Arsenal vs Leicester Premier League Preview

Arsenal vs Leicester: Can the Gunners hit ten in a row?

When the Premier League season began, Unai Emery’s rebuilding process had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line for Arsenal. There was a fair bit of chop and change with Alexandre Lacazette getting regular cameos, however it took the fourth game of the season against Cardiff City for the Frenchman to lead the line.

For large parts of the games he started without Lacazette, Aubameyang was isolated. In the game against West Ham, the lanky striker was limited to 20 touches with none in the opposition box.

After Lacazette’s inclusion, Aubameyang was more effective with more touches in the box and more shots at goal, though he had less touches in total because he was shifted to the left side of attack. Emery persisted with the Gabonese for the first three games until he moved him to the left side of attack to accommodate Lacazette in the starting line-up. Read More

Arsenal vs Everton Premier League Preview

Arsenal vs Everton Preview: Will the Gunners keep an elusive clean sheet?

There was something eerily familiar in the final minutes of what should have been a routine victory over Vorskla. The almost unanimous switching off that causes nervy ends to games and the feeling of gratitude at the two short blasts of the referee’s whistle signaling full time. Unai Emery confirmed the worrying inability for Arsenal to shut out games for the whole 90.

“We need to improve in this. The last minute in Newcastle, the last 20 minutes here. Our challenge is to be competitive for 90 minutes in each match.”

Though the goal against Newcastle came in added time, there was a bit of inevitability to it as Newcastle fashioned chances towards the close of the game. Similarly, the goals against Vorksla were sure to come as the Ukrainian side grew into the game with the Gunners conceding possession and losing sharpness. Arsenal have not yet kept a clean sheet this season.

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Cardiff City vs Arsenal

Cardiff City vs Arsenal Preview: Does Ozil deserve a start in Wales?

After the 3-1 win against West Ham, much of the talk was about the absence of Mesut Ozil from the matchday squad. Unai Emery said the playmaker was ill but had recuperated enough to enter the dressing room before the game. Any other player and it could have slipped under the radar, however it was Ozil.

Prior to the game it was reported that there was a rift between the German and the coach regarding demands that Emery had of Ozil. The former PSG manager denied any rift in the press conference after the game. However, when Emery was asked if he planned to play Ozil in a different position, the Spaniard’s reply was a terse and instructive ‘maybe’.

After Emery took over from Arsene Wenger, he spoke about the need for more intensity in pressing and the need to be more defensively aware. In the three games the coach has managed, there has been measured progress and sparse semblance of what he demands. However, it seems Ozil hasn’t added to the process as much as he needs to. Read More

Chelsea vs Arsenal preview

Chelsea vs Arsenal preview: Mutual test on rebuilding process for Sarri and Emery

While there was no surprise in the result of Unai Emery’s baptism into the Premier League against defending champions Manchester City, the ease with which Pep Guardiola’s men cut through Arsenal was dispiriting. The Gunners didn’t seem to land a punch, not even a cursory jab, as the Post-Wenger years truly began for Arsenal.

The fixture list is unkind to Emery as he continues his Premier League sojourn at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. Like Arsenal, Chelsea brought in a new manager seeking a jolt and renaissance from the tedious final days of Antonio Conte.

Maurizio Sarri’s Premier League debut in the Chelsea’s dugout went rather swimmingly. Admittedly, Huddersfield were a lacklustre opponent who could have serious troubles with relegation this season, and it wasn’t peak Sarri-ball replete with intricate movement and delicate build-up. However, the emphatic scoreline without the team’s standout attacker for the majority of the game was a sure-footed start. Read More

Spain’s and Iniesta’s exit signals time to break the mould

For too many times over the entire 120 minutes, that familiar arc in front of Russia’s box showed up from Jordi Alba to Nacho (Dani Carvajal replaced him in the 70th minute) via the supremely talented midfielders; the ball shifting from one Spanish boot to another.

That Spain raked in 1029 passes would not have been entirely surprising, this was a team ingrained with the culture of passing teams to submission. They had been very successful with it at the Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, so it was only logical when Fernando Hierro at his first news conference as the coach of Spain said he was going to change as little as possible.

How much could he realistically change? He had only come in to the side on the eve of the World Cup after Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales sacked Julen Lopetegui two days before the opening game against Portugal.

The Spanish team did not hit the pre-tournament height that was expected with their assortment of well-blended technicians. The exciting opening game draw against Portugal showed cracks in the side, the suspect defending and disappointing goalkeeping.

The win against Iran was labored and the goal was as ‘Unspainly’ as ever; a clearance that went in off Diego Costa. It took a bit of VAR magic for the side to battle to a draw against Morocco. The signs were there.

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What next for the young Super Eagles?

Now the dust has settled and the pang of Marcos Rojo 86th minute volley is less harrowing, there remains the question what next for the young Super Eagles side.

It was instructive to see the vortex of opinions and hot-takes for the reason the Super Eagles were ousted from the World Cup. The Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, blamed it on Gernot Rohr’s inability to manage the game.

“We lost the match due to poor technical judgment which failed to inject necessary changes to compliment (sic) the effort of the team that was under last minute pressure,” the Minister tweeted.

However, coach Rohr said the team lost because of its inexperience. “We were very fantastic and just within a few minutes of going through, we lost because we lacked the big match experience. Most of the Argentines are Champions League stars, who know how to exert pressure to get a desired result.”

Most would disagree, preferring to hang Odion Ighalo to the blame-shaped pike. The striker missed two gilt-edged chances in the match against Argentina. He was one-on-one against Franco Armani from an acute angle in the 83rd minute but hit couldn’t bury the chance.

The shot on target earned Ighalo 163 points on Twelve but most would have preferred he got the 1000 points from scoring a goal. His execution of the second chance was even poorer, rushing to hit a volley wide after Rojo got a touch on Ahmed Musa’s deflected cross. The more superstitious cursed the ill-luck of the dark green jersey.

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Nigeria 2-0 Iceland: Musa repays Rohr faith

Following the criticism after the loss to Croatia, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr sought to shake things up for the second game against Iceland. Nigeria couldn’t afford a loss else the team would be effectively out of the World Cup.

Gernot Rohr rolled in the 3-5-2, bringing in Kenneth Omeruo into the side as the third defender, shifting Victor Moses into the right wing back role he plays for Chelsea and flipping the midfield triangle of John Obi Mikel, Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi.

Mikel started this time at the base of the midfield with Etebo and Ndidi ahead. Rohr had learned; he placed the players where they could be most effective. However, the most surprising tweak was Rohr replacing Alex Iwobi with Ahmed Musa in attack. Though Iwobi was off the boil against Croatia but the Arsenal midfielder had suffered due to a positional malposition.

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Pedestrian Nigerian side disappointed in uninspiring match against Croatia

Could it have been worse? It was the antithesis of what was expected: free flowing football from Croatians and Nigeria trying to stymy the technical abilities of Zlatko Dalic’s side in the midfield. Dalic flipped the script, and  pulled Luka Modric into the deep end of the midfield alongside Ivan Rakitic.

Fiorentina’s Milan Badelj had been primed to play as the team’s anchor with Modric playing behind the central striker. The effect was that Modric was scheming deep in the midfield third, rather than impacting the game with his abilities further forward. The compromise had been to slot Andrej Kramaric into the side behind Mario Mandzukic.

The fear for the Vacreni had been that the pivot of Modric and Rakitic was not steely and could be easily be troubled without a specialist defensive midfield anchor in front of the defence. However, the fears were easily allayed when John Obi Mikel playing as the Nigeria’s central attacking midfielder barely did any incisive attacking.

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Nigeria vs Croatia preview: Young Super Eagles expected to disrupt the flow of Croatia

After the Super Eagles defeated Argentina 4-2 in a friendly last year, there was a wave of optimism that swept Nigeria. Fans were upbeat, almost certain the budding team would make a dent on the World Cup stage, regardless of which opponents they were grouped with. Some who dangerously rode the wave too far swore the Super Eagles, led by Gernot Rohr, would win the World Cup.

It was all hinged on over-excitement, disregarding the obvious fact that Argentina’s talisman Lionel Messi was not available for the match. Four friendly games without a win has undoubtedly doused the bullishness.

Fittingly, the Super Eagles were drawn in the same group as Argentina for the fifth time, alongside Croatia and Iceland. The worry was not Argentina, with many tipping them as leaders of the group but Iceland and Croatia who are quality sides that could finish second.

It is the reason the stakes for the Super Eagles’ opening game against Croatia are high, as it could hand either team a head start in the race for the last sixteen. How will the Super Eagles cope with the technical superiority of the Croatians?

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