The Run In – Top Four

The following table shows the remaining fixtures of the current top four in the Premier League. Man City are currently scheduled to play the most games, while Leicester are out of every cup competition and only have the league to focus on.

Leicester City v Arsenal - Premier League

Date Arsenal Leicester Tottenham Man City
14 Feb Leicester (H) Arsenal (A) Man City (A) Tottenham (H)
18 Feb N/A N/A Fiorentina (A) N/A
20/21 Feb Hull (H) N/A Crystal Palace (A) Chelsea (A)
23/24/25 Feb Barcelona (H) N/A Fiorentina (H) Dynamo Kiev (A)
27/28 Feb Man United (A) Norwich (H) Swansea (H) Liverpool (N)
1/2 Mar Swansea (H) West Brom (H) West Ham (A) Liverpool (A)
5 Mar Tottenham (A) Watford (A) Arsenal (H) Aston Villa (H)
12/14 Mar West Brom (H) Newcastle (H) Aston Villa (A) Norwich (A)
15/16 Mar Barcelona (A) N/A N/A Dynamo Kiev (H)
19/20 Mar Everton (A) Crystal Palace (A) Bournemouth (H) Man United (H)
2 Apr Watford (H) Southampton (H) Liverpool (A) Bournemouth (A)
9 Apr West Ham (A) Sunderland (A) Man United (H) West Brom (H)
16 Apr Crystal Palace (H) West Ham (H) Stoke (A) Chelsea (A)
23 Apr Sunderland (A) Swansea (H) West Brom (H) Stoke City (H)
30 Apr Norwich (H) Man United (A) Chelsea (A) Southampton (A)
7 May Man City (A) Everton (H) Southampton (H) Arsenal (H)
15 May Aston Villa (H) Chelsea (A) Newcastle (A) Swansea (A)

Arsenal, Tottenham and Man City are still in the FA Cup and should they qualify for the later rounds, these will be played on the following dates:

  • Quarter Final – 12/13 Mar
  • Semi Final – 23/24 Apr
  • Final – 21 May

Arsenal and Man City remain in the Champions League, and qualification to the next round will result in fixtures on these dates:

  • Quarter Final -1st Leg – 5/6 Apr, 2nd Leg – 12/13 Apr
  • Semi Final – 1st Leg – 26/27 Apr, 2nd Leg 3/4 May
  • Final – 28 May

Similarly Tottenham in the Europa League:

  • Round of 16 – 1st Leg – 10 Mar, 2nd Leg – 17 Mar
  • Quarter Final – 1st Leg – 7 Apr, 2nd Leg – 14 Apr
  • Semi Final – 1st Leg – 28 Apr, 2nd Leg -5 May
  • Final – 18 May

Fixture clashes will result in Premier League ties being moved to an available date later in the season; most likely on a weekday between games where possible.

Why I really joined Arsenal – Alexis Sanchez

Last summer Arsenal fought off competition from Liverpool to sign Chilean star, Alexis Sanchez, from Barcelona for £35m.

However it was widely speculated that the reason behind this was to do with a desire to live in London, and evolved around his long-term girlfriend. A rumour spread by Liverpool fans as their club missed out on him and likely born out of envy, as they had just lost Suarez to Barcelona too.

However, we all know Arsenal are preferable in a number of ways other than location. The stadium, the manager, the consistent Champions League football, the fact we had begun to sign quality players rather than sell them, and of course we had just won the FA Cup. The list goes on.

Speaking to BT Sport in an interview that will air during Saturday’s coverage of the final, Sanchez said: “The reason why I moved to Arsenal is because there were a group of young players with the ambition to achieve things.

“I thought that Arsenal was the perfect club for me, the perfect club to win titles and compete in every competition.

“Yes there is a joyful atmosphere in the dressing room,” he told BT Sport.

“Arsenal is a magnificent club and I hope to win many titles here. I’m going to do my very best to help the club achieve success.”

Sanchez is very happy with his first season, but is keen for the team to keep progressing on to greater things.

“It has been a positive season but I have still got ambitions to win more,” he said.

“I would like to be closer to winning the Premier League title and get further in the Champions League.

“Every time I play I do it with the same motivation. I want the team to grow more and to compete in every competition we play.”

The forward is renowned for his impressive work-rate, but he doesn’t do it for the appreciation.

“I don’t really perceive that,” he added. “Every time someone takes the ball off me I feel like I’ve been stripped of my toy.

“When a player takes the ball off me I just want to win it back. That could work as a motivational tool for my team-mates but I don’t think about that on the pitch.”

And like every player signed by Arsene Wenger, Sanchez cites the boss as a key part of him joining the club.

“He is a legend. He is an Arsenal legend,” he said. “You learn from him every day. Sometimes we discuss about things like I would like to train more, and he doesn’t let me! But he definitely looks after me.”

This will naturally be Sanchez’s first FA Cup should Arsenal win, and he understands the history of the competition. A win will see Arsenal have won it more than any other club.

“The FA Cup is a competition with amazing history,” he said.

“Today we watched a video about Arsenal’s previous wins and thanks to the clips I trained with even more motivation. I hope we can win the cup so the Arsenal supporters are happy.”

Unfortunately that’s all we have of the interview so far, but come Saturday it will be intriguing (at the least) to see what he has to say, given a lack of interviews so far this season. 

Sanchez has already won a title for himself this season though, the fans player of the year award.

 

Mesut Ozil on knee-injury and improving form

Arsenal’s midfield maestro was left on the sidelines for 3 months this season, missing crucial games and coinciding with Arsenal’s bad form that meant they could not really threaten Chelsea for the title, despite being the best team in the league this calendar year. 

Ozil damaged ligaments in his left knee during a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in October, but ultimately it gave him a much needed rest that would allow him to gain physical strength, and regain that mental sharpness, so that he could get back to playing his best football again.

“In my first season, not having a winter break meant that I could notice my body becoming a bit tired,” Ozil said. “I had the World Cup after my first season here.

“It was such a great time but when I came back, the fitness coach said that even though I felt fit, the freshness was missing.

“I continued to give everything to help the team and that’s how I got my injury.

“That was a really bitter time because I missed football but it’s an experience you have to go through as a player. My aim was always to come back stronger and, thanks to God, everything worked out.”

The 26-year-old World Cup winner, is now hoping that he can win the FA Cup again this year, which would mean Arsenal’s return to winning ways have coincided with his arrival.

Furthermore it would mean he has won 2 FA Cups and a World Cup since joining the Gunners, and as such he is undeniably one of the world’s greatest midfielders, and a huge asset to the team.

Stumbling Arsenal Trip v Blackburn

Theo Slumped After 4 FA Cup successes, Wenger certainly knows how to win the most traditional and prestigious domestic trophy there is. A record prior today showed that he was yet to lose to a lower league team in the FA Cup which he claimed in his Press Conference yesterday, showed that he takes the competition “seriously”.

However already this season Arsenal have lost to lower league opposition, in the face of Bradford during the League Cup Quarter-finals, to then lose 1-0 at home to Blackburn, making it twice in one season after such a good record can only mean one thing?

Yes, Arsenal aren’t as good as they used to be. It will be argued that this isn’t the case, that it was a mistake, a fluke, we dominated the game and the chances and we prepared properly. Perhaps the players attention is on the Champions League game? I hope this is true as I am searching for some or any alternative reason for this poor showing.

But I think it’s my duty, as a blogger, a provider of news and opinions to many, to give a balanced argument despite my annoyance at the teams display today.

To start, Arsenal went in to this game on the back of a 5 game unbeaten run. This in itself is good. What’s more, we had won our last 2, keeping 2 clean sheets; a rare fate. These positives should have given Arsenal players confidence, but I suppose 7 changes has a big impact and a different starting 11 doesn’t have the same confidence that other players essentially earned? Was this Wenger’s first mistake today? Probably. Is the Champions League a realistic potential trophy? Not really. Is the FA Cup? More so, yes.

However, the squad are supposed to be able to rotate. We play in the league, Champions League, and FA Cup. The same 11 cannot physically cope to play all these games and this is why you rely on those other players. So did Wenger really make a mistake in changing the team with a view to Bayern Munich? No, the costly decision was made in transfer windows. We can’t compete with a squad lacking quality in-depth.

I don’t intend to have a dig at anyone, I’m not knocking anyone, I am simply stating what everyone knows. If you disagree, then you are blindly optimistic. The situation is so unclear, is there money? Or is Wenger refusing to use it? Or won’t the board let him? I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but selling players for £20-30m and buying replacements at £10-15m inevitably means a cut in quality. How much of a choice in this there was, I can’t honestly say.

Wenger has been hugely successful at Arsenal, and the success he brought earned him the opportunity to put things back right, but he continues to ignore everything in sake of his own ego in producing quality players from nothing, and hoping they’ll repay him by staying in a world which is now all about money. And without success, it makes it all the more harder. We’re not offering either.

That’s enough of the board and management at Arsenal. Moving on to the players, it seemed that today against Blackburn we lacked passion, desire, motivation, determination. You get where I am going with this. Who are the players that everyone loves the most? The ones who wear their heart on their sleeve. Those who give 110% every game, combined with their talent of course, and come the end of the game they are knackered. Back when I played Sunday league as a youngster, the coach would have us running around the pitch after the match if we played like that. You know what I’m getting at, some of you are probably thinking I know exactly this scenario.

Even in the dying embers of the game, we were strolling forward with the ball carelessly, misplacing passes, with a lack of people making runs, a lack of players finding space, a lack of everything really. It is bizarre that after we worked so hard last weekend and the week before, that we return to this abysmal same old situation.

Wenger talks about “mental strength” and our “character” but to me, it seems like it’s something we are severely lacking. The players don’t have confidence, and there is a lot of pressure on them. But Arsenal’s no different to anywhere, a team who should be competing for trophies that is trophy-less for this long, it’s inevitable. Especially when Arsenal charge the highest prices, and every year claim we’re contenders and sell players and don’t buy enough of the same calibre. It’s so easy to see why everyone’s frustrated. Further when changes aren’t made despite repetitive seasons, which this year is looking like one of the worst.

To look at the positives of the game, we dominated the possession with about 70% and had 28 shots whereas Blackburn were pretty much on defensive duty the whole afternoon. They played well, but they are a Championship side not even in the play-off places. We should have been capable of beating them, but that final ball, that final finish was missing. The usual culprits of Gervinho and Giroud, both squandered chances that should have at the least tested the ‘keeper.

Blackburn took their goal well, it was undoubtedly a nice finish, but Szczesny has to do better when clearing the original shot. Basic rule of goalkeeping is to push it away from danger. I know he would know this. Perhaps it was ironically a lack of mental strength, of concentration, having been uninvolved in much of the game. But this is what separates the best from the rest, the top ‘keepers at the top clubs aren’t going to be in constant action, but they need to be relied on when called upon. Maybe he isn’t receiving the coaching he needs as a young goalkeeper? He certainly seems to have the raw talents and attributes necessary.

There’s a lack of leadership in the team. There isn’t a single player out there today that would take responsibility and take charge and pull the team together. You need leaders. Vermaelen and Arteta just didn’t do their respective jobs in defence and midfield as the Captain and Vice-Captain, of leading the team forward. Jack Wilshere, I think it would be fair to say is the only player with this quality. Everyone just seems to look to him when in doubt. We need more than one of these types of players, in previous years we’ve had van Persie, Cesc, then going back to the days of Henry, Viera, and Adams and well essentially we’ve always had these players, they seem to have disappeared?

Fans pressure is in my opinion understandable, we all want to be winners, we all want results and it’s frustrating because the team always seems to slip up when you’d think it least likely. It’s just typical of Arsenal. Against Bayern, as underdogs we’ll probably relax and play well and be the team that works hard, like Blackburn were today. It’s a hard thing, the psychology behind it all. This is something I have the up-most respect for Fergie, for. For all his faults, he is a great manager. The winning mentality United have, even when at their worst, they grind out results. That hard-fought nitty-gritty attitude. Something we could really do with.

Tell me, how are we going to keep hold of Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, and others? A time will come where they’ll all want to leave if we continue down this path.

Still, I look forward to the Bayern Munich game with optimism. You never know in football what can happen. Arsenal can play really well, and are capable of winning the game. They key words in that sentence being ‘can’ and ‘capable’. Wenger’s made it into such an important game now. If we win, things swing back in his favour the time being, but if we lose, then the pressure will be looming over him significantly, more so than ever, and the League will be all we have left where fourth place is Tottenham’s to lose.

Thoughts on Arsenal Drawing Blackburn in FA Cup 5th Round

Arsenal have been drawn at home to Blackburn Rovers in the fifth round of the FA Cup, the game is currently due to be played on February 16th; just 3 days prior to us hosting Bayern Munich.

No doubt the Champions League clash will be on Wenger’s mind and therefore I would expect to see a similar line up to that of yesterday, with the ‘big guns’ of Wilshere, Walcott, Cazorla, Gibbs and co on the bench again, just in case. Although you’d expect us to be capable of winning, especially at home.

Nonetheless Blackburn have been at times somewhat of a bogey team for us, and although they were relegated and are now in the Championship they will still pose a threat if we become complacent.

Blackburn will provide a similar game to the Brighton one, with them both fairly even. Blackburn sit 5 points behind Brighton in their league but Blackburn’s most recent game was against Brighton last Tuesday and produced a 1-1 draw.

The FA Cup gives us a great chance to win a trophy this season, and although we are far from there it is our best opportunity. Therefore we need to make sure we don’t slip up against Blackburn and secure our place in the quarter-finals, but at the same we don’t risk having to field our best team for them to then give an average performance against Bayern as we’ll need to be on top of our game to give ourselves the best chance of progressing in the Champions League when we visit the Alllianz Arena.

Other fixtures in the 5th round were as follows:

Huddersfield or Leicester v Wigan

Luton v Millwall

Man City v Leeds United

Man United v Reading

Middlesbrough v Brentford or Chelsea

MK Dons v Barnsley

Oldham v Everton