Five classic Man United v Arsenal FA Cup ties

Old foes Manchester United and Arsenal face off at Old Trafford on Monday in an FA Cup quarter-final that represents both teams’ best hope of winning a trophy this season.

Here, AFP Sports recalls five classic FA Cup encounters between the clubs, who have each won the trophy on a joint-record 11 occasions.

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United — final, Wembley, May 1979

Dubbed ‘The Five-minute Final’. Arsenal appeared to be coasting to victory courtesy of first-half goals from Brian Talbot and future United striker Frank Stapleton, only for Gordon McQueen to bring Dave Sexton’s side back into the game with four minutes remaining. Sammy McIlroy equalised two minutes later, but with United’s fans still celebrating in the Wembley sunshine, Graham Rix crossed from the left for Alan Sunderland to squeeze an 89th-minute winner past Gary Bailey.

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United — semi-final replay, Villa Park, April 1999

The last ever FA Cup semi-final replay was settled by arguably the tournament’s greatest ever goal as United secured a victory that inspired them to a glorious Treble. In a game of dizzying momentum swings, David Beckham put United ahead from long range, only for Dennis Bergkamp to equalise with a deflected shot. United were reduced to 10 men when Roy Keane was sent off and Phil Neville then conceded a last-minute penalty for tripping Ray Parlour. But Peter Schmeichel saved Bergkamp’s spot-kick and in the 19th minute of extra time, a loose pass from Patrick Vieira was picked up on the halfway line by Ryan Giggs, who scythed through Arsenal’s fabled back four before slamming a shot past David Seaman.

Arsenal 0-1 Manchester United — semi-final, Villa Park, April 2004

With second-tier rivals Millwall and Sunderland facing off in the other semi-final at Old Trafford, this last-four tie was seen as a de facto final. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were gunning for a third successive FA Cup success and would finish the season unbeaten as league champions, but Paul Scholes’s emphatic 32nd-minute strike gave United victory and Alex Ferguson’s side comfortably outclassed Millwall in the final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United (Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties) — final, Millennium Stadium, May 2005

United and Arsenal were blown away by newcomer Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the league in 2004-05, but the FA Cup final gave both sides a chance to finish the season with a piece of silverware. Inspired by Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, United were dominant, hitting the woodwork three times, but it was Arsenal who ultimately prevailed on penalties. After Jens Lehmann had saved from Paul Scholes, Patrick Vieira swept home the decisive spot-kick in his final Arsenal game before leaving for Juventus.

Manchester United 4-0 Arsenal — fifth round, Old Trafford, February 2008

The two clubs were on contrasting trajectories — United three months away from a league and Champions League double; Arsenal three years into a trophy drought that would extend for a further six — and it showed in a one-sided affair at Old Trafford. Darren Fletcher scored twice, with Wayne Rooney and Nani also on target, and Nani rubbed salt into Arsenal’s wounds late in the game by audaciously juggling the ball on his head as he ran back towards his own goal, to the visible displeasure of his opponents.

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger salutes strikers as Arsenal maintain revival

Arsene Wenger praised the mental strength of his forwards after Arsenal saw off QPR to make the ideal start to a demanding schedule of five matches in 17 days.

A 2-1 victory at Loftus Road on Wednesday left Arsenal’s manager relieved, with his side’s position in the Premier League’s top four cemented before they focus on overturning a 3-1 deficit in Monaco in two weeks’ time in the Champions League last 16 second leg.

Olivier Giroud missed chances in Arsenal’s home defeat to Monaco which would have given the tie a different complexion at its halfway stage had he taken them.

And Alexis Sanchez had been on a run of seven matches without a goal, but both he and Giroud scored within five second-half minutes to clinch Arsenal’s seventh victory in eight matches, as they maintained their push to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition for an 18th consecutive season.

If they are do so, Giroud and Sanchez will have to fire and Wenger believes this was evidence that they are capable of coming through testing times, in light of recent criticism.

“We were all down after the Monaco game and we responded well against Everton and again today. I think the confidence that we got against Everton paid today,” Wenger said.

“He’s strong mentally, Olivier. He can take some criticism and he’s shown that but I feel it was a bit harsh for him. OK, he missed some chances but that can happen.”

– Selfless moment –

Arsenal had barely threatened Rangers’ goal before Giroud pounced on Kieran Gibbs’ deflected cross to notch up his eighth goal in his last 10 Premier League starts.

Arsenal could have been two goals clear moments later when Sanchez opted to pass when one-on-one with Robert Green, before a more selfless moment allowed him to beat the Rangers goalkeeper at his near post to end his barren run.

“It’s good because when you don’t score for seven or eight games it is on your mind even if you say it’s not,” Wenger added.

“But he took his chance well and he’s tricky and has a short back-lift and scored a good goal. He never gives up and that’s the strength of a good striker as well.

“He’s resilient and I don’t know what happened before. The fact that he still scored showed he has the mental strength to respond.”

Rangers belied their lowly league position until Giroud made the breakthrough, with there being no discernible difference between the side battling for honours and the one fighting for survival.

Arsenal’s class was ultimately enough to win the game, although Rangers gave them a fright when Charlie Austin fired in a superb effort from outside the penalty area with eight minutes remaining.

Rangers manager Chris Ramsey is a boyhood Arsenal fan but could find little satisfaction from his evening.

“I’m just sick for the players today, sick for the way that we’ve not got anything out of the game,” he said.

“The players know that we are in the situation now because we haven’t maximised our abilities, and they know that and are trying to address it.

“What happens is you end up where you are now because probably we’ve been relying too much on Charlie’s goal efforts.”

Reflecting on images of his friend and former Tottenham colleague Tim Sherwood rejoicing after a crucial win as manager of relegation rivals Aston Villa last night, Ramsey added: “There’s nothing worse than seeing your rivals celebrating.

“Hopefully it will be us celebrating at the weekend, but we really can’t focus on the other teams.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Rapid-fire Gunners see off QPR

Arsenal maintained their push for a Champions League place as two goals in five second-half minutes gave them a 2-1 victory over QPR at Loftus Road on Wednesday.

Arsene Wenger’s men stand on the brink of elimination from Europe’s elite competition after losing their last 16 first leg against Monaco, but they remain on course for a return next season as they clinched their seventh win in eight matches thanks to goals from Oliver Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.

The third placed Gunners, one point ahead of Manchester United, started their first of five games in 17 days in worryingly sluggish form but their attacking weapons eventually came good in the 64th and 69th minute, although Charlie Austin’s drive gave the struggling hosts hope eight minutes from time.

Neither side were able to find any kind of rhythm to their game in the opening exchanges.

QPR’s Brazilian midfielder Sandro returned to action after three and a half months out with a knee injury, and he was instrumental in ensuring Arsenal were not able to maintain fluency in their passing game.

Indeed there was little to entertain in the opening 45 minutes aside from the positive running of Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin and a trio of sweetly-struck shots from Austin.

Gabriel Paulista was making his second Premier League start at the heart of Arsenal’s defence as Wenger looked to use his physicality in nullifying that of Rangers striker Bobby Zamora.

But the former Villarreal defender’s slip on the edge of his area was almost costly, allowing Zamora to tee up Austin for a second stinging drive that Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina held at the second attempt.

Gabriel then limped off to be replaced by Laurent Koscielny, just before Austin inched even closer from distance.

Arsenal finally got their trademark one-touch play going a minute before half-time, with Santi Cazorla jinking his way into the area before forcing a decent save from Robert Green.

But the game did not deserve a goal at half-time and it was difficult to distinguish which side had started the day third from top of the division and which one was third from bottom.

– Creative talents –

Arsenal continued after the break looking alarmingly short on quality for a team possessing the rich creative talents of Sanchez, Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Mesut Ozil.

But just as they were looking bereft of ideas they conjured their opening goal on the break.

Sanchez burst into the area and found Gibbs on the overlap, with Clint Hill’s challenge taking enough pace off Kieran Gibbs’ cross for it to drop invitingly for Giroud to crash in his eighth goal in his last ten league appearances.

From then on it was as if Arsenal had forgotten the previous 63 minutes, as Sanchez went close from the edge of the area before they had their second goal five minutes after their first.

It came about partly due to the inexperience of Rangers right-back Darnell Furlong, 19, and partly due to the brilliance of Sanchez, as he twisted and turned his way into a position to beat Green from a tight angle at his near post.

Green then had to palm a deflected Ozil effort onto the post as the Gunners threatened to run away with the game.

But with time running out, Rangers poured forward and got back into the game when a Matt Phillips pass found Austin to fire in his 15th league goal of the season.

Ultimately it proved a mere consolation for the hosts as they slipped to a sixth defeat in seven matches, leaving them three points adrift of safety.

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal boss Wenger praises Giroud’s mental strength

Arsene Wenger praised Olivier Giroud’s mental strength and insisted he was never tempted to rest the striker after his misfiring display against Monaco.

Giroud had been replaced after missing a number of chances during the 3-1 Champions League defeat.

But Arsenal manager Wenger kept faith in the forward as his side bounced back in the Premier League with Giroud scoring the first in a 2-0 victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium.

The manager said: “Oliver has one great quality when he has his back to the wall. He has the personality and the strength to respond.

“Because I know him better now, it is one of the reasons I kept him in the team. Because he was not one out, he acknowledged that he missed his game and when he is conscious of it, he will respond because he has the strength to do it.

“I think he responded very well. I am not just happy because he scored a goal but as well for the work-rate he put in today from the first to the last minute as well.

“He is an important player in the box with his presence up front. Even defensively. He played only an hour the other night so those ingredients were important in my decision to select him.”

Giroud put Arsenal ahead in the 31st minute and Tomas Rosicky wrapped up the victory that keeps Arsenal third with a deflected 89th minute effort.

Wenger added: “I am very proud of the response we have shown today. Our defensive concentration was at a much higher level than on Wednesday night. We know with the ball we can do better but overall what was important for us was to respond with a win and we got that.

“Not everyone can produce that after such a disappointment and it was vital for us for the rest of the season to win the game today.”

Wenger handed a first Premier League start to Gabriel Paulista and the defender drew praise from his manager.

Wenger said: “He had an encouraging performance overall. He was once or twice surprised by the intensity of the challenges but overall he made as well, especially in the first half, a great tackle against Romelu Lukaku in the box. He was highly focussed. A good concentration level. He is quick.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez was left frustrated after a defeat that means his side have won just once in their last eleven league games.

Nonetheless, Martinez sees grounds for optimism and insists his side is improving.

He said: “I think the second goal was a reflection of our season. We have six players in good positions and it ends up in the back of the net.

“You read the 2-0 scoreline but it doesn’t reflect our game and that’s story of our season. We have never had the momentum you need to win games by doing enough. We have had to be perfect to win games and that is something we have to change in the next eleven games.

“Maybe a bit harsh but when we came back in pre season we had incredible high hopes of being able to carry on where we finished last season.

“But we had two games when we dropped four points in the last minutes and psychologically it felt very, very tough to enjoy our football. It’s been more of a chore having to get those points and I don’t see that enjoyment in the league.

“But I do feel the group is becoming stronger. The dressing room now is really down, something we shouldn’t be sharing after a performance like that at Arsenal, but young players going through these experiences could be the final tick for fulfilling our potential and becoming a winning team.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger happy to see Arsenal win ugly

Arsene Wenger insisted he had no problems watching Arsenal win ugly as the Gunners ground out a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.

Wenger’s sides have traditionally excelled at overwhelming opponents with their flowing football, only to crumble against teams that pose a more physical challenge.

But they showed a much-needed resiliency to resist Palace’s aggressive approach at Selhurst Park on Saturday and climb to third place in the Premier League, even though they had a late scare when Glenn Murray pulled a goal back in stoppage-time and then hit the post with a header in the dying seconds.

After scoring early and late in the first half through Santi Cazorla’s eighth-minute penalty and Olivier Giroud’s close-range finish, Arsenal faced an onslaught in the second half and they rose to the challenge.

“It was about fighting and playing,” Wenger said. “Crystal Palace is a team which plays with a lot of intensity and with a very direct game.

“It was important for us to resist. We did that well. After going in 2-0 up at half-time we came out in the second half much more to protect our lead.

“When it came back to 2-1 we were a bit fortunate. But in the end it was a very important win for us.”

It was on January 18, in the 2-0 victory away to Manchester City, that Wenger’s men first showed that they could mix style with steel in challenging away games, and here they needed all the stubbornness that Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny could muster in the centre of defence, as well as Francis Coquelin in front of them.

Even so, Arsenal almost conceded a late equaliser, and Wenger admitted that it had been a narrow escape.

“Certainly, they thought: ‘It’s done’,” Wenger said. “But you know in the Premier League, it’s never done, especially at 2-0. The players switched off too early.

“But our defenders played very well here against a very physical game. We just continue to fight.”

Palace manager Alan Pardew was proud of his team’s battling spirit and of the way they refused to be overawed by Arsenal.

And, despite a second successive defeat, he believes the players will gain in confidence over the rest of the season as a result.

“The first goal was tough on us because it looked like the incident was outside the box and the second was offside,” he said.

“But we continued with the game plan and I was very pleased with the reaction.

“We took a tactical decision to take the game to Arsenal and it’s probably the best we’ve played since I’ve been manager.

“In the second half we stayed on the front foot and took the game to Arsenal.”

Pardew felt it was only bad luck, when Murray’s late effort hit a post, that denied the Eagles what would have been a remarkable escape.

“The chance when it hit that post and it fell into the goalkeeper’s hands summed our day up,” he said.

“I thought it was going to spin into the net. There was some great team play and probably the best players were on our team.

“We had some great individual performances. If there is one criticism, we should have taken our shots earlier. Our final moment in that box needs to improve but we are not far away from being a decent team.

“But we’ve lost and sometimes that happens. We’ll have to take this confidence into the game against West Ham next Saturday.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Walcott encouraged by Arsenal’s fast starts

Theo Walcott believes Arsenal’s first-half form has been the key to the club’s change in fortunes since the turn of the year.

Arsene Wenger’s side travel to face Crystal Palace on Saturday looking for their eighth victory in nine games since the defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day.

That run, blemished only by defeat at Tottenham two weeks ago, has fired up the Gunners’ top four challenge and earned an FA Cup quarter-final meeting with Manchester United.

A feature of Arsenal’s recent form has been their ability to conjure an early goal that has allowed them to take a grip on the game.

Last weekend it was a double strike from Olivier Giroud midway during the first half that effectively killed off Championship club Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round.

And England winger Walcott maintains Arsenal’s ability to work up an early head of steam has helped generate belief within the side.

“The confidence has come from the way we are starting games,” Walcott said.

“The manager has put in our heads that we need to start well, particularly from the front and pressurise the ball well.

“You need the fans behind you so getting that early goal settles them and the players down.

“We have maybe been working a lot harder in training. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but everyone relates to each other and knows their weaknesses and positives. It is working well.”

Walcott credits the improvements made at the back with helping move Wenger’s side up to fifth place, a point behind fourth-placed Southampton going into the latest round of matches.

“Keeping clean sheets will mean we win games because we always know we are going to score goals and we’ve continued to do that in recent weeks,” he said.

“Things are paying off for us at the moment so we just need to make sure we take it into the next few weeks.”

– Wilshere returns –

Wenger’s team will be boosted by the return of England midfielder Jack Wilshere for the trip to Selhurst Park.

Wilshere returned to full training last week after damaging ankle ligaments against Manchester United in November and is expected to take a place on the bench.

But Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are out, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Flamini and Hector Bellerin are doubtful.

Palace have been revived since the arrival of Alan Pardew, losing just one of five Premier League games since the former Newcastle manager took charge.

Last weekend’s FA Cup defeat at home to Liverpool ensured the club’s remaining target is to build on their recent run and secure a mid-table finish.

Palace striker Marouane Chamakh will have an added incentive to do well against his former club after a disappointing stay at the Emirates Stadium.

Pardew believes the Morocco international has benefitted from being given a more prominent role at his new club and said: “I think he’s grown in confidence and sometimes only games can do that for you.

“You know he was in and out at Arsenal, it’s a difficult club to break through. For players like Chamakh, sometimes it’s best to move away and find yourself and he has found himself and he’s an asset to us.”

Palace forward Yaya Sanogo, on loan from Arsenal, is ineligible to face his parent club and having lost Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak to extended international duty last month, Pardew admits he has not yet had the opportunity to field his strongest side.

“We’ve not actually got it all together and I don’t think this weekend we will because we’re not quite there,” Pardew said.

“This is a bonus game for us in a way because no one will expect us to get anything outside of Crystal Palace.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Giroud a different player now, says Arsenal boss Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes Olivier Giroud has transformed as a player during his time at Arsenal, as the French striker scored twice at the Emirates to beat Middlesbrough 2-0 and send the FA Cup holders into the quarter-finals.

Giroud hit two goals in two minutes just before the half-hour, with Wenger especially pleased with the manner of the goals.

The first, after 27 minutes, came at the end of a flowing move than involved every player in the Arsenal starting XI. The second, on 29 minutes, involved a piece of quick thinking as Giroud reacted first to Alexis Sanchez’s rapidly taken corner.

Wenger believes the finishing, at the least, is the product of the evolution Giroud has undergone since arriving at the Emirates in 2012.

“I believe Giroud is a different player from the guy who arrived here,” Wenger said.

“He understands what top-level football demands, works with great concentration in training, improved on his mobility, technical quality. Of course his body is very strong and he uses it very well.”

Wenger was also hugely enthused with how the different characteristics of both goals showed alternate qualities of his side.

“The first goal is what we tried to do in our build-up,” Wenger said.

“The second goal shows the game belongs to the players as well. It’s a consequence of two players who respond quickly to a situation and analysing quickly what they want to do well. That’s basically what it was, a consequence of intelligence and technique.”

The other main positive for Arsenal, from what was a very easy win, was the performance of new signing Gabriel Paulista.

The defender prevented one Middlesbrough attack with a hugely industrial foul, but was generally composed.

“It was interesting to observe Gabriel today,” said Wenger.

“His first game in a cup game which we had absolutely to win, he showed important qualities, great concentration, great urgency to defend, good pace, especially on the recovery tackle he made in the box.

“He played a little bit with the handbrake because he didn’t want to make a mistake.

“From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot to come.”

– eager Sanchez –

Wenger believes the strong team he picked indicates his desire to defend the FA Cup, as he revealed Alexis Sanchez was again eager to play, despite expectation he might be rested.

“Alexis became strong as the game went on. I took a gamble, and took him off with 20 minutes to play.

“He always wants to play. Everybody is like that, but he is bit more like that. He didn’t miss too many games.

“What was important for him was to get through without injury.”

Aitor Karanka meanwhile said he “didn’t like anything” about Middlesbrough’s first-half performance, as his side — who have rightfully received much praise this season, not least for the defeat of Manchester City in the fourth round — were simply brushed away.

The Spaniard said that earlier victory might have made his players think the game would be “easier” and that they were far from the “perfect” level shown at the Etihad.

“If you want to take something from games against Arsenal today, you have to be perfect, like at Etihad Stadium and you have to take advantage of your chances. If you make mistakes, it’s difficult.

“I don’t know if it’s frustration. A little bit disappointed because everybody was expecting a game like against Liverpool or Man City. This is my biggest concern. We didn’t go to the pitch in the way we usually go.

“The second half was better, but the first half I didn’t like anything.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal climb to fourth after holding off Leicester

Arsenal got back on track after their derby misery with a 2-1 victory over Leicester that lifted the Gunners into fourth place in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side had slumped to a dispiriting late defeat against north London rivals Tottenham on Saturday, but they rebounded at the Emirates Stadium thanks to first half goals from Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott.

It was hardly Arsenal’s most dominant display and they had to survive a Leicester fightback in the second half following Andrej Kramaric’s strike for the visitors.

But Wenger, whose team will drop back down to fifth if Manchester United beat Burnley on Wednesday, will be relieved to see his team’s morale wasn’t damaged by that derby defeat at the weekend.

The only downside for Arsenal was an injury to Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

The result was another blow for Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, who had been under huge pressure following his touchline scuffle with Crystal Palace’s James McArthur and then speculation on Sunday that he had been sacked.

But, as impressive as this display was, it doesn’t alleviate Leicester’s situation and they are now five points adrift of safety.

What will infuriate Pearson, more than any opposition player accidentally sliding into him as McArthur did, was the more deliberate barge which set up Koscielny’s opening goal.

While Riyad Mahrez had enjoyed the freedom of the home side’s left flank before seeing a show narrowly deflected wide by David Ospina, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil had to graft to eke out their first chance of the game.

A fine ball from the German put Walcott through, only for Mark Schwarzer to stand up strong, and the goalkeeper then pushed away another Ozil shot minutes later.

It was from the resulting 27th minute corner, though, that all Leicester’s hard work was undone.

As Ozil whipped in the set-piece, Sanchez barged Paul Konchesky aside, and Koscielny was left with enough open space to easily guide the ball in.

– Deeper damage –

Leicester continued to gamely battle, but there was a feeling the deeper damage had been done.

By the end of the half, Arsenal were ripping them apart, and starting to create chances at will.

Eventually, Arsenal broke through again as Ozil battered a shot at Schwarzer.

The goalkeeper could only parry it into the path of Walcott, who emphatically volleyed it into the net on 41 minutes.

It could easily have been 3-0 just before the break, as Leicester were forced into increasingly desperate challenges to keep the home side at bay.

After what had been in a hugely tepid start, in which Arsenal genuinely seemed to have been affected by the weekend’s defeat, they had rediscovered their recent verve, only to relax a little too much again.

Wenger’s side offered little once the second half started, and it wasn’t long until Leicester let them know they were in a match.

By the 61st minute, impressive new signing Kramaric had already brought a fine save from David Ospina before forcing a corner.

That broke to the edge of the box to Kramaric, who fired home to make it 2-1.

Suddenly, it was Leicester again doing all the running, with Mahrez back in the game.

He almost made it 2-2 on 73 minutes, but his surge and shot finished narrowly outside Ospina’s post.

Kramaric was presented with another opportunity 11 minutes from the end but, with Arsenal defenders closing in, he opted to try and chip the ball over the goalkeeper.

Ospina caught it, and the home side were able to catch their breath.

They survived until the end, but substitute Ramsey didn’t, as he had to go off injured just minutes after coming on.

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal eager to hunt down Foxes after derby despair

Arsenal will try to recover from their north London derby defeat by Tottenham Hotspur when they face bottom-of-the-table Leicester City at the Emirates on Tuesday.

The Gunners have become synonymous with managerial stability during French boss Arsene Wenger’s more than 18 years in charge of the club.

Leicester, by contrast, were compelled to issue a statement late Sunday insisting Nigel Pearson was still their manager.

A whirlwind 24 hours followed City’s home defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday that left them rooted at the foot of the Premier League table, with earlier suggestions that their manager of three-and-a-half years had been sacked proving incorrect.

Both sides will have a point to prove, with Arsenal anxious to revive their bid for a top four finish, having fallen to sixth after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Spurs.

The Gunners will be strengthened by the return of Alexis Sanchez to the squad after the Chile forward was forced to sit out the trip to White Hart Lane with a hamstring problem.

And they will draw some comfort from the fact Manchester United failed to beat West Ham on Sunday, with the 1-1 draw ensuring Louis Van Gaal’s fourth-placed side remain within touching distance, with just a two-point gap separating Arsenal from the Dutchman’s team.

On paper, Tuesday’s match should be a routine victory for Wenger’s side who cruised to a 5-0 victory over Aston Villa on their last home outing.

But events at Leicester have added an element of uncertainty and Wenger was keen to see a positive response from his players.

– Focus –

“It’s not the first time we have lost a game but how we bounce back is to take the information from what we got and respond very quickly against Leicester. We must be ready to respond.

“Overall, there’s a long way to go this season. I believe that we must just keep going and recover, show quickly a strong response and then we see where we stand after that.

“We just must focus on us as there are lots of teams battling to get in there (for the top four).”

Wenger was unsure as to whether Sanchez would be in the starting line-up or on the substitutes’ bench.

But his return in any first-team capacity will be welcomed after Arsenal and England striker Danny Welbeck admitted the Gunners fell short up front against Spurs.

Welbeck returned at Tottenham after a month out and conceded there was plenty of room for improvement.

“As a team, going forward we didn’t do as well as we could have done and they took advantage of that,” Welbeck said.

“It was really disappointing and on a personal level it was difficult for me to get back in the swing of things after being out for a few weeks,” the former Manchester United forward added.

“We’ve got a couple of days turnover and then we’ve got another game in the Premier League, so we’ve got to prepare well for that game.”

Results this season have made Pearson’s position increasingly vulnerable and a touchline spat with James McArthur after the Palace midfielder had collided with the Leicester manager did not help matters.

But the Englishman has remained in charge for the Arsenal game.

“It’s very easy to be downbeat and negative about results like the Crystal Palace one but we can’t do anything about it now,” Pearson said after Saturday’s match — before Sunday’s stream of speculation about his future.

“If people want to write us off, then fine, we’ll dust ourselves down and get on with it on Tuesday against Arsenal.

“In a game against Palace, who are a side that have had some good results recently but were relatively close to us before Saturday, we needed to keep them as close, or bring them even closer.

“We’ve failed to do that because we’ve not really been able to take the chances that we created, and that’s disappointing for us.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Kane the star as Spurs overtake Arsenal

Local hero Harry Kane scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur leapfrogged Champions League qualification rivals Arsenal by coming from behind to win a pulsating north London derby 2-1 on Saturday.

Mesut Ozil volleyed Arsenal in front at White Hart Lane, but a ferocious Tottenham onslaught saw Kane net a 56th-minute equaliser before heading in a sensational winner four minutes from time.

The home-grown striker’s double, his 21st and 22nd goals of the campaign, took Spurs into the Champions League places and left Mauricio Pochettino’s side a point above Arsenal, who fell to sixth.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was presiding over his 700th Premier League game and he made one change to the team that had crushed Aston Villa 5-0 last weekend, with Danny Welbeck replacing Theo Walcott.

After Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina had denied Kane, Welbeck created the opener in the 11th minute, steaming past Danny Rose and picking out Olivier Giroud, whose miscued shot was volleyed home by Ozil.

It was to prove the cue for a wave of Spurs attacks, with Ospina saving from Rose and Ryan Mason while Rose, Erik Lamela and Kane shot off-target.

Arsenal’s resistance crumbled 11 minutes into the second half, when 21-year-old Kane tucked home at the back post after Mousa Dembele’s near-post header was parried by Ospina.

The action swung from end to end thereafter — Ospina thwarting Dembele and Nabil Bentaleb; Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saving from Welbeck and Laurent Koscielny — before Kane settled it.

Bentaleb bent a cross into the box from the left and Kane rose above Koscielny to plant a textbook header inside Ospina’s right-hand post.

Southampton will look to reclaim third place later on Saturday when they visit second-bottom Queens Park Rangers, who are without a manager following the resignation of Harry Redknapp.

The top two are both in action, with leaders Chelsea visiting Aston Villa and champions Manchester City hosting Hull City, before Liverpool visit Everton for Steven Gerrard’s last Merseyside derby.

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal in search of derby delight despite Sanchez setback

Per Mertesacker remains confident Arsenal can overcome north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur this weekend although Alexis Sanchez will be absent from the Gunners’ line-up.

Sanchez has been ruled out of Saturday’s trip to White Hart Lane after failing to recover from the hamstring that kept him out of Arsenal’s comfortable 5-0 victory over Aston Villa last weekend.

The loss of the Chile forward is a blow to Arsene Wenger’s side as they attempt to repeat their success in last season’s corresponding fixture in March.

While Arsenal make the short journey to the home of their nearest neighbours and fiercest rivals full of confidence after an impressive recent run, Spurs are also heading into the game in good form.

Gunners centre-back Mertesacker knows Mauricio Pochettino’s men will present a testing challenge as Wenger’s side attempt to extend their run of five straight victories.

But the Germany international believes the key will be whether Arsenal can maintain their defensive solidity that has produced four clean-sheets in their last five games and left them level on points with fourth-placed Southampton heading into this weekend’s round of Premier League fixtures.

“We know from recent years that defensive unity is vital especially against our north London rivals, so we have to be really cautious on the defensive front,” Mertesacker said.

“We did very well last season, as we scored very early and then defended well until the end, so it’s going to be the target for this year.”

Arsenal have reacted well to the New Year’s Day defeat by Southampton and their sequence of victories have moved the Emirates Stadium club back to the brink of the top four and in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Only goal difference is keeping Arsenal out of the Champions League places at present, with Tottenham one place and two points behind.

The loss of Sanchez will be partly eased by the return of Danny Welbeck to the squad for the first time since the former Manchester United forward featured in the victory over West Ham in late December.

Arsenal manager Wenger said: “The latest is that Alexis is not ready. He is not far away, the Leicester game is a possibility. He is of course very difficult to keep quiet! He is training but it’s light training.

“Welbeck is back in the group,” the Frenchman added. “Apart from that we have the same squad available as last week.”

– Adebayor uncertainty –

Tottenham’s build-up to the match has been overshadowed by a row over the future of striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

The Togo forward was keen to leave White Hart Lane and join West Ham United but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy refused to sanction the move.

Adebayor has found himself out of Pochettino’s line-up but the manager is happy to put the uncertainty surrounding the future of the forward and a number of other fringe players behind him.

“Always when the window arrives always different situations and different things happen, but now it is good because it’s finished and we all need to be focused to try to help the team,” said Spurs boss Pochettino.

“The players are focused and try to help,” the Argentinian added.

“I’m very happy. We have a very good squad.”

The future of Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid target Hugo Lloris has also been questioned but Pochettino is convinced the France goalkeeper will stay with Spurs.

“Hugo is happy here with us,” he said. He is very happy. It is difficult for this type of club to get him because Hugo is happy here.

“He is happy here and maybe in the future, in his mind, he is playing in the Champions League with Tottenham.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger warns Wilshere to ‘master his life’

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Jack Wilshere he must “master his life” after confirming the Gunners midfielder had apologised for being photographed holding a shisha pipe at a nightclub.

Wilshere, 23, who is nearing a return to first-team action following ankle surgery, generated unwelcome headlines after pictures were posted on social media following a night out in London.

It was not the first time Wilshere has found himself in an unflattering photograph after he was pictured smoking in Las Vegas last year with England goalkeeper Joe Hart after the World Cup.

Wenger, speaking Friday ahead of Arsenal’s north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, said Wilshere had apologised and that the player had been reminded of his responsibilities.

“I have spoken with him about that (smoking) and he is not a smoker,” Wenger said. He is of course sorry for what has happened.

“It is down to him to master his life. He had the day off the next day and he went out to watch the Super Bowl.

“When he is here he has to follow the rules that we dictate here. When he is out of his job, it is his own responsibility to behave like he wants to behave.”

The veteran French manager added: “I believe his photo has been taken at half past 12 when he watched the Super Bowl. I don’t know any more of what happened and it’s not of a big interest.”

Thursday saw Wilshere post a video of himself in training as he recovered from ankle surgery along with the message: “Worry about your character not your reputation, because your character is who you are and your reputation is only what people who don’t know you think about you!”

Wenger added Friday that much of the recent publicity surrounding Wilshere was unfair to a player whose career has been blighted by injury.

“You are always worried for your players that they get what they don’t deserve, but I think I observe him well and he behaves in a very professional way,” Wenger said.

“Jack has gone through some bad spells in his career and always recovered.

“It would be wrong to give him that kind of (bad) reputation because he is a serious player and he works very hard.

“He is two weeks ahead of schedule in his (recovery) training, and you don’t do that if you are not serious.”

Wenger also told reporters: “You have been 20 as well. You need sometimes to relieve the pressure a bit.

“Today it is much more difficult because everywhere you go people make photos and a photo shows one second of your life.

“It doesn’t define who you are,” added Wenger, who took action against Wojciech Szczesny after it emerged the Arsenal goalkeeper had smoked a cigarette in the showers following the 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day.

Arsenal have won their last five games and Wenger warned that a fully-fit Wilshere would not be guaranteed a first-team place.

“Any player has a battle in our squad now,” he said.

Photo Credits : AFP

Gabriel swoop gives Wenger renewed hope

Arsene Wenger believes his swoop for Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista could prove a turning point in Arsenal’s battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Wenger splashed out £11.5 million ($17 million) to sign Gabriel from Villarreal earlier this week and the 24-year-old could make his debut against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Gabriel’s arrival comes with Arsenal in the midst of a tense struggle to book their place in next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The fifth placed Gunners trail fourth placed Manchester United by one point and are also scrapping with Southampton and Tottenham for the coveted berths in Europe’s elite club competition.

But, after a series of injuries threatened to undermine Arsenal’s already fragile back-four, Wenger is confident Gabriel will be able to immediately solidify his defence, even though he doesn’t speak a word of English yet.

“He is a specialist at centre-back and with the fixtures we have in front of us, that is needed,” Wenger said.

“What I saw was a great quality for a defender, his level of concentration.

“He is physically able to adapt to the Premier League because he is quite a good size and is quick as well, has great commitment in the challenges and is a good age for a central defender as well.

“You always need time to adapt, especially in a defensive position because you need to know your partners.

“At the moment he does not speak a word of English and that can cost you goals, if you mix going forwards with going backwards, so you need to you need to communicate.

“We try to teach the important words, for example — offside or look at the linesman!

“But first and above all, we need a collective effort to defend well.”

– No manic Monday –

After starting 2015 with a dispiriting loss at Southampton, the north Londoners have reeled off four successive victories — two in the league and two in the FA Cup — to restore morale and give Wenger confidence that he doesn’t need to spend Monday’s final day of the transfer window in a frantic bid to land more new signings.

“If I wake up in the morning and somebody is stood in front of my door who is an exceptional player, I will open the door,” he said.

“Number wise, we look all right now, and quality as well.

“I always left it late in the past because we could not finish the deals before.”

Arsenal’s 2-0 win at champions Manchester City in their last league match put them right back into the top four race, but Wenger won’t be happy until his notoriously inconsistent side produce that kind of dynamic display on a regular basis.

“We know we have some ground to make up and the fight around the top four is very difficult, the target is consistency now,” said Wenger, who hopes Chile forward Alexis Sanchez will pass a late fitness test on a hamstring injury in time to face Villa.

Villa manager Paul Lambert is also hoping for great things from a new signing after landing Scott Sinclair on loan from Manchester City.

The 25-year-old has made just 12 appearances for City since joining them back in 2012 but, despite joining a struggling Villa team, Lambert is confident Sinclair will make the most of his latest opportunity to fulfil his potential.

“I’m thankful we got the deal done because I think he’s a player with great unfulfilled potential,” Lambert said.

“In hindsight, maybe for his own playing career, the Manchester City move was not a good one for him.

“I’m pretty sure he will have learnt a lot in football terms from it. Now’s the time he can kick on and get his career up and running.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal sign Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal

Arsenal have signed Brazilian defender Gabriel from Villarreal, with Joel Campbell agreeing a new long-term deal prior to a loan move to the La Liga side. Primarily a centre back, 6ft 1in Gabriel (full name Gabriel Armando de Abreu) can also play at left back or right back. This season the 24-year-old was an ever present in the Villarreal side that conceded just 17 goals in their first 19 La Liga matches and has gone 18 games unbeaten.

He began his career with Esporte Clube Vitória in Brazil, making his debut aged 19 before going on to feature more than 130 times for the Salvador club. Arsenal have been granted a work permit for Gabriel and the transfer is subject to the completion of further registration and regulatory processes.

Gabriel said: “I came from a club that is not that big in Brazilian football. I went to Spanish football and that was another dream come true, to play in Europe. A while ago I had a really huge desire to play in the Premier League, so since that point I put it in my head that I really wanted to do it. I had a talk with my family and I told them that it was my dream to play in the Premier League. Getting here to such a big club is so gratifying.

“I am arriving at a big club and the fans can expect to find a Gabriel with a great will to help everyone. Not just thinking of me as an individual, because to me that is not important. I care more about helping the team and my team-mates. I want to help everyone, so the fans can expect a Gabriel that on the field has a lot of will to be able to help the team win important things.”

FA Cup draw: Arsenal will play Middlesbrough in fifth round

Holders Arsenal have been drawn against Championship side Middlesbrough in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Aitor Karanka’s side knocked out Manchester City in the fourth round and will visit Emirates Stadium on the weekend of 14 and 15 February.

League One side Bradford City are rewarded for eliminating Chelsea with a home tie against Sunderland or Fulham. The winners of the replay between Cambridge United and Manchester United will visit Preston or Sheffield United.

Crystal Palace will host either Liverpool or Bolton Wanderers, while there are all-Premier League ties between Aston Villa and Leicester City, and West Brom and West Ham.

After beating Rochdale on Monday, Stoke will visit Championship side Blackburn Rovers in the next round. The final tie is an all-Championship affair between Derby County and Reading.

 

FA Cup holders Arsenal emboldened by Man City win

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his side have been strengthened by their victory over Manchester City last weekend, as they continue their FA Cup defence at Brighton and Hove Albion.

The north London club travel to Championship outfit Brighton on Sunday, seven days on from their superb 2-0 win over Premier League champions City at the Etihad Stadium.

Wenger believes that landmark success — Arsenal’s first away win against either City, Manchester United or Chelsea since October 2011 — will allow his side to become better as the season progresses.

“We had a very controlled performance with a great solidarity and a great togetherness — that’s always a very good basis,” said the Frenchman.

“Everybody contributed with hard work, great work-rate. Can we keep that focus on our qualities and improve our technical level? We can only get stronger.

“What happened over the weekend helps the team to strengthen our confidence, of course. I think the attitude of the players since the start of the season, on their desire to do well and their solidarity, has been extremely good.

“The basics have not changed. We certainly have more belief and more strength in our belief.”

Arsenal travelled to the Amex Stadium at the same stage of the competition two years ago and required a late Theo Walcott goal to secure a 3-2 victory.

And Wenger is well aware of the challenge that Chris Hughton’s men will pose on the English south coast.

“It’s always difficult in the Championship away from home and we remember Brighton from two years ago,” Wenger said.

“I remember that it was a very difficult game against a team who were on the way up. They were fighting at the top level with Gus Poyet.

“It was a very difficult game. We needed to dig deep to get out with a positive result. We know that it will be another big challenge for us to go there and come home with a good result.

“Chris Hughton will give them his experience and his competence, of course. He knows how to prepare a team for a challenge like that.”

– ‘Be a threat’ –

Sunday’s tie is Hughton’s fifth game in charge of Brighton since he replaced Sami Hyypia as manager.

The former Newcastle United and Norwich City manager wants his side to be defensively sound against the Premier League big boys, but believes they can cause Arsenal problems at the other end of the pitch.

“When you are up against the quality of what Arsenal will bring, irrespective of whatever changes they make, you know it is going to be a top-class team,” he said.

“So you have got to make sure you contain the game, but you have to be a threat because for the longer periods you defend, you are going to be at the risk of conceding.

“In the moments when we can be expansive and play the way that we want to, then we will certainly look to do that, but of course we know to get a result we are going to have to defend, and defend very well.”

Brighton have received a double fitness boost with Craig Mackail-Smith and Jake Forster-Caskey back in contention after ankle and hip injuries respectively.

The pair missed Brighton’s 3-2 home win over Ipswich Town on Wednesday, which left the 1983 FA Cup finalists in 19th place in the second flight.

Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) and full-back Hector Bellerin (ankle) face late fitness tests ahead of the game.

Fit-again duo Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil are both in contention to start, along with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has not played since Arsenal’s 2-0 loss at Southampton on New Year’s Day.

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal masterclass sets standard, says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that his side had established a benchmark for the rest of their season after recording an impressive 2-0 victory at Manchester City.

Santi Cazorla scored from the penalty spot and set up Olivier Giroud for a 67th-minute header on Sunday as Arsenal registered a first away win against a team defending the Premier League title since May 2002.

As well as leaving City five points adrift of leaders Chelsea in the title race, the result took Arsenal to within a point of the Champions League places and Wenger called on his players to build on their display.

Asked if it could prove a significant victory, the Frenchman told his post-match press conference: “Time will tell. What is for sure is that it increases the level of belief and confidence.

“The five months in front of us are very important in the lifespan of the team. What you make of that will of course decide our season. Games like that can help (you) to do very well.”

Cazorla’s performance earned warm praise from both his teammates and his manager, with Aaron Ramsey describing him as “different class” and Wenger branding the 30-year-old Spaniard “superb”.

“Since Cazorla plays centrally — he has played a lot wide — I think now he’s at a level of his career where centrally he can have more influence,” said Wenger, whose team visit Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup this weekend.

“He is fantastic because he gets you out of pressure in very tight situations and finds openings that are very interesting.

“He’s a good example for young players. He shows as well how important it is to be two-footed in the middle of the park. I think it’s a vital quality for a midfielder today.

“On top of that, he always likes to have the ball. He passionately loves the game.”

Arsenal were dealt some humiliating away defeats last season, losing 6-3 at City, 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-0 at Chelsea in Wenger’s 1,000th game at the club, but they defended with discipline and resilience on Sunday.

– ‘We didn’t have ideas’ –

With Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tucking in from wide positions, Arsenal succeeded in smothering City’s midfielders, and Ramsey felt it was the key to their success.

“We felt like in the past we were too open, but today (Sunday) we definitely defended as a team and did not give any room in the middle for David Silva to get into those little pockets he loves,” the Welshman told Sky Sports.

“We forced them wide and we dealt with it. And obviously we took advantage of our chances going forward.”

City manager Manuel Pellegrini was left to rue the moment mid-way through the first half when fit-again captain Vincent Kompany conceded a penalty by stepping across the path of Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal.

“I think it was not a penalty,” said the Chilean, whose side badly missed the muscular promptings of the absent Yaya Toure, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.

“The movement of Vincent was unnecessary. I think it was a very important action because we were nervous after the goal. But I don’t want to have the excuse that the referee whistled for Arsenal.”

Pellegrini attributed City’s defeat to an absence of invention in possession and called for an improvement ahead of his side’s showdown at Chelsea on January 31.

“The game we must play at Stamford Bridge is a very important game,” he said, following his side’s first loss in 15 matches.

“We must close the gap again to two points. We’ll see in that game what will happen, but I hope that we are going to recover the way we are playing so far, except this game.

“We run a lot and we work a lot and we are a very aggressive team without the ball, but with the ball we didn’t have the ideas.”

Photo Credits : AFP

‘Amazing’ Cazorla impresses Henry

Arsenal great Thierry Henry praised the performance of Santi Cazorla after the Spain midfielder starred in the Gunners’ 2-0 win away to Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday.

Cazorla gave Arsenal the lead with a 24th-minute penalty and provided the free-kick from which Olivier Giroud headed the visitors into a 2-0 lead midway through the second half.

But it was the way in which Cazorla ran Arsenal’s midfield throughout the match at the Etihad Stadium that caught the eye of Henry, who was making his debut as a pundit for Sky Sports television.

“What a game Santi Cazorla had today,” Henry said.

“I said before the game that people mention (Alexis) Sanchez, don’t forget about Cazorla when he plays in the middle,” added Henry, Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer.

“You can see what he can do and what he has done today… Amazing,” said the former France forward.

“Even the way he talked at the end. He just said to everybody straight away, ‘that’s how we have to play next game’, and that speaks volumes of the spirit of the guy.

“He controlled that midfield. To come and play the way he played here at the Etihad is just outstanding.”

Henry also highlighted the way Arsenal, often criticised for a surfeit of ‘meaningless’ possession, were happy to let City have the ball in unthreatening areas of the pitch while the Gunners’ sometimes suspect defence kept things tight at the back.

“Today they defended well as a unit and they were brilliant at the end of the day,” he said.

“It does not matter if you have the ball or you do not have the ball — they didn’t today most of the time basically — but the 34 percent they had in the game was enough to win the game.”

Photo Credits : AFP