Arsenal Face “Bogey Team” Stoke City on Saturday

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.

Arsenal Welcome Southampton in Midweek Clash

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 Take Injury Ravaged Squad to West Brom

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.

Arsenals Look to Get Close to Fourth Place

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.

Arsenal goes Fourth

Arsenal´s bid for a Top Four finish received a boost on Tuesday night as the Gunners overcame West Ham United 3-1 in a London Derby. The win came courtesy of a solid display at the Emirates Stadium as the club puts it recent poor form behind it.

This was certainly the most comfortable win for Arsene Wenger´s team in some time and now the club can concentrate on trying to get that all important Champions League place. Wenger´s men now move above Everton into fourth place, but the Merseyside club still has a game in hand. All Arsenal can do is keep winning and hope that Everton drop points somewhere in the final four games of the season.

Given the recent form of the Gunners, there were gasps and plenty of tension in the Emirates before kick-off. That air of worry got even worse when West Ham took the lead in the 40th minute. The Hammers took advantage of Kim Kallstrom failing to track Antonio Nocerino when the Italian supplied Matt Jarvis to head home. The goal came five minutes before halftime and filled the stadium with plenty of nerves, while Arsene Wenger was probably preparing another difficult team talk. Luckily the gaffer never had to give that talk as Arsenal responded in the 44th minute when Lukas Podolski drilled a low shot into the net to make it 1-1.

We suggested before the game that the linkup between Podolski and lone frontman Olivier Giroud would be key to success during the rest of the season. The duo proved that against West Ham as Giroud gave the Gunners the lead in the 55th minute with a stunning drag down and shot from a Thomas Vermaelen long ball.

Aaron Ramsey arrived to replace Thomas Rosicky, and the Welshman looked sharp on his road to recovery from an injury suffered in December. Ramsey was the architect of the third goal as he found Podolski with a cushioned header. The German controlled and fired the ball into the West Ham net to secure the three points and ease the tension inside the Emirates.

Three Points Essential for Arsenal against West Ham

There is no time for the Arsenal players to celebrate reaching the FA Cup Final on Saturday as the games are coming thick and fast. Today the Gunners will play host to West Ham in a game the club and the fans hope will breathe new life into the Premier League season.

An admittedly tough March brought with it abject displays that all but ended Arsenal´s charge towards the Premier League title. Worse still, the club now sits outside the Top 4 and needs Everton to drop points to qualify for the Champions League next season. The season now stands on the brink of being a disaster or a success, but the run in of the Premier League season will decide which. If Arsenal get fourth and claim the FA Cup, the season could be viewed as one of progress, but if Champions League football is not acquired for next term, not even a Cup win could mask what would be a disaster for the club.

So, fourth position remains ever important (the fans will have to hold off disappointment from a fallen title push) and West Ham is the first hurdle for the club. The Hammers are a typical Sam Allardyce team; strong, robust, hard to break down, and able to disrupt from set plays. In other words, the South London club plays the type of football Arsene Wenger teams struggle against. Nevertheless, the Gunners will be favourites at the Emirates Stadium, but recent form would suggest the players will need to raise their game to get three points.

West Ham will not attack with pace, so Per Mertesacker will have plenty of time to get to grips with an in form Andy Carroll. With Everton winning on the weekend, Wenger needs to approach this game with the intent of winning comfortably, so could the Frenchman be tempted to pair Lukas Podolski up front with Olivier Giroud? That is unlikely, but a more attacking approach from the midfield will be needed if Arsenal are going to maintain pressure on Everton in the race for fourth place.

Arsenal Looking to Cruise to FA Cup Final

Today’s FA Cup semi final against Wigan has become the biggest game of the season for Arsenal, as they look to keep their season alive. It has been a bitterly disappointing two months for the Gunners as the team has slipped out of the Premier League title race and crashed out of the Champions League.

The FA Cup remains the only glimmer of hope as the club might even miss out on Champions League football next season thanks to the humiliating defeat at Everton last week. Now the cup has become a chance to win a long awaited piece of silverware and possibly put some gloss on what has admittedly turned into a disastrous season.

However, Arsenal will first have to pass Wigan. On paper, playing a Championship side in the semi final of the cup looks an easy task, but two factors make this a worrying match for the club as it travels to Wembley Stadium. The first is the fact Wigan beat Manchester City to get to this stage, and as defending holders will be no pushovers. The second consideration is Arsenal´s own recent woeful form.

With everything to play for, Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly play his strongest possible 11, and Aaron Ramsey could feature more prominently after returning from injury. The problem remains how to get Olivier Giroud more into the game, with the midfield struggling to find the French striker enough. Wenger will also be looking for more pace and urgency in the passing to catch a Wigan team that likes to foray forward in numbers.

The good news for Arsenal is that Wigan´s league form has also been poor of late, so with that in mind it should be a relatively easy day out at Wembley for the Gunners. Although, who knows with this club!

Arsenal Faces Stern Test against Everton

Another weekend brings another crunch match for Arsenal as the Gunners prepare to take on Everton on Sunday. The team will make the journey to Merseyside to play an Everton team that is Arsenal´s nearest threat in the fight for fourth place and qualification to the Champions League.

Manager Arsene Wenger has made it clear that the players will fight for the title until it is impossible to win, but the gaffer must also look over his shoulder and secure 4th place in the Premier League. Everton represent a strong challenge and have been on a roll of late, with home advantage also giving the Toffees confidence.

The Arsenal players will know that success on Sunday will all but secure fourth place and they can then concentrate on finishing as high as possible. A loss would be disastrous, placing Everton just one point behind with a game in hand, with their fate in their own hands. In such a high stakes situation, Wenger could be forgiven for being happy with a draw.

Form suggests Everton will fancy their chances against an Arsenal team that has been missing Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, and Aaron Ramsay of late. However, when Arsenal welcomed Everton to the Emirates for the FA Cup just a few weeks ago, the Gunners run out comfortable 4-1 winners. Wenger will be hoping for the same kind of result on Sunday, but much will depend on the supply to Olivier Giroud who has cut a lonely figure up front in recent weeks.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez will expect a better display than that FA Cup collapse, and the Spaniard has brought sexy football to the Toffees; so much so he is being touted as the next Barcelona manager. Romelu Lukaku will be a danger for the Blues, as will the ever dynamic and classy looking Ross Barkley.

This will certainly be a tough test for Arsenal, and a draw would probably be a good result considering Everton´s recent form.

Arsenal Looking for Title Fight back Against Man City

It has been a poor few weeks for Arsenal, but the team will look to get its Premier League title charge back on track today when Manchester City visit the Emirates Stadium.

After losing 6-0 to Chelsea last week and drawing to Swansea midweek, there are many who now think the Gunners are out of the title race. Even we fans are realistic enough to know the setbacks of recent weeks have really hampered the club´s Premier League ambitions. However, it was nice to see Arsene Wenger come out on Friday and say the club is still focused on winning the league and that fourth place was just a minimum requirement.

Of course, the visit of Manchester City gives Arsenal a chance to defeat one of their key rivals in the chase for the title, and a win would put the team back amongst the challengers. That is a simple equation on paper, but beating Man City in practice will be easier said than done as the team is currently in a rich vein of form. City are coming off a moral boosting 3-0 win over rivals Man United in the Manchester Derby and the club is favourite to win the league with games in hand.

There is little doubt that the Arsenal players will have to be at their very best, and Wenger will need to work hard to get the team ready mentally. It is a sad fact that Arsenal has already conceded 6 to Man City this season, 6 to Chelsea, and 5 to Liverpool. Wenger will be expecting the players to acquit themselves better against a title rival this time, especially as this looks like the last roll of the dice.

The Gunners will buoyed by the fact that Man City will likely be without Sergio Aguero, but Wenger faces the more pressing issue of getting his midfield to supply striker Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has been left woefully short of support in recent outings and Wenger will be calling on the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to give Giroud more help in attack.

Arsenal Seek Essential Win over Swansea

Arsene Wenger has demanded a response from his Arsenal team as the club welcomes Welsh outfit Swansea to the Emirates in the Premier League.

After the weekend´s humiliation at Chelsea the Gunners need to claim a win tonight or risk slipping out of the title race. Worse than that, anything but three points against a struggling Swans could see the club scrapping to stay in the Top 4 and the coveted Champions League places. An indifferent patch of form by Arsenal has seen them swamped by title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool. However, after a great first half of the season, a confident display here will keep the team in the thick of it as a title contender.

Wenger will know that a win at home is essential as he eyes this weekend´s clash with title rivals Manchester City, while also needing to play Everton in the next few weeks. It is a vitally important end to March for the club and a strong points return from the next three Premier League games will likely tell us a lot about where Arsenal will finish come May.

Disappointingly for the manager, he started arguably his best available 11 on Saturday and was already on the way to a crushing defeat before Kieran Gibbs was (wrongly) sent off against Chelsea. The Frenchman could swing the axe on some underperformers from Stamford Bridge, especially as some key men will undoubtedly be rested for Man City on the weekend.

Yaya Sonogo is likely to be drafted in to replace Olivier Giroud in attack, while Kim Kallstrom could make his first start since joining the club on loan in January. Lukaz Fabianski could also be named goalkeeper, but whoever plays against Swansea, a win has become hugely important.