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Eisfeld, Arshavin, Wilshere, Wenger and Bolton…

Bolton Wanderers vs Arsenal, Reebok Stadium, Premier League

Kickoff – 20:00 (01:30 IST), 1 February 2012

So, the January transfer window has finally shut. Well, it doesn’t make much difference to the Arsenal team, anyways. Gooners around the world, waited in anticipation and agony, and in hope against hope, that Arsene Wenger will finally bow down to their wishes and sign one massive player for a truckload of money, who would transform the fortunes of the club, and more concerningly, the immediate on-field problems.

Of course, that didn’t happen. We signed one massive player though, who has a legendary status at the club, a beard and has taken 34 revolutions around the sun. His name is Thierry Henry. He also has the small matter of 226 goals marked across his name.

Lots of banter coming in about the second signing though.

Wenger: Can we have Gotze?

Dortmund: No.

Wenger: Can we have Kagawa?

Dortmund: No.

Wenger: Can we have Barrios?

Dortmund: No.

Wenger: Can we have Großkreutz?

Dortmund: No.

Wenger: HMMM..(About to hang up, a few freckles formed on his forehead)

Dortmund: Hang, on a second. You can have Thomas Eisfeld for £420,000.

Wenger: Really? WOW!! OK, I will take him.

And thats how the very exciting transfer window grinded to a halt. We have an unknown midget from the minehouses of Dortmund, who will soon be bossing our midfield. Here’s hoping we have unearthed a gem. Arsene Wenger certainly thinks so.

“Thomas is a player we have liked for some time.We’ve watched him closely this season, where he has excelled for Dortmund’s youth team.He is young but has proven to us that he can play, that he has the attitude and technical ability to be a valuable addition to our squad.”

Gotze's poorer cousin!

Meanwhile, there were some players going out on loan for the rest of the season. Chuks Aneke extended his loan spell at Stevenage. Let’s hope he can score the winner against Tottenham in the FA Cup 5th Round. Riyo Miyachi, a schoolboy a year ago, has been loaned out to tonight’s opponents, Bolton. Let’s hope he returns a Wilshere. Sanchez Watt, another youngster, who has spent spells at Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, has joined FA Cup high-flyers Crawley Town. And there could be one more exit. Anzhi Makhachkala (hope I got that right) are keeping tabs on out-of-sorts Russian playmaker Andriy Arshavin. The Russian transfer window closes in 3 weeks time, giving them plenty of time to hammer out a deal.

Arshavin has a mixed time in the English capital. After sparkling performance for Russia in the European Championships in 2008, he was under the radar of various clubs across Europe, including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. However, Arsenal was his destination as a last-second deal was clinched on February 2nd. His impact was instant. He scored a brilliant goal from a narrow angle against Blackburn Rovers and then was a crowd favourite after he put up a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Anfield, netting past Liverpool 4 times. In the 2009-2010 season, he was played as a striker in most of the games, thanks to the club’s huge injury list. He further scored 12 goals and made 7 assists through the season.

Throughout the season, he was a popular figure in the English media. First, for his voice, where he was compared with a meerkat. And then, for his views on English weather and driving women. He despised the gloomy English weather as well as female hands behind a steering wheel.

The meerkat and his poorer cousin!

His 3rd season, he will be fondly remembered for the winner against Barcelona, which came at the end of a well-worked move, and was probably Arsenal’s best European performance in a long-long time.

But, this season had been the low-point for the burly Russian. He has looked completely out of sorts and the Emirates crowd has been unforgiving. There have been complaints about his willingness and his concentration. He has had the odd effort though, against Bolton (Carling Cup), Leeds and QPR, where did much of what was constructive. The lowest ebb came when he came on to replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the match against Manchester United. A chorus of boos greeted him as he ambled his way on to the pitch. At that moment, I really felt for the guy. But, probably, a fresh challenge would do both, him and the club good.

Anyways, enough about Arshavin, for now. Arsenal welcomed back Coquelin, Arteta, Henry and Sagna back into the team against Aston Villa, after all suffered uneven times out in the physio room. Arteta will be the most important man back. He has been the fulcrum in the engine room and has been sorely missed in the defeats to Swansea and Manchester United. Sagna, who injured himself in the North London derby, back in October, is another player who has been sorely missed. His deputy, Carl Jenkinson, also fell prey to the injury monster. Wenger has since played Djourou, Coquelin, Koscielny and Yennaris at right-back, all to various success levels. Stability at that position is vital, and Sagna, who has been Arsenal’s most consistent player, over the course of 4 seasons, provides exactly that. Also, Arsenal welcome back Kieran Gibbs, who has resumed training with the squad and should be fit for the Blackburn game over the weekend.

Staying in the physio room, Jack Wilshere suffered another ‘setback’, which could keep him out for another 6-8 weeks, or probably the end of the season. This is really bad news, and probably sparked the Eisfeld signing. Arsene Wenger had this to say on the young midfielders’ setback.

“Jack is gutted. It is a massive disappointment, but I am really disappointed for him as well because he is a football animal. I am so sad that at that age you have to be out for such a long time with not any obvious reason. If you had told me that Jack would not have played one game by February, I would have said ‘that is impossible’. We miss that little burst from Jack. Let’s hope it goes well and we have good news from the specialists.”

And while we are about it, Eisfeld is another injury-prone player. He had an extensive medical at the club, before he was signed, and also a training session, to monitor his fitness levels. He had suffered a horror injury to his anterior cruciate ligaments (whatever that is!) in 2009. All we can hope is he can keep himself fit and be a vital player for the team.

And yes, while we are still about it, I got an interesting stat online. Since August 2002, Arsenal has suffered 138 more injuries than Chelsea to first team squad members. In the same period, Arsenal has suffered 86 more injuries than Manchester United.

2009/10 AFC 79; MUFC 55; CFC 52
2008/09 AFC 74; MUFC 62; CFC 46
2007/08 AFC 60; MUFC 53; CFC 42

To what extent these stats are true, I have no idea. But, it does make you think what may be the reason. Is it bad luck or just that we sign injury-prone players, who suffer long times out in the primes of their career, and are not the same when they make their returns.

Moving, on the Aston Villa game has been one of the highlights of the season so far. 2-0 down at half-time and 3-2 up, in 16 minutes of the second half is no ordinary feat. So, what exactly might have ignited that comeback. There have been reports of the captain falling out with the manager after the Manchester United loss. But, van Persie was quick to dismiss them all. And, celebrations in the Villa game, have raised a suspicion or two. van Persie raced his way to celebrate his second goal with Thierry Henry, while he gave Wenger as much as a little look.

Yes, I am blowing things out of proportion here. Henry, Vermaelen and van Persie did have a word or two with the team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things are falling apart in the team. Arsene Wenger still reigns supreme and has a control over all things on the field. Theo Walcott revealed later, what van Persie’s words were at half-time.

“Come on we want to win this trophy, we must win this game!”

And, supposedly, Wenger had this to say.

“You can feel sorry for yourself or show you have the mental qualities to play for this Club.”

Walcott has been doing a lot of talking about winning a trophy for the fans. And that flukey goal over the weekend did the credentials no harm. Meanwhile, Robin van Persie escaped a possible match-ban after Villa boss Alex McLeish claimed he had elbowed his player, Carlos Cuellar. (Go, find yourself a different reason, McLeish!).

And, in other news, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been given the backing of Arsene Wenger, to be selected for England, for EURO 2012.

“You cannot rule it out – we will see in the next three months, If he does well, why not? It is not because you are young that you cannot play. We live in a world of immediacy.I would not have expected him to be so mature in September because he still looked like a boy.Now suddenly he looks like he can take pressure and that he has the personality to produce under pressure.”

‘The Ox’ was thrown into the limelight in the disastrous mauling at Old Trafford, which I don’t want to talk about. Since then, he has put on impressive displays, whenever he has played, scoring goals against Shrewsbury in the League Cup and Olympiakos in the Champions League; his most impressive performance coming in the 2-1 loss at home to Manchester United. He has drawn comparisons with England’s best striker at the moment, Wayne Rooney, who is similiar in build and style of play.

Well, all’s well that end’s well, we are in the 5th Round of the FA Cup, and will face either Sunderland/Middlesbrough, away from home, on 18th February. The FA Cup seems to be Arsenal’s best bet of a trophy this campaign, considering we are 18 points adrift of the leaders, and we will face Barcelona in the next round of the Champions League, should we ward off AC Milan (It’s a conspiracy). With heavyweights Manchester City and Manchester United, both knocked out; the remaining giants Arsenal and Liverpool, along with Tottenham and Chelsea, are favorites to life the famous cup.

Moving on to the game tonight. Bolton will be particularly hard to beat, this time around. Last time, Arsenal trounced them 3-0, thanks to a red card brandished to Dave Wheater, in a game, in which van Persie scored his 100th Arsenal goal. Bolton went on a terrible run, and occupied the last spot in the league for long periods, but since the turn of the year, they have picked up vital results. They have beaten Everton and Liverpool in the league and ensured progress in the FA Cup with wins over Macclesfield and Swansea. Their last game against Liverpool was the best performance from the Trotters this season. Having lost to Manchester United, 3-0, just a week earlier, they put in a battling performance against the Reds.

This time round, the battle will be won in the midfield. Bolton captain Nigel Reo-Coker and Fabrice Muamba will look to cut all supply lines leading to van Persie, managed by Ramsey and Arteta. David N’Gog put in a good performance against his old club last week, but emulating it in this fixture will be hard for the inconsistent French striker. Bolton lost Gary Cahill to Chelsea, but have replaced him with Tim Ream from New York Red Bulls. He will, however not feature tonight, as he is back in the USA, sorting visa’s. Bolton, will, in most probability, go with the same team that started last week.

Arsenal’s leaky defence will be tightened with the returning Sagna, who is most likely to feature, at the expense of Coquelin. Arteta, will take his place in the centre of midfield alongside Ramsey, with Rosicky having to content with a place on the bench. There have been rumours of Wenger planning to give Ramsey a breather, which would, of course mean Rosicky will take his place.

Here is how the teams could line up.

Yesterday’s results will give more impetus to Arsenal to collect a win. Chelsea extended the difference between themselves and the Gunners to 6 points, while Liverpool’s win at Wolves means they leapfrog us to 5th place, 2 points ahead in the table.

Memories of last time will hopefully not hover this fixture. Tamir Cohen scored a 89th minute winner for Bolton, despite Arsenal dominating vast periods of the game. That loss scuppered any hopes of a league title.

Praying for 3 points.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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2007-2008 Season Review – So close, yet so far again

23 June. I still remember the date. I had just returned home, and was logging on to BBC, to check the latest headlines, and was met with the worst headline, Gooners around the world could hear.The headline said, Arsenal star Thierry Henry joins Barcelona. It was a really sad moment for all Gooners, as Arsenal’s French talisman had left for Catalonia after 8 years stellar service for the club, scoring 226 goals and providing 92 assists. He was not only a spectacular goal-poacher, but his vast array of skills had made him the finest Premier League players of his time. More on him later.

Another player who left Arsenal, was the Swede Freddie Ljungberg, to West Ham, whose transfer was less talked about after the Henry saga. Ljungberg also had been a fine player, and had adorned the Arsenal crest on his chest for 9 years, scoring 73 goals.

LEGENDS

Anyways, now that the long protracted transfer saga of Thierry Henry had done, Arsenal had the 2007-2008 season to look forward to. Arsenal had come inches close to winning the Carling Cup, the previous campaign, and surely the young guns had loads to look forward to.

Arsene Wenger was,. characteristically quiet in the transfer market. His only major signings were Croatian striker, Eduardo da Silva; and the French duo of Bacary Sagna and Lassana Diarra. Eduardo had a big reputation in Croatia, where the Brazilian-born player had netted 73 goals in 104 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb. William Gallas was made Arsenal captain.

Post-Henry Arsenal had started their campaign against Fulham, at home. The game, as I remember was increasingly frustrating as Arsenal created bucketloads of chances, but trailed Fulham 1-0 for most part of the game, after David Healy’s goal. Hleb found himself free in the box, in the 93rd minute, and he scored, to hand Arsenal a winning start.

Arsenal had safely negotiated through the Champions League qualifiers against Czech outfit Sparta Prague, and only a 81st minute screamer from Cesc Fabregas gave the Gunners all points against Manchester City, after Schmeichel junior had saved a Robin van Persie spot kick. Arsenal then went on a rampage of wins, beating Portsmouth 3-1 at home. Next up, the North London Derby at Shit Fart Lane. A certain young Welshman, Gareth Bale, had scored an exquisite free kick to hand Spurs the lead and false hopes of getting the better of their more accomplished neighbors. Dimitar Gergatov, yes, that’s his stupid Bulgarian name; had the chance of his life, when he went clear, only for a brilliant Kolo Toure, with a last ditch tackle. Arsenal missed many chances, hitting the bar and skying their efforts or being saved by an in-form Paul Robinson. Emmanuel Adebayor equalised through a header, while Gergatov then had another attempt cleared off the line by Gael Clichy.  And minutes later, Fabregas got the ball from half a kilometre out, I guess; and let in a dynamite. Absolute dynamite.  The action was getting frantic, as Darren Bent missed a sitter, which Harry Redknapp’s missus would have scored.  And, in the 90th, the Gunners sealed all points as Adebayor scored a peach, to leave Shit Fart lane as silent as, yes, a fart.

Absolute Dynamite

Oozing with confidence, Arsenal brushed aside Derby County 5-0, and then beat Juande Ramos’ Seville 3-0, Newcastle 2-0 in the League Cup, West Ham and Steaua Bucharest; both away 1-0, thanks to solitary van Persie strikes, and finally Sunderland and Bolton 2-0 and 3-2 respectively.

That’s a netbuster

Fabregas was in brilliant form, contributing with 7 goals from midfield, and Arsenal were sitting pretty at the top, come October. And they were taking plaudits in Europe, after thrashing Slavia Prague 7-0 at the Emirates Stadium. The commentator’s exact words after Fabregas scored the 6th goal was “This is perfect football!! Arsenal are playing the heavenly game!!”

The scoreboard paints the picture

The brilliant run continued, as Fabregas scored a 80th minute equaliser at Anfield. Manchester United were next in the Premier League, and again I was watching the game with Suraj Sathyanarayan. Wayne Rooney scored again at the Emirates, just before half time. And Fabregas had equalised for Arsenal, before Ronaldo looked to have scored the winner in the 82nd minute. Arsenal made a barrage of attacks, before William Gallas’ chance goal, in the 94th minute or something, made it 2-2. I can still remember Fabregas screaming into Ferdinand’s ears after the equaliser!!

Gallas pokes the ball home

Arsenal’s incredible run of 28 games unbeaten in all competitions was finally halted in Spain, as Seville beat Arsenal 3-1. While Fabregas was clearly running the show, there was another unsung hero in the team, who goes by the name Matheiu Flamini. He was immense all season, and provided the perfect foil for Fabregas to go ahead and perform his playmaker role to perfection. After his near error-free season, Flamini inexplicably decided to leave for AC Milan.

Flamini and Fabregas

Another player to step up to the plate, was Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker, was turning out out be a goal machine. He contributed 30 goals in all competitions that season, and scored many spectacular ones in the process. He was later to change his surname from Adebayor to Greedybayor.

He was pretty good too

Arsenal managed to hold on to top spot,even though they could only muster a point out of their travels to the North East, to face Newcastle and Middlesbrough. However, the Gunners bounced back as William Gallas’ solitary strike was enough to see of a largely dissapointing Chelsea.

Cech is bewildered as Gallas scores

A very young Arsenal side made the trip to Blackburn in the Carling Cup, with the oldest player being Eduardo, aged 24. The young guns, down to 10 men, emerged 3-2 winners on a chilly night, in extra time, thanks to the goal from their oldest player. And more plaudits were heaped upon the young team, as they won the North London derby, 3 days before Christmas 2-1, after Nicklas Bendtner’s goal, 2 fucking seconds after he came on as a sub!!

Bendtner beats Spuds and gravity to score!

1-0 down at half-time at Goodison, Eduardo turned the game on it’s head as his craft delivered two brilliant goals, before 3 points were sealed with a 4-1 triumph.

Spuds finally got a win over their North London rivals after nearly 9 years, as they beat a disjointed Arsenal 5-1 in the League Cup semifinals. Arsenal were really poor that night (You have to be, if you are losing to Spurs) and also there was an on-pitch scuffle between Adebayor and Bendtner, which was quickly quelled, but it was a worrying sign that the Gunners were self-destructing after a magnificent campaign, so far.

Soon, that was put aside, as Arsenal beat Newcastle 3-0 twice in 4 days, and then a brilliant Eduardo goal sealed points at Eastlands, before Arsenal took full advantage of their game in hand, as a late Adebayor goal against Blackburn put the North Londoners 5 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester United. I watched the last 10 minutes of the game, and the tension around the Emirates was palpable. When Adebayor scored, I had this feeling that the Premier League was coming to North London. How wrong was I?

A week later, Arsenal failed to turn up at Old Trafford. Injuries seemed to have mounted, as a significantly weak Arsenal side succumbed to a 4-0 loss, and down to 10 men as the ever-stupid Eboue was sent off for a cynical challenge. The season changing game a week later, after a goalless draw against Kaka’s AC Milan, at St. Andrews. In the 8th minute of the game, a certain fucking cunt, named Martin Taylor, who himself was an untalented twat, made a horrendous challenge on Arsenal’s immensely talented Brazilian-Croat, which broke the latters leg.It was an unreal moment. Watching on TV, I certainly didn’t know the extension of the injury. All I knew, was that,it was something horribly gone wrong,if Adebayor’s. Hleb’s and Fabregas’ expressions were anything to go by. Eduardo was stretchered off and that was that. Birmingham capitalized on Arsenal’s mental frailty, as a James McFadden free-kick put them ahead, before a Walcott brace pulled back the Gunners level in the second half. As it seemed that Arsenal would leave the Midlands with 3 vital points, came the decisive moment of Arsenal’s season. Gael Clichy made an inexplicable mistake as he allowed Stuart Parnaby to run into the penalty box, when he failed to clear the ball. He caught him on the run, and it was a penalty, duly crashed home by McFadden, the last kick of the game. William Gallas sat on the half-way circle, as a protest. It all seemed too rosy till now, but in fact it was all spiralling downwards.

Eduardo’s horrific injury

AC Milan was conquered at the San Siro, as Arsenal became the first English to beat Milan in their formidable backyard. A brilliant performance by the Gunners, against one of the best teams in the world, was rewarded in the 84th minute, as Fabregas’ brilliant long range effort, proving to be the icebreaker. Theo Walcott’s darting run was then tapped in by Emmanuel Adebayor, as Arsenal enjoyed a famous win under the lights in Italy.Joy was unparalleled and relief was long-coming.

Milan conquered

But, that signalled a downfall, as Arsenal could secure only 3 points in their next 4 games in the Premier League. A 94th minute equaliser from Bendtner, and a 86th minute one from Toure, rescued 2 points for Arsenal against Villa and Boro, at home, and then they were beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. The moment, where I lost all hope was against Bolton at the Reebok. Arsenal simply had to win this one to stay in the hunt, and 2-0 down at Half-time, to a brace from Matthew Taylor, and down to 10 men, after Diaby got sent off, was hardly the script. I switched off the TV in disgust, and went to sleep. But, I regret that decision, to this day. Arsenal sparked a second half comeback mission. Gallas got one back, before van Persie equalised in deteriorating conditions at The Reebok, under the rain. And,an unprecedented winner came in the 90th minute, as the 10 men brilliantly battled, with all odds stacked up against them. Arsenal were still in the title race.

Fab celebrates an amazing turnaround

Arsenal then had to face Liverpool thrice in a week, and it started off with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the first leg of the Champions League quarters. Arsenal had a clear penalty shout, when Dirk Kuyt bought down Alexander Hleb, but the referee waved play-on. It was a clear indicator as to how even luck had deserted us in the decisive moments of the season. Arsenal struggled to a 1-1 draw on the weekend in the Premier League, and the gap widened at the top of the table.Arsenal’s dreams were on the line at Anfield. In a pulsating game. Arsenal took the lead as Diaby poked one past Reina in the 13th. Sami Hyppia soon equalised, and a brilliant Fernando Torres goal in the 69th put the Reds ahead. All seemed over, before Theo Walcott came on. A corner was cleared, and Walcott made a pacy waltz through the Reds’ defence, running the length of the pitch, to give a perfect pass to Adebayor to drive home. It was 2-2, and Arsenal were in the drivers’ seat now, on away goals. Alas, it was not to be. After being denied a penalty a week earlier,Arsenal conceded one in the 86th. Ryan Babel dived for a nomination for the Oscars, after minimal contact from Toure. Steven Gerrard scored, and Babel sealed the win when Arsenal put everything forward, in search for an equaliser. Arsenal’s luck had run out, as their European dreams were ended by poor refereeing, on a hard night in Anfield.

How could this not be a penalty?

It’s all over in Europe

And the watershed moment, came at Old Trafford, few days later. Arsenal, by now were 6 points behind United, and only a win here would keep them on United’s back. A loss would signal an end to Premier League hopes, as a 9 point deficit would be impossible to overcome, with only 4 games to go. I was in delirium when Adebayor’s chance effort handed Arsenal the lead, but 6 minues later Gallas was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area. Ronaldo stepped up and scored. Arsenal’s fate was sealed, as an Owen Hargreaves free kick meant 3 points to United. I vividly remember that moment. As United were lining it up, I knew this was it. It is one of the worst feelings in the world, for a football fan. Lehmann didn’t even move to save it, and was beaten completely. Just weeks earlier, we had beaten AC Milan at the San Siro, and were 5 points ahead in the Premier League. And now, we were out of both competitions, and we had no one to blame.

And in the league

12 points were derived from 4 dead-rubber Premier League games. There was a sense of failure in all Arsenal players in all of the games, even though they won. There were no animated celebrations, even after a 6-2 thumping of Derby. It had been a long hard season, and a much-deserved trophy had eluded them throughout.

Living through a teams ups and downs is part of a football fans’ life. The 2007-2008 season was an epic season for me, and for Gunners’ fans across the globe.The team had lit our lives and provided many heart-stopping moments, both joyous and sad. However, my unflinching loyalties towards them were only strengthened.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Semi Finals

Champions League – Quarter Finals

Top Scorer – Emmanuel Adebayor (30 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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