Saturday, December 25, 2010

Arspective: Arsenal Vs Chelsea, Boxing day tests (Ind- SA and the Ashes)

It is that time of the year. Feast of football and feast of test match cricket. Boxing day test in MCG has been a long living tradition. (Sehwag's 195 comes to mind immediately). Unfortunately, it turned out to be in a lost cause.

sehwag's 195 at MCG

So the 4th Ashes test could not have been poised better. Going in at 1-1, it promises to be a cracker. Hugely important tests for both teams. I will not really read into the fact the momentum is with the Aussies. In the last Ashes series, there were change of fortunes. In Cardiff in the first test, England just manage to draw the test. They, then convincingly won at Lords, lost by an innings at Headingly and came back to win the final test at Oval.

So, both teams have some thinking to do before the test.

1) Do England move Bell up the order? This is a move suggested by many. If it does happen, then Trott will move down to number 6. The big question for England would be how Trott responds to the demotion. Does he respond to the situation in the Dravid kind of way? (Kolkata) or Will it affect his confidence? On his debut at Lords, he did score century batting at number 5. Looking at Bell's confidence, his scores, I would definitely move him up to 3.

2) Steven Finn? Looks like he is going to be rested and Bresnan will come in. Bresnan has been in good form. Finn went for over 5 an over in the last test. According to Ian Chappell, he has been made to hit-the-pitch. Rather than pitch the ball up and let it seam/swing. So, the lad has lost confidence.

3) Should they drop Collingwood. I would say no. If he does get dropped then Eoin Morgen will come in for him. I am inclined to sticking with Collingwood, as he is a brilliant slipper.

There is no reason for England to panic. The rest of the line-up looks ok.

1) Ponting looks fine after his injury scare. So he should play

Down, but not out. Ponting will be back for MCG

2) Australia's bowling Johnson, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Harris and Steve Smith is a worry. I definitely dont think they will play four quicks in Melbourne. So, who do they drop? Definitely not Johnson and Harris after their 6-fors, not Siddle either (he has been very consistent this series). So, it looks like Hilfenhaus will be dropped. But, he was their most economical bowler and helped Johnson and Harris pick up those wickets by bottling one end up. Dropping Helfenhaus seems to be the easy option, but not necessarily the correct one.

3) Who will be the spinner? Steve Smith did not bowl a ball in the 3rd test at Perth. While Perth is one of the fastest pitches in the world, it does assist the spinners. Vettori's six-for against the Aussies in 2001, a period in which their dominance was at a peak, comes to mind. So, since Smith does not have the vote of confidence, and neither doesBeer. So what will be their bowling line-up? Will they play four quicks? or Play a low-on-confidence spinner?

Their batting looks reasonably settled. So, I expect Hughes, Watson, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Haddin to be in the line-up.

Australia have the momentum, but England, I think, have the class. I see them winning at least one of the next two tests to take home the Ashes.

Meanwhile, India take on SA in the second test at Kingsmead, Durban, One of the faster pitches in the country. 14 years ago India got blown away for 100 and 66 and lost by over 300 runs. 10 years on, a much improved performance by the tourists, but yet lost by a 174 runs.

Zak - Spearheading the attack

For India, Zaheer will come in for Unadkat. I would love to see Harbhajan sit out and make way for Ojha. If the Indian think tank is considering Singh's batting skills then definitely is not the right way to go. We struggled to pick 4 wickets in the last test. Picking 20 looks a far way off. Batting, it is obvious that they should have never played Raina in the first place. By doing so,
a) It probably cost us the test. Some support for Sachin in the second innings and who knows what might have happened.
b) If he continues to play tests, Raina the ODI and T20 player will lose confidence, just like he did 4 years ago and with the world cup coming up, this is a move fraught with (double) danger.

Rest of the batting looks fine for me. Pujara in for Raina is a straight and simple swap. Indeed, one that could/should have been avoided by having Pujara play in the first test.

India have their task cut out. I expect our batting to fair much better this time. Bowling is a big worry. We ahve seen them bounce back in the past. So I do think they can bounce back

Arsenal welcome(or do they) Chelsea. This has got to be it for them. If ever there was a time to play Chelsea, this was it. They are low on confidence, short of victories,a perfect time for us to start winning the 'big games'. Fabregas, RVP, Diaby are back. Bendtner will return to the time as a 'father'.

One of the comments on the Dane I read:
Nick has become a father in recent days at least proves he’s not shooting blanks off the pitch

Unfortunately, Fab(lap)ianski is back for us. So Wojicech, who was impressive against ManU will go back to the bench.

Excerpts from Pre-Chelsea Wenger's conference:

Q) team's injury status......
A) We cannot complain about the injuries right now. Compared to the recent years.
diaby, RVP, Fab, Bend are back. We play many games in Janurary (FA Cup, Carling, Premiership)

Our home form is going to be decisive (aganst Chelsea, Manu, man city and liverpool) We played these teams away.

Q) Have the current off the field problems destabilized chelsea?
A) No, any team can go through what chelsea have.

Q) Are you surprised Lost 5 games and yet we are 2 points off the top?
A) Surprised that we lost 5 games. Home form in the second part is going to be deciding.

Q) Nani says there are only two teams and Arsenal is not going to be one of them.
A) I have managed 1600 games. If Nani knows who is going to win the he must be 1600 times better than me.

Q) Baloteli dint hear of Jack Wilshere. what do you think.
A) Wilshere is going to be a great player. If he keep right attitude he will do great

Q) Is this the best time to play chelsea?
A) They have less confidence than October. To win the game will be down to us. 3 years ago we won big games and dint win small games and did not win the championship.

Q) On Lampard's return.....
A) Player I like but would not necessarily like to see him return against us.

Q) What do you think needs to change to win the 'big' games?
A) Belief, commitment and determination against the big teams.

Q) Can Thomas Vermaelen be back before the end of season?
Should be back by end of Jan.

Pretty much what we expected. Isn't there too much interesting there. It will be much more interesting to hear from him after victory over Chelsea. So we saw what Man Utd did to us. They really stifled us and did not allow us to play. We can expect that from Chelsea too. Expected line-up:

Theo on the run.......But will he play?


After the ManU game it is clear that we need the pace of Walcott up front. I think Wenger might take the punt and play the young England winger on the right. So, RVP, Bendtner and Arshavin wil be on the bench along with Djourou.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Arsenal Vs Partizan, Need for Given, S'up'erbia in Davis Cup!,

So, we did manage to beat Fulham. But it was not without a few scares. Our defense was shaky again, Flapianski flapped once but got lucky, Nasri was brilliant, and it was a typical Arsenal performance in every sense. Brilliant going forward, trying to walk into the opposition goal, but scoring only twice after a million chance defensively shaky, but just managed to scrape through.

(Thanks to Vind!)

Song was moving up the pitch a little too often. Arseblog makes a detailed analysis of how the Cameroonian has been asked by Wenger to push forward. While Song has pushed into the opposition half more often than last season, when Cesc was playing he would drop back to cover Song. In our skipper's absence, either Rosicky or Nasri would have to take up that role. Or we have to ask Song to sit back and not go up-front, which is difficult for our type of football. With Nasri's current form, it is better for us not to speak a word to him and ask him what to do. So, Wenger should probably have Rosicky sit back whenever Song bombs forward.

Looking ahead to the game tomorrow:

Koscielny has been declared fit to play and will play tomorrow.

We lose Djourou because we are a bit cautious with him. He could have played with a risk, but we did not want to take a risk.

“Emmanuel Eboue comes back into the squad; the rest will be the same against Fulham.”

On Van Persie, Wenger said

“He is getting better and better and ready to start,” he said. “He was ready to start two weeks ago if you ask him.”

It is quite a surprise (not a pleasant one) that we are in a must-win situation after seemingly cruising half way through the group stage. But then, this is Arsenal. Nothing is easy and nothing is quite so comfortable.

Asked about the defensive deficiency, Arsene said

We have the best away record in the premier league, which says that we are defensively solid

Best away record?........yes......defensively solid?.........I would say NO.

Transfer rumors, unfortunately, links us with Shay Given of Citeh. Unfortunate, because we never sign a player with who the transfer rumors link us! I really hope this one is an exception and we manage to get Given. If think I would get Given, offload Almunia and Fabianski, and let Wojicech be our number two. But then, it does not matter what I think!

In the Davis cup final, Serbia beat Francein a see-saw affair, winning 3-2. Troicki smashed a back-hand winner against Llodra to complete an amazing victory. In the first game, Monfils strolled past Tipsarevic. Serbia levelled it to 1-1 as Djokovic beat Simon comfortably. Then, France came from 2-0 down in the doubles game to beat Serbia. Going into the last day, France were clear favorites, needing to win just one game. But Djokovic won against Monfils and then in the final game Troicki beat Llodra. For a player who is ranked number 3 in the world and achieved so much in his career it was a very nice sight to see Djokovic celebrate to profusely, and also goes on to say how important Davis cup is for these players.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Arspective: Preview to Arsenal- Fulham, the Ashes 2nd test

Wow!......what a turn arround week for the gunners. We beat Villa away (ok, agreed that our home record this season has been worse than our away record) , Chelsea drop two points and then we win the Carling cup quarters and also get a favorable draw for the semis. Not trying to be cocky, but we should beat Ipswich (despite the Roy Keane factor) over two legs. More good news, as Eboue made a 'miracle' recovery. He was to be out for "four weeks" according to Wenger. While he did struggle against the teenaged left-winger of Wigan, his return is vital as he is one who is willing to play in any position (left-back, right-back, left-wing, right-wing).

.......mircaulous recovery but not quite "he-man"ual against Wigan

17-yr old Brazilian starlet Wellington Da Silva will be joining in January. We had actually signed the youngster some time back, but he has been biding his time in Brazil as he could not get his work permit in Europe until he turned 18!!

Looking ahead to the Fulham game, it is a home game. The good thing is, after our horron performances at home, there is no chance of there being any complancency in our locker room. Fabiansky (I still dont trust him :( )will start. TV is, worryingly, still injured The last time we heard anything about him, Wenger said

"We have to be patient. We know a lot medically nowadays but there are some mysteries that we do not know about. At the moment we have no rational explanation for his pain. That means there is no reason to have surgery and there is no logical explanation for his pain. We have to be patient and just hope it will go. That means rest at the moment."

So, Koscielny and Squilacci along with Clichy and Sagna complete the French back four again. Wilshere and Song in front of them. Nasri should be back after picking up a "knock". The boss went on to say:

“It is a knee problem but he should be alright"

It looks like the Frenchman will play on the left, Rosicky in the "Cesc" role and RVP on the right. The Dutchman had, fingers crosses, a good (more importantly healthy and injury-free) return against the Lactics with the Moroccan up-front.

The 2nd test gets underway at Adelaide today. The Aussies are under the kind of pressure they have never been before and the English fans must be delighted. England do look more and more favorites to retain the 'urn'. Mind you, the original urn is always held in the MCC. From wiki

"The urn is erroneously believed by some to be the trophy of the Ashes series, but it has never been formally adopted as such and Bligh always considered it to be a personal gift.[1] Replicas of the urn are often held aloft by victorious teams as a symbol of their victory in an Ashes series, but the actual urn has never been presented or displayed as a trophy in this way. Whichever side holds the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord's since being presented to the MCC by Bligh's widow upon his death"

England have pretty much a settled side and there should not be any changes.
Potential Weaknesses?

Complancency in the dressing room. While they are better than the Aussies at the moment, it is because of the fact that they have lost great players and have become weaker rather than England becoming stronger over the years.

Swann?? Is he over-rated?? All the English commentators go gaga over the 31-yr old Northampton man and call him the best-spinner in the world. Well, may be he is the best, but that again is due to lack of quality spinners around and not down to him alone. He enjoyed success against a weak Paki betting.....err batting line-up. He has picked up a wicket in his first over some 21 times. But, I dont think he has been tested against quality batting yet. He dint seem to have too many answers when Michael Hussey counter-attacked him at the Gabba. Lets see.....

Collingwood and Prior's lack of time in the middle. Their middle-order (as Siddle showed) could be brittle due to lack of match-practice.

Strengths are obviously, high-on-confidence, Anderson's form with the ball, Cook's form, Pieterson's form (though he made only 43 in the 1st test, he was looking in ominous touch) and Bell's form.

As for the Aussies, well they would love to win the toss and make first use of the wicket (kind of a cliche I know). Ponting loves the ground and is the highest scorer at Adelaide. Katich and Watson looked reasonably assured in the 1st test. Clarke's form will be a worry for the Aussies. Mitch Johnson is out and looks like Dougie the Bollinger will replace him. Bollinger has been one of the top bowlers in the last 2 years and his exclusion in the 1st test was surprising. So Johnson's bad form could be blessing in disguise for them. Bollinger, Doerthy, Siddle and Hilfenhaus is not going to make the English batsmen lose sleep. Wonder what happened to Jason Krezja, who picked up 8 against India on his debut at Nagpur. Wonder why Shaun Tait does not play? Tait, Bolinger, Siddle and Krejza sounds more potent to me.......

Anyway, the news is that :

Australia won the toss and elected to there you go