Arsenal vs Bayern Munich Preview

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich Preview


Nothing beats the glamor of a Champions league clash between two top teams. Although we may not be at their level in terms of sheer strength and depth but stranger things have happened in Champions league football. Our biggest enemy is going to be pressure. If we go in with a negative attitude resigned to loose Bayern will run rings around us. Best thing what can happen to us would be if go in to the game without worrying about the result. If we play with free spirit, stay organized and do not concede early who knows  we may end up on the winning side.

As the recent games have demonstrated employing proper wide attacking players with pace has made a world of difference to our play. Ozil looks twice as effective when he has wide attackers making runs in to the box. Arteta is suspended which may turn to be a blessing in disguise as his legs may not exactly have coped with the rigors of a high tempo game after 3 days.

Flamini and Wilshere will be our most likely Central midfielders. Flamini needs to be disciplined but he needs to be careful as referees are less forgiving in Champions league.  Rosicky has been really sloppy with his passing off late and  i don’t think Wenger will be starting him. Podolski showed his effectiveness by scoring against Liverpool and he would be my pick on the left hand side  although Wenger may go with Cazorla as he was rested against Liverpool.

The defence picks itself so does the Goalie. If we keep things at stalemate at half time our chances of nicking a result will multiply imho.  We cannot afford to play a high line especially with the likes of Robben and Gotze up front for Bayern. We need to stay disciplined and try to hit them on the counter. Our Full backs need to be extra vigilant. The likes of Podolski and Chamberlain need to help their respective full backs in our own half as well.

Coming to our Achilles hell- the Striker’s position. Wenger’s gamble to not buy a quality  Striker  in the summer has not paid off. Giroud has clearly run out of steam while Bendtner is not exactly reliable. Saongo although showed good enthusiasm/athleticism/physicality /hold-up play against Liverpool he is still too young, too raw and too inexperienced to start a big game like this. I would be inclined to go with Bendtner but knowing Wenger’s lack of confidence in him it will most likely be Giroud leading the line for us. He will not get many opportunities against a side like Bayern and hence he should be much more attentive/vigilant and clinical with his finishing than he has been in the recent past.

Formation: 4-2-3-1






Bayern Munich

Even the best of side are cautious away from especially against other top sides. Bayern may be the best side  in the world at the moment but they definitely do not consider us as pushovers.  They have top quality players in pretty much every position and Ribery will be a miss but they have quality back-up so they will be able to cope comfortably.

The back four and the GK pick themselves while Lahm operates as the midfield sweeper in front of the back four.  Thiago and Kroos will be their double midfield enforcers supported by Robben and Gotze in the wide areas. Mandzukic is probably the only  chink in their armor up front. As i said at the start of my post i would be surprised if they start in all out attack mode from the outset. They also employ a possession game but the major difference from us being that their passing is much more purposeful and quicker plus they have wingers and midfielders making impromptu runs which are hard to pick. They have so much talent at their disposal that invariably they are going to score.  They know we an hurt them with the 2-0 loss at the Allianz arena at the back of their mind.

Formation: 4-1-4-1







I think this is going to be more of a tactical game than an end to end stuff. If we soak in the pressure, stay organized, hit them on the break and take our chances we may get a result.

A Massive Massive Game—Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview

This is probably the only realistic chance of us ending our trophy drought of eight years. Nobody would have predicted a 5-1 thrashing at Anfield last week after we had won the reverse fixture in November pretty comfortably by 2 goals keeping a clean sheet in the process and controlling the game from start to finish. Football is a game of confidence. Before the 5-1 drubbing almost every gooner had put this one as a game we should be winning comfortably. Before the 5-1 thrashing Liverpool considered Arsenal to be their bogey team. The 5-1 thrashing dented our confidence so much that Wenger played for a draw from the outset at home against an out of sorts, out of form and out of ideas, United team. The players looked extremely nervous and flat on the ball barring the last 15-20 minutes when they decided that there was a football match going on and they were supposed to score a goal to win the game.

This game against Liverpool is arguably the most important fixture remaining  we have in that this fixture will most likely decided whether this season ends differently than how the last ones have ended in the last 8 years. Although it is tough the first thing we need to do is put the result at Anfield in back-burner. Liverpool without any distraction of Europe will be fielding a full strength side. They will be going with their usual 4-3-3 with Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling leading the line for them.  It will be interesting to see the team Wenger picks in light of the mid-week Champions league fixture against Bayern Munich. Unless a miracle happens it is highly likely that Bayern will beat us over two legs and with Chelsea and City looking really strong in the premier league with a relatively easier run-in we should be going all out to win the game against Liverpool tomorrow. I know its easier said than done but at-least we can take solace from the fact that we are playing at home. We should be looking to win this tie at the Emirates itself as any replay will not only  put immense pressure on our already congested fixture list but also it will be a gargantuan task to beat Liverpool in the replay at Anfield.

Wenger should pick the the strongest possible line-up in my honest opinion. With Walcott’s season ending injury and Ramsey not expected back until march we need goal scorers and which is exactly why the likes of Podolski and Chamberlain should get a look in. Giroud looks totally shot with next to no confidence and Bendtner should be the man leading the line. This where the contrast is. Liverpool have two top Strikers, one world class in top form  scoring goals for fun while we are banking on Bendtner who was out of favor with Wenger and was nearly sold in the summer to do the job for us up front. We need pace and goal threat from  wide areas which is exactly what Chamberlain and Podolski provide. Ozil was simply superb against United and should continue to be our hub. Cazorla only woke up after 70 minutes against united while Rosicky had a really poor games killing our attacks with wayward passes and hence him and Cazorla should be on the bench. There is also the rumor that Cazorla may not be available due to illness. Wilshere had a decent outing against United and him and Flamini/Arteta should be our central midfield pairing although i prefer Flamini over Arteta as his energy/fitness/stamina/lung-capacity is going to be a major asset in a game which is likely to be played at a high tempo. The defence picks it self  and Szczesny had an outstanding performance by making a world class save in the second half.

More than the selection i want us to have a clear plan to tackle Liverpool. Going gung ho and conceding early like we did last week is going to be not a wise idea imho. We need to stay organized and with Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling leading the front line for Liverpool we cannot afford to employ a high line. Our Full backs need to stay extremely disciplined and not bomb forward exposing the back-line. The manager and the players need to be up for this cos Liverpool have their tails up. It is weird to see that we are team under pressure and not the favorites to win despite playing at Emirates. We do not have the firepower up front to beat them with an all out attacking game hence i would suggest a clever tactical game where we stay organized and attack them on the counter. Liverpool would not mind a draw as they will back themselves to put us away at Anfield while as i suggested earlier a replay is not a good option for us. The players must be mentally scarred after being booed off the pitch after an insipid/listless/flat display against United. We have the team to beat them but do we possess the zeal/passion/hunger/desire/commitment/ambition to them? Cup games are known for the fact that the form book goes out of the window.

If we loose this game tomorrow the pressure on the manager and team for the rest of the season is going to be nearly unbearable. This game is not just important cos it is probably our only chance of ending our trophy drought but also cos a loss can seriously leave us mentally scarred which can take a toll on our premier league challenge. Wenger needs to motivate the players to play this one like their lives depend on it. Cups games are known to be decided not just by the strength but also as to who wants it more?


Premier league dogfight–A Relative Strength Assessment

So after 25 games the premier league title fight is extremely delicately poised. Top three are separated by only a couple of points. All three teams have won identical number of games which is 17 yet their playing style could not be more different from one another. Chelsea have been the most frugal team while we have let in only one goal less than City. City have scored a mammoth 68 goals while us and Chelsea have scored 48 and 47 goals respectively. so City have been the most prolific while Chelsea have been the most frugal.

City seemed to have a hit a minor lull in their storm like form they had a couple of weeks back when Mourinho comprehensively beat them at Etihad. Chelsea seem to be peaking at the right time. We made full use of our fixture list and went 5 point clear at one stage but we threw away the advantage and are now in second place behind Chelsea. At times during the first half of the league City looked like they were going to be unstoppable with the kind of strength and depth they have. Chelsea were far from impressive at the start grinding out results and doing just enough to win the game. They seem to have picked their game up in the last few weeks where it appears they have a more workable solution against all type of oppositions. Now that we have had little background let us look at the playing styles of the three title contenders.


Formation: 4-2-3-1

Wenger has continued to employ the possession style of football. Even in a game where we were thumped 5-0 by Liverpool we still had the favorable possession stats. Wenger still believes in keeping the ball on the floor and employs the pass and move style of football. We signed Ozil in the summer and he has been our default No-10 this year. His form has been patchy. He definitely needs time to adapt and impose his authority. The problem for us is that our midfield plays a possession based game while our Striker is more suited to a style where crosses are played in from the flanks or a more direct style.

We are massively missing Walcott who in my view is the only one who is capable of stretching opposition defences with his well timed runs. Ramsey’s form at the start of the season was a massive bonus at the start of the season. His bursting runs from the deep are hard to pick and having him back is going to be a massive plus for us. The problem for us this year has been that whenever we are under pressure we loose our shape and organization. It happened against City and it happened against Liverpool, not to forget in the first half against Southampton. This is not helped by the fact that our first choice holding player is loosing his legs at a rapid pelt. A midfield lynchpin, a pacey/mobile Striker could do wonders to our game. Sadly Wenger chose to do nothing about it in January.

We have failed to replicate our fluidic free flowing football this year. Our defence is the reason we are competing for the title this year. Koscielny & Merteackser have been pillars of strength for us. Wenger’s reluctance to utilize the shooting and goal scoring prowess of Podolski has been another highlight. So many times our passing has been limp and sideways which does only thing which is to boost possession stats. Our passing has been pretty slow and sideways at times. The problem is the not the system per se but wenger is trying to make it work without a pacey Striker and a proper midfield lynchpin.

Manchester City

Formation:- 4-4-1-1

They have pretty much played the 4-4-1-1 with Aguero playing behind Negredo all year. They employ a fast paced passing game with the likes of Navas and Nasri/Silva providing width and Toure and Fernandinho entrusted with duties in the middle of the park. The Toure and Fernandinho partnership has been easily the best Central midfield partnership as both of them complement each other nicely. Toure can burst through the opposition midfield at will while Fernandinho himself is no mug. Aguero and Negredo form an out standing Striker partnership with Dzeko playing the role of an able deputy.

The highlight of City’s season has been the fearless approach they have adopted this year. They do not stop attacking when some of the other top teams shut shop after taking a comfortable lead. City’s passing is purposeful and fast paced. They have Negredo who can get to the end of crosses played in by the Full backs/wingers while Aguero can dribble past 2 or three opposition defenders to score or lay it down for his Strike partner. City have variety and depth inh pretty much every position. City’s style is effective and eye pleasing against 90% of the teams in the premier league but as Mourinho showed they can be got at by flooding the midfield with solid runners. City’s form is also massively dependent on the form of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho as they do not have a proper replacement for either. City have too much fire power and variety but i am no so sure of their ability to cope when the opposition win the midfield battle against them. They have struggled to break sides down when they have dug in their heels like their last draw against Norwich.


Formation: 4-2-3-1

Mourinho started the year trying to play a free flowing passing game but quickly realized he needed to get back to his strengths. These days Chelsea employ a very organized and disciplined approach.

They sit back deep with two midfielders sitting just in front of back four. The addition of Matic has not only added more steel to the heart of their midfield but also given them more dynamism as well. Mourinho”s teams are very good at soaking in pressure for long periods. Every player knows exactly what his role is on a given day. Mourinho employs a simple approach which is mighty effective. Chelsea defend in numbers with everybody behind the ball barring the Striker when they are not in possession but have the ability to launch a counter-attack with a brisk pace. The midfield is extremely balanced with two Central midfielders, one playing a holding role and another a box to box role plus has three pacey players in Oscar, Hazard and Willian who can break at a rapid pelt.

Mourinho expects every player in his team to put in a shift. The only player who has a relatively free role is Oscar but he also is expected to do his bit whenever necessary. Chelsea are peaking at the right time in my opinion. Mourinho does not tinker with his system too much. He may change the personnel or change their roles a tad but he has drilled the team in a way where a certain basic level of performance is pretty much guaranteed. Chelsea play a system which is difficult to break yet they posses the ability to hurt the opposition teams if they turnover possession in a dangerous areas of the pitch.

Chelsea’s style is not eye pleasing but it isn’t boring either. As i said the other day Mourinho knew he needed a holding midfielder more than a Striker to perfect his system. Hazard’s terrific form and Matic’s immediate acclimatization has meant Chelsea look more solid and more effective than any other team in the league ta the moment. Their weakness is their Strikers but with the likes of Willian, Oscar and Hazard they have no shortage of goal scorers. Chelsea let in a fair few at the start of the season but have worked their way in to being the most frugal team in the league.

Overall Assessment


Attack: ***1/2
Defence: ****
Ability to Grind out Results: ***1/2
Ability to beat top teams: **1/2    

Manchester City

 Attack: *****
Defence: ***
Ability to Grind out Results: ***
Ability to beat top teams: ****


Attack: ****
Defence: ****
Ability to Grind out Results: ****
Ability to beat top teams: ****1/2

Looking at the fixture list of all three teams and their playing styles i think it is a straight fight between City and Chelsea with us finishing Third. Chelsea’s recent form, the overall balance that they have and the way dominated city at Etihad gives them a slight edge in the title race in my opinion.




Is playing long-ball a Sin?

Long balls

Lets start with some FAQ.

What is the objective of football?
Ans: You have to score more goals than the opposition in-order to win the game.

Just cos the name of the game is football, are you supposed to play the game with your feet only?
Ans: No. you are allowed to use any part of your body other than your hands.

Is football a contact sport?
Ans: Yes.

Now over the years with the rise of Barcelona there is this theory propagated by some that beautiful football means passing the ball short with your feet all day in the middle of the park.Now who decides if a certain type of football is ”beautiful” to watch? The fan who is watching the game right?

Nobody can be told as to what is pretty and what is not so pretty. Let the fans decide what is pretty to watch and what’s not. I know of several people who find the brand of football Spain/Barcelona pretty boring to watch. The term pretty football is a misnomer imo. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and football administrators/managers/coaches cannot shove a particular type of football as the right way to play the game. Nobody has a divine right to dictate what is palatable or unpalatable for others.

As long as a team is playing within the clearly laid out laws of the game it should not matter whether they pass it long or short, whether they play it on the ground or in the air. The choice should be left to the fan who pays his hard earned money to keep the game alive. Right now there is this tendency of shoving out a particular style of football out of the game. The art of tackling is dying a slow death while the scene of a big burly old fashioned CF knocking it down for his strike partner to pick it up and stick it in the back of the net even rarer.

Football is a physical contact sport and just cos some teams take it to the extremes you cannot deem the aerial art itself borderline illegal. There are clearly laid out laws as to where the limits are and it is up to the administrators of the sport to determine whether a said team is crossing the line but you cannot hatch a conspiracy to kill the art itself right?

Gerrard was quoted after their Derby against Everton in October 28th, 2012 which ended in 2-2 claiming Everton as a glorified long ball team. The funny bit was that till that point in the 2012-13 season Everton were actually playing the more expansive brand of football. Can anybody with some sense of sanity claim Everton were boring to watch in 2012-13 season? Just cos you cannot play the game they do or you cannot deal with their game, you cannot start throwing your toys out of your pram.

More recently Mourinho was quoted as saying West play football of the 19th century after his team were held to a scoreless draw at the bridge. He claimed that only one team was playing football while the other team was not. Allardyce reply was a classic ”We’ve ‘out-tacticked’ him, outwitted him. He just can’t cope”. Now i have highest regard for Mourinho’s tactical abilities but him throwing his toys out of was the pram was more to do with his inability to break down a well organized and well drilled West Ham defence. Has Mourinho not played for a point from the outset? Has Mourinho never parked bus in front of the goal? As they say use the long ball excuse whenever it does not suit you. The much Ostracized Tony Pulis now in charge of Crystal palace has given them a genuine chance of staying up. Top teams expect the lower league teams to come out and play against their own interests? How fair is it? A football manager’s primary interest is to get the result matter irrespective of the means. He is not there to win media accolades. He is there to deliver results. With player of much lower skill-sets it would prove to be suicidal to go play an all out attacking brand of football against top teams for teams occupying the lower half of the table.

Barcelona end up winning trophies right, left and center and suddenly the type of football is the best, the most pretty is it? We used to be hailed like that in the past, even now but we all know deep inside that the kind of football we have dished out in the last seven years has been tedious and unnecessarily dragged out at times like an hour long movie stretched out to three hours. There was this interesting concept at the Euros  where Spain were called negative for passing the ball sideways in the middle of the park all day without coming back or going forward.

I think more than any team we have paid the price for not utilizing the aerial art of football effectively. It did not affect us that much in the past but after RVP’s departure we need to be looking at the more direct option whenever necessary. We do not have a Striker who can dribble two or three defenders for fun. We have a Striker whose strengths lie in getting to the end of crosses and holding the ball up bringing others around him in to play. As i said in my earlier post we need a Striker who is pacey/nimble/mobile/trickier who would be more at home with our style of play but now that we do not have one there is no harm in playing to the strengths of Giroud whenever possible. No i am not asking for a mindless hoof ball tactics but the beautifully weighted cross-field diagonal long passes are such a rarity in our style of play.

I think a team playing a well drilled and well executed brand of aerial threat can be a handful against any opposition as i tend to believe the Center-Backs these days are not what they used to be [read=tall, strong and physical]. I just want to say it is unfair to blame the likes of Big Sam and Pulis for employing a style which may not be eye pleasing to all but is mighty effective for them. Yes they overdo it at times but i don’t think what they are doing is illegal.  they need to be rapped on their knuckles if they cross the line but as long as they are within the permissible limits it should be fine. There are teams like Southampton which are employing a free flowing brand of football while there are teams like Palace and West Ham which employ a direct brand. I say watch what you want to. Do not let the media propaganda or the managers or the pundits make the choice for you…