that second guessing Wenger is a difficult task and he could easily decide to go for it with a back four, but it would be a risk.

As I wrote during the week he’s got a decision to make about who plays at left wing-back, the more natural Sead Kolasinac or Ainsley Maitland-Niles? If it were me, despite his lack of form, I think I’d go for the Bosnian because of his experience, but if it’s the other way around I’d be ok with that.

Three at the back means losing one from further up the pitch, and it feels like Alex Iwobi is the obvious man to miss out there. A front three of Aubameyang with Ozil and Mkhitaryan in behind is both a statement of intent and one which will give them something to think about. It’s new and different, making us more unpredictable as a team, and when it comes right down to it they’re our three best attacking options so anything other than that would be a huge surprise.

The only other question then is which midfield duo he’ll play and I can’t look beyond him picking Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka because that’s what he’s done for most of this season. Like many I would have some reservations about them as a duo. It can work, we’ve seen that, but it’s also a partnership not without its flaws, and they will have be seriously disciplined today against a side that will look to take advantage of the space they often leave between them.

But then hard work should be a given going into a derby, and you won’t win a match like this without it. The players know that as well as anyone, and even if they’re a little concerned about this being a game away from home when our form on the road has been so patchy, the fact that we’re playing at Wembley should help.

This is not the same as going to White Hart Lane. This is a stadium we know well, and at which we’ve had a great record over the last few years. Whatever that mental block we have about away games is, it shouldn’t really apply today. I hope that’s the case anyway, because this really is a massive game.

Arsene Wenger says he’s not giving up on the top four, and it was telling at his press conference when he more or less rejected the idea that this was ‘must not lose’ game for Arsenal, insisting that we’d be out to win it. I can see what he means, the amount of fixtures left is ever decreasing and three points today would really put a bit of pressure on the teams above us.

That said, a defeat would leave us 7 behind Sp*rs, and if Liverpool and Chelsea win their games this weekend against Southampton and West Brom we’d be 9 and 8 points behind them respectively. Do we have to take a bit more risk today, go all in for the win and to get the points we need, or does there need to be some measure of caution with another 11 games to go after today?

It’s difficult, and I hope that it doesn’t have an impact on our performance. All we can say is that we know we can beat them, we’ve done it before this season, and on our day we’re good enough to take three points off almost everyone. The worry is that when it’s not our day, we can drop them to anyone too. Let’s hope it’s one of the former when we kick off at 12.30.

If you can’t follow the game later, remember we’ll have full live blog coverage for you, with up to the second text commentary which you can follow on your phone, tablet, computer or whatever else you use. And we’ll have all the post-match stuff, report, ratings, stats etc over on Arseblog News.

Time for breakfast, a walk with the dog, then the game. Come on you reds.

4-2-3-1 v Arsenal: Pochettino's strongest possible Spurs lineup for today's derby game; Stats & Predictions

4-2-3-1 v Arsenal: Pochettino’s strongest possible Spurs lineup for today’s derby game; Stats & Predictions – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Tottenham vs Arsenal
English Premier League 2017/18
10th February, 12:30 pm BST
Wembley, London
Live Stream: Watch Tottenham vs Arsenal live on BT Sport 1

Tottenham vs Arsenal Preview

Tottenham host Arsenal in the North London Derby this weekend and both teams will be desperate for the three points.

Both teams are chasing a top-four finish and they cannot afford to drop points against each other.

Spurs are heading into this game on the back of a 2-2 draw at Anfield and Arsenal managed to thrash Everton 5-1 in their last game. Neither side is lacking in confidence right now and this should be a feisty contest.

Tottenham vs Arsenal Team News

Spurs have a fully fit squad to choose from for the derby game. Meanwhile, Arsenal will be without Cazorla for this one.

Predicted Tottenham Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama, Dembele; Eriksen, Son, Alli; Kane

Predicted Arsenal Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi; Aubameyang

Tottenham vs Arsenal Betting Tips

There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Arsenal’s last 5 games in the Premier League.

Tottenham are undefeated in their last 12 home matches in the Premier League. Bet on Spurs to win or draw.

Tottenham have been winning at both half time and full time in 5 of their last 6 home matches in the Premier League. Bet on the hosts to win both halves.

Tottenham vs Arsenal Prediction

Both teams will be up for this game and it should be a close contest.

It will be hard to separate them on current form and they are likely to cancel each other out.

A draw seems most likely.

Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

Wolves fancied to deliver 8/1 bookie-basher against QPR; 2/1 double with Derby looks tempting

Wolves fancied to deliver 8/1 bookie-basher against QPR; 2/1 double with Derby looks tempting – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Championship pundit David Prutton has backed Wolverhampton Wanderers to continue the relentless march into the Premier League with a victory over QPR on Saturday.

Wolves head into the game 11 points clear of Derby County at the top of the table, while QPR are currently down in 15th place.

Prutton believes the league leaders will prove too strong for Rangers and has tipped them to record a 3-0 success (8/1 with Sky Bet).

“Wolves looked a cut above the rest against Sheffield United last week, it’s as simple as that,” he told Sky Sports.

“Any fears of a dip have been put to bed with back-to-back wins and they regained some of their swagger against the Blades.

“QPR got a very important win against Barnsley last week and will be brave enough under Ian Holloway to go for it at Molineux, but that could well be their downfall.”

Wolves have won just one of their last five matches against QPR, but they look a banker bet to pick up three points this weekend.

The home side are priced at 4/9 to defeat QPR – put them in a double with Derby County (21/20) to beat Norwich City for a near 2/1 return.

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

Early derby team news + that whole diving thing

Arsene Wenger met the press yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s North London derby at Wembley, and the latest team news is that there’s a real doubt over Petr Cech who picked up a calf knock during the 5-1 win over Everton.

Should he not make it, it will David Ospina in goal, and the manager publicly declared his full faith in the Colombian if he’s brought into action. I mean, you’d expect nothing less. Saying any other than that is hardly the right way to prepare a player for a game of this magnitude.

“It’s a real blow to be without Cech, but I suppose Ospina will have to do,” is not going to inspire him to a top performance. Of course there is the question about how much of a blow it is to be without the number 1, although personally I prefer him because he’s got a neck, his arms extend to greater length to make saves and he commands his area better than his counterpart.

On the other hand though, I believe I’ve seen Ospina save a penalty in my lifetime – perhaps only for his country though – and given their propensity for, and instruction to, fall over in the box at all times, that might come in useful. Wenger was asked about the comments made by Mauricio Pochettino after the diving furore after their 2-2 draw over Liverpool.

The Argentine said, “Football is about trying to trick your opponent. Yes or no?”, which is true when it comes to moments of skill, teamwork or tactical invention, but diving is about getting your opponent into trouble and tricking the referee, which is a very different thing altogether.

I was quite happy to read those comments ahead of this game, because referees don’t like to be fooled, and if it casts some doubt in the mind of Anthony Taylor during tomorrow’s game, then maybe that will be a positive thing for us. If he sees Dele Alli go down in the box, it must surely be in his mind that potentially he’s cheating again, like he did last week when he picked up yet another booking for simulation.

Wenger is a wise old goat in many respects, and although I don’t have any truck with the tabloid line about how he ‘blasted’ the Sp*rs players with what he said, saw that there was a chance for him to hammer home the point about how they love a tumble. He said:

I remember there were tremendous cases here when the foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they may be the masters now.

He said it with a smile on his face, and although he didn’t name anyone, it’s clear he was referencing the Kane/Alli incidents to some extent. It remains to be seen whether it will have any impact, but I thought another exchange was interesting:

Journo: Do you actively tell you players not to dive?

Wenger: I don’t tell my players to dive

Journo: Do you tell them not dive.

Wenger: I don’t encourage them to dive at all.

Which is, of course, is still not quite saying ‘Do not dive’, because as much as we want clean football – as far as that’s possible – managers know that penalties are rarely awarded for heroics and trying to stay on your feet. If there’s sufficient contact, you should go down. Even then you’re not guaranteed to get a penalty, we’ve had a few bad decisions go against us this season for what I thought were fairly blatant spot-kicks, but it would be foolish for any manager to encourage his players to stay upright if they’ve been fouled in the box.

Going down without any contact though, like Alli at the weekend, or doing what Kane did – which is knock the ball beyond a keeper then fall into to him to initiate contact – is different. That last one in particular wrecks my head because we see it so often and it’s so widely accepted as penalty when 99% of the time it’s the striker who tumbles into his opponent rather than the opponent taking him out.

If you want to be generous about it, you’d say Sp*rs – particularly under Pochettino’s management – are a cynical side. They foul a lot, rotational fouling to disrupt the rhythm of the opposition and they go down easily to win free kicks and penalties. That’s under instruction, no question, and they won’t be the first or last side to play that way. However, perhaps there’s a bit more spotlight on the way they play, and if referees wise up to it even a little bit, it will make their lives more difficult.

It should also be said that we’ve had players who have dived and although I hate seeing it the mental gymnastics you can perform as a fan desperate to win a game mean you can come to terms with it pretty easily. I also thoroughly enjoy a cynical foul on halfway to stop a break, but at least that is what it is. There’s no pretence or deception about it, which is what drives people mad about diving.

Kick. Yellow card. Thank you very much. For some it’s an ugly occurrence, but I’d rather watch my player get booked than see an opponent waltz through the open spaces of our midfield and create danger in our final third. Anyway, it’s probably one of the only things that all football fans agree on: diving is bad.

The arguments and debates come from trying to figure out what’s a dive or not, who did the dive, how important the dive was in the overall scheme of the match and if an Arsenal player takes a tumble tomorrow to win us a penalty that wins the match, how many of us are genuinely going to be outraged by it? Exactly.

Right, there’s more on the whole diving thing with Ken Early in this week’s Arsecast, along with Amy Lawrence looking ahead to the derby and lots more. Check it out below.

For some extra reading, here’s Tim Stillman on Mesut Ozil, and I’ll catch you tomorrow for a preview of the game, a live blog and all the rest. Until then.


Three questions as the North London derby build-up begins

Morning all. The build up the derby begins in earnest today with Arsene Wenger set to meet the press this morning. The early, if unofficial, team news, suggests that Petr Cech should be fit, Nacho Monreal has recovered from illness, and Danny Welbeck is back in contention for a place in the squad.

All of those things will be confirmed by the manager later on, and there are other questions that hopefully he’ll answer as we prepare for what is a crucial Wembley encounter. Such as:

Back three or back four?

The back four worked well at home against Crystal Palace and Everton. We won both games, scored 9 goals and conceded two, but it did not work when we went to Swansea in the middle of those two fixtures. You could ask if it was simply an off night all round, and that’s probably not too far from the truth as individual errors were the real problem rather than the formation, but given our away form this season it feels like it goes a bit beyond that.

There’s a psychological issue plaguing the players on the road. It’s not their technical quality, but something inside their heads. Given that one of our best performances of the season was the 2-0 win over Sp*rs earlier in the season, and that we played that day with a back three, I’d be very, very surprised if we didn’t use that formation on Saturday.

It’d mean Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal forming that defensive trio, but that system also raises another question:

Who plays left wing-back?

Ordinarily, you’d say the obvious choice would be the experienced international player who we brought in, it seems, to play in that very position, but Sead Kolasinac has been struggling of late. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. He looked very promising early on, even if he had some defensive issues to work on, but he had a hip injury and since then his form has slumped.

There have been issues with his passing, at least three times this season his pass completion rate has been below 60% which, for a player in his position, is well below what’s required. It’s hard not to think he’s having a hard time physically, perhaps the injury is still affecting him and with that his confidence has taken a knock too, and all of those things and a loss of form have left him in a difficult place.

It’s too early to write him off, remember this is a man selected in the Bundesliga team of the season last year, but we can’t be blind to how hard he’s finding it at the moment. When Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaced Nacho Monreal at left back in the first half of the Crystal Palace game a few weeks back, it was a sign that the manager is, at the moment, unconvinced by the Bosnian’s form and/or fitness.

Wenger has shown that he’s got no worries about playing the 20 year old in big games, selecting him against Liverpool and Chelsea, but you still have to weigh up the risk of playing an inexperienced player out of position for a game as important and pressurised as this one.

It’s not an easy decision. On form, Maitland-Niles seems a good option, he’s quick and won’t be overawed by the occasion. On the other hand, Kolasinac played in the 2-0 win and did well, so it’s one that will give Wenger some thought I’m sure.

How away is this game?

If we were going to White Hart Lane I think I’d be feeling a bit more nervous about this one because of our poor record away from home this season, but we’re not. We’re going to Wembley, a ground we know well, and a place where we’ve had a lot of success in recent years.

We know this isn’t their home, they’re only squatting for a season while they do what they’re doing to their stadium, and it shouldn’t feel like a proper away game because of that. It won’t as noisy or atmospheric as normal, and any little thing we can hang on to to make this less of an away game the better.

On away games only, we sit 10th in the Premier League table with a record that says: Played 13, Won 3, Lost 6, Drawn 4 and with a goal difference of -6. Just 13 points on the road this season. In that not real table of just away games, the top 5 are the same teams that occupy the top 5 in the actual table, with Saturday’s opposition in 5th with 21 points. It tells a story.

Like many, I was hugely encouraged by what we did against Everton and how we played, but until we can add some solidity on the road, and find some measure of consistency for these games, it’s going to remain a big worry. We’ve put in good defensive performances away at Chelsea a couple of times this season, and people would say we’ve got the measure of them because of how often we’ve played.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to do something similar on Saturday. We know how they want to play, who they want to get the ball to and where, and the game at the Emirates in November was the blueprint for what we need to do this weekend. It’s certainly within our capability, but the wildcard of our away form still looms large over this one.

We’ll have all the team news and more from the press conference over on Arseblog News this morning. Tim Stillman will be here with his column later on, and I’ll be back tomorrow with an Arsecast and more.

Until then.