Wenger has ulterior motives in praising Pulis and Bruce

Posted by John Cross

Michael Regan/The FA/Getty ImagesDespite being favourites, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal face a tough task ahead in Hull.

No wonder Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger mentioned Tony Pulis and Steve Bruce when asked who should be manager of the year...

After all, Pulis masterminded Crystal Palace's win at Everton on Wednesday night, which put Arsenal's Champions League destiny back in their own hands.

Let's just conveniently forget the petty rows and major squabbles Wenger and Pulis have had down the years when the Palace boss was in charge at Stoke. Palace did Arsenal a major favour.

On top of that, Wenger needs to be nice to Hull boss Bruce ahead of two big showdowns between their clubs. Continue Reading...

Ozil’s return a timely fillip

Posted by James McNicholas

It’s actually turning into a good week for Arsenal. After securing their place in the FA Cup final with a penalty shootout victory over Wigan, they beat the twin threat of fatigue and West Ham 3-1 to take three points on Tuesday night. The positive effect of that result was augmented by Everton’s shock 3-2 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, meaning that the Gunners have held on to fourth place -- for now, at least. As if that weren’t enough to put a smile on the faces of the Arsenal fans, Mesut Ozil is back. Continue Reading...

Podolski has his flaws but Wenger must persevere

Posted by John Cross

Lukas PodolskiGettyImagesLukas Podolski scores Arsenal's third in the win over West Ham on Tuesday night.

Lukas Podolski showed against West Ham why he can still be such an asset for Arsenal: two clinical finishes to equalise and then seal the victory to push them back into fourth place, even if it may just be for a short while before Everton play.

He also worked hard and tried to make things happen for his teammates. Yet only the most blinkered fan would claim that Podolski, despite impressive stats and goal ratio, could suggest that he has been anything but a qualified success. Continue Reading...

Arsenal show iron will to see off Hammers

Posted by James McNicholas

After a 120-minute ordeal at Wembley, Arsenal were sorely tested against West Ham. However, they showed both physical and mental fortitude to recover from an early set-back and leapfrog Everton into fourth place.

- Report: Arsenal 3-1 West Ham
- Delaney: Three things: Arsenal vs. West Ham

This must have been the oldest team that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has selected for more than a decade. At 27, Olivier Giroud was the youngest outfield player on show. The line-up contained four players over 30: Bacary Sagna, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and full-debutant Kim Kallstrom. Continue Reading...

West Ham showdown could provide the right momentum

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Having gone the full distance against Wigan on Saturday, Arsene Wenger's biggest challenge ahead of Tuesday night's Premier League clash with West Ham is to find a functioning midfield.

His options are, at this moment, quite limited. The Arsenal manager revealed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who played the full game at Wembley, wasn't even supposed to play due to a groin strain. And 90 gruelling minutes plus extra time is unlikely to have made it any better.

Aaron Ramsey, just back from a three month lay-off -- caused in part by being overplayed -- is surely too much of a risk to start in case he breaks down again. Continue Reading...

Redemption beckons for Lukasz Fabianski

Posted by James McNicholas

Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC/Getty ImagesLukasz Fabianski was superb for the Gunners against Wigan at Wembley.

Once upon a time, Lukasz Fabianski was branded with the disparaging sobriquet "Flappy." On Saturday, he became enshrined as an Arsenal hero. Redemption beckons for the improving Polish goalkeeper.

In 2010, Fabianski was stuck in a spectacularly poor run in form. His nadir came in the 2-1 Champions League defeat away to Porto. First, he turned a cross from Silvestre Varela into his own net then compounded the error by conceding an indirect free-kick after picking up a Sol Campbell backpass. Continue Reading...

Arsenal make hard work of it, but get there in the end

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Arsenal made it through to the FA Cup final after a penalty shoot-out win over Wigan -- but only after a 120-minute display that was torturous at times and salvaged late in normal time by a redemptive Per Mertesacker goal.

The German was guilty of conceding a penalty just past the hour mark, which Jordi Gomez converted to put the Latics up 1-0. It looked as if time was running out and that Wigan's defensive heroics would see them through as Bacary Sagna hit the post and Kieran Gibbs saw a great header brilliantly saved by Scott Carson, before Mertesacker grabbed the all-important equaliser with eight minutes to go. Continue Reading...

Wenger a worried man ahead of Wigan test

Posted by John Cross

Arsene WengerGettyImagesArsenal manager Arsene Wenger is approaching a critical point in the season - and his career at the club.

You could see the tension etched on Arsene Wenger's face at his pre-match news conference ahead of the FA Cup semifinal against Wigan; there was no escaping the fact that the Arsenal manager looked a very worried man.

Arsenal's recent form, their collapse in the title race, capitulation at Everton and their battle to hold on to their top-four place have left Wenger with serious concerns. If they win the FA Cup then it will have been a good season and they could still pip Everton for fourth and a place in the Champions League. Continue Reading...

Wenger's task made more complicated by further injuries

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Arsene Wenger
GettyImagesArsene Wenger must motivate his players after a difficult spell.

"What can he do to change things?" is a question that has commonly been heard since Arsenal lost 3-0 to Everton on Sunday.

- Macintosh: Arsenal angst grows ahead of cup test

It's clear that Arsene Wenger has to do something to get his team back on track. Their last four games have brought two draws (one of which suggested the green shoots of recovery after a disappointing stalemate with Swansea) and two defeats, and their form in the last six weeks has been mediocre at best. Continue Reading...

Kallstrom's chance could come at Wembley

Posted by John Cross

David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty ImagesJanuary arrival Kim Kallstrom could well become an Arsenal hero this weekend at Wembley.

Remember that signing we all joked about in January? Well, I just wonder whether Kim Kallstrom might have the last laugh at Wembley on Saturday. There is a chance that Kallstrom might start against Wigan in the FA Cup semifinal because of Arsenal's walking wounded in midfield.

- Mangan: Arsenal quiet, and rightly so
- Report: Szczesny focused on FA Cup glory

On top of that, Mathieu Flamini is also suspended for two games and so it opens the door for Kallstrom. From what I saw against Swansea when he came on as a late substitute, Kallstrom looks strong and composed. Continue Reading...

Arsenal keep quiet, and rightly so

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty ImagesArsene Wenger will have to take some blame for the negative showing by Arsenal in the first half.

It's been telling that in the wake of Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Everton, things have gone very quiet from an Arsenal point of view.

Normally the voracious demand for content -- both from those who want to consume it and those whose jobs it is to supply it -- means that every poor defeat is followed by a raft of interviews with players who talk about how they have to respond. Or react. Or learn. Or do better next time.

There hasn't been much, if any of that, this week. Continue Reading...

Wenger's future on the line

Posted by John Cross

Arsene WengerPA PhotosArsene Wenger looks on as Arsenal suffered more away day misery at Everton.

The most worrying aspect of Arsenal's away-day disasters this season has been Arsene Wenger's tactics. It’s hard to get into a tactics territory, as managers, coaches and players know far more about formations than journalists, but even to the relatively untrained eye, the way Arsenal were set up at Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool raised serious doubts about whether Wenger had much of a game plan.

- Report: Everton 3-0 Arsenal
- McNicholas: Pressure rises after Everton outsmart Arsenal

Arsenal conceded 14 goals in three must-win games, defended badly and were outwitted and outthought. Continue Reading...