Arsenal travelled to Galatasaray and swept the Turkish giant aside with a scintillating 4-1 win that included a goal of the season contender from Aaron Ramsey. The game encapsulated the enigma of this Arsenal team, able to lose so timidly to Stoke last weekend, but with the ability to visit one of the harshest cauldrons in world football and dominate the match.
It was a dead rubber game as the Gunners were already through to the next round, while Galatasaray’s Champions League season was coming to a close. However, Arsenal could have topped the group with a win, so the team threw caution to the wind and put in a memorable performance. As it was, top spot proved elusive as Borussia Dortmund drew at Anderlecht to ensure they held the position.
Arsene Wenger opted to travel without important figures such as Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck and Laurent Koscielny. With several other players missing through injury, this was very much a second string Arsenal line up, with only a couple of regular starters. Yet it was enough to get the job done and in the third minute some neat build up play by Alex Oxlad-Chamberlain and the impressive Ramsey released Lukas Podolski. The German international fired his shot into the roof of the net to give the visitors the lead.
The advantage was doubled in the eleventh minute as Ramsey collected an Oxlade-Chamberlain pass and kept his composure to score past Sinan Bolat for 2-0. Galatasaray were providing the odd threat, but so far the Turkish powerhouse had been kept quiet and in the 29th minute the home fans were left shell shocked by one of the season’s wonder goals.
Joel Campbell’s corner was cleared out of the Gala area, but Ramsey was on hand to smash a left footed volley from 30 yards. Like a tomahawk missile, the volley arrowed straight into the top corner and was a sensational way to give Arsenal a 3-0 halftime lead.
Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini were replaced at halftime by Gedion Zelalem and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as Wenger opted to shuffle the pack and rest key men. The switch broke Arsenal’s rhythm temporarily and Galatasaray capitalized through Wesley Sneijder’s curled trademark free kick that sailed into the goal to make 3-1.
The rally from the home team was brief as Arsenal continued to control the game for the remainder of the second half. In the dying embers of the contest Podolski arrived with his second and the Gunners’ fourth as he nestled the ball into the net from just inside the penalty area, taking advantage of a Yaya Sanogo pass.
Arsenal’s frailties were shown again on Saturday and it is no irony that it was Stoke City that highlighted how the Gunners are still vulnerable against teams willing to dig their heels in and make the game a scrap. The Potters outdid Arsenal over 90 minutes to send the North London club packing from the Britannica Stadium pointless, with the hosts winning 3-2.
That Arsenal had only won a single game in their last eight attempts against Stoke showed that this would be no easy clash, but once again Stoke revealed why. It has become almost cliché that Stoke City are the team that expose Arsene Wenger’s newer teams with rough and tumble football, but it was painful reality again on Saturday.
Wenger said afterwards that his team had been dominated, and in the first half that was certainly the case as Stoke raced into a 3-0 lead. Peter Crouch opened the scoring in the first minute when he latched on to a Steven Nzonzi centre to tap the ball past Arsenal stopper Emiliano Martinez, after 19 seconds the Gunners were against the wall.
The home team doubled their lead after 35 minutes after dominating much of the first half. Bojan had been causing plenty of problems as a creative foil for Crouch, but he got his own rewards when he coolly finished a Jonathan Walters cross. Arsenal’s task had just got tougher, but it became all but impossible ten minutes later.
Bojan’s curled corner was guided to the free Walters by the head of Peter Crouch and he wasted no time in putting the ball into the net. It was Walters’ 100th club goal and Arsenal had been thoroughly punished in the first half.
The Gunners emerged in slightly better touch in the second half, with the newly introduced Danny Welbeck providing more impetus in attack. The action became more open as Alexis Sanchez hit the post after being clean through and Bojan scored only to be ruled offside. Arsenal’s breakthrough finally came in 68th minute when they were awarded a penalty which was converted by Santi Cazorla.
Two minutes later and the visitors made it a one goal game as Aaron Ramsey scored at the back post from a Sanchez corner. Arsenal pressed for the final twenty minutes, but Stoke remained in control while also providing plenty of threat and the Gunners could not find the breakthrough.
The days of Stoke City being a bogey club for Arsenal, or one the Gunners hate playing against are gone. Stoke are not the same gritty and dogged unit under Mark Hughes as they were when Tony Pulis helmed the club, but the Potters have only lost once in the last eight to Arsenal, so this will be a tricky game.
The club will make the journey from North London to the Britannica Stadium and manager Arsene Wenger will expect the team to continue its good run and win the game. The Gunners are undefeated in their last three (all competitions) and have also not conceded a goal in that time, the returning Laurent Koscielny possibly to do with that pleasing statistic.
The squad is still injury ravaged, with Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Theo Walcott (groin), Mikel Arteta (calf), Mesut Ozil (knee), goalkeeper David Ospina (thigh), as well as midfielders Abou Diaby (calf) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) all remain on the side-lines with problems. Last minute check with be held to Kieran Gibbs and Tomas Rosicky.
Stoke have their own concerns, with Jonathan Walters and Robert Huth likely to sit out the game. However, the Stoke players are talking up another rough and tumble encounter and Arsene Wenger will remind his players that this is a team that has scalped Arsenal before. However, with the decent run of the last few games, the formidable form of Alexis Sanchez, and decent progress from Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, there is three points on offer here.
A seemingly tricky game on paper against Southampton at the Emirates on Wednesday proved to be just that for Arsenal, but the Gunners found the vital goal that handed them a 1-0 victory and all three points.
Despite another spell of confusion surrounding the North London club, they have just gone and won three games in a row and haven’t conceded a goal in the process. On top of that, the club now sits just three points behind Southampton in third place after tonight’s success. The Saints have been in good form this season and they provided a perfect test for Arsenal here, but the Gunners ultimately had too much for the south coast club, although it was a late show from Alexis Sanchez that secured the points.
Southampton will probably feel like they deserved a draw, especially as Graziano Pelle provided a constant threat leading the front line. However, Arsenal had their own go to guys with Santi Cazorla once again pulling the strings from the middle of the park, while in Sanchez they have one of the form players in world football.
Arsene Wenger will be delighted that his charges restricted a slick Southampton unit to just six shots, but he could have rued missed opportunities at the other end. Arsenal had 19 shots through the game, but could not break the deadlock as Danny Welbeck struggled to have an impact up front on his own. During halftime Wenger shuffled the pack and moved the England man out wide left and brought in Sanchez from the wing to play upfront.
The payoff was not immediate, but when Olivier Giroud was introduced midway through the second half the Gunners seemed to have more cutting edge in the final third. The Frenchman combined well with Welbeck, Cazorla, and Sanchez, giving Arsenal a potent attacking threat. The dominant play finally paid off in the 89th minute when Sanchez found space in the box to slot home past Fraser Forster in the Southampton goal. The Chile international has been a revelation since arriving at Arsenal, and he made the most of Aaron Ramsey’s pull back here.
It was enough to hand the hosts the win and now Arsenal will look to this weekend’s clash on the road at Stoke City.
The 1-0 victory over West Brom on the weekend did little but prove that this is going to be a season of ups and downs for Arsenal. The Gunners are just as likely to go six games unbeaten as they are to suddenly slip up to inferior opposition or be caught out by a rival. So, with Southampton making the trip to the Emirates this Wednesday, it is one of those games that could go either way.
Southampton are the surprise package of the Premier League season and sit in third place in the table and are playing well. However, the omens are with Arsenal heading into the midweek fixture as the Gunners are unbeaten in their least nine league meetings against The Saints. It also helps that the south coast club were soundly beaten by Manchester City on the weekend and are running into their most difficult run of fixtures so far. However, Ronald Koeman’s team did down Arsenal in the Capital Cup this season, so this game could provide fireworks, and certainly good football.
Arsene Wenger is juggling a depleted squad Nacho Monreal (knee) and Kieran Gibbs (ankle) as well as midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (hip) and captain Mikel Arteta (calf) are either doubtful or out. Also on the injury table are Theo Walcott (groin), Mesut Ozil (knee), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), goalkeeper David Ospina (thigh) and Jack Wilshere (ankle).
Whatever way you look at it, the Frenchman is missing half of his key squad, so the pressure will fall on the shoulders of Olivier Giroud and once again the in-form Danny Welbeck up front. Southampton are not as injury ravaged as the North London club, but key midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is going to sit the game out.
Southampton will be eager to prove that they can last their rapid early pace, especially after Sunday’s rude awakening in Manchester. Arsenal would provide the perfect scalp to do that, so The Gunners will have to be at their best if they are add another three points to their league tally for the season.
Arsenal defeated West Brom 1-0 away from home on Saturday to ease the immediate pressure on manager Arsene Wenger, although the slender scrappy victory will do little to stem calls for the Frenchman to step away.
It is a case of one game at a time as the Gunners get back to form, but despite the gathering storm around Wenger’s position at the club, Arsenal are sixth in the league, just two points off Manchester United in fourth. In other words, the clubs’ form is not as bad as many make out and a place in the Champions League places next season is as likely as any other year.
That is not enough for some fans anymore, but the victory over West Brom was another three points on the way to at least achieving that minimum requirement. Danny Welbeck continued his promising start to life with the Gunners with a 60th minute strike that handed the North London club the vital win.
Welbeck made way for Olivier Giroud upfront, with the former Manchester United man operating wide right, a position he disliked at Old Trafford. Nevertheless, the England international was on hand to capitalize on Santi Cazorla’s good work that saw the Spaniard play a smart cross into the area. Welbeck met the ball with his head and sent it past Ben Foster in the Baggies net.
Despite West Brom providing a dogged defensive display, the Midlands club spent much of the game struggling as an attacking force. The hosts couldn’t find a way to hurt Arsenal, with the Gunners offering twice as many shots through the game. West Brom woke up in the final fifteen minutes and offered a sterner test of Arsenal’s back four. Arsene Wenger will no doubt be pleased that the unit kept a clean sheet.
He will also be pleased that on a day when Arsenal fans held a banner reading – ‘Arsene – thanks for the memories, but it’s time to say goodbye’ – his team won the game.
What a difference a week makes in the life and times of Arsenal Football Club. There are no promises of new dawns, but the midweek win over (an admittedly poor) Borussia Dortmund team in the Champions League has given the Gunners a foundation to build off, starting with the early Saturday kick-off against West Brom away from home.
Arsenal needs to build some league momentum with the busy Christmas period just around the corner, and Arsene Wenger will be counting on his players to grab three points. Certainly, West Brom provide arguably the perfect opponent as the Baggies are struggling for form and could possibly be an easy target.
Of course, things do not always work out like that for Arsenal, but nevertheless wins need to be collected and the Midlands on Saturday is a good place to start. Question makers will remain over Arsene Wenger’s future for the rest of the season, no matter what happens here or in other games. The manager will want his players to do the talking on the pitch in a hope of reaching the top four at the end of the season. Whether that minimum requirement remains enough for either the board or the fans anymore is uncertain, but it is probably the most this Arsenal team can achieve.
However, there are plenty of positives, while this would not be Arsenal without a few negatives too. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is becoming a potent attacking force and will be important to the Gunners this season, especially with the news that Jack Wilshere is set to miss another three months through injury.
On Saturday Wenger will take a depleted squad to the Hawthorns, with Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott (groin), Mesut Ozil (knee), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), goalkeeper David Ospina (thigh) and Abou Diaby (calf) all out injured. Mikel Arteta will also sit out the game, while Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and striker Yaya Sanogo will have their respective hip and hamstring injuries checked before the game.
Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny are set to make their returns, but either way this will be a test of the squad Wenger has assembled. Despite that, Arsenal should be taking all three points from this game.
One thing that cannot be denied about this Arsenal team is that they do respect and have an affinity for Arsene Wenger. Whenever there has been mounting pressure on the manager in recent seasons the players have responded on the pitch, and this 2-0 home win over Borussia Dortmund proved that again.
A torrid run of results has put question marks firmly on Arsene Wenger’s future with many in and around the club claiming the Frenchman has taken the Gunners as far as he can. That, of course, is a debate for another day, but it is certain that he still knows how to motivate his troops, even if the quality is sometimes lacking.
Yes, Borussia Dortmund came to the Emirates in even worse form than Arsenal, third from bottom in the German Bundesliga and suffering key injuries to big name players. However, the Germans remain a dangerous and potent force, especially on the continent where they have already beat the Gunners in the reverse Champions League fixture.
Credit then must go to Arsenal for managing to defeat the team (at the fifth time of asking) to progress to the Last 16 of Europe’s elite competition. The hosts had a wonderful start courtesy of a second minute goal from French U21 international Yaya Sanogo, a late addition to the starting 11 after Danny Welbeck picked up a knee injury before the game.
Sanogo linked with Santi Cazorla for a tidy one two combination on the perimeter of Dortmund’s penalty area, before receiving the ball back and slotting home a cool finish past the visitors’ goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Admittedly, replays showed that the striker was marginally offside, but it was a well worked goal with the impressive Cazorla the architect.
Alexis Sanchez has been a revelation since his summer move from Barcelona, and he continued his good form by securing Arsenal’s second and ultimately the winner. The Chilean curled a beautiful effort into the Borussia net in the 57th minute to claim his 13th goal in just twenty appearances for the North London club.
Dortmund of course proved a threat during the game, but Arsene Wenger will be pleased with the way his defence handled the German contingent. The second goal seemed to finish the contest against a team very low on confidence and the Gunners will now look to the final group game to ensure they finish top of the table.
Arsenal´s Premier League season is back on track after the Gunners eased to victory over Hull City on Sunday. The North London giants held on to fourth place, staying one point in front of Everton in fifth, with three games of the season remaining.
It was a comfortable afternoon for the team as Hull failed to mount any real danger. However, Arsene Wenger will be happy that the players put in a solid performance after weeks of indifference on the pitch. The cruising 3-0 win came over the clubs´ FA Cup Final opponents and it served as an encouraging dress rehearsal.
Indeed, if Hull plays like this in the cup showpiece in May it will be a very easy final for Arsenal as the club looks for its first trophy in 8 seasons.
Hull started well, but Arsenal recovered after a slow start and quickly put the hosts under pressure with slick passing and possession football.
Arsenal´s dominance was confirmed when the visitors took the lead in the 31st minute when Aaron Ramsey fired the team in front. The Welshman was making his first start since returning from a hamstring injury suffered in December. Ramsey showed how important he is to the Arsenal midfield when he latched onto the end of a slick passing move from Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla to fire low past Hull´s Steve Harper.
The Gunners were in charge of the game, but there was enough about Hull on the break to suggest Wenger´s charges would need another goal. The second duly arrived on the stroke of halftime as Lukas Podolski scored from a Ramsey assist. The home team players were incensed as they felt a free kick should have been given, but Arsenal instead broke and Podolski doubled the lead.
The second half continued Arsenal´s hold on the game, with the away team playing some quality football. Podolski´s brace and Arsenal´s third goal did not take long to come when in the 54th minute the German caught on to Ramsey´s assist and turned the ball into the net to secure the win. The Gunner impressed for the remainder of the game and Ramsey had put in a game winning Man of the Match performance.
What a difference a week makes. Just seven days ago Arsenal had gone four games without a win and had conceded fourth place in the Premier League to Everton. Fast forward to this weekend and the Gunners are in the FA Cup Final, beat West Ham to go fourth, and saw Everton lose, meaning qualification to the Champions League is now in Arsenal´s hands.
Arsene Wenger has spoken this week about how the players now need to focus on the job in hand. With the potential of Champions League next season and a first trophy in 8 seasons, this campaign could end up being a success, despite the undoubted problems the last few months have thrown up. However, first Wenger´s men must pass Hull in this week´s away Premier League game.
As well as giving Arsenal chance to get one step closer to securing fourth place, the game will also be a test run of the FA Cup as both these teams will compete in the showpiece final in May. Hull is still fighting in a relegation battle, so Steve Bruce´s charges will be no pushovers. Although, the Northeast club is unlikely to get relegated and perhaps the players have one eye on that final, especially as the club could play European football next season.
Wenger will be hoping that the Hull players are distracted by a once in a lifetime opportunity to win the FA Cup. The problem is Steve Bruce is unlikely to accept complacency, so the Tigers will pose a threat, especially with dangerous strike duo Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long coming back into the team. As for Arsenal, the North Londoners will likely shuffle the pack, with Kim Kalstrom likely to make way for Aaron Ramsey to start. Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud will probably continue to be the go to guys for goals as Arsenal look to get close to that fourth place.