Olivier Giroud

Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw in an intimidating Ataturk stadium and have been left with a job to do next week in London which Aaron Ramsey will miss due to his red card.

The energetic Welshman, 23, was given his marching orders ten minutes from time when he tripped Oğuzhan Ozyakup which warranted his second yellow card.

Besiktas began the game with a bang when Demba Ba rattled the bar in the first few seconds, letting fly from the half way line that caused Wojciech Szczesny more worries than it perhaps should have done.

Ba came close again soon after but his volley was well kept out as Arsenal found themselves on the back foot early on.

Olivier Giroud failed to inspire in an Arsenal shirt again, his worst offense being unable to get the ball out from under his feet when under pressure from a defender from point blank range on goal.

Soon after the French forward found himself on a two-on-one situation but his attempted pass to a colleague was easily cut out.

Jack Wilshere had an effort of his own but his tame curler from the edge of the box was gathered well by Tolga Zengin.

It was former Arsenal loan target Ba who looked most dangerous though, some jinking footwork on the edge of the box set him up well but he dragged his shot wide.

Slavan Bilic’s side started the second half as they ended his first, Olcay Sahan curled an effort narrowly past the post though.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced the best chance of the encounter with two minutes left but he could only hit the post with his attempt.

Arsenal though were largely pedestrian in the Turkish capital, failing to create any real clear cut opportunities and must improve next week if they are to reach the Champions League group stages for the 15th time in succession.

 

Besiktas: Zengin, Koybasi, Motta, Gulum, Franco, Sahan (Tore ’73), Kavlak, Uysal, Ozyakup (Koyunlu ’81), Pektemek (Tosun ’88), Ba

Subs not used: Gonen, Kurtulus, Sivok, Boral

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta (Flamini ’50), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’72), Cazorla (Rosicky ’90), Giroud

Subs not used: Martinez, Bellerin, Miquel, Campbell

Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace

A 90th minute Aaron Ramsey goal broke the hearts of a determined Crystal Palace side to give Arsenal a deserved three points on the opening day of the Premier League season.

Ramsey fired home from point blank range with the goal gaping following Julian Speroni’s save from Mathieu Debuchy’s shot.

It was cruel on plucky Palace who until then had defended resolutely to keep the likes of Santi Cazorla and new £35 million man Alexis Sanchez at bay for the majority of the match.

Crystal Palace, once again in the temporary hands of Keith Millen, took a shock lead at the Emirates stadium though after 35 minutes when Hangeland headed in Jason Puncheon’s corner.

Zonal marking let Arsenal down as it so often has done in the past. Hangeland lost his marker, bizarrely the tiny Alexis Sanchez, with ease and seized on the cross before a daydreaming Koscielny and made it 0-1 Palace for his first goal in three years.

Hangeland was guilty of poor marking from a set piece ten minutes later however, coincidentally it was Koscielny atoning for his error to head Arsenal level in first half stoppage time.

Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal

Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal

Puncheon received his marching orders two minutes from time when a late challenge on substitute Nacho Monreal merited a second yellow card and shortly after Palace were punished.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny, Chambers, Gibbs (Monreal ’53), Arteta, Wilshere (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69) Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Sanogo (Giroud ’62)

Subs not used: Martinez, Coquelin, Rosicky, Campbell

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Dann (Delaney ’75), Hangeland, Ward, Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie (O’Keefe ’90) Campbell (Gayle ’85), Chamakh

Subs not used: Hennessey, McCarthy, Bannan, Murray

 

Community Shield report: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City

Arsenal became the first FA Cup holders to win the traditional curtain raiser that is the Community Shield since Chelsea in 2009 with a 3-0 win over Premier League Champions Manchester City. Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud provided the goals at Wembley.

Cazorla opened the scoring with 21 minutes on the clock when he nestled in a left foot from the edge of the box after advantage was played following Drederick Boyata’s foul on Jack Wilshere.

Spain International Cazorla, 29, scored Arsenal’s first goal in May’s FA Cup final and now has another Wembley goal to his collection.

The scorer of the winning FA Cup goal, Aaron Ramsey, doubled their lead three minutes before half time when he drilled in a shot from six yards past Willy Cabellero after a nice touch away from Matija Nastastic. Yaya Sanogo’s hold up play against Boyata was exemplary as he set up Ramsey.

Super Santi: Cazorla opens the scoring at Wembley

Super Santi: Cazorla opens the scoring at Wembley

Half time substitute Olivier Giroud made sure of the victory  on the hour mark with a long range strike that deflected off Nastasic and dipped over the despairing debutant Caballero.

Manchester City were limited to chances in the first half with the centre back pairing of Calum Chambers and Laurent Koscielny not allowing any direct shots on the Arsenal goal.

Mathieu Debuchy was less impressive however with City regularly having joy down the left flank, most notably when Alexandar Kolarov broke clear of Debuchy but his squared pass was just behind the on rushing Samir Nasri to trouble Wojciech Szczesny.

Things barely improved in the second 45, only Stefan Jovetic came relatively close when his shot was palmed away by Szczesny 56 minutes in.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny (Monreal ’45), Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere (Flamini ’68), Ramsey (Campbell ’85), Alexis (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’45), Cazorla (Rosicky ’70), Sanogo (Giroud ’45)

Subs not used: Martinez

Manchester City: Caballero, Clichy, Boyata, Nastasic, Kolarov (Richards ’76), Navas (Sinclair ’85), Fernando, Toure (Zuculini ’60), Nasri (Silva ’45), Jovetic, Dzeko (Milner ’60)

Subs not used: Hart, Rekik

Man of the match: Olivier Giroud

 

Switzerland 2-5 France: Sorry Switzerland flattened by France

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France all but secured their passage through to the next round with a resounding 2-5 win over neighbours Switzerland in the highest scoring game of the World Cup thus far. Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko provided the France goals in a largely one-sided affair.

Two goals in two minutes killed Switzerland off early on in the match. The first coming when Giroud headed in Valbuena’s corner. Diego Benaglio could have done better with it but had a defender in his way that may have put him off.

Benaglio appeared to still be dwelling on the last goal but found himself picking the ball out of his net soon after. Just 13 seconds from the kick-off, France were two goals to the good. A dreadful pass by Valon Behrami was snatched upon by Benzema who fed Matuidi on his left who beat Benaglio at his near post.

It was 0-3 five minutes before half time when France broke on the counter attack. An intelligent pass from Raphael Varane found Giroud who bursted down the left and squared it to Valbuena who tapped home the third.

Les Blues should have even been four up at the break but Benzema had a penalty saved well by Benaglio after Johan Djourou fouled him in the box. Yohan Cabaye hit a rebound onto the post and out from close range.

They did have their fourth after 67 minutes though when substitute Paul Pogba’s silky pass with the outside of the boot was finished by Benzema through Benaglio’s legs after Phillipe Senderos’ attempted clearance contacted with nothing but air.

France had a fifth six minutes later when Moussa Sissoko slotted in first time. Gohkan Inler lost the ball in the midfield, France worked it to Benzema on the edge of the box who found the Newcastle man with a pass that resembled Pele’s to Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup final and like Alberto, Sissoko scored with consummate ease.

Switzerland did hit back with a consolation in the last ten minutes thanks to the first goal scored from a direct free-kick with Blerim Dzemaili taking the honour. It was fortunate though as the French wall allowed it to drift through them when it should have been blocked easily.

Granit Xhaka scored a second for the Swiss three minutes from time, sweeping home a controlled volley but it was too little too late for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side.

Benzema did in fact score again when he curled home a fantastic effort from the edge of box but, in a minor blow to his Golden Boot chances, the final whistle had already gone.

Why Arsenal need to change their philosophy to progress

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Arsenal are well known for their patient passing play but eight, possibly nine barren seasons without a trophy needs changing. Fast. It could all improve if they ditch their modern tactics.

Following Wednesday’s 0-2 defeat to reigning European Champions Bayern Munich, the Gunners look all but out of this season’s competition which would see them fail to get past the last 16 for the fourth successive time. They haven’t got past the quarters in five years.

What was highlighted most on Wednesday was how Arsenal were completely played off the park at their own game, at home, with Bayern having an astonishing 79% possession statistic. This wasn’t helped of course by Wojciech Szczesny’s dismissal on 37 minutes which forced Arsene Wenger to replace Spanish play-maker Santi Cazorla but Arsenal looked second best even before that.

England’s best “Spanish Footballer” comes in the shape of Jack Wilshere but he was non-existent for the full 90 minutes while Mesut Ozil was his usual “passenger” self, looking uninterested for the whole game, even his crucial penalty was incredibly lazy. He missed.

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Ozil’s dip in form should have him looking over his shoulder.

This is not the first time Arsenal have been beaten by their own game, Barcelona did the same to them in 2011.

One of the most worrying aspects of the modern Arsenal is Wenger’s decreasing tactical knowledge. Following Szczesny’s sending off, the Frenchman brought off Cazorla while the consistently average Ozil was kept on. Even worse, when 0-1 down with 15 minutes to play, Arsenal’s main, possibly only, attacking threat Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was hauled off for the defensive minded Tomas Rosicky.

Holding onto a narrow loss at home is embarrassing enough, even when a man down. What’s more embarrassing however is when it doesn’t work, Thomas Muller made it 0-2 with two minutes remaining.

Should Wenger have kept “The Ox” and Cazorla on, Arsenal would have possibly created more chances with Cazorla’s passing followed by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful jinking runs, but there was none of that, Arsenal stepped off Bayern and allowed them to pass them to death.

The argument that this would have left Arsenal more open defensively is a valid one, however Chelsea proved in 2012 that it can be done when they earned their hugely impressive 2-2 draw over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and that was with ten men following John Terry’s clumsy challenge.

Wenger’s tactical failings also apply to his forward line. Promising striker Yaya Sanogo looked isolated for large periods of the Munich match however he won most, if not every header. This suggests that the France Under 21 International would benefit from a striking partner, something Arsenal don’t use. Sanogo could use his strength and heading ability to knock balls down to his partner, possibly Olivier Giroud or a new acquisition, and even grab the odd goal himself as he does get in the right areas but lacks the decisive finishing touch at this stage.

Where Chelsea’s formation, which is exactly the same as Arsenal’s, succeeds is that they have better goal scoring midfielders in the shape of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, formerly Juan Mata and occasionally Ramires. These get on the score sheet enough times that the limited scoring ability of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba isn’t too much of a problem. Whereas Cazorla, Ozil, and Oxlade-Chamberlain have 10 league goals between them, Hazard boasts 12 on his own.

This season has been a lot better for Arsenal, the double is still realistically on the cards in theory. Where they struggle however is overcoming the big teams. Their league results against last season’s top four are a 6-3 away loss to Manchester City, a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea, and an away loss and home draw against a below par Manchester United team. Not forgetting a 5-1 thumping away to Liverpool.

The Gunners have a tough end to March with Tottenham away followed by a trip to Chelsea before finishing at Manchester City at home. February’s fixture list has been cruel to Arsenal with that Liverpool loss and the home draw against Manchester United joining an FA Cup and Champions League tie. If they end March where they are now they will still be in the title race but given this season’s record against the top sides it looks doubtful.

The FA Cup is realistic after they eliminated Liverpool to reach the quarters but they meet Everton which is not an easy prospect. Arsenal will be boosted by Chelsea and Man United’s elimination but Man City are clear favourites to lift the trophy and carry on Arsenal’s long wait for silverware where it all looked so promising just few months ago.