Hello Gooners. Football is all about fine lines. Before the QPR game, Arsenal fans were riding high on seven consecutive victories. And, that fact that we had taken an eight point lead over Chelsea and a 3 point one over our bitterest rivals Sp*rs. Few hours later, we find ourselves again in a vulnerable position. After Chelsea’s dogged display at Villa Park, which, surprise, surprise, saw Fernando Torres finding the back of the net, and Sp*rs relatively easy beating of Swansea, and our own capitulation against relegation threatened QPR.
The fine line is applicable at the top too. Everyone had predicted towards the end of February, that Manchester City would power their way to the title. But, oh my, has the title race taken a wicked turn or what. Manchester United’s experience in closing down games, under the guidance of Alex Ferguson, is pretty well known. What we didn’t know were Manchester City’s self destructing powers. The enigmatic Mario Balotelli has been in the thick of things, as he involved himself in an on-field altercation with teammate Aleksandr Kolarov over free kick taking priveleges. With Sunderland leading 3-1, at the Etihad, Kolarov skied his freekick, before Balotelli himself got one back, and Kolarov levelled things soon after. However, it just papered the cracks, that Mancini has created, by assembling an expensive, egoistic squad. With players like Richards, Balotelli, Tevez, Kolarov, and of course $amir Ca$hri, squad management was always going for a toss. Manchester City’s title dream lays in tatters now, as they move 5 points behind Manure.
A bit from the continent then. The Champions League quarter final ties, are still far from over. AC Milan and Barcelona face off at the Nou Camp. I don’t know why, but I have the feeling AC Milan will garner a 1-1 draw and qualify. Barcelona can be bloody brilliant at times, but Milan proved they are a tough cookie to crack, in the first leg. The Bayern Munich-Marseille tie is as good as over, after Bayern’s comprehensive 2-0 win, in France. They have been warned against complacency, though, but it is going to be routine for them as they look to compete in the Champions League final, which is taking place in their own backyard, the fantastic Allianz Arena.
Chelsea vs Benfica, too is far from over. The Portugese team weren’t too good against a rather second string Chelsea side, and I would fully expect Chelsea to ride the wave, and kill of this tie too. I, however, think they will fall at the semi-final stage. They really haven’t got the squad at the moment to beat Barcelona or AC Milan. But then, in football, who knows. Speaking of which, we arrive at the Real Madrid vs APOEL Nicosia. If you told an APOEL fan, that they would be playing Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, they would have taken you for a nutter. But, here they are, brushing shoulders with the elite in Europe. They are as good as out, but they will have fun at the Bernabeu. It is not everyday you get to play there, after all.
Matters closer to the heart then. The defeat to QPR has drawn criticism, from Le Prof. Not stinging, but criticism, nonetheless.
AW on the performance
It is very frustrating because they left us the ball and waited for our mistakes. We took the ball, did not do a lot with it and made the mistakes. At the end of the day that made the result. Our performance was not good enough to win this kind of game, especially in the duels. They had a little bit of extra special commitment that took advantage of us in some specific positions defensively. Overall we can only congratulate QPR for their attitude and be unhappy with our own performance.
AW on the nature of the pitch
Any bad performance you can see coming. Each football game is a new start. It is not what you have made before that decides the game, it is what you produce on the day. And what we produced on the day was not good enough.
AW on the pitch
The pitch is not smaller than any other pitch. The pitch was bad but it does not explain our performance. We did not create enough to win a football game.
AW on the defending
I do not want to single anyone out but of course we made defensive mistakes. It is a good shock to come back to what has made our strength recently. Subconsciously something was missing today. In the Premier League, if you miss something on the commitment front you are beaten. That is what happened today.
AW on complacency
It is difficult to single out one reason but why not? We played against a team who play for survival. We prepared properly but we missed something today and you could see that. Their keeper made a good save.
AW on the goals conceded
We lost a game when our keeper had nothing to do. It is the first time this season, we were too open when we had the ball.
AW on the response
We know how to respond, we have been exposed to this situation this season. We have a good opportunity on Sunday but it will be needed after giving away the points today.
AW on Adel Taraabt
He is a very talented football player,He has shown here that he has talent, that I knew. But he has to produce these kinds of performances on a consistent level.No [I have never tried to sign him]. He was in Lens and then he went to Tottenham. He is a good player with good potential but he has to produce that week in, week out.
AW on the next game
We have to take the distance with that and put things into perspective. We have to go back to basics; that means to win football games and win your fights first.We have to play like we do. It is disappointing to lose a big run in the way that we did it here. At the end of the day the result does not lie. The focus was missing a little bit and the way we conceded the goals [was disappointing]. I felt that we lacked something, I do not deny that. We have been consistent recently and you have to give credit to the team. But in this game we were poor and we were not good enough.
AW on the QPR performance
It is difficult to explain because we prepared as usual. Maybe we sensed it would be easier than usual and once you have that in your heads it is difficult to come back to reality.We got a reality check. I just believe that our performance was not at the level we have recently produced. I feel we did not create enough with the time we had on the ball. It was all visual but not really efficient. It is disappointing to lose a game like this. If you do not win you at least want to make a draw, you do not make the mistakes we made. We have some time to recover now and produce a decent performance [against Manchester City] on Sunday.
Meanwhile, captain Robin van Persie, looked subdued in the QPR game, for large parts. Some say he is still suffering the after effects of ‘that’ miss against Milan.
RVP on the defeat
Everyone is disappointed but towards the end of the week I am sure the spirit will be how it was,We’ll have a couple of days to be disappointed but after that our focus is on Manchester City.It is a shame we have wait eight days for the game, but it is how it is. Losing at QPR is a big blow but we have to look forward and the next one is a big one.Man City are second but drew [on Saturday] so they will need the points. We have seven big games to play but if you look at the big-name teams then we have City and Chelsea. As a fan of football I always love to play those games and one of them is next week.We have seven more games to play and I believe we can come third. It won’t be easy, everyone is fighting for every point and our opportunity is next week.Even last week when we were three points ahead [in third] with eight games left we never thought it was done. [Tottenham and] Chelsea won and came closer but we have to look at ourselves.
RVP on his evolution as a striker
I was hoping to play as a second striker… I never thought I would end up as a main striker,We only tried it [at Arsenal] when Adebayor went to Manchester City [in 2009]. The boss didn’t buy anyone else because he was convinced I could do it, but I wasn’t even convinced I could do it. I had not really played there that much, and I hadn’t thought about it much before. The boss said, ‘I think you can do it, give it a go and see where it ends. Play your normal game, don’t go out there to score, go out there to enjoy yourself and help the team’. I had a go and then in pre-season we had a game against Inter Milan and I scored good goal and played well, and he told me after the game, ‘We will see how it goes, I am 100 per cent sure it will work’.Then in my first five or six [league] games I didn’t score, I was making assists and playing well, but I didn’t score and I thought, ‘I am a main striker now, I need to score’ and the boss said, ‘I don’t mind that, as long as you play well for the team, giving assists, the goals will come’.When I scored my first goal I then scored seven in seven, with seven assists, so that was quite good. That was my first step to being a main striker.
RVP on having the element of surprise
It is quite strange because a main striker and a second striker are quite close to each other, you are playing next to each other sometimes or just behind. But it is a massive difference in your game,A second striker is a role where you are doing a lot of running, but one-pace running – closing people down to the left or to the right. Sometimes you will have a high-speed run but it is mainly one-pace stuff.For a main striker you might give everything for 10 to 15 seconds or 30 seconds, whatever it takes. After that you might have a breather and then you go again, it is in intervals from really low straight to the maximum again. There isn’t too much in the middle and it is a bit more of an aggressive game.To be fair I like that though because sometimes you can just surprise an opponent by doing that, having a breather and then, bang, you are off again. It is a different game in lots of ways, that is just one of the reasons. You are, of course, closer to the opponent’s goal, which is handy because otherwise you have to cover all that distance. Even if you are not playing well as a main striker, just that one, short moment in behind means you can still score.
Moving on, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain spoke about his EURO chances, and how he feels England has a great chance, with a trove of young talent emerging.
It would be very nice [to be involved] but I don’t get too far ahead of myself or get carried away,My main focus is to see the end of the season out with Arsenal and help us do as well as we can. We have a long way to go to get a Champions League spot and hopefully top three as well. It would be very nice, but one step at a time is the way to go.We have a lot of really good players in this country and a lot of experienced players,The fact that [the younger players] are pushing on already and are in the England squad, while playing week in week out in the Premier League, can only be good.There are a lot of good teams like Spain and Holland, but you have to say England have what it takes to get to the final and even win it.
There are a lot of English players coming through, such as the likes of Danny Welbeck and Kyle Walker, while at Arsenal we have the likes of Jack Wilshere and Theo,As long as everyone keeps progressing as they are at the moment, it will be good for England’s future. We have a lot of English talent here at Arsenal and we will all be working hard to get into the national team.The longer you play with people, the better you get to know them. You bond and being around the same players means that you bounce off each other. It will be good for the future.For their age they are all really mature and fearless,You forget how young Jack is – he is such a confident lad – but at the same time they are all humble as well.When it comes to football they are really focused and just get on with the job. They are technically very good and have the right mindsets to become world-class players.
In other news, peripheral striker Marroaune Chamakh was pictured with international teammate Adel Taraabt, who scored in QPR’s win over Arsenal, in a shisha club in London. Despite speculation from the media, that this could be the beginning of the end of his time in London, the Morocco international denies this.
Am I going back to Bordeaux? For now, no. I have spoken to Wenger and I will stay at Arsenal. I think he trusts my work and I will have opportunities in the first team.When it comes to football they are really focused and just get on with the job. They are technically very good and have the right mindsets to become world-class players.
And finally, former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has warned his compatriot Lukas Podolski, ahead of his reported Arsenal transfer.
He is quick, dangerous in front of the goal, and has a good pass. I’m happy for him if he soon joins Arsenal,It won’t be easy though. He will have to get used to the pace, and he will have to realise that participating is not enough. You must win. Expectations are very high.
Meanwhile, Rennes midfielder Yaan M’Villa, revealed he was flattered by interest from the Gunners.
If the coach calls you and tells you he wants you to make you play, especially a French coach, it changes everything.The important thing for me is getting playing time for the France team.
That’s a wrap. Enjoy the European action.
Jai Arsenal 🙂