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Lukas Podolski scoop and a bit more..

Hello Gooners. While we wait with bated breath for tonight’s Manchester derby, news has just emerged from Germany that Lukas Podolski has confirmed his move to Arsenal.

This, taken from Arseblog News, that the German striker and his present club, FC Cologne, have released a joint statement. It says,

Hi folks, from next season I will play Arsenal FC. This change gives me the opportunity to play at international level in a top European club. This is a great opportunity in my sporting career.The decision for this step is not easy for me because the FC Köln, the city and the fans are very special for me. I’ll always carry FC in my heart. We must now concentrate all the forces together and focus exclusively on the league. Regards, Poldi.

This is certainly great news for us Arsenal fans, who have been waiting quite long for that one really experienced world class striker. No disrespect to Eduardo or Chamakh though. Eduardo was a fantastic striker for Dinamo Zagreb, but you could say a bit unproven at the top echelons of European football. Unfortunately for him, he got struck with a horrible injury, just when he was picking up the pace of the English game. Chamakh, despite a great start, has failed miserably to hold on to his place in the team, and much of it can be rather owed to the fine form of Robin van Persie. The less said about Niklas Bendtner, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Park-Chu-Young, the better.

I think Podolski will add a new dimension to our existing attacking array. He has chalked up 43 goals in 95 games for the national side. With Fiorentina and Bordeaux interested in Chamakh, I find it hard to see him at the club next year, and the same goes with Park. He may have delayed his military service, to prolong his football career, but he wouldn’t be happy warming benches for the Reserves, on cold nights in places like Barnet, Stevenage and Burton.

This leaves us with our on-loan strikers, Niklas Bendtner, who says he wouldn’t even join Sunderland if he got the chance to. I agree with him. He is the best striker in the world after all. We have Carlos Vela, once touted as the next big thing in Mexican football, before one Javier Hernandez came along. He has scored 10 goals for Basque club Real Soceidad, and they want to retain his services on a permanent basis. Vela was a bit of a question mark. At times, he would make you think you are watching Maradona, but then moments later, he would look like Nelson Vivas out of position. Joel Campbell, the Costa Rica international looks like one for the future, if he can get his visa and passport issues sorted.

Arsene Wenger and Israel captain Yossi Benayoun spoke about the over-reliance on Robin van Persie at the moment. While admitting that they have relied on the Dutchman, more than they should, this season, Wenger also urged him to finish the season on a high as we look to seal 3rd spot and automatic Champions League qualification, which helps us ease the fixture congestion at the very start of the season, as well as prevent us from even contemplating a possibility of playing in the Europa League.

He has to push us over the line. There are two games to go. We have been a bit over-reliant on him, I concede that. But it is difficult to change that before the end of the season.

Yossi Benayoun, compared the Dutch striker to his ex-teammate at Liverpool and later Chelsea, Fernando Torres. (Mind you, when he was in top form)

I have been lucky enough to play with some of the best strikers in the world,”he said. “Robin is one of the best in the world. It was the same when Fernando was on fire and scoring lots of goals at Liverpool. They are on the same level as two of the best strikers in the world.Every game at Liverpool we knew he could score. We know we must give Robin the ball in the right place and he will score. That is what we did against Stoke and he has been doing that all season.

In other news, Arsene Wenger is lining up his options for assistant manager, after Pat Rice revealed he would retire at the end of the season and probably spend his retirement days in Brighton, and enjoy the sun, while pondering over what has been a fine tenure at the club.

It will be decided very very soon and I will decide after that. It looks like he could stop, but it is not official yet. Pat is fantastic. He works every day hard and never speaks to the press – fantastic!

One man, who surely would love to take that position, is club legend Thierry Henry.

You know what? I might. Now do you think I would be a good one? You can never tell. I actually don’t know if that would be an option. I know I will be in the game for sure. Why not? Sure.Everyone knows the love I have for Arsenal Football Club, so you know it goes without saying where.

The King also spoke about his brief 2 months stint, when he scored 3 goals, 2 of which were match-winners.

That’s a dream.It was the first time – put the national team aside – it was the first time I scored a goal as a fan of the team [I scored for].It’s too much to describe. I know I’ve never felt that before.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger also spoke about the appaling behaviour of the Stoke fans on Saturday.

I don’t think you can be especially proud to boo Aaron Ramsey,because I don’t see what he has done wrong in his behaviour. That’s an old story where the fans of Stoke stand behind their player. But it shouldn’t go as far as booing Aaron Ramsey.They have a relationship with me but I don’t have one with them! They do enjoy my visits] but I personally have enough experience to cope with that.I focus on what I love in my job and the way my players behave on the pitch. I am not responsible for the way people behave in the stands. If you want to stop that it is easy to stop but I cannot influence it. I have had so much in England, I have been here for 15 years, and basically I don’t hear it because I am focused on the game.It doesn’t bother me too much. I don’t listen too much to what people chant and I just think one day people in football will have to tackle that as well. It is easy to sit in the stand and insult people – it is the easiest sport in the world.I believe that it was a game where we have shown great character, great battling qualities. Overall we deserved at least a point and I can only give credit to my players for their battling qualities and the way they responded to what Stoke offered us – full commitment, well-organised, direct. We did not always cope with it but today I felt we did.It is important to win our next two games.

That’s a wrap then. More to come soon on the Podolski story. Do not forget to read the preview of the Manchester Derby here.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in General

 

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A Lookback at the last 10 Liverpool vs Arsenal clashes at Anfield

Arsenal and Liverpool have produced some exciting encounters in the past. From the last gasp title win an Anfield in 1989, to Andrei Arshavin’s 4 goals, this fixture never dissapoints. Ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Anfield on Saturday, take a lookback at the last 10 encounters between these two teams at the famous stadium.

10. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal, 28th November 2004, Premier League

(Liverpool– Alonso 41, Mellor 90; ArsenalVieira 57)

Liverpool made most of Arsenal’s frailty with a last-gasp win at Anfield. Arsenal were still stuttering from their defeat at Old Trafford in October, and had since drawn lowly Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. Liverpool dominated most of the game, and took the lead through Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso. However, Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira scored the equalizer on the hour mark. However, when it seemed the game was set for a draw, Neil Mellor scored a screamer from 25 yards to beat Jens Lehmann.

9. Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal, 14th February 2006, Premier League

(Liverpool-Garcia 87)

Liverpool dealt another injury time defeat for Arsenal on Valentine’s Day in 2006. Liverpool dominated most of the game against an injury-ravaged Arsenal side, but were single-handedly kept out for most of the game by German keeper Jens Lehmann. Liverpool had a penalty on the half hour mark, which Gerrard took and was brilliantly kept out by Lehmann. However, in the 87th minute Luis Garcia scored the winner for the Reds after Lehmann was unable to hold on to compatriot Dietmaar Hamaan’s powerful shot.

8. Liverpool 1-3 Arsenal, 6th January 2007, FA Cup 3rd Round

(Liverpool-Kuyt 71, Arsenal-Rosicky 37,45, Henry 84)

FA Cup holders Liverpool were dumped from the FA Cup in stylish fashion by a lethal Arsenal. The game was overall evenly contested, but Liverpool were undone on the break. Tomas Rosicky first curled in a fine effort to give the Gunners the lead, before doubling it at the stroke of half-time, from the edge of the box. Liverpool responded in the 71st minute with a Dirk Kuyt header. But, it was Thierry Henry who added the finishing touches to the game. Henry played a throughball, for, well, himself, as he jinxed Jamie Carragher, to score Arsenal’s winner.

7. Liverpool 3-6 Arsenal, 9th January 2007, League Cup Quarter-Finals

(Liverpool-Fowler 33, Gerrard 68, Hyypia 80; Arsenal- Aliadierie 27, Baptista 40,45,60,84, Song 45)

Arsenal knocked the wind out of Liverpool for the second time in 4 days, as they dumped the Reds out of the second cup competition, at Anfield. In a thrilling game, it was young French striker Jeremie Aliadierie who gave the Gunners the lead, before Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler drew level. However, Arsenal soon led after a Julio Baptista free-kick, and a chancy Alex Song finish from close range. Arsenal went into half-time with a resounding 4-1 lead, after Baptista scored from a tap-in. Baptista remarkably even missed a penalty, before scoring the Gunners’ 5th on the night. Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia scored to ensure a thrilling finish, making the score 3-5, but Baptista was not done yet, as he scored Arsenal’s 6th in the 84th minute.

6. Liverpool 4-1 Arsenal, 31st March 2007, Premier League

(Liverpool- Crouch 4, 35, 81, Agger 60; Arsenal- Gallas 73)

Peter Crouch scored a remarkable hat-trick as Liverpool avenged their earlier cup exits, to beat the Gunners 4-1 at Anfield. Crouch opened the scoring after just 4 minutes. He then scored a superb header to take Liverpool into half-time with a 2-0 lead. Daniel Agger made it 3-0 as he glanced Lehmann. Gallas’ goal proved to be the only consolation for Arsenal as Crouch completed his ‘left-foot, right-foot, header’ hat-trick with 10 minutes to go.

5. Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal, 28th October 2007, Premier League

(Liverpool-Gerrard 7, Arsenal-Fabregas 80)

Arsenal required a late equalizer from Cesc Fabregas to go to top of the table, in an absorbing game at Anfield. In a game dominated by both teams in periods, it was Steven Gerrard who scored the opening goal in the 7th minute with a fine effort. Arsenal responded well with some brilliant passing between Rosicky, Hleb, Fabregas and Adebayor and got the reward for their efforts, when Fabregas toe-poked Hleb’s through ball.

4. Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal, 8th April 2008, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg

(Liverpool-Hyypia 30, Torres 69, Gerrard 86 (pen), Babel 90; Arsenal-Diaby 13, Adebayor 84)

Arsenal suffered heartbreak at the hands of Liverpool as they were knocked out of the Champions League in dramatic fashion. Having drawn 1-1 in the first leg at the Emirates, it was Arsenal who took the lead through Abou Diaby, who scored after a well-worked move. Finnish defender Sami Hyypia soon drew level and Liverpool led the tie through a fine Fernando Torres effort in the 69th minute. Arsenal thought they had won it in the 84th minute, after Theo Walcott sprinted the entire length of Anfield, to set up Emmanuel Adebayor. However, 2 minutes  later, Ryan Babel went down off the slightest of touches from Kolo Toure and won a penalty. Arsenal felt hard done by as they had been denied a clear penalty a week earlier. Gerrard scored, and Babel finished it off 6 minutes later, after the Gunners threw everyone forward.

3. Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal, 21st April 2009. Premier League

(Liverpool-Torres 49, 72, Benayoun 56, 90+4′; Arsenal-Arshavin 39,67,70,90)

Andrei Arshavin had the match of his life as he scored 4 goals in an enthralling encounter at Anfield, which dented Liverpool’s title hopes. In a game which had 8 goals, it is surprising that the half-time score was 1-0, with Arshavin scoring after fine work by Samir Nasri and Fabregas. Fernando Torres equalized minutes after half-time, and some bloke called Yossi Benayoun handed Liverpool the advantage. However, Arsenal were rewarded for some fine play, as Arshavin scored a scorcher, after an error from Alvaro Arbeloa. 3 minutes later, the Russian scored again from close range. Liverpool fought hard to save their title ambitions, as Torres leveled things again. In the dying moments, Walcott surged foward, and Arshavin finished finely off his left foot. Liverpool gathered all energy that was left in them, as Benayoun prodded a late equalizer.

2. Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal, 13th December 2009, Premier League

(Liverpool-Kuyt 41; Arsenal-Johnson (O.G)-50, Arshavin 58)

Andrei Arshavin cam back to haunt Liverpool as he scored Arsenal’s winner in a Premier League clash. Liverpool dominated the first half in its entirity, and should have had a penalty when Gallas felled Gerrard. They got their reward, minutes before half-time, as Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring after Manuel Almunia failed to latch on to an Aurelio free-kick. Glen Johnson, who had a poor game, scored an own goal, when he turned in Nasri’s cross. Minutes later, Russia captain Arshavin, controlled the ball brilliantly and shot past Reina. From there on, Arsenal closed out with ease, to secure 3 points.

1. Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal, 15th August 2010, Premier League

(Liverpool –N’Gog 46, Arsenal-Reina (O.G)-90+1′)

Arsenal escaped with a draw from Anfield, after being second-best against Liverpool. Both teams ended the game with 10 men. Debutants Joe Cole and Laurent Koscielny were sent off for Liverpool and Arsenal respectively. Joe Cole saw red for a poor tackle on Koscielny. Liverpool, despite being down to 10 men, took the lead through David N’Gog who scored from a narrow angle. Liverpool managed to frustrate the Gunners’ for long periods, but Arsenal managed to equalize at the death after Reina failed to hold on to Rosicky’s cross, and bundled it into his own net.

Arsenal’s record in the last 10 games against Liverpool at Anfield is P10 W3 D3 L4.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Best of the Best

 

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The Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra question

This is an Arsenal blog. However, the weekend was overshadowed by incidents in the Manchester United vs Liverpool match.

Now, here are two clubs, the two most successive in England, and with a rivalry unmatched, and 37 titles between them. But, it all had to boil down to one thing. Luis Suarez deciding not to shake Patrice Evra’s hands.

It had all started in the earlier clash between these two teams in October at Anfield, which ended in a 1-1 draw. After the match, the Uruguyan was accused of racially abusing the French left-back. According to the statement given by Evra, Suarez said to him during the game “I don’t speak to blacks”, and “Because you are a black”, after an earlier kick on Evra. Moreover, he called Evra ‘negro’ 5 times during the game. Suarez pleaded innocent, saying he had used the term ‘negro’ in a friendly manner, and that such words are commonplace in his native Uruguay. But, not ‘native’ enough for the FA, who slapped him with a 8 match ban.

Liverpool were visibly aghast with the verdict, and came out with t-shirts to support their star striker, in the away match at Wigan. This lead to more criticism of both Suarez and Liverpool, who, in the view of many, were supporting racist behavior. Liverpool, despite standing by their statement, that Suarez was innocent, eventually decided not to appeal against the ban, and Suarez sat out the next 8 domestic matches.

One of the matches he sat out, was the epic FA Cup 4th Round clash, against, yes, Manchester United, at Anfield. Evra was booed throughout the game. Liverpool had earlier decided to cut allocation for United supporters, in an effort to calm tensions between the clubs. Liverpool eventually went through 2-1 thanks to a 88th minute at the Kop end, from Dirk Kuyt.

A few days later, Suarez returned to the Liverpool team in a home match against Tottenham, where he came on as a sub. He was in the headlines again, for a miscued kick, which landed on the midriff of Spu*s midfielder Scott Parker. However, the immediate reaction of Suarez, was proof enough that it was not intentional.

Moving on, all cameras were on Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez as they ambled for the customary hand-shake. Suarez avoided Evra’s hand-shake, which infuriated the Manchester United skipper. He held Suarez’s hand, but immediately let go, after being intervened by the referees. Suarez continued, head down. Rio Ferdinand, whose own brother Anton Ferdinand, was abuse by Chelsea captain, John Terry, declined Suarez’s hand. The tone was set for a fiery encounter. Every time Suarez got hold of the ball, he was met with a chorus of boos from all ends of Old Trafford, much similar to the treatment meted out to Patrice Evra, weeks earlier.

At half-time it seemed, the Uruguyan had lost his head, as he angrily holted the ball into the technical area before he made his way to the dressing room. Police and stewards were called upon to defuse the tension. The second half, began with Wayne Rooney in devastating mood.

He scored two quickfire goals and the Red Devils were 2-0 up in no time. It seemed the two goals had dealt a sucker punch to the Anfield club, as they never really displayed any fight. There was one ocassion, where Suarez got through, but was halted by a last-ditch tackle by Ferdinand, much to the fury of Suarez.

The South American striker, then scored, 9 minutes from time, to make the score 2-1, and then headed over a golden chance, minutes later, to equalise, but Manchester United held on for the win.

What happened next was completely unsporting from Patrice Evra. In a way of taunting Suarez, he ran past him, arms wide upon, and hopping down the pitch, in front of the Stretford End. He was soon asked to tone down his celebrations by the referee, as Suarez was quickly escorted off the pitch by his Liverpool teammates, with the help of a few stewards.

The post-match interviews added to the fire. Ferguson brandishing Suarez as a ‘disgrace’ to English football, Liverpool in particular, while Kenny Dalglish gave a bizzare interview, where he claimed not having any knowledge of the hand-shake incident. Liverpool, Dalglish and Suarez redeemed themselves to some extent, having issued public apologies, to Manchester United, which were quickly accepted.

So, here area few thoughts on what I think about the incident.

Was Suarez wrong in shaking Evra’s hands?

No. There is no rule, which states that you have to shake an opponent’s hand. There have been various similar incidents in the Premier League. Paul Scholes declined Patrick Vieira’s hand in 2005, after a bust-up in the tunnel between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. Wayne Bridge refused to shake John Terry’s hand after John Terry was proven guilty of having slept with Bridge’s ex-girlfiend. And, more recently, the FA decided to altogether scrap handshaked ahead of the FA Cup clash between Chelsea and Queen’s Park Rangers, following claims of racial abuse by John Terry on Anton Ferdinand, in an earlier league match.

Suarez, to be fair, to him, still feels he is innocent, and was wrongly handed a 8-match ban. Also, was accused of racism, which would be detrimental to his public image, and hence his stance on declining Evra’s hand.

However, the counter argument can be Suarez could have put a lid over the issue by shaking Evra’s hands, and got on with the game.

Debate is open on this.

Was Ferdinand wrong in declining Evra’s hands?

Yes. There was no need for Rio Ferdinand to get involved in this.

Of course, Ferdinand’s own brother was at the receiving end of racial abuse, and Rio himself claims of being racially abused as a kid. And, hence his stance of not shaking the hand of someone, who he perceives to be a ‘racist’.

Then again, debate is open on this.

Is Evra’s celebration justified?

I had lengthy and heated arguments about this with many Manchester United and Liverpool supporters on this issue, in our community in Facebook.

Manchester United fans feel that Evra has every right to celebrate the way he did. It was a high intensity match, and few weeks earlier he had been thoroughly booed at Anfield. So, it was his moment. On whether he should have done it in front of Suarez, they say joy can’t be controlled, and he wanted to celebrate in front of the Stretford End.

Liverpool fans, however, feel hard done by. Evra’s celebration was completely out of order. The game has lost its sportsmanship, according to them. While they defend Suarez not shaking Evra’s hand as a personal decision, they criticise Evra’s decision to overcelebrate.

What I feel, is, No, Evra’s celebration is not justified. Evra probably would have gained respect from all quarters had he not done that, and celebrated in a dignified manner. He tried to taunt the Uruguyan, by rubbing salt into his wounds. Probably, deserves a match-ban. Gary Neville, Martin Keown and Emmanuel Adebayor have all gotten match-bans in the past for their celebrations.

Are Ferguson’s comments justified?

No. To call a proffesional footballer of a rival team, ‘disgraceful’ is completely out of order.

Yes, it may have come in the heat of the moment, and Fergie might have really meant it, but to let it out in the media has left a bad taste.

The burly Scot, himself has managed controversial players during his reign. There was Eric Cantona, who kung-fu kicked a Crystal Palace fan. There was Rio Ferdinand, who missed a drugs test. And, there was Roy Keane, who blatantly ended the career of another footballer, Alfe Inge Haaland, in a mad tackle.

Ferguson, should have declined to comment, instead of escalating tensions.

Is Dalglish’s post-match interview behavior justified.

Dalglish didn’t attend the post-match interview, in a later interview, claimed to have no knowledge about the issue. He said he expected Suarez to shake Evra’s hands, and the incident was completely unexpected.

Yes, Dalglish was hard done by, considering his side lost, but to not appear in the post-match interview leaves a sour taste. And, to give a poor interview later on, leaves a lot to be considered. Hence, No.

Summary

To come to a conclusion on such a controversial topic is a hard thing to do. There is always two sides to a coin.

There is one side, that says Suarez is innocent, and never racially abused Evra in the first place. He took the 8 match ban, and after all that he has to deal with criticism on his personal decision not to shake Evra’s hand.

And, the other side, which feels Suarez did abuse Evra racially, which is a completely unacceptable thing to do. And despite the ban, he has not yet learned his lesson, and has the audacity to reject Evra’s handshake.

Here’s what I feel. Guilty or not, Suarez had the best chance to put the incident behind him and move on. He didn’t, for whatever reason he might have had at the moment. Not shaking a opposition player’s hand goes completely against FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign. Evra, on his part, is probably equally a culprit. His over-the-top celebrations were distasteful in the least, so were the comments made by Ferguson and the interview by Dalglish.

What I can say is that hopefully, things have now been sorted out. This will bode good for both the clubs, and it’s supporters. Football should be the winner at the end of the day, and not racism, or Suarez or Evra. Hopefully, after the next Liverpool-Manchester United clash, football will be the talking point.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in General

 

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2009-2010 Season Review – More Unfinished Business

A long pre-season over, a fresh new challenge awaited the Gunners, as they embarked upon another roller coaster ride, in what was to be the 2009-2010 season. Coming close on many fronts over the last few seasons had left everyone frustrated and here was a chance for Arsenal to redeem themselves.

Surprisingly, the only major signing was the Belgian centre-back Thomas Vermaelen. Emmanuel Adebayor had left for wads of cash. He was to later change his name to Emoneyuel Greedybayor. Kolo Toure left after examplary service to the club. Both had the same destination, Moneybags City.

The campaign started away to Everton. Arsenal had to endure a tough opening match of the season. Or was it?The Gunners completely dismantled the Toffees 6-1. The rout was started by Denilson in the 26th minute with a long-range screamer. And by half-time, 2 more goals were added as debutant defender Thomas Vermaelen headed in one and his defensive partner William Gallas also netted. And in the second half, Arsenal’s dream start continued as Fabregas netted a brace, celebrating the second by displaying a jersey with the name of his friend, and late Espanyol defender Daniel Jarque. Eduardo completed the rout before Louis Saha scored a consolation.

Big Belgian, Little Belgian!! 

Arsenal seemed to be on a goal-scoring spree as they qualified fir the Champions League group stages yet again, when they beat Scottish team Celtic 5-1 on aggregate, and Portsmouth 4-1 in the league.

However, that was that, as Arsenal faced a daunting trip to Eastlands to face both the Manchester clubs in the league. Old Trafford was the first stop, and Arsenal seemed to be on top of their rivals for most of the match, despite an early chance for Wayne Rooney. The young side created a flurry of chances, before Darren Fletcher bough down Andrei Arshavin for ‘what-should-have-been’ a penalty. But the referee didn’t oblige. Moments later, Arshavin found the ball in a perfect shooting position and let in a scorcher to hand the Gunners a 1-0 lead going into half-time. The second half started in the same frantic manner as the first had started. Wayne Rooney converted a penalty in the 59th and minutes later, Arsenal undid all their hard work as Abou Diaby headed in a disastrous own goal. A late deserved equaliser by Robin van Persie was denied by the referee.

Arshavin scores a belter!!

Manchester City were aiming to be the new force in the Premier League, with new investments coming in from the Abu Dhabi group. They had already priced away Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from the Emirates for a combined fee of £41 million. And other high-profile signings included strikers Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz, midfielder Gareth Barry and defender Jolean Lescott, all of whom were attracted by nothing but riches. The game, in itself was an enthralling affair, with van Persie’s fine strike levelling the scores at 1-1 in the 63rd minute. Moments later, Bellamy made it 2-1 to City before Emmanuel Adebayor made himself Arsenal’s public enemy No.1. He scored in the 80th minute and ran the length of the entire pitch and overcelebrated in front of the Arsenal faithful. He was also involved in a moment with van Persie, when he stamped the latter on purpose. However, it went unnoticed and Arsenal were beaten 4-2.

Days later, Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down in Belgium in less than 6 minutes and it seemed like Arsenal were disintegrating too early. However, Niklas Bendtner equalised on the stroke of half-time, and a 78th minute equaliser by Vermaelen in his homeland was soon added on to, by a 81st minute winner from Eduardo to complete a 3-2 turnaround.

The comeback is complete!! 

Vermaelen was proving to be somewhat of a hidden centre-forward as he crashed in 2 goals against Wigan in a 4-0 triumph, the second a belter from outside the box.Blackburn were given a sound 6-2 thrashing, in a game featuring another Vermaelen screamer, after being 2-1 down at one stage.

A centre forward in disguise!

Arsenal dropped 2 points away to West Ham with a late Allesandro Diamanti penalty and days later a youthful team eliminated Liverpool from the League Cup, young Spaniard Francisco Merida, scoring a wonderful goal.

The first North London derby turned out to be a mismatch, as Arsenal beat Cunty Spuds 3-0. Fabregas embarrassed the Spurs defence, in the 43rd minute, who were kicking off after van Persie had scored the first. He took the ball of them and ran half the pitch, beating everyone in his wake to score the 2nd goal of the evening.

Spuds drubbed again!! 

Meanwhile, Eduardo was in scintillating form as he forced two own goals at Wolves in a 4-1 win. However, the run ended there as the next two league games ended in defeats, first a 1-0 loss at Sunderland, and then a home loss to a marauding Didier Drogba-inspired Chelsea. More humiliation was heaped upon as a young team were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City in the League Cup.

Arshavin re-announced himself at Anfield, months after his 4-goal display, as he scored a brilliant goal in a 2-1 win. Dirk Kuyt had scored the first for Liverpool, before Glen Johnson deflected one into his own net for Arsenal’s equalizer. It saw a reverse in Arsenal’s league fortunes, as they picked up vital wins against Hull City, Aston Villa and Portsmouth. 2 late goals from Ramsey and Eduardo saw off West Ham in the FA Cup.

Gerrard-‘What have we ever done to you, you mean mean Russian?’ 

Arsenal hosted Everton in what was one of the few matches around the country that weekend, due to heavy snowfall. Most matches had been cancelled, and it seemed even this would have been. However, brilliant work from the groundsmen ensured the match would go ahead as scheduled. And it seemed Everton would make most of Arsenal’s defensive frailties when Steven Piennar handed them the lead in the 81st minute. But, Tomas Rosicky’s late goal secured a point. Bolton were then beaten 2-0 and 4-2 in successive games.

Arsenal welcomed back experienced defender Sol Campbell on a short deal to the Emirates. He had made 195 appearances in his first spell from 2001 to 2006, winning two league titles and the FA Cup thrice. He moved on to Portsmouth where he won another FA Cup winner’s medal in 2008. He made an unsuccessful move to lower league Notts County, breaking his contract after just 1 match. He returned to Arsenal’s training base to keep fit and was offered a short term deal. He made his debut in a 3-1 loss to Stoke City, which saw the Gunners exit the FA Cup.

31st January 2010 is a date I don’t remember fondly. It was the day before the new semester began in college, and I was in the hostel to watch Arsenal host Manchester United in the league. Giving me company were around 30 glory hunters. I am sure not even 5 of them could name Manure’s starting lineup. United were 1 point ahead of the Gunners coming into this one. Every Manure goal was cheered loudly by these chums, who didn’t know shit about the sport. Anyways, Arsenal disappointingly lost 3-1.

Even this goal was to no avail, in the worst match ever!

Arsenal were haunted again by an Ivorian demon called Didier Drogba, going down 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. By now, Arsenal had fallen well behind in the title race, 9 points adrift of their Chelsea neighbors.Abou Diaby bought back some cheer as he scored the only goal in the 71st minute in a game against Liverpool.

Sol Campbell scored his last goal in the Champions League in that fateful night in Paris against Barcelona. He scored again in the Champions League Knockout stage game against FC Porto of Portugal, with the scoreline reading a 2-1 loss to Arsenal. 10 days later Arsenal travelled to Stoke, only to face a team that had been trained to play in the Rugby league. Ryan Shawcross’ wild lunge broke young Aaron Ramsey’s tibula and fibia (in short, the leg). It was another horrific injury Arsenal had suffered. I can still remember that moment, when Ramsey lie there in dire pain, calling out for the physio for help. It was another Eduardo moment, and the Gunners covered their face with their hands, not able to comprehend the injury. But, it was not to be a Birmingham as Arsenal proved their mettle with two goals in stoppage time from Fabregas and Vermaelen to secure a 3-1 win.

Ramsey’s horrific injury..

The team celebrate a resurgent win!! 

In the home game against Burnley, posters in support of Aaron Ramsey adorned the stadium, with the Gunners emerging 3-1 winners. 3 days later, Arsenal turned on the style in Europe. Down 2-1 from the first leg, Arsenal saw themselves leading 2-0 after just 25 minutes, with both goals being scored by the heavily-criticized Dane Niklas Bendtner. The 63rd minute saw the lead being extended to 3 goals, as Samir Nasri beat a host of defenders, and proving he can step up to the role of Cesc Fabregas, to score a peach. Emmanuel Eboue scored in the 66th, before Bendtner completed his hat-trick with a stoppage time penalty.

Bendtner and Nasri, brilliant against Porto!! 

A trip to the KC Stadium proved to be fruitful, as Bendtner turned out to be the match-winner to secure a 2-1 win with a really late strike. This still kept Arsenal in the title hunt. Arsenal were 2nd, level on points with leaders Chelsea at 64 points, and a point ahead of United, having played a game more.

Bendtner’s 90th minute goal!! 

After beating West Ham 2-0 at home, Arsenal failed to go just 1 point behind leaders Chelsea after being denied a win at St. Andrews, thanks to a late Kevin Phillips equaliser. And, Arsenal were still going strong in Europe and had been drawn to a formidable Barcelona team. While Barcelona were near full-strength, Arsenal were still without first-choice striker Robin van Persie. A half-fit Fabregas led Arsenal into the match.

Barcelona were completely dominant in the first half, and only a resolute Manuel Almunia kept them at bay, as he pulled off a flurry of saves. To Arsenal’s misfortune, they suffered two more injuries as Gallas and Arshavin were substituted before half-time, with the lesser-experienced and lesser-talented Denilson and Eboue. Barca made most of it, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the first a minute after the second half started. He rocked Arsenal again 13 minutes later to double the advantage. It seemed all was over for Arsenal that season in Europe. Just then, Theo Walcott fired in Arsenal’s first in the 69th minute to provide a glimmer of hope. As Barca huffed and puffed to hold on to the precious lead, Carles Puyol bought down fellow Catalan Cesc Fabregas in the box and was sent off. Fabregas converted and made it 2-2, but by now he was limping in pain, and played the last 10 minutes without complaining. The match ended 2-2, leaving the Gunners a mountain to climb at the Nou Camp.

El Capitan wins and scores the equaliser! Legend!

Back in the league, Wolves provided stiff opposition, only for Bendtner to pop up with a valuable winner in the 94th minute, the very dying embers of the game. This win kept them 3 points behind the leaders Chelsea, with 5 games to go.

Bendtner to the rescue again!!

Camp Nou was the setting of the beginning of the end. A Messi masterclass. In the 18th minute, Walcott sent Bendtner through. The Dane missed, but scored off the rebound. I remember that goal. I was so mad at Bendtner, I would have killed him if he were next to me. But, he redeemed himself seconds later. Arsenal were 1-0 up at the Nou Camp. That joy was shortlived as 3 minutes later, Barca were level through that superhuman Lionel Messi. By half-time, it was all but over as Messi scored two more to hand the Catalans a 3-1 lead. The second half was more a regulation, and Messi rounded off with his 4th of the night in the 88th minute. A weak Arsenal had been thoroughly beaten.

A Messi masterclass! 😦

Arsenal’s last shot at silverware was the league, and nothing short of 15 points in the next 5 games would give the chance for Arsenal to life silverware. First stop, Shit Fart Lane, in a forgettable North London derby. It was the day when some cunt called Danny Rose decided to be Ronaldinho for a second. His blazing shot from planet Saturn was unstoppable. Soon enough, in the 47th minute, Spurs doubled their advantage through Welsh winger Gareth Bale. Robin van Persie made a comeback after a long injury layoff in the 68th minute, but was denied a goal on several ocassions by Gomes, who decided he would be Oliver Kahn for 25 minutes. Bendtner’s 85th minute goal was just a consolation, as Arsenal created a 6 points gap between them and the leaders.

Some pride was restored at the DW Stadium, as Arsenal took an unassailable 2-0 lead against Wigan. Or it was, I thought. Wigan heaped heartbreak over the Gunners, with 3 goals in the final 10 minutes, to snatch a 3-2 win. In this game, Charles N’Zogbia decided he had Roberto Carlos’ left foot. The title race was over for Arsenal.

Dejection! 😦

Another loss awaited at Ewood Park, before a final day home win over Fulham meant a 3rd place finish and no trophies to show for.

Chokers?Goners?’Throw away your chances’ team?Well, all of it were terms branded by the media over Arsenal, as the club completed their 5th season without a major trophy.

Well, my love for Arsenal?It was the same old, boundless.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 4th Round

Carling Cup – 5th Round

Champions League – Quarter Finals

Top Scorer – Cesc Fabregas (19 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2008-2009 Season Review – Season of Frustration

Yet another season. More hopes. More pressure. Season 2008-2009 beckoned for a very youthful Gunners side, which had seen much chop and change over the summer.The Invincibles of 5 years back was now reduced to only Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy, as Jens Lehmann and Gilberto Silva left Arsenal.

Jens Lehmann was somewhat of a cult hero at Arsenal. For all his antics, he was a brilliant custodian. He was immaculate in the 2003-2004 season, and anyone remember the 2005 FA Cup Final, where he single handedly won the trophy! But of course, he had his occasional hiccups, none bigger than the 2006 Champions League Final, where he got sent off, as Arsenal crashed to a 2-1 defeat. Gilberto was the lynchpin of the midfield ever since the departure of Patrick Vieira. He was ever-reliable with his penalties and his tackles, and often scored crucial goals for the Gunners.

Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb descended into footballing wilderness as they moved to AC Milan and Barcelona, supposedly to win silverware, but ended up heating benches on cold nights across Italy and Spain.

Meanwhile, Arsenal dived into the market as the compulsory French recruitment policy was fulfilled with the arrival of Marseille starlet Samir Nasri for £12 million. And there were some local cheer, as North London born and bred Jack Wilshere signed a proffesional contract. More young blood arrived in the form of Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who rejected the advances of Manchester United, and Mexican striker Carlos Vela.

Arsenal started their league campaign as they ripped apart newcomers West Brom 1-0, with debutant Nasri scoring after 4 minutes, before themselves being on the receiving end of a 1-0 drubbing at Fulham. FC Twente were dispatched 6-0 on aggregate as Arsenal entered another season of the Champions League group stages.

Newcastle and Blackburn, beaten 3-0 and 4-0; Arsenal made the long trip to eastern Europe to face Dynamo Kiev;in a game which saw the Kiev left back (I forgot his name, ended with -ev for sure! ) trying to chop down Walcott’s legs. William Gallas scored a late equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw.

An astonishingly young Arsenal side took to the field against Sheffield United in the Carling Cup. The average age of the 18 man squad was just 18.5 years, and they showed no stage fear as they hit Sheffield for a 6. Wilshere and Ramsey were a class act in midfield, as Carlos Vela helped himself to a hattrick.

Kids, who? 

The Gunners were bought back down to ground few days later, as they crashed to Hull City 2-1 at the Emirates. Geovanni scored from God knows where, in a really drab evening of football.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie looked the perfect strike partnership for Arsenal, as they were consistently among the goals that season, and they took a share of the spoils as Porto were dumped 4-0 at the Emirates. And the European juggernaut rolled on as Fenerbahce were thrashed 5-2 in Turkey under hostile conditions.

An amazing night in Turkey! 

The game of the season came few days later as Arsenal faced Tottenham in a pulsating derby. Cunty Spuds took the lead as a traitor David Bentley scored a scorcher. But Arsenal hit back, as the centre backs Mikael Silvestre and Gallas helped themselves to a couple of goals. Adebayor scored off a delightful Nasri chip, before Daren Bent made it 3-2. It seemed Arsenal had sealed the points with van Persie’s goal. But Spuds hit back in amazing fashion, in the dying moments. First, Jenas cut in to shoot a curler, before Luka Modric repeated the same trick;only to hit the post in the path of Aaron Lennon, who gleefully tucked the ball home.

“We are the cunty Spuds, we are the cunty spuds!”

More frustration awaited the Gunners, as they went to Stoke, hoping to face a football team, before they were face to face with a proffessional rugby side. Rugby emerged the winner as Stoke won 2-1 and Arsenal emerged out of the Britannia, and headed straight to the local hospital.

The Premier League champions awaited next at the Emirates for Arsenal. And Samir Nasri announced his arrival on the English scene, as he scored two brilliant goals to hand Arsenal a 2-0 lead. I remember watching the game with one of my best buddies Samarth Kodial, a Manchut in every sense of the word. Rafael scored minutes from time, but Arsenal held their nerve and mine as they clinched the game 2-1.

Nasri does the double over United!! 

And when it seemed the United game was a sign of things to come, Aston Villa emerged 2-0 victors day later at the Emirates.It could have been worse, but for a penalty save by Manuel Almunia. Worse came days later as a Robinho-inspired Manchester City brushed aside the Gunners 3-0 at Eastlands.

The troubled times saw a shift of captaincy as Arsene Wenger decided to strip William Gallas of captaincy and midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas was appointed the skipper. And in other news, Niklas Bendtner revealed his metrosexual side, as he flashed his pink boots to score in a win over Dynamo Kiev.Soon, a van Persie brace was to bring more joy to Arsenal as they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

van Persie does the double over Chelsea!! 

Bendtner’s flash of pink!!

The Wenger kids were ousted of the Carling Cup, on a cold December night in Lancashire, 2-0 to Burnley, before Emmanuel Eboue was booed off against Wigan, after he gave away the ball countless times, in a 1-0 win. Days later, ex-Gunner Jeremie Aliadiere came back to haunt his former emplyers as he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough. Liverpool dealt more body blows to Arsenal, escaping with a 1-1 draw, as well as injuring Cesc Fabregas and playing a role in Adebayor’s red card.

With Gallas, Clichy, Rosicky, Fabregas, Walcott, van Persie and Adebayor all facing lengthy spells at the physio’s clinic that season for Arsenal, making you wonder if Arsene would give assistant manager Pat Rice some game time.

Speaking of injuries, Zat Knight dealt an injury time blow to Arsenal’s dwindling title hopes, to level the game at 2-2 at Villa Park. Aston Villa gave Arsenal a long and hard chase for fourth place that season.Twin 1-0 wins over Portsmouth and Bolton kept and a 3-1 revenge win over Hull kept Arsenal afloat.

The big story weeks later would be the signing of Russia’s EURO 2008 star Andrey Arshavin from Zenit St. Petersburg for £15 million. Another big story was the return of Eduardo da Silva, Arsenal’s Brazilian born Croatian striker, against Cardiff City in a FA Cup 4th round replay. He scored twice as the Welsh side were beaten 4-0. And in the Premier League, frustration was mounting as Arsenal were held to 5 draws on the bounce against Everton, West Ham, Tottenham, Sunderland and Fulham, the last 4 being goalless.

Europe provided some respite for Arsenal, as they were handed a tricky tie against AS Roma. The first leg was nervously navigated through 1-0, with a van Persie penalty. And an audacious goal by Eduardo against Burnley meant progress in the FA Cup as well.

Eduardo scores a cracker!! 

However the sternest test of Arsenal’s campaign awaited in the Italian capital, Rome, more precisely the hostile atmosphere of the Stadio Olimpico. Roma, were efficient in attack all night, scoring in the 9th minute through Juan and keeping the pressure throughout, only for a certain Manuel Almunia to thwart all attempts. After extra-time the game went to penalties. Eduardo started the spot-kick saga, and his penalty was saved. Soon, Mirko Vucinic had his pathetic shot saved by Almunia. It was 4-4 after regulation spot-kicks and it went to sudden death. Tension around the stadium was unbearable. And finally came the moment. Max Tonneto aimed for the top corner of the goal, but had his shot land up in row Z, and Arsenal were through in stuttering fashion.

A magnificent night in Rome! 

The gutsy display in Rome was soon converted to a 4-0 thumping of Blackburn Rovers. Arshavin seemed to have scored the first in the 2nd, but it was credited as an Andre Ooijer own goal. But, the diminutive Russian was not to be denied that evening, as he scored an incredible solo goal from the narrowest of angles.

From Russia, with love! 

Hull City provided tougher opposition in the 6th round of the FA Cup, but were beaten 2-1 by a late Gallas header in an ill-tempered game. A poor Newcastle were beaten 3-1 and so were Manchester City 2-0. It set up well for a Champions League quarter final clash with Spanish side Villarreal. 3 years earlier, the El Madrigal had been a scene of joy for the Gunners as a last minute Riquelme penalty was saved and Arsenal went through to face Barcelona in the Champions League final, which they eventually lost.

Villarreal went on the offensive from the word go, eventually taking the lead through a long range effort from Marcos Senna. However, Arsenal went into the second leg with an away goal, as Adebayor scored a brilliant equaliser, completely against the run of play.

Itzzz Addebbbaayyyoorr!!! 

The return of the ‘Yellow Submarines’ saw the return of one of Arsenal’s greatest midfielders ever, Robert Pires. However the pleasantries stopped there. Arsenal were unstoppable that night. Walcott opened the scoring with a delicious flick. And Adebayor doubled the lead, as he scored past Diego Lopez, even inspiring a little hop from Mr. Arsene Wenger. van Persie’s penalty sealed a win and a semi-final showdown with Manchester United.

Wenger performing ‘The Hop’! 

3 days later, Arsenal made the short trip to Wembley, to face London rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final. Early Arsenal pressure told as Theo Walcott fired the North Londoners into the lead. But, Didier Drogba ghosted upon Arsenal yet again, as he pounced upon a howler from goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to score with an open net ahead of him.

The game of the season came 3 days later, on a pulsating night in Liverpool, at Anfield. The game was described as a ‘modern classic’. While Liverpool desperately needed 3 points to keep pushing Manchester United for the title, Arsenal weren’t in much desperation for points but a win would effectively seal 4th place. Both teams created a flurry of chances, before Andrei Arshavin opened the scoring in the 36th minute and the Gunners went into half-time with a 1-0 lead. The second half was a completely different animal from the first. Liverpool hit back with two quick goals through Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun. Carragher’s poor pass was tracked down by Arshavin and he let in a peach. And moments later, he completed his hat-trick at Anfield after Nasri put him through. The game got more exciting as Torres brilliantly turned to make it 3-3. It seemed all over for Liverpool’s title challenge, as Walcott made most of a weary defence to unleash the beast in Arshavin as he lashed in for his 4th goal of the night in the 90th minute. Liverpool found the last bit of energy to grab an equaliser, but their title tilt was nearly over.

4 of the best from Arshavin! 

Games were coming thick and fast for Arsenal, and after a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough, they made a daunting trip to Old Trafford. The game was one of the dullest I watched, as both teams failed to show up. But, United scored the winner in the 18th minute through John O’Shea. Optimism was high around the Emirates for Arsenal fans, for the second leg. However, soon Park Ji-Sung capitalised on a slip by young Kieran Gibbs in the 8th minute to hand United the lead. You had to feel for the boy. United showed their class, 3 minutes later, as Ronaldo unleashed a rocket of a free-kick. And passage to the final was sealed by Ronaldo again, in the 61st minute, taking advantage of flak defending. Robin van Persie’s penalty was a mere consolation as Arsenal lost 3-1, making it their second semi-final loss of the season.

A disappointing exit..

Chelsea heaped misery as they ran out 4-1 winners over a beleaguered Arsenal team. Days later, another trip to Old Trafford, saw United picking up a point and the title. And the campaign was rounded off with a 4-1 dead-rubber win over Stoke.

Nearly there, but not quite. That was the story of another trophyless season for Arsenal. Despite the mounting injury list, Arsenal managed a 21 game unbeaten run in the Premier League and a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Champions League.

That made enough case for optimism for Gooner fans world around.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – Semi-Finals

Carling Cup – Quarter Finals

Champions League – Semi-Finals

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (20 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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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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2006-2007 Season Review – Dawn of a new era

New stadium. New outlook. And a new whole beginning for Arsenal Football Club, as they entered the 2006-2007 season, as they made the switch down the road from their spiritual home, Highbury, their home for 93 years; to the new state-of-the-art 60,000 seater modern arena Ashburton Grove aka The Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal had narrowly missed out on being the first London club to lift the Champions League trophy by 13 men from Barcelona. Well, as if 13 weren’t enough, the Catalans had relentlessly pursued Arsenal’s demigod striker Thierry Henry, over a period of 2 seasons; and Arsenal’s incapability to beat Barcelona in the final had just heightened speculation over the transfer. However,finally came in the news that Thierry Henry had decided to stay at Arsenal as he signed a contract extension.

Meanwhile, Arsenal were in the thick of transfer activity, as Robert Pires, left for Villarreal; where he got what he wanted, a 2 year deal. And finally, Villarreal came to Arsenal’s rescue as they signed the legendary Pascal Cygan for a whopping £2 million. Jose Antonio Reyes, who had seen a decline in form, joined Real Madrid, in a straight loan swap with Julio Baptista. Sol Campbell, left on a free to Portsmouth after 195 appearances for Arsenal. And the summers longest transfer saga saw Cashley Cole, who under Arsenal had transformed to being the world’s best left-back, move to Roman Abrahamovich FC, for the sake of wads of money; in a deal that saw William Gallas joining the Gunners.

Arsenal’s first game at the Emirates was a testimonial game. A game, which was a tribute to one of the most talented footballers the Premier League has seen, i.e Dennis Bergkamp. Bergkamp had joined the Gunners for £7.5 million from Inter Milan, where he had an uninspiring time, and had turned out to be one of the greatest foreign players to grace the English game. More on that, in another blog post.

There’s only one Dennis Bergkamp!

Anyways, Arsenal had won their first fixture 2-1, courtesy to goals from Henry and Kanu, in a match graced by legends of both his former clubs, Ajax and Arsenal, such as Cruyff, van Basten, Seaman, Dixon, Wright, Vieira etc.

Thanks to their last-minute grab of 4th place from cunty Spurs, Arsenal had the opportunity to play in the Champions League, and faced Dinamo Zagreb in the Qualifying Round. Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners in the away tie, in a game where new signing Tomas Rosicky, who had joined from Borussia Dortmund, made his debut. The first competitive game for Arsenal at their new stadium was a league game against Aston Villa. I still remember, waiting in eagerness for the fixture, to catch a glimpse of the stadium.

Arsenal seemed to be playing like an away side that afternoon, and clearly needed time to get adapted to new surroundings, even though the crowd were quite vocal that afternoon. Olof Mellberg, of all people, had the honor of scoring the first goal at the Emirates.  Arsenal threw on 17 year old youngster Theo Walcott, in search of the equaliser, which eventually was scored by Gilberto.

It’s GILBEERTTOO!!!

Passage to the group stages of the Champions League was secured with a 2-1 win over Dinamo, in the first floodlit and European game at the Emirates. Arsenal were still stuttering in the league 2 weeks later, as a loss away to Manchester City and a home draw to Middlesbrough saw them pick up just 2 points from 3 games. A hard-fought 2-1 win in Hamburg, where Rosicky scored a screamer, was the perfect lift Arsenal needed ahead of a visit to Old Trafford.

It’s ROOSSISSSKKKYYY!!!

An uphill task was in store, as Arsenal were without talisman Thierry Henry for the game. Undaunted, Arsenal took the game to United. I remember watching the game with a couple of United upstarts, Suraj Sathyanarayan and Jaidev. In an almost uneventful first half, Arsenal should’ve taken the lead when Gilberto slipped and his penalty was saved by Kusczak.  Anyways, as both teams pressed for a winner in the second half, United almost had the lead, when Ronaldo’s fierce shot was smashed right bang into the face of Jens Lehmann. Ouch!!That must’ve hurt. And, finally in the 86th minute, Arsenal got their deserved winner when Fabregas played a killer pass to Emmanuel Adebayor, who poked his long leg to slot the ball past the keeper!  I remember the glum faces of my fellow game-watchers, and it gives immense pleasure to a Gooner to watch sulking Manure fans.

Lehmann takes one on the face!!

It’s AADDEEEBBAAAYYOOORR!!!

“Hey Fab, did you see the look on Fergusmoan??”

Off the bounce of the inspiring victory against Fergusmoan’s men, Arsenal picked up victories against Sheffield United;which incidentally was their first league win at the Emirates; Porto, Charlton; where van Persie showed his ‘Robin’ instincts with an airbourne screamer; and Watford.

“It’s Superman!!It’s Batman!! No, you idiots!!It’s Robin!!

A disappointing loss in Moscow was followed by a class display at Reading, in a 4-0 win. However, league form dipped, and Arsenal fell 10 points off the pace after drawing 1-1 at Everton and losing to West Ham, to a solitary goal by Marlon Harewood, which sparked a sideline battle between Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew.

Wenger and Pardew go for it!!

Arsenal’s topsy-turvy form continued as another late Adebayor strike, this time at Goodison, ensured passage to the next round of the Carling Cup, while a 3-0 beating of Liverpool, pushed us to the third spot. Liverpool failed to turn up in the game, which was won by the defensive pairing of Gallas and Toure.

Further 1-1 frustration against Newcastle at home, was compounded by losses, away to Bolton and Fulham. Reebok was one of the worst grounds in the Premier League, to play in the evening. The lighting was so dull, and the crowd was crap. Even Glossop FC have a more vocal home support. And moreover, Bolton was aided by Mike Dean, who simply refused to acknowledge Bolton’s physicality. There were loads of elbows, high tackles, dives from Bolton, and Arsenal had to suffer at the ends of a partial referee. To add to it, ‘The Incredible Sulk’ Nicolas Anelka, who had left behind a promising career at Arsenal, to virtually become an European nomad, scored and celebrated with his stupid butterfly celebration.

The first North London derby at the Emirates was a perfect way to peg back some form, as Gilberto’s twin penalties propelled Arsenal to a 3-0 win over a dismal Spurs side. (When were they good anyways? ) And a trip down London, was nearly fruitful, when Mathieu Flamini had scored in the 79th to hand Arsenal the lead, only for Michael Essien’s shot from planet Mars, to steal it away in stoppage time.

The kings of North London!!

A 6-2 thumping of Blackburn and a 2-1 win away at Watford kept Arsenal at 3rd spot, before Cristian Nade’s goal (this time from planet Jupiter )at Sheffield United, in a 1-0 loss, meant Arsenal dropped to 5th.

Then came a resurgent run from the Gunners. Post a 4-0 win over Charlton in the league, Arsenal faced a domestic cup double header against Liverpool, both at Anfield. The FA Cup tie was first up, and thanks to the stupid broadcasters preferred showing Manure play Aston Villa (everyone knew the result beforehand); I had to wait till next morning to know the result.  But, at the end of it, the wait was worth it. Tomas Rosicky’s brace, both goals top-notch, secured a 3-1 win.

Get in there, my son!!And stay stuck!!

3 days later, a young very Gunners side, comprising of 6 teenagers, inflicted further humiliation on Liverpool, as they ran out 6-3 winners. Again, I missed this game, thanks to the cable operator, who refused to put the channel.  ‘The Beast’ Julio Baptista, scored 4, and interestingly, could have scored 5, had he not missed a penalty!  Jeremie Aliadiere, was brilliant that evening, and in the mix in all the goals!!

Aliadere, Baptista, and the great Anfield job!! 

The scoreboard tells the story!!

Aliadiere was kind of a strange footballer. He had spent a good part of the 8 years playing for the reserves, since joining when he was a 16 year old. When he did play, he was very unpredictable. At times, he would play like a seasoned centre-forward, like in the game against Liverpool; or would cut a lonely figure, totally out of place. He soon would leave for Middlesbrough, and I haven’t followed his career since.

The amazing run of form continued with a 2-0 win at Ewood Park, Henry scoring a brilliant goal, after sprinting half the length of the ground. Manchester United, up next, at the Emirates; and the Red Devils were supremely sitting at the top of the table; 6 points clear of second placed Chelsea, and 15 ahead of Arsenal. Wayne Rooney gave United the lead, and they looked to be coasting for victory, before van Persie equalised with a shot to the far-post from a narrow angle. Pandemonium erupted in the stands, as Arsenal pressed for a winner. And, they did get it as Henry rose above the United defence, to head home a perfect Eboue cross.

It’s Robin again!!

Henry and Wenger!!

Arsenal’s cup fixtures were piling up as they had drawn the Bolton Wrestling team in the FA Cup, and Spuds in the Carling semi’s. Arsenal snatched draws in both, Toure scoring in the 83rd against Bolton; and Baptista making up for his earlier own goal, to snatch a brace, at Shit Fart Lane.  Both second legs ended positively for Arsenal, who needed extra time in both games to progress.

Meanwhile, Arsenal required a late Henry equaliser at The Riverside. Who would have thought it would be his last in an Arsenal shirt?  Wigan proved to be frustrating opposition, as they scored a screamer through Dutch international Denny Landzaat, and wasted nearly the rest of the match wasting time, thanks to their keeper Chris Kirkland. Arsenal showed desperation, and were rewarded with two late goals, to steal a 2-1 win under Kirkland’s nose.

February 25, 2007. Millennium Stadium. Chelsea vs Arsenal. League Cup Final. Let me correct you. It was Chelsea’s team of handsomely paid (and paid for) stars vs Arsenal’s Youth team. The Gunners had started with 5 teenagers, including a 17 year old Theo Walcott, destined for great things. Add to that, Fabregas, Aliadiere and Senderos, Arsenal were literally playing a very very young team. Chelshit, on the other hand, had the ‘£30 million flop in the box’ Andriy Shevchenko and German captain Michael Ballack, their summer signings. Plus, vastly experienced internationals such as Lampard, Carvalho,Terry, Drogba, Makelele, Cech and Essien. There was certainly no stage fright, as the Gunners got on to a rocking start, finding their passing feet in the early minutes. Soon, Abou Diaby played a through-ball to Theo Walcott, and BAM!! The youngster from the South Coast announced his arrival on the big stage as he placed the ball into the top corner to fire Arsenal into the lead. However, the billionaires soon equalised through Drogba. Overall, Arsenal were brilliant throughout the game and looked to be most likely to score, in comparison to their accomplished opposition. And soon, inexperience told as Drogba snatched a 2nd goal in the 84th minute, to leave the Gunners heartbroken.  I was as proud of Arsenal that evening, as proud can one be, after a gallant display of guts and talent from Arsenal.

Walcott fires past Cech!!

“We were crap before Russian moneybags (chorus)!!”

Next few games were tough for Arsenal, as they were knocked out of the FA Cup to a 87th minute winner from Benni McCarthy. A week later, they were out of the Champions League as well, as Alex, who would later join Chavski, scored a 83rd minute equaliser at the Emirates, to earn PSV Eindhoven a 2-1 aggregate victory. More last minute heartbreak at Merseyside followed as Everton dealt a 91st minute blow, with Andy Johnson the culprit. And Liverpool completed Merseyside formalities with a 4-1 crushing at Anfield, Peter Crouch scoring a perfect strikers hat-trick.  West Ham heaped frustration as they scraped a 1-0 win at the Emirates. Rob Green was made of concrete, that particular afternoon, as he emerged with a clean sheet, despite 29 shots on target from Arsenal.

Pride and a 4th place finish was all Arsenal had to play for, and they rounded the job, with 3 wins and 4 draws in the last 7 games of the season, comprising of more late drama; this time at Shit Hart Lane, as Jermaine Jenas equalised in the 95th minute. Gulp!  Also, Arsenal denied Chelsea a hat-trick of Premier League titles, as they held the Blues to a 1-1 draw, and sending the trophy to Old Trafford, after 4 years.

Thus ended Arsenal’s eventful first season at the Emirates. It was a season where Arsenal’s young guns heralded the dawn of a new era in the club’s history, by providing some memorable moments. All that eluded was a trophy.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Runners Up

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (13 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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