BIG MONTH

Arsenal’s schedule for the month of February sees them going against Liverpool, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Crystal Palace and Sunderland in what will be one of their toughest and busiest times in this season.

Arsene Wenger and his team have to face off against some of the best clubs in the Premier League as well as in the Bundesliga with a battle against Bayern Munich for the 1st leg of the Champions League.

The problem is not the amount of matches and opponents that Arsenal has to do in February but the real concern is the increasing number of players that are unavailable to play due to injuries. Theo Walcott is already confirmed to be out for the remainder of the season, Oxlade-Chamberlain is going through the final stages of his recovery but is still not able to play an entire match, Rosicky is out for a few weeks.

Mikel Arteta is worried that the injuries will leave Arsenal out of the Premier League title race.

The 31 years old midfielder said: “We have many options but that’s one problem we’ve had in recent weeks.

“We’ve had many injuries, we’ve lost Theo for a long time, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is just coming back, too many. Rosicky is out for a few weeks with a nose problem. We are a bit short at the moment but hopefully we can get people back.

“Every squad has to deal with these situations and of course we have to cope with these injuries. The schedule now is going to be really busy.We have some really tough games coming up in the next two weeks and we have deal with it and do our best.”

Even with the ongoing list of injured players, Wenger has managed to cope well with all of the absences as Arsenal maintains their charge at the top of the Premier League along with Chelsea and Manchester City.

ARTETA SLAMS FIXTURES

Mikel Arteta who has played with Arsenal since 2011 expressed his disgust in having to play against Manchester City after getting home from their Champions League tie at Napoli on Wednesday night.

Arsenal travelled to the Etihad Stadium and locked horns with Manchester City in their latest Premier League encounter that saw the team of Arsene Wenger losing 6-3. But prior to the match even having been started some complains were made.

Arsenal faced Everton at home last Sunday in the 4pm game, drawing 1-1 and they kicked off against City at 12.45pm. They made the flight back from Naples after the tie, which ended in a 2-0 defeat for them, with the players getting to their homes at roughly 4am.

“The recovery time is very tight,” Arteta says. “I don’t understand why we play Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, get back at 4am and then play again on Saturday morning in Manchester. There is nothing we can do – just recover well. It’s a big game and we want to win it.

“The preparation will just be about recovery. It’s not ideal. There is a late warm-down [on Thursday, we try to get our legs back for Friday … travel on Friday and be as well prepared as we can because they will be ready for us. They rested seven or eight players in Munich against Bayern on Tuesday night.

“I think we have different options in the squad. You could see that we changed the team a bit again against Napoli. We have to be ready, no excuses. We know it can be a big statement if we get a good result against City. That’s what we want.”

No matter what both Arsene Wenger and Arteta said prior to their match against Manchester City they still suffered from a resounding 6-3 defeat against the side of Pellegrini and now the Premier League race is tighter than ever.

FACE OFF

Mikel Arteta and David Moyes have faced each other a couple of times since the Spaniard left Everton, but they will be facing each other for the first time with Moyes as the Manchester United manager. Arteta was made into one of the best midfielders in the Premier league during his time at Everton. Moyes also established himself as one of the top managers during this period. The Scot has struggled to replicate the authority at Manchester United so far, but Arteta believes that it will not be long before Moyes settles at United.

He thinks that the characters he demonstrated during his time at Everton shows that United are clearly have a winner in their hands. It will be only a matter of time before the players start getting used to his ideas. Arteta has also said that improving the team spirits one of the good attributes of Moyes. He recalls the Everton team having a tremendous team spirit when he first moved to the club from Spanish football. Arsenal started the season as the underdogs, but they have made a strong push to the top of the table with some impressive results over the last few weeks.

“He is a winner, for sure, and United are looking much better now. They have won a few games in a row and it will be tough to win there. I said when I moved to Arsenal that Everton was the best spirit I have known, and Moyes gets all the credit for that. He built an amazing dressing room that is going to stay there a long time. For years there was talk about him moving, so every year we were expecting him to go somewhere big,” said Arteta.

They need to maintain this with a win over United on Sunday.

ARSENAL MUST PROGRESS

The vice captain of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, has said that he can’t think of his team not  making it to the main draw of the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal had ended up at no. 4 in the Premier League table last season, so, they need to win the play off tie against the Turkish club Fenerbahce to make it to the main draw.

The first leg of that clash will take place at Istanbul on Wednesday and then, 6 days later, the two teams will meet for the return leg at the Emirates Stadium.

Arteta will not be able to feature for the Gunners in the first leg as he is unfit. He discovered a thigh injury while playing in Arsenal’s first Premier League game of the season against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Talking to the reporters yesterday, Arteta said, “We had to toil extremely hard last season to finish at no. 4. It was a fantastic comeback by the team in the later parts of the season and we will have to ensure that we don’t waste that. No matter which team we are competing with, we will have to get through to the main draw.”

Even if Fenerbahce manages to emerge out as the winner of this tie, it’s not certain whether they will qualify for the main draw or not. They have appealed against their ban from European competitions and the verdict on that appeal has not come yet. It will come a day after the return leg.

However, the Fenerbahce boss Ersun Yanal has made it clear that his players are not thinking about the verdict and they are fully focussed on the game.

Yanal said, “We can’t think about the stuff which is not in our hands. All we can do is to give our 100% on the ground and then, hope for the best.”

TOP FOUR FINISH

Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta has said that he has total confidence in Arsenal in the race for the top four finish. The Spaniard, who arrived from Everton in a £ 10 million deal a few seasons ago, has established himself as one of the important players at the club. He has been instrumental in helping the club gone nine matches unbeaten in the last few months. This has helped them get to position of relative strength in the race for the top four spots. Arsenal are competing with Chelsea and Tottenham for the Champions League qualification spots, which is essential for the club in several ways.

Arsenal managed a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, which was probably the toughest match from now until the end of the campaign. They took the lead early in the match through Theo Walcott, but were pegged back by a penalty from former striker Robin van Persie just before half-time. Despite dropping two points, Arsenal still remain in a commanding position to finish in the top spot. They will be facing the likes of QPR and Wigan in the final few matches of the campaign, while their competitors have tougher matches against the likes of Everton. Chelsea and Tottenham also play against each other as well.

“It will come down to nerve and be about who is the most clinical at the right moments. When it gets to the last games, the teams who are the most clinical win. We have seen that over the last few weeks. It will be a battle for everyone. There is pressure on us like there is for the other teams. Every team in the Premier League is playing for something – relegation or Europe. It will be interesting,” said Arteta after the Manchester United match. Arsenal have played a game more than their rivals.

FA CUP ROUND

Attention turns to the FA Cup this weekend, and Saturday afternoon’s game at the Emirates Stadium sees Arsenal battle Blackburn Rovers for a place in the quarter finals.

The Gunners, who edged past Brighton and Hove Albion in round four, last lifted the trophy in 2005; their win on penalties against Manchester United clinching a tenth victory in the competition. Only United have a better record with eleven wins.

The hosts are set to welcome back captain Thomas Vermaelen after his recovery from an ankle problem, though Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere are both doubtful. Gervinho, who has been away at the Africa Cup of Nations, could feature for the first time since New Year’s Day.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are joint favourites to open the scoring, at 5.0 (4/1) with Paddy Power and Bet 365 respectively.

The home win is widely available at 1.33 (1/3), with Blackburn as highly priced 11.0 (10/1). The draw is a 6.0 (5/1) shot with Bet 365.

Blackburn, who have won this competition no less than six times, made it to this stage by thumping Derby County 3-0 at Pride Park three weeks ago.

Michael Appleton could include new loan signings Karim Rekik and David Bentley, who are both eligible after joining the club on Friday.

Former Gunner Bentley, who also played 133 times for Blackburn before joining Tottenham Hotspur in 2008, is a 13.0 (12/1) chance with Ladbrokes to get the first goal of the game, with top scorer Jordan Rhodes a more likely punt at 9.0 (8/1) with a variety of firms.

Chelsea vs. Arsenal Preview

Sunday’s Premier League action commences at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea host Arsenal.

The Blues have one just one of their last seven league games in front of their own fans, drawing 2-2 with Southampton last time out having led 2-0 with just over half an hour to play.

John Terry is set to make his first start since November, while John Obi-Mikel and Victor Moses are away at the Africa Cup of Nations. Oriol Romeu  is out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.

Demba Ba has three goals in his four appearances for Chelsea so far, and is favourite to open the scoring at a best price of 5.5 (9/2) with Stan James, whilst Eden Hazard is widely available at 10.0 (9/1) having scored in his last two outings.

The European Champions are favourites for the match, and are priced at 2.0 (1/1) with Stan James with Arsenal on offer at 4.33 (10/3). The draw is 3.75 (11/4) with most firms.

The visitors go in to the game on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, meaning anything less than three points here could leave them adrift in the chase for a Champions League place.

Laurent Koscielny is available after serving a one match suspension, though Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky are side-lined through injury. Gervinho is away with Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Theo Walcott finally ended months of speculation by signing a new contract at the club in the week, and is 9.0 (8/1) to celebrate the deal with the first goal of the game.

ARTETA STILL CONFIDENT

Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta has said that he is still confident that the club can reverse their fortunes in the league and the various other competitions during the Christmas period. Arsenal are going through a difficult patch this season, which has been significantly worse than in the previous seasons. They are now struggling to at least qualify for the Champions League next season with the likes of Everton and Tottenham the favourites for the fourth position right now. After going through a difficult spell, the players are extremely angry about themselves for the poor run of form according to Arteta.

He has said that the players feel very responsible for having left the fans and the manager down in these last few weeks and they are determined to put things right starting with the match against Reading on Monday night. The current Premier league season has seen the worst ever start made by the club under the reign of Arsene Wenger. As a result, they are currently more than 15 points behind the leaders Manchester United. The 2-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea during the weekend has put the pressure on the manager even more, but Arteta is confident that results will reverse over the next few weeks.

“It’s massive now. Winning two or three games in a row will change the atmosphere. We want the fans to stay behind us but the fans need us to be on top of our form to get that excitement. We have to give them something now and they will respond, because they love Arsenal as much as we do. They go to the ground to support us, they are not coming to criticise us because they want something bad for us. It is the opposite,” said the Arsenal midfielder after the Swansea match.

ARTETA WILL TAKE PENALTIES

The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the Spaniard Mikel Arteta will remain as the clubs penalty taker despite being guilty of the miss that cost the team an opportunity of taking all three points in the recent match against Fulham. Arsenal were awarded a 94th min penalty in the match against Fulham. The match was evenly poised 3-3, which would have meant another set of dropped points for Arsenal. However, Mikel Arteta had the opportunity to give the team and undeserved late winner in the match. His penalty, however, was not converted into a goal and the match finished 3-3.

Despite this penalty miss, he will remain as the club’s designated penalty taker according to the manager Arsene Wenger. Arteta has been in inspirational form during the first few months of the season. He has been utilised as a defensive midfielder by the manager, which has brought the best out of him and also the new signing Santi Cazorla. Due to the reassurance of Mikel Arteta in the back, Cazorla has been able to venture forward to great effect. However, the team has been suffering from a poor run of results in recent weeks. Arteta is a major doubt for the match against Tottenham during the weekend. Wenger has revealed that the Spaniard will be having late tests to determine his fitness.

“He took it because in my list he’s the number one. If he had not done it I would have questioned him. Lukas Podolski was number two and he was not on the pitch, Theo Walcott was number three and he was not on the pitch as well. It was him or Santi Cazorla to take it. Arteta was completely upset. Mikel is a guy who is highly focused and motivated to win the game every time,” said Wenger.

NO WINS IS DISAPPOINTING

The midfielder of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta has said that it’s very disappointing not to be able to register a victory in the current season so far. Arsenal has played two matches in the ongoing season so far and both the matches have ended in a goalless draw. The Arsenal players created a lot of opportunities in both those matches, but, they struggled to give the finishing touch.

After the match against Stoke City, Arteta said that the team has to win matches. You can’t afford to play such goalless draws. There is a tough competition in the Premier League and if you want to be in top four, you have to score goals. There is no other option. The team could have easily won the first two games, but, unfortunately, the players didn’t manage to latch on the chances.  The players would have to capitalize on the opportunities in the further matches.

Arteta said that Sunderland and Stoke City should also be credited for not letting Arsenal score any goal. Both the teams have got very good defense and it was not easy to go past their defense. As per Arteta, the Stoke team was happy to play a draw and grab one point.  So, the Stoke players played with a defensive attitude and didn’t attack too much. There are experienced defenders in the Stoke team and they did a fine job for their side.

The manager of Stoke City, Tony Pulis, said that he is quite satisfied with the result of the match. He wanted that one point and he got that eventually. Perhaps, the team could have attacked a bit more, but, the team’s performance was decent overall and he is quite happy with it. Stoke City will play its next match against Swindon Town.