MATCH REPORT: Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal

Arsenal have picked up second consecutive Premier League defeat after losing 3-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, this evening.

The Gunners were facing an uphill battle early on, as two first-half goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata placed Chelsea two goals up.

Unai Emery’s men bit back in a spirited fashion, however, with two goals of their own before half-time, as the two sides took to the interval locked at 2-2.

Chelsea’s dominance in the second half was telling, granting them the final say in the clash, as Marcos Alonso’s 80th minute finish snatched all three points for his side in a five-goal-thriller.

Among the changes in Emery’s ranks was Iwobi’s introduction, coming in for the benched Aaron Ramsey, meanwhile Nacho Monreal marked his return to the first-team following Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ injury last week.

The Arsenal full-back came close to delivering for the visitors early doors, as his cross from the left was glanced on by Mesut Özil on the volley before skipping just wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal.

Chelsea’s response was fatal, however, as Jorginho freed Marcos Alonso in behind the Arsenal defence before setting Pedro up for a first-time finish past Čech, placing Maurizio Sarri’s team 1-0 up by the 9th minute.

The Gunners should’ve bounced back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 19th minute, found by Héctor Bellerín’s cut-back, but the Gabonese striker’s effort floated way over the bar with much of the goal at his mercy.

Once more, Chelsea were able to flaunt their clinical eye for goal through Alvaro Morata’s first goal of the season, as the Spaniard peeled away from the Arsenal backline to run through on goal, shifting Shkodran Mustafi out of his way and finishing in the 20th minute.

Another golden opportunity came the North Londoners’ way, this time falling to Mkhitaryan following Iwobi’s good work down the by-line, but the Armenian would suffer from the same fate as his ex-Dortmund teammate Aubameyang when blazing an effort over from a prime position.

Mkhitaryan was quick to make amends, however, drilling a loose ball from the edge of the box into the back of the net in the 37th minute, as Arsenal pulled a goal back.

At the other end, Morata was bringing Čech into action with an arced effort, requiring the veteran goalkeeper to tip the Spaniard’s effort over the bar.

Low crosses continued to cause chaos in the Chelsea box, with Arsenal finally making one count through Iwobi’s finish inside the area to level the game in the 41st minute.

A chance each for Iwobi and Aubameyang threatened to complete the turnaround for the Gunners on the brink of half-time, as the two London rivals entered the interval tied at 2-2.

Chelsea emerged rejuvenated for the second half, enjoying large spells of possession before Ross Barkley looked to force his way through in the 56th minute, as Čech got a strong and important hand to the ex-Everton man’s low strike.

Čech was there again to deny David Luiz from a free-kick position in the 74th minute, with Chelsea attempting to squeeze the Gunners in for the final 15 minutes, in search of a winner.

Ramsey aimed to drag some life into Arsenal’s attack with a cross-shot at the other end, as Kepa kept things tight for his side.

But Chelsea’s dominance soon translated itself into a goal, with Eden Hazard waltzing past Alexandre Lacazette down the wing to feed Alonso inside the box, who made no mistake when squeezing a shot under the goalkeeper and putting the Blues ahead in the 80th minute.

Arsenal old boy Giroud neared a killer blow against his former side with a measured left-footed strike, but Čech stood firm to deny another attempt at goal.

Ramsey was later on hand to offer the hosts a final fright, volleying just over the bar from Mkhitaryan’s knock-down before Arsenal surrendered to a 3-2 defeat.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7) – Héctor Bellerín (4), Shkodran Mustafi (5), Sokratis (5), Nacho Monreal (6) – Mattéo Guendouzi (7), Granit Xhaka (4) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6), Mesut Özil (5), Alex Iwobi (7) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5)

Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Aaron Ramsey (5), Alexandre Lacazette (5)

How Arsene Wenger should manage Arsenal’s remaining 8 Premier League games

Arsenal’s Premier League season is, for all intents and purposes, over. After five league losses since the turn of the year, the Gunners find themselves stranded behind the pack in sixth place instead of battling it out among the Premier League elite for a spot in the top four. The table tells the story: 33 points behind leaders Manchester City and 13 points behind fourth-place Tottenham, Arsenal have virtually nothing to play for in their remaining eight league matches. It is a peculiar, if not disheartening situation.

Arsene Wenger’s hopes of salvaging something from the worst season of his 21-year tenure now lie in the Europa League, a competition that offers both a chance to win his first European trophy and a route into next season’s Champions League. Still, the Frenchman must manage his squad for eight essentially meaningless domestic games, a task which presents both risk and opportunity. Here are some factors Wenger should consider as he leads his side through the ‘dead rubbers’ that make up the rest of the Premier League season.

 

Keep Key Europa League Players Fresh

hi-res-f574d160dad5e93e40912052cf9c53b1_crop_north

Laurent Koscielny’s fitness will be decisive in Arsenal’s Europa League run

It should serve as a wakeup call that the Europa League has, at this point, become more important to Arsenal than the Premier League. The club have no time to scoff at the stature of the competition, however, as it represents their best shot to get back into Europe’s elite tournament.

The Gunners are now in the quarterfinals after beating a strong AC Milan side 5–1 on aggregate—an outcome that few expected considering the way Arsenal had been playing. The 2-0 win at the San Siro was one of Arsenal’s strongest performances of the season, with the back four’s uncharacteristically resolute defending giving the entire team a platform to play with freedom and confidence.

Arsene Wenger will use that performance as a template for next month’s quarterfinal tie against CSKA Moscow. As Arsenal’s season rests on beating the Russian outfit over two legs, Wenger should keep key players fresh by limiting their minutes in the league. The fixture sandwiched between the two legs—Southampton at home—should see some rotation, with the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, and perhaps even Hector Bellerin and Mesut Özil getting the day off.

 

Give the youngsters a chance

skysports-arsene-wenger-reiss-nelson-joe-willock_4061325

Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock have both made their Arsenal debuts this season

One of the highlights of Arsenal’s dismal season has been the particularly exciting crop of young players breaking into the first team. Ainsley Maitland-Niles hasn’t looked out of place when slotting in at left-back—a position he’s not used to playing—while Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, and Joe Willock have all impressed when given minutes in the Europa League and Carabao Cup.

The low-pressure, dead rubber league games provide an ideal setting for Arsenal’s young talents to gain valuable first team minutes. As the Gunners tend to play their best football when the pressure is off, the youngsters will slot into a free-flowing, positive Arsenal side rather than a calamitous train wreck, ultimately aiding their development.

Optimized-Capture-15-1

One player in particular who fans would like to see more of is Reiss Nelson. Despite shining in the preseason tour of Asia last summer with his silky touches and mazy dribbles, the winger has played just 18 league minutes this season. With Alex Iwobi flattering to deceive at right-wing, it could be time to see what Nelson is truly capable of by giving him an extended run in the first team. What’s more, the 18-year-old’s contract expires next summer, and it would be a shame if the club’s brightest prospect in years was to leave because he wasn’t given a proper chance.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is another who would benefit from increased playing time in the Premier League. Impressing at left-back a handful of times this season with composure that belies his age and remarkable recovery speed, Maitland-Niles has deserved a chance to play in central midfield, his preferred position. Moving to the defense, Rob Holding or Calum Chambers could slot in while Laurent Koscielny is rested, with both in need of minutes to regain confidence.

The opportunity is there for Arsenal’s next generation to be integrated into the first team. Of all people, Arsene Wenger should be the first to recognize it.

 

Don’t let the results slide

Cech 2

Arsenal have lost 14 matches in all competitions this season

Although the rest of Arsenal’s Premier League season is technically pointless, the results will still influence the atmosphere around the club and the fan sentiment. While there may be no tangible consequences to defeat, a heavy loss at Old Trafford or a home upset to West Ham would add to the club’s malaise and bring more empty seats.

No man is more aware of that than Arsene Wenger, who in the past has described each and every defeat as “a scar on my heart.” The Frenchman will want to win his remaining games regardless of their importance as he looks to bring the feel-good factor back to the club. More importantly, Arsenal’s Premier League duties aren’t completely disconnected from their Europa League campaign: a series of losses could send them back into a negative spiral, while a run of form would build momentum that translates to Europe.

The Premier League season may be over, but Arsenal arguably have more to play for than ever. In a bid to end his worst-ever season on a high and potentially save his job, Arsene Wenger will have to manage his squad with care and canny between now and the end of May.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MattCelly

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-0 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Arsenal claimed their first set of back-to-back victories in the Premier League with a 2-0 win versus Brighton & Hove Albion at the Emirates Stadium, this afternoon.

A Nacho Monreal opener steered Arsenal into the right direction before Alex Iwobi’s second-half strike eased Arsène Wenger’s men to victory on his 21-year anniversary as manager of the Gunners.

The French boss had to call on the likes of Rob Holding and Iwobi returning to the first team, with Laurent Koscielny out through injury and Mesut Özil deemed unfit.

Alexandre Lacazette looked keen to ensure the absentees wouldn’t be missed, however, as he fired the mood up early with a sweetly-struck half-volley in the 2nd minute that would roar past Brighton shot-stopper Mathew Ryan before kissing the face of the post from range.

With the Seagulls struggling to get out of their own half, the hosts’ next chance to break the deadlock early would fall to Iwobi from the left-hand side of the area, but the young Nigerian’s strike would prove to be too tame to bother Ryan when opening the body.

Arsenal’s early momentum wouldn’t go to waste, however, with Granit Xhaka delivering a dangerous free-kick in the 17th minute that was initially met by Shkodran Mustafi before Shane Duffy’s clearance off the line but eventually stuck away by Monreal on his weaker foot.

Brighton replied through a set-piece of their own, laying off the ball for Solly March to replicate the luck Lacazette had with the woodwork moments earlier, as Lewis Dunk struggled to keep the rebound on target in the 23rd minute.

Ten minutes later, Dunk found himself in all sorts of trouble when being floored by a sloppy pass back to him and hijacked by Lacazette, but the Frenchman, with Alexis Sanchez in support, would opt to go alone in Arsenal’s counter-attack before dispatching a harmless left-footed shot into the keeper’s grasp.

With Brighton also having their moments in attack, the North Londoners continued to pick up opportunities on the break to hurt the newly-promoted side, almost striking gold in the 41st minute through Sead Kolašinac’s byline cross into Ramsey before Ryan’s important save.

A chilled entrance into the second half saw Arsenal add greater relaxation with goal number two in the 56th minute, opened up for Iwobi by Alexis’ intricate back-heeled pass before the academy graduate could thunder a shot past the goalkeeper and into the roof of the net from inside the box.

The Chilean came close to earning a goal for himself in the when cutting in from the left and angling a shot into the far corner, later denied by Dunk’s crucial intervention on the line.

From the subsequent corner, Kolašinac charged through to power a header at goal that would’ve sealed Arsenal’s third had it not been for another Brighton body on the line, this time seeing March head clear in the 62nd minute.

Brighton’s Glenn Murray came very close to setting up a grand-stand-finish when roaming towards the near-post untracked and unleashing a fierce header of his own into the side-netting, as the game drifted through its final ten minutes.

Pascal Groß and Davy Pröpper combined to conjure up one final chance for the visitors, curled wide by the latter before Olivier Giroud came close to amplifying Arsenal’s lead at the other end with an instinctive diving header over the bar, deep into stoppage time.

Two goals would be all that separated both sides at full time, as the Gunners rounded off their pre-international break activities with a victory that sees them move up to 5th place in the Premier League, albeit momentarily.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (5) – Rob Holding (6), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Nacho Monreal (7) – Héctor Bellerín (7), Aaron Ramsey (6), Granit Xhaka (6),Sead Kolašinac (8) – Alex Iwobi (7), Alexis Sanchez (8) – Alexandre Lacazette (6)

Subs: Olivier Giroud (5), Theo Walcott (5), Mohamed Elneny (N/A)

How Should Arsenal Use Their Squad For The Europa League This Season?

So Champions League football has returned, that means joy fills your heart. Hearing that glorious theme tune ring through your ears brings pure euphoria to your heart, until you remember that Arsenal aren’t in it. After finishing fifth last season, Arsenal will not partake in the competition for the first time in 20 years, and this brings a new question, how should Arsenal use their squad for the competition? Baring in mind that this competition offers an alternative way to qualify for the Champions League, this is an opportunity that Arsenal could capitalise on, especially with the strength of competiton in regards to the top 4.

One thing that immediately works in Arsenal’s favour is that they have an extremely large squad size. They club is capable of putting out two strong starting 11 teams, that can compete at the highest level. Judging from recent reports that a majority of the starting 11 didn’t partake in training, we can see the trend that Arsene Wenger is going to be following now and in the future. Reports have stated that players such as: Ozil, Ramsey, Koscielny, Xhaka, Lacazette and Cech didn’t partake in training although being match fit. This information provides insight as to which kind of players will be taking part in the game. Fringe players like Iwobi, Wilshere and Holding will be looking to use this opportunity to show Wenger their quality and why they should be breaking into the first team and becoming a regular.

Image result for wilshere

Wilshere will be looking to make an impression after being on loan at Bournemouth

This team selection makes the most sense to utilise. Baring in mind these game take place on Thursday evenings and the team could play on a Sunday afternoon, keeping the first team players as fresh as possible should be a priority given that Wenger is persisting that Arsenal can win the league. Furthermore, the majority of the players that have been warming the bench can make a legitimate claim that they should be starting more games; therefore, featuring in these games and playing the full 90 minutes; it provides them with the platform to showcase their talents and prove that they should be featured more in the Premier League.

Moreover, if you explore the fixture list and look at the Premier League fixtures when Arsenal are coming back from an away group fixture, the games are difficult. Looking at the fixtures that Arsenal are faced with, the games are: Brighton at home, Everton away & Burnley away. The only fixture within those 3 that you would be certain of 3 points would be the home fixture against Burnley. Subsequently, utilising the large squad makes sense for Wenger. It offers the fringe players the opportunity to play full games and showcase their skillset, while the first team players remain well rested and provides the team with the best chance of succeeding in the Premier League.

Image result for iwobi pre season

Alex Iwobi will be looking to impress after an impressive pre-season

To conclude, the Europa League provides viable competition for the Arsenal squad. The teams in the competition are more than capable of causing Arsenal problems and bringing the best out of the team on the field. However, the team that should be on the field are the players that don’t get regular game time and can use this platform to parachute themselves into first team consideration. It will be an interesting competition to watch for the Arsenal faithful. On one hand, their passion never runs dry for their team and they will be invested in the games, but there will be envy at not being involved in the biggest club competition.

Written by @_TimPD

MATCH REPORT: F.C. BASEL 1-4 ARSENAL

Arsenal concluded group stage football in the UEFA Champions League atop of Group A courtesy of a Lucas Perez hat-trick in a 4-1 win over F.C. Basel, as Ludogoretz played their part in drawing 2-2 versus 2nd placed Paris Saint-Germain away from home.

A treble from Lucas and a fourth goal picked up by Alex Iwobi set the Gunners up for their first top spot finish in the group stages since the 2009/10 season, meanwhile Seydou Doumbia’s late goal for Basel was unable to blemish a big European night for the north Londoners in Switzerland.

Arsène Wenger’s men took just eight minutes to poke their noses in front; Alexis Sánchez spotting the overlapping run from Kieran Gibbs with a ball over to top to the full back, who remained composed to assist Lucas for a simple tap-in with a pass across goal.

Slick interplay from Sánchez and Mesut Özil allowed the latter to create an opening for Gibbs once more in the 16th minute, with the Englishman’s strike being subsequently cleaned up by Lucas for an early double.

Basel’s response came just moments later from Adama Traoré, whose fierce left-footed strike arced just wide of David Ospina’s far post.

Matías Delgado then found himself with an even better opportunity to threaten the Gunners, but the Argentine’s header with his back to goal flew safely over the target with minutes left until half-time.

Arsenal resumed to hurt Basel in the second period and did so with purpose, once again through the Gibbs – Lucas combo, as a shot across the goal of Tomáš Vaclík from the Spaniard amplified the score to 3-0 in the visitors’ favour.

A wake-up call came soon after when Marc Janko’s glancing header skipped past the far post, but Arsenal were able to breathe even easier come the 53rd minute.

Sánchez’s ball over the top was met by Özil’s direct run, who was able to time the execution of his cut-back that only required Iwobi’s side-footed finish from close range to make it 4-0.

The crossbar then received its own share of action when denying Sánchez’s free kick from flying in, a strike in the 67th minute that could have been the forward’s 14th goal of the season.

The Chilean was replaced soon after for Mohamed Elneny, but it was Arsenal’s other second-half substitute, Olivier Giroud, who neared an instant impact when narrowly missing the target with a toe-poke directed at the near-post in the 73rd minute.

Ex-Newcastle United man Doumbia then lifted the home crowd off its feet for a consolation goal, sending Ospina the wrong way in the 78th minute and concluding the 4-1 score line.