Arsenal vs. Chelsea — London Derby — Recap and Thoughts

Throughout the years, the Arsenal and Chelsea rivalry has grown more intense — not only for the players, but for the managers as well.

Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho has had a war of words since Mourinho’s first stint at Chelsea, and emotions seemed to get the best of Wenger in the 1st half. After a rash challenge by Gary Cahill on Alexis Sánchez, the Arsenal manager left his technical area and shoved Mourinho in defense of his player. That incident was a signal of how important this match was to Wenger.

In their previous eleven matches, Wenger has yet to defeat Mourinho, and today was no different.

Chelsea continued their early dominance in the Premier League, and their recent dominance over Arsenal with a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge. Despite the loss, Arsenal improved on last year’s performance when Chelsea trampled them 6-0, and there are positives to take from this game — most notably, Jack Wilshere’s performance.

Wilshere was strong in midfield and made darting runs to penetrate Chelsea’s defense. Often, he has been criticized for not being strong on the ball and giving up possession way too easily, but today, he was good on the ball and looked threatening at times.

Overall, Arsenal’s play wasn’t bad, and they controlled possession for the most part. One of Chelsea’s goals came from a penalty, while the other came from a sucker punch on the counter attack.

In the 27th minute, Eden Hazard was taken down by Laurent Koscielny in the penalty area — Koscielny was unable to stop Hazard’s darting run towards goal. Hazard later converted the penalty to give Chelsea the 1-0 lead.

To start the game, Arsenal sat back and defended deeper than usual, but after that goal, Arsenal began to open up and push their players forward. Later, that space behind the back line was exploited by Diego Costa, and in the 78th minute, he chipped the ball over Szczesny for a lovely finish.

Who provided the assist? None other than former Gunner captain Cesc Fábregas. He currently leads the Premier League with 7 assists, and many continue to question Wenger as to why he didn’t bring back Fábregas. His replacement, Mesut Özil didn’t have a great game, and often lost possession in the attacking third, but to be fair to Özil, he was placed on the wing where he’s not that effective.

My Personal Thoughts:

It’s hard to argue Wenger’s selection of a central midfield trio of Cazorla, Wilshere, and Flamini. Cazorla played well in central midfield, alongside Flamini, against Galatarsaray midweek — it’s not hard to see why Wenger would try Cazorla in the middle again against Chelsea. Also, many would say that Oxlade-Chamberlain should have started, but it’s hard to argue against Wilshere’s performance today.

Team selection wise, the only problem was starting Özil on the wing, but with the plethora of central attacking midfielders that Arsenal has, at times, he will have to pushed wide.

Tactics wise, we all know that Wenger loves to keep possession and play through the middle, but against a team like Chelsea, who likes to sit back and counter, changing the focal point of the attack could be very beneficial. Chelsea were packing the middle of the pitch, making it near impossible for Arsenal to penetrate their back line. To counter this, Arsenal should have utilized the wings more often to stretch out Chelsea’s defense and to create more space to hopefully exploit.

As a Arsenal supporter, it hurts to see Fábregas wearing the blue of Chelsea, but it’s understandable why he wasn’t brought back. Wenger has enough players in his position — Özil, Ramsey, Wilshere, and Cazorla, just to name a few. The 30 million pounds that would have been spent on him can be put to better use to fill more pressing needs, such as defense.

Now Arsenal find themselves in a 9-point hole early in the season, but don’t fear yet Gunners supporters, there is still a lot of football to be played.

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Melo: I Have “Unfinished Business” in New York

This is a blog I wrote for Joint Interest. It may or may not be posted on their website, but in case it won’t be posted, you can read it here. If it does get posted, then I will update with the link and part of the blog. Thanks to those who read my blogs, always appreciate it!

Carmelo Anthony didn’t hold back any punches during New York Knicks media day.

The superstar forward re-signed with the Knicks for $124 million over 5 years, and many are curious as to why he decided to re-sign, rather than sign with a team that gave him the best chance to win. To some, his decision seems illogical for someone who’s repeatedly said he wants to win a title, and it has led many to believe that his reason for staying is money motivated.

Anthony squashed that notion, and he kept it real as to why he really decided to stay.

Money wasn’t the deciding factor, but the fact that he has “unfinished business.” The most cynical of people would probably think he’s lying, but let’s put this in perspective — he forced his way to New York, which he did admit during media day, and promised that he would help bring a championship to the Knicks. He hasn’t accomplished this feat as of yet, and if he’s a man of his word, he’s not going to quit on the team before this feat is realized.

He seems to be a man of his word, and is willing to lead the Knicks to the promised land. It’s also good to see that he realized that he forced his way to the Garden. The Knicks gave up their life savings to the Nuggets to get him in 2011. To this day, the Nuggets can form a starting lineup with former Knicks.

If you’re looking for a Knicks B-team, look no further than Denver. It’s only right that Anthony feels obligated to stay in New York, and help win the championship that New York has coveted in over 40 years.

It’s also clear that Anthony seems to be on the same page as Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher. Both Jackson and Fisher may be new to their positions, but they both share ideas that appeal to Anthony.

The triangle has turned Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant into efficient killers on offense, and there’s a high chance that the triangle may benefit Anthony in the same way.

Anthony is one of the most ruthless assassins on the court — he can do damage in the post, and his jumper is smooth like butter. If the triangle can make him more efficient than he already is on offense, then the sky is the limit. Surround him with the right players, and a championship may be in the Knicks future, but right now, putting the “Knicks” and “championship” in the same sentence is a stretch.

Melo, the fans are behind you. Prove the naysayers wrong, and bring a championship back to New York!

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Arsenal vs. Tottenham – North London Derby – Recap and Thoughts

In most games, people and analysts alike, make predictions on who will win based on the statistics for both teams. If a team appears to be deeper, stronger, and has more quality players, usually that team gets the nod for the victory, but in a derby, statistics are thrown out the window.

The North London derby is one of the most fiercest derbies in the Barclay’s Premier League. Both sets of fans — Arsenal and Tottenham — hate each other, and both sets of players know the importance of this game. Fans never want to see their team lose, no matter who the opponent is, but the one loss these fans won’t accept is a loss to their North London rivals.

Tottenham, without a win in their last four games, came into Emirates Stadium desperate for a positive result, and Nacer Chadli put them ahead in the 56th minute. Unfortunately, for Tottenham, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saved the game for the Gunners with a close range strike in the 74th minute to level the scoreline.

Both teams had to settle for the draw.

Arsenal, as usual, had the majority of the possession, but couldn’t do anything with it. Mauricio Pochettino, who’s known for his high pressing style of play, was content to have the Spurs sit back and counterattack, and it almost worked to perfection in the first half.

Often, the Spurs caught the Gunners on the counter, but failed to capitalize on any of their chances. The most glaring miss was Chadli’s, when he had a clear shot and kicked the ball harmlessly wide of Szczesny’s goal.

The injury bug seems to have hit Arsenal again with Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey having to be substituted in the first half. Mathieu Flamini was brought into the game to replace Arteta, who was playing well, and Santi Cazorla was brought in to replace Ramsey.

Both substitutions ended up being significant in their own way. Flamini was dispossessed in his own half by Eriksson, which led to the Spurs opening goal, and with Cazorla on the pitch, that pushed Mesut Özil to his favored number 10 position. Afterwards, Arsenal’s attack began to look more fluid and more scoring chances were created.

Despite being undefeated, this was a disappointing draw for Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger has come under criticism for his tactics so far this season — this result will not save him from further criticism. Wenger is an excellent manager, and has been for many years, but sometimes you have to wonder about his starting lineups.

A combination of Ramsey, Wilshere, and Özil does not work best for Arsenal. There are only three central positions available in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation, and one of those spots has to be filled by either Arteta or Flamini to provide cover for the back four. Özil being the most versatile, will be placed on the wing where he is least effective, while Wilshere and Ramsey will occupy the other two central positions.

With Özil not being put in a position to shine, Arsenal’s attack becomes less effective and chances come at a premium.

Since Alexis Sánchez was played midweek against Southampton, in the Capital One Cup, it’s understandable that he didn’t start the game. Cazorla should have probably started out wide, with either Wilshere or Ramsey coming off of the bench. That would have allowed Özil to play as the number 10, and maybe Arsenal would have had a better start to the game.

There are many things that us armchair managers can suggest that Wenger should have done differently, but Wenger has the experience and he has a feel for the team. He believes that Özil can get the job done out wide, and he does give Özil a free roaming role, but Özil has shown time, and time again, that he’s more effective when he’s pulling the strings in the middle of the pitch.

The draw may have been a disappointment, but on the bright side, there is still a lot of football to be played, and despite the early struggles, Arsenal are still managing to battle for results.

There is still more than enough time for Wenger to right the ship.

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New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins Recap

You can view my blog here for WBLS!

Here’s my recap for 107.5 WBLS NYC. It’ll be posted on Monday, so I’ll provide the link then. For now, you can read it here!

The New York Giants (2-2) defense may be vulnerable to giving up big plays, but they make up for it by making big plays themselves. The Giants defense forced the Washington Redskins (1-3) to cough up the ball six times en route to a 45-14 victory at RFK Stadium.

Kirk Cousins had a terrible game…

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Lampard Strikes Against Former Club

Here’s a blog entry I wrote for Joint Interest. It hasn’t been posted yet, and it may not be posted, but just in case, I posted it here so the blog wouldn’t go to waste. I’ve been writing a lot of NFL blogs for them lately, which describes why I opened up the blog the way I did. Thank you to all who takes the time to read my work, I truly appreciate it!

Lately, I’ve been writing various blogs relating to the NFL, but this week I’ve decided to change it up. Let me introduce you into the world of football, better known as soccer.

Soccer has been growing in popularity, as of late, and the crowds at Major League Soccer games are growing. Sooner or later, you may see more kids bypassing the more popular sports — basketball, football, etc. — to play soccer instead.

Even though the MLS has grown by leaps and bounds, there is still a strong following of the European leagues here in America. There are many bars, here in New York City and across the United States, where you’ll see a large gathering of soccer fans cheering, and chanting, for their favorite teams across the pond.

The atmosphere at these gatherings are unlike any other. Fans join together to sing and chant for their team as the game is going on, and the exchange of banter between rival fans provide entertainment, even for the neutrals.

Last weekend had one of the more intriguing matches of the Barclay’s Premier League season, Manchester City vs. Chelsea. Both teams have filthy rich owners, who spent insane amounts of money to transform both teams into the powerhouses they are today. This match isn’t a classic rivalry, but due to the prominent rise of both teams, it has become a rivalry, and on the pitch it showed.

It was a very physical game with Manchester City being the main aggressor. City players were picking up yellow cards left and right, and eventually Pablo Zabaleta received a second yellow card — City had to play with 10 men for a solid chunk of the second half.

Chelsea took advantage of the extra man, and André Schürrle scored the opening goal, giving Chelsea a 1-0 lead, but the drama wasn’t over yet. On City’s bench, was a player by the name of Frank Lampard — Chelsea’s all-time leader in goals and assists. It was a no brainer that City manager Manuel Pellegrini would try his luck and bring in the goal scoring midfielder.

It worked to perfection.

Lampard, who’s loaned to City from their American counterparts, New York City FC, scored the game tying goal in spectacular fashion, leaving Chelsea fans to wonder whether they should be upset or happy that he scored a goal.

Out of respect for his former club, Lampard didn’t celebrate the goal, and the Chelsea fans still showed him respect after the game. His goal may have cost Chelsea the win, but that still doesn’t affect the love and appreciation that their fans have for him.

It’s moments like this why we love the beautiful game, and sports in general.

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Richard Sherman: Shutdown Corner or not?

You can view my blog here – Joint Interest

 

What is the definition of a “shutdown corner?”

According to the NFL experts, a “shutdown corner” is a corner who shuts down his side of the field. There are a few corners who are worthy of this title throughout the NFL’s history. The most popular name that pops up in most people’s mind is Deion “Primetime” Sanders. When Deion was in his prime, no quarterback could throw his way without fear of being picked off.

In today’s NFL, it’s nearly impossible for any corner to be a “shutdown corner” due to the rules now favoring the offense. If a corner even puts his hand on a receiver outside 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, it’s considered a penalty. For a corner to shut down a side of the field in today’s NFL, he has to be something special. That’s exactly what Richard Sherman did against the Green Bay Packers on the opening night of the NFL season.

Many will argue that this “loud mouthed” corner was never targeted, and that’s the reason why he was able to effectively shut down one side of the field. Those detractors failed to realize that the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers is Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodgers refused to throw to his side of the field all game — that, my friends, is the ultimate respect.

If Rodgers was confident that Sherman could be easily beaten, he would have thrown his way.

Another argument many bring up is the fact that Sherman stays on one side, and that he never switches sides or follows the opposing team’s top receiver. It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks play predominately a Cover-3 zone, and he is responsible for a third of the field.

Green Bay chose to place their third receiver Jarrett Boykin on his side, while placing Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb mainly on Byron Maxwell’s side. It’s clear that Rodgers wanted to take his chances with Maxwell on Nelson, which makes sense.

Nelson would more likely get more opportunities to make plays against Maxwell as opposed to being lined up against Sherman.

Maxwell isn’t a scrub at the opposite corner and he held his own pretty well, but by doing this Green Bay effectively shrunk the field themselves and made Sherman’s job that much easier. Regardless, it shows the respect that Green Bay has for Sherman, and if he wasn’t doing his job, he would have been targeted.

His job is to shrink the field, which is what a “shutdown corner” does.

For all the hate he receives, he continues to show why he’s one of the best corners in the game. If a great quarterback like Rodgers is respecting his skills, that speaks volumes about his ability to cover and make plays.

Continue to keep the detractors quiet Sherm!

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Can Welbeck Help Arsenal?

The signing of the summer for Arsenal!

Okay, maybe it doesn’t beat out the signing of the marvelously gifted Alexis Sanchez or the signing of that rock in the middle of defense, Calum Chambers, but the signing was important since Arsenal are lacking in the striker department.

That important signing was bringing in Danny Welbeck from Manchester United for a reported 16 million pounds. Many Arsenal supporters are split on the signing of Welbeck.

Welbeck didn’t exactly light up the scene at Old Trafford. In 142 appearances for United, he only found the back of the net 29 times. It’s not hard to see why many feel that Wenger should have tried to bring in a more quality striker, but what many seem to forget is that Welbeck was often played out of position at United. He was placed on the wing many times, and he was expected to not only assist the offense, but also track back and help defend. How can a player score a load of goals if he isn’t put in the best position to do so?

Under Wenger, he will be the starting striker — until Giroud is healthy — and get a run of games leading the line for Arsenal. He didn’t get the chance to lead the line often for United, but when he had the opportunity to last season, he did show flashes of goal scoring ability.

During the tough winter schedule, United were without Van Persie, and Moyes gave an opportunity to Welbeck to lead the line along with Rooney. Welbeck impressed during those run of games and scored six goals in six games. He scored a brace against Aston Villa; and he scored goals against West Ham, Norwich City, Tottenham, and Swansea City. He managed to give United a lift, and United won five of those six games.

If he’s given a consistent run of games, it’s quite possible that he may find his groove and help fire Arsenal up the table. He’ll also have a plethora of chances to score goals. Arsenal boasts one of the most creative midfields in the Premier League, and Welbeck’s pace combined with the passing ability of Arsenal’s midfield may prove to be a deadly combination.

The possibilities could be mouth watering when you also take into account Wenger’s history with developing strikers. He has helped develop Thierry Henry, who’s enjoying life in New York, and Van Persie into world class strikers — to name a few. When it comes to player development, he is one of the best managers in the world, and don’t be surprised to see Welbeck make strides under his tutelage.

Giroud will be out until 2015 — Welbeck will have more than enough chances to prove his worth to the Gunners’ faithful. He’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder, and he’ll be eager to show his old employers at Old Trafford that he’s more than capable as a striker. The way he performs in the next four months will be crucial to Arsenal’s season.

Welbeck will definitely help the Arsenal squad. The question is will he be enough to push Arsenal over the top.

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