Where were Arsenal?


Arsenal didn’t believe they could defeat Barcelona and so they didn’t turn up and deservedly crashed out of the Champions League losing 4-3 on aggregate.

Just because Arsenal had a one goal lead going into the return leg with Barcelona, didn’t mean that they had to play defensively, especially against the best team in the world. And Arsene Wenger has much to be blamed, using the wrong strategy.

Common sense and the law of averages will tell you that if all you are interested in is to defend, then sooner or later the other guy who is allowed to attack, attack and attack will put the ball into the goal. There is no such a thing as a full-proof defence. Just basic mathematics.

Arsenal have this fear about Barcelona that they seem unable to overcome. This is not a sign of a great team. And it is getting on one’s nerves to constantly hear Wenger saying that Arsenal can go out and beat Barcelona when in actual fact Arsenal do not have the mental strength to do so.

Against Barcelona, I think Arsenal have not recovered since their narrow 2-1 defeat to the Catalan team in the Champions League final in 2006?

Has Arsene Wenger lost his adventurous spirit and spank in terms of tactics and strategy? Has age caught up with him? He himself once admitted that perhaps he was getting old and might have difficulty in communicating with his young charges.

For now, Arsenal have just to lick their wounds and focus on the English premiership challenge. With Manchester United themselves slipping following  consecutive losses to Chelsea and Liverpool, this is the best opportunity yet for Arsenal to seriously do something to seize the initiative and not further squander the chance to catch up and maybe finally win something.

Otherwise, Arsenal will rue their profligacy.

Will Lee Chong Wei Retain His All-England Title?


With the 2011 All-England Badminton championship off to a start now in Birmingham, the question on the minds of Malaysians is whether Lee Chong Wei can retain his All-England title which he won last year?

Datuk Lee Chong Wei is slated to meet his nemesis Lin Dan of China in the finals, if everything goes as expected.

Although Lee Chong Wei is the world No 1 badminton player, his record against Lin Dan is something else, losing to the Chinese more often than winning. In fact, his record against Lin Dan is terrible.

Chong Wei and Lin Dan are drawn in separate halfs in this year’s All-England, something Malaysians and  I believe badminton fans all over the world were looking to as the two are undoubtedly the world’s best.

But Chong Wei’s path to the final looks the tougher to me. He has Bao Chunlai to contend with if he gets past his  first round opponent Sho Sasaki of Japan. Chunlai can certainly cause trouble on his day, although Chong Wei has consistently beaten the Chinese.

Then, Simon Santoso stands in his way. Simon is a player you cannot write off.

If Chong Wei gets past Simon Santoso, he has to face veteran Pete Gade of Denmark. Pete Gade was one of the best badminton players in his heydays. Age has caught with the wily Dane and he is not as fast as he was. But one never knows, so Chong Wei has to be careful and not take Gade for granted.

Lin Dan on ther other hand, has only one possible serious challenger in Chen Jin. But being compatriots, they have the luxury of deciding  who proceeds in the championship, something the Chinese have done in the past in one guise or another.

Can Chong Wei get the better of his nemesis, if they meet in the final?

There is no reason why Chong Wei cannot do it. Both of them are about equal in skills. The one factor which is likely to make a differrence is mental strength and who has the greater hunger to win.

One thing Chong Wei should try to avoid is to engage Lin Dan at the net. This is where Lin Dan seems to trump Chong Wei.

Chong Wei should also try to mix up his game with some aggressive smashes not go on the defensive most of the time. The element of surprise is always a good idea to keep in mind.

A Worrying Crock List


With Van Persie confirmed as being out for 6 weeks following the knock to his knee from the Carling Cup encounter with Birmingham, and Walcott and Fabregas struggling to recover from their own injuries, Arsenal’s crock list is a worrying one.

It couldn’t have come at a more critical time, with the season winding up to a close and the premiership title at stake, not forgetting the FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester United and the Champions League return leg with Barcelona coming up.

In the absence of the injured players, what are Arsenal’s options to ensure that their challenge in the remaining fronts does not unravel and fizzle out like in the recent past years?

Arsenal will have to start thinking seriously now with the premiership match with Sunderland tonight. No less than a win will ensure that Asenal keep up their challenge with Manchester United. Anything less would mean that Arsenal have lost one too many opportunities to show that they deserve to win the premiership title and more.

A loss or even a draw may further dent any confidence Arsenal may still possess in their ablility to mount a serious or even a credible challenge in all the remaining fronts.

Marouane Chamakh has not played a full game for some time and he looks to have lost his touch. Bendtner plays with a smirk on his face. I am not too sure whether this is out of a sense of confidence or just bravado. It is true that he scored a hat-trick against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup replay .

But Bendtner is not in Van Persie’s class. He is often slow to react and loses the ball once too often when challenged.

Jack Wilshire should be allright. Even fact, he is the only one who is consistent and inspires confidence in the current team. In the absence of Fabregas, Van Persie and Walcott, Nasri would have to shoulder much of the responsibilty. He has to play at his best, perhaps taking on the defence in  one to one encounters and trying from a distance.

Everyone knows that Arsenal’s weakness is their inability to mix up their game with long shots and perhaps taking on defenders in one to one encounters instead of passing the ball to death.

If there rest of the team, especially the defence, can from now on play above themselves, on a consistent basis, Arsenal’s 2010/2011 season may yet have a golden lining.

Otherwise, it looks like adios once again for Arsenal.

Alex Ferguson Should Not Sully His Reputation


Alex Ferguson is at it again! This time he has lashed out at the match officials and the referee for awarding a “soft” penalty in the  2-1 defeat to Chelsea.

Many refereeing decisions in the past had gone in favour of Manchester United and Alex Ferguson had kept quiet. For example, in their recent match with Wigan where the referee should have had sent Rooney off for elbowing Wigan’s James McCarthy, but didn’t.

Alex Ferguson should not sully his reputation.

It is true that match officials and referees sometimes make horrendous mistakes. It is part of the game, unless the English FA is amenable to the use of video evidence.

Although the penalty awarded by Martin Atkinson may be a “soft” one, I think he was justified in awarding it. If the decision had gone the other way, I am sure Sir Alex would have kept quiet about it.

For  a manager of Ferguson’s stature, prudence is the better part of valour.

The Way Is Open For Arsenal!


So, Chelsea have just defeated Manchester United 2-1!  This post is written at 5.40 a.m, Malaysian time, just after the Chelsea-MU game this morning.

This means that Arsenal can close the gap to one point in the premiership if they beat their next opponent Sunderland next weekend. But before that, Arsenal have the return match with Leyton Orient in the FA Cup fixture and the return match with Barcelona in the Champoins League to contend with. 

But first, Arsenal will have to overcome the psychological blow from losing to Birmingham in the Carling Cup. And their injured players Walcott, Fabregas and Van Persie have to recover quickly.

Will or can Arsenal seize the chance to close the gap to one point from MU and take it from there?. If they can, then Arsenal’s season may yet have a golden lining and this will be just reward to themselves and their long sufffering fans and supporters.

Whatever it is, Arsenal cannot hope for a better chance, and they cannot and should not take it lightly. It may perhaps be Arsenal’s last!

It is possible that Manchester United may become demoralised for losing a golden opportunity to put distance betweem themselves and Arsenal, their closest rival. However. knowing Manchester United, they are surely not going to make it easy for their challenger.

More importantly, Arsene Wenger may have to do some serious rethinking as to their predictable style of play. Arsenal have got to try scoring from long shots and maybe taking on their opponents directly instead of passing the ball to death, as they often do to their own woe, especially against opponents who pack their back in numbers. 

Do you agree?

MU On The Way To Winning The Premiership Again?


The way things are going, it seems that Manchester United are on the way to another premiership title. If MU beat Chelsea in a classic clash tonight, they will be 7 points ahead of their nearest rival Arsenal who failed to win the League Cup yesterday.

This will pile on further pressure on Arsenal and with their 2-1 defeat to Birmingham in yesterday’s League Cup final,  I am afraid this may be too much a psychological blow for them to recover from.

To add to Arsenal’s woes, both Walcott and Fabregas are out with injuries picked up in their 2-1 win over Stoke City earlier.

Without them, it was quite obvious that Arsenal struggled to play their usual fluid game in the League Cup final against Birmingham. This is not to take credit away from Birmingham who played a resolute game and deserved to win.

I have often said that Arsenal’s weakness is their predictable style of play. They tend to pass the ball to death instead of taking chances at goal. Their failure to mix up their game with long shots has often ended in woe.

Another thing  that I have observed about Arsenal is that some of their players, especially Arshavin and Rosicky of late, often do not know where the goal-mouth is and therefore it is not surprising that their attempts at goal just aren’t finding their  target!

Especially when you are playing  teams who have wisen up to your style of play and therefore pack the back in numbers, you have to learn to mix up your game with long shots and lops, something that Barcelona do well.

My fear for Arsenal is not only whether they can recover in time psychologically from the defeat to Birmingham, but also whether they are able to adapt their style of play according to the situation.

If not, I believe Arsenal’s season is over even if Walcott and Fabregas recover quickly to come back to play.

That will indeed be a very sad and disappointing thing to Arsenal’s long suffering fans and supporters and to the neutrals who love to watch beautiful football. It will be another season of promise and failure, coming close and fading out  in the end.

Will Arsenal’s fans and supporters have to wait yet another for more of the same?     

I hope and wish to be proven wrong.

What do you say, especially Arsenal fans and supporters out there?.

Whereto Now Arsenal?


So, my reservations turned out justified! Arsenal failed to win the League Cup.

Even though I am an Arsenal supporter, I must say that they deserved to lose. They didn’t turn up in the game, and like I feared, they failed to mix it up with long ball attempts.

Obviously, the absence of Fabregas and Theo Walcott had a huge impact on Arsenal’s attempt to finally win a trophy in a long time since 2005.

Whereto now Arsenal?

Will Arsenal’s failure to lift the League Cup affect the rest of their season? There is still the FA Cup to play for, Champions League return leg with Barcelona on March 8 and of course the premiership title to fight for.

Unless Arsenal can quickly put aside their failure to win the League Cup behind them, I am afraid their season will quickly unravel for them from now on. 

Worse still, if Fabregas and Walcott do not recover from their injuries quickly enough to come back to play, Arsenal’s prospects do not look rosy. 

I love to be proven wrong, but for Arsenal to do well for the rest of their season, Wenger would have to do some rethinking. Arsenal have to mix up their game a little and try to score from long shots. And maybe Walcott should be told to run at defenders more often and go for goals himself, instead of passing the ball back to his colleagues once too often.

Arsenal’s game has become  very predictable. They don’t even know how to lop the ball, like how Barcelona players do so well.

I still have not given up on Arsenal, but for now they have to quickly cope with and get over the psychological scar of letting slip of the very good chance of finally bringing home a trophy after 6 long years.

Will and can Arsenal do it?