April 30, 2009
After last night's Champions League Semi-Final first leg at Old Trafford, Arsenal can consider themselves very fortunate to still be in the tie. In a traumatic first half, the home team created enough good chances to have killed the Gunners off but Arsene Wenger's young charges managed to somehow restrict United to only a one-goal lead. They came into the game a bit more in the second period but did not manage to steal a vital away goal. The best that can be said of last night’s match was that it could have been a lot, lot worse and, at least, Arsenal still have plenty to play for next Tuesday when United visit Ashburton Grove.
As the game kicked off the atmosphere at Old Trafford was tremendous. The 3,800 travelling Arsenal fans tried to make themselves heard over the tumult whipped up by the home support. When the match started it was United who flew out of the blocks catching their visitors cold. The home team started in a way that suggested they realised the importance and enormity of the match. In contrast, the Gunners sauntered around like it was a pre-season friendly.
April 26, 2009
On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Ashburton Grove, Arsenal cantered to a facile two-nil victory over Middlesbrough and virtually secured a top-four finish for themselves. The match had a real end of season feel about it and two goals from Cesc Fabregas - one in either half - clinched the result. With several injured players making their returns to action, this game was a perfect warm-up for the upcoming Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Even though Boro are in desperate trouble at the foot of the table, they seemed short of fighting spirit and barely mustered a single attack to worry the Gunners. Instead Arsenal were able to move the ball around at will and only had to raise their game slightly to provide Cesc Fabregas the two opportunities to take all three points. In the second half, Brad Jones in the Boro goal was called into action several times and kept the score down to a respectable level but, overall, this match was more like a stroll in the park than a full-blooded Premier League clash.
April 19, 2009
After a glorious night at Ashburton Grove on Wednesday when Arsenal coasted to victory over Villareal and booked their place in the semi-final of the Champions League, it was back down to earth with a very big bump yesterday at Wembley as Chelsea overturned a one-goal deficit and dumped the Gunners out of the FA Cup. Defeats in semi-finals are always the hardest to take and it was a desperately disappointing outcome.
Many supporters arriving at Wembley yesterday were surprised to hear the team Arsene Wenger had picked. Though playing five in midfield has now become an accustomed formation when facing Chelsea, the absence of both Nasri and Arshavin was somewhat perplexing, particularly when the latter is cup-tied in the Champions League. Still, Wenger’s selection appeared to be justified when the team made a very positive start and took the lead through Theo Walcott.
April 13, 2009
With a satisfactory one-one draw at Villareal last week and an extension of an 18-game unbeaten run in the Premier League at Wigan on Saturday, Arsenal have maintained their momentum and given themselves plenty to play for in the closing weeks of the season. Certainly, this coming week with the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday and Saturday's FA Cup semi-final again Chelsea presents the Gunners with two massive games that could see them press forward or kill their season stone dead.
Last week’s first leg match with Villareal in the Champions League was, rather like the Premier League victory with Wigan on Saturday, a game of two halves. Arsene Wenger set his team up in a defensive-minded fashion with five in midfield. For the first forty minutes, the system was less than effective. The Gunners found themselves under a good deal of pressure and when breaking did not seem to be able to get bodies forward in sufficient numbers to create a sustained threat. Despite their territorial superiority, it took a swirling long-range drive from Marcos Senna to give the Spanish team the lead.
April 5, 2009
Having built up a good head of steam prior to the international break, there was a concern that the interruption to the Premier League programme might disrupt Arsenal's momentum. Any worries on this score though were completely dispelled at Ashburton Grove yesterday as the Gunners cantered to victory over Manchester City. Making returns from their respective injuries, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor combined twice with the Spaniard putting chances on a plate for the Togo player who scored both goals in the two-nil win.
Seeing Fabregas back in action was both a relief and a joy. He might be short of match fitness but it hardly showed. Immediately, he was at the centre of the action and kept the Arsenal machine ticking over until his late subsitution. His pinpoint freekick onto an unmarked Adebayor's head which led to the Gunners' opening goal was deadly accurate. This was only surpassed by the assist for the second goal. Fabregas's sublime, perfectly-weighted chip dropped into the Togolese's path and the striker was able to control the ball, take it around Shay Given in the City goal and tap it home. The Spaniard's pass showed the sort of vision, guile and quality that has been lacking in Arsenal's midfield during his absence.