FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Nottingham Forest — Match Recap

EPL, Extra Time, News, Pain in the Arse!

In the 3rd Round of the Football Association Cup, Arsenal was defeated 4-2 by English Championship side Nottingham Forest. 

Arsenal and Nottingham Forest last met each other in 2016, in what was then the English Football League Cup. The Gunners prevailed 4–0 in that fixture.

Manager Arsène Wenger watched his hodgepodge side of younger reserves and fringe players crash out of the competition from the stands.

The Frenchman was serving part one of his three-match touchline ban by the English FA for his behavior after Arsenal’s last Premier League match against West Bromwich Albion. 

First Half

Overall, it was a composed start to the match from Arsenal, despite having several younger players in the starting XI. Although, to be fair, there were a few careless back passes and lapses in judgement that exposed the youth of the Gunners’ side.

As for Forest, it was a well-disciplined start by the 14th-placed English Championship side who took their chances as they came and kept a strong defensive shape.

It was the visitors who were presented the first opportunity to go ahead in the 7th minute of the match. Arsenal winger Theo Walcott was in on the Forest goal, but the Englishman scuffed his shot and the ball rolled out of play.

David Ospina, Arsenal’s No. 2, was forced to make his first save of the match in the 17th minute. And, as he has done so many times in the past, the Columbian made a vital fingertip save on Matthew Cash’s off balance shot, from a ball that rolled freely across Arsenal’s penalty area

It would be a long day for the Gunners’ defense.

In the 19th minute, Forest’s Kieran Dowell won a free kick on the edge of the Gunners’ box. Dowell fired in the ensuing free kick that was fearlessly headed in by American international Eric Lichaj in the 20th minute. 1-0 Forest.

By the 23rd minute, the floodgates were open.

18-year-old Reiss Nelson continues to show immense promise and was arguably a lone bright spot for the Gunners’ attack on the day.

Nelson earned a free-kick in the attacking half, in the 23rd minute. His free-kick was nearly headed home by Rob Holding whose effort clanged off the post. In the end, it was the other Arsenal center-half, Per Mertesacker, who finished off the rebound. 1-1.

Forest’s own 18-year-old forward, Ben Brereton, was thwarted twice by Ospina in the 32nd minute.

After pouncing on a deflection and taking his touch past Mertesacker, Brereton let off a shot that was palmed away by the Columbian keeper. A minute later, Brereton split the Arsenal defense again, but Ospina read the play and came out quickly to smother the ball.

Brereton, who was a thorn for the Arsenal defense all day, threatened once more before the end of the first half, but Ospina came up big again to keep the match level at one.

It became increasingly evident toward the end of the first 45 minutes that Forest were having plenty of success exploiting the lack of pace and connectivity in the Arsenal backline.

Lichaj had a dream day and fired (literally) Forest ahead with a minute left in the half. A failed clearance by Arsenal was met with a chest and thunderous volley by the American whose shot nestled in the top corner. 2-1.

Second Half 

Brereton continued to threaten and looked prime to etch his name on the scoresheet in the 61st minute. A great delivery from Forest substitute Tyler Walker was nearly put away by the former Stoke City academy player, but Ospina parried it out for a corner.

Forest found a breakthrough in the 63rd minute after being rewarded a penalty. Holding tripped up Cash who had snuck into the Arsenal box. Brereton finished off the ensuing freebie cooly from the spot. 3-1 Forest.

Danny Welbeck and Arsenal pulled a goal back in the 79th minute. Welbeck took advantage of poor goalkeeping by Forest’s Jordan Smith and slid a slow-moving shot into the bottom left corner. 3-2. Game on.

The home side finished off a fantastic performance and shocking 3rd Round FA Cup upset by converting a controversial penalty in the 85th minute.

It wasn’t the penalty that was controversial, because Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy was as guilty as charged, having tackled Forest’s Armand Traore from behind. Instead, it was the kick, a visible double touch by kick-taker Kieran Dowell. Despite taking time to talk to his assistant, referee Jonathan Moss awarded the goal. 4-2. Match over.

It can be argued that VAR technology, which has yet to make its way to the FA Cup and Premier League, would have reversed that goal. Nevertheless, VAR would not and could not have reversed what was a shocking performance by the current FA Cup holders.

Scoresheet 

Arsenal

Mertesacker (23′)

Welbeck (79′)

Forest 

Lichaj (20′ and 44′)

Brereton (64′)

Dowell (85′)

Starting XI 

Arsenal (3–4–2–1) 

Ospina; Mertesacker, Holding, Debuchy; Elneny, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Nelson; Welbeck, Iwobi; Walcott

Forest (4–2–3–1) 

Smith; Mancienne, Worrall, Traore, Lichaj; Dowell, Vaughan; Ben Osborn, Zach Clough, Matthew Cash; Brereton

Next Match

Arsenal return to Premier League play on Sunday, Jan. 14, when the Gunners travel to the Vitality Stadium to face Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth. Kickoff for that fixture is slated for 8:30AM EST.

Check back soon for the latest Pain in the Arse! Oo O O to Be.

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Arsenal Confirm First January Signing

EPL, Extra Time, News, Pain in the Arse!

On Thursday, Arsenal confirmed the signing of Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos from PAS Giannina for a fee that is reported to be in the region of £1.8 million.

Following Wednesday’s thrilling London Derby, in which Arsenal drew rival Chelsea 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium, boss Arsène Wenger mentioned in his post-match press conference that the club was closing in on the signing of coveted Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos.

Now, on Thursday, the club has confirmed that Mavropanos is a Gunner.

Goal’s Arsenal correspondent, Chris Wheatley, was the first to report the signing of the 20-year-old on Wednesday. Per Wheatley, the signing is believed to be in the region of £1.8. 

Mavropanos’ signing is certainly seen as an investment for a player who, according to Greek journalists who have seen Mavropanos play on a consistent basis, has the potential to be a top Premier League defender in the years to come and has been likened to current Arsenal defender, Shkodran Mustafi. 

Standing at 6’4″, the Greek youngster is said to be a ball-winner with a strong aerial presence.

Mavropanos has had an impressive breakthrough season in Greece. He has played in 16 matches for regional side PAS Giannina and has caught the eye of the country’s biggest clubs including Greek giants Olympiakos.

Wenger also confirmed in Wednesday’s press conference that Arsenal’s most recent signing will be loaned out for the remainder of the season.

Perhaps this will be of some disappointment to Gooners who were hoping to see Mavropanos in the first-team, especially given the fact that Arsenal have had several lapses in the back as of late and currently boast a defense that is allowing close to two goals a game.

Thanks for reading another Pain in the Arse! Check back soon for the latest Arsenal news. Oo O O to Be.

London Derby: Arsenal vs. Chelsea — Match Recap

EPL, Extra Time, News, Pain in the Arse!

In a thrilling London derby that had it all, Arsenal drew Chelsea 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday. 

Arsenal, courtesy of a Hector Bellerín wonder-strike, salvaged a late point against Chelsea. A victory would have seen Chelsea move ten points clear of rival Arsenal in the Premier League table.

First Half

Arsenal, to the delight of the home crowd, committed to putting Chelsea under constant pressure and getting stuck into their tackles early on. Chelsea, on the other hand, appeared more content with laying back, anticipating mistakes from the Gunners and then springing forward.

It was Chelsea’s Spanish forward, Alvaro Morata, who nearly sprung the Blues in front in the 14th minute.

Morata found himself in on goal after splitting the Arsenal center-half pairing of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding. Morata wasted his chance, pulling his shot wide of Petr Čech’s goal.

A collective sigh of relief from the crowd on-hand at the Emirates was followed up by a gasp just minutes later.

Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez nearly put the Gunners ahead with a snap-shot inside the Chelsea penalty area. But Thibaut Courtois did extremely well to get a hand to the Chilean’s shot and parry it off the post. Somehow, someway, the shot was kept out of the net as it pinged off both posts.

Alexandre Lacazette displayed his superb hold-up play in the 21st minute, and the Frenchman nearly finished off his effort from atop the Blues’ box. After fending off a blue shirt behind him, Lacazette executed a cool turn before letting off a low-lying shot that was denied by Courtois.

It was end to end action in the first half and both sides traded scoring opportunities. Čech was called upon again a minute later. The Arsenal No. 1 stood tall to thwart Tiemoué Bakayoko who was in on goal.

Chelsea had one final opportunity to go ahead in the 45th minute. Ex-Gunner Cesc Fàbregas ran onto a cheeky flick by teammate Eden Hazard. The Spaniard had a shot from atop the Gunners’ box, but it went over the bar and never really troubled Čech.

A frenetic first half ended in a stalemate, 0-0.

Second Half

The second half was everything one would expect and yearn for in a London derby.

Čech was the first goalkeeper to be called upon in the 49th minute. Čech’s brilliant foot save on Hazard was followed up by an inspiring dive and save to keep out Marcos Alonso’s header. The Arsenal shot-stopper kept the score level at nil.

Arsenal saw their first opportunity of the second half, and perhaps their best in the match at that point, come in the 52nd minute. It was another sweet turn from Lacazette. The Frenchman saw his shot from close-range stoned by Courtois who made himself big.

Minutes later, in the 62nd, a nice passing play between Lacazette and Özil was once again thwarted by the Chelsea keeper. After passing and weaving into the Blues’ penalty area, Özil saw his pass across the goalmouth snubbed by the big Belgian.

Arsenal found the go-ahead goal in the 63rd minute, courtesy of none other than Jack Wilshere. Super Jack’s off balance shot thumped off the post and into the top corner of Chelsea’s goal.

Wilshere sent the Emirates into pandemonium and fired the Gunners up one nil.

But, as Arsenal fans have come to expect from their side, things went south for the North London club. Referee Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty for Chelsea in the 66th minute, after Bellerín nicked the foot of Hazard who went down rather easily.

Hazard made no mistake and finished off the penalty to equalize for the visitors. 1-1.

In the 70th minute, Morata found himself in on goal again. And, again, the Spaniard’s shot was botched. This time, Morata pulled his shot high and wide right. It was a rather shocking performance from Chelsea’s hitman.

It was another brilliant performance from young Ainsley “Boobie” Maitland-Niles. However, the 20-year-old showed in the 84th minute that he is still green, after being beat to the byline by Davide Zappacosta. Zappacosta then whipped in a dangerous ball, which was buried by a storming Alonso. 2-1 Blues.

Seemingly down and out, Arsenal were bailed out by Bellerín in the 90′ +2′ minute. The Spaniard did well to avenge the penalty he conceded earlier in the match, hammering home a fantastic half-volley to the top corner of Chelsea’s goal. 2-2.

Less than a minute later, Čech stood tall to stone Morata. After springing to his feet, the ex-Chelsea No. 1 could only watch as Zappacosta’s follow-up effort clashed off the cross bar.

2-2 was how this emotional rollercoaster and Pain in the Arse! finished.

Putting my own allegiance to the side, Arsenal was, in my opinion, the better team on the day. However, as Arsène Wenger’s side has shown time and time again, it was the one or two mistakes that ultimately cost them.

Nevertheless, this was a thrilling London derby, an instant classic, and a brilliant match played by two sides who were playing for nothing less than three points.

Scoresheet

Arsenal

Jack Wilshere (63′)

Hector Bellerín (90′ +2) 

Chelsea

Eden Hazard (67′)

Marcos Alonso (84′) 

Starting XI

Arsenal (3–4–3) 

Čech; Holding, Mustafi, Chambers; Bellerín, Xhaka, Wilshere, Maitland-Niles; ÖzilLacazette and Sánchez

Chelsea

Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso, Hazard and Morata

Next Match 

Arsenal return to Premier League play on Sunday, Jan. 14 when they travel to the Vitality Stadium to face Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth. Kickoff for that fixture is slated for 8:30AM EST.

Check back soon for the latest Pain in the Arse! Oo O O to Be.

Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion — Match Recap

EPL, Extra Time, News, Pain in the Arse!

Unbeaten in their previous five Premier League matches, Arsenal drew West Bromwich Albion 1–1 at The Hawthorns on Sunday.  

Winless in 18 Premier League matches, West Brom and their newly appointed manager, Alan Pardew (yes, that Alan Pardew), looked to spring their uphill relegation battle that will inevitably be part of the Baggies’ New Year resolution.

Arsenal, on the other hand, entered Sunday’s fixture fifth in the table. Chasing Champions League football and PFD writer Cal Dymowski’s high-flying Reds, the Gunners looked to continue their unbeaten run in the Premier League, which has spanned five matches.

First Half

Contrary to the roaring start against Crystal Palace in Thursday’s London derby, Arsenal were considerably slower out of the gates versus Albion. Perhaps such a start can be attributed to the quick turn-around for the Gunners from Thursday’s thrilling contest.

Alex Iwobi had, perhaps, two of the most prominent scoring opportunities for the visitors through the first 30 minutes of play.

First, an excellent move to create space from Jonny Evans at the top of the Baggies’ box. Iwobi followed that up with a cool turn and cheeky curling effort that nearly nestled in the top corner of Ben Foster’s goal. Then, in the 30th minute, the Nigerian let off a laser that was palmed away by Foster.

Ainsley “Boobie” Maitland-Niles entered the match for Sead Kolasinac in the 37th minute. Kolasinac appeared to come up injured following a collision.

Although Arsenal maintained much of the possession throughout the first half, the Gunners were unable to generate any considerable scoring chances to break the 0–0 deadlock.

Second Half

The second half seemingly picked up where the last 45 minutes left off. Credit to the Baggies’ faithful who were in full voice at the start, despite the fact their side hasn’t won a match since mid–August.

The Baggies appeared to receive a boost from the home crowd as West Brom looked more threatening in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Arsenal were put under increasing pressure in their own end, and the home side had a few set-piece opportunities.

In the 60th minute, Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette nearly capped off an excellent run and passing-play at the top of the Albion box, with a cut into and lash from the center of the Baggies’ penalty area.  But the danger was averted by Foster, in the end, who kept the score level at nil.

Arsenal regained control of possession toward the 70th minute. The Gunners dictated the much of the match’s tempo, mounting patient build-up play at the top of the Baggies’ box.

West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez was given ample space to run at the Arsenal backline in the 77th minute. The former Southhampton man took full advantage of the opportunity and rocketed a shot that was parried away by Čech.

It was the visitors who eventually broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute. Alexis Sánchez, the man who could very well leave the North London outfit soon, capitalized on a free-kick atop the Baggies’ penalty area. The Chilean’s shot took a deflection off of West Brom’s James McClean and into the net.

But, just when one would think Arsenal had the three points in the bag, referee Mike Dean awarded West Brom a controversial penalty for a handball on Calum Chambers. It was ex-Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs, nonetheless, who drew the penalty in the 88th minute. Rodriguez converted calmly from the spot for the equalizer.

The match ended 1–1 for (wait for it) another Pain in the Arse!

Scoresheet  

Arsenal —

Alexis Sanchez (83′)

Albion —

Jay Rodriguez (89′)

Starting XI

Arsenal (3–4–3) 

Čech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Chambers; Xhaka, Wilshere, Kolasinac, Bellerín; Lacazette, Sánchez and Iwobi

Albion (4–4–2)

Foster; Evans, Hegazi, Gibbs, Dawson; Barry, Livermore, Brunt, Phillips; Robson-Kanu and Rodriguez

Next Match

Arsenal played their final fixture of 2017 tonight. The Gunners are set to return on Wednesday, Jan. 3. They’ll welcome North London rivals Chelsea to the Emirates Stadium. Kickoff for that fixture is slated for 2:45PM EST.

Check back soon for the latest Pain in the Arse! Oo O O to Be.

 

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace — Match Recap

EPL, Extra Time, News, Pain in the Arse!

Away from home, Arsenal defeated Crystal Palace 3–2 in a thrilling London derby at Selhurst Park.  

Thursday’s match was a special occasion for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger. It was the Frenchman’s 810th league match in charge of the North London club. Wenger tied the Premier League record held by his longtime rival and legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wenger’s special evening was topped off by a victory and an overall strong performance from his players.

Arsenal entered Thursday’s London derby fixture against Crystal Palace unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches, in sixth place, and four points back from Liverpool and a coveted Champions League position.

Palace, under the management of ex-England boss Roy Hodgson, were unbeaten in their last eight league matches. The Eagles had picked up 18 points in 12 to move into 16th place in the Premier League and out of the relegation zone.

Perhaps the result was written in the cards for Palace, who had won just one of their last 12 matches at Selhurst Park against Arsenal. The Eagles last win over the Gunners came in a three-nil thumping of Arsenal last season, in which the visiting fans directed “You’re not fit to wear the shirt!” at Arsenal players.

Watch

Palace had previously been unbeaten in their previous six matches at Selhurst Park, having only dropped their first three home fixtures to begin the 2017/2018 Premier League campaign.

First Half

As one would come to expect from a London derby, the match got off to a frantic start with both teams vying for possession, sticking tackles, and going at opposing defenders. By the end of the first 20 minutes, it was Arsenal who took control of the match’s tempo.

Arsenal’s first, real chance of the half came in the 25th minute. Alexandre Lacazette saw his curling effort parried away by Palace shot-stopper Julian Speroni, but the rebound fell right to the feet of Shkodran Mustafi who calmly passed it in to put the Gunners up.

Mustafi did well to capitalize on Arsenal’s first goalscoring opportunity, and it was as cool of a finish as you’d like from a center-half.

Arsenal Mesut Özil nearly put the Gunners up by two just five minutes later. Alexis Sanchez played a brilliant through-ball that found a streaking Özil, who was in on goal. Speroni did well to make the save and prevent the visitors from extending their lead at Selhurst.

Palace winger Wilfried Zaha had a curling effort of his own in the 31st minute. Zaha’s shot never really troubled Petr Čech, who watched as it went wide of his net.

Lacazette threatened the Palace defense again in the 34th minute. The Frenchman fended off Eagles’ defenders at the top of the 18-yard box and showcased his quick feet, chopping and cutting at the ball. In the end, Lacazette got off an off balance shot that fizzled wide of net.

In the 38th minute came, perhaps, the second best scoring opportunity for the Gunners in the first half. Sanchez, again, played a mesmerizing ball into the path of Özil. But Özil elected to showcase the unselfish side of him, passing it off as Speroni sprawled forward to meet him. In the end, it was a chance wasted for Arsenal.

It was the visitors who were in control and dictated the tempo for much of the first half, and Arsenal ultimately created the better of the scoring chances.

Second Half

It didn’t take long for Zaha to have a run at the Arsenal defenders and for Andros Townsend to find an equalizer for Palace.

Arsenal defenders watched intently as Zaha stormed down the Arsenal flank and showcased his quick feet. They then watched the Ivorian international’s slow-moving pass across the Arsenal penalty area, which was calmly slotted home by Townsend in the 50th minute.

Just like that, Palace made it 1-1 for a Pain in the Arse!

Arsenal found the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute, as Sanchez switched from playing the role of provider to goalscorer. The Chilean did well to have a hit as the ball fell to his feet. Sanchez’s sweet strike nutmegged a Palace defender before sneaking past a sprawling Speroni and nestling in the bottom-left corner.

Sanchez wasn’t finished.

Jack Wilshere picked out the streaking Chilean four minutes later, in the 66th minute. Wilshere’s ball over the top of the Palace backline fell nicely to Sanchez, who cooly slotted it past Speroni.

Hector Bellerín looked primed to join the scoresheet in the 81st minute. The Spaniard’s flashing run down the right hand side was nearly capped off by a thumping volley, but Speroni did well to make the stop.

Zaha threatened again in the final five minutes of the match. The Ivorian attempted a header, which instead deflected off his shoulder and sailed just wide of the goal. The Palace winger also had a centering pass that was nearly put away before being cleared off the line.

The Eagles finally managed to knick a goal back in the 89th minute. Palace center-half James Tompkins headed past a diving Čech to provide the home side with a bit of life late in the match.

The latest derby ended in thrilling fashion and 3–2 in favor of the North London side.

With the result, Arsenal moved to fifth in the Premier League, drawing level on 37 points with North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Crystal Palace’s unbeaten run came to an end after 9 matches.

Scoresheet  

Arsenal —

Shkodran Mustafi (25′), Alexis Sanchez (62′, 66′)

Palace —

Andros Townsend (50′), James Tompkins (89′)

Starting XI

Arsenal (3–4–3) 

Čech; Koscielny, Mustafi, Chambers; Kolasinac, Wilshere, Xhaka, Bellerín; Alexis, Lacazette, Özil

Palace (4–4–2)

Speroni; Kelly, Tomkins, Dann, Schlupp; Townsend, Cabaye, Milivojevic, Loftus-Cheek; Zaha, Benteke

Next Match

Arsenal’s final fixture of 2017 is Sunday, Dec. 31 against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Kickoff is slated for 11:30AM EST on NBCSN.

Check back soon for the latest Pain in the Arse! Oo O O to Be.