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Sunday, 7 October 2012

'If you love football, just watch him play' Wenger praises Cazorla masterclass

'He's come in to the Premier League and taken it by storm - he's our conductor. His goal was fantastic - I don't even know what-footed he is, to be honest!' says Gunners boss Arsene Wenger and Theo Walcott were united in their praise of Santi Cazorla after Arsenal's 3-1 win at West Ham today. The Spain midfielder scored a stunning left-footed strike after strikes from Olivier Giroud and substitute Walcott had overhauled Mohamed Diame's opener. And Walcott told ESPN: "He's come in to the Premier League and taken it by storm - he's our conductor. "His goal was fantastic - I don't even know what-footed he is, to be honest!" Wenger added: "It was an outstanding performance. If you love football, just watch him play - it's a delight to watch him." Giroud was relieved to score his first goal since joining the Gunners from French champions Montpellier in the summer. "I'm so happy to score my first goal and assist my friends in the team," the France striker told ESPN. "Everyone was talking about this goal, saying 'don't worry, we trust you, keep going, concentrate'. I stayed confident." Wenger said: "He scored at the right moment, Theo came on and scored and Santi scored a great goal. "Theo has that in him. One or two years ago when he got in front of the keeper, he did not always finish the chance." Reflecting on the result, which had looked in doubt after his side trailed to Diame's superb finish, Wenger said: "I am very happy. "It was a game at a high tempo, with their first shot at goal they scored and they were dangerous in the box but in the second half we got our game going in a convincing way." Walcott added: "It's always a tough battle here, West Ham are strong under Sam. "It was a bit nervy in the first 15 minutes but in the second half we were much stronger. "We know where we want to be this season, we want to be right up there at the end of the season. We showed, coming back today, that we can definitely have a good push." West Ham forward Ricardo Vaz Te could miss up to 12 weeks after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the 3-1 Barclays Premier League defeat to Arsenal, manager Sam Allardyce has confirmed.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Arsenal beats Olympiakos 3-1 in Champions League

LONDON — Arsenal maintained its perfect start to the Champions League on Wednesday, with Gervinho, Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey scoring in a 3-1 victory over Olympiakos. Gervinho’s 43rd minute-opener was quickly canceled out as Kostas Mitroglou headed the Greek champions level before halftime, but Arsenal was back in control after the break to ensure it stayed top of Group B. Gervinho turned provider in the 56th, picking out Podolski in the penalty area and the German’s shot went straight through the legs of goalkeeper Balazs Megyeri into the net. Ramsey made sure of the victory in stoppage time, dinking the ball over Megyeri as Arsenal made a lightning attack. “The second half was better, in the first half we were sloppy sometimes with the passing, we lost a lot of balls,” Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen said. “We started well but the first half was not great.” While Olympiakos is pointless at the bottom of Group B, Arsenal has a maximum six points after beating Montpellier 2-1 two weeks ago. “It gives us more confidence to have two wins from two,” Vermaelen said. “The most important thing is to win your home games. We want to keep it going.” The Gunners were looking for an immediate response to its first loss of the season on Saturday at the hands of Chelsea — and they got it. Pressing with verve and conviction inspired by Cazorla from the start, it was the Spanish midfielder who came close to giving Arsenal an early lead. A free kick was destined for the top of the net until Megyeri produced a fingertip save. Megyeri’s opposite number Vito Mannone to be alert, though, to block a low strike from Mitroglou from the edge of the area. An edginess has returned to Arsenal’s defense after a solid start to the season, and looked like being exploited again. A cross from Giannis Maniatis was allowed all too easily to find its way into the penalty area. Arsenal was only rescued by Paulo Machado’s poor finishing, with a scuffed conenction and the resulting shot scooped over with the goal at his mercy. “We started well, with a high tempo and that was great but then we dropped a little,” Vermaelen said. But Olympiakos’ defense was breached first as Gibbs and Lukas Podolski combined down the left flank and ball reached the edge of the penalty area where Gervinho seized the ball and struck it into the net. The visitors immediately pushed for the equalizer, but Machado was too rushed as he shot from distance and Mannone easily collected the shot. They succeeded, though, a minute later. Lenadro Greco sent with precession from the right flank into the penalty area where Mitroglou rose between the center backs to plant a header into the net. Arsenal’s first chance to go back in front in the second half was squandered when Cazorla missed the target after Gervinho did the hard work, cutting the ball back to his unmarked teammate in front of goal. But after Gervinho’s interplay with Cazorla on the right, Podolski put Arsenal in front, with a shot through the legs of Megyeri, which the goalkeeper also helped to divert into the net. “Today he had two or three good saves and when it comes to the goal, in football you can always only do the best you can,” Olympiakos coach Leonardo Jardim said through a translator. Mannone started the move that led to the third, with a long throw flicked on by Olivier Giroud to fellow substitute Ramsey. The midfielder went past captain Giannis Maniatis and cooly lifted the ball over the onrushing Megyeri. “The result doesn’t represent Olympiakos ... but this result has given us a lesson that in this competition it’s very important to take your chances,” Jardim said. © Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Arsenal vs Chelsea Preview

Suddenly, we have reached the stage where the Premier League might just start to reveal the path it will follow over the next nine months. Both managers on Saturday at Emirates Stadium - Arsène Wenger of Arsenal and Roberto Di Matteo of Chelsea - will rightly deny the negative significance of a defeat. And, publicly at least, they would temper the inevitable over-enthusiasm borne from a victory. But surely, deep down, it would appreciably strengthen the belief that their side can challenge for the title. Both could do with the boost as neither side were truly involved last season. Arsenal recovered to finish in a creditable third place while Chelsea slipped to sixth in the end. Albeit, Wenger argues, they were preoccupied with two other competitions. "Yes it was the first time for a long time they dropped out of the top four," said the manager. "They had a very successful year in the cups and of course a disappointing one in the Premier League but at some stage, when you are in both cups, it can affect your League chances as well. "Maybe the fact that they went so far in the Champions League had an impact. "Certainly you expect them to be fighting again to be in the title race this year and that's why the results against your direct opponents are always so important. "I believe in our potential but we have to show that we are capable to deal with all the kind of problems that consistency demands. "We'll know more about ourselves, certainly a bit more, on Saturday afternoon - but much more after 10 or 15 games." Ironically, Wenger's newly-modelled Arsenal side showed the first signs of cohesion in the second half at Stamford Bridge last season when they stormed back to win an eight-goal thriller. "Yes, of course, the 5-3 had a good psychological impact on our season," said Wenger. "But I knew before the game we were capable to do that." Both these sides enter this game unbeaten. Arsenal are fifth and Chelsea are top but perhaps Wenger's side have picked up more convincing results in more difficult places. That's why the manager himself described his club as having a ‘feelgood' factor right now. Conversely, Wojciech Szczesny is still troubled by an ankle problem so Vito Mannone will continue his run as No 1 for a couple more weeks at least. Thomas Vermaelen is back after missing the draw at Manchester City with flu. The return of the skipper leaves Wenger with a choice to make a centre back. Laurent Koscielny deputised well last week at the Eithad Stadium and struck the leveller late on. However three into two does not go and, as the manager rightly states, Per Mertesacker has been exceptional in recent weeks. "He has his own [special] qualities, for example his positional play, but we have centre backs where I can mix the formula a little bit and adapt it to the opponent we play against. "For me all three centre backs are doing well and, even on Wednesday against Coventry, Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miguel were very, very good. At the moment I will just choose the two centre backs who for me are the best suited to face the team we play against." Chelsea have dropped only two points this season - the goalless draw at QPR. Di Matteo's side are a different flavour to last season's Champions League winners. Certainly in terms of style and, to a less extent, in terms of personnel - with one departure being particularly significant for Arsenal fans - and those centre backs. "Yes, Didier Drogba killed us at times," admitted Wenger. "But not only us because he was a great striker remember. He was decisive in every round in the Champions League for Chelsea last year. "But it's a new chance for Fernando Torres now, because when you have Drogba behind you, you're always under pressure. Certainly Torres will enjoy that opportunity. He looks to have found form again and is very mobile. Of course we will have to keep him quiet in a game like this. "Overall Chelsea have changed their style. They are a team with a bit more caution defensively and I believe we will need to play at a good pace with a good rhythm to win this game and that is what we are prepared to do." Perhaps this is a battle of who has changed more since the start of last season. Wenger would argue - and the statistics would prove - Arsenal's form has been up there with the top two pretty much since that win at Stamford Bridge 11 months ago. This term, the additions of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have just stylishly built upon the platform put in place 12 months ago. Their football is stable, consistent and of the highest quality. Last Saturday's squeezed-out 1-0 win over Stoke is Chelsea's only win in their last four games in all competitions. While it is dangerous to underestimate the European champions and Premier League leaders, there is a sense that they are still settling down after upheaval during and, at the end of, last season. Even though they have been highly successful during that period. That said, the Arsenal fans are confident at the moment - and rightly so. In recent weeks, their team have done nothing to dispel the burgeoning belief at Emirates. And a victory there on Saturday would only see that multiply. Team news Arsenal: Szczesny (ankle), Fabianski (back), Sagna (leg), Rosicky (tendon) Chelsea: Lampard (doubt - ankle), Sturridge (hamstring)

Arshavin - I hope I’ll have more chances soon

Andrey Arshavin admits that he has found himself in an unfamiliar situation early in the 2012/13 season. While the Russian forward starred, and scored, in Wednesday night’s 6-1 Capital One Cup win over Coventry City, he has had to bide his time for Premier League action - making just one appearance, as a substitute, in the opening-day draw with Sunderland. He told the Official Matchday Programme: “It’s been very difficult for me - my first time in this position, really. Of course I really want to be playing, but I still try to keep in as good a condition as possible and I hope I’ll have more chances soon. It was very good to score against Coventry, I enjoyed that.” The 31 year-old’s fitness is certainly giving cause for optimism, with his physical performance in training at its highest level during his time at Arsenal. “My figures are the best ever!” he said. “This summer I felt very good physically, it’s true. All of my exercise, especially the endurance side, has gone better than ever. We’ll find out how important that’s been when I’m playing.” While Arshavin is desperate to be unleashed on top-flight defences once more, he accepts that the Gunners have made a strong start to the season all over the pitch - and pinpoints what he believes the primary factor to have been. “The difference between this year and last year, in my opinion, is that we are playing more collectively,” he said. “I think we are helping each other more on the pitch defensively - last year it wasn’t up to this level. I haven’t seen the exact statistics, but I think we’re playing a more compact game. “My aim is to be part of it, to play football and focus on Arsenal. I think that, if I have the chance, I can do well.”