Lukas Podolski's accuracy vital as more creative players return

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Lukas Podolski fires home his second goal of the game.PA PhotosArsenal striker Lukas Podolski fires home his second goal of the game against Hull.

The Lukas Podolski dichotomy: here is a player who rarely dominates games, often lets them pass him by, and yet is the most lethal finisher at the club with a goals-to-games ration that is closing in on remarkable.

- McNicholas: Szczesny deserves FA Cup final place

From 11 Premier League starts this season (and six substitute appearances) he has eight goals. In all competitions it's 17 starts (the same sub stat) and 15 goals.

If there are questions about how exactly he fits into this Arsenal team, perhaps they've been answered in the last two games. Continue Reading...

Szczesny deserves FA Cup final place ahead of Fabianski

Posted by James McNicholas

ArsenalPA PhotosWojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski are both vying for an FA Cup final start.

It was understandable that Aaron Ramsey grabbed the majority of the headlines following the win over Hull City -- the Welshman was in majestic form on his return to the starting XI, issuing a resounding reminder of his talents. Nevertheless, at full time it was notable that Arsenal’s back four immediately turned not to the energetic midfielder but their goalkeeper. The defenders recognised that without Wojciech Szczesny’s impressive performance, Ramsey might not have had the platform on which to deliver his match-winning display. Continue Reading...

Ramsey's stellar showing hints at what might have been

Posted by Andrew Mangan

ArsenalPA PhotosAaron Ramsey scored the opener for Arsenal at Hull and showed what Arsene Wenger had been missing.

Arsenal's 3-0 win over Hull at the KC Stadium was their most comfortable since putting four past Sunderland in February, and the performance of Aaron Ramsey feels almost bittersweet.

The Welshman was outstanding against the Tigers, but it's impossible not to wonder what might have been if he had been fit for the duration of the campaign. There's little point in being that wistful, but his contribution was fantastic.

After a tough opening 25 minutes -- which saw Hull begin at frenetic pace and at times come close to crossing the line of physicality from fully committed to dirty -- the Gunners went ahead through a brilliant worked goal. Continue Reading...

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...