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Friday, December 31, 2010

Arsenal well in the mix

With just 4 points separating the top 4 teams in the Premier League, this season’s title race is more wide open and exciting than ever before. Man United, Man City, Arsenal & Chelsea are the sides battling it out to become champions of England and its those in Arsenal football shirts who have come out over the Christmas period and shown their title winning credentials by brushing aside fellow contenders Chelsea on Monday.

The Gunners comprehensive 3-1 win at the Emirates bought to an end their recent barren home run against their London rivals and made people sit up and take notice of their title bid.

Without a Premier League title for 5 seasons, Arsenal have an excellent chance this season of once again being English champions. Currently sitting 2 points behind leaders Manchester United having played a game more Arsenal find themselves in this position even after a mixed bag of results this season.

After home defeats by West Brom and arch rivals Tottenham a lot of people wrote Arsenals title chances off this season. But with their latest win over Chelsea to go with away wins at Man City & Aston Villa, pundits are saying that this is Arsenal’s best chance in years of regaining their Premier League crown.

As with any Arsenal team, they look close to unstoppable going forward; with the likes of Samir Nasri on blistering form for them so far this season. With the influential Cesc Fabregas being in the treatment room on more than one occasion this season, Nasri has really had to step into the limelight and he has done this with aplomb; sitting top of Arsenals scoring charts and putting in some eye catching displays at the heart of the Arsenal midfield with his mazy runs.

Marouane Chamakh has also been a revelation this season for the Gunners following his free transfer move from Bordeaux in the summer. The Moroccan could end up to be the bargain of the season if he continues his goal scoring form throughout the season, but it’s not just his goal scoring that has caught the eye. His link up play is second to none and he brings a slightly different side to Arsenals game, as they can use Chamakh as more of a target man; a style of play which the Gunners don’t usually adopt.

I won’t be fully convinced of Arsenals title credentials until they shore up the defence, as they are still leaking goals all too often. Summer signings Squillaci and Koscielny haven’t convinced me and they have been unfortunate to be without the services of Thomas Vermaelen for the majority of the season.

With Arsenal currently sitting in 3rd, they are well placed to mount a serious title challenge this season. If they can keep the squad fairly injury free and ensure they can take points off of their fellow contenders I think they will be there or thereabouts. This is a very good squad assembled by Arsene Wenger; I’m not saying they are the invincibles of the 2004-05 season, but if they can bring the Premier League trophy back to the Emirates then they will be held in very high regard by the Arsenal faithful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Arsenal miss out on chance to rebuild confidence

Chelsea certainly aren't experiencing their best run of form right now, but Arsenal are arguably in far greater need of a pick-me-up than the Blues and, as such, the postponement of their fixture at the weekend against Stoke may be another nail in the coffin of their chances of winning their first Premier League title since the 2003/2004 season.

Those using the betfair free bet code may think that this may seem a little over the top at this stage of the season, but the fact remains that Arsenal have already been forced to admit that they suffer from anxiety when they face the top teams, a fact actually confirmed by their own captain. Had the Gunners enjoyed a nice, comfortable victory over Stoke on Saturday, then the pain of their recent defeat at Old Trafford may well have been erased. Instead, however, Arsenal will enter their game against Chelsea with their last memory of a match darkened by the pain of defeat against a title rival.

With their upcoming tie against the Blues undoubtedly a crucial moment in the context of the Gunners' season as they look to stand a chance of staying in the title race for the long-haul, Arsenal know that they need to be at their very best if they wish to stop the likes of Didier Drogba from wreaking complete havoc on them once again. If they allow any nerves to creep into their performance next week, then critics will once again be able to lambast the Gunners for failing to show that they can stand up and be counted when the moment demands it. However, if they win the crucial clash, they may finally put to bed the idea that they are the babies of the big boys in the Premier League.

As Arsene Wenger enjoys looking for excuses rather than solutions, those placing a free sports bet believe that this weekend may just have given him the perfect excuse for another defeat against the big boys.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arsenal get worst possible draw

It was perhaps inevitable, so much so that even Arsene Wenger called it. Arsenal will indeed play Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.

It is the harshest possible punishment for slipping up against Braga and Shaktar in the group stages, two results that caused them to be the only English side to go through as group runners-up. That, of course, limited the choice of sides the Gunners could face in the next round, with the intimidating trio of Barca, Real Madrid and Bayern lurking in the pot. The Champions League specials suggested any of these games would be a challenge.

A tie against Bundesliga outfit Schalke would have been the best they could have hoped for - though Wenger refused to admit that in a press conference this week, choosing instead to praise Barca, perhaps in the knowledge that it was almost inevitable they would be paired together again.

For the neutral it is the tie of the round. When the two sides clashed at the quarter-final stage last season they produced two memorable matches. The first leg at the Emirates saw Barca dominate the early stages, playing wonderful possession football.

The game looked wrapped up when Zlatan Ibrahimovic put them 2-0 up but a late comeback saw Arsenal escape with a 2-2 draw.

The second leg was all about one man - Lionel Messi. The diminutive Argentinean was in scintillating form at the Nou Camp and almost singlehandedly dismantled Arsenal, grabbing all four goals in a comprehensive 4-1 victory.

Barca would go on to fall at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the semi-final but such is their form this season - a 5-0 rout of Real Madrid being the highlight - they have been deservedly labelled 'super favourites' for the competition and as you may expect the Champions League predictions reflect this.

Arsenal will be up against it if they want to make it to the last eight this season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Evra fuels the fire ahead of Monday’s clash

Often when Arsenal play Manchester United, the press have to build the feud between the two sides up in some way. This could be by showing old footage of Martin Keown and Ruud Van Nistelrooy or perhaps the Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira tunnel spat.

Ahead of Monday’s game at Old Trafford though, United defender Patrice Evra has done all the hard work for them by stating that ‘there will be no trophy’ for the Gunners this year.

In an astonishing outburst, the Frenchman continued: "We could lose to them but then what? There is nothing (for them); there will be no trophy, nothing.

"Arsenal are a great club but it has been five years since they won anything and that for me is a crisis."

One thing that should happen after these comments is that Arsene Wenger makes his players fully aware of them. He should tell his players to prove Evra wrong by going to Old Trafford and getting three points.

Then, the Gunners should use this as a platform for the rest of the season. They should aim to look back at these comments by Evra and be able to quash them with trophies. That needs to be the motivation.

In the public eye, Wenger refused to react too much to his countryman’s claims. He said:"We do not want to go into any unneeded talking before a game like that.

"We want to focus on the way we want to play and ignore any provocation."

Behind closed doors though, Spread Betting suggest that Wenger may well turn the comments into a positive motivation for his side. They are aware of the trophy drought and don’t need people telling them about it.

It is time; more than ever, that Arsenal do their talking on the pitch.

United war of words shows fear from Fergie's men

Sometimes, when players come out in public to slate upcoming opponents or state to anyone who cares enough to listen how unafraid they are of the task ahead of them, the impression it provides to football fans is precisely the opposite of what was probably intended, and the same applies to the potential consequences of such comments.

It would seem that this rule applies no more closely to a team than Manchester United, who seem to be doing all they can to prove, despite their apparent intentions, that they're not looking forward to facing Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday night whilst also providing the Gunners with all the motivation they need to put on a decent display against the Red Devils, who are very narrow favourites right now on odds comparison sites.

Chris Smalling, a man who can't exactly call himself a United legend after mainly appearing in Cup competitions for the club since his arrival at Old Trafford, has revealed that Arsenal should feel "intimidated" ahead of their trip to the home of title-chasing United, who in all fairness hold a formidable record on home soil so far this season.

With Patrice Evra going slightly further in his bid to unsettle the Gunners by ridiculously stating that Arsenal is nothing more than a "football training centre" and, what's more, a side in "crisis" after such an extended trophy drought, it seems that whilst United are focusing upon instigating a war of words, Arsenal are quietly getting on with their match preparations and hopefully laughing off these comments as proof that Sir Alex Ferguson's men need to engage in psychological warfare in order to try to derail a side that has the potential to inflict a massive blow to their title hopes.

Arsenal will do all their talking on the pitch on Monday night and hopefully the faithful Gooners who make the trip up to Old Trafford will themselves be provided with plenty of ammunition to taunt the home fans as the Gunners upset the fixed odds in style.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can return of Robin end Arsenal's profligacy?

Arsenal are clearly more than capable of creating dozens of chances per Premier League game but they have so far been incredibly wasteful in front of goal this season. If the Gunners are to be successful in their bid to win what would be their first piece of major silverware since the 2005 FA Cup, then they are going to need the services of a player who is able to tuck away the chances the team are creating, and many fans of the club believe that the man who can do that is no other than Robin van Persie.

OK, so Marouane Chamakh has been impressive for the Gunners since his arrival in North London, but it is clear that he is not a 30-goal-a-season striker, or at least not at the moment, which means that Arsenal need another goal scorer fit and firing on all cylinders to help ease the burden on him. Although Van Persie is not a natural finisher in the same way that Alan Shearer or Thierry Henry once were, he has always shown that he is capable of chipping in with his fair share of both goals and assists when healthy. Anyone who has put a Premier League bet on Arsenal willing the title will want him to stay injury free.

It is, however, this latter problem that has so far caused the Dutchman to fail to fulfil his undoubted potential, with Wenger once suggesting that his injuries prevent him from playing any more than one game each week. Although this seems no longer to be the case, the fact remains that Arsenal may not be able to continue to rely upon a man who has so far played almost no part in their relatively successful start to the season and the Premier League best odds reflect this.

However, if the striker can stay healthy, get some games under his belt, and chip in with his fair share of goals, Arsenal may just stand a chance of winning the Premier League this year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gunners look for a happy Christmas

Arsenal start December just two points off the top of the league, knowing they will face the two sides ahead of them in the next few weeks against Manchester United and Chelsea. As well as the Gunners’ Premier League title hopes, their Champions League hopes will also be determined this month. Arsenal will host Partizan Belgrade on the 8th, in a game they need to win if they are to progress in the tournament.

First up for Arsene Wenger's men will be Fulham this weekend at the Emirates. Mark Hughes' side have been unfortunate this season and are only a point above the relegation zone. The Cottagers bounced back from their heavy 4-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City to earn a brave draw against Birmingham last weekend. The Premier League betting still suggests Arsenal should win though.

Wenger will be hoping for a confident display against Fulham as they head into massive games against Partizan and Manchester United in the following two matches. After their heartbreaking defeat to bitter rivals Spurs a few weeks ago, a surprising 2-0 defeat to Braga in the Champions League followed, handing the Gunners rare back-to-back defeats.

A nervy 4-2 win over Villa lifted morale last weekend and a comfortable 2-0 Carling Cup win against Wigan means Arsenal are still very much in the title race this season. Wenger has made it clear that he is confident in his squad’s ability to handle the pressure this season and end the club's six years without a trophy and the side are some people's Betfair Football tips to take the title.

The Frenchman told Arsenal TV Online: "We are in a strong position in every single competition - that means overall the attitude is right, the spirit of the squad is right. I am confident we have the necessary quality, so let's continue to improve."

This year could be Arsenal's best chance of ending Chelsea and Manchester United's domination in the league. The young squad has spent the past few years being labelled too inexperienced to win anything, a fair summation of things in hindsight. The squad looks to have matured this season and there is an aura surrounding Arsenal again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Arsenal favourites for Carling Cup glory

Make no mistake about it, Arsenal are the overwhelming favourites to win their first piece of silverware since 2005 this season. They are in the semi-final of the Carling Cup and many free bets will be placed on them going all the way.

Arsene Wenger’s men enjoyed a relatively comfortable victory over Wigan on Tuesday night to book their place in the final four, with an Alcaraz own goal and a Nicklas Bendtner strike sealing a 2-0 win.

They will now face Ipswich in the semi-final after the Championship side surprisingly defeated West Bromwich Albion at Portman Road.

The tie will be played over two legs and although it won’t be easy, everyone is expecting Arsenal – who have fielded a stronger side in the Carling Cup this year – to come out on top. A one off match might be a different story, but over two legs, quality should prevail.

Should Arsenal make it to the final, it will be Premier League opposition that awaits them in the form on Birmingham City or West Ham. Both will be desperate to win some silverware, but again paypal betting pundits would have the Gunners down as favourites.

This is not only because of the superior talent they have on show, but in reality, nobody is more determined to win a trophy than Wenger right now. He is desperate to have something to show for his remarkable work at the club and a Carling Cup trophy will do just fine for him.

Perhaps it will lead to more success this season too. They say things come in threes, so Carling Cup, Premier League and Champions League for Arsenal? It would certainly make everyone forget the 5 seasons without a trophy!
First things first though, back to concentrating on the league before all focus goes on the two games with Ipswich.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arsenal's away days confuse fans

Things aren't looking too bad for Arsene Wenger and his young Arsenal side at the moment. Still likely to qualify for the Champions League, in with a decent shout in the Carling Cup after last night's quarter-final win, handed a nice draw in the FA Cup, and level on points with second-place Chelsea in the Premier League, it's all looking fairly rosy for the Emirates outfit. However, Arsenal fans have been left scratching their heads this season as they contemplate their team's inability to perform well at home while excelling on their travels in the league.

Arsenal, who secured an impressive win at the weekend against Aston Villa, currently boast the league's best away record. They've managed to take 17 points from just eight clashes away from the Emirates but, surprisingly for a club that has traditionally taken full advantage of faithful home support while finding it tough away from home, especially in the north of the country, haven't experienced the same level of success on home turf and the Arsenal betting shows what kind of problems this could cause them.

West Brom, Newcastle, and Spurs have all managed to take three points from Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, which raises the question of what is going wrong for them at home.

Psychological pressures have been laughed off by Wenger, but with the trophy-hungry Emirates crowd sometimes too quick to moan and groan when Arsenal overplay an attacking move, or a player fails to shoot when in a decent position, could it be that the younger Arsenal players can't cope with the lofty expectations that currently surround the Emirates?

No matter what the actual reason for their less than ideal home form, the Arsenal boss should at least be happy that his side seem to have banished the lack of physical strength and composure for the duration of a game that used to undo their efforts at grounds such as the Reebok and Ewood Park. Anyone who has placed a Premier League bet on the side knows they have to sort out there home form though.

If Wenger fails to inspire his side to home success and turn the Emirates back into the fortress it once felt like, Premier League glory won't be coming anywhere near North London for quite some time to come.