ARSENAL Must Maintain Pace At The Top. Leicester Preview.


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The last time the Foxes were in the Premier League was in the 2003-04 season, when they took a point off the Gunners in a 1-1 draw at home and were beaten 2-1 at Highbury thanks to goals from Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira. Leicester City were relegated that season, while Arsenal went on to win the title.

Arsene Wenger’s side hasn’t won the Premier League since.

This generation of Leicester City players will be hoping for much better than a relegation scrap, having come up from the Championship with ease after a heavy spending spree. However, their re-introduction to the top flight has been a tough one, with fixtures against Everton, Chelsea and now Arsenal on Sunday making it a tough run of games in August for the Foxes. Despite the tricky schedule, City have acquitted themselves well, earning a point against Everton on the opening weekend before making life difficult for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a week ago.

“The two Premier League games that we have played, you could argue that we played exceptionally well in and caused two sides that finished high in the Premier League last year problems,” Leicester manager Nigel Pearson said. “It’s a bit of a learning curve for us. Arsenal represent a side and a club with huge stability with success over a sustained period of time. As a blueprint for a club they are up there with the best.

“We know it will be another tough game for us but I expect our players to cause them problems and we have spoken about the best ways that we operate to try and get the three points.”

Arsenal have had a slightly shaky start to the Premier League season, needing an injury-time Aaron Ramsey goal to beat Crystal Palace on the opening weekend before scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to rescue a point at Everton last time out. However, the Gunners have also had the distraction of the Champions League qualifying round, where they edged past Turkish side Besiktas with a 1-0 aggregate win over two legs, having had a player sent off in both matches.

“We produced the performance we wanted on the tactical, technical and mental side that was required against a good team,” Wenger said after Wednesday night’s 1-0 win at the Emirates. “We couldn’t finish the game off so of course it was nervous for the last 10 minutes.

“We would have liked to have won the game earlier because it would have made it a lot easier, but we wanted to qualify and we did it against a very good team.”

Summer signing Alexis Sanchez scored the winner against Besiktas and is likely to lead the line for much of the first half of the season after Olivier Giroud was ruled out for three months with a broken leg. Wenger may opt to strengthen in the transfer market before Monday’s deadline, despite describing the final day of the window as “like a game of poker” in his pre-match press conference.

Leicester’s latest summer signing is unlikely to start, but will provide a huge boost to the squad. Former Argentina international Esteban Cambiasso completed his move from Inter Milan on Thursday, ending a decade at the Italian club. The mercurial midfielder will add quality, experience and composure to the Leicester midfield once he is introduced.

Arsenal must play an effective game to grab all three points against Leicester City. The Gunners performance so far this season has been lacklustre and very unconvincing. It will be a bad result if the maximum points are not achieved.

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Ramsey And Giroud Caps Late Fight Back As ARSENAL Make A Point.


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Olivier Giroud scored a dramatic late equaliser as Arsenal battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger’s side looked set for another chastening defeat against one of their rivals for a top four finish after finding themselves deep in trouble before half-time.

Strikes from Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith ripped apart an Arsenal defence which had been demolished on their visits to Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton last season.

But the Gunners staged a brilliant late revival to suggest they are made of sterner stuff this term.

Aaron Ramsey finished from close range with seven minutes remaining before France striker Giroud capped the gutsy fightback by heading home in the final minute of normal time.

It was an agonising finale for Everton, who had made two changes from the side which drew with Leicester on the opening day as Coleman and Kevin Mirallas came in for John Stones and Aiden McGeady.

Wenger included World Cup winners Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil for the first time this season, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal made their first starts.

The hosts were dealt a blow in the ninth minute when South African midfielder Steven Pienaar limped out after a strong challenge from Calum Chambers.

After a sedate start the game exploded into life in the 20th minute when Coleman capitalised on some poor defending by Arsenal and opened the scoring for Everton.

Everton worked a free-kick in the Arsenal half and Gareth Barry delivered a dangerous ball to the back post which went over Romelu Lukaku for Coleman, who was left unattended by Ozil, and he powerfully headed past Wojciech Szczesny.

The goal saw Roberto Martinez’s side grow in confidence and they should have added a second shortly afterwards.

A long ball from Leighton Baines was flicked on by Naismith for Kevin Mirallas, but with only Szczesny to beat the Belgium forward directed his shot wide.

Mirallas almost made amends on the half-hour mark with a curling free-kick which flew over just over the top corner.

Arsenal looked tired from the first leg of their Champions League play-off with Turkish side Besiktas, which ended goalless in midweek, and were punished on the counter attack on the stroke of half-time.

Lukaku showed his strength to win the ball ahead of Mertesacker on the right flank and turned the German centre-back before he cut inside and threaded a pass for Naismith, who slipped the ball under Szczesny and into the net.

Wenger withdrew Chile forward Alexis Sanchez for Giroud at half-time and the France striker went close with his first touch when he volleyed Ramsey’s clever chip over the bar from close range.

Arsenal controlled the bulk of possession while Everton were happy to contain and look to catch them on the break.

Gunners midfielder Jack Wilshere was shown a yellow card for late tackle on Barry and Chambers also went into the book for a foul on Naismith as the second half became scrappier.

Giroud twice went close in the space of two minutes just after the hour as he first rifled a shot from distance which flew past the post, then saw Tim Howard narrow the angle to save from 10 yards out.

It was a signal of things to come, and Arsenal introduced Joel Campbell and Santi Cazorla as they chased the game.

The latter in particular was a menace as he helped the visitors pull one back to ensure a tense finish.

In the 83rd minute Cazorla crossed a low ball into the penalty area and Ramsey slammed home from close range.

And Giroud provided the perfect finish for Wenger’s side in the 90th minute when he out-muscled Sylvain Distin to powerfully head Monreal’s cross past Howard.

The 2 goals comeback apart but, Arsenal poor in all three competitive games of the season so far (excluding community shield triumph). Team struggling to find the right balance and yet to hit top form. Arsene Wenger recognises this and was quick to admit the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park was a big test.

”We had a big test today and at halftime, it was even a bigger test,” Wenger said. ”We responded well.”

Focus now turns to the all important 2nd leg Champions League qualifier against Besiktas on Wednesday. A win for Arsenal could well be termed as a good start to the season.

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Evening At Goodison Park. Everton vs ARSENAL.


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Game day! I woke up from dreams of Arsenal s 4- 1 victory in 2004 and the 6 – 1 drubbing of Everton in 2009. Great memories to relish.

Arsenal’s title credentials will face an early test when they travel to Goodison Park on Saturday.

The signing of Chile and Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez sent the Gunners into the new Premier League season with aspirations of finally competing for the league’s top honour. However, they needed an injury time goal from Aaron Ramsey to see off managerless Crystal Palace last weekend, and were held to a 0-0 draw by Besiktas in their Champions League play-off in midweek – with Ramsey being sent off.

Despite Arsenal not hitting full-stride yet, Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes the Gunners’ early European involvement will give them an advantage on Saturday.

“I’m looking at Arsenal with the experience and know-how they have and don’t think playing on Tuesday is going to affect them negatively,” said Martinez. “If anything it could be a positive because you can get rid of that rustiness and can get you into a real competitive frame of mind straight away.

“We need to replicate the level of performance from when we faced them at Goodison last season.”

The Toffees tore through Arsenal in this fixture in the last campaign, with Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku scoring first-half goals in a 3-0 win in April. Everton also managed a draw when these teams met at the Emirates in December, but Arsene Wenger believes that his Arsenal team have evolved into a better side over the summer.

“First of all a team is life and life is movement,” said Wenger, in a bizarrely cryptic pre-match press conference.

“That means the team doesn’t stand still, we move forward and improve. We have young players, which means that every year they can be better. Also the team improves with success, which we had a reasonable amount of last year.

“We have a good opportunity on Saturday to show that we have moved forward and that we are stronger than last year.”

Arsenal are going to be without Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs for the trip to Everton, while Theo Walcott remains out. The big decisions for Wenger will be whether or not to reintroduce German World Cup winners Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, and in what position to play Sanchez as the summer signing finds his feet at the club. The physical condition of Jack Wilshere will be a concern, but with Arteta ruled out it would appear likely that Wilshere will play his third game in a week.

Everton broke from their usual safe and steady transfer strategy in the summer with a big bid for Chelsea forward Lukaku. The striker’s addition, plus a new contract for Ross Barkley, suggests that Everton would be a threat for the top four this season, but Barkley injured his knee on the opening weekend and could be out for months, and the Toffees were unimpressive in a 2-2 draw with newly-promoted Leicester City on the opening weekend.

Before last season’s thumping 3-0 win, Everton hadn’t beaten Arsenal in 14 attempts – losing nine and drawing five of their meetings since March 2007.

Arsenal now have the chance to bring up another century – 100 wins against Everton in all the games they’ve played since first meeting in 1905.

Hopefully it will be 2 in 2 for Arsenal at the end of proceedings today and the squad can concentrate on the decisive second leg Champions League clash against Besiktas.

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WENGER to summon German World Cup stars for Besiktas tie.


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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he is considering bringing his German World Cup winners back into the squad ahead of schedule for the first leg of Tuesday’s Champions League play-off at Besiktas.

The Gunners travel to Turkey having made heavy weather of their opening Premier League fixture at home to managerless Crystal Palace, where a stoppage-time goal from Aaron Ramsey secured a 2-1 victory against a side reduced to 10 men.

Wenger had given German trio Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski extra time off following their nation’s triumph in Brazil last month.

But with Kieran Gibbs having suffered a hamstring injury against Palace and Jack Wilshere also taken off early following a heavy challenge, the Frenchman admitted he was tempted to issue a recall notice.

“The Champions League qualifier is a massive game for us against Besiktas, we have a short time to recover,” said Wenger.

“Normally the German players would not play in that game. We will have to see on Sunday but only in case of emergency.

“Because of the physicality and the organisation level of Crystal Palace it was very difficult for us. We conceded a goal from the first corner they had because we still lack a bit of pace in the final third when we build up into dangerous situations.

“But we kept going and it was enough to win the game. On the first day of the season we were the only team to win at home so that shows you it is difficult for everybody on the first day. We got the three points we wanted, let’s focus now on Besiktas.”

Marquee summer signing Alexis Sanchez endured a frustrating Premier League debut against a physical Palace side.

The Chile forward, who cost £30million from Barcelona, looked like a player who was getting used to new surroundings.

– Sanchez struggles –

“I am very happy with his attitude because he kept on fighting for 90 minutes, even if he is not completely ready physically,” Wenger said.

“Tactically he needs to improve his understanding with his partners but he looked lively and dangerous until the end.”

Palace were seconds away from securing a point having taken the lead through Brede Hangeland’s header from a corner, with Laurent Koscielny equalising just before half-time.

It was still level when Jason Puncheon was sent off for two bookable offences with a minute to go.

A draw would have been a remarkable result given that manager Tony Pulis had quit on Thursday night because the board had only given him three new players in the close season, of which Hangeland was one.

Caretaker manager Keith Millen made it clear that with the transfer window soon shutting a replacement needed to be brought in as soon as possible — and the players given a full explanation of the board’s plans.

“Tony loved working with this group day in, day out and you couldn’t ask for a group that works harder,” he said.

“But the players need to know which direction the club is going.

“Hopefully at the start of the week there will be some more answers. We know we can compete at this level but we have got to get more competition for places. The players are waiting to be given a new direction on the field and off the field.

“We’ve identified all the summer the areas we need to strengthen but for whatever reason that’s not happened.

“The three players we’ve brought in all had excellent debuts and have made us better but there are areas where we need to strengthen as a club. Tony knew what players he wanted and the club do.”

Millen is open to taking the job permanently but it is understood he is not being considered as a front-line candidate.

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ARSENAL Leave It Late As RAMSEY Sinks Crystal Palace.


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Aaron Ramsey spared Arsenal’s blushes as the Wales midfielder’s stoppage-time strike finally saw off 10-man Crystal Palace in a dramatic 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger’s side believe they are capable of winning the Premier League for the first time since 2004 after ending a nine-year trophy drought with their FA Cup triumph last season.

But the Gunners were in danger of making a slow start to their title challenge after falling behind to Brede Hangeland’s first-half opener at the Emirates Stadium.

Laurent Koscielny equalised before the break, but the managerless visitors, who saw boss Tony Pulis leave on the eve of the season due to a row over transfer policy, were able to keep Arsenal at bay for long periods.

The turning point came when Palace midfielder Jason Puncheon was dismissed for two yellow cards near the end and Ramsey, who scored 18 goals last season including a winner in the FA Cup final, was in the right place at the right time to force home another vital goal in the first minute of stoppage time.

Having seen his side rout Premier League champions Manchester City 3-0 to lift the Community Shield last week, Wenger had decided to name an unchanged line-up.

That meant Yaya Sanogo starting up front instead of Olivier Giroud, who had scored at Wembley, plus league debuts for Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy.

The Sanogo call was an interesting one considering he contributed no goals to the Arsenal cause last season, while Giroud weighed in with 22.

Palace had bigger concerns after Pulis’s shock decision to walk out following a dispute with the board over signings.

The former Stoke manager had been frustrated to have been handed just Hangeland, Fraizer Campbell and Martin Kelly. All three were given debuts by caretaker manager Keith Millen and the Palace new-boys were instrumental in their team’s stubborn display.

Sanchez made an instant impact on the right and his skills helped Jack Wilshere find Ramsey in the penalty area.

The Wales midfielder went down under Scott Dann’s challenge but play continued.

Sanogo was making little headway but Sanchez was full of confidence and the Chile winger tried his luck from distance with a chip that drifted just wide.

Palace were content to defend in numbers and Campbell cut an isolated figure up front.

Sanogo poked a shot poorly wide before Wilshere tested Julian Speroni in the Palace goal for the first time with a low drive diverted round a post for a corner.

Palace’s response was to take a 35th-minute lead through former Fulham centre-back Hangeland, who came charging through to head home Puncheon’s corner.

Arsenal’s marking had been poor but they were level just before the break when French defender Koscielny escaped Hangeland and stayed on-side by a fraction to head in Sanchez’s free-kick.

Arsenal made two changes early in the second half, with Nacho Monreal replacing Kieran Gibbs at left-back and Giroud coming on for Sanogo, to the home fans’ approval.

A third switch soon followed when Wilshere, hurt by Marouane Chamakh, was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Kelly was booked for a foul on Sanchez as Palace defended by any means possible, with Puncheon picking up a second yellow in the final minute.

The 10 men were seconds away from escaping with a point, but they were undone when Giroud won a header at the back post and Debuchy swivelled to fired in a shot that Speroni could only parry to Ramsey, who gratefully fired home the rebound from almost on the line

Respite at the end for Arsenal. By the Gunners standard, it was a poor game but equally difficult match as Crystal Palace are well organised defensively. An important three points at the end.

Focus now turns to the all important first leg champions league qualifier against Besiktas in Turkey.

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ARSENAL starts campaign to win Premier League. Crystal Palace Preview


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Arsenal went nine years between trophies, and now they have two in three months.

Arsene Wenger thinks he’s positioned the Gunners to aim for more in 2014-15.

A week after comfortably winning the Community Shield, Arsenal look to begin the Premier League in strong fashion at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday against Crystal Palace.

Arsenal finally emerged from their trophy drought with a piece of silverware by beating Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup final on May 17 – the club’s first major title since the 2005 FA Cup.

It didn’t take very long to add another, as the Gunners routed Manchester City 3-0 on Sunday, claiming their first Community Shield since 2004.

Now, Wenger hopes his tactics in the transfer market will pay off on the pitch, and lead Arsenal to its first Premier League crown since the Invincibles of 2003-04.

“We have more money available to buy today than we had five years ago,” Wenger said. “We can compete better. For years we have lost top players without the ability to replace them because of financial management.”

Wenger’s latest lavish acquisition is Alexis Sanchez, who was deemed surplus goods at Barcelona and moved to London for a tidy 31 million pounds.

The forward had 19 goals in La Liga last term, and was a star for Chile at this summer’s World Cup, scoring twice in four matches. He’s expected to feature as a dynamic playmaker behind striker Olivier Giroud, although Wenger seems comfortable employing him in a range of positions.

“He can play through the middle and (on) both flanks,” Wenger told the club’s official website. “He’s a striker type, and I believe he gives us many options.”

Arsenal certainly have plenty through the midfield. Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil are back to provide offensive flair to a midfield that is still seeking some steel – an area Wenger is expected to address before the close of the transfer window.

Ozil was last summer’s extravagant addition, joining Arsenal from Real Madrid for 42 million pounds.

Still, the scoring responsibility may fall to Giroud, who led the team with 22 goals in all competitions and scored the final tally on Sunday against City. The Frenchman had a goal in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Oct. 26, and assisted on one of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s two goals in a victory by the same score at home Feb. 2.

Arsenal haven’t lost to Palace since October 1994.

“We want to set a marker and we don’t want to miss that opportunity,” said midfielder Mikel Arteta.

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are looking to get off to a better start after losing nine of their first 10 league matches last season. However, they went 5-2-1 over the final eight matches to finish a surprising 11th in their first season back in the top flight since 2004-05.

Despite their impressive league finish, the Eagles scored just 33 goals, the fewest for any team that wasn’t relegated.

“We need people who can put the ball in the back of the net,” said Tony Pulis, last season’s Premier League Manager of the Season.

Pulis may be hoping the addition of Fraizer Campbell can help. The forward, a once-heralded youngster with Manchester United, had six goals for relegated Cardiff City last season.

Still, Palace’s success will likely have come from utilizing Pulis’ rigid system that tries to stifle opponents’ offensive creativity. That scheme produced 11 of the club’s 12 clean sheets last season after Pulis replaced the fired Ian Holloway in November, but with Pulis leaving 48 hours to this game, the dimension may have changed.

Let’s hope it all works in Arsenal’s favour. Key to start the season on a winning way unlike past four seasons.

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Giroud And Szczesny Back ARSENAL To Win Premier League.


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Olivier Giroud claims Arsenal’s convincing Community Shield victory over Manchester City proves they are ready to end their long wait to win the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger’s side wrapped up their pre-season preparations in style as goals from Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and a stunning effort from Giroud clinched a 3-0 victory over the reigning champions at Wembley on Sunday.

Just four months after finally winning their first silverware for nine years in a dramatic FA Cup final triumph against Hull, the Gunners look a far more confident and vibrant outfit than the brittle group who so often cracked under pressure in the past.

Bolstered by solid debuts from Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, Wenger’s team out-played City from start to finish and France striker Giroud believes his side go into the new campaign as genuine contenders to win the title for the first time since the club’s famous ‘Invincibles’ in 2004.

“That is the target. Last year we did well until March and then we had a bad run after,” Giroud said.

“We have a good quality squad and that is why I think we will be stronger this year.

“We wanted to come back and be stronger than last year. When our German World Cup players join us we will be stronger and hopefully stay that way until May.”

Giroud’s brilliant long-range strike was perfectly timed following the £30 million ($50 million) arrival of Sanchez from Barcelona.

Wenger lost patience with Giroud’s slump in form following some lurid reports about his private life last season and sometimes preferred raw rookie Yaya Sanogo as his main striker late in the campaign.

With Wenger highlighting Sanchez’s ability to play up front as well as on the flanks, Giroud could face a battle for his place, but he says there is room for both players in the starting line-up.

“I tried to give my best in the second half. I was not really ready in the Emirates Cup last week, but I knew I would play the second half today,” Giroud said.

“I was feeling ok in the game and will be ready for the Crystal Palace match next week. It’s always great for a striker to score. I was man of the match and I will take it with pleasure.

“I have a good understanding with Alexis. It is always easy to play with this kind of player.

“He will need some more games to adapt his game to the Premier League but he is a fantastic player so I think he will do a great season.

“He has different qualities than me. He can bring his pace and technique and he is a great finisher.”

Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is equally confident Arsenal have enough quality to trade blows with City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool in the title fight.

The Pole says Arsenal’s current squad is the strongest in his eight years at the club.

“I think so, and hopefully it will be the most successful one. Looking at it on paper it probably is the strongest we’ve had,” he said.

“With the expection of Thomas (Vermaelen), we’ve not lost any big players and, even if somebody did leave, the manager has got good players to replace them. We are looking stronger and stronger and I’m happy with that.”

Meanwhile, City defender Dedryck Boyata insists the absence of key players Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta cannot be used as an excuse for their tame defeat.

“We were missing players but we have a big enough squad that we should be able to deal with that and play our game,” said Boyata, who made a rare start in place of rested captain Kompany.

“We don’t want to talk about the missing players.

“It was a hard game and everyone is really down because we wanted to leave here with a win.”

With three days to the start of a brand new Premier League season, expectations are high for the Gooners.

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Sparkling SANCHEZ Adds To ARSENAL’s Optimism.


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Alexis Sanchez has added to the feelgood factor at Arsenal as the Chile forward capped his new club’s perfect start to the season with an eye-catching display in the Community Shield on Sunday.

The 25-year-old arrived from Barcelona billed as the creative dynamo who can ensure Arsenal’s momentum from last season’s FA Cup final triumph reaps even greater rewards this term.

On the evidence of his vibrant showing in the 3-0 win against Manchester City at Wembley, he won’t be overawed by the challenge.

He played for just 45 minutes on his competitive debut, but there were enough signs of his quality to suggest he will prove an astute addition to a squad brim full of confidence after ending their nine-year trophy drought.

Sanchez was often used on the flanks by Barcelona but Wenger, who has compared his new signing to Brazil striker Neymar, believes he can also be used in a more central attacking role, sparking much debate about where he would feature against City.

But with Theo Walcott still recovering from injury, Sanchez took up a familiar position on the right wing at the start of his Arsenal career.

Initially he was mostly an admiring bystander as Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshire and Santi Cazorla dictated play while the Gunners tore into the champions.

But gradually he began to influence proceedings with a clever drop of the shoulder here and a nimble turn there before making his first concrete contribution in the 42nd minute.

Taking possession wide on the right, he looked up before unfurling a perfectly-weighted low pass to Yaya Sanogo, who didn’t waste the exquisite service as he teed up Ramsey for Arsenal’s second goal.

Sanchez had scored twice for Chile on his last appearance at Wembley in a friendly victory over England in November.

And he was almost back on the scoresheet moments later, sprinting onto a Sanogo through-ball before attempting to poke his shot past the on-rushing Willy Caballero, who just managed to block with his leg.

That was Sanchez’s last contribution as Wenger decided to end his first taste of English football at the interval.

But he had already done enough to show he could thrive far more in north London than he did in Spain.

On joining Barcelona in 2011, Sanchez had just been voted the most promising player in European football ahead of Neymar and Gareth Bale after some scintillating displays for Udinese in Serie A.

But his three-year stay was an ultimately frustrating experience, with occasional moments of magic overshadowed by niggling injuries and the kind of inconsistent performances not tolerated for long at a club of Barca’s stature.

Wenger secured Sanchez’s signature for around £30 million ($50 million) after he snubbed the chance to join Liverpool as part of Luis Suarez’s move to Spain.

Concerns about the 5ft 7in Chilean’s stature should be short-lived because his immaculate technique, direct running and feisty attitude appear well suited to the rough and tumble Premier League.

And after Mesut Ozil’s less prolific debut season following his club record move to Arsenal last year, Wenger will be confident of a more immediate impact from his latest costly acquisition.

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ARSENAL Outclassed Manchester City In Community Shield.


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Arsenal overpowered Manchester City 3-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to claim the first piece of silverware of the 2014-15 English season.

The FA Cup winners took a two-goal lead into half-time thanks to strikes from midfielders Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, with substitute Olivier Giroud curling home their third from 25 yards on the hour.

It was Arsenal’s 13th Community Shield success and its the first for Arsene Wenger’s side in the English season’s curtain raiser since 2004.

A Santi Cazorla’s angled shot after some brilliant work by Alexis Sanchez and Yaya Sanogo in the 22nd minute put the Gooners ahead before Aaron Ramsey added a 2nd three minutes before end of first half as he drove in a strike to finish a counter-attack set up by Yaya Sanogo.
Manchester City only came close to scoring when Stevan Jovetic had a header hit the post and a shot saved mid into the second half.
Unexpectedly and from nowhere the icing on the cake surfaced when Olivier Giroud’s dipping 25-yard strike completed City’s rout and secured Arsenal’s win. It was a classic goal to end another historic day for Arsenal.

Arsenal have won their second trophy in 85 days after going 3283 days without silverware prior to that.

Arsenal open their Premier League campaign at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday today’s victory should give them plenty of belief before they head to Instabul to face Besiktas in a Champions League qualifier.

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Community Shield: 5 Talking Points.


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Hooray! The new season is finally upon us. What a joy to have club football back.

Arsenal open the new season with a community shield cracker with League Champions, Manchester City. How sweet for us to start with another trophy.
Here are five talking points heading into the traditional curtain raiser to the top-flight season in England:

Will Sanchez make a good first impression?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger splashed out £35 million on Chile forward Alexis Sanchez in the hope the former Barcelona star can provide the kind of game-changing brilliance that can turn a team from title pretenders into serious contenders for the English crown.

In the absence of the injured Theo Walcott, the 25-year-old is likely to start on the right wing, where he has been deployed for much of his career, but Wenger believes he can also be a major threat as a striker.

Either way, Sanchez needs to get off to the kind of fast start that eluded Arsenal’s club record signing Mesut Ozil last term.

Can Toure have his cake and eat it?

Yaya Toure was the colossus at the heart of City’s surge to the title last season, but the Ivory Coast midfielder heads into the new campaign with concerns over his commitment to the champions after a series of disputes.

Toure’s agent bizarrely criticised City for failing to provide him with a cake for his birthday, and then more seriously suggested the player had not been allowed to spend time with his dying brother.

Despite suggestions he was trying to engineer a move back to his old club Barcelona, Toure is adamant he wants to stay, but actions will speak louder than words at Wembley.

‘New Adams’ Chambers must justify Wenger’s faith.

Wenger continued to plunder Southampton for young English talent when he paid £16 million deal to sign Calum Chambers in pre-season, then immediately added to the weight of expectations on the teenage defender’s shoulders by hailing his new acquisition as the next Tony Adams.

The 19-year-old has made only 20 starts in his promising career, with most coming at right-back, but Wenger, who also signed Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton in the past, sees Chambers as a heir to Adams, whose defensive acumen and passion made him an Arsenal legend, and has already moved the youngster to centre-back in the Gunners’ pre-season matches.

Fernando aims to be a City slicker.

City fans should get their first glimpse of the man nicknamed ‘the Octopus’ as Fernando prepares for his debut in the midfield holding role.

Signed from Porto for £12 million, the gangly Fernando earned his memorable label after he continually dispossessed Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney with his long legs during a Champions League match against Manchester United in 2009.

More of the same in a City shirt this weekend would quickly endear the Brazilian to his new team.

Jovetic back in the firing line.

Plagued by injury and illness last season, Stevan Jovetic endured a frustrating first campaign in the Premier League, but the Montenegro striker is back to full fitness and showing why City boss Manuel Pellegrini bought him from Fiorentina for £22 million.

Given the chance to start while Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo recover from injuries, Jovetic has already scored four times in City’s warm-up matches, prompting Pellegrini to say: “If he’s fit all year, he will be a very important player for us.”

Hoping the Arsenal triumph and make Wembley bleed Red again.

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Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal tackle Hull City in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, when Arsene Wenger’s men will be seeking to end a trophy drought stretching back to 2005.

Todays blog is to run the rule over the players bidding to take the cup to the Emirates Stadium.


1. Wojciech Szczesny (POLAND)

Szczesny has enjoyed one of his best seasons to date, sharing the Premier League Golden Glove award for most clean sheets with Chelsea’s Petr Cech, but is expected to start on the bench against Hull.

21. Lukasz Fabianski (POLAND)

Usually the deputy to countryman Szczesny, 29-year-old Fabianski will expect to start the final after playing in all of Arsenal’s matches in the competition so far.


3. Bacary Sagna (FRANCE)

A member of the France World Cup squad, Sagna has been at Arsenal since 2007, but this could be his final game for the club as talks over a new contract have broken down.

4. Per Mertesacker (GERMANY)

Germany international Mertesacker has overcome an uncertain start to his Arsenal career to establish himself in central defence and was one of the team’s key performers during the 2013-14 Premier League campaign.

5. Thomas Vermaelen (BELGIUM)

While still the club captain, left-footed Belgian centre-back Vermaelen has seen his playing opportunities dwindle due to Wenger’s preference for Mertesacker and Koscielny.

6. Laurent Koscielny (FRANCE)

Seen as one of the most accomplished centre-backs in the English game, France international Koscielny will be eager to atone after his mix-up with Szczesny gifted Birmingham City victory in the 2011 League Cup final.

28. Kieran Gibbs (ENGLAND)

Injuries have hampered Gibbs’s progress at Arsenal and prevented him from staking a claim to a regular starting berth with England, but when fit the 24-year-old Londoner remains Wenger’s number-once choice at left-back.


7. Tomas Rosicky (CZE)

Versatile Czech midfielder Rosicky, in many ways the archetypal Wenger player, has been with Arsenal since 2006 and recently signed a new contract with the club.

8. Mikel Arteta (SPAIN)

A virtual ever-present since arriving from Everton in 2011, Spaniard Arteta sets the tempo in the Arsenal midfield and has regularly captained the team this season in the absence of Vermaelen.

10. Jack Wilshere (ENGLAND)

One of the great white hopes of English football, Wilshere has been bedevilled by injuries since breaking into the side in 2010-11 and only recently returned to fitness after two months out with a fractured foot.

11. Mesut Ozil (GERMANY)

Ozil’s club-record £42.5 million ($71.3 million, 52 million euros) move from Real Madrid in September generated huge excitement, but Wenger has since had to speak out in defence of the gifted Germany playmaker, whose form has tailed off sharply.

15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ENGLAND)

Nicknamed ‘The Ox’ due to his pace and physicality, Oxlade-Chamberlain, like Wilshere, has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, but he remains greatly admired by both Wenger and England manager Roy Hodgson.

16. Aaron Ramsey (WALES)

A sensational start to the season saw Ramsey amass 15 goals by the end of November and although he then spent three months on the sidelines with a thigh strain, the Welshman has been Arsenal’s stand-out player this term.

19. Santi Cazorla (SPAIN)

One of the few genuinely two-footed players in the game, Cazorla has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers since arriving from Malaga in 2012 and is renowned for his long-range shooting.

20. Mathieu Flamini (FRANCE)

Back at the club for the second time after a five-year spell with AC Milan, tigerish Frenchman Flamini supplies the grit and tenacity to complement the more cerebral qualities of the midfielders around him.


9. Lukas Podolski (GERMANY)

Blessed with a jackhammer left foot, Podolski has scored 46 goals for Germany but invariably plays on the left flank for Arsenal rather than his preferred position at centre-forward.

12. Olivier Giroud (FRANCE)

Arsenal’s failure to sign a major striker last year left Giroud to shoulder the goal-scoring burden alone, but the French target man responded in impressive fashion and has netted 22 times in the campaign to date.


Arsene Wenger (FRANCE)

Wenger has rebuilt the club in his own image since arriving from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996, but Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought threatens to undermine a lot of his achievements.

While the urbane Frenchman is rightly proud of Arsenal’s record of 17 successive qualifications for the Champions League, fans long for a return to the early years of his tenure, when the team swept all before them.

Wenger reached the milestone of 1,000 matches with Arsenal this season, but once again, early-season promise failed to translate into a sustained title challenge.

A triumph today will certainly the path to Arsenals redemption.

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Arsenal Warmed Up For FA Cup Final. Norwich Review


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal warmed up for next weekend’s FA Cup final with a 2-0 victory at Norwich City on Sunday, a result that finally confirmed the hosts’ relegation from the Premier League.

Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson were the scorers on a final day of the Premier League season when there was little at stake at Carrow Road.

Both sides had known beforehand that only a series of freak scores would enable them to rise any higher in the table, with Arsenal beginning in fourth place and Norwich third from bottom.

Norwich’s cause was always going to be forlorn as they required not just West Bromwich Albion to lose at home to Stoke but also to win and be the beneficiaries of an incredible 17-goal swing.

Arsenal though required an even bigger turnaround to prise third place from Chelsea.

In the end both sets of supporters witnessed an afternoon of little drama, although Ramsey’s goal was particularly impressive, and Norwich ended their season three points adrift of safety.

Arsenal’s campaign will come to an end at Wembley next Saturday when they will look to beat Hull City and claim their first trophy since they won the FA Cup in 2005.

The starting line-up selected at Carrow Road by manager Arsene Wenger, who has insisted he will sign a new Arsenal contract soon, included five changes, most of which were defensive, but was nevertheless a strong side.

One of those changes, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, pulled off a save at his near post to deny Nathan Redmond before Lukas Podolski fired a long-range shot wide at the other end.

Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy then came out to make a good block of another Podolski effort but there was little urgency from either side in the opening half-hour.

Ruddy then pulled off an even better save to deny Olivier Giroud, who had been put through by Podolski as the Norwich defence napped.

The Frenchman soon had another go but again Ruddy made a top-quality save to boost his chances of going to the World Cup finals with England.

– Ramsey class –

The second half began with Podolski nodding over a corner from close range but with little at stake the German was able to laugh about it as he trotted downfield.

Ramsey improved the quality of proceedings with a top-quality strike to put Arsenal ahead in the 53rd minute.

Giroud picked him out at the back post with a chip from the left and the Wales midfielder volleyed into the top corner, giving Ruddy no chance.

Jenkinson made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute by being the first to react in the Norwich box when Podolski’s shot was half-blocked by a defender. It was the 22-year-old’s first Arsenal goal.

Arsenal immediately sent on Jack Wilshere for the England midfielder’s first appearance since suffering a broken foot while on international duty against Denmark at the start of March.

Abou Diaby also made his long-awaited comeback from injury, replacing Tomas Rosicky for the final quarter of an hour, with Giroud also replaced by Yaya Sanogo. Diaby had been missing for 14 months with a knee injury.

Sanogo almost squeezed in a late third goal but Ruddy was able to get a glove on it and divert the ball away.

Hopefully the glory days returns to The Arsenal next Saturday.

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Final Game At Carrow Road: Norwich Preview


Arsenal Trenders,

Championship Sunday has a much different meaning for Norwich City.

Arsenal may be looking ahead to another.

The Canaries may be looking to leave one last good impression on the Premier League, as they welcome the Gunners to what is likely to be a sombre Carrow Road on Sunday.

After three seasons in the top flight, Norwich (8-9-20) are headed back to the Championship unless they pull off an escape act that would make Harry Houdini blush.

The Canaries are 18th in the table, three points back of West Bromwich Albion, who host Stoke City. However, Norwich are 17 goals behind the Baggies in the goal-differential tiebreaker.

Their impending relegation could be credited to their dreadful 2-3-14 away record, scoring 11 goals while giving up a whopping 44. They haven’t won on the road since beating West Brom 2-0 on Dec. 7, going 0-3-8.

The Canaries have also been shut out in four straight away matches, including last weekend’s scoreless meeting with Chelsea.

“I think that’s been one of our biggest downfalls, our away form,” midfielder Jonny Howson told the team’s official website. “There have been just two away wins all season, you’re obviously going to go nowhere with that kind of form.”

Perhaps concluding the season at home could help since Norwich are 6-6-6 there while scoring one more goal than they’ve conceded.

They also won 1-0 in their most recent meeting there with Arsenal on Oct. 20, 2012, but they’ve been outscored 7-2 in two subsequent defeats in London.

While relegation is a near certainty for Norwich, Arsenal are assured of wrapping up another season qualifying for Champions League for a 17th straight time.

With a fourth-place finish all but mathematically secured, the Gunners are afforded the luxury of resting players ahead of next weekend’s FA Cup final against Hull City, as they aim for their first trophy since 2005.

Arsenal enter the league finale winning four straight matches while outscoring opponents 10-1. They’ve also compiled three straight clean sheets thanks to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who needed to make just one save in a 1-0 win over West Brom last weekend.

“It is important to keep the momentum going and against Norwich it will be no different,” midfielder Aaron Ramsey told the team’s official website. “The final is a week later and we don’t want any disappointments going into that so we will be approaching the game the same as any other. (We want) the win so that we go into the final full of confidence.

“When you’re on a run it is hard to stop you and hopefully we can keep that going.”

Olivier Giroud is on a run of his own, scoring three goals in four matches after tallying against West Brom. He was one of three Gunners on the score sheet in a 3-1 victory over Norwich on April 13, 2013, and got two assists in a 4-1 home victory Oct. 19.

Mesut Ozil had two goals in that meeting.

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GIROUD Strikes As Arsenal Celebrates Champions League Qualification.


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal celebrated their Champions League qualification as Olivier Giroud secured a 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger’s side booked their place in Europe’s elite club competition without kicking a ball when fifth placed Everton were beaten 3-2 by Manchester City on Saturday.

And 24 hours later, Giroud’s first half header maintained the feel-good factor at the Emirates Stadium and capped a stroll in the sunshine for the Gunners, who were rarely troubled en route to a fourth successive victory.

After looking in severe danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 17 years following their defeat at Everton last month, there was a palpable sense of relief in north London that Arsenal had wrapped up fourth place with two games to spare.

Albion never threatened to spoil the party, but Pepe Mel’s team remain four points above the relegation zone and their safety will be guaranteed if third bottom Norwich lost either of their final two matches against Chelsea and Arsenal.

With influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey sidelined by a thigh injury and Arsenal’s Champions League mission already complete, it would have been no surprise to see the Gunners go through the motions.

But the incentive of nailing down places in the team for the FA Cup final against Hull on May 17 ensured there was sufficient spark to Arsenal’s play and they quickly forced Albion onto the back foot.

The Gunners threatened in the opening moments when Lukas Podolski fired wide of the near post from Giroud’s flick.

Albion couldn’t cope with the speed and precision of Arsenal’s attacks and Mesut Ozil slalomed into the penalty area before setting up Santi Cazorla for a powerful shot that deflected over.

Arsenal’s pressure was rewarded from the resulting Cazorla corner in the 14th minute as France striker Giroud, showing greater desire than his Albion markers, made a thrusting run to the near-post where he directed a close-range header past Ben Foster.

Giroud’s 22nd goal of the season should have acted as a wake-up call for lethargic Albion, but instead another defensive error, this time from Diego Lugano, almost led to a second goal.

Mathieu Flamini seized on the loose ball and with Giroud lurking with a intent in the six-yard box it was only Foster’s smart save with his legs that averted the danger.

At least Albion defender Craig Dawson was willing to put his body on the line to keep the Gunners at bay and he gamely blocked Flamini’s strike in a particularly sensitive area just below his midriff.

Albion’s tepid efforts to close down the hosts allowed to Arsenal dominate possession and their lone striker Saido Berahino had only one sight of goal, a ferocious effort from the edge of the area which fizzed just over.

That was a rare moment of concern for Arsenal and Cazorla almost doubled their lead moments later, but Foster plunged low to his right to keep out the Spaniard’s goalbound strike.

Wenger’s side lacked their first half verve and almost paid the price when Morgan Amalfitano burst through, only for Per Mertesacker to make a last-ditch challenge.

Dawson went close to equalising with a header from a corner and Amalfitano brought a fine save from Wojciech Szczesny, but it was Arsenal who had the best chance of a soporific second half when Podolski scuffed his shot onto a post.

With the points in the bag, the celebratory mood continued after the final whistle as Arsenal’s players marked their final home game of the season with a lap of honour featuring chants from fans for French right-back Bacary Sagna to ignore reported interest from Manchester City and sign a new contract.

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A Lot To Still Play For : WBA Preview.


Arsenal Trenders,

Today’s game is a fun filled one, Manchester City’s 3-2 victory over Everton yesterday means Arsenal have secured fourth place in the Premier League and with it the opportunity to play Champions League football again next season.

We knew a win against West Brom today would have been enough to seal the deal but with one game remaining and a four point gap on the Toffees we’re now able to relax when the Baggies visit the Emirates at lunch time today. A win for Arsenal against the Baggies and Norwich we’ll end up on 79 points, the fifth highest total of the Wenger era and a point more than the total that secured the league title in 1998.

Arsenal have already secured their 17th consecutive Champions League season while West Bromwich Albion find themselves in opposite position as they inch toward Premier League safety.

They’ll meet on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium as the Gunners try to extend their Premier League-best 17-match home unbeaten streak.

With two matches remaining, Arsenal (22-7-7) are four points clear of Everton for fourth place in the Premier League.

“To get over the line is always difficult,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Monday, after his club’s 3-0 home win over Newcastle United.

West Brom (7-15-13), meanwhile, are four points above the relegation zone with three matches remaining and a game in hand over the table’s bottom three teams.

“This win probably gets us within touching distance of safety but we’re not safe yet, it’s as simple as that,” Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster told the club’s official website after Saturday’s 1-0 victory over West Ham United at the Hawthorns. “We need to crack on. We’ve got Arsenal, Sunderland away and then Stoke at home and I’d like to think we’ll get four to six points from them, so hopefully it will be a strong finish.”

They can put any question of relegation to rest with three points at the Emirates, though Arsenal have compiled 12 wins and five draws at home since losing their season opener to Aston Villa on Aug. 17.

Overall, the Gunners have won three straight by a 9-1 total against Newcastle, Hull City and West Ham after going winless the previous four.

Against the Magpies Olivier Giroud scored for the second time in three matches, while his compatriot Laurent Koscielny and the club’s record signing Mesut Ozil also scored.

“You could see there is a harmony in the team again and our fluency is strong,” Wenger told the club’s official website. “We look always like we can create and for a while we had problems on that front. Now that people are back and everyone is confident again you can see that we always look like we can score.

“It is about getting over the line and finishing the job (to secure a top-four place) now. We want to do it on Sunday against West Brom, who are a dangerous team as well.”

Arsenal have four wins and two draws against West Brom since losing to the Baggies 3-2 at the Emirates on Sept. 25, 2010. One of those draws was a 1-1 final at the Hawthorns on Oct. 6. Claudio Yacob gave the home side the lead in the 42nd minute, but Jack Wilshere, currently sidelined with a fractured foot, evened the score in the 63rd.

That followed the Gunners’ triumph in penalties in a 1-1 League Cup meeting on Sept. 25, also at the Hawthorns, in which Arsenal’s Thomas Eisfeld and West Brom’s Saido Berahino took care of the regulation scoring.

The Baggies have put themselves in a position to secure safety thanks to two wins and two draws in their last five, the only loss coming at title-contending Manchester City on April 21.

They rebounded from that with the win over the Hammers, which featured top-scoring Berahino’s 11th-minute strike. It was the 20-year-old forward’s fifth in top-flight matches, in which he’s accounted for four of their seven winners, and ninth overall with just 11 starts.

West Brom should have key defender Gareth McAuley back after missing the last two matches with a calf injury. Fellow defender Steven Reid could miss the match after a groin injury forced him out of Saturday’s win.

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ARSENAL Strengtenes Grip On 4TH Place.


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal remains on course for another season in the Champions League after beating Newcastle 3-0 at home on Monday.

The win puts Arsenal four points clear of Everton in fourth place with two games to play in the Premier League, a position which would qualify the club for Europe’s top competition for the 17th straight year.

Having been contained for the first quarter of the match, the hosts found their rhythm after defender Laurent Koscielny gave the Gunners the lead in the 26th minute when he poked in from close range a well-placed free kick from Santi Cazorla. Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski went close to doubling the lead, notably when his powerful header from six-yards out was parried away by Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul.

Arsenal went two up in the 42nd minute when midfielder Mesut Ozil tapped in from close range after Krul saved two efforts from Olivier Giroud, the second of which fell comfortably into the path of the Germany international. Ozil then became the provider in the 66th minute when his whipped cross was powerfully headed into the net by Giroud.

The win means that one more victory in the final two games will be enough to confirm a Champions League spot for Arsenal next season. Everton takes on Manchester City at home on Saturday in a game that also has huge implications for the title race between City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Arsenal then plays West Bromwich Albion at home on Sunday.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is taking nothing for granted, though.

”To get over the line is always difficult,” he said.

As well as qualifying for the lucrative Champions League, Arsenal is hoping to lift its first trophy in nine years when it takes on Hull in the FA Cup Final on May 17 at Wembley Stadium.

Newcastle chances were few and far though winger Yoan Gouffran had a good chance to halve the deficit early on in the second half but he shot straight at Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny when through on goal.

The defeat was Newcastle’s sixth straight loss and ratcheted up the pressure on manager Alan Pardew. Despite that ignominious run, the club remains in ninth place following a strong first half to the season. The match was also Pardew’s first on the touchline since a seven-game suspension for head-butting Hull’s David Meyler – the longest suspension ever handed down to a Premier League manager.

A section of the 2,000 or so Newcastle fans who made the trip down from the northeast of England turned against Pardew in the second half. ”We want Pardew out” and ”Six in a row” boomed down from the away section as they grew increasingly restless.

Pardew conceded the second half of the season has not been good enough and said the fans had the right to vent their frustrations.

”They’ve seen us lose again and they’re not happy and I have to respect that,” he said. ”We’ve been top 10 all year, this recent run is not something I’m hiding from, we should have performed better in this run and we’ve got to finish in the top 10.”

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Magpies Next To Go Down In Race For Top 4. Newcastle Preview.


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal have an opportunity to tighten their grip on fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying spot when they play Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium on Monday evening.

The Gunners (21-7-7) will extend their lead over fifth-place Everton to four points with just two Premier League matches to play if they beat the Magpies.

Arsenal have regained some momentum in league play with back-to-back victories against West Ham United and Hull City after taking just two points from their previous four matches. Their 3-0 win at Hull last weekend was a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final when they will play the Tigers at Wembley on May 17.

Fit-again Aaron Ramsey and Lukas Podolski gave the Gunners a two-goal half-time lead at the KC Stadium, before Germany international Podolski added a third ten minutes after the break.

France defender Bacary Sagna believes Arsenal have rediscovered their best form ahead of the clash with Newcastle.

“It was about time to wake up and that’s what we did recently in our games,” said Sagna. “We’re fighting a bit more and we’re helping each other a bit more as well.

“We have to win every single match and play it game by game to qualify for the Champions League and win the FA Cup. But it won’t be easy (against Newcastle) because they will want to show a different image, they will want to take points and they will want to wake up like we did.”

Newcastle (14-4-17) are ninth in the table on 46 points but have struggled badly in recent weeks and lost their last five matches in the Premier League, conceding 14 goals and scoring just once in that spell. Three of those losses were suffered at St James’ Park and a group of home supporters made it clear they wanted manager Alan Pardew to be relieved of his duties.

The most recent of those home defeats came last Saturday against Swansea City when the Magpies were beaten 2-1. Striker Shola Ameobi gave Newcastle the lead on 23 minutes when his strike ended a run of 383 minutes without a Premier League goal for Pardew’s side. Wilfried Bony equalised for Swansea on the stroke of half-time and the Ivory Coast striker then converted a penalty in stoppage time to secure a late victory the Welsh club.

Pardew has backed Ameobi’s assertion after the Swansea game that the Newcastle squad needs to be strengthened during the summer transfer window.

“Shola’s comments were something that we carry across the whole club,” said Pardew. “He’s an experienced player at this football club. He has good knowledge of the game and this football club.

“He knows there’s an improvement we need to make. A stronger squad is the way forward. That’s something I don’t think me, the board and (Newcastle owner) Mike (Ashley) have any issues on. We’re all pretty solid on it.”

Arsenal expect to have captain Thomas Vermaelen back in their squad after a hamstring problem, while Newcastle should have forward Hatem Ben Arfa (leg) and midfielder Moussa Sissoko (hamstring) available.

The Gunners edged a 1-0 win at St. James’ Park on Dec. 29. Olivier Giroud’s goal on 65 minutes made the difference in an even encounter. Arsenal won the last four Premier League matches against the Magpies and lost only once in the 15 league and cup matches against them dating back to December 2005.

Theo Walcott scored three goals as Arsenal beat Newcastle 7-3 in their last league meeting at the Emirates in December 2012.

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WENGER Laments MOYES Sacking.


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he feared for the future of his trade in England after David Moyes was sacked by struggling champions Manchester United.

The 50-year-old Moyes was sacked by United on Tuesday after a dismal 10-month tenure in which the reigning champions slumped to seventh place in the Premier League, denying them a place in next season’s Champions League.

Wenger, now the Premier League’s longest-serving manager after taking charge of north London side Arsenal in 1996, said the high attrition rate among managers in England would ultimately be detrimental to the standard of coaching.

“If you want quality people in any job, you need to give them time to develop and to become good, or people with the quality will not come into our job any more,” Wenger said Friday.

“The average (job life) expectancy of an English professional club at the moment is 11 months, and that is quite unstable.

“Every guy who is married, has a family, will have a big hesitancy before he goes into that game,” the 64-year-old Frenchman added.

– ‘Coaching quality under threat’ –

“That means the quality of the coaching and the quality of the managing is under threat,” insisted Wenger, whose Arsenal side are currently in the top four of the Premier League and have reached the final of this season’s FA Cup where they will play Hull.

Meanwhile Wenger said Arsenal were no closer to agreeing a contact extension for defender Bacaray Sagna.

The 31-year-old France international’s current Gunners deal expires at the end of the season and Sanga has been linked with a move away from the Emirates Stadium, with Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan among the clubs said to interested in signing Sagna.

But Wenger, yet to sign a new contract himself, was optimistic Sagna, who joined Arsenal from French club Auxerre in 2007, could be persuaded to stay put, with the Gunners reported to have offered the player a deal for two more years.

“At the moment they (talks) are not progressing. We know what we want from him, he knows what is on the table and that is where we are,” said Wenger.

“The ball is not in our camp anymore, it is in his camp, and he needs to come back to us.”

Arsenal are at home to Newcastle on Monday where they will look to stay ahead of Everton in the race for a top four finish and the accompanying reward of playing in next season’s Champions League.

Gunners captain Thomas Vermaelen is expected to return back from a hamstring problem but midfielder Abou Diaby will not be rushed back following knee injury after suffering a groin problem playing for the Under-21s in midweek.

It was his first action since sustaining a cruciate ligament injury against Swansea in March last year.”

“Diaby played one half (for the Under-21s). How far away he is is difficult to say, but he had a little groin problem after the game so will not be available for Monday,” said Wenger.

Defender Kieran Gibbs is still sidelined by a hamstring problem, while England midfielder Jack Wilshere continues his recovery from a foot injury.

“Jack is progressing well. He is is still on target to be with our team in the last couple of games,” Wenger said.

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WILSHERE On Track For FA Cup FINAL And The World Cup


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has expressed confidence that injured midfielder Jack Wilshere will recover in time to make a positive impact for England at the World Cup in Brazil.

“I spoke to (England manager) Roy Hodgson and I told him that Wilshere will be available for England,” Wenger told several British Sunday newspapers. “He will be just polished for England.”

Wilshere has been out of action since sustaining a hairline fracture of the foot during England’s 1-0 win over Denmark in a friendly at Wembley on March 5.

Arsenal hope that the 22-year-old will return in time for the FA Cup final against Hull City on May 17, which would enable him to then link up with the England squad.

“He is starting to jog this week. I would think two to three weeks,” Wenger added. “Jack can be the positive surprise (for England).”

England open their World Cup campaign with a game against Italy in Manaus on June 14.

Jack already told the club he’s ready to return to the pitch but the medics failed to give a green light as Wenger do not want to rush him back to avoid a detriment his world cup chances.

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Arsenal Trenders,

Lukas Podolski scored twice as Arsenal claimed an important 3-0 victory at Hull City on Sunday in his side’s quest for a top-four finish and FA Cup success.

In a preview of next month’s FA Cup final at Wembley, Arsenal scored an important psychological edge over Steve Bruce’s team after Aaron Ramsey shot them in front.

German forward Podolski then added two goals in the space of eight minutes, either side of half-time.

Following on from his two-goal display against West Ham United in mid-week, it meant that in the space of five days, he has doubled his tally of league goals for the season to eight.

Ramsey, playing his fourth game in two weeks after a three-month lay-off with a thigh injury, made a telling impact with a goal and an assist as Arsenal scored twice in the final 15 minutes of the opening half to take a strong grip on the game.

The second goal was spectacular, if contentious, as Hull claimed that they should have been awarded a free-kick deep in Arsenal territory after Nikica Jelavic went down under pressure from Mikel Arteta.

Referee Jon Moss disagreed, however, and allowed the Gunners to launch a devastating counter-attack.

It ended with Olivier Giroud lofting over a cross that Ramsey chested into the path of Podolski, who buried a superb left-foot volley in the back of the Hull goal from 15 yards.

The opening goal, after 31 minutes, had been almost as impressive and featured a characteristic flowing move from Arsene Wenger’s side.

The move started on the halfway line and saw Ramsey spray the ball wide to Mesut Ozil; another Arsenal player who is fit again after injury.

His pass to Santi Cazorla was helped on to Ramsey, who steered his ninth league goal of the season past Steve Harper in the Hull goal.

– Livermore hits the post –

The opening goal had been coming, with Harper called upon to keep out Podolski’s 18-yard strike a few minutes earlier, although Hull had enjoyed more possession until that point.

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was forced to show good handling in the 14th minute, diving smartly to keep out a first-time strike from Jelavic.

A goal behind, Hull had their best chance yet when David Meyler set up Jake Livermore for an 18-yard strike that beat Szczesny but rebounded to safety via the foot of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

Just before the second Arsenal goal, Shane Long should have done better with a mistimed header from a Liam Rosenior cross that Szczesny saved with ease.

Hull substitute Matty Fryatt, on for the injured Long, had an early opportunity soon after the restart, but Tom Huddlestone’s pass took an unkind bounce as he aimed to head past Szczesny.

Any lingering uncertainty about the destiny of the three points was removed after 54 minutes when Podolski claimed his second goal, and Arsenal’s third.

Once again the build-up was intricate, culminating in Cazorla picking out Ramsey from the left-hand byline.

The Welsh international’s 15-yard shot was well saved by the outstretched boot of goalkeeper Harper, but the rebound fell kindly for Podolski to convert from close range.

Arsenal should have scored a bizarre fourth goal after 64 minutes when Harper misjudged a back-pass, gifting the ball to Giroud, who struck the underside of the bar from practically on the byline.

Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker headed over from a Cazorla free-kick in the 76th minute, while Ramsey, Huddlestone and Fryatt all saw late efforts well handled by their respective opposition goalkeepers.

Arsenal faces Newcastle next at the Emirates on Monday (April 28th) night but, Everton would have already squared up away at Southamption in early Saturday kick off.

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ARSENAL Gunning For 3 Points Against HULL CITY.


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Game day, a rehearsal of the May 17 Cup final against Hull City. There,s a lot for Arsenal to play for today.

Arsene Wenger claims that Arsenal have taken “big encouragement” from regaining control of finishing fourth in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s trip to the KC Stadium to face Hull City in what will also be a preview of the FA Cup final.

It’s been a productive week for the Gunners, who advanced into the FA Cup final by eliminating holders Wigan Athletic on penalties last Saturday. Hull City advanced on Sunday with a lively 5-3 victory over Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium.

Arsenal then rallied from a goal down for a 3-1 victory over West Ham United on Tuesday before Everton surprisingly fell 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace the next night. That left the fourth-placed Gunners one point ahead of the Toffees with four matches remaining.

“It is of course a big encouragement but it is a lot of work to do for us and that’s what we want to continue to do,” Wenger said. “We have a big game for Hull, I just want to prepare as well as we can for it. I think mentally we are in a better shape than a week ago because we had two important wins and that of course puts us in a better position on the confidence front.”

Wenger has revealed that Mesut Ozil will likely return from a hamstring injury suffered in the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich on March 11. Ozil will boost an attack that has been outscored in last five away games.

“He’s one of our main players offensively,” Wenger said. “We are a team that’s used to score goals and recently offensively away from home we have not scored so much so it’s important to get back our offensive potential.”

Wenger has ruled Kieran Gibbs out although Nacho Monreal could return and Mathieu Flamini is back from suspension.

Hull are still relishing the prospect of the club’s first appearance in the FA Cup final in its 110-year history.

”If you had said 10 years ago that Hull will play Arsenal in the FA Cup final, people would have been scratching their heads,” manager Steve Bruce said. ”It just shows you what can be done.”

Now Bruce and his side turn their attention to Premier League safety, as they have 36 points. In truth, it would take an unlikely set of events for Hull to not survive.

“It will be an intense game with pressure on both teams,” midfielder Tom Huddlestone told Hull City’s official website. “Hopefully we’ve come up with a game plan to stifle their strengths and try and exploit their weaknesses. It’s all still to play for and no team is guaranteed safety, so we still have work to do.”

Bruce may not want to show his hand this weekend, with the May 17 showpiece at Wembley in mind. The boss may also choose to look ahead to more manageable fixtures at Fulham and against Aston Villa to ensure safety.

This was the kind of game Arsenal were winning earlier in the season. last few weeks been catastrophic on away grounds. Arsenal have conceded 15 and scored only 2 goals in their last 5 away league games including 9-0 in the their last 2.

Arsenal last went 3 straight away league matches without a goal in August-October 2011.

Arsenal have also outrageously developed a bad habit of conceding 1st.
Arsenal have not won a single game this season when they’ve trailed at half time. In contrast, Arsenal have won all 12 League games when they are ahead at the break.

Hull have been very awful against the top sides with a record of P13 W1 D1 L11 against the top 8 this season, while Arsenal have won all games against newly promoted sides without conceding a single goal.

Hull City are boosted with the return of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long return to their squad. If Hull decides to go 442 against Arsenal, duo may be too handy. Sone Aluko another option for them upfront.

Allan McGregor (kidney damage), Paul McShane (ankle) and Robbie Brady (groin) all remain on the sidelines for the Tigers.

Ozil and Nicklas Bendtner were on target in the Gunners’ 2-0 win over the Tigers on Dec. 4. That is one of two league matches in which Olivier Giroud did not feature for Wenger.

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WENGER Upbeat About Arsenal’s Prospect


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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has insisted that whatever happens to the club in the final weeks of the season, the future is bright for the north London side.

Long time Premier League leaders Arsenal have slipped to fourth in the table ahead of this weekend’s trip to Hull — a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final between the two clubs at Wembley.

Wenger has yet to sign a contract extension, prompting doubts over whether the 64-year-old Frenchman, who recently took charge of his 1,000th Arsenal match, will be back for another campaign.

“I am not in the best position to judge my own work publicly,” Wenger said Friday. “I just promise you one thing, I always sit down and try to be as honest as I can be with myself.

“The only thing I can say is that I put total commitment in from the first until the last day of the season and I will.”

Arsenal haven’t won a major trophy since 2005 and if they lose to Hull in the Cup final many will consider the season a disappointment, even if Arsenal hold off Everton in the race for the fourth and final Champions League place on offer to English clubs.

However, Wenger said: “I think we have moved a lot forward, considering what happened to us with a number of injuries we had in a crucial period of the season.

“We were 17 or 18 times top of the league, that did not happen last year, we are in the FA Cup final, we went out only against Bayern Munich in the Champions League with 10 men and we had come out of a very difficult Champions League group.

“I believe that we have shown some real potential and promise for the future.”

Wenger added: “What is satisfying for me is that we do as well as we can until the end of the season, that you can turn and think ‘this team has behaved really like a top-level professional team’, with all the ups and the downs.

“Because that is what you want from your team, to feel that the team has given as much as they could. After that, you leave the judgement to other people.

“We want to come out of the season and think we have given absolutely everything, and I must say this team has been absolutely focused since the start of the season.

“We had our downs, and big downs for some periods, but the behaviour was always focused.”

Arsenal will be looking to hold on to their slight advantage ahead of Everton when they visit Hull on Sunday afternoon.

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PODOLSKI’s Double Keeps ARSENAL’s Euro Bid Alive


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Arsenal came from behind to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League as Lukas Podolski’s double inspired a vital 3-1 win over West Ham on Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side are in danger of failing to reach Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 17 years after a miserable run saw them surrender fourth place to Everton.

The Gunners needed a victory over their London rivals to climb back into fourth, but their European bid looked in dire straits when Matthew Jarvis struck for the visitors late in the first half at the Emirates Stadium.

That shock revitalised a previously lethargic Arsenal and German forward Lukas Podolski equalised minutes later before France striker Olivier Giroud put them ahead soon after the interval.

Podolski’s second in the closing stages sealed Arsenal’s first victory in their last five league games and lifted the north Londoners one point clear of Everton, although Roberto Martinez’s men are still in pole position as they will reclaim fourth place if they draw or win at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Wenger had made five changes from the team that just barely got past Wigan on penalties in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final, with Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom making his first start and Laurent Koscielny returning from injury.

But the Gunners had been underwhelming for long periods of that Wembley win over Championship opposition, prompting Wenger to suggest his team were guilty of complacency at times, and there were few signs of any improvement in the early stages against the Hammers.

When they did get behind the West Ham rearguard thanks to Santi Cazorla’s defence-splitting pass, Giroud, back in the starting line-up after being left out of that marathon Cup semi-final, could only flick a tame effort straight at Adrian.

It seemed Arsenal might pay the price for that miss when Sam Allardyce’s team took the lead in the 40th minute.

Antonio Nocerino made a powerful burst from midfield and held off Kallstrom to drive in a low shot that Wojciech Szczesny blocked at his near-post.

Nocerino was first to the rebound and poked it towards Jarvis, who bravely ignored Koscielny’s desperate head-high attempt to clear and nodded home from close-range.

To their credit, the setback sparked Arsenal into life at last and Kallstrom forced Adrian to save at his near-post before the Gunners equalised in the 44th minute.

West Ham were the architects of their own downfall as a poor clearance from Stewart Downing from his own team’s throw-in fell to Cazorla, who slipped a lovely pass to Podolski and the German showed great awareness to work just enough space to fire a superb low strike past Adrian for his ninth goal of the season.

Wenger’s men now had the platform to play with more freedom and they went ahead 10 minutes after the break thanks to a moment of inspiration from Giroud.

When Thomas Vermaelen lofted a high ball into the penalty area, Giroud was buffeted by Winston Reid and Andy Carroll, but he was strong enough to hold off his assailants and control the dropping ball expertly before lashing home from close-range.

Giroud celebrated his 20th goal of the season by paying tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster as he marked the 25th anniversary of the tragedy by kissing his black armband and pointing to the sky.

Arsenal were firmly in the ascendency and Cazorla’s mazy dribble ended with a shot that whistled past the far post.

Podolski eventually sealed the Gunners’ eighth successive victory over West Ham in emphatic fashion, driving home a lethal finish after Giroud and substitute Aaron Ramsey combined to open up the visitors’ defence in the 78th minute.

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Race For Top 4 : West Ham Preview


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For a few days at least, all is right with Arsenal.

The pressure cooker, though, will again heat up Tuesday at the Emirates, where the Gunners resume their chase of a top-four spot in a key all-London clash with West Ham.

The clamour for silverware has grown louder over the years and appears to be reaching a crescendo to the ears of Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman is trying to avoid a barren trophy case for the ninth straight season, and Arsenal (19-7-7) kept those hopes alive in nerve-wracking fashion Saturday by ousting Championship side and reigning trophy holders Wigan Athletic on penalties in the FA Cup semifinals.

”It was important mentally,” the Arsenal manger said. ”If you imagine the consequences of going out tonight, it would have been quite worrying.”

The Gunners did not find the equaliser until the 82nd minute, when defender Per Mertesacker – whose foul led to Wigan converting a penalty kick for the match’s first goal – headed home a cross by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. After a decisive goal could not be found in extra time, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski denied Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison from the spot while Arsenal converted all four of their attempts to secure passage to the final.

“I’ve got to give Lukasz all the credit to him,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Arsenal’s official website. “Whenever he’s played for us, he’s been absolutely superb. He’s the hero for us today. Full credit to him – he’s an unbelievable professional.”

Wenger’s side now get thrown back into the rigours of the Premier League, where they enter play two points behind Everton for the final Champions League qualifying spot. Arsenal are winless in their last four league matches (0-2-2) after being overrun 3-0 by the Toffees at Goodison Park on April 6, and a prolonged spell of patchy play in which they’ve gone 2-3-4 essentially scuttled their chances at any title hopes.

“I think if we win our games we will finish in front,” Wenger said. “For us it’s important now to focus on the Premier League and if we do that well I’m confident we will come back. On top of that we have a target now for the end of the season. We have a final in the FA Cup but we now have a period where we can concentrate on the Premier League.”

West Ham (10-7-16) are 11th in the table on 37 points and seven clear of the drop, but a win for Sam Allardyce’s club would go a long way towards preserving top-flight status for next season. The Hammers proved a game opponent for front-running Liverpool on April 6, but fouls that led to converted penalty kicks on either side of halftime proved their undoing in a 2-1 loss to the Reds at Upton Park.

“We put in a good effort and were hard done by with the two penalties we gave away and losing the game to that,” said striker Andy Carroll, who had a header bounce off the crossbar in the second half. “But we put ourselves about and were in the game all the way to the end.”

Arsenal won the reverse fixture 3-1 on Boxing Day behind a second-half brace from Theo Walcott in a three-minute span that wiped out Carlton Cole’s goal early in the second half for West Ham. Lukas Podolski secured the three points with a goal in the 79th minute for the Gunners, who have won six straight between the teams in league play by a combined 17-3 scoreline and are unbeaten in the last 11 (9-2-0) since a 1-0 home loss April 7, 2007. West Ham have tallied only five goals during their 11-match winless run.

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ARTETA Hopes Arsenal Boosted BY Cup Win.


Arsenal Trenders,

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s dramatic FA Cup semi-final victory over Wigan can provide a springboard to save his club’s season.

Arsene Wenger’s side survived a scare against the holders, equalising eight minutes from full-time through Per Mertesacker before finally winning 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time at Wembley.

Gunners goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was the hero in Saturday’s shoot-out, with his two saves from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison while Arsenal converted all four of their spot-kicks.

Spanish midfielder Arteta was one of those successful penalty takers and he hopes the relief of reaching Arsenal’s first FA Cup final since 2005, when they defeated Manchester United to win the club’s last trophy, will give a much-needed morale boost to a squad low on confidence.

“It gives us confidence and a little bit of enthusiasm and something to look forward to at the end of the season,” Arteta said.

“I don’t think we were nervous. I think we were concerned because it is a semi-final and small details can be important.

“We were very unlucky to go a goal down but the lads reacted really well. After that we played much better and really went for it.

“We had the chances and were thinking this was not going to be our day, but in the end we have done it.

“We are really happy to make the final. You have some tough moments. I don’t know any team in the world who won any competition that didn’t go through some difficult moments.

“We were in probably the most difficult moment we have been in the FA Cup, even though we had already played Spurs, Liverpool and Everton.”

There were long periods when Arsenal struggled to impose themselves against second tier Wigan, suggesting their recent struggles have left mental scars.

A dismal run of results has cost Arsenal a potential Premier League title challenge and they slipped out of the top four on Saturday when Everton defeated Sunderland, but Arteta is convinced they can go on a winning run to qualify for the Champions League, starting against West Ham on Tuesday.

“We got through a tough game and we are really happy. Now we have to just click again because on Tuesday we have another massive game coming up,” he said.

“Lets prepare for the game the best way we can because West Ham will be tough opponents and I think we might have lost a few players injured today.

“It is a lot of pressure and stress. We want to give everything. It is a massive game for us but we have a lot of young players so hopefully they will be fit.”

With their Champions League place in the balance, Arteta hopes the return of Wales international Aaron Ramsey, who started his first match since Boxing Day after a thigh injury, can add a more dynamic thrust to a sometimes timid Arsenal midfield.

“Aaron has been one of the most important players for us in the first part of the season,” Arteta said.

“With him and Theo (Walcott) we lost two massive players at important moments. Hopefully having Aaron back will give us something different.”

Ramsey was just relieved to get back in action after a frustrating spell on the sidelines.

“It’s been really frustrating. I wanted to get back out there as quick as possible and help my team, but things happen. It was a disappointing time,” he said.

“We definitely had a few bad results away from home against the top teams.

“It kind of hits the confidence a bit, but we are in the final of the FA Cup and we are still battling for the top four, so this could still be one of the most successful years at Arsenal for many years. We have still got a lot to play for.”

Let’s hope the players are up for West Ham on Tuesday, its now a must win game.

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FABIANSKI Heroics And The Media Outcry: FA Cup Special


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Lukasz Fabianski saved two penalties as Arsenal beat holders Wigan Athletic 4-2 in a shootout at Wembley on Saturday to reach their first FA Cup final for nine years.

Having stunned Manchester City in last season’s final, before being relegated from the Premier League, Wigan looked set for another famous Wembley day when Jordi Gomez put them ahead with a 63rd-minute penalty.

But Per Mertesacker made amends for conceding the penalty by heading in an 82nd-minute equaliser and with the score still 1-1 at the end of extra time, Fabianski took centre stage in the shootout.

The Pole, usually a deputy to compatriot Wojciech Szczesny, saved Wigan’s two first attempts, from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, before Santi Cazorla dispatched the decisive spot-kick to send Arsenal through.

Victory took Arsene Wenger’s team into their first FA Cup final since 2005, when they last won a trophy, and helped ease the pain of being knocked out of the Premier League’s top four by Everton earlier in the day.

The game was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of the 96 Liverpool fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster, which occurred during an FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield 25 years ago this weekend.

Ninety-six seats were also left empty on the halfway line.

Boosted by the return to fitness of Aaron Ramsey, who made his first start since December, Arsenal attacked the game with purpose on a mild, sunny afternoon at the national stadium.

Wigan goalkeeper Scott Carson smartly repelled a Yaya Sanogo header and then rushed out to thwart Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Bacary Sagna blazed wide from a tight angle after Thomas Vermaelen nodded a corner down.

Wigan were content to mass their ranks behind the ball, but they gradually began to show signs of life in attack. Gomez saw a misdirected cross skim the crossbar, the livewire Callum McManaman fired narrowly over, and Marc-Antoine Fortune forced Fabianski into a near-post save.

It was Arsenal who finished the half on top, however, with Sanogo cantering onto a pass from Lukas Podolski, only for his heavy touch to allow Carson to make a save. Wenger’s side continued to monopolise possession early in the second period, but with just under half an hour remaining, Wigan went ahead.

After a weaving run into the box from the right, McManaman was felled by the sliding Mertesacker, and although Fabianski correctly guessed the direction of Gomez’s subsequent penalty, the Spaniard’s shot eluded him.

To compound matters for Arsenal, Nacho Monreal had to go off after colliding with McManaman in the build-up to the penalty, with Kieran Gibbs coming on. Olivier Giroud entered the fray in place of Podolski soon after.

Arsenal piled forward, Sagna hitting the post with a header and Carson saving brilliantly from Gibbs, before Mertesacker atoned for his earlier error by steaming in to head home a cross-shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Wenger’s men continued to force the issue in extra time, with Sanogo drawing a parry from Carson and Oxlade-Chamberlain rattling the crossbar, before Fabianski’s heroics finally saw them home.

What a relief in Arsenal world at the final whistle but, apparently the Media and many fickle fans are actually still gutted Arsenal are into the FA Cup Final. In real sense of it, that’s unbelievable but, its expected, because its Arsenal !!!

Manchester City had lost consecutive games to Wigan, including a Final, it went down to “they’ve got better priorities”, but, Arsenal defeated same Wigan team, the Cup holders and its “A disappointing display.” With all the negatives post our triumph over Wigan yesterday, let’s put this in perspective, imagine the world right now if Arsenal had lost that game..? Likes of permanent pessimist of the Arsenal such as John Cross of the Mirror or ‘bench-warmer’ Micheal Owen and many of their likes would have a free day!

The outcry from likes of Roy Keane slamming Arsenal ‘s players for celebrating after reaching the FA Cup final at Wembley is the worse and indeed very unpardonable. Roy Keane as a pundit on ITV Sport harshly and unjustly critised Arsenal players after they beat Wigan in a penalty shoot out to secure a place in final for the first time since 2005.

The former Manchester United player Roy Keane said, “These #Arsenal players need a reality check.  “They’re celebrating. They’ve beaten a Championship team.” “We saw last year when they got into the top 4 they celebrated up at Newcastle. “You know, we’re talking about Arsenal Football club here.” 

Absolutely ridiculous. That’s same Roy Keane that celebrated beating Millwall. Yes, Millwall !!!

Spurs celebrated even an imaginary goal last season, the City players & Pelligrini with all their £££ and huge budget celebrated a Carlin Cup Win. Give Arsenal a break!!

I’m going to celebrate getting into the final of the oldest & the most prestigious cup tournament in the world after a 8 year wait, everyday of the year and I will totally go bonkers when Arsenal win it in May.

Obviously, It’s about winning the trophies. The Gunners will face either Hull City or Sheffield United in next month’s final.‬ Wembley, here we come.

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PODOLSKI Promises Arsenal Up For The Cup.


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Lukas Podolski is confident Arsenal can put their stuttering league form behind them when they face holders Wigan in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday.

Arsenal haven’t won a major trophy since 2005 and their season is now threatening to hinge on the outcome of the Cup campaign.

Last weekend’s 3-0 defeat by Everton effectively ended Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes and indeed left the north London club in a desperate battle for a top four finish and involvement in next season’s Champions League.

But Germany striker Podolski has insisted he and his team-mates are paying no attention to the gathering gloom surrounding Arsenal.

“It is always like this in football — when you win something, you are the best, you are the hero. When you win nothing or you lose a couple of matches, you are like nothing for the people and for the newspapers, the TV and the for the fans,” Podolski told Arsenal Player.

“But I think this is a part of sport — you win together and you lose together, but in the end you must concentrate on your job and forget all the other things that have happened.

“We have the chance now for the FA Cup and we will see what we can do on Saturday — and I can promise we will give all of what we have to go through to the final.”

The 28-year-old added: “You don’t fight always for one person — you fight for the club and every player that plays on the pitch gives 100 percent every time.”

Arsenal, having led the Premier League earlier in the season, are now out of a title race featuring current table-toppers Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.

“When you play for Arsenal, every year you fight for the title and this year we were close to winning the league. Nearly the whole season, we were top of the League and now the last matches were not so good,” said Podolski.

“We lost a lot of matches and we lost a lot of points so now we are a lot behind.

“It is difficult to look for the Premier League title, but we have a big chance for the FA Cup and we must keep that chance. It is the biggest cup in the world and a big tradition.

“After a long time it is an important thing for the club and the players as well, so let’s see what happens first on Saturday and then if we go to the final.”

Hopefully, Arsenal will rise to the occasion on Saturday and end this season winning the FA Cup in May couple with a top 4 finish. Its the only way to acknowledge success for the Gunners ahead of next season.

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Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted the race for the final Champions League place has been blown wide open after his side’s 3-0 loss away to Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.

The gap between Arsenal in fourth place in the Premier League and Everton in fifth spot is now just a point, and the Toffees have the advantage of a game in hand on Wenger’s side.

Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League for the past 16 consecutive seasons, a qualification record for the competition bettered only by Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Everton now have the opportunity to break that streak although Wenger claimed his players would draw upon the experience of previous seasons to secure fourth spot and with it a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

“The fight is very open and is depending not only on us,” Wenger said. “Everton are in a strong position but we have been confronted with that before and it is how we respond.

“I am absolutely 100 percent determined to fight for the top four, it will be difficult,” the Frenchman, the longest-serving manager now in the Premier League, added.

“We have a programme of fixtures that is feasible, but we must focus on the quality of performances before we talk about that,” added Wenger, who will expect a much improved effort from Arsenal in their FA Cup semi-final with holders Wigan at Wembley on Saturday.

“Our performance here was not convincing or defensively or offensively. It’s disappointing a result and performance. The two go together and now we have to regroup and go back to basics,” said the Gunners manager.

Everton secured victory after a stirring display in which Arsenal only sporadically tested goalkeeper Tim Howard.

– ‘Phenomenal Everton’ –

Steven Naismith gave the Toffees the lead when he stroked the ball home in the 14th minute after Romelu Lukaku’s shot had been parried by Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.

Everton doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark when on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku notched his 12th Premier League goal of the season.

The Belgium international received a cross-field pass on the right flank and skipped past Arsenal defenders Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen before he struck a powerful shot into the corner.

Former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta put through his own net in the second half to seal the points for the Toffees.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez said this win had seen his side overcome an important mental hurdle.

“The implications today (Sunday) were quite unique,” Martinez said.

“We were hoping for a result but what was needed was breaking many barriers — 22 games we played against Arsenal, we only scored one goal or less.

“We kept a clean sheet and scored three and looked like we could have scored more. It was a huge three points from psychological point of view,” the Spaniard added.

“We knew if we could get the three points it would leave us with 63 points which is an incredible amount but we still have 18 points to play for.”

Martinez refused get carried away with his side’s top four prospects with six games of the season remaining, although he acknowledged the team had the confidence to aim high.

“The players in every area were phenomenal,” said Martinez. “The tactical awareness, work rate, the discipline. In a group sport it is as good a performance as it gets in that from that point of view.

“It’s not going to be straightforward to qualify for the Champions League but the mentality of the group is that we believe in ourselves and can do it.”

Everton continued its superb attacking form to thrash a poor Arsenal side 3-0 in the Premier League and cut its deficit to the Gunners to one point in the race for the final Champions League spot.

Everton, which has scored 12 goals in its last four games, dominated from the start and made the Gunners pay for their poor defending with strikes from Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku as well as an own goal from Mikel Arteta.

Everton claimed a sixth consecutive league win while Arsenal has secured only two points from its last four matches. The London club remained in fourth place in the standings, one point above Everton but has played one more game than Roberto Martinez’s side.

”It would mean everything,” Naismith said about his team’s possible top-four finish. ”But we have believed from the start of the season and we have shown that in these recent performances.”

The defeat piled pressure on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is chasing a first trophy with the Gunners since 2005 and has guided them to Champions League football in each of his 16 full seasons in charge.

Everton had beaten Arsenal just once in their last 15 league meetings but looked the superior team on Sunday.

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey started on the bench, returning to the squad for the first time since Boxing Day after recovering from a thigh injury while Everton made two changes from last weekend’s 3-1 win at Fulham, with Naismith and Kevin Mirallas in the starting lineup as a reward for their fine display in South London.

Naismith was decisive again as he opened the scoring in the 14th minute from inside the box after Leighton Baines picked Romelu Lukaku with a low ball. The Belgium international forced Wojciech Szczesny into a save but the Arsenal keeper could not hold the ball and Naismith fired home the rebound.

The Gunners struggled to create chances, and when they did they squandered them. Olivier Giroud was among the culprits, sending his effort just wide in the 21st from Bacary Sagna’s accurate cross.

Arsenal’s defense buckled again with Lukaku hardly challenged when he doubled the Merseyside team’s lead in the 34th minute following a good collective move. The powerful forward collected a through ball from Mirallas then cut inside and fired a low shot past Szczesny.

Wenger’s team improved after the interval, enjoying more possession but things went from bad to worse for the Gunners when Sagna lost the ball to allow Mirallas to launch a quick counterattack. The Belgin slipped the ball to Naismith who could not round Szczesny but the loose ball came into Mirallas’ path before rebounding into the net following a challenge from Arteta.

Arsenal made a double change with Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming on for Lukas Podolski and Mathieu Flamini but the move had no effect on Everton’s tactics, with the home side remaining a threat on the break until the final whistle.

Oxlade-Chamberlain announced himself with four minutes remaining but his powerful strike was diverted by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard onto the bar.

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Race For Top 4 At Goodison Park: Everton Preview


Arsenal Trenders,

Nearly all season, Arsenal have endured the criticisms of being unable to follow the footprints of the leaders in chasing the Premier League title.

Now, they are the ones being pursued heading into Sunday’s crunch match at Goodison Park against an in-form Everton squad making a charge at a top-four finish.

Despite being fourth in the table, the Gunners (19-7-6) never found that elite form after the turn of the calendar year to be a title contender and are seven points behind front-running Liverpool with six matches remaining. Arsene Wenger’s only remaining realistic chance at winning any silverware this season is in the FA Cup, where Arsenal will play current Everton manager Roberto Martinez’s former side – Wigan Athletic – in the semifinals on April 12.

While their title hopes appear to have been dashed, the Gunners did throw a spanner into Manchester City’s designs on the top spot with a 1-1 draw at The Emirates on Saturday. Mathieu Flamini netted the equaliser for Arsenal, who enter this match four points ahead of Everton for the final Champions League spot, though the Toffees have a match in hand.

”Maybe it is very difficult to explain mental insecurity,” Wenger said after his team was held to a second successive draw.

Some of those nervy moments should be gone given their track record of success versus Everton as they enter Goodison Park with a 14-match unbeaten run (9-5-0) over the Toffees across all competitions dating to a 1-0 road loss on March 18, 2007. Additionally, Arsenal overran Everton 4-1 in the FA Cup quarterfinals last month, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain knows the Toffees will be keen on gaining a measure of revenge with so much at stake this weekend.

“It was a really good game, it just happened that towards the end of the match they were pushing to equalise and we managed to get two really good goals on the counter,” he told Arsenal’s website. “Everton have got great players, and great attacking players especially so they are a real threat going forward.

“Goodison Park is always a really hard place to go to, but in the recent years since I’ve been at the club we’ve always done all right there so hopefully we can do the same again this time.”

Everton appear poised to make their first foray into European competition since participating in the Europa League in 2009-10, but the prospects of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since their fourth-place finish in the 2004-05 season are proving tantalising to Martinez’s side.

“I’m sure the fans will come out in their numbers, hopefully we can put things right from the last time we played them and get a Champions League spot,” midfielder James McCarthy told the team’s official website. “They put us out of the cup and losing is never nice. It’s going to be a big ask but we will give it our best shot. It’s in the balance and if we want it, it’s there for us.”

The Toffees have won five consecutive league matches on the trot, with their offence again on full force in a 3-1 win at Fulham on Sunday.

Kevin Mirallas snapped a 1-1 tie in the 79th minute before Steven Naismith secured all three points with a goal eight minutes later. Everton will now try to further their dominance at Goodison Park, where they’ve gone 27-9-2 over the last 38 league matches while outscoring opponents 75-31.

Martinez does have concerns over Ross Barkley’s availability for this match after the midfielder suffered a knock on his calf in the win at Fulham and was taken out at halftime.

Everton, who have not won six straight league matches since Oct. 19-Nov. 23, 2002, have two draws and four losses in their last six at home versus Arsenal.

Arsenal’s main priority is to not lose at any cost. Game today won’t be easy. Arsenal have only picked just 13 points from last 10 games, anything short of 18 points from remaining 6 games may be detrimental to a top 4 finish for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s era.

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Arsene Wenger 5 Best Arsenal Signings.


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsene Wenger will take charge of his 1,000th match as Arsenal manager on Saturday when the Gunners visit Chelsea. I take a look at five of the French coach’s best signings since he arrived in north London in 1996, as well as a couple he would rather forget:


Despite being a virtual unknown at the time, Wenger made the combative French midfielder his first target when joining Arsenal and snapped him up for what proved a bargain price of just £3.5 million in 1996. Vieira became the Gunners’ inspirational captain during eight years at the club, winning seven club trophies plus the World Cup and European Championships with France.


Wenger had the foresight to see that the gifted but erratic Henry, who was being played as a winger by Juventus, could develop into an out-and-out striker. The Frenchman soon repaid his £11 million fee, becoming the outstanding striker in Europe and Arsenal’s record goalscorer, claiming a glittering array of silverware in the process.


In terms of a money-making signing, there are few to equal Fabregas. He cost Arsenal just £500,000 in compensation to Barcelona in 2003, and the Catalan club bought him back in 2011 for £35 million after eight years in which he was adored by Gunners fans as the fulcrum of Wenger’s eye-catching, if under-achieving, side.


The French winger arrived from Marseille for a £6 million fee in 2000 and elevated his dashing style to new heights during six memorable years at Arsenal. Was also an amazing value replacement for Marc Overmars who was sold that same summer by Wenger for £25 million. Rated sixth on the all-time list of Arsenal’s greatest ever players.


Enraged Tottenham supporters when he quit White Hart Lane to make the short trip across north London, joining Arsenal on a free transfer and proving an inspired swoop by Wenger. The England centre-back went on to be the defensive rock of a team that won three FA Cups and two Premier League titles, including going the entire 2003-04 league season undefeated.

And here’s two that didn’t quite pan out the way Wenger would have wanted:


Hailed by Wenger as his “fox in the box” after joining from Everton for £10 million in 2001. Sadly his time in north London showed even an astute judge of talent like Wenger could get it horribly wrong as the diminutive striker scored only eight goals in 39 appearances before returning to Everton on loan in August 2003 and then joining Charlton permanently the following year.


Arshavin arrived for a then Arsenal record fee of £15 million in 2009 after earning plaudits across the world for his dazzling performances on the wing for Zenit St Petersburg and Russia. But he faded quickly, earning criticism for his lackadaisical attitude on and off the field before being sent packing back to Zenit last year.

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Wenger hopes FA Cup’s Stroll Will Serves As Euro Boost


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can use their march into the FA Cup semi-finals as a springboard for a great escape in their Champions League tie at Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Wenger’s side cruised into the last four of the FA Cup for the first time since 2009 thanks to their 4-1 win over Everton on Saturday.

That stroll in the spring sunshine in north London should serve as a morale-booster before the far more daunting task of taking on reigning European champions Bayern in their own backyard.

Arsenal need to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the last-16 second-leg tie in Germany and Wenger said: “It was important for us to win on a psychological front for a good mind.

“We can be inspired by our focus of the day and we need that same desire to go to Bayern with the same spirit.

“The statistics are against us going to Bayern. But we have to make sure the performance goes for us.”

Arsenal, who beat Bayern in Munich at the same stage of the competition last season but still bowed out on away goals, face an uphill task to keep alive their European hopes and their Premier League title charge appears to be fading.

But Saturday’s FA Cup success means they do at least remain on course to end their nine-year trophy drought.

Mesut Ozil’s early opener against Everton was cancelled out by Romelu Lukaku.

But there was no way back for the Merseysiders once Mikel Arteta converted a penalty against his old club before substitute Olivier Giroud added the gloss to the win late on with two goals.

“We are in the semi-final and we have always taken this competition seriously,” added Wenger.

“We had a good FA Cup draw in the fact we had games at home, but we played difficult opponents in Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton so it shows we have taken this seriously.”

Wenger reserved praise for Ozil, who will return to Germany with a point to prove.

Arsenal’s record-signing has struggled since the turn of the year and was even jeered by his own country’s supporters in their friendly win over Chile last week.

But he ended his three-month goal drought and turned in an improved display which suggests he has turned the corner.

“It’s important for him as you want him to take his chances,” added Wenger. “He always looks for a good pass.

“What I liked from him is he looked physically regenerated and he did a lot of dirty work. He tracked back with long runs.”

Everton’s best chance this season now lies in winning a spot in the Europa League and Roberto Martinez, who won the FA Cup with Wigan last season, won’t let his players go through the motions in the run-in.

“You know it’s going to be a difficult task coming to Arsenal,” Martinez said.

“If anything this leaves us more focused on what is in front of us.

“There’s 33 points left and that’s a huge amount. We focus on the 11 games we have so we can finish as strongly as we can.

“We have good competition for places and we want to get as many points as we can.

“I don’t like losing in the FA Cup. It’s something you don’t want to experience and we will try again next season.”

Next up for Arsenal is a trip to the Alianz Arena to overturn a 2 goal deficit against Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.

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Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny is helping to finance a rescue package to save an accordion factory in the French town where he grew up, it was reported Friday.

The Guardian said that the 28-year-old international is part of an investment group that has put up 600,000 euros to save the Maugein factory from closure.

France’s oldest accordion factory is situated in Tulle in the Correze, the player’s home town and president Francois Hollande’s constituency.

Founded in 1919, the business was threatened with closure after struggling to compete with cheaper accordions made in Eastern Europe and China.

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Arsenal And United Keep Each Other In Check.


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Arsenal squandered an opportunity to return to the Premier League summit after drawing 0-0 with Manchester United in an attritional game at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Both teams had suffered damaging results at the weekend, Arsenal crashing 5-1 at Liverpool and United drawing 2-2 at home to bottom club Fulham, and the tentativeness on either side made for a game of only sporadic excitement.

Robin van Persie came closest to scoring for United, spurning an excellent early chance and later hitting the crossbar with a header, while Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny had a header cleared of the line.

Arsenal would have gone top with victory, but the draw left Arsene Wenger’s side a point behind Chelsea in second place.

For United it was another missed opportunity to make up ground on the teams in the Champions League places, ahead of a mid-season trip to Dubai when they will gird their loins for a high-stakes run-in.

Former Arsenal striker Van Persie was playing at the Emirates for the second time as a United player and his old team-mates gifted him a huge opportunity within seconds of kick-off.

Van Persie was allowed to creep up behind Mikel Arteta and steal possession from the Spaniard, but with only Wojciech Szczesny to beat he drove a tame shot into the Arsenal goalkeeper’s arms.

In response, Jack Wilshere had a shot blocked by Chris Smalling after a weaving run, with Olivier Giroud heading over from the ensuing corner, while Tomas Rosicky saw a deflected shot saved by David de Gea.

With Antonio Valencia relacing Ashley Young for United, the champions deployed Juan Mata on the left flank, and the club’s record signing teed up Van Persie with a pass down the inside-left channel, only for the Dutchman to shoot wastefully wide.

Giroud continued to best United captain Nemanja Vidic in the air, but he was unable to find the target with a succession of headers.

The French striker was also involved in a collision with Rafael da Silva that saw the United full-back land awkwardly on his neck. After soldiering on until half-time, the Brazilian gave way for Rio Ferdinand.

A war of attrition took hold early in the second period, with neither side able to fashion a chance as attacks foundered on imprecise passes and niggly fouls.

The home fans almost had something to shout about in the 62nd minute, but although Koscielny’s glancing header from a right-wing corner beat the diving De Gea, Valencia was on hand to head the ball off the line.

Both managers made changes with 15 minutes remaining — Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain entering the fray for Arsenal and Adnan Januzaj taking Mata’s place for United.

The game belatedly came to life in the closing stages, as both sides looked to snatch victory.

Giroud was unable to make telling contact with an inviting centre from Bacary Sagna, before Van Persie saw a header from a Wayne Rooney cross brilliantly turned onto the bar at the other end by Szczesny.

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla had two late attempts to claim a winner, but on each occasion he was thwarted by Spanish countryman De Gea.

Next up for Arsenal is FA Cup clash against the in-form Liverpool side at the Emirates. The competition that gives the only realistic hope for a trophy for the club this reason.

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Winning Is The Only Real Deal Tonight


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Both teams will be looking to bounce back from hugely disappointing defeats Wednesday evening when Arsenal host Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.

David Moyes’ Manchester United (12-5-8) dropped yet more points as Fulham held the current Premier League champions to a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday. The result means United have won just two of their last six games and are 15 points off the top of the table. Other results over the weekend have left United nine points outside of the Champions League qualification places with just 13 games remaining, and Moyes admitted Sunday’s result was the lowest point of his first season in Manchester.

“Today was as bad as it gets,” said Moyes after Darren Bent’s injury-time equaliser denied his team all three points. “We gave away a diabolical second goal. You could use maybe mental softness as an excuse, in that we didn’t see the job out and get the job done. It was a game we should have easily seen out. There was no reason not to see it out, it was comfortable. You couldn’t say we were ever under any real pressure. We had the odd counter-attack to deal with but we didn’t have much else to do.

“The players are hurting. I can see every day that they’re hurting, because the results aren’t going the way they want. They’re really good professionals in the way they go about their work and what I see in training makes me feel they’ll get results. We’ve just got to go into the next game.”

Arsenal (17-4-4) head into the latest round of Premier League matches just one point behind league-leaders Chelsea, but a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Saturday cast doubt over the Gunners’ title credentials. Arsene Wenger’s side started Saturday’s game so poorly they were 4-0 down after just 20 minutes, but the Arsenal boss is convinced his players are capable of bouncing back with a win on Wednesday.

“Our performance was poorer on Saturday than at Man City,” said Wenger, referring to the 6-3 defeat against City in December. “But I’m confident we will respond in a positive matter on Wednesday night.

“I think it’s a shame that we couldn’t turn up with a better performance. After 10 minutes we conceded two goals on set-pieces, that just shows that the level of concentration was not there and that when nobody takes responsibility in these kind of situations it’s always a bad sign.

“It is about how well we do at home at the Emirates, of course starting on Wednesday. Recently we have been very good defensively at home and offensively as well. That is what we want to show on Wednesday night.”

Arsenal have injury doubts over Thomas Vermaelen (calf), while Kim Kallstrom (back), Theo Walcott (knee), Aaron Ramsey (hip) and Abou Diaby (knee) are out. United have concerns over the fitness of Tom Cleverley (knock), Phil Jones (concussion), Jonny Evans (calf), Nani (hamstring) and Rio Ferdinand (knee), while Marouane Fellaini (groin) is out.

Arsenal have won just one of their last 13 games against United in all competitions, and a 1-1 draw in this fixture last season is the Gunner’s only point from the last five league meetings.

Robin van Persie scored midway through the first half to secure a 1-0 win when these teams met at Old Trafford back in November. Van Persie has scored in all three games for United against Arsenal since he left the north London club in 2012.

For Arsenal, the key will be in finding the right balance in midfield. They have to keep things tight and ensure they don’t concede the first goal. They also have to belief in their own ability during the game. With Chelsea slip last night, this is a game that will bring back the needed confidence for another run-in of good performances. Its a must win.

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Oxlade Chamberlain Brace Enough To Down Crystal Palace.


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Having spent nothing in the transfer window and with a depleted midfield, Arsenal rediscovered its Ox-Factor to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.

On his first league start since the opening day of an injury-curtailed season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first goals in more than a year gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

”It took him a while to get back and I’m pleased he’s now back to full fitness,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. ”He had shown today that he can be a very important player for us.”

The 20-year-old midfielder broke through the resilient visitors two minutes into the second half, lifting the ball over goalkeeper Julian Speroni from close range.

And Oxlade-Chamberlain slotted in a second in the 73rd minute as he slotted seamlessly back into the injury-hit team.

”They made it hard for us in the first half,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. ”But in the second half we knew if we kept the tempo up and kept wearing them down then we’d get more opportunities and we did.”

A seventh 2-0 victory of the league season pushed Arsenal two points ahead of Manchester City, which hosts Chelsea on Monday.

The win sets up Arsenal for a challenging period ahead, with Liverpool (twice), Manchester United and Bayern Munich coming up in the next four fixtures.

And the victory should dispel concerns – for now – about Wenger not spending in the January transfer window.

But it was a first half as frustrating for fans as Arsenal’s transfer inactivity. The only arrival – 31-year-old midfielder Kim Kallstrom on loan on Friday’s deadline-day – has already been ruled out injured for up to six weeks before even getting the chance to pull on an Arsenal shirt.

By contrast, Palace was one of the most active clubs on deadline-day, although the four new outfield players weren’t registered in time for Sunday’s game.

Palace manager Tony Pulis is expecting the new arrivals to ensure the south London club, which is a point above the relegation zone, is a greater attacking threat in the coming months.

Arsenal completely dominated the first half on Sunday, although its route to goal congested by the disciplined visitors, who displayed the resilience at the heart of the team’s revival under Tony Pulis since November.

Palace restricted Arsenal to just one shot in the opening half-hour, and that was from a defender. Goalkeeper Julian Speroni raced off his line in the seventh minute to meet Nacho Monreal, and block the shot with his right leg.

A diving save from Speroni in the 34th thwarted Laurent Koscielny’s backward header from Mesut Ozil’s free kick. From another of the Germany playmaker’s free kicks, Per Mertesacker’s header lacked power.

Arsenal ended the half with nothing to show for its 76 percent possession.

”It was very difficult to create space,” Wenger said. ”We needed to be patient, intelligent and use our opportunities that, most of the time, come in the second half.”

Against Palace, it came immediately after the break, with the opener just reward for the slick build-up. Santi Cazorla weaved his way through the Palace defense and dinked the ball over for Oxlade-Chamberlain to score his first Arsenal goal since December 2012.

The lead was preserved by Wojciech Szczesny being alert to save Cameron Jerome’s downward header and, after Podolski fired into sidenetting, Oxlade-Chamberlain found the target again.

Thomas Rosicky knocked the ball forward to Olivier Giroud, who backheeled it for Oxlade-Chamberlain to strike low into the net.

That ensured Arsenal extended its unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions, and did not miss the suspended Mathieu Flamini and fellow midfielders Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, who are injured.

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Arsenal Title Challenge Starts Today: Crystal Palace Preview.


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Arsenal will be looking to prove that they are still serious title challengers Sunday when they welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal (16-4-3) were held to a 2-2 draw by Southampton in midweek to relinquish top spot in the Premier League to rampant Manchester City – who won 5-1 at Tottenham. Sunday’s visit of Palace will be a chance for the Gunners to prove their quality ahead of a daunting run of games. In the next 11 Arsenal have to play Liverpool twice, Manchester United, reigning Champions League title holders Bayern Munich in a two-legged tie in the round of 16 in that tournament, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea, but Wenger insists that his team are not out of title contention just yet.

“People are always tempted to go to definite conclusions after one game,” said the Frenchman. “We have played 23 games, we are one point behind City. We are in the second part of the season and have 15 games to make a difference with them. I believe we have our chances.

“What is even more important is we are fully committed to take our chances with full belief. I’m convinced we can do it. We are still very, very close, but we want to respond quickly after having dropped two points. I’m confident the squad is ready for a fight. Let’s start with that on Sunday against Palace.”

Crystal Palace (7-2-14) have improved enormously under new manager Tony Pulis, and 10 points in their last six games have lifted the Londoners well out of the relegation zone. Former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh has been a key figure in Palace’s resurgence, and the forward suggested that – despite a number of run-ins in the past – Pulis isn’t too different to the Arsenal boss.

“Arsene Wenger sees all matches as a chance to win,” said Chamakh. “Pulis thinks the same thing, home or away. Even when we are playing the big teams, he has the same objective, which is to win matches. Managers work differently, but they all have the same objective of winning the game.

“I learnt a lot at Arsenal on my initial arrival in England. I learned a lot about discipline, learning and understanding the English game and getting used to how to move and pass on the pitch as an attacker in this league. I’ve continued to learn a lot more since coming to Palace.”


Arsenal have injury doubts over Jack Wilshere (ankle), while Theo Walcott (knee), and Abou Diaby (knee) are out. Wenger revealed on Friday that Aaron Ramsey has suffered a setback with his hip injury, keeping him out until March.

Palace have fitness concerns over Danny Gabbidon (knock), Jonathan Parr (concussion), Kagisho Dikgacoi (calf), Jerome Thomas (calf) and Glenn Murray (knee).

The Gunners ran out 2-0 winners in October when these teams met at Selhurst Park, with Mikel Arteta scoring from the spot at the start of the second half before being shown a red card 18 minutes later. Palace outshot Arsenal 13-10 in the match.

Its indeed a tricky game day, and marks the beginning of Arsenal’s season defining months [February-April], Arsenal Wenger and his team must be ready, raise the bar and make the fans believe.

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Arsenal Held As Saints Dent Title Bid.


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Arsenal missed a chance to move four points clear at the top of the Premier League table following a 2-2 draw at Southampton on Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side were on course to cement first place in the English top-flight after recovering from the shock of conceding Jose Fonte’s first half goal.

Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla had put Arsenal 2-1 ahead at St Mary’s, only for Adam Lallana to equalise after the break and deny Arsenal a vital three points.

The Gunners are two points clear of second placed Manchester City, who can claim top spot with a victory at Tottenham on Wednesday.

Arsenal’s frustration was summed up when French midfielder Mathieu Flamini was dismissed for an 80th minute challenge on Morgan Schneiderlin.

Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, had confirmed before this game that Wenger would soon sign a new, three-year contract to remain at the club.

An away victory would have been the ideal way to mark the announcement, but it quickly became clear this would be a major test for the leaders.

Southampton’s defeat at the Emirates Stadium had triggered an alarming run that had brought just two wins from their previous 11 league games.

Injuries have taken their toll and with Rickie Lambert out and Dani Osvaldo suspended following a training ground fight with Fonte, Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino handed a first league start to teenager Sam Gallagher.

But that did little to unsettle the home side who started the game positively and continued to dominate throughout the first half, with Gallagher coming close to breaking the deadlock with a powerful shot after just seven minutes.

Fonte’s 21st minute goal came when Luke Shaw, the Saints left-back who has been linked with a move to Manchester United and Chelsea, delivered a deep cross towards the centre-back, who headed in at the far post.

Lallana came close to adding a second when he forced Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny into a full length save and Gallagher stabbed an even better chance wide after Monreal’s attempted clearance had been charged down.

The opening 45 minutes had been one-sided but Arsenal finally showed signs of their threat immediately before the break when Laurent Koscielny forced a superb reaction save from Artur Boruc.

But if that was a warning, Southampton failed to heed the signs and the visitors exploded into life after the restart with two goals in seven minutes.

Giroud brought the Gunners back on level terms in the 47th minute with a clever flick after Bacary Sagna had forced his way into the Southampton box before squaring for the France striker to redirect the ball into the net.

Then, with the home side reeling, Spanish playmaker Cazorla added the 52nd minute second with a low, left foot drive from the edge of the area after Mesut Ozil had led a breakaway.

Pochettino’s side appeared deflated but they conjured the perfect response just 60 seconds later when Jay Rodriguez worked his way towards the byline before pulling back for Lallana who struck from 10 yards out.

Both sides appeared capable of going on to win the game but it was Arsenal who had the better chances to reclaim the lead.

Ozil capped a surging run with a powerful shot that was deflected over Boruc and rebounded to safety off the crossbar.

And Monreal should have done much better when he found himself with a clear shooting opportunity on the left hand side of the Saints box, only to blast his effort high into the crowd.

But the advantage swung back in Southampton’s favour following Flamini’s reckless, two-footed challenge on Morgan Schneiderlin in the 80th minute.

Referee Lee Mason had no hesitation in showing the Frenchman a straight red card and while Flamini protested his innocence, television replays supported the match official’s decision.

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Arsenal Face Stern Test At St.Mary’s : Southampton Preview


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal will be looking to stay at the top of the Premier League as they take on Southampton at St Mary’s on Tuesday evening.

Arsene Wenger’s side (16-3-3) have won their last five Premier League games to hold off challenges from in-form Manchester City and Chelsea after the Gunners dropped points in all three of their matches over Christmas. Fullback Carl Jenkinson admits it’s a relief not to have such a hectic fixture schedule, and trusts his manager to help the squad win their first title in almost a decade.

“Over Christmas, the fixture schedule is always jammed packed,” Jenkinson said. “But now it eases a bit which is good because it was a bit intense and the boys do need a good rest between games. You get the best out of the team when we have those rest periods as well. But the boss is fantastic at that because we put a good run together when it was very intense, hopefully now we can push on with a few less fixtures and more recovery time.

“The defence has been very good this season. It is important going forward that we have a strong defence because if you look at successful Arsenal sides of the past, they have all been built on a strong back four and a good goalkeeper. It’s important we have that as a building block.”

Southampton (8-7-7) started the season like a train but have seen a dramatic slump in form leave them 12 points off the European places. The squad was further disrupted by a training ground fight involving summer signing Dani Osvaldo, and the Argentine was suspended by the club for two weeks.

“Obviously what has happened has happened,” said Southampton captain Kelvin Davis. “As a team, as a squad, as a club, we are looking forward and we are very much together. Our dressing room is as solid as it has ever been and it will continue to be so.

“We are a friendly bunch. We’ve said for a long time that we have always had a good team spirit and a good changing room. That can’t change and if anyone doesn’t want to be involved in that then they are not welcome.”


Southampton are without the injured Gaston Ramirez (ankle), Dejan Lovren (ankle) and Victor Wanyama (calf).

The Saints have won just two of their last 10 league games, but have been beaten just three times at home all season.

Arsenal have the league’s best defensive record with only 19 goals conceded, and only Liverpool have scored more goals away from home than the Gunners’ 23.

Wenger’s side won 2-0 when these teams met at the Emirates earlier in the season, with Olivier Giroud scoring both goals and securing the three points with a penalty kick in the 86th minute.

Ramsey’s return to the side and hopefully to form will ease the absence of Jack Wilshere and could be vital as he’ll add another dimension to Arsenal ‘s attack.

Its a must win game because tougher games beckons, we can’t afford to lose sleep now!

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Cazorla Double Keeps Arsenal On Top.


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Santi Cazorla’s double ensured Arsenal remain at the head of the Premier League table following a 2-0 home victory over struggling Fulham on Saturday.

Spain playmaker Cazorla struck twice inside five second half minutes to ensure Arsene Wenger’s side secured a fifth successive league victory.

This was an underwhelming performance from Arsenal but it was enough to keep the north London club a point clear of second-placed Manchester City and reinforce the view they will be hard to dislodge from top spot.

Defeat combined with results elsewhere meant Fulham dropped to within one place and one point of the relegation places, although manager Rene Meulensteen will have been heartened by the way his side remained in the game for almost an hour.

Wenger’s side had passed their most recent test of nerve when they won at Aston Villa to reclaim the lead after first Chelsea and then City had enjoyed 24-hour stays at the head of the table.

Wenger insisted before this game, however, the pressure on his side this time around was nothing compared to last year when the Gunners endured a season-long scramble to clinch a top four place.

And on paper, there was little to suggest Arsenal’s challenge would be hampered by a Fulham side locked in a tense battle for survival.

The Cottagers have shown improved form since Meulensteen took charge, although their lack of consistency was highlighted in the week before this clash when they followed a 4-1 home league defeat to Sunderland with a convincing FA Cup victory over Norwich.

That win had clearly boosted confidence and for almost an hour, the visitors looked capable of claiming a third successive draw at this stadium.

With Brede Hangeland back in central defence for his first league appearance since October, Meulensteen’s side were well organised and rarely troubled by a stuttering Arsenal.

Hangeland showed excellent anticipation to clear off the line after Mesut Ozil had placed a shot beyond keeper Maarten Stekelenburg in the fourth minute.

But otherwise, Fulham were largely untroubled and might have taken an unexpected lead midway through the first half when Wojciech Szczesny tipped Steve Sidwell’s shot onto the crossbar.

Jack Wilshere did manage to force a save from Stekelenburg in the 38th minute and the keeper was equally alert to deny Bacary Sagna’s follow up.

But Arsenal’s performance was surprisingly lacklustre and it was clear they would have to step up the tempo if they were to avoid dropping points.

But Arsenal’s passing moves began to gather momentum and they finally made the breakthrough after a sustained period of pressure in the 58th minute, and within five minutes the game was effectively over.

Cazorla’s opening goal came after Sagna and Serge Gnabry had both been denied by desperate blocks.

But the quality of the build-up play to the Spain midfielder’s strike highlighted the difference in class.

Cazorla gained possession on the left after another frantic clearance, moved inside and kick-started a slick triangle of one-touch passes involving Olivier Giroud and Wilshere before finishing right footed from 12 yards out.

The second was more routine with Hangeland failing to get sufficient distance on a clearing header from Nacho Monreal’s cross, directing the ball only as far as Cazorla, who placed a left foot shot beyond Stekelenburg from 20 yards.

Fulham’s resistance was broken, although it would have been worse for Meulensteen’s side had Stekelenburg not managed to tip Lukas Podolski’s powerful shot onto the post.

Darren Bent missed a late chance to halve the deficit but this was ultimately a routine victory for an Arsenal side growing in belief they can finish champions.

Up next for the Gunners is against Coventry City in the FA CUP at the Emirates Stadium on Friday.

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Game 22 To Win, Arsenal With Eyes On The Title.


Arsenal Trenders,

An injury-hit Arsenal look to remain top of the Premier League in Saturday’s London derby against relegation-threatened Fulham at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have won four league fixtures on the trot to lead Manchester City by one point and Chelsea by two as they bid for their first piece of silverware since the 2005 FA Cup.

“Let’s take care of our performances,” manager Arsene Wenger said. “Then you have to go forward always and get the points and see if you can make the difference with where you are with the other teams.”

Arsenal have led the Premier League for 17 rounds this season after doing so for just six over the previous five.

“They’re very confident at the moment because they’re up there,” Cottagers boss Rene Meulensteen told Fulham’s official website. “If you compare that to recent seasons, they haven’t been up there, now they’re up there constantly. They know every game is so important in making sure they stay up there and only time will tell which teams will sustain that.”

Wenger has numerous injury problems, with Aaron Ramsey out with a thigh injury. Mikel Arteta (calf) and Thomas Vermaelen (knee) are also out and Wenger believes the trio will also miss out on next week’s FA Cup tie with Coventry City.

Nacho Monreal is in doubt after he left Monday’s 3-1 victory over Aston Villa. Tomas Rosicky only lasted 17 minutes as a substitute in that one before leaving with a broken nose.

“Monreal looks a doubt for Saturday, a big doubt, because he twisted his foot on the kick,” Wenger told Arsenal’s official website. “It is not the bruise, he turned and twisted the ligament.

“Rosicky had surgery with a general anaesthetic for a broken nose in two places. With a mask he may be available, but we have to monitor it closely.”

Arsenal won 3-1 in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage on Aug. 24 behind Lukas Podolski’s brace and a goal from Olivier Giroud.

Fulham are in 16th place on 19 points – one above the drop. The Cottagers have three wins in their last seven matches.

Fulham have come away with draws in their last two visits to the Emirates, and will look to regroup following last Saturday’s 4-1 league defeat at home to Sunderland. Meulensteen made nine changes for Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Norwich City in an FA Cup replay.

The loss to the Black Cats marked a disturbing series of heavy defeats under Meulensteen, whose side fell 4-1 to Everton on Dec. 14 and 6-0 to Hull City on Dec. 28.

“The Sunderland game was again another freak scoreline where you’re dominating the game in the first 20 minutes where you should get your noses in front, and we didn’t and it cost us,” Meulensteen said.

Maarten Stekelenburg and Brede Hangeland returned Tuesday and both are in contention for a place Saturday.

Gunners striker Giroud marked his return Monday with his ninth league goal after missing two games due to illness.

“He looked fresh, he was sick in bed for a while and you could see in the first half for a while he was physically ready,” Wenger said. “In the second half, he dropped physically.”

Its a tough call for to the Cottagers who are just one point off the drop zone to face Arsenal that have led the Premier League for 17 rounds this season at this crucial period but, could draw confidence from their comfortable victory against Norwich City in the FA Cup last time.

Also worthy to note that Arsenal have conceded just 1 goal in their last 8 games at the Emirates. That’s to show how much they’ve improved at home since the opening day loss to Aston Villa.

Three points is all matters but, Fulhams poor defensive record lately give indications the Gunners could score 2 goals or more today. Fulham conceded 4 goals each to Everton, Manchester City and Sunderland and also conceded 6 goals to Hull City, all during last months fixtures.

Fulham also have the fewest clean sheets (3), most goals conceded (46), and have lost 14 of their 21 Premier League games this season. The odds favours Arsenal for another 3 points.

Its game 22 and the challenge is heating up, one game at a time but, Arsenal with eyes clearly on the title. Its possible afterall.

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Gunners Reclaim Top Spot After Downing Villa.


Arsenal Trenders,

Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa courtesy of two goals within 60 seconds from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud on Monday.

It was a fourth consecutive victory for Arsene Wenger’s side and continued Villa’s poor run on their home ground, where they have failed to win in their last five matches and only twice in the league all season.

Christian Benteke’s first goal in 13 matches prompted a late burst of Villa pressure, but it was too late to rescue a draw.

Arsenal are now one point clear of second placed Manchester City, with Chelsea a further point behind the leaders, as the title race hots up.

Villa opted to play five at the back in an attempt to keep Arsenal quiet after Paul Lambert’s low on confidence side lost 2-1 at home to League One team Sheffield United in their last game.

But France striker Giroud made his return for Arsenal following injury and illness and came close to heading Arsenal into an early lead.

Villa could have taken the lead when Benteke capitalised on a mistake by Wilshere and fed Fabian Delph, who fired just wide from 20 yards.

Lambert’s side were hit by a worrying injury to defender Nathan Baker who took the full force of a Serge Gnabry free kick in the face.

The centre half was taken off on a stretcher with an oxygen mask and did not appear to move after being down on the pitch for treatment for six minutes.

Lambert brought on Leandro Bacuna for the stricken Baker and it was later confirmed that the young defender had suffered mild concussion.

The change meant Villa were forced back to a 4-4-2 formation but initially it did them no harm as they went close to taking the lead as Karim El Ahmadi fired over after a promising ball from Delph.

However Arsenal had plenty of possession and they went ahead in the 34th minute.

Mesut Ozil found Nacho Monreal down the left and he crossed for England midfielder Wilshere, who coolly beat Brad Guzan for his fifth goal of the season.

The Gunners scored a second just a minute later after Wilshere capitalised on a Delph error and passed to Giroud, who clinically fired in his 12th goal of the campaign.

Villa had a lively start to the second half with Bacuna shooting left footed at Wojciech Szczesny from Matt Lowton’s pass.

Benteke, who put in a much improved performance, had claims for a penalty waved away by referee Neil Swarbrick after tangling with Laurent Koscielny.

Chances came at both ends as Santi Cazorla’s left footed volley from the edge of the area was well handled by Guzan before Szczesny saved well from Ashley Westwood in a similar position at the other end.

Arsenal continued to come at Villa with Giroud firing just wide after substitute Kieran Gibbs had crossed from the touchline.

But it was Villa who set up an exciting finale as Benteke at last grabbed his first goal since September, heading home from Lowton’s 76th-minute cross after Arsenal had carelessly surrendered possession.

Villa came close to a dramatic equaliser when Delph’s drive from the edge of the area was kept out by Szczesny.

Arsenal’s nerves were jangling when Tomas Rosicky, a substitute himself, was forced off with an injury to his nose, but they did enough to see the game out.

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Arsenal Keen To Win At Villa Park: Aston Villa Preview


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Arsenal will be looking to return to the top of the Premier League when they travel to Aston Villa on Monday evening after both City and Chelsea moved to 1st and 2nd respectively with victories over the weekend.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal (14-3-3) were top of the table going into the latest round of league matches, thanks to three consecutive wins since Christmas. Confidence should be high in the camp after last weekend’s 2-0 FA Cup win over local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, although the game did see Theo Walcott pick up a torn ACL that ended his season and his chances of representing England in the World Cup in Brazil.

“We lost a very talented player, a very intelligent player and a player who was just grabbing his form again,” said Wenger. “From game to game he became more influential, you have seen a complete player. He can always decide a game through a final ball or through a goal. Sometimes in the same game he does both.

“The injury has accelerated transfer speculation, but let’s not forget about Serge Gnabry who can play in the first team. We have (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain back and we have many other players who can play on the flanks so to find better solutions than what we have internally will not be easy.”

Aston Villa (6-5-9) picked up their first league win in six attempts last time out against Sunderland, but have just two wins and a league-low seven goals at home. The Villains mustered just four points from six games over a packed December but were boosted by the return of influential winger Marc Albrighton from a long-term injury.

“I am delighted to see him back, I am really happy for him, he’s a really good lad,” said fellow midfielder Fabien Delph. “I know what it’s like to be injured long-term. For him to weather the storm and come through is terrific. He got a player of the month award too. Fair play to him.

“He’s a top player. He’s got masses of talent and he works really hard for the team too. I knew he’d be back because he’s mentally strong. You need to have that characteristic with injuries. He showed it in abundance. Now he’s determined to impress, progress and improve. He’s flying.”

Aston Villa stunned Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the season. Giroud put the Gunners ahead in that game, but two Christian Benteke penalties and an Antonio Luna strike on the counter-attack secured the points for the Villains. The game was a rare highlight this season for Benteke, who has gone a career-worst 11 league games without a goal.


Villa have injury doubts over Nathan Baker (hamstring), Ron Vlaar (calf), Chris Herd (hamstring) and Charles N’Zogbia (calf), while Libor Kozak (broken leg) and Jores Okore (knee) are out.

Arsenal are expected to be missing Aaron Ramsey (hip), Theo Walcott (knee), Thomas Vermaelen (knee) and Nicklas Bendtner (ankle), while Kieran Gibbs (calf) remain a doubt.

Game at Villa Park tonight is just another game to win and using the current form guide, its quite another 3 points on the cards for Arsenal .

The Villains are 11th in the table with 23 points having won just 6 matches out of 20. Aston Villa have the 2nd worst home record in the League with only 2 clean sheets in 10 games at Villa Park.‬

Arsenal have shown a ruthless streak away from home this season and I expect that to continue at Villa Park, also considering the opposition’s poor home record. Villa’s record at home over the last 2 & half years has been appalling, Villa have won only 11 of 48 Premier League home games going back to 2011-12 season.

Arsenal are unbeaten at Villa Park in the league since December 1998, they won 7 & drew 7 of 14 games. Villa have kept just one clean sheet in their last 8 attempts against the north Londoners in all competitions.

On the backdrop of the opening day loss in the reverse fixture at the Emirates should fire Arsenal even more tonight.

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Last Gasp Bendtner, Walcott Keep Arsenal Top.


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Arsenal kicked off the New Year with a last-ditch 2-0 win at home to struggling Cardiff City on Wednesday that confirmed their credentials as Premier League title contenders.

Arsenal looked to have run out of ideas as they were frustrated by Cardiff’s blue wall of resistance before substitute Nicklas Bendtner struck in the 88th minute.

Theo Walcott sealed the win in injury time to complete a gritty victory that suggests that this could yet be the year that Arsene Wenger’s side end their nine-year trophy drought with the biggest prize in English football.

The late goals enabled Arsenal to return to first place, after Manchester City had taken provisional control of the title race with a 3-2 success at Swansea City earlier in the day.

Missing so many key players, it looked as though Cardiff would come away with a precious point before their crushing late heartbreak.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the stands as he edges closer to taking charge of Cardiff following Malky Mackay’s sacking.

The former Manchester United striker, now managing in his native Norway with Molde, would have been impressed with his potential new side in spells at the Emirates Stadium.

Few would have given Cardiff a chance, given their current struggles at the wrong end of the table.

Arsenal, on the other hand, would have considered this a home banker. Sitting at the top of the tree heading into 2014, this was a game they were expected to canter through.

However, an unremarkable opening 45 minutes saw Arsenal fail to bring a save out of Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall.

Walcott came the closest when he volleyed Jack Wilshere’s cross into the side-netting after 13 minutes.

That besides, Arsenal looked a pale imitation of the side that had previously dismantled so many teams at the Emirates.

The home side dominated territory and possession, but everything was done at such a slow tempo that Cardiff were able to pile bodies behind the ball.

Santi Cazorla and Walcott lost their radars by shooting wide when well-placed and the midfielders were not the only Arsenal players to suffer a similar fate.

Cardiff were defending resolutely, but they were fortunate to escape in the 25th minute when Wilshere fell under Gary Medel’s clumsy challenge in the penalty area.

There were few complaints from Arsenal when a penalty was not given, but replays suggested that the England midfielder, celebrating his 22nd birthday, had a strong case despite referee Jon Moss waving away his appeals.

Cardiff’s ploy was to frustrate, but a rare venture forward saw Jordon Mutch produce a jinking run and shot that was blocked by the legs of Arsenal’s largely redundant goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Wenger would have spoken of the the need to quicken his side’s passing during the half-time interval, although Cardiff had visibly grown in confidence.

Wilshere did finally threaten in the 65th minute when he struck the outside of the post with an angled drive.

It was the start of a concerted spell of pressure and Arsenal were coming ever closer to the breakthrough as they laid siege with wave after wave of attacks.

Per Mertesacker headed wide before wasting another chance when he escaped his marker but could only nod against the post.

Arsenal were becoming increasingly desperate, but with two minutes remaining they finally scored through Bendtner.

Bacary Sagna’s header from Nacho Monreal’s cross finally brought a save out of Marshall, but the ball fell kindly for the Denmark striker to rifle into the roof of the net.

It proved to be his final contribution as he limped off after turning his ankle in scoring, but the game was up for Cardiff and Arsenal were able to rest easy after Walcott skipped through to clip home in added time.

Next up for the Gunners are our rivals in the shadow, Spurs in the FA CUP. They should be riding high on that win at old trafford. That should be an interesting one.

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Arsenal Will Only Go Upward In 2014: Cardiff City Preview.


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Arsenal start 2014 atop the Premier League table, and they will be hoping to still be there after facing Cardiff City at the Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal (13-3-3) had a slight dip in their sensational run of form as they went three games without a win in the build-up to Christmas, but they responded with the maximum six points from their two games in the last week to recover their place at the summit of English football.

The Gunners ground out a 1-0 win away at Newcastle United on Sunday thanks to an Olivier Giroud goal, and Wenger believed the game burnished title credentials his squads have lacked in past seasons.

“There is something in the team that is special on the mental front where we have many times been questioned,” said Wenger. “We have shown that at West Ham when we were 1-0 down, we have shown that again today when we were a bit backs to the wall in the last 15 minutes. There’s a great solidarity and a great spirit in the side.

“In terms of challenging at the top of the table, we believe in ourselves … I hope it will be enough but there’s a long way to go and it’s still too early to talk about the title.”

Cardiff City (4-6-9) will be without a manager for the trip to London after Malky Mackay was sacked over the Christmas week following his long-running spat with club owner Vincent Tan. The Bluebirds responded with a 2-2 draw against Sunderland to pick up their first point in three matches, and defender Ben Turner believes they need to keep their focus after the recent disruption.

“We have to move on,” said Turner. “If we don’t then we will get relegated. We have to look forward. It’s what we want to do. That’s the one thing the old manager would say, once the game is over look to the next one. Whatever’s happened, you focus on the next challenge. So we want to look forward and he’d have wanted us to look forward and carry on. We are at the halfway point and we have a good chance of staying up.

“We have not had time to digest it yet because with the Christmas fixtures they are coming thick and fast and we have had to concentrate on the game. Maybe now we will have time to digest what’s actually happened over the last few weeks and then we move on to Arsenal away.”

Arsenal have fitness doubts over Kieran Gibbs (hamstring), Nacho Monreal (illness), Thomas Vermaelen (illness) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), while Mezut Ozil (shoulder), Aaron Ramsey (hip), Yannick Sanogo (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) are out.

Cardiff have doubts over Andrew Taylor (knock) and Craig Bellamy (knee).

The Gunners have conceded just one goal in the three matches since being hit for six by Manchester City in mid-December. They are unbeaten in eight at the Emirates, but have drawn their last two at the ground.

Cardiff have won just one of their last nine league matches, and have conceded eight in their three games over Christmas. The Bluebirds’ form on the road has been disappointing in recent weeks, gaining just two points from their last six away matches while scoring only one goal in the last five games outside of Cardiff.

The Welsh side have managed just five goals in away fixtures all season – a joint-league low.

Arsenal won 3-0 when these teams met back in November, with Ramsey scoring a brace around Mathieu Flamini’s tally. That was the first league meeting between the two clubs for over 50 years. They have met five times in cup competitions in that half a century, with the north Londoners progressing on all five occasions.

“If you can manage from January 1 to December 31 to have that trend it means we are going upwards. We want to transfer that trend into 2014 and to have a great race for the Premier League title. Brilliant words from Wenger. Let’s hope Arsenal will only go upward in 2014.

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Ramsey Out For 3 Weeks As Arsenal Worries Increase.


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Arsenal are likely to be without Aaron Ramsey for three weeks as Gunners manager Arsene Wenger deals with a potential injury crisis heading into the New Year.

Welsh midfielder Ramsey is on the sidelines with a thigh problem suffered in the 3-1 win at West Ham United on Boxing Day, but he is not the only player missing for the New Year’s Day clash against Cardiff City.

Striker Olivier Giroud will definitely miss the game because of an ankle problem, while German playmaker Mesut Ozil is also sidelined, with the club awaiting results of a visit to a shoulder specialist.

Full-back Kieran Gibbs definitely misses out because of a calf strain, and fellow defenders Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen have both been laid low by illness.

In addition, midfielders Tomas Rosicky (calf) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) were both due to face fitness tests later on Tuesday, as was England forward Theo Walcott, who picked up a shoulder problem in the 1-0 win at Newcastle.

The situation has removed the focus away from the fact that Arsenal head into 2014 on top of the table, a point clear of Manchester City.

“You need a good memory because we have plenty of problems,” said Wenger.

“Ramsey and Ozil are out. Ramsey (for) three weeks and Ozil has seen a specialist last night (Monday), I haven’t got a report yet.

“We lost Gibbs at Newcastle with a calf strain. We have as well Monreal and Vermaelen, who are not sure to be ready because they come just back from illness, then we have uncertainty about Rosicky, Wilshere and Walcott.”

However, Wenger insisted that France striker Giroud, who scored the winning goal at Newcastle, should be back in time for the weekend FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

“Olivier is a strong structure and he recovers quite quickly,” said Wenger.

“He thinks he will be alright for Saturday, but the medical people think he will be a bit short. He is quite optimistic about it.”

In Giroud’s absence, Wenger must decide whether to start Lukas Podolski, who scored on his return from a four-month injury lay-off at Upton Park, or Nicklas Bendtner in attack against the Bluebirds.

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Resilient Gunners.


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Olivier Giroud’s 11th goal of the season sealed Arsenal’s return to the top of the Premier League courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 win at Newcastle on Sunday.

The Frenchman’s 65th-minute header, his first goal for more than a month, proved decisive as Arsene Wenger’s men were forced to sweat for a victory that rounds off an impressive 2013 for the north London club.

Arsenal racked-up 82 points in the calendar year – the best in the English top-flight – and the character they showed in withstanding the sustained challenge from an in-form Newcastle side will stand them in good stead as they attempt to end their long trophy drought.

The hosts almost snatched a late draw when Wojciech Szczesny’s attempted clearance cannoned off French forward Loic Remy to bounce just a yard wide of goal with the Arsenal keeper stranded, but Newcastle tasted defeat for only the second time in 10 games to dent their hopes of a top six finish.

As they look down on the rest of the Premier League having regained pole position from Manchester City, Arsenal will no doubt reflect that seven of the last nine teams to head the division going into the New Year have gone on to lift the title in May.

However, the Gunners are a notable recent exception when they trailed in third despite topping the table at this stage of the season six years ago.

Mesut Ozil headed Arsenal’s growing list of key absentees, the German international joining Aaron Ramsey (thigh) on the sidelines with a minor shoulder problem that is expected to keep the midfielder out for at least another game.

Also missing were Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal, who were both unwell.

With Mathieu Flamini prompting the visitors from in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 formation, Arsenal enjoyed the majority of possession without being able to translate it into chances.

It allowed Newcastle, who showed just one change as Cheick Tiote returned from suspension in place of Hatem Ben Arfa, to end the half strongly, with Moussa Sissoko forcing Szczesny to produce a fingertip save as the Frenchman unleashed a powerful 20-yard drive when following up as Yohan Cabaye’s shot was blocked.

From the resulting Cabaye corner, Mathieu Debuchy’s looping far-post header bounced down off the crossbar, with Mike Williamson unable to convert the rebound in a major let-off for the visitors.

Cabaye combined several times with Debuchy to cause problems for Wenger’s side, and with better control, the latter would have been clean through on goal as he raced onto a pinpoint 40-yard pass from his former Lille team-mate.

Debuchy also ought to have done better when volleying wide as Cabaye’s raking free-kick found him in space just inside the area.

Arsenal’s ball retention and distribution, as ever, was pleasing on the eye, although with Newcastle’s back four again impressing, the Gunners created only half chances before the interval.

Tomas Rosicky aimed a 20-yard effort straight at Tim Krul at the culmination of a four-man move, before Santi Cazorla cut in from the right to force a low save from the Dutchman with a crisp left-foot shot.

Newcastle threw on Ben Arfa just after the hour in a bold attacking move, but it was Arsenal who took the lead within minutes of the Frenchman’s introduction.

Theo Walcott floated a free-kick into the area where Giroud, evading his marker Williamson, sent a glancing header past the exposed Krul from 10 yards.

Walcott almost doubled the advantage soon after, the England forward’s first attempt blocked by the legs of Krul, before Debuchy kept the Arsenal forward’s follow-up out with a spectacular goal-line clearance.

It wasn’t to prove a costly miss, as the visitors held out with relative ease – Ben Arfa firing wastefully into the side-netting in their biggest scare – to record a victory that could prove key when the title is decided in May.

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Arsenal Can End 2013 On A High: Newcastle Preview.


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Arsene Wenger is expecting a tough match as his title-chasing side come up against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday.

The Gunners (12-3-3) rallied from a goal to down to win 3-1 at West Ham on Boxing Day and will go into the final weekend of 2013 one point clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Carlton Cole gave West Ham the lead early in the second half before two goals from Theo Walcott and a third by Lukas Podolski secured a victory to end the Gunners’ four-match winless streak.

Wenger was pleased with the way his side battled back to take all three points at Upton Park and blamed a fixture pileup for his side’s recent dip in form.

“For us we have another good game now on Sunday at Newcastle who are in full confidence as well so that will be another test,” Wenger told the Arsenal official club website. “Had we not have won (against West Ham) we would have had to answer many questions. That was a kind of game that of course many people would have questioned us had we not won today and even more if we had lost.

“The team wants to do well and the character is great. The concentration is top. I believe we had a difficult period just now but honestly that was mainly down to the schedule we had. I think that the schedule was absolutely horrendous but we can show that in the future. When you do not win for four games it’s important to come back for the confidence level of your environment and yourself as well to win.”

Newcastle (10-3-5) are in sixth place, just six points behind the Gunners. They recorded their seventh win in nine league matches Thursday when they thrashed nine-man Stoke City 5-1 at home with goals from Loic Remy (2), Yoan Gouffran, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse, who completed the scoring from the penalty spot.

“It was a fantastic second half from us,” manager Alan Pardew told the Newcastle official club website. “We didn’t over-elaborate, we didn’t try and walk it into the net.

“There were crosses coming in, we were dribbling at people – we really mixed it up, and were everything you would want from an attacking force in that second half.”


Newcastle will have midfielder Cheick Tiote available after suspension. Defender Jonas Gutierrez remains sidelined with a calf problem, but the Magpies have no reported fresh injury concerns.

The Gunners will be without midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who injured a thigh against West Ham, while England international Jack Wilshere returns to the squad after completing a two-match ban.

Arsenal did a spectacular double over Newcastle last season. England forward Walcott scored a hat trick as the Gunners thrashed the Magpies 7-3 at the Emirates Stadium in December before a rare goal from defender Laurent Koscielny gave the Londoners a 1-0 win at St James’ Park on the final day of the 2012-13 campaign.

This will be a tough game yet, its a kind of game Arsenal have to keep proving they are title contenders. The first goal will be very crucial as both Arsenal and Newcastle have good win percentage when they score first.

Newcastle have won 75% of the games when they’ve scored first and lost only one of those 12. While Arsenal have won 80% of the games when they scored first and they too have lost only one of such game.

Newcastle have scored first in 12 of their 18 games while Arsenal have done so 13 times in as many games.
Both teams have been very poor from losing positions this season. Game expected to be cagey & tactical. Mistakes can be punished.

We have two similar teams in good for go head to head, I totally expect a very cagey and tactical display, mistakes will be punished at both ends. It will come down to which team wants it most.

The Gunners have lost just one of the last 15 league and cup matches against the Magpies.

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Walcott Brace Gets Arsenal Back On Track


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Theo Walcott scored twice as Arsenal got their Premier League challenge back on track by coming from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham United on Thursday.

Carlton Cole gave West Ham a surprise lead early in the second half before Walcott scored a fortuitous equaliser and then headed Arsenal in front.

Substitute Lukas Podolski, who created Walcott’s second goal, then scored the third on his comeback from injury, as Arsenal ended a run of five games without victory in all competitions.

Walcott’s first benefited from an uncertain dive by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, but the England winger has now scored in his last four league appearances against West Ham.

It was Arsenal’s seventh consecutive victory over their London rivals and sent Sam Allardyce’s side into the bottom three.

Arsenal made one change to the team that had drawn 0-0 with Chelsea on Monday, with Santi Cazorla replacing Tomas Rosicky in midfield.

West Ham made four changes to the team beaten 3-1 by Manchester United, including the return from a three-match suspension of captain Kevin Nolan.

Carlton Cole, a scoring substitute at Old Trafford, started this time, as did Joe Cole and Joey O’Brien.

James Tomkins, meanwhile, was available for the Hammers despite being charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and being drunk and disorderly at an Essex nightclub on Sunday.

West Ham tried to feed Matt Jarvis on the left when possible in the early stages, but one cross that Wojciech Szczesny punched away was their only threatening moment in the first 10 minutes.

After that Arsenal began to dominate, and Adrian made a flying save from a header by Cazorla.

West Ham’s response had been limited: a swerving free-kick by Mark Noble that forced Szczesny to palm the ball away and a shot from Mohamed Diame that Szczesny only caught at the second attempt.

After 26 minutes, Walcott escaped George McCartney to run onto Aaron Ramsey’s floated pass, but, unchallenged, he volleyed past the post with only Adrian to beat.

Now it seemed to be the Arsenal attack against the West Ham defence.

Giroud reacted too late as Mezut Ozil pulled the ball back across goal, Mikel Arteta volleyed just wide, and Olivier Giroud failed to connect with a low cross from Kieran Gibbs.

But West Ham also made a good opening when Mark Noble lifted a quick free-kick over the Arsenal wall, only for Nolan to fail to make decent contact.

It was a warning to Arsenal to take their chances, but they did not heed it and in the first minute of the second half, West Ham took the lead.

Arteta’s clearance fell into the path of Nolan, who was allowed to shoot unchallenged from 20 yards. Szczesny could not hold the ball and Cole smacked home the rebound.

Szczesny made up for that by blocking Jarvis’s shot on the turn, but he was nowhere as Joey O’Brien stole in unmarked to glance a header just wide.

Soon, however, Arsenal were camped in the West Ham half. Adrian parried from Cazorla, then somehow got in the way of Mezut Ozil’s follow-up effort.

In the 68th minute, the pressure finally told.

Walcott cut in from the right and tried a left-foot shot that found its way in past two defenders and through the hands of the unsighted Adrian.

Three minutes later, Podolski’s cross from the left took a slight deflection off the forehead of Tomkins at the near post and Walcott reacted more quickly than the defenders to head firmly home.

Eleven minutes from time, Giroud nudged Walcott’s right-wing cross back into the path of Podolski, who smashed the ball past Adrian from 18 yard.

The much needed victory for the Gunners was marred by the injury to Aaron Ramsey. The Arsenal midfielder will miss the rest of the Christmas schedule after suffering a thigh injury in his side’s 3-1 win at West Ham on Thursday.

Ramsey has been a key figure in Arsenal’s surprise challenge for the Premier League title and the Wales international’s injury is a major blow to the Gunners’ hopes.

He limped off in the 65th minute at Upton Park to ruin his 23rd birthday.

Arsenal now face league matches against Newcastle and Cardiff and then an FA Cup tie with north London rivals Tottenham.

“It looks like a thigh strain,” Gunners manager Arsene Wenger said.

“For me, I don’t know how serious the thigh strain is but the Christmas period is certainly over for him. It was his birthday today.

“I don’t know how long it will be. We will have to see tomorrow morning. He knew straight away, but we have to see.”

Theo Walcott’s brace and a strike from the returning Lukas Podolski saw Arsenal recover from Carlton Cole’s goal against the run of play to take the points in east London.

The result meant Arsenal went top of the Premier League ahead of Manchester City after a 2-1 win over Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.

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No Margin For Error Left For Arsenal: West Ham Preview.


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West Ham United will be eyeing another London derby win as they host Arsenal at Upton Park on Boxing Day.

The Hammers (3-5-9) have already beaten Tottenham Hotspur twice – in league play and in cup play – to boost an otherwise disappointing campaign. A 3-0 win over fellow Londoners Fulham is West Ham’s lone win in the last 10 in the league, and manager Sam Allardyce is more than aware his team will need luck on their side if they are to pick up another derby victory on the busiest afternoon of the Premier League season.

“When you play the top boys you have to play to your very best on the day and hope that you take advantage of the opportunities you get or you get a bit of luck,” said Big Sam. “If that goes your way then you can beat anybody in this league on the day, but you need certain factors to be in your favour. I have to control the factors I can control and make sure the players play to their best.

“We’ll give it our best shot and make sure we protect ourselves against Arsenal’s abilities like we saw Chelsea do the other night and then try and exploit some of the weaknesses that aren’t as apparent as they used to be. There’s a lot of work now which has gone on quietly about how well they defend and that’s why they’re near the top of the league.”

Arsenal (11-3-3) had their 13-week stay at the top of the league end with a goalless draw against Chelsea on Monday evening. The Gunners are without a win in their last three league games, having only dropped points in three of their opening 14 matches, but manager Arsene Wenger is confident his team have the desire to get back to winning ways.

“We’re going through a patch where it’s a bit more difficult, but part of a successful season is how you deal with that,” said Wenger. “The spirit of the players is unbelievably focused. There’s a great desire.

But let’s be serious: if after the first game against Aston Villa I’d told you we’d be top of the league at Christmas, you’d have told me I was absolutely mad. We are where we are. The last three games have been a bit more difficult, but we have played Everton, Man City and Chelsea.”


West Ham are without the injured Stewart Downing (calf), Mladen Petric (calf), Winston Reid (ankle), Ricardo vaz Te (shoulder) and Andy Carroll (ankle).

Arsenal are missing Yanicj Sanogo (back), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Abou Diaby (knee).

Arsenal did the league double over West Ham last season, outscoring their intracity rivals 8-2 over the two games.

The Hammers haven’t won in 11 meetings with Arsenal stretching back to a 1-0 win in 2007.

Arsenal could find themselves back at the top of the Premier League at the end of todays fixture with a win at Upton Park as Liverpool face a tough task later at the Etihad.

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ARSENAL Must Look Forward


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Arsene Wenger failed for the 10th time to get the better of Jose Mourinho as Arsenal was held to a 0-0 draw by Chelsea on Monday, missing a chance to return to the top of the Premier League.

This was the final English top-flight fixture before Christmas, but there was little festive cheer on display at the Emirates Stadium as Chelsea battered Arsenal with a series of bruising challenges.

John Obi Mikel was fortunate to avoid a red card after the Chelsea midfielder crunched into Mikel Arteta, while Arsenal also complained they should have had a penalty for Willian’s challenge on Theo Walcott.

The London derby, played with rain swirling around the Emirates Stadium, failed to produce the drama expected, with few attempts on goal.

It was a frustrating night for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
”They defended well, were well organized, and we didn’t find our zippy movements to play between the lines as we can,” said Wenger, whose side lost 6-3 at Manchester City in its last game.

”I feel we were a bit edgy because we conceded six at Man City and that played in our heads at the start. In the second half we took control of the game and had two or three chances where we could have done better.”

Wenger had admitted Arsenal had a point to prove after last weekend’s 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City prompted many pundits to question his team’s chances of lasting the pace in the title race, but this spluttering performance will hardly silence the doubters.

Mourinho sent Chelsea out in a 4-5-1 formation, with Fernando Torres as the lone striker, and that cautious approach worked impressively as Arsenal struggled to find any rhythm.

It didn’t help that torrential rain and gale-force winds lashed the Emirates throughout the match, making passing something of a lottery.

Frank Lampard made a typically intelligent run to meet Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross in the early stages, but for once the Chelsea midfielder’s clinical finishing deserted him and he scuffed a mistimed effort well wide.

Mourinho’s men finally cast off their defensive shackles just before the break and Chelsea came closest in the first half when Lampard met Eden Hazard’s pass with a volley against the crossbar while Arsenal only threatened Petr Cech’s goal in the closing minutes when Olivier Giroud shot wide from a tight angle.

The ball rebounded to safety, but Arsenal were under the cosh again moments later when Torres tested Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with a snap-shot on the turn.

Wenger was growing increasingly vexed on the touchline and he was furious when referee Mike Dean refused to even book Mikel for his aggressive lunge on Arteta.

Mikel’s eyes were on the ball when he went into the tackle and Arteta slid in with equal intent, but it was the Chelsea midfielder whose follow-through contained more menace and could easily have left the Spaniard nursing a serious injury.

Arsenal’s anger increased when they appealed in vain for a penalty after Willian’s challenge caught Walcott on the foot without making contact with the ball.

Willian squandered a golden opportunity to add to Arsenal’s angst when he shot straight at Szczesny after a rapid break caught the hosts out-numbered.

Arteta was the victim of another crunching tackle from Ramires, but the Brazilian escaped with just a booking.

By now Walcott, usually so mild mannered, had had enough and the winger responded by chopping down Azpilicueta, earning a yellow card of his own.

The tone of an already fiery match became ever more combustible after Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic caught Mesut Ozil and then started a bout of shoving with an incensed Kieran Gibbs.

Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky sought retribution and went into the book for a crude foul on Ivanovic.

It was Arsenal who finished the stronger, with Giroud firing into the side-netting and then forcing Cech to block at his near post.

Bacary Sagna’s header was cleared off the line by Azpilicueta, but neither side deserved to take the points on an ugly night.

It meant that in Mourinho’s two stints as Chelsea manager, Wenger has now endured five draws and five losses.

”It is a solid point but two points dropped at home,” Wenger said.

Arsenal is ahead in the Premier League, only behind leader Liverpool on goal difference and two points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Mourinho’s mission was to shackle an Arsenal team that hasn’t been beaten at home in the league since the opening day of the season.

And the Portuguese coach succeeded with his well-organized side, prompting Arsenal fans to boo the visitors and chant ”Boring, boring Chelsea.”

”I agree,” Mourinho said. ”I played against them 10 times and I never lost … it was very important not to lose because if we lose we are five points behind the leader and with a point we are two points behind both leaders.”

The concern for Mourinho, though, will be the failure of a Chelsea striker to score a first league away goal since last December, with Fernando Torres ineffective up front.

”It’s not just a problem with the strikers – it’s also a problem of the other people not transforming half-chances into chances for goals,” Mourinho said. ”And we had half a dozen of those today, not aggressive, sharp or attacking people to score.”

Instead the defenders thwarted Arsenal.

”Arsenal showed on the pitch … frustration because they couldn’t create or penetrate,” Mourinho said.

Wenger was aggrieved that Arsenal wasn’t awarded a penalty in the first half when Theo Walcott went down under Willian’s light challenge.

”One hundred per cent penalty,” Wenger said. ”In my mind (there) is no doubt.”

Mourinho was dismissive of his London rivals’ complaints.

”You know, they like to cry – that’s tradition,” he said.

”English people – Frank Lampard, for example – would never provoke a situation like that. Players from other countries, especially some countries, have that in their blood. So, instead if you have a contact or the opponent was aggressive, let’s go, keep going. This is English football.”

Mourinho also defended John Obi Mikel’s sliding studs-up tackle on Mikel Arteta before the penalty call that went unpunished.

”Football is a game of contact,” Mourinho said. ”English football, winter, water on the pitch, sliding tackles at fantastic speed … be proud.

”Play with pride. If you are hurt, OK you are hurt. If you have pain, I have pain every day and I work every day.”

The teams are back in action on Thursday, with Chelsea hosting Swansea and Arsenal at West Ham.

The past can’t be reversed now, Arsenal must now look forward, maintain believe and their heads up high. The title is still within reach.

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