Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday December 31 2013
1st January, 2014
Arsenal ended 2013 on top of the Premier League table and they'll start their bid to stay put with a visit from troubled Cardiff on New Year's Day.
The Bluebirds have only 2 wins in their last 13 Premier League games and caretaker boss David Kerslake will again be in charge with no successor to Malky Mackay in situ as yet.
For Arsenal, injuries have begun to mount, though it was a fixture that was likely to see some rotation anyway. After excellent away wins at West Ham and Newcastle during the festive period, the Gunners biggest task will be to fight complacency and fatigue.
Creativity may be an issue for Arsenal with so many players injured or doubtful in forward areas and with Matheiu Flamini likely to be our starting left back, but Cardiff's defence that have only kept two clean sheets on the road this season, at Stoke and Norwich.
Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to push on after a pair of hard fought away wins over the festive period. 'Cardiff will be a tough opponent, we want to take advantage of taking six points away from home. At Newcastle we had a playing spirit and then finished with a fighting spirit.'
'Being top gives us more encouragement, this squad has more experience than the one in 2008. In the Premier League you only win if you are focused and professional, that's what we want to do.
'It's difficult to say who the main challengers are, after the Christmas period you have a better idea. I'm quite confident with our squad, maybe up front we are a bit shorter.'
Meanwhile, Cardiff's caretaker manager David Kerslake insists his side will be looking for a result at the Emirates, 'It's a huge challenge v Arsenal. They're a fantastic side but we've been competitive all season & have beaten some of the best.
'We've gone against top teams before and got results. They're a tight knit squad and we'll be going there looking for a result.'
Arsenal have mounting injury concerns for the New Year's Day fixture with Cardiff City. Olivier Giroud has an ankle injury, Mesut Ozil will be missing for 2-3 weeks with a shoulder problem and Kieran Gibbs has a calf problem.
Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal (illness) and Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky will all face late fitness checks. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (knee), Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Yaya Sanogo (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) are all out.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta, Podolski, Wilshere, Walcott, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Fabianski, Bendtner, Jenkinson, Ryo, Gnabry.
His reintroduction to the side has been gradual but he made a big impact when he came on at Upton Park on Boxing Day. The German wants to prove he can pick up the goalscoring slack with Olivier Giroud and this is his chance to prove it.
Though Bendtner will probably start centrally, Podolski will probably not enjoy sparkling service with the likes of Ozil, Ramsey and possibly Walcott absent. But he has 3 goals from 5 shots this season, he'll need to be clinical against Cardiff because it's unlikely he'll get 5 start service.
Cardiff will again be without Craig Bellamy, who is struggling with a knee injury. Defender Andrew Taylor is also set to miss out, meaning teenager Declan John should continue at the back.
Cardiff City (from): Marshall, Connolly, Caulker, Hudson, Turner, Whittingham, Medel, Cornelius, Campbell, Odemwingie, Brayford, Kim, Smith, Noone, Gunnarsson, Mutch, Cowie, Maynard, Kiss, Amondarain, Theophile-Catherine, Lewis, John.
Capable of creating something from nothing, the young Jordon Mutch has the ability to beat players and shoot from range. Cardiff are likely to be defending for long periods.
On the occasions where they do have the ball, Mutch will be relied on both to keep the ball away from Cardiff's defence and to create for his striker too.
Arsenal are unbeaten in the last 12 matches in all competitions against Cardiff City, winning seven and drawing five.
Only 18 different players have started a Premier League game for Cardiff this season, fewer than at any other Premier League club.
The Gunners have conceded fewer fouls than any other Premier League team this season (184) but seven clubs have received fewer yellow cards.
Arsenal have the best shooting accuracy (54.5%) and Cardiff the worst (35.7%) in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal`s substitutes have provided four assists this season, more than any other team.
Matthew Connolly was an Arsenal trainee and captained the reserve team in 2005-06.
The referee will be John Moss.
I think Arsenal will grind out a 2-0 win, with goals from Bendtner and Podolski. I'm not expecting much entertainment in this one though.
Arsenal play at home to Spurs in the F.A. Cup 3rd Round on Saturday at 5.15pm. Cardiff will play away at Newcastle in the same competition at 3pm on Saturday.
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Date:Tuesday December 31 2013
Regenerated Ozil Gets Down & Dirty (Sunday March 9 2014)
Would You Want van Persie Back? (Sunday March 9 2014)
Wenger: We Take The FA Cup Seriously (Sunday March 9 2014)
Arsenal 4 Everton 1 (Saturday March 8 2014)
Stats: Arsenal v Everton (Saturday March 8 2014)
Team News: Arsenal vs Everton (FA Cup) (Saturday March 8 2014)
Wenger Confident Of World Cup Fitness For Jack (Saturday March 8 2014)
Gibbs: We Have To Take Everton Seriously (Friday March 7 2014)
F.A. Cup Quarter Final Preview (Friday March 7 2014)
Wenger: Agger Not At Fault For Wilshere Injury (Friday March 7 2014)
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