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Category Archives: 2012-2013

Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1 – Happy St. Totteringham’s!

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Newcastle United 0 – Arsenal 1 (Koscielny 52)

Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

Ah! The pain, the nerves, the relief, the nerves, the pain and then joy! It was another nerve-wracking and typical Arsenal performance on the last day of the season.

Arsene Wenger named an unchanged squad from the one that beat Wigan 4-1 just 5 days earlier. Mikel Arteta managed to pass a late fitness test, after fears that he could miss this due to a calf strain. Lukas Podolski was the lone man up front, while Kieran Gibbs was again preferred to Nacho Monreal at left-back, despite the Spaniard featuring heavily in most away league games since his arrival from Malaga in January.

Newcastle named Steven Taylor alongside Fabricio Collocini in defence, while Steven Harper captained the Magpies on his last appearance for the club, whom he has served since 1993.

Newcastle certainly looked geared up for the ocassion, having lost their last two home games heavily, 3-0 to North East rivals Sunderland and a 6-0 thrashing meted out by Liverpool.

The first chance came when former Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who has already played against the Gunners earlier this season, in the Champions League, for the French champions, skipped easily past a stationary Per Mertesacker for a low cross towards Papis Demba Cisse, whose first time effort went just over the bar.

Arsenal’s first real chance came when Laurent Koscielny’s header went just wide, and the dogged Frenchman made a vital interception just moments later, when it seemingly looked like Cisse would have a tap-in off a Yoan Goufrran cross.

Newcastle were making life hard for the Gunners, playing a good pressing game, as Arsenal failed to get into their rhythm. Hatem Ben Arfa was a constant thorn for the defenders, especially Kieran Gibbs as he made numerous runs into Arsenal’s defensive third. Fabricio Collicini then almost scored an own goal off a Theo Walcott free kick.

Mikel Arteta was forced to hobble off the pitch, having strained his, er, calf strain. He was surprisingly replaced by Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Arsenal were making few inroads into Newcastle’s defence, and when they did they failed to take their chances, Cazorla blazing over a Gibbs cross.

The crowd rose to applause Steve Harper in the 37th minute, a tribute to their goalkeeper, who wears the ‘37’ jersey.  Even as Harper broke down in tears, Tomas Rosicky sent Lukas Podolski clear off the Toon defence, but he was pulled back for offside, though it was a tight call for the linesman. Hatem Ben Arfa then fashioned a chance, beating several Arsenal defenders, but his shot went just over the post.

Howard Webb and his cronies had a kit change at half-time, as Arsenal needed to get an early goal in the second half to calm nerves, and they set about the task in earnest, Walcott forcing a Harper save. However, the Gunners didn’t have to wait too long for the important goal.

In the 52nd minute Bacary Sagna won a free kick. Walcott took it, and it rebounded off the head of Per Mertesacker, right into the path of Laurent Koscielny, who was closely marked by Argentine Collocini. Koscielny kung-fued the ball off Harper’s cheeks to give the Gunners the all important lead.

Arsenal were then pressed back for majority of the remainder of the game, with Newcastle looking for the equalizer. Aaron Ramsey, playing deeper than usual, was brilliant, helping out the defence sort out several attacks.

It was nerve wracking stuff as Newcastle tried their utmost to score. Gutierrez had a run at the Arsenal defence, and was bought down by someone. Luckily, no one got a card. Ben Arfa was continuing to be a pain with his pace and movement, as Arsenal looked to hold on the dear old lead.

Gibbs was yellow carded for having a go at the linesman. It was getting more intense as Yoan Gourcouff in a brilliant position to score was entangled between Mertesacker and Koscielny. He was soon replaced by Sylvain Marveaux, who scored when the sides met the last time, at the Emirates in December.

He had a go as well, near the edge of the box. Arsenal were huffing and puffing, but it really didn’t matter, as long as the job was being done. Lukas Podolski was replaced by Olivier Giroud, as Arsenal tried to pile on the numbers. Santi Cazorla was replaced by Jack Wilshere with minutes remaining.

Newcastle managed to win a couple of corners towards the end but all were cleared. Even as Arsenal tried to break on counters they failed to do so.  News poured in off Sp*rs having taken a 1-0 lead against Sunderland at White Hart Lane through Gareth Bale in the 88th minute.

And just then, Walcott ran clear of Collocini, and another bloke, before his shot struck the post and out. It was still 1-0, and would Arsenal live to rue that miss. Extra time seemed to go on for ages, as Harper came out to the midway line to pump in a free kick. The Gunners managed to clear all danger, and held on for the 1-0 win. Utmost relief!

It was tumultous, nerve wracking and at times, unbearable to watch. 1-0 to the Arsenal!

For the second season running, Arsenal pipped Sp*rs to Champions League qualification, with Koscielny scoring the decisive goal in the final game of either season. For a team written off so quickly, having sold their star players, with new recruits unproven on the English scene, knocked out by lower league opposition in both cup competitions, a 4th place finish is something to hold on to for the moment. Champions League football for the 16th consecutive season baby!

Sp*rs fans, the deluded lot they are, started premature celebrations, having gotten rumours of a Newcastle equalizer. They will be making lots of DVD’s of that I suppose. Having been subjected to the nonsensical whims of Andre Villas Boas, Gareth Bale, and Emmanuel Adebayor, of their baseless notion that Sp*rs are superior than Arsenal, it should come as some sort of retributon that they are still way behind in the North London supremacy race, having failed to finish above the Gunners a single time in the 17 seasons that Arsene Wenger has been at the helm.

True, 4th place is no trophy, and it is about time that the clubs begins to look forward to next season. Arsene Wenger expressed his delight at having a squad, where no one is looking to leave, and one with no disgruntled star players looking for a move to fulfill their personal medal ambitions.

Last season, Arsenal finished 3rd with 70 points, and this time round finished 4th with 73 points. Strange as it may seem, there have been some improvements. Having conceded 49 goals last season, the goals against section was reduced to 37, the second best defence in the league, behind Manchester City, who conceded just 34.

With the new financial backing of the Emirates deal, and a huge number of sponsorship deals being tied up, and the board and manager claiming that the club’s finances haven’t been healthier, it is about time some cash is splashed on some quality players who will enrich the squad. On the other hand ,there needs to be some internal cleaning within the squad.

Andrei Arshavin, Sebastien Squillaci, Niklas Bendtner, Denilson, Abou Diaby, Marrouane Chamakh, Johan Djourou are just some of the names that need some sorting out to do.

I am optimistic about Arsenal’s chances next season in the league, considering Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United will be under completely new management’s next season and there will be an adjustment period, of which the Gunners need to take full advantage of. For that to happen, the groundwork needs to start soon enough, and be completed well in time for August.

Former Steve McMahon was slagging off the Arsenal players for celebrating like they had won the league after the narrow win over Newcastle, saying stuff like 4th place is not a trophy. Well, bollocks to you, kind Sir. About time we pick up from here and restore some pride to the Arsenal!

For now, Happy St. Totteringham’s!

Stay tuned for season review’s , player reviews and moments of the season, coming up soon on this blog!

Jai Arsenal! 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 4 Wigan 1 – Inches Away Now!

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Arsenal 4 (Podolski 11, Walcott 63, Podolski 68, Ramsey 71) – Wigan 1 (Maloney 45)

Man of the Match – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

So, things are a lot clearer and brighter this morning, as Arsenal trounced an exhausted Wigan side 4-1 to emerge as favorites to finish in the top 4 along with Chelsea, and consigned the Lancashire side, who had won the FA Cup less than 3 days earlier to life in the Championship next season.

There were no surprises in either lineup with Arsene Wenger opting for only one change to the side that won at QPR, Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal at left back. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez named the same lineup that started against Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

The game, billed as a must win game for both sides, for completely different reasons started in Arsenal’s favor. Wigan, looking to plot the great escape again were immediately on the back foot, as the Gunners started in earnest in their bid to pip Sp*rs to 4th spot again.

Cazorla had the first shot on goal, as a Walcott cross bounced right in front of him, and the diminutive Spaniard’s header glanced narrowly wide. Arsenal didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal. A Santi Cazorla corner was headed in by Lukas Podolski as Per Mertesacker created enough of a diversion for his fellow German to escape the attention of his marker James McCarthy and guide ball home delicately.

Kieran Gibbs almost made it 2-0 when a Bacary Sagna cross across goal whizzed past him. Wigan were defending astutely, only allowing the Gunners to take shots from distance. Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott both had their shots blocked by the defence.

Wigan, however slowly settled into the game, and got a passing rhythm going. Their first opportunity of the game came when a long ball played over the top nearly reached the bustling Arouna Kone, but only for an acrobatic challenge from Laurent Koscielny to clear the danger.

Wigan now were enjoying some good possession, albeit with little penetration. Arsenal had a rare great chance to make it 2-0 when Koscielny failed to score from less than 3 yards out. And Walcott rightly had a goal disallowed for offside, having been played in by Cazorla.

Like in previous games against Fulham, Manchester United and QPR, Arsenal failed to build on impressive starts and closing out the game, and Wigan sensed their chance was coming. Mikel Arteta and Shaun Maloney went for the same ball, with the Scot making the most of a touch from the Spaniard.

Off the resulting free-kick, Maloney whipped in an accurate free-kick, that snickered the fingertips of Szczesny but the Pole wasn’t able to stop the ball from ending up in the back of the net. Scores were level at half-time, and it was Arsenal’s carelessness and profligacy more than anything that offered Wigan hope of survival.

Wigan came out in the second half bristling with confidence, and almost took a 2-1 lead. Some brisk in interpassing played in for Kone on a one-on-one with Szczesny, who made himself big and averted any danger.

James McCarthy then provided more cause for concern for the Gunners’ defence when he had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out for offside. Arsenal, however slowly created some chances of their own.

First, Cazorla had both his close range efforts stopped by Joel Roubles, deputizing for Oman international Ali Al-Habsi, before a Rosicky shot went just wide of the post. Lukas Podolski’s header was on target but easy to catch for Roubles. Theo Walcott surged clear of Wigan’s defence, but with either the goalkeeper to shoot at and Podolski to tee up, he decided to shoot, and Roubles managed to clear the danger.

The Gunners took the lead on 63 minutes, when Cazorla’s inch-perfect cross from the right fell right at the feet of Walcott who poked the ball past Roubles, who clumsily challenged for the ball with his feet. And Wigan were doomed when just 5 minutes later, a Szczesny goalkick was in turn headed up by Podolski and Cazorla to eventually set up the former who toe poked the ball into the net. 3-1 to the Gunners.

Wigan’s relegation was sealed 3 minutes later, as Aaron Ramsey latched on to a through ball, again from the magical Cazorla to create space for himself and shoot into the roof of the net.

Wigan tried, through Argentine international striker Franco di Santo, to rally with a couple of shots, but it was a case of too little, too late and too much for them as Arsenal held on to the 4-1 scoreline and send Wigan packing downwards.

Plenty of positives then. Let me start off with the attack. Though they looked toothless in the first half, a second half blitz ensured the 3 points, and you have to wonder what it will take for them to be more consistent with their scoring. Walcott now has 21 goals, to add to his 17 assists, which means he has contributed to a total of 38 goals this season. Podolski brace takes him to 16 goals and 11 assists for the season, while Cazorla’s quadruple assists takes him to 12 goals, and 15 assists for the seasons, a total of 27 goals each to which both have contributed. The suspended Olivier Giroud is not lagging too far behind, having scored 17 himself, and further assisted 12 goals.

Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky were superb yesterday, and the Welshman capped of an impressive month, with a fine goal. Mikel Arteta looked a bit weary and is a doubt for the important clash against Newcastle on Sunday. Thomas Vermaelen is being tipped to start in his place in central midfield.

The manager seems to have found the right combination at the back, with Koscielny and Mertesacker proving to be a more than reliable centre back pairing, and it will be interesting to watch how the Vermaelen situation will be dealt with.

So, 3 points and 4th spot. A win on Sunday will ensure qualification for the Champions League. As for poor Wigan, they become the first club to win the FA Cup and be relegated the same season. Testing times ahead for the club and it’s fans!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 

Queen’s Park Rangers 0 Arsenal 1 – Boring, But Who Cares!

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Queen’s Park Rangers 0 – Arsenal 1 (Walcott 1)

Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

Tetchy. Tiring. Boring. And yes painful to watch. Extremely painful to watch. There is something about the lower placed teams that they come up with the goods when it comes to facing Arsenal.

They always manage to provide an intense, physical battle, making it hard for Arsenal to play their natural, free-roaming, running through the channels game. Already relegated QPR made it an extremely hard game for Arsenal to endure, on a bright late Saturday evening kick-off at Loftus Road.

Nacho Monreal returned to the starting lineup in place of Kieran Gibbs, in keeping with Arsene Wenger’s policy of playing the Spaniard in away games and the Englishman in home games. Lukas Podolski started up front again, and there was no place yet again for Jack Wilshere, with the manager keeping faith in the quartet of Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky and Cazorla.

Queen’s Park Rangers had a host of Tottenham connections, with Jermaine Jenas, Andros Townsend and Bobby Zamora, who has a knack of scoring against Arsenal, all starting. Oh, and there was Mr. Harry Twitchy Redknapp as well.

Arsenal started off just like they had against Manchester United. Scoring in the opening minutes. Er, in this case, minute rather. There was almost no opposition as Arsenal advanced straight after kick-off, and ex-Arsenal left back Armand Traore proved why he was moved on by the Gunners with a piss poor header.

The ball fell to the feet of Rosicky, who managed to play in Arteta, who in turn set up Walcott in between two QPR defenders, and the striker made no mistake and scored past Green. 1-0 to Arsenal, with barely even 30 seconds gone on the clock.

After that, it was more of a cagey affair between the two London sides, on a cramped pitch. Walcott had another great opportunity on the half hour mark, when his shot squirmed past Green, who got minimum contact, but it only struck the post and wriggld out.

Andros Townsend was giving Nacho Monreal a pretty rugged afternoon, with some intelligent running. He set up chances for Bobby Zamora and Park Ji-Sung, but they both failed to take their opportunities.

QPR didn’t look like a side already relegated, as Arsenal failed to convince their detractors that they could actually be title challengers next season, with a dour performance. Rangers used their physical presence all over the pitch to hassle the Gunners.

Loic Remy was making intelligent runs, but Mertesacker had the wily Frenchman well covered, while Laurent Koscielny kept a close eye on the ever dangerous Zamora. It was Andros Townsend, who was looking the most dangerous, with his swerving long range shot, testing Wojciech Szczesny.

Going forward, Arsenal were struggling, with attacks breaking down far too often for the visitor’s comfort. Lukas Podolski looked ineffectual as the lone man up front, while Theo Walcott was only showing momentary glimpses of his pace, but failed to make any decisive impact.

Remy forced two fine saves from Szczesny late on, as the game ended in a narrow Arsenal win. A goal within 30 seconds and over 92 minutes of mediocrity would perfectly sum up Arsenal’s last London derby of the season.

Elucidating Arsenal’s positives is going to be a pretty tough job. Firstly, garnering 3 points despite being in a sticky situation for so long is something that seems to be the norm now. Arsenal now have gathered 3 away 1-0 wins since the start of the year, at Sunderland, Fulham and QPR, all tough places to go to.

Secondly, Walcott has gotten to 21 goals this season, and while he may not have the real decisive impact that the traitor had last season, it definitely is a sign that the Englishman can deliver the goods when required.

Lastly, a word for the defence, that has now let in just 1 goal in the last 4 games, a penalty made and scored by the traitor. There seems to be a solid understanding between the pair of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, and the rotation at the left-back slot seems to be keeping both Gibbs and Monreal fit and fresh. There have been question marks raised over the performance of Bacary Sagna, but let’s keep in mind he has been Arsenal’s most consistent player for many years now!

The biggest positive is that Arsenal absolutely needed to win their last 3 games, especially after Gareth Bale scored a beauty against Southampton to help Sp*rs to a narrow 1-0 win at White Hart Lane. 1 down, 2 to go. Hopefully Wigan will be absolutely knackered after their game against Swansea and the FA Cup final against Manchester City. Too bad they are in a relegation quagmire.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 1 Manchester United 1 – Fair Result!

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Arsenal 1 (Walcott 2) – Manchester United 1 (van Persie 42)

Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

It was not like one of the usual games. Games with Manchester United always are special occasions, but this one was different. More different for my liking, or for the liking of any other Arsenal fan.

Having to form the guard of honor to the champions is fine, but knowing that a big part in the title win was played by an ex-player, who left ‘to win’ trophies, and returned to vindicate his move, made it even harder to watch the game.

A huge swarm of Arsenal fans and glory hunting noobshits, calling themselves as Manure supporters intersected at Dugout, in Bangalore, and there was a brilliant atmosphere with chants, rants and abuses being hurled all over a small screening area.

Arsene Wenger continued with his central defensive pair of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, while Kieran Gibbs was chosen ahead of Nacho Monreal. Jack Wilshere was not named in the starting line-up, probably too soon to make a return from injury. With Olivier Giroud suspended, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott both started, while Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky made starts as well.

For Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans started in defence, while Phil Jones was named to bolster midfield. The traitor, of course, had to start, and did.

It was a moment of contemplation for the Arsenal board, fans, players and staff alike as the champions walked out of the tunnel to a standing ovation from Arsenal players. Not too long ago, the sides were neck to neck in Premiership battles. Sigh!

Maybe it was a jerk reaction to the guard of honor, but Arsenal immediately set about their task. In as early as the 3rd minute, the Dutch traitor gave the ball away in midfield, and Rosicky played the ball through to Walcott who was marginally offside, and finished past David de Gea.

Arsenal were looking to build more pressure, as a Tomas Rosicky effort went wide while de Gea had to make a great save, as Santi Cazorla unleashed a left footed effort. Arsenal were looking comfortable in midfield, with the trio of Ramsey, Arteta and Rosicky drawing strings.

Manchester United, however had a great chance to go level, but Phil Jones made a complete hash of it. Aaron Ramsey was having a good game, and almost set up Podolski, but for a good save from David de Gea.

At the back, Arsenal were putting a committed performance, and when Portuguese winger Nani found some space, he was met with a lunging Kieran Gibbs. The traitor had a great chance to level matters, with a header, but it was too close to Szczesny, and the Arsenal keeper saved with his, er, nose. Ouch! Phil Jones miscued another chance.

For all of Arsenal’s good work in the first half, it was undone by one moment of mediocrity. Bacary Sagna’s misplaced pass fell right into the path of Judas, who surged forward. Sagna, in an attempt to undo what he had done lunged for a tackle from behind, but instead fouled the traitor in the box.

He, who else, stepped up, and leveled matters from the spot. In the second half, Arsenal got to work right from the beginning, and Tomas Rosicky curled a shot just wide having played a one-two with Aaron Ramsey.

However, Arsenal were giving the ball away too easily and making too many lapses in concentration, giving Manchester United some good chances to take the lead. A cross from the traitor could not be met by an uncharacteristically quiet Wayne Rooney.

Rafael looked to score one of his trademark goals, trying to cut inside, but missed, as the ball flew narrowly wide of the post. Rooney headed straight at Szczesny from close range, as Arsenal were increasingly looking weary.

There were few chances as the game progressed, with the best one falling to Ryan Giggs, who could only find a blocking Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.

In the end, it was a pretty even contest, with Arsenal proving to be marginally, by small margins, better than Manchester United, on the evening. The point, however, leaves us in a situation, where Champions League places are still out of our hands. Sp*rs, who drew Wigan the previous evening, are two points behind, with a game in hand.

Positives and negatives then. The players displayed good character in this tussle with the champions, and matched them for most of the game, and proved to be slightly better. In all honesty, there is very little to choose between the sides, but for a certain thing called mentality.

United have shown all season, that even though they do not boast the most glitziest of squads, they conjure up results with a single minded determination to win. Arsenal, at this moment of time, need that very mentality, to first secure a top 4 finish, and to make sure that they are in the title race next season, and do not fizzle out before it is even December.

Laurent Koscielny has been brilliant and without doubt, is Arsenal’s best defender at the moment. His tenacity, reading of the game, pace and willingness to battle the strikers makes him a very important player in the side. Bacary Sagna, despite all his consistency over the years, has had an error-strewn recent past, and his contract will be one that will be hotly debated about at the end of the season.

Arsenal’s midfield is starting to look increasingly balanced. Yes, it’s almost the end of the season, but hey, better late than never. Aaron Ramsey looks sharp, decisive and seems to have gotten rid of those irritating back passes and all. Cazorla and Rosicky look like two good attacking midfield options to start off with, and it will be interesting to see if the manager decided to haul Wilshere back into the fray.

Up front, Lukas Podolski looked clueless, and had to make most of the running in behind him, with little or no service. Walcott had a decent game, apart from the goal and a few moments of spark. Having been played on the right, he had to contend with the combination of Jones, Evra and Evans constantly heckling him down.

A point gained, rather than two points lost. This was always going to be a tough encounter. Arsenal definitely need to win their remaining 3 games, to absolutely guarantee themselves of a Champions League place next season.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 

Fulham 0 Arsenal 1 – Another late review!

_67132981_perI admit my blog has been going through a bad patch off late, with the number of articles being published seeing a rapid decline. By the looks of it, it seems to be coinciding at a time when Arsenal are hitting their best league form this season, having won 8 of their last 10 games.

I could only catch the second half against Fulham, having been part of quite an exhausting trip during the day, to a waterfalls. After all the tiring trekking et al, it just took me a Corona beer to freshen up.

Well, not to much anyways. Fulham had a man sent off, and it was shocking how poor Arsenal were against 10 man Fulham. There seemed to be no rhythm in the passing, no fluency in midfield and nothing up front.

Fulham were looking all the more dangerous, despite having a man less, and looked like they could equalize any moment. We made Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov, your usual average Premier League forwards look like a combination of Diego Maradone and Pele in their hayday.

Even Alex Kacaniklic was made to look like some raw form of Ronaldinho, as he made his way easily past Arsenal’s defenders. Kieran Richardson had a go with a couple of free-kicks, eventually saved by Szczesny, as Arsenal made heavy weather of a 10 man midtable Premier League side.

In the end, it did not matter, as 3 points overshadows everything else. Sp*rs managed to slump Manchester City in a cameo, and to make matters worse, Manchester United won the title on Monday night, with who else but Judas scoring a hat-trick.

Come Sunday, I will be witnessing my worst nightmare, as Arsenal players give a standing ovation to Manchester United, when they enter the field of play.

For now, I am just going to bask in the little glory that lies in the 3 points achieved against a 10 man Fulham!

Jai Arsenal!

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

And do like, the Facebook page as well.

Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 0 Everton 0 – Cagey Affair!

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Arsenal 0 Everton 0

Man of the Match – Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

It was cagey, it was tense, it was edgy and it was physical. An Everton side that were fully committed, resolved and rather unadventurous managed to escape from the Emirates Stadium with a point for their troubles.

Arsene Wenger welcomed Per Mertesacker, Wojciech Szczesny and Theo Walcott into the side, with Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho being dropped to the bench, while Fabianski had to pull out after suffering a kick to his ribs in last week’s encounter against Norwich. Everton on the other hand looked set up for a draw, including the tough tackling and tenacious Ross Barkley in midfield.

Everton were the first to create a real goal scoring chance, when Steven Pienaar failed to score from a right wing pass from Seamus Coleman in the 7th minute. Ross Barkley and Marouanne Fellaini were constantly thwarting Arsenal’s midfield from flourishing.

The former looked comfortable as he made several ball winning challenged, while the Belgian was at his intimidating best. Jack Wilshere, still completing his comeback from a recent injury, was at the end of a crude Barkley challenge.

Arsenal’s first real chance came, when Marrouane Fellaini made a hash of a clearance in a rather clear situation. It fell right to the feet of Kieran Gibbs, but the left-back failed to shoot on target.

Former Manchester United man Darron Gibson then flung himself into Theo Walcott, and escaped a second yellow card, though his intention was clearly to clatter into the winger. It was one of many appalling decisions from the referee on the evening.

Aaron Ramsey was clearly Arsenal’s best player in midfield, and more prominent than even the precocious Wilshere. He was making some intelligent runs, his passing seemed much improved, and he also managed to make some fine ball winning challenges.

He created Arsenal’s best opportunity in the first half, when he was released on the right, and his pass across Everton’s defence was stabbed over by Giroud, under pressure from Coleman. It was a glorious chance, as the goalkeeper Tim Howard had made a complete mess of collecting the ball.

At half-time, there was a bit of a skirmish between Wilshere and Mirallas after the Everton man squirted the Englishman’s face with water, which lead to a mini brawl down the tunnel.

The second half saw more chances as Cazorla’s left footed effort and Anichebe’s header off a Baines free-kick went begging. Arsenal had a great opportunity to counter when a Baines free-kick at the edge of the penalty box was smashed right into the wall, and Ramsey played in behind Walcott, but the England winger’s final cross for Giroud was poor.

Ross Barkley showed what a good prospect he is, when he managed to squirm past a few Arsenal defenders, and unleashed a powerful shot with little space to work from, and it narrowly missed the top corner of the net.

Arsene Wenger then decided to switch around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski on for Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere. Arsenal however had their chances, when a Giroud header was cleared from close range by Jagielka when it seemingly looked like going in, before Howard latched on to an acrobatic Ramsey effort in the box.

Olivier Giroud had more chances to score, first when Chamberlain played in a pass from the right wing, but it was eventually cleared by Seamus Coleman, before it reached the Frenchman. Moments later, he fired over from his wrong foot, with Jagielka giving little room to operate in.

Arsenal could have won it right at the death, when Mikel Arteta found himself free and with lots of space, but instead of taking an early shot, or passing to Giroud, he was robbed off the ball, when it seemed like he was going to make the decisive shot.

So, a very tense and edgy encounter, with chances hard to come by. Arsenal certainly had more chances that the Toffees, and you could feel a bit disappointed with Giroud’s finishing. There were a host of chances which he probably should have finished off.

The defence had very little to do, and they did it well, with Everton offering very little up front. Aaron Ramsey seems to be coming to his best and proving his worth. He was Arsenal’s exceptional player on the night.

Theo Walcott was again, poor, and barely managed to beat Baines and Distin with his pace. What seems to be the problem is the lack of a genuine game changer, who can win you games, even after coming on as a sub. Chamberlain and Podolski had their impacts last weekend, but against tighter opposition like Everton, they weren’t able to conjure up a goal.

Not a bad point at all to take, but nonetheless, a few more weeks of agony ahead to secure that all important top 4 finish. Fulham on the road, next for the Gunners!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 

Arsenal 3 Norwich City 1 – Late, but Great!

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Arsenal 3 (Arteta (pen) 85, Giroud 88, Podolski 92) – Norwich City 1 (Turner 56)

Man of the Match – Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

It was again a typically Arsenal game at the Emirates. Attack, attack and more attack for large parts of the game, go down a goal completely against the run of play, and then suddenly decide to be more prolific in front of goal and plot the escape from jail.

With the opportunity to go ahead of Sp*rs and Chelsea being presented in the form of cannon fodder teams like Norwich City, it looked at one stage that Arsenal would be making it harder for themselves from now till the end of the season.

With Per Mertesacker suspended, Thomas Vermaelen came back into the squad in the centre of defence, along side Laurent Koscielny. Elsewhere, with Tomas Rosicky injured, Jack Wilshere was thrust back into the squad, as Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta kept their places. Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski were named on the bench, with Gervinho getting the nod. Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal at left-back.

Norwich had banked two defensive walls, in front of a potent Arsenal side that carried a threat everytime they moved forward. The first real chance, however came only in the 23rd minute, when Sagna’s cross was angled on to the cross bar by a Giroud header.

Gervinho was back to his woeful best, as he was presented with the chance of the match. A brilliant through ball from Cazorla released the Ivorian free of the Canaries defence. However, his first touch was so heavy that it nearly went out of play. He, however managed to retrieve it, and his tame attempt across goal, did not carry any threat whatsoever.

He was to be presented with another chance later in the half, when Arsenal’s attackers outnumbered Norwich’s defenders by the ratio 5:2, but he took the poor decision of going by himself and miscued his effort.

Arsenal were creating more chances from the right wing, and almost scored, when Giroud turned in a low Sagna cross, with Michael Turner for close scrutiny. A Gervinho cross was then wasted, with no one near it. A Santi Cazorla shot, and a Giroud header that went wide completed a frustrating half for the Gunners.

Norwich took the lead completely against the run of play, 12 minutes into the second half. Kieran Gibbs seemed to have clipped the Norwich player just outside the box, but he seemed to have gone down too easily.

It was an all too familiar sight as a free kick from Snodgrass was headed in by Michael Turner. Arsene Wenger bought on Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski to freshen up the attack, and it almost worked as Walcott used his pace to beat Whittaker, who bought the pacy winger down in the box, but claims for a penalty were waved away.

Moments later, a Sagna cross was too high for a leaping Giroud and fell to the feet of Podolski who was slow to react. Kieran Gibbs was bombing forward but wasn’t able to put in the right balls in the danger area, and it seemed like Norwich could sustain this spell of Arsenal pressure.

Arsenal came mighty close to equalizing in the 78th minute when Podolski thundered an effort against the post, after being set up perfectly by Giroud. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came late on for Bacary Sagna.

Arsenal were thrown a lifeline by the assistant referee, when Giroud was hauled down by Kamara in the 84th minute. Mikel Arteta made no mistake from the penalty spot to make it 1-1.

And Arsenal showed remarkable comeback powers, as the brilliant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got ahead of the Norwich defence, and his pass was turned in by Giroud or Bassong or whatever that huge mass of humanity was right on the goal line. It didn’t matter, Arsenal were ahead, with seconds left on the clock.

Norwich almost scored, however, bringing memories of last season’s capitulation, but Fabianski was equal to it, and the win was sealed when a swiveling Podolski fired in to make it a sweet 3-1 win, and to take the Gunners a point ahead of their London rivals.

Positives then. Olivier Giroud was definitely the man of the match for me, for his brilliant hold up and link up play. I was highly impressed by Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta too, who kept the midfield ticking, despite Wilshere looking out of touch, and Cazorla a bit subdued.

Defensively, Arsenal were strong, and rarely troubled, but work clearly is necessary on what seems to be a defense susceptible to set pieces. It was too easy a goal to concede. Kieran Gibbs was good going forward, but lacked in making that decisive final ball.

Elsewhere, Gervinho was again poor, and it seems like a case of 2 steps forward, and 2 steps back. Let’s be honest, Wilshere wasn’t better either, maybe due to his recent injury layoff. Arsenal’s host of attacking options on the bench were a delight, and they definitely won this all important game.

Podolski and Walcott immediately bought freshness and a new impetus, while Chamberlain bought that attacking thrust and raw speed and power.

More importantly, this puts us in the drivers’ seat to secure 4th spot, if not 3rd, as the season draws to a close. With Chelsea having had a long and hard season, which still has gotten longer, owing to their involvement in the Europa League, and a fast fading Sp*rs side, it is up to Arsenal to keep up the momentum now.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in 2012-2013, Match Reviews

 
 
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