Arsenal vs Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium, Premier League
Kickoff – 20:00 GMT (01:30 IST), 12th March 2012
Hello Gooners out there. It has been quite an uneventful weekend. Oh wait! Spurs just got mugged, and it seems there will be St. Totteringham’s day after all!
Niklas Bendtner did us a favour again, by extinguishing the dying embers of Liverpool’s challenge for the 4th spot. Chelsea struggled against 10 man Stoke City, who lost Ricardo Fuller, after his rugby style challenge on Anna, I mean Branislav Ivanovic. And, a well taken strike from Nevica..Nikita..Namibia..Everton’s costliest signing, means Arsenal can cut the gap to Sp*rs to just 1 point.
The match also marked the 10th anniversary of the reign of David Moyes. Everton is everyone’s second favourite club, except the Liverpudlians. They generate a cracking atmosphere, and at times can play some real good football. Arsene Wenger was full of praise for David Moyes.
My compliments, he has done a massive job there,For knowing how much effort you put in on a daily basis, when a guy lasts 10 years somewhere you have to give him credit. “We suffer a lot and he has put a lot of effort and dedication in. Our job is a real sacrifice of your life, so when a guy makes that at a club for 10 years and gets the results that Moyes has made, he deserves a huge credit.
David Moyes has done a fantastic job at Everton. He even finished 4th once at the expense of arch rivals Liverpool in the 2004-2005 season, and has consistently finished in the top 10, which is no mean feat, considering how competitive the Premier League has become these days.
Complete Milan Post-match Reaction
We put in a performance in with fantastic spirit and restored some pride after the first leg. Unfortunately we are out but we had the chances. Overall we keep our winning run going, which is important, but unfortunately we paid the price for a bad first game.Overall we have given everything, after you can accept the result even if it is disappointing.
We were a bit short with no midfielders at all on the bench, we suffered a little bit when we got tired in the second half, as I hoped to keep the ball better and get them more fatigued.We knew we had given a lot and had players not used to that level in midfield, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Some players had knocks, I knew it would be difficult. Chamberlain was sick last night, so we were not sure if he could play, as he had flu. We checked him in the warm-up, but he was outstanding. Of course to last at that level for 90 minutes is a different game.
You need to score goals and not concede against a team like that. Our defenders were absolutely outstanding today and we have given everything, that is all you can do.
I felt he (van Persie) wanted to chip the keeper because he was down, but Abbiati got up very quickly and unfortunately we couldn’t score. I hoped in the last 15 minutes we could create some dangerous situations in front of goal, unfortunately it didn’t happen, as we didn’t have enough drive anymore.
Robin van Persie, too spoke, telling that there is still room of improvement in his game.
I don’t really sit down and reflect on the figures,There’s too much else to do, and you can’t dwell on things because there is always room for improvement.I lost a couple of balls in the midfield area on Saturday that I shouldn’t have, so I’m more interested in focusing on how to avoid that next time.
You always want to get the maximum out of your game – to make assists, to score goals, to be strong on the ball, to combine well with your team-mates and bring all these things together.It’s rare that you can achieve it, but it has to be what you aim for and it’s more important than pursuing one target.
Robin van Persie, Wojciech Szczesny, and former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile were all praise for Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who has hit top form of late.
RVP on Rosicky
I just love playing with him,because he’s so quick in his mind, so clever in the way he sees passes and so adept at completing them.He’s just football-clever, and that’s something you can’t pick up later in your career. You either have it or you don’t.
Szcz on Rosicky
He has been fantastic for the last few weeks now, scored a great goal against T*ttenham and was my man of the match in that game,He was great again here and hopefully he can keep going because when he plays like that he is a fantastic player.He can take people on in the middle of the park too. I think we dominated the midfield in the first half and he made the difference. He is fantastic.
Cesc on Rosicky
I have spent a lot of time with him and I know how he feels,I know what he wants and I have never seen a guy being so committed, so professional and never giving up. If this happened to me I probably wouldn’t want to talk to anyone, I would be always down and angry.But he’s unbelievable. He’s the type of player you enjoy playing alongside and as a guy he’s amazing. He has been through a lot. I told him to be strong and to keep believing in himself and that he could play football again.
It is not just a mere coincidence that Arsenal are hitting top gear, with Rosicky being instrumental. He has shown bags of energy in midfield, throughout the course of games, often picking up balls in the deep, and spraying them about. He may have been stolen of his best years of his career, but he still has enough in him to be an influential player for Arsenal for the next 2-3 seasons. He was proud of the way the team performed against Milan.
We’re very disappointed,ometimes miracles happen and you could see we came very close today. Weknew that we had nothing to lose so we just said to each other: ‘Let’s go for it, let’s give our best and we’ll see what happens.’We said [at half-time] to keep playing the same way, You could see in the second half there was a drop because we had given so much in the first half but all the same we had a chance to score the fourth one.It’s difficult, though; you can’t blame anyone after tonight’s performance. I’m very proud of my team and what we produced today. We’ve beaten AC Milan 3-0 and we’re going home disappointed. It’s a bit funny. But we blew it in Milan.
Staying with the Champions League, Kieran Gibbs thanked the Arsenal fans for creating a crackling atmosphere at the Emirates. Often branded, as a poor atmospheric stadium, this season, Arsenal fans have created a fantastic atmosphere, in all games, probably justifying the ‘Arsenalisation’ of the stadium, which was undertaken to give the Emirates the same character as Arsenal’s old ground, Highbury.
We gave everything in the first half and if anything we ran out of legs a bit in the second,We couldn’t give as much as we wanted to and maybe we ran out of steam.We had a point to prove. We were hurt by the result in Milan and we wanted to show who we are and restore some pride.They defended better in the second half but we had our chances, but in the end they did their job and they’re the ones who will go home happy. It’s probably worse to come so close and not go through. It hurts, but we did ourselves proud.
When the stadium is like this, teams struggle against us because it lifts everyone,The place was electric tonight. After the first one went in we could sense that we could get back into it. We have to thank the fans for that because they helped us get our goals. Unfortunately, though, we just fell short.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger had accused the referee of handing Milan too many free-kicks in the middle of the park. Wenger said that the Milan players would fall over at the slightest of touches, fully knowing that the referee would oblige. UEFA has charged Wenger over his comments. Supposedly, Arsene had followed the ref down the tunnel, in a way to speak to him, but the referee Damir Skomina refused to speak. In the post-match conference, Wenger had this to say.
I was not happy with the referee tonight because I felt he gave many free kicks in the middle of the park. Every time [Milan’s players] went down a free kick was given to them, and they sensed that very quickly and used it very well.
Arsenal have every season to feel hard done by. Last season, at this same stage, Robin van Persie was sent off in the 55th minute against Barcelona, at the Nou Camp, for almost no reason at all. And to add insult to injury, Wenger was handed a touchline ban. Fucking cunts, released this statement after the Milan post-match conference.
UEFA has opened a disciplinary case against Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger for improper conduct in relation to last night’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg match against AC Milan in London.Arsenal won the match 3-0, but Milan progressed to the quarter-finals on a 4-3 aggregate scoreline.The case will be dealt with by UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body on 29 March.
We are fourth now and we have a bit of an advance on Chelsea,We want to put Arsenal back [in the Champions League] and we are only four points behind Tottenham now. We know we can do it and now we have to win the next game against Newcastle, which is as important as the one against Milan. If we want to qualify for the Champions League we cannot let it go now.[The second leg against Milan] can be a reference game. It was not easy because AC Milan are a good team. We lost 4-0 away and we managed to beat them 3-0 here. That is football, we have to take it as it is and we have to learn as well. We did well from the front to defence, the goalkeeper too. We have to keep on fighting until the end as a team and show the same performance again.
It’s really important because Arsenal is a team that belongs in the Champions League,We will try to achieve that in the next games and get into the top four. At the moment, after the way we played in the first half against Milan, I am really confident.It’s hard to be consistent in top-level football. The team that is the most consistent will win prizes, I believe in that. But we have to be confident that we have the quality in the team and that is what we showed against Milan. The way we played in the first half, if we can do that consistently all season I am not worried because we will be in the top four.Of course we are disappointed because we are out of the Champions League but we need to take the great feeling out of this game, and take that into the next game [against Newcastle].
It was difficult because we were tired after 45 minutes,We gave everything on the pitch and that is that. We learn and it is the first game that killed us. Every player fought together to help his team-mates. It is good for the team and now we must do that in the championship too. We want to play in the Champions League next year so we have to finish in third or fourth place.It was important to score quickly in the first half. I scored and I was happy because my family were here. For the team it was good because soon after the second goal came. It was good but now we turn to the championship where we want to win the next game. When you play a game like that you just want to play another and it is exciting. Every player is focused on the next game against Newcastle and we want to win and finish in at least fourth place.
In the Liverpool game we pulled off a fantastic result and Milan speaks for itself,It was a very proud day for everyone, whether you are part of the Club or a fan. Even though the end result was not what we wanted there was a definite sense of pride.It was strange afterwards; the disappointment was etched on everyone’s faces. We all believed we could do it. To come so close was hard but the performance the lads put in was amazing – I was incredibly proud of all of my team-mates for the way they battled.A lesser team would have thought, ‘we are four goals down against AC Milan, it’s not going to happen,’ but we went out there and gave everything.
We have really found our feet in the past few games and had some tremendous results,From the Spurs game to Liverpool to Milan, the momentum has been building and building. It is fantastic the way we have been playing, but we need to keep that going. Newcastle are a good side so we need to take what we have been doing well into that game and go from there.
I think we have sent a message to all the other teams that when we play at our best we can beat anyone in Europe,I think teams will struggle against us if we keep playing like that. Hopefully next season in the Champions League we can achieve a little bit more than we did this time. It has been a great experience for many of us. For some of us it is our first season in the Champions League and I am sure we will use that next year to get a little bit further. For the players our ambition makes us really want to be there. This club deserves to be in the Champions League and we showed here that with performances like that we should be here every single season. I am confident we will get there in the end. The aim is to win every single game and if we can do that then good things will come for us.Our momentum keeps going,We have won a couple of good games in the Premier League recently against Tottenham and Liverpool and we got a great win here.It wasn’t enough but we still have the momentum and believe that we can play really well for the rest of the season.
Moving on, Pat Rice, is slated to retire as assistant manager at the end of this season. A host of names have been linked to the job, including legends Dennis Bergkamp, and present youth team coach Steve Bould. However, Bould was quick to dismiss the idea of him as Arsene’s right-hand man.
I think when I was asked back then [in the late nineties] I didn’t even contemplate going into coaching, so you never say never, but I feel management is not for me,It’s just too intrusive on all aspects of your life.I enjoy what I do. I get a massive satisfaction from seeing my players improve and make careers out of the game. The ultimate is seeing players we have worked for running out of the tunnel playing for our first team.I honestly feel I have the best job in the world. Doing what I love, with the facilities and footballing philosophy we have at this club, I have a fantastic job.You could not step up with your arm out and scream offside like we used to. That is not an area you can really coach any more. Also, you cannot get away with going to ground or any real aggressive tackling the way we used to nowadays.So, while there are some principles that persist, passing on what I used to do as a player has to be adapted.
Transfer news, then. Of course, the biggest news of the week was that Lukas Podolski has signed a pre-contract agreement with Arsenal for a reported £10.9 million. Though all three parties, Cologne, Podolski and Arsenal have denied it, the news spread all through the internet, including one of the most trusted sources, the BBC. According to an interview which Podolski gave to German tabloid Bild, the German scuffed a big money offer from rich Russian club, Anzhi Makhachkala.
Money is not the most important thing for me,What is crucial is the development of my game.
If it is to be believed, then Podolski adds more firepower to our front line. At the moment, we are over reliant on Robin van Persie to score the goals. The addition of Podolski will reduce the pressure on the captain, and he also provides a great backup for van Persie. Podolski has 43 goals in 95 games for Germany, which means he has bags and bags of experience, at the age of just 26. He is also teh top scorer for Cologne this season, with 16.
Other players linked to Arsenal are Ajax cntre-back Jan Vertongen, an international teammate of Thomas Vermaelen, with Belgium, and, yet again, Borussia Dortmund hotshot Mario Gotze. If the Daily Mail is to be believed, Arsenal will ship out Squillaci, Chamakh, Park and Arshavin to secure the services of Gotze. Anyways, I don’t believe in rumours, because they are meaningless. None of this news is true, unless its on the Arsenal website!
Arsene Wenger was quick to point out that, the arrival of Podolski wouldn’t necessarily spark a transfer away from the club for Robin van Persie. Roberto Mancini, who has spent billions of cash on players, who just can’t seem to win a trophy, says he wants to add to the list by adding Robin van Persie. Wenger reacted to this by saying,
Our plan is to keep Robin van Persie even if we buy any player.What is said of you by other clubs is part of the job.What is important is how much you want to win the next game. All the rest is basically not important.Robin is the leader of our club. He is under contract until 2013. You do your job, which he does very well, and enjoy your games.
I don’t have a lot to say about that because, if we sign a player, we will inform you. At the moment we have not signed anybody.There is still no agreement. Podolski is a good player. I wouldn’t deny that.
On being asked if van Persie is disturbed by these rumors, Wenger said,
At our level we are professional people,I believe if you are to have one quality it is not to be unsettled because what is said of you by other clubs is part of the job. What is important is how much you want to win the next game and all the rest is basically not important.”I cannot stop that [others talking about Van Persie]. In an ideal world maybe, but it doesn’t bother me too much.Robin is the leader of our club and I would just like to specify that he is not at the end of his contract. He is under contract until 2013. So do your job, focus on your job which he does very well and enjoy your games.
In other news, Abou Diaby told in an interview with the club website, that he is not a fragile player, as he is usually quoted in the media as. According to me, he is a highly talented player, who has not fully recovered from that horrific Dan Smith tackle in 2006. Diaby, who played 30 minutes at Anfield, and looked lively, was subbed again before the end of the game. In a candid interview, the French midfielder had this to say.
A lot of things have been said and written about me and I wanted to tell the truth about my situation,People say that I’m fragile and although I understand why, I am not fragile. I have had three operations on my ankle, all for different problems but the result of that was that my body is unbalanced, especially in my legs. I have overused one over the other and to put everything back in place is not easy. I get injured,It’s a fact but when people tell you you’re fragile, it hurts. Today my ankle is twice as big because of the surgery. My problem is a biomechanical problem. I need to work daily on how to rebalance my body.
I am not scared for the rest of my career,I still have a big future. Physically, I really feel very good, like a beast. Unfortunately, I had that little problem at Liverpool but it’s nothing serious and I will start running again at the end of the week.There have been times where I thought about stopping my career. You always ask yourself a lot of questions in those moments. It’s hard mentally and I had to be strong. But quickly, I went back to a very positive attitude. I know I am going to be fine. I am not a cheat. I have always worked very hard to come back. I have never had any apprehension playing football but I have to say that last season I feared a bit to play. It was so important for me to come back to my best level and to avoid getting injured again that I had this little apprehension.For me, my injuries are a task sent by God,I need to go through them to achieve the goals and the dreams that I have in my career. It’s my destiny. I am privileged. Some people have worse problems than me so I cannot complain.
I am hungry and strong mentally. All those hard times have strengthened me. I know there is a lot of expectation around me and some pressure but it’s a challenge for me to come back to my best level.I have never been as motivated as I am now. I want to prove to everybody, and especially to myself, that I can do it. I have faith in what I am doing. I will never give up and I know that I will come out of this tunnel.
Moving on to the Newcastle game then, Wenger was quick to praise the rise of Newcastle this season. Just a year after returning from the Championship, the Magpies have defied all odds and remain in the hunt for a Champions League place. They have a top striker in Demba Ba, while the performances of Cabaye and Tiote in midfield have been impressive. Tim Krul looks like a top class goalkeeper, too.
You could say that [I am surprised] if you look purely at the number of points they have. They were not expected there,They have bought very well in a very efficient way. Some players have made a name now who were completely unknown at the start of the season. Therefore when you look at their quality it is not surprising they are where they are.We knew them of course but you know you only have the right to have 25 players in your squad in England,You cannot go for all the players who are good that are on the market.Newcastle lost Andy Carroll last year and they were searching for a striker, so credit to them [for signing Ba and Cisse]. Also Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are good business for them. That’s why they are where they are.They are a team everyone knows will give you a big game, but what is important is our own performance,We cannot be obsessed by Newcastle. If we turn up with a good performance we will win the game. That is what is at stake: to keep up our run and keep our focus.
The last time, these two teams faced off was the opening day of the season, where Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw at St. James Park. Arsenal were reduced to 10 men, after Gervinho was sent off for slapping that twat, Joey Barton.
Thomas Vermaelen, who was brilliant in the last 3 games, says he is confident Arsenal will land silverware soon, if they keep up the same levels of play.
We had some good results against Tottenham and Liverpool and if we can play the way we did against AC Milan then I am not worried if we will be top four or not,If we play that way then we can beat any team. The thing is you have to be consistent and that is not easy in football. Newcastle are close behind us of course, but we have a few contenders there. Chelsea are still there, Newcastle and Liverpool. They [Liverpool] are 10 points behind now with a game in hand but they are all there and we have to be on the top of our game to fight for fourth and maybe third place, you never know. We can have a lot of confidence after this week with a lot of victories. Of course, a club like Arsenal belongs in the Champions League and we will try to achieve that for the Club, for the fans, for ourselves, for everybody. If we play the way we did in that first half on Tuesday then I am not worried about it at all.
You can see that if we fight hard then we have a lot of qualities,If we put the effort in then you can see what we are capable of. Milan are top of Serie A and we beat them 3-0 at home, so that is not bad. I believe in this team even though we are missing Jack Wilshere, who I believe is a world-class player, and Per Mertesacker – another great player. We have been missing a lot of players throughout the whole season through all sorts of injuries, so if we can keep the team fit you can see what we are capable of. I am really confident that we can do something in the following years.It is hard to say what has changed. What is important is to not look too far forward, to just take it game by game. If we are going to finish third or fourth you just have to focus on the game ahead of you. The most important thing now is Newcastle and to try and win that game.We are together, we are in the dressing room every day and we talk to each other every day. We talk about situations, we talk about what we can do better of course. Otherwise we would not be professional.
Team news, then. Arsenal will welcome back Andre Santos, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta from injuries. Andre Santos has been out for nearly 4 months, since his injury in the meaningless game against Olympiakos. He will be a vital addition at left-back. Yossi Benayoun, still recovering from illness, which resulted him in missing the Champions League game, is slated for a return next week against Everton.
Newcastle, who looked a formidable contender for the fourth spot, have struggled in the last 3 games, picking up just 2 points. They were smashed for 5, against Sp*rs, before struggling to 2-2 and 1-1 draws against Wolves and Sunderland respectively. They don’t have any new injury concerns as of now.
Arsenal will have to keep close tabs on the strike partnership of Papis Demba Cisse and Demba Ba. Both have a formidable shot on them, and are known for the unexpected. Cisse announced himself in the Premier League with a sublime effort against Aston Villa. Demba Ba, has been banging goals all season, though he did miss a penalty last week against Sunderland in the heated Tyne-Wear derby. Steven Taylor is still injured, which means Mike Williamson continues in the centre of defence with highly improved and a far-relative of Carles Puyol and David Luiz, i.e Fabricio Collocini, who has shown massive improvement in defending this season. Arsenal fans will remember Cheik Tiote as the player who scored the 4th goal in Newcastle’s impressive 4-4 comeback against the Gunners last season. He will play as defensive midfielder. Ryan Taylor, a right-back at trade, with a vicious shot, will take his place on the right of midfield, while French midfielder, formerly of Lille, plays in the centre, with Argentina international Jonas Gutierrez on the left.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will start with Arteta and Rosicky in midfield. The experience that Arteta brings with him, was the difference between Arsenal and Milan, and his presence, could have helped us shape up better in the second half. I expect to see Chamberlain to start, ahead of Gervinho, who didn’t look the sharpest against Milan. The defence picks itself.
One thing, that can be expected, is a tough game. Arsenal will have to play with the same clinical fashion that they demonstrated against Milan and Tottenham, while also keeping the defensive discipline. Arsenal will have to win the midfield, and it will be a closely contested game. Newcastle will be looking to arrest the slide they are in, while Mikel Arteta’s retuen will bolster the Arsenal team. All in all, we can expect a fantastic game.
Enjoy it wherever you are.
Jai Arsenal 🙂