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Out of Breath, Drained of Emotion, Sapped of Energy, but not Short of Words!

The title says it all. I am absolutely out of breath, drained of emotion, sapped of energy, but yet, I am in front of my laptop, jotting down a few words.

To be honest with you, I didn’t watch Arsenal’s game at the Hawthorns with West Bromwich Albion. I was rather hooked on to the title race. Let me tell you, before you even ponder moving away from this article, I f*cking love Arsenal, but even I couldn’t contemplate what Manchester City did today.

People say the win in 1989 was amazing, and yes it was amazing. But, rather, in a bizzare twist of fate, I was born 6 months after Arsenal lifted the trophy on that famous night in Anfield. I don’t want to take anything away from Michael Thomas and the boys. They will always be number one in title glory drama.

Spot 2 has been taken by the Citizens. And how. I watched every kick in their game against QPR today, and by the 90th minute arrived, I had resounded to the fact that I will have to face some more Manchester United rubbish and gibberish, the likes of ‘GGMU’, for another year.

Thank You Edin Dzeko. You are officially my favorite Bosnian, not that I had one before. His equalizer came out of the ‘blue’, and at a time, when everyone, incuding some City fans, though it was over. And then Aguero showed why he is the man, who owns the rights on Maradona’s daughter. For one moment, I shared the same joy as Manchester City fans.

Arsenal fans may despise me, saying Manchester City are just spoiling the league, by buying players from us. Unfortunately, this is how football functions this days. Hate it, as you must, but that’s how it works. But, let’s not take anything away from Manchester City today, for they have earned the right to be England’s champions.

I really liked the way Vincent Kompany gave his interview after the game. Really dignified, and really classy.

We’ve done it before this season and I never stopped believing,Never, ever, and when Edin scored that goal it just reminded me of a few moments this season when against Tottenham (Hotspur) we scored in the last minute and against Sunderland we came from two down.You want to say it’s the personal moment of your life but if I’m honest, please never again this way. “We’ve been so good this season, especially at home, then all of a sudden today even though our first half was really good we just couldn’t get through. “It’s not sunk in yet, I don’t know what happened at the end to be honest, it was such a huge mess.I’m so happy for the guys because we’ve given so much this season,” he said. “It’s not us just coming here for the money, we’ve dreamed of this all our lives, when we were kids, when we were nothing and had no money. And now we are champions and that’s what it’s about for us.

OK, that’s that! Now, lets get back to things closer to our hearts! With our win over West Brom, we have secured 3rd spot. I had my friends text me constantly with updates on the game, who were lucky enough, to get streaming, or had a high definition TV.

I saw the live update come up when Adebayor scored in the second minute and though instantly, we got to win today. And, Benayoun obliged. But, soon, we were 2-1 down in 15 minutes, and by then the telecasters had decided not to show the goal updates for some god damn reason. Anyways, Andre Santos scored, and 10 minutes into the second half, I got a message saying ‘Koscielny, 2-3’. I knew from there on it was a case of ‘Hold on to what you have!’, and my word, we did.

It was a fitting tribute for Pat Rice, who has been effing brilliant.

And yes, HAPPY ST. TOTTERINGHAM’S DAY!! 😀

Robin van Persie, like his Manchester City counterpart, too, had his say, after the final game of the season.

You never know. Arsenal is a massive club, a great club. I have been playing here for eight years and I love this club.Whatever happens that will never change.

Well, you have enough time to ponder what he means by those words. Just hoping we keep him at the club.

I will be back with some more stuff, very soon! Watch this space!

I leave you with this short clip, with some amazing moments in our game.

RVP chance, Wenger hugs Pat Rice, great block from Gibbs

One last thing, before I sign off, for now, Thank You Martin Fulop. You are officially my favorite Hungarian.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

P.S – I STILL HATE SAMIR NASRI. PERIOD.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in General

 

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Lukas Podolski – The good and the bad

August 31st 2011 is a day marked in history. The day Arsene Wenger signed 5 players on a single day. However, 8 months on, it seems like lessons have been learnt from that shambolic transfer window. Arsenal secured the services of German striker Lukas Podolski, on April 30, way before the transfer window even opens, from FC Koln in Germany. Podolski will be a great addition to Arsenal’s exisiting array of talents. Here are few of the qualities the German possesses.

THE GOOD

Option in Attack

Apart from Robin van Persie, Arsenal do not have the firepower in the attacking department, that can score consistently enough. Marrouane Chamakh has been largely dissapointing, and Park Chu-Young hasn’t gained the trust of the manager. Apart from that, Joel Campbell, who will be returning from a loan spell at Lorient next season, is a bit too young to be blooded into first team action. Niklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela are headed towards the exits at the Emirates. Gervinho has been woeful in front of goal, while Walcott has been erratic and inconsistent. Arsene Wenger recently admitted that the team has been over-reliant on van Persie this season. This is where Podolski comes in and gives Wenger more options up front.

Eye for Goals

Podolski arrives with a reputation. He is an accomplished German international, and has netted 43 goals in 95 games for his country. He scored 46 goals in 81 league appearances for his childhood club Cologne, in his first spell there. An unsuccessful stint with Bayern Munich followed, where Podolski’s form and confidence dipped. He managed only 15 goals in 71 league games. He returned to Cologne, netting 33 goals in 87 appearances so far,  and is the 4th top scorer in the Bundesliga, behind Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Mario Gomez and Robert Lewandowski.

Pace and Power

Naturally left-footed like Robin van Persie, Podolski packs a punch with his shots. He often operates as a centre-forward, who can not only score but also set up plenty of them. At times accused of not being skillful enough, he has the pace to go past defenders, and this is central to Arsenal’s style of play. It will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger plays the German. He could be an option on the left, in place of the ineffective Ivorian Gervinho, or as a supporting striker to Robin van Persie.

Bags of Experience

At just 26, Podolski is one of the seniors in the national side, with nearly 100 appearances. He has played in two European Championships (EURO 2004 and EURO 2008), as well as two World Cups (2006 and 2010). He was named the best young player of the tournament in 2006, which was hosted by his homeland, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, owing to his 3 goals.

Versatility

According to German coach Joachim Low, Podolski can fit into a variety of roles up front easily. The general thought is that he will be deployed on the left wing, because of his natural ability. He has played as a winger in the past, and this could be positive for Arsenal.

THE BAD

Temparament

In the past, Podolski’s temperament has been the source of much debate and controversy. In a league, where tackles keep flying around, and frustration mounts faster than steam in a cooker, Podolski will have to manage his temperament, if he is to succeed in the English league. He once slapped national captain Michael Ballack during a game, and has reportedly got into scuttles with the coaching staff at Cologne. Podolski has even been accused of having a poor attitude at training.

Playing at the Highest Level

While Podolski is a fine player in national colors, queries have been raised whether he can succeed playing at top clubs. His stint at Bayern Munich went horribly wrong. After the arrival of Italian striker Luca Toni who immediately struck a partnership with Klose, he fell behind in the pecking order. Whether he couldn’t get on with the big names around, or whether the play didn’t suit his style, is still debatable. At Cologne, with Podolski being the only big name, and the darling of the club, he managed to blend in quite well, becoming a club legend, at a young age.

Sole Striker

Whether Podolski can ply as a lone striker is a doubt. Robin van Persie, not having signed a contract extension yet with the Gunners, could still mean, he may be sold at the end of the season. Podolski partners Miroslav Klose at the international level, and at club level with Christian Clemens. Podolski prefers through balls to be played into him, as this allows him to venture further forward on the pitch.

SUMMARY

Lukas Podolski’s arrival in North London could usher in a new era for the Gunners. Probably a change in the transfer policy, where we buy more top players, rather than just make them and sell them on. A word of caution, though. Burdening Podolski with expectation would be the last thing Arsenal fans would want to do. Patience is the key as he settles into the English way of life. Of course, he has Mertesacker and Szczesny to help him do that. Remember Jose Antonio Reyes, or the more recent ones such as Marrouane Chamakh. We don’t want one more of that.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Also, do read Desi Gunner’s writeup on Podolski. It is a good article.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in General

 

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Load of Wenger, QPR Preview + Lineups

Queen’s Park Rangers vs Arsenal, Loftus Road, Premier League

Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (19:30 IST), 31st March 2012

Good day, fellas. Good day indeed. I was hoping for another dour evening, with no telecast of the Arsenal game,  but ESPN Star India has heeded to our twittion’s again, and decided to telecast the QPR vs Arsenal game, in the process sacrificing the Manchester City vs Sunderland kickoff.

The week has been fairly quiet. Yes, there was the Champions League, but the interest of following it goes away once your beloved team is knocked out. Real Madrid had a routine 3-0 win over Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia, who have done fantastically well to come so far. I think they will go the Santiago Bernabeu and have a good day out, and tell their grandchildren about the day the played Real Madrid. Barcelona and AC Milan provided quite a dull affair, a world away from those hugely entertaining group games. The pitch, surprisingly, was much better than the cabbage field, which the Arsenal players ploughed on. Chelsea have made a decent head start as they look to reach the semi finals of the Champions League, which I think they will, with a 1-0 win in Benfica. I, however, do not expect them to go any further. Bayern Munich, too had it easy against the completely out of sorts Marseille team. A Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid semi-final is on the card. The other semi-final is still far away from being decided.

Matters closer to our hearts then. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke about his teammates very recently, and they are Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Robin van Persie.

Chambo on Song

I can’t remember the last game he didn’t play – he is always there. Sometimes you don’t notice the stuff he does, the defensive side of the game, but he is always there cleaning up,Obviously he has been bringing assists to the team as well. Some of the passes he has been putting in, like for two of the unbelievable volleys Robin has scored, reminds me technically of watching Fabregas put those balls through.For a holding midfielder to do that, as well as the defensive side of the game, is brilliant. You can’t ask for anything more.He has been brilliant for us all season and he is a really good guy to have in the dressing room as well. He is always happy and putting smiles on everyone’s faces – he is a massive part of the squad.

Chambo on Arteta

I watch them every week in training,I look at the movement they have off the ball, and when they have the ball they are always positive and looking to find Robin or a winger. I can take that into my own game.You always try to learn off anyone in the team, especially top players like Alex Song and Mikel, as well as Aaron and also Jack when he is back.

Chambo on van Persie

Robin has been the main man for goals this season, he is a fantastic player and we see it week in, week out,But the fact that we can bring goals from other areas of the pitch and from different boys does help to take the pressure of him. That will in turn help him relax and play the way he wants to play, and he will end up scoring anyway. It has been good, especially with people like Thomas [Vermaelen] scoring from the back. It always helps to score from other areas of the pitch so long may it continue.

Moving on, Arsene Wenger had a lengthy interview on a host of issues, ahead of the clash with QPR. Before the interview, news as out that UEFA had banned Wenger for 3 games, and handed him a hefty fine. It seems one of the most stupidest decisions made by UEFA. Arsenal had to contend playing on a joke of a pitch, and then given a below par referee in the second leg, and the manager is handed a ban because he touched the referee after the match, while trying to speak to him. Last time round, Wenger was banned for his comments over the most horrendous decision’s in football history, when van Persie was sent off for no reason at all, at the Nou Camp. And, UEFA showed they are muppets when they launched an internal investigation immediately, after Barcelona complained about the substandard San Siro pitch, but no action was taken, when Arsenal played on an even worser pitch, last month.

AW on the captains

I don’t believe in coincidences,Certainly it is impossible to measure but they have certainly been an influential part in that with many other players who have a good spirit as well. The captain is the leader of the team and of course they have played a vital part in that.I believe that the whole team dynamic was very strong, very positive and that had a massive impact. We were going through difficult periods and we recovered because the players never gave up in the dressing room and that was a vital part. I feel overall this has been one of the best seasons in the dressing room. We will see where we finish but I am sure of one thing; we will give our best until the end of the season.They know how difficult it is to be successful and how difficult it is to be consistent,We forget players like Sagna, Walcott is maturing now and they have all played a big part. I must say that the spirit has always been good but the results have not always been as good as expected, especially at the start of the season. The spirit was never in doubt for me. What could be questioned was how good we could be and what was the quality of the team. I am happy now that we have answered this question in a positive way.

AW on the goalscorers

I don’t deny that we rely a lot on Robin van Persie but it is good to see [that we have contributions from elsewhere],It shows you that when the confidence of the team is a little bit higher, suddenly the goals can come from different people. There is more initiative and that is very positive for us because for long parts of the season it is true that we were too dependent on Robin’s goals. The fact that goals now come from everywhere is certainly just a result of a bigger confidence level in the team.

AW on overtaking Manchester City

We will try to give our best,What we can hope for is to be third. We can be fourth, we can be fifth, we can be sixth – we want to be as high as possible and that depends on our consistency now.We are in a position that nobody expected us to be in and we want to strengthen that position from now on. That depends on our performances.I see us fighting like mad on Saturday to win the game. That’s all I see, I don’t see further.We are focused on QPR, believe me. We know that is always a tricky game for everybody and that is what is important to us. After that we focus on the next one and our capability to finish the season in a strong way depends on just how much we focus on every game.Things can change very quickly. Our sport is fragile and we have learned something this season from a very difficult period. Urgency and focus are vital to keep your level up.

AW on new deals

[We will try to arrange new contracts] very early,” he said. “Yes I am [confident that these players will commit]. To say that I am always confident, yes I am. Of course we want to keep our best players.These players want to win things and they want to be in a team that has a chance. Our end of season will help that to help me convince them that they can [here]. It depends now how well we finish.Newspapers open talks now. They should inform me how much they offer and for how long because I would like to know!We are in the situation [with him] as we are in with Van Persie – it will be sorted out at the end of the season,He is playing very well. I think he has improved his technical level a lot, his links with other players and his calmness in front of goal. For me he is developing very well.

AW on favouritism

On the evidence of the numbers, at least you can say that Arsenal doesn’t get any advantage from anybody because we have zero penalties,That is what comes clearly out – on our side, not only do we not get penalties but we get penalties against us that are not penalties – this season – so that at least keeps us out of that fight.Man United have got seven penalties at home, Man City got seven penalties at home and Arsenal got zero [at home in the Premier League]. So we come out of that with no advantage from anybody, so we are very happy.He [Vieira] spoke with his heart,It was after the decision on Monday night where Fulham didn’t get the penalty and in fairness it was a penalty. It just shows one more thing – that the referees need help, video assistance, and then they will gain credibility and there will be no suspicion. If the referee has a difficult decision to make, if he has any assistance from video he would have given a penalty or not a penalty but it would have been a decision that would have had no suspicion. The referee is certainly honest but you expect him to make a decision in a fraction of a second. You can understand it is difficult. He has not time to check if it is right or wrong. That is why, for years, I have been for video assistance.

AW on his ban

If I am [suspended] then it is not justified and I will appeal straight away,I believe that when you have 25 years [experience] in Europe you can still ask the referee that you can have some discussion with him. It is very difficult to understand.At the moment I have difficulties with UEFA and I can take what is wrong on my side but in these different situations I think they go a little bit overboard if they suspend me.

AW on Manchester City

It is not easy, it is demanding,You always go through a period where you are a bit hand-braked, then when you feel you can do it and suddenly it goes [well] again. Man City have gone through a little bit that moment for the first time this season. What will be vital in the title race is the game they play at home against Man United.[They could slip] if they technically lose the championship but that’s not decided yet. They play Man United at home, the goal difference is very similar and Man United don’t look untouchable at the moment. You cannot say Man City are on the way down. It is a little bit uncertain. If they lose the championship it can happen but it’s still 50-50 at the moment.

AW on Milan

We would have gone through against Milan had we played them now because Milan are not better than us,When we played the home leg, if we had more players available I still think we could have qualified.I think that in the first leg we were very bad. On top of that we lost our defenders and conceded a third goal at the start of the second half which placed us in a very difficult position.They had the perfect game on the day, in return we had no game and in the home leg we were different. We have more confidence today.

AW on the summer

A big part of our starting [business] will be done inside,We will do the job we have to before the Euros, for sure.We need to get Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby back and then look at the number of players we have. Then we have Chamberlain, Diaby, Wilshere, Song, Rosicky, Coquelin, Arteta, Gervinho, Walcott, plenty of players. The most important part is to get our players fit and back and then hope in the Euros we have a positive experience with our players.

AW on Mark Hughes

We have a rivalry. But in fact I discover I have this kind of rivalry with many managers,Maybe it’s me, that’s exactly the conclusion I have come to!I respect every manager because I know they all suffer. That’s part of the job. He was a passionate player, he didn’t give anything away and that comes across in his management.We know QPR are a side with quality players and are in a difficult situation,I expect them to fight not to go down.However the key will be on our side, no matter what QPR’s quality or problem is. It will be important for us to go out and show how much we want another win.

That’s a piece of Wenger, there. Team news, then. Laurent Koscielny is expected to return to first team action after he suffered tendinitis, minutes before the Aston Villa game, which means brother of calamity, Johan Djourou is back heating the bench. Apart from the squad is fully fit. Abou Diaby, apparently, had a bit of pain in training, and could be expected to be on the bench, next week, against Manchester City.

QPR, on the other hand, have a host of injuries, and suspensions to deal with. Strikers DJ Campbell and Heidar Helguson are doubts and so is defender Fitz Hall. Former Arsenal left-back Armand Traore, midfielder Kieron Dyer and Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin are all long term absentees. January marquee signing Djibril Cisse will start his 4 match suspension after his crazy tackle at the Stadium of Misery. QPR have picked up 6 red cards this season, which is the highest for any team this season.

What we can expect, for sure, is a really tough and physical encounter. QPR will look to contain Arsenal rather than be adventurous. They do not have too many players who are great going forward. They do have the Algerian Adel Taraabt, and former Manchester City and Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, but both have been largely inconsistent this season. I expect QPR to be looking to win the battle in midfield, by deploying the hard-tackling trio of Joey Barton, Samba Diakite and Shaun Derry. At the back, they have a decent defence. Former Aston Villa captain Luke Young, and on loan AC Milan left back Taye Taiwo will take their places on the flanks, while they have the young, but experienced Anton Ferdinand former Manchester City defender Nedum Onouha. Up front, of course, is Arsenal’s nemesis, Bobby Zamora, who has netted winners against the Gunners, whilst playing for other London clubs, West Ham and Fulham.

Arsenal might have to work the flanks a lot more, to get away with 3 points. QPR play a very narrow game, and cannot be taken lightly. They may be in a real slump, and played poorly against Liverpool, but they took their chances, and beat the Reds, right at the death, with Jamie Mackie scoring in injury time to make it 3-2.

Let’s end on a poignant note. March 31st marks the 11th death anniversary of David Rocastle, that supremely talented Arsenal midfielder, of the late 80’s and early 90’s. News came out today, that Aston Villa midfielder Stilian Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, which goes to show, footballers aren’t superhumans. Good news, then. Fabrice Muamba was able to sit, and even posted a picture of himself in the hospital on Twitter. Let’s  hope both Petrov and Muamba are back where they belong, on the football pitch.

Enjoy the game, wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Haircuts, Transfer Rumours, Title Chances and Honest Assessments

That wait for the weekend is quite painful can be quite painful, when the entire week has been quite strenuous. Seems like the world has finally returned to its normal ways, after those midweek games, where I had to watch games, in the strangest hours of the day, with strained watery eyes.

Saturday kickoff’s are really great, and set the stone for a good weekend, if you win of course, or a pathetic one,  if you lose. With seven wins off the bounce, I am predicting this weekend to be a buzzing one as well.

The strangest news or rather report to emerge out of the Emirates’ this past week has been the hairstyle of right-back Carl Jenkinson. Quite strange really. Jenkinson has moved on from the classic 30’s style (which is now donned, with panache by the goalie), to an outrageous half Mohican or whatever term used by the hairstylists these days. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, supposedly tried to talk Jenkinson out of it, but to no avail, before the club captain, Robin van Persie decided to step in.

We all want to help him. We have the slight feeling that this hair is a bad influence on the team. Or maybe it’s a good influence, since everyone is having a laugh.

The hairstyle remains though, as of latest news reports. It is a pleasant contrast, from just, say 6 months back, when the press were predicting this season to be the downfall of one of English football’s giants. Now, the talk is about hairdo’s, and the antics of Emmanuel Frimpong. A major transition.

Speaking of which, there has been much talk of how this very current crop of Arsenal players could be potential title challengers next season. I certainly think so. The likes of Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Song, Rosicky, van Persie know what it means to wear the Arsenal crest on your chest and take it as a privelege to be turning out for Arsenal. Of course, it would take much more that that. Football isn’t getting any cheaper, especially with Manchester City and Chelsea in the market, and also a certain Scot in Manchester, ain’t getting any older. The cunts down the road, well, will always remain in our shadows.

But of course, there is still that belief. The Lukas Podolski saga is getting too drawn out and boring. I just hope it doesn’t end up being another Juan Mata. We should get this deal wrapped up as soon as the transfer window is opened. If reports are to be believed, Arsene Wenger will order a squad clearout, the likes of Chamakh, Squllaci, yeah you know the lot, beeing shown the door. We have heard a lot about it, but whether it will really happen is another matter. Supposedly, another rumour is Arsenal will complete the signing of Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen. Yeah, we believe that one. And, the Mario Gotze deal is out of the window, with the German signing a long term deal with Dortmund. Eden Hazard, though, still gets visits from top managers across the world, as he turns out for Lille in the French Ligue 1.

The question is do we really need another central defender, in Jan Vertonghen? We do have 3 world class centre backs in Koscielny, Vermaelen and Mertesacker. Plus, we have Calamity Djourou, who really ain’t half bad an option for 4th choice centre half. The rumours, yes, them again, claim Juventus are interested in signing him. Probably, they saw the Villa game. If Djourou were to leave, and then we had Vertonghen coming in, then great, otherwise it would be another Park like situation. Plus, we have Ignasi Miquel.

Yaan M’Villa, too has been linked with a move to North London. This again is contentious. We know Wenger will stand by Abou Diaby, no matter what. Plus, we have Song in top form, and youngsters like Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong pushing for a place in the first team. What we do need is, of course, a top striker, which I think, Podolski fulfills. Our midfield looks pretty strong, though we would need cover, once Yossi Benayoun returns to Chelsea. But then, we do have Jack Wilshere returning from his long term injury. Whatever it is, Arsene has a long time to think about it, and he certainly wouldn’t want a repeat of last summer.

Andre Santos, who was one of the players signed on that eventful day in August, says he wants to make history at the club.

It is fair to say that I have totally adapted,I feel very well, people here have received me with open arms, and I mean everyone, the Club, the staff and the fans.People recognise me on the streets and ask for photographs, people have great respect and charisma and they make me feel at home here. I’m super happy, I’ve adapted and now all I want is to make history with this club.The Premier League is something different – it’s the best league in the world. It’s hard to play in, the pace is different, the fact that almost every pitch is wet makes the ball run more, the tackles are harder, and it’s just really good.I’m not saying that the Turkish league is not good, it has quality as well, but the Premier League is different from anything I’ve ever seen.It was a big surprise how people accepted me here,Especially when I was injured, a lot of people supported me and they were always asking when I was going to come back, saying that the team needs me and wishing me well.In the stadium people would see me in the stands and ask me to come back, there was also many ‘Get Well Soon’ messages on my Twitter account.All of that gave me the strength to carry on, and it all just contributes to my desire to work hard for this club and win titles in the red shirt.

Moving back to Jenkinson then, who says it’s been a steep learning curve for him at Arsenal over the past few months.

I didn’t start how I would have liked to, but an honest assessment would be that as I have progressed, got more minutes under my belt and trained with the boys I definitely feel like I have improved a lot.It was a very steep learning curve for me. I believed I was capable of playing at the highest level, and sometimes it is about getting seen by the right people at the right time.I have had some tough times but I feel like I have come out of it a bigger and better person, and a better player.In a football career you are going to have ups and downs and tough times, but people have told me it is about how you respond to those tough times that will make or break you as a footballer.It was all a little bit of a blur,It was tough day for me and the Club and it was very hard to swallow.We had played Udinese in midweek and I felt I had done quite well. That was a massive high, so to go from that to Old Trafford was strange. It happened so quickly.It was a disappointing day for me and it took me a while to get over. It was my first taste of a tough result, but things like that make you stronger, and build you as a man and a character.It has been a real rollercoaster,I have had some tough times and some fantastic times. Chelsea, Spurs and Udinese are games I will never forget.It is my first season as an Arsenal player and games like the one at Stamford Bridge were just fantastic. You don’t score five goals there very often so that will stay in the memory for a long time.Overall I am relatively pleased [with his first season]. I know I have an awful lot to build on, and a lot to improve on. But I have got more in myself to show people, so that is my aim.

While we are about honest assessments, Gervinho has one of his own, about the club and himself.

I think that we can cope with everything really,We have had and have been through a lot of difficult times this season. Lots of people have waivered in their belief in us, have said this and that, but we have returned to form.We are a group of young lads, we get on really well, but we have got stronger during the tough times and showed the real Arsenal. We are going to try and finish the season well and we are happy with that.We are all still young, have got some good players and a good group. We can still win lots of trophies and do great things in the future because we are a good club.The derby game was great and everything came together and clicked,You saw how we played as a team, the result, how the team worked together and hit some form. That is how we should be and we can use that as a yardstick.

There have been different things to deal with on the pitch and I think that my career has come on a lot since I have been here,It is something I am really pleased with because so much has improved. Being here in England can only be good for my game and my career. I am happy with how I approached and came into English football and I think that my first year has gone well. I have adapted to the club, I have settled into the group and I get on well with everyone. We have two months left and it can get even better. But I am really enjoying it and determined to keep it going. There have been lots of good moments, but it has been difficult too. Coming to another club can be hard but each time I play for Arsenal it is special. I am happy coming to a club like this with such good players.

Meanwhile, youngster Nico Yennaris, who has been a revelation this season, and moved to Notts County said he needed to get out of the comfort zone to be a better player

I’ve been at Arsenal for a long time so I really feel at home there, but it’s good to come out of your comfort zone sometimes to learn and experience new things,Coming to Notts is a good opportunity for me to do that, play games and hopefully improve as a player. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

Finally, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, says he always believed this current crop of Arsenal players had it in them to finis near the top.

It was always going to come as we have the quality in the squad to get results like this,It was about grinding out certain results and concentrating on playing our game – that is what we have been doing recently.We have been playing the way we want to play and even when we haven’t been able to, like at Everton and Liverpool, we have now been able to grind out results.Working together and believing in ourselves has been a massive part of it, and the fans have been a big help as well.When the team or a player has got a lot of confidence, things come naturally and you do things without realizing,Maybe a player whose confidence has been knocked would not do those things. When you feel comfortable, everything runs smoothly and that’s the way we have been playing recently.You can see around the training ground there is a big buzz, the weather is nice and everyone is happy. It has been like that since the start, but when results are going your way it helps a lot.

That’s a wrap for today.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in General

 

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Telecast revolts, Muamba latest, Park Life, Everton Preview + Lineups

Everton vs Arsenal, Goodison Park, Premier League

Kickoff – 20:00 GMT (01:30 IST), 21st March 2012

Another fine day to all you Gooners out there. Something very unexpected happened yesterday.

A few days earlier, ESPN-Star Sports India, had put up the schedule for Wednesday night (i.e the wee hours of Thursday morning), for the telecast of the English Premier League games. There were 4 games to be telecasted, which were Manchester City vs Chelsea, Everton vs Arsenal, QPR vs Liverpool and Sp*rs vs Stoke. And, the schedule put up was Manchester City vs Chelsea, live at 1-25 on ESPN, and Sp*rs vs Stoke, live on Star Sports. Well, that did it.

This is not the first occasion, where Arsenal games have been snubbed by the network. This sparked an outrage, and a petition was started by the Bangalore Gunners group, to troll ESPN-Star’s Facebook page, and also a petition was started on twitter, which attracted nearly 700 signatures. Finally, last night ESS bowed down to Arsenal Power, and decided to telecast the Arsenal game. This is of course fantastic news, and shows how Arsenal can unite us all. 😀

Speaking of uniting, the unfortunate incident involving young Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba has united the entire world of football. Messages have poured in from all over the world in support of the player. I read an interesting article in Angry of Islington, which I think is a must read. Here the author, has expressed his honest view on the incident.

Muamba, of course learned his trade at the Arsenal academy, and he has got lot of support from his parent club. Arsene Wenger spoke how Muamba has a ‘special bond’ with Arsenal.

He is a loved guy,Because we have a young team, many of them grew up with Fabrice. There is a strong link when you fight together in the youth teams because it creates a special bond. The players were quite low yesterday and two days ago but today it is a bit better because we have good news about him.Everybody has a bit of relief today but let’s not maybe go too quickly overboard and think he is completely out of it. You trust the quality of the care he has, you trust the quality of his mental strength and his desire to fight any restrictions. But we are as well a bit cautious as long as we do not really officially know that he is out of danger and that he is completely alright.I have not personally been in contact with him but through Bolton we have been in contact. His very close friends have gone to hospital and you want to respect that it is not overcrowded there. At the start we know how it is, many people go, and after a while you need a bit more support.

Latest news is that Muamba is fine, and reacting well to the treatment. He also had brief interactions with his family and Bolton manager Owen Coyle. Liam Brady, who worked with Muamba, earlier in 2007, had this to say.

Like everyone else I was completely shocked. I was in Barcelona with our Under-14 team and I was watching the Tottenham v Bolton game on TV. I was completely horrified by what happened and we are hoping and willing him to pull through.Fabrice was always a happy boy at Arsenal, a well-mannered boy. He seemed to really appreciate the opportunity he had and was fully intent on giving his best. He has been like that ever since he was 12.He comes to visit us, he calls in when he can. Fabrice remembers where he came from and he’s a smashing young man. He’s determined to make the best of his career and let’s hope that determination helps him pull through the situation he is in.

I can speak on behalf of all Arsenal fans in India, and we wish Muamba a speedy recovery.

Moving on, news emerged earlier in the week that Park Chu-Young’s military career has been postponed by 10 years. Now, if you are confused, let me tell you what it is. South Korean rules state that all fit and healthy males should joing the armed forces, when they turn 28. You need a special permit from the government, if you wish not to pursue a military career. Now, whether he stays on at Arsenal or not is a completely different issue. He was signed by Wenger from under the noses of Lille, and has rarely featured since. He scored his solitary goal against Bolton in the League Cup, and has rarely featured since. Even when Arsenal were leading 10 man Blackburn 5-1 after around 65 minutes, Wenger decided to keep van Persie on the field, instead of giving Park a run. Many would expect the South Korean to leave for greener pastures at the end of the season. Staying with Park, the player’s agent revealed that it was the result of talks between Monaco, Park’s former club and Arsenal, that resulted in Park’s freedom. The permission was granted back in August, but was kept under wraps.

I asked the Military Manpower Administration in early August last year to grant me an extension of overseas stay permit. The permit was granted on Aug. 29,In 2009, the Monaco royal household agency granted Park an unprecedented 10-year residence permit in recognition of his outstanding activities there. We found out through a legal counsel last July that it’s possible to delay military service based on a long-term overseas residence permit.Additional negotiations about his transfer fee between Arsenal and AS Monaco only concluded recently, and AS Monaco asked us to make it public after the negotiations came to an end.

Park’s transfer still seems strange. Why was he signed by the manager, if he hasn’t been given the chances. Anyways, we will come to know during the summer.

Moving on, Kieran Gibbs spoke about how the pressing game has allowed Arsenal to win more games, recently. It is a tactic greatly employed at Barcelona, where they unsettle the opponents, as soon as they lose possession.

There are a lot of players putting a lot of effort in, especially off the ball, and that is great to see,When we put pressure on teams high up the pitch and early on in the game, it is difficult for them to play and we can control the game a lot easier.We are enjoying doing that at the minute and we have to enjoy defending as well. It’s alright just having the ball, we know what we can do to create chances and score goals. That [the defensive side] is the big improvement we have made over the last few weeks.In previous seasons you wouldn’t have thought we would have the strength to come back but now we don’t really think about the score, we just keep playing,It helps when you have the best striker in the world at the moment in your team. The team is showing great character at the minute and we need to keep that going.

Gibbs also spoke about how players returning from injuries, and the fact that Arsenal have only the Premier League to concentrate on, will help keep their players fresher, and will assist them in the run-in.

It is a relief to have a break until the next game and it was important for us to get that because we have played quite a lot recently in a short space of time,“We should have players coming back from injury now so we should be getting some fresh legs looking to go for the rest of the season strongly.Football changes so much. We’ve seen over the last few seasons that anything can happen now and it is important for us to cement our place [in the top four] and keep winning. I saw Everton against Tottenham and they would have obviously been on a high after that. They are a good side and what the manager [David Moyes] has done with that squad is quite amazing. We know it will be a difficult game but we have the momentum and at the moment we are on a good run so we want to continue that.

Another player who has massively impressed this season is Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain. He was a massive presence in the second leg against AC Milan. He spoke about how he keeps calm, and doesn’t get nervous, and that the Milan game was a dream.

I’ve played so many games of football now and even though it is at a higher level, at the end of the day football is football. You are just playing with better players,As soon as you feel comfortable and confident you just carry on as normal. I felt comfortable in the Manchester United game because I thought we came out in the second half and played really well.Playing in a team like Arsenal helps massively having all of these players around you giving you advice. When they are playing well, you feel comfortable and it helps you to play well too.I can learn from all of them. I look at Theo, Gervinho and Robin as the three main attacking players and more recently I have been watching Tomas Rosicky because he’s been outstanding,Robin has taken most of the headlines and rightfully so with all of his fantastic goals but quietly I think Tomas has been playing absolutely amazing.I started my career as a central midfielder and the way that he gets the ball in midfield, turns and runs at people just makes things happen.We have had some really good wins [lately], away at Anfield, at home to Tottenham and Newcastle, and AC Milan too even though we didn’t qualify. It drives you on to want more of that success.

It was a dream yes, but it was also a bit nerve-wracking because I haven’t played there since Under-18s football I think,It is where I have grown up though so it was nice to go back there.I think my Dad was more excited about me playing in that game than any other because he thinks I am going to drift into central midfield more as I grow older. It was nice to play there, I just knew I had to work hard and do other bits of my game. Sometimes when you play on the wing a lot you forget other parts that you have to do in the middle.

It is a different work rate as well. When you are playing on the wing you sprint a lot, recover and then sprint again, whereas when you are playing in midfield it is non-stop. Maybe it is slower running but it is here, there and everywhere.So it was different, a big shock to me but obviously playing against Milan with their players was a really good experience and one I won’t forget.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie has asked Arsenal to keep playing at the same level, and churn out results, for the rest of the campaign.

If you look at the last couple of weeks, we showed we have a lot of character in our side,After the two defeats to Milan and Sunderland, everyone was like ‘this is going to be a tough couple of weeks’ because we had games against Spurs, Liverpool, Milan and an international week and then Newcastle. Yet we won every game, so we showed lots of character. We can be proud of that.Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. That is very hard and only the best of the best teams have that in them. Look at Barcelona for example. They have a special team there, they are playing most games – 9 out of 10 – really well and working hard. We need to have a run like that for months and even win the ugly games. We showed signs that we can do it because against Liverpool we didn’t play well but still nicked it. Sometimes it is necessary to win those games. We came from behind in the past four games and ended up winning the game. That shows we can do it, not only once or twice or three times, but lots of times. So why not show it 20 times or whenever it is needed?It is very hard [to be consistent], especially in a league like England,In my opinion, if you look in a technical way, a physical way, the pace, the quickness of the game, all that stuff together, the Premier League is the hardest. I see lots of games from Italy and Spain, but overall it is the hardest league. It is tough to play the way we all want. We need to be consistent and get a win over the line, like at Liverpool. We did it now, and we can enjoy it, but we need to show it again [at Everton] and it may even be a harder game. But we have to give it our maximum and see where it ends.

Some Wenger talk, then. Le Prof spoke highly about his signing from Everton, Mikel Arteta, who according to some reports, will get a huge applause from the Goodison faithful.

He always gives you a certain level of quality.He is always 100 per cent focused and committed and that is what you want from a real professional. He brings the best out of other players.I believe he is a winner and a fighter as well. I think he possesses both aspects of the game of a real midfielder – that means he can defend and he can attack. That is what we looked for.

Wenger also had praise for Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder, has found it hard a few times this season, but he is all of 21.

It is basically his first full season and he has done extremely well,He can learn from the experience of players like Arteta, Song and Rosicky. That is something vital when you want to develop players.We lost Diaby as well and people forget that he played a big part in many games last year. I believe that the players who came in did a good job.

Le Prof also spoke about the run-in, saying it was different from previous seasons, where Arsenal were still in contention for silverware. Also, unlike previous seasons, the team seems to have found a spirit and a fight, to go on and keep pushing.

It is different from last year because we had a lot of negative experiences then,We were in four different competitions and we were knocked out in three in the space of two weeks, and you are only human beings. On top of that some results were really going against us, when you think about the last minute [equaliser] against Liverpool at home, you think about Tottenham when we were ahead. These two results killed the hope we had to play for the championship and from then on we felt, subconsciously, too secure that we were in the top four anyway. Once you don’t go for the championship anymore it’s different. This season it’s completely different, we were completely out of the top four, we have come into it on a good run and now of course it is taking advantage of that momentum.We are on a positive momentum and last year we were on a negative momentum. That changes it completely. On top of that we have experience. There again, it is how much are you ready to give? How much commitment can you give in every game? How focused can we be?

And, finally, Wenger spoke about how he doeesn’t believe in the element of luck.

Every time we were behind, we showed outstanding spirit,It is not fantastic for your emotions but overall when it finishes well you accept that you suffer. If that is the price we have to pay we are ready, but you just want to continue with the same attitude because I don’t believe in luck too much on that side of the game. If you come back it is because you fight and if you fight you have a chance to come back. So let’s fight first.

Team news, then. Arsenal will welcome back Andre Santos, from his long layoff. However, Gibbs is expected to hold on to his place in the starting lineup. Arsenal haven’t lost since the defence was a staple Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, in the Premier League. It is a good sign that the defence is showing signs of improvement. Abou Diaby played for the reserves against Liverpool, and was at the receiving end of a tackle, which means he has suffered another setback, but news is that he will be back soon. Francis Coquelin is still weeks away from return, while Jack Wilshere is as good as ruled out to feature this season. Sebastien Squillaci has returned to first team training. Thomas Vermaelen picked up a strain in his calf, but he is set to start.

Everton, on the other hand, have injury concerns of their own, with Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson all out injured.

Arsenal can expect a tough encounter at the Goodison, and have to be alert at all times, to get a win out of the Toffees. The Merseyside club, who have been consistently finishing in the top 10 under Moyes, have already beaten the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham this season. However, they have already played 2 games in the last 8 days, including a 3-0 loss to neighbours and rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, and a 1-1 draw with Sunderland in the FA Cup. Arsenal on the other hand, are in fine nick, picking up 5 wins in the league, which includes the 7-1 thumping of Blackburn, the 5-2 mauling of Sp*rs, and 2-1 wins over Sunderland, Liverpool and Newcastle. Everton play a similar formation to Arsenal 4-5-1, and can be dangerous on the counter. If they do get an early goal, you can expect them to shut shop and absorb attacks.

As is evident, Everton have some quality crossers, in Baines, Drenthe and Piennar. Arsenal will have to narrow down Everton’s play. On the counter even the pacy Osman can cause problems to the Arsenal defence. At the back, they have a steady defence, and a goalkeeper who is as good as any on his day. Arsenal will have to make full use of every opportunity they get.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Team Spirit, Keown Talk and Wenger Thoughts

Good day, Gooners, across the world.

This is completely unrelated to Arsenal, but yesterday we witnessed a sporting miracle, when Sachin Tendulkar scored his 100th century in international cricket. His career has spanned over 22 years and he has carried the weight of expectations of a billion countrymen, and he remains the humblest man you can find. A bit like Ryan Giggs for football. A salute to the Little Master.

Back to football then. Of course, a long weekend awaits, with Arsenal not in action, thanks to the FA Cup involvement of Everton, who host Sunderland. Liverpool host Stoke, who haven’t won at Anfield, for, god know’s how long, while Chelsea and Sp*rs host Leicester and Bolton respectively.

Arsenal fans are certainly hoping Leicester can do a Birmingham and take Chelsea to a replay, and add to their growing list of fixtures, while Sunderland can frustrate Everton and do the same. Speaking of growing fixture lists, the draw for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals have been made.

Chelsea, who trounced Napoli, to qualify, drew Benfica. It might look like an easy draw at first, but remember Benfica were equally responsible as Basel to oust Manchester United. Basel’s slayers Bayern Munich face Marseille, who surprisingly knocked 2010 winners Inter Milan. AC Milan vs Barcelona is clearly the round of the tie, while APOEL Nicosia will experience some great nights in their history as they host Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid. Come to think of it, had we beaten AC Milan, we would again be facing Barcelona for the 3rd season running. No one would want that, really.

Coming back to Arsenal, youngsters Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson have all spoken about the camaraderie in the team.

AOC 

I think it’s gone really well in terms of bedding in with the boys and into the squad,Not so much as a first-team regular as obviously as I am still young and there are lot of good players around me doing really well. I just feel part of the squad now, am really comfortable with all of the lads, the fans and feel a massive part of it. Maybe not so much now but I can see myself being a part of Arsenal’s future. That is where I would like to be anyway and I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure I achieve that. Obviously it is a big step up from League One last year. With the boss bringing me here in the first place that gave me confidence. He thought I had some ability so to have his trust gives me a bit of confidence and you can work on that. I have belief in myself as well but I know I still have a lot of hard work to do. There are just little things in your game that you don’t maybe know when you are younger and you might not see in League One. You make mistakes and you get punished for them in the Premier League. You are always learning and it has been a good education so far.

Jenkinson

I have only been at Charlton before, but the team spirit here is fantastic,Everyone gets on, which is quite rare in football. Often you have cliques of people or people who argue all the time, but we all get on well here.That is a big thing and it boosts the morale of the team. We are all friends, which helps on the pitch because you have that faith and trust in one another.A lot of us younger ones hang out and do stuff together. I spend a lot of time with Chamberlain in particular, just hanging out and going for dinner and that sort of thing,I love a bit of FIFA. Who is the best one? That’s a silly question, isn’t it! The boys are alright, but on my day I think I am definitely up there. I am still in my family home, so a lot of the time I will drive down to Alex’s house and we will just chill and play some FIFA.We have to rest up a lot of the time, so we normally just chill and watch films. I am quite into Prison Break, so we have watched a lot of that.We can’t be running around in theme parks and that sort of thing. We have a round of golf now and then. Normally we tend to take it easy, but that suits me fine.

Gibbs

You can see how much it means to the fans and we need to continue that now to keep the atmosphere going,When the Emirates is like that, other teams can’t play because it is too difficult. We feel like we have a lot more power when the atmosphere is kicking like that.It’s just been a great turnaround. We took a lot of stick a few weeks back, especially after the defeats in Milan and the FA Cup, but everyone has come together and shown a real [resolve] to turn the season around.I think that was the case after my first game back,We were playing a few days later away at Sunderland and I realised then that I wasn’t ready to play again so soon. I thought that something would happen because I hadn’t recovered quickly enough.I was better for it [missing the Sunderland game] because I came back in for the next game against Tottenham and now I feel like I can recover quicker and play consecutively.

The team spirit is there for everyone to see. The last 4 games, Arsenal have fought hard and earned some impressive results. Even Marrouane Chamakh afforded Arsene Wenger a hug, despite being kept out of first team action for so long.

In other news, Martin Keown, was in Beijing to finalize details of the pre-season tour. He spoke about van Persie and the defence.

We have to keep him. We’ve lost of course Fabregas and Nasri last summer. The team has done very well to adjust.It’s interesting to see how he has developed. I was at the club when he came as a young man and I think the captaincy has given him something extra.He’s a real figurehead for the team and we can rely on him to score. He’s our Messi.He scores the goals, which are really important for the team. It would be a backwards step to lose him.I can’t imagine he’d get the same adulation if he went anywhere else – the Arsenal fans love him and they recognise now that we need to get this [contract talks] sorted out.Maybe it’s linked to how successful the team is going to be, but he certainly looks happy at the moment. He’s in great form.

Regarding the defence, I think it has been a problem keeping people fit; we’ve not really had everybody available,If you look at left-back, Santos has come to the club and got injured straight away. Young Kieran Gibbs has been injured also at left-back – it’s nice to see him return. Sagna broke his ankle as well.I think the manager has had real difficulty in those areas. I certainly like Vermaelen and Koscielny, I think those two have massive futures at the club.Koscielny is so nimble in his movement and the way he can transfer his weight. We saw that last year against Barcelona when he played against Messi – that was a good sign for the future.Vermaelen we know about – he’s real leader type, a no-nonsense defender. I think we have the makings of an outstanding defence.We just need those guys fit. What we need also is a little bit more from the people who come in [as back-up]; they need to iron out mistakes.You can’t be fit every week, so you’re only really as strong as your squad. If you’re going to win something that is perhaps an area that needs to be looked at. If you put our best back four out there I think it’s as good as any in the Premier League.

Finally, Arsene Wenger spoke on a host of issues, ranging from 4th spot to the fans.

AW on 4th Spot

It’s too early to say that,I wouldn’t completely rule out Newcastle nor Liverpool. Of course the most obvious battle is between Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal but you have to wait two or three games. There are 10 games to go, but three games ago we were 10 points behind Tottenham. Things can change quickly. You just want to be focused on your next game and give everything.

AW on the team

We had a relentless dynamic in the team [against Newcastle],I think what sums our game up is when Vermaelen scored the goal. We had seven Arsenal players in or around the box, that means only three stayed back and everybody else was throwing everything forward.What stands out is that huge refusal to not win. That stood out throughout the game because in the second half we pinned them back, dominated the game and created chances.You wouldn’t [always] like to leave it until the last minute but the result was just a consequence of the game.

AW on the run-in

[Sometimes] there are games that you think will be difficult but they are slightly easier than expected, and sometimes the easy game is harder than expected,You don’t make any plans. The only thing we know is what is needed from us: to be at our best no matter what people say about the situation.[It is important] to keep your squad available and keep your spirit, togetherness and teamwork at a very high level. Also you must maintain belief and not tighten up. Be relaxed, focused and determined.We have created the momentum, so let’s take care of it,Keep the urgency high, the level of commitment high, then momentum can be an advantage for you.

AW on the pressing game

No [they are not covering more ground] but it is not only about distances, it is about doing it together,It is the timing of doing it [pressing] together that is vital, because you can run even more if you don’t do it together.I believe we put the effort in from the first to the last minute. We don’t look at the result, we just want to win. We are in a battle until the end of the season and that will be at stake every time. You see that even by doing that [working hard off the ball] the games are very tight and that will be requested until the end of the season.I just think that is what the target is,Hard or not, you don’t even have to think about that. We know what is demanded and when you want to win the game you just put the effort in that is requested.

AW on the fans

I always said that the vibes have to come out from the team,When the fans feel that the vibes are right they stand behind the team and support the team. With the recent history of the team having been more positive, the fans have more reason to believe that they can support the team and that they will win the game. But the dynamic always has to come from the team.

That’s it for today, then. Have a good weekend, and enjoy the football.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in General

 

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Shambolic Manchesters, Legend’s talk, Injury Updates and Twitter Training

Good day, Gooners! Last night, was a complete polar opposite to what we witnessed on Wednesday night. The remaining two English teams in the Europa League, Manchester City and Manchester United, put in shambolic displays, more like disinterested performances.

I am taking nothing away from Athletic Bilbao, who over the two legs outran, outmuscled and outfought their more illustrious opponents, but just the way the Manchester clubs have treated the competition, as an uneccesary evil, means it is time for UEFA to rethink the structure of the Europa League. Teams that fall out of the Champions League, after the group stages get into the Europa League, be it Viktoria Plzen, or be it Barcelona. Of course, for clubs like Trabzonspor, or even Valencia, the competition provides an alternate platform to compete for European honours, but clubs like Manchester United treat it like a ‘disgrace to be playing there’.

Of course, it may be the poorer cousin of the far more glitzy and entertaining Champions League, but clubs need to treat every competition with respect, because they have ended up there on merit. It is time for Michel Platini to rethink about the Europa League.

Regarding the game, Bilbao showed superior desire, throughout. Players like the young Iker Muniain, and the goal machine Fernando Llorente, bought through the Bilbao youth ranks, are among the most coveted players in Europe right now. Llorente’s volley was a beauty, and Rooney’s consolation was great. Manchester City, meanwhile, were 2-0 down in no time. Of course, they did fight back to win 3-2 and almost won in at the death, through Joe Hart of all people, but they were eventually knocked out.

News, closer to our hearts, then. Former players Sol Campbell and Perry Groves, both saluted the spirit of the Arsenal team. In the lowest of dumps, after the 4-0 mauling in Milan, and a 2-0 Cup exit at the Stadium of Darkness, left the Gunners reeling, but since then they have responded admirably, against Sp*rs, Liverpool, AC Milan and Newcastle United.

Perry Groves:

I have been impressed with their spirit. They are the first team in Premier League history to come back in four games to win, and that shows the spirit is there,The resilience is back after the disappointing results against AC Milan [in the first leg] and Sunderland. They are playing the Arsenal way and they have that bit of belief.The target right now is to finish in front of Spurs. If you had said that three or four weeks ago, when they were 10 points behind them, it looked unlikely. Now I think it is very likely if you look at our fixtures.This group needs to win a trophy and that gives you even more belief. In the team I was privileged to be part of in 1987, Arsenal hadn’t won a trophy for eight years.We won the Littlewoods Cup and that instilled belief in the players, the fans and the whole Club that we could win trophies, so that is the next step.

Robin van Persie gives everyone confidence with his goals,Tomas Rosicky seems to have that hunger and desire. When we were two down against Spurs it was him who dragged the team up by its bootstraps and drove them forward.Wojciech Szczesny in goal has stature and a physical presence, and for someone so young and learning his trade, he is well on his way to becoming a world-class keeper. You can tell that he instills confidence in the defence.Laurent Koscielny has been one of our most improved players. He has been excellent at bringing the ball out from the back, and that is Arsène’s way.

Sol Campbell:

The lads have shown a lot of spirit. You have to get a bit of the rub of the green, but that tends to come when you start being bolder on the pitch,Gamble on your skill, gamble in the box, gamble in thinking, ‘I am going to try this’. Start gambling your talent, basically. The more you bust a gut to win, the more you are going to see the crowd feed off that.You make your own luck, and against Newcastle there was a little deflection for the winning goal and the ball came to Vermaelen. But he was there because he busted a gut to get into the box.Sometimes it is not about the loss, it is how you lose and that is the same with winning. Winning in the last minute will give the lads confidence,Robin van Persie is flying and banging in goals left, right and centre. Everyone is starting to gel and realising what it means to play for Arsenal.That level of confidence and class is what they should be aiming for all the time. Sure, sometimes you won’t reach that level but you have to work out how to grind out a result, or shut the game down. That is a learning curve.Hard graft and talent go hand in hand. There are not many top players around the world who don’t work on their skill,Being responsible on and off the field is crucial. Everyone likes to have a great time but it is about realising ‘I want to win the league or the cup, so I have to knuckle down here’.You have to make sure you don’t waste your career and actually work hard and be a part of history.

Sol Campbell also spoke about Thierry Henry’s short second stint at the club.

I spoke to him beforehand and he told me the Club were thinking about bringing him back,I had lunch with him and told him to go for it. I said, ‘As long as people know you are coming back and helping out’. But he did more than help out really.He has shown great mental ability to come back and play so well. When he was called upon, he did his best – above and beyond really. It was fantastic.

Amidst all the high spirits, there is one player who is still having a hard time dealing with a low point in his career. Gervinho admitted that he needs to get over his penalty miss in the shootout in the African Cup of Nations Final, against Zambia.

It was hard, it’s very difficult getting to the final and then losing on penalties,It was a disappointment with the penalty, as the team suffered, and in hindsight it was one of the toughest moments of my career. But I’ve had lots of other hard times. Missing out on a big title was hard, but I’ve had other setbacks in my career and come through them.If you’d have told us at the start of the tournament that we’d be there in the final at the end, we would have taken it, but at the end of the day that’s football. There are always winners and losers, but being with the Ivory Coast, you pick up so much, it’s a great experience, even though it was difficult for us.

We had our big disappointment in the final of course, but we’ll try to make up for it next year, that’s our big motivation. I think that every time we take part in the tournament there is a great desire and determination to win it and we can use our disappointment from this year to try and do better in 2013.We’ll keep hoping and hoping and believing that one day, we’ll win this tournament. We played well and we’ll keep working towards that.

In my opinion, African football has been improving every year,I think that it’s already got to a very good level with all the teams and good players of a very good quality. African football is coming up to a good level, even if we saw to our cost with the performance of Zambia in the tournament, but this competition will make it easier all [African footballers] to progress and we should all be happy with that.

The Ivorian made his return in the 2-0 loss against Sunderland in the FA Cup, and has since featured as a substitute in most of the games. His place has been taken by the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Gervinho did miss a sitter against Newcastle, and hasn’t looked sharp enough, but Arsenal fans will be hoping he returns to his best soon.

A little injury update then, from Le Prof, Arsene Wenger.

Jack’s scan was positive. There is no problem, it is normal evolution and he is continuing his progression. It’s too early to fix a date though, we go day by day with him.

I believe Per will be out for the rest of the season,Basically there are only six weeks to go [this season] so I don’t think he’ll be sharp enough to come back and play. He would need to train and get back to full fitness.

The return of Jack Wilshere, even for the last 5-6 games will be a huge boost for Arsenal, who have been without a bus of players throughout the season. Abou Diaby, will feature for the Reserves, soon, as he attempts to overcome his long term injury problems. Francis Coquelin is still a few weeks away. Andre Santos, meanwhile played 60 minutes for the Reserves against West Brom in a 3-0 win. He will be available for selection for the trip to Everton, and will provide more options at the back.

“I am very happy to be playing again because it has been a long time,” he said. “I feel good and I hope to be able to play next week at Everton.It has been a difficult time because my ankle was in pain and I didn’t feel good, but now it feels good again and I’m very happy to be back.I’m really pleased the team have been doing so well. The displays have been strong, the spirit is good and we have 10 games left so we must finish well.

In other news, it was revealed by Arsenal’s communication director Mark Gonnella, that the youngster’s at the club will be trained in handling their Facebook and Twitter accounts more maturely.

From day one when they start wearing the Arsenal badge they become people that everybody is interested to hear from. Whether they’re playing for the first team or part of the Academy, suddenly their views are of interest. Thousands of people will follow them [on Twitter, not in person] and react to what they are saying, so they need to learn very early.If you say something on Twitter you’re not just talking to a small group of friends or people who are very close to you, you’re actually talking to thousands and probably millions of people.There can sometimes be problems, while sometimes there can be a great story and it’s all good. What we’re here to do is make sure they get it right more than they get it wrong.

Youth coach and legend Steve Bould, too shared his views on social media.

We were quite lucky, we never had any of this Twitter and Facebook and constant media pressure. It’s tough for them, they have to learn early that things they do and say in the public eye.They grow up. They’ve got old heads on young bodies and so far we’ve not had too much of a problem. Certainly when they get to the fringe of the first team that’s when it really matters because the whole world wants to know what they’re doing. Any little snippet that they find can be used, so they need to be careful.

I think it’s a fabulous opportunity, something as I’ve ever said, we never had to deal with. When I first faced a camera I didn’t have a clue what to do. These kids have got it all early, but everything is set-up for them to be professional on and off the pitch.

Arsenal players have been in much of Twitter’s news as of late. Wojciech Szczesny left Twitter, recently, saying he needs to focus on his career more. Good move, that. But, Emmanuel Frimpong got involved in a verbal kerfuffle with Piers Morgan, who did deserve a bit of a hard talk, after all his negative comments about Arsenal. Jack Wilshere, meanwhile, is one player, who is constantly tweeting. Be it, him having a beer, or taking a stroll down the local park, or even answering nature’s call, he always keeps his followers updated. Probably an overdose. He even claimed once he would prefer winning the World Cup with England rather than the Champions League with Arsenal, and also made it public of his desire to see Chelsea qualify to the next stage of the Champions League, both of which have angered some Arsenal fans, to some extent.

That’s today’s wrap then.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in General

 

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Post Geordie Talk, Arteta, Walcott, Rosicky, Arshavin and Santos

Hello Gooners, out there! I can vouch for the fact that all of you are in the best of moods, unless of course, you happened to meet a Sp*rs supporter, who thinks they can still finish above us in the league. What a load of bollocks, I say!

The Newcastle game marked a 5th consecutive Premier League win. A streak that started with the 7-1 mauling of Blackburn, followed by a late Thierry Henry goal at the Stadium of Misery, a 5-2 humbling of Sp*rs, a daylight robbery at Anfield, and a Newcastle Vermination. 15 points gathered in these 5 games, and add to that Sp*rs consecutive 3rd league loss, which saw them lose to us, ManUtd and Everton, has seen us close the gap between us to just 1 solitary point. Couple of months ago, Arsenal were 7th in the league, and Sp*rs, were 13 points ahead of us, dreaming of a league title. How quickly things can change in the game of football.

Zis team is good!

Arsene Wenger does the customary, speaking about the team spirit…rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb..

That is the best response to something that has been questioned sometimes this season. I believe that shows we have quality, we have spirit, which I have never questioned.It was a relentless effort again tonight from the first to the last minute. The tempo was absolutely top level tonight. We kept going until the last second and just managed to win the game.Certainly the fact we have done it before helped us. Even when we were 1-0 down we just kept going and we feel now at the moment in the team we just have that complete and total commitment to do as well as we can and give absolutely everything.We played recently against Tottenham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sunderland who are all very difficult to beat and we won all of these games. We know every time it was very tight and we won in the last minute in three of them.There is definitely complete commitment in every single game. Where we finish is down to how we keep going and if we put that same amount of effort into every single game.

I don’t focus on Tottenham. I feel what is at stake for us is our commitment and that’s all we want to do.I don’t compare us to any other team, I just think we have rebuilt confidence and belief and that will be vital in the race until the end.It can change very quickly because as soon as you lose a little bit of urgency you are in trouble in this league. So let’s focus on keeping that and after we will see when we finish.The atmosphere is great within the squad, and tonight it was exceptional in the dressing room because the pleasure is even more intense when you win in the final minute of the game where you have given everything.It’s very important that we keep our feet on the ground, keep our complete focus and give absolutely everything until the end.

Yes, I completely with Wenger here. How can we even contemplate to compare ourselves with the Sp*rs, of all? We are way better than that. Meanwhile, the man who ‘scores when he wants’, aka Robin van Persie, who scored a fine equalizer against the Geordies, was full of praise for the Arsenal faithful.

During that period, our fans have been incredible. I really mean that – the atmosphere in the stadium has reached unbelievable levels and that makes me feel very proud. I sometimes hear people saying that Emirates Stadium can be quiet, but I’m completely certain that those people will adjust their opinions now.Our bond with the supporters is special and has been there for a long time, but in the last few games I feel it’s reached a new level. As I’ve said before, it’s down to us to give them that energy, to show them that we are ready for the fight, and then they will respond.That’s what has happened recently – the fans and the players have worked together and made a really good team!

Mikel Arteta, meanwhile spoke on how Arsenal deserved the late winner.

We all keep believing, we had the chances and thankfully at the end we got the points. All credit to the team, we never give up even when we’re losing, and the crowd as well has been absolutely fantastic.We deserved to win the game earlier, we had chances to put it in the net before, and it was tough, but as I said kept trying, putting them under pressure and the energy today was top drawer.We are now only one point behind Tottenham and three ahead of Chelsea, so we are in a much better position than four or five weeks ago. We are really happy.

One of the talking points of the game was the clash between Newcastle’s goalkeeper Tim Krul, who was taking ages for his goalkicks, and was not penalized once, by Manchester United legend Howard Webb, and Captain Vantastic. Robin van Persie kept accusing Krul of wasting time, and matters nearly got out of hand towards the end, when after Vermaelen’s winner, van Persie taunted Krul, by saying “Take your time now!”. Arsene Wenger tells he doesn’t know much about the incident.

If it’s history from Holland or it’s today’s story I don’t know,I will find out, but I’m happy he stayed yellow and didn’t become red.

Moving on, Arsenal’s best player on the night, was Theo Walcott. He gave a torrid time to Newcastle’s Italian left-back Davide Santon, in the first half, which resulted in Pardew substituting him with James Perch. Walcott set up van Persie’s equalizer in the 15th minute, and was also responsible for Vermaelen’s winner. Arsene Weger, was full of praise for the pacy winger, who he bought from Southampton in 2006.

Theo Walcott was outstanding,From the first to last minute he was great. I feel it was his best performance for us.Against Milan, Theo was hitting top form and he has continued it tonight. He played with intelligence and power.Newcastle gave the impression of a strong team and to come back quickly was important.The equaliser was provided by Walcott. We speak many times of many other players and he deserves great credit this time because he was exceptional.I think that he is so long in the spotlight that people forget that he is 22 years old and getting now to an age where you perform. It is as simple as that. He develops well because he is intelligent. Tactically, technically tonight he had a complete game.

Walcott has often tended to frustrate Arsenal fans, with his inconsistent displays, and that he has shown little improvement since joining us all those years back. He has drifted in and out of games, at times looks completely out of ideas and disinterested, but he has also played like a world-beater at times. Another player, who has frustrated the Arsenal faithful, with his injuries, rather than lack of performances, is Tomas Rosicky. Owing to his recent top form, he has been awarded with a new and improved two-year contract extension. Little Mozart, stated,

It’s a great honour to sign a new deal with Arsenal, I love the Club and am proud to wear the Arsenal shirt. It’s felt like home since I arrived six years ago and I couldn’t be happier to commit my future to the team.The manager, my team-mates, the staff and the supporters – everyone plays their part in making this a great Club, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. I believe we have a really talented group of players and, together with the manager, the future looks bright. It’s always been my goal to win trophies here at Arsenal, and I will fight hard to achieve my dreams here.

And while we are about it, on loan Russia captain Andrei Arshavin has revealed that he intends to return to Arsenal after his loan spell ends.

Of course,Yes,Every player wants to play and not sit on the bench and sit in the stands watching the action. I always wanted to play and not sit on the sidelines watching everything unfold.I’m used to living in London and while I’m on loan at Zenit my family has stayed there because my children go to school there and everybody feels comfortable there.

Is it just me, or has Arshavin’s departure on loan to Zenit, coincided with the recent spate of great results. I still, feel though, that the Russian still has a season or two in him to succeed at Arsenal. He offers something extra to the midfield, and all Arsenal fans hope to see a rejuvenated player in him, come next season.

Finally, Arsenal welcomed back Brazilian left-back Andre Santos from injury. It was revealed that he will be ready in time to face Everton. Before that, he will get some much needed game time against West Brom reserves. It will be interesting to see if Wenger sticks to the impressive young Kieran Gibbs at left-back or brings back the experienced Santos. It is a happy problem. Also slated for a return, is Abou Diaby.

Of course, Arsenal don’t have a game this weekend, due to Everton’s involvement in the FA Cup, where they take on Bolton. It’s going to be another long weekend then. Hopefully, we will be all set to take on Everton, come next Wednesday.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in General

 

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Dutchmen, Young Guns, Profits, Szczesny, Injuries, Reyes, Internationals + Liverpool Preview & Lineups

Liverpool vs Arsenal, Anfield, Premier League

Kickoff – 12:45 GMT (18:15 IST), 3rd March 2012

Another weekend, and with it comes another ‘cup tie’. This weekend, it gets bigger. Yes, bigger, because this time we are playing a club, bestowed with success throughout its history, added to by last week’s Carling Cup victory; unlike last week, where we had to show Spu*s, where they stand in the scheme of things.

The Liverpool game could be one of the major games of our season. It comes at a very delicate time. With just 12 games left in the season, Arsenal will have to find atleast 10 wins if they want to make sure of that 4th spot. Chelsea are breathing down our necks, and separate us only by virtue of head-to-head. Liverpool, themselves, boosted by their Carling Cup triumph, will look to push on. They are 7 points behind us, with a game in hand, of course. Newcastle have defied all odds and remain in contention too.

The match could be a cagey affair though. Liverpool have struggled to score goals this season, and suspension to their best striker, who missed a total of 9 games due to bans, hasn’t helped either. With it, coinciding was the form (rather the lack of it) of Andy Carroll. The bulky striker has scored just 3 times in 23 league appearances. Add to that, long term injuries for Gerrard and Lucas, two vital players for Liverpool. To compound the frustration, Liverpool have been unlucky at times. They have hit the goalpost highest number of times, this Premier League campaign, and this has resulted in failure to convert draws to wins, at home. Kenny Dalglish has managed his resources remarkably well this campaign, ensuring progress in cup competitions.

Liverpool’s defence, however has been stifling. They have played a consistent back 4 of Johnson, Skrtel, Agger and Enrique, and are a well-drilled unit, having conceded only 23 goals in 25 games. Arsenal on the other hand have conceded 37 goals, in 26 games, and have used an entire 11 at their back. These include Sagna, Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Squillaci, Santos, Gibbs, Miquel and Coquelin. Funny, ain’t it?

While Arsenal have managed to bang in 53 goals, Liverpool have managed a paltry 29. The game will be a combined result of two battles. One is an attack which can’t score against a defence which can’t stop conceding, and the other is an attack which can’t stop scoring, against a defence that rarely concedes. Seems like we have a cracker jacker of a game on our hands.

Meanwhile, Arsenal chairman Peter Hill Wood has paid a tribute to the clubs two premier strikers, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

It was a special moment to have Henry back with us for his statue unveiling. This was only surpassed by that winning goal against Leeds United on his return to action in an Arsenal shirt during his loan period with the Club. It was a truly memorable football moment from an outstanding Arsenal servant.

I would like to recognise another outstanding Arsenal servant, our captain Robin van Persie.He has been in tremendous form and has scored many spectacular and valuable goals.In addition, he has proved to be an exceptional leader of the team and I am delighted by his contribution on and off the pitch.

Riding high on the Spurs win, van Persie has been subject of interest among the football world, regarding his contract. While clubs like AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid look to price away Arsenal’s most prized asset, the Dutchman has gone out to say he is fully committed to the Arsenal cause.

There have been a lot of stories, generally contradictory ones, about my contract situation recently so I’d like to make it clear,There’s nothing complicated or sinister – the club and I have both agreed to speak at the end of the season and see how things stand. The boss, Ivan Gazidis and I are all comfortable with it.I need all my focus to be on football – on captaining this team, improving every day, doing extra work on the training pitch and preparing for the very busy schedule of fixtures we have.

I have been there for eight years and I’m proud. At the end of the season I will it down with the trainer and the president. Then we make a cup of coffee all together.I am a true Gunner. I love this club and that’s no secret. We will soon talk about many things. I do quite often with the trainer anyway. Only later on is the president there.

Arsenal fans will certainly hope so. RVP staying at Arsenal could hinge on whether the club manages to qualify for next year’s Champions League. Actually, a lot of things hinge in it. It could affect our transfer kitty, which means the likes of Podolski and Gotze, certainly won’t be arriving at the Emirates. We wouldn’t be able to attract too many good players, either. Our best players, more importantly, van Persie, could be on their way out in search of a Champions League club.

Dennis Bergkamp showered praises on his compatriot, and the successor to his throne.

He has been playing in a role which is very difficult,I think it’s easier for a guy like Robin or me to play behind the striker, and feed the main striker and sometimes get the space to do your own thing. But basically he is the one up front who has to make a difference, which puts a lot of pressure on him, but it seems like he can deal with it. It seems he can make the difference time after time and in my opinion that describes a great player. It’s fantastic how he has developed himself, and players like that deserve trophies. So I honestly hope that comes soon, because his character and style of play is fantastic.

As soon as he trained with us you could see his potential,He seemed free, he played with a lot of freedom. You could see immediately he was a very talented player.I got to know him a bit, obviously with us both being Dutch, so I tried to help him with a few things. You could really tell that he’s a good person, a good lad, and totally the opposite to the stories that were coming out of Holland at the time about him. They said he was a difficult character, wouldn’t listen to experienced players and so on, but he was a great example of a player making the right move at the right time. He joined a settled team with a lot of big players, and from day one he respected those players and listened to them, and I think that helped him a lot.

Meanwhile, another Dutchman contradicted another Dutchman’s statement. Recently, AC Milan midfielder Mark van Bommel came out and said van Persie would be perfect for AC Milan. However, his AC Milan team mate Clarence Seedorf, feels van Persie should stay put.

A player must not leave a club because one is not in the Champions League. There must be other reasons. Van Persie gives Arsenal a lot, but he must not forget that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger in particular, have given him a lot, they have been waiting for him and given him time to show his true potential. If Van Persie leaves, it should certainly not be because they will not participate in the CL.

Moving on to the transfer rumour mill, the Lukas Podolski story seems to be getting bigger and bigger everyday. The German tabloid Bild published that the 26 year old German striker has already signed a pre-contract agreement with the Gunners, and will definitely sign in the summer. To what extent, these are true, I have no idea. But, being an Arsenal fan for so many years, I wouldn’t believe in it unless it is on the Arsenal website. Meanwhile, rumours suggest that Fiorentina have offered Marouanne Chamakh an escape route, and will place a £6 million bid for him in the summer. That is actually great, if we could get so much for a flop, whom we had acquired on a free transfer.

While we are about the subject of strikers, RVP has heaped praise on reserve striker Benik Afobe.

I was delighted to see Benik Afobe back in the Reserves on Tuesday night, scoring against Norwich. Six months is a long time out at his age, especially when he did really well with the first team over pre-season making fast progress. He’s returned impressively though – I watched him in training ten days ago while I was doing my warm down and he looked really strong and quick, a proper English striker who holds the ball up well and works very hard.When you’re young you just want to be playing, improving your game and making your career, and he was denied that for a long time. To come back as he’s doing is tremendous – he’s a fantastic lad, a really good character to have in the squad and a player I genuinely rate, so I’m really proud of him,He absolutely loves his football and treats it very seriously. That’s the main thing for a young footballer – if you really love the game like he does then you will make it, and he has everything to become a great player.

The future seems bright for Arsenal, with young talent like Szczesny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Frimpong, Wilshere, Afobe, Lansbury, Miyaichi and Oxlade-Chamberlain coming close to the first team.

And while, we are still about strikers and talented players, Emmanuel Frimpong, who is out with a long term injury, spoke fondly of his time on loan at Wolves. He also praised striker Steven Fletcher.

I think Steven Fletcher is a good player, I told him to come to Arsenal!Stephen Ward at left-back isn’t bad either. They’ve got decent players, and the thing about them is that everyone works so hard. They base everything around work – people there even told me they haven’t got the ability of some of the teams in the Premier League and need to make up for that by working hard and I think that’s the right attitude.As a footballer you sometimes have to make decisions, and I think going to Wolves was probably the best thing I could have done.They may not have been doing too well, but the manager [recently departed Mick McCarthy] was very good to me – I think it’s very important to go to a manager who likes you, and he showed belief in me.He put me in the team, and I’m just happy that I was able to do him proud on the pitch. I had a great time, and if I come back from injury and need some games then I’d be happy to go back there.

Moving on, the club has announced the interim financial results, which boasts of a healthy profit, owing to player sales. Following are some of the main features of the announcement.

Group profit before tax was £49.5 million (2010 – loss of £6.1 million).

Profit on sale of player registrations amounted to £63.0 million (2010 – £4.0 million).

£74.7 million of investment in new players and extended contracts pushed amortisation charges up to £17.3 million (2010 – £10.1 million).

The resulting profit from player trading was £46.1 million (2010 – loss of £5.9 million).

Turnover from football rose to £113.5 million (2010 – £97.6 million) with increases from match-day (4 additional games played) and commercial income streams.

Operating profits (before depreciation and player trading) from football increased to £15.2 million (2010 – £9.4 million).

Period of minimal activity, as expected, in the property business with turnover of £3.2 million (2010 – £22.5 million) and operating profits of £0.5 million (2010 – £3.3 million).

Group has no short-term debt and continues to have a solid financial platform from cash reserves of £115.2 million (2010 – £110.4 million).

I am not very sure what these mean, as to if the manager will have all of it at his disposal, should he decide to splash the cash on reinforcements. It will be interesting to see.

Going back to the Spurs reaction then, one enduring image is that of our young Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny performing a somersault and hugging a ball boy during the match. He is gonna be a legend!He was full of praise for Arsenal’s frontline.

It is comparable to that of beating Barcelona. “It is a great feeling, probably one of the best I have ever had. Every single goal felt better than the previous one and I was celebrating quite energetically. But I loved it. It is the first time I have beaten Spurs and it is just great.

Theo scored two goals, which is all you can ask for,They were both very good. He has come under a little bit of stick for his finishing but he took those two very well and we are very pleased for him. He’s a very good lad and he is probably one of the best trainers in the dressing room.  He works very hard every day, scores a lot of goals in training and just needs to get the goals in games. But we are very pleased for him and we hope he can do it all over again in the games from now.

He’s not bad is he?(RVP) He only scored one goal today though, which is really disappointing for him! We are used to him scoring a hat-trick.But he set up a couple and he was great. He worked very hard defensively, headed a few balls away when we defended corners and scored a fantastic goal.That’s what he is all about – he is the best player in the Premier League and we are very pleased to have him.

After what we have done, we believe we can challenge Tottenham. We have the momentum. Will there be psychological effects for them? As an Arsenal fan, I hope so. I said ages ago that we can’t realistically win the Premier League any more but now, my main ambition is to finish above Tottenham.You can see that we are not any worse than them and when we have the momentum and are on the front foot, we are very dangerous. I hope we can use that to our advantage and get the momentum to start challenging.

Legend!

Per Mertesacker, who is nursing an injury, and watched the game from the sidelines, too was full of praise.

As you can imagine, the Champions League game was torture. And on Sunday it didn’t look good for half an hour or so. But then I thought: wow, that’s some cool club – they are turning it around!I almost felt like in the old days, when I followed Arsenal from a distance and felt like a fan: “This is a great club!” I am really proud of being part of a team that is capable of putting in a performance like that.I’m already looking forward to being back in London next week (to watch the Milan second-leg), because it is annoying – especially in your first season – to be away from the team on account of an injury. You want to spend as much time as possible with your new team-mates.

On his own injury, the Big F*cking German had this to say.

I can report that all’s going pretty well for me, to be more precise: for my ankle. I was able to put aside the crutches relatively quicklyI’m able to walk rather normally thanks to a custom-made boot and a splint that prevents the ankle from twisting. The condition has become more and more stable by the day, so I’m quite light on my feet.The ankle is still swollen, but since I’m walking daily more and more fluid is being, so to speak, “lymph drained”. I’m really happy about that.It’s only when we get to the phase of placing load on the foot that we’ll be able to see what we’re looking at, in terms of the length of the lay-off.

Speaking of injuries, Johan Djourou has suffered a muscle tear on his right thigh, and could be out of action for a month. My first reaction was, this is great news. But then, I realised that another injury to a centre-back and we will have Sebastien Squillaci strutting about there. That ain’t a pretty sight. I would certainly hope Ignasi Miquel to be next choice centre back. Wenger recently told Djourou will be fit for the Milan game.

Meanwhile, Andre Santos nears to first team action, after a long term injury, which he sustained in the dead rubber Champions League game against Olympiakos. Wenger told,

He is doing good, he is not far as well – two weeks away from returning to the group. It is a bit ahead of time and he works with a fantastic attitude. He is unbelievably focused, motivated every day and he is a credit to himself. It is a joy to see how hard he works and sets himself targets. In two weeks we will assess how well he is doing in training.

Moving forward, the club has announced it will play Manchester City in Beijing, more specifically the ‘Bird’s Nest’, the beautiful arena built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, on July 27th in preparation for the new season. It will certainly set tone for the season. Ivan Gazidis had this to say.

Further to our hugely successful visit to Hangzhou in 2011, everyone at Arsenal is extremely excited to once again be visiting China this year.We enjoy huge support in Asia and by playing a match in Beijing, we will once again be bringing the Club close to our loyal fans in China. The players and staff had an amazing time in China last year and we are all looking forward to visiting this great country again in July.The match against Manchester City is sure to be an exciting spectacle, with many great players from both sides playing in front of thousands of supporters in the wonderful ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium. It is also fitting that two English clubs are playing each other on the opening day of the London 2012 Olympics, in the stadium which hosted the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

This friendly, along with further friendlies in Hong Kong and Nigeria are to replace the Emirates Cup, which has been cancelled owing to police shortages in the English capital during the Olympics.

Spanish striker Jose Antonio Reyes recently spoke to the Arsenal magazine, and reminisced fondly his time in North London.

I have nothing but positive and happy memories of that time,I follow their matches whenever I have time and I always hope the best for them. At the time I joined it was really exciting, one of those experiences where you pinch yourself to make sure it’s actually happening to you. It was a big step to take at that time but my family and girlfriend supported me a lot.I felt happy and flattered about Arsenal’s interest, and I left Spain to go and win titles with them, which I achieved – but it was a big leap.I have to say that everybody was very, very helpful, and not just the players and the staff at the Club. I found the people in England to be very kind.I did not realise it so much at the time but after the job was done I started to realise that I, we, were part of football history and that we had written ourselves into the history books,I think all of us who were part of it treasure that particular season. The intensity of the emotions was incredible. At times like that, you feel proud and self-confident. You feel you are doing a good job. You feel happy, you feel strong. And you feel you took the right step in your career.

Reyes made a huge impact when he came to Arsenal in early 2004. After a reasonably good year, his form dipped, and he never really fulfilled his potential. He soon moved to Real Madrid on loan, scoring 2 goals in the final game of the season in 2007, to hand Real the Spanish League. He has since played for Atletico Madrid and Benfica.

Internationals, then. Overhyped and overrated England took on Netherlands at Wembley and ended losing 3-2, thanks to a masterclass from Arjen Robben. Arsenal fans, for sure, were more concerned about the fitness of Robin van Persie, and there must have been a collective sigh of relief when he was bought off at half-time. News had percolated before the match that van Persie had walked off with a slight problem 10 minutes before the end of a light training session. But, then, he played, and Dutch coach Bert van Maarwijk bought him off at half-time.

After the weekend, Arsene Wenger stated that both Tomas, and Thomas hare injured, and are big doubts for the Liverpool clash. However, Vermaelen played 90 minutes against Greece, for Belgium. Which mean, he is fit, but exhausted. Rosicky didn’t feature for Czech Republic against Republic of Ireland. And there was no mention about him in the press conference, which is slightly puzzling.

Moving on, on loan Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury scored a brace for England U-21’s, one of which was an absolute screamer. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, too got on the scoresheet. Elsewhere, Gervinho, Alex Song, Park Chu-Young, Szczesny,Benayoun etc. all were away on international duties. Szczesny kept out Cristiano Ronaldo and Co., while Ukraine beat Benayoun’s Israel 3-2. Andrei Arshavin, too scored for Russia in a 2-0 win over Denmark. Chamakh featured in Morocco’s 2-0 win over Burkina Faso.

Meanwhile, Yossi Benayoun recently revealed he is frustrated at the lack of opportunities at Arsenal, where he has fallen down the pecking order below Rosicky, Arteta and Ramsey.

To play 88 minutes, especially in a derby, is a great pleasure. I enjoyed every minute of it, but I still don’t know what will be next week because at Arsenal you are at the top and the competition is tough.The bottom line is that I’m not playing enough games. I haven’t been given enough opportunities.

I scored the winner at Aston Villa and made a goal in the next game. But for some reason I didn’t get opportunities after that, even though the team had a string of disappointing results. But I still believe in myself and that I will play much more.My inclination at the moment is to sign for a mid-table team and play another two or three years.

I do like Benayoun as a player. Not just because he scored against Spu*s in 2006, whilst in a West Ham shirt, to hand us 4th place, and a place in the Champions League. He is quite a talented player, and has good experience in the Premier League, having played for West Ham, Liverpool and Chelsea. He is a good passer of the ball, and as last week suggested, he can stamp his authority in midfield. Unfortunately, his Arsenal stint has come at the wrong time in his career. He is 32, and hence the reason behind him saying that he would want to turn up for a mid-table team. I think an Everton, Newcastle or Aston Villa would suit the Israeli perfectly.

Team news, then. Speaking in his pre-match conference, Wenger revealed that 3 important players will have scans ahead of the game, but he is expecting them to be fit. They are Robin van Persie, Tomas Rosicky and Thomas Vermaelen.

I do not know if they will play, Personally I think international friendlies are becoming more difficult to accept. It’s difficult to understand that our players had to go away when injured, it’s disrespectful to the players.

It could spark another country vs club debate. Clubs lose their best players to injury in meaningless friendlies. It has happened in the past to Arsenal at a worrying rate. Players have aggravated their injuries by playing unrequired international games in the midst of a hectic domestic schedule.

If all goes well, it would be interesting to see how the midfield shapes up. Whether Benayoun will keep his place, after impressing in the Spu*s game, or whether Wenger will decide to deploy wingers, namely Chamberlain and Gervinho. One should also remember that Alex Song and Gervinho will be returning from long trips to Africa. Moreover, Gervinho returned from the Africa Cup of Nations, just a couple of weeks back, and him flying back for the friendly, goes to show how poorly framed the fixtures are. I would expect Wenger to rest Benayoun and give a start to Chamberlain. It would mean we could be susceptible to losing a central midfield battle to Liverpool. One player returning for Arsenal is Abou Diaby, and he will be expected to feature in next week’s league game against Newcastle.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of Steven Gerrard. After playing the full 120 minutes in an absorbing League Cup final, Gerrard injured himself in the meaningless friendly. Daniel Agger is out for a month after he cracked a rib in the League Cup Final, which means a fresh Jamie Carragher will start. Liverpool have a host of options in midfield, namely the defensive-minded Jay Spearing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam. Stewart Downing is expected to start after putting in a fine display in the Carling Cup final, which earned him the Man of the Match award. They also have the option of the industrious Dirk Kuyt. Up front, Craig Bellamy has looked lively. Andy Carroll’s performances seem to be improving gradually, while Suarez still seems a bit affected by the racism scandal. I would expect Dalglish to keep faith in Suarez and Carroll, again.

Here is how I think the two teams could line up.

As you can see Liverpool’s midfield does look slightly imbalanced. Spearing or Henderson should take up the defensive midfielder’s role. Gerrard will gradually drift towards the centre, to support Adam, while Downing will run the left flank. Bellamy or Kuyt are other options on the flanks or in strike, depending on Dalglish’s decision to go with one or two marksmen. All in all, we are set for an enthralling midfield battle.

A lot hinges on this game, regarding who will finish 4th. If Arsenal win, they will move to within 4 points of 3rd place Spurs, who play on Sunday against Manchester United. With Chelsea playing away at West Brom, and Newcastle at home in their derby against Sunderland, Liverpool could move up to 4 points of Chelsea and Arsenal, with a game in hand.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the game!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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10 Positives for the Rest of the Season

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Arsenal Football Club, on the pitch this year. The club has lost 3 of its 4 Premier League games, and only managed a point at lowly Bolton. However, progress was ensured in the FA Cup at the expense of Leeds and Aston Villa.

There have been many fans who have been calling for the head of Arsene Wenger after the run of disastrous results resulted in the club languishing in 7th position in the table.

But, it is too early to sack anyone. There are still loads of games left to play. Here are 10 positives for the rest of the season.

10) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s form and confidence

‘The Ox’ has made an electric start to his Arsenal career with goals against Shrewsbury and Olympiakos. And he did his reputation no harm with a sparkling display against Manchester United. He will probably continue playing on the left, unless Arsene Wenger decides to re-deploy Gervinho. At the moment, he is running high on form and confidence, and will cause lots of problems to lots of defences.

9) Return of Gervinho

Gervinho will soon mark his return from the Africa Cup of Nations, where he is representing the Ivory Coast. He has been a vital player so far this season, and has displayed good skill in taking the ball to the final third. Of course, he still lacks the finishing maturity, but he can only get better.

8) Return of Full-Backs

Bacary Sagna was probably Arsenal’s best player on Wednesday against Bolton. He controlled play on his flank very well, and made Martin Petrov a cropper. He has been sorely missed since his injury in October. Arsene Wenger has since played Coquelin, Jenkinson, Koscielny and Yennaris at right-back, but no one has been as influential as the dreadlocked Frenchman. His return will strengthen the defence. At left-back, too, the Gunners have faced problems with both first-choice players, Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos out. Again, Wenger has had to make-do with Coquelin, Miquel and Vermaelen. The return of Kieran Gibbs is a positive, ahead of the mist-win match against Blackburn Rovers.

7) Home Games Advantage

The Gunners face some crunch home games against Chelsea, Manchester City, Newcastle and Tottenham as they look to cement 4th spot. These games will be vital and must-wins, and the players will be looking towards the fans to create a charged atmosphere and help them on to victory. This gives Arsenal a slight upper hand over other rivals. Liverpool still have to travel to Manchester United and Newcastle, and they host Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham at home. Chelsea travel to Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, while also playing host to Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham. And, finally, Tottenham travel to Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. This sets up for a very exciting finish.

6) History Books

I may be taking the old-school route here, quoting history. But, then again, history tells Arsenal have never finished outside the top 4 in Arsene Wenger’s tenure. The closest came in 2006, when the Gunners, 5th all season, snatched 4th spot from neighbors and rivals Tottenham. Now, 7th in the table, the team has the massive task of overturning the deficit, and emulating the class of 2006. We may not finish above Spurs, but that’s hardly the point. Finishing 4th is more important that anything for the club now.

5) Return of Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta, when joining the club in the summer, had appealed to the Arsenal faithful to not compare him with the departed Cesc Fabregas. He may not be as talented or influential as the Catalan, but he has shown he can be as important as his compatriot. He has been the midfield general this season, and his ability to control the tempo of games has been a vital addition to the squad. Having formed a triumvirate with Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song, he had been sorely missed in the games against Swansea, Manchester United and Leeds.

4) Vermaelen-Koscielny Partnership

I read this interesting stat, that Arsenal have never lost when Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny have been paired together at centre-back. With Gibbs and Sagna returning, Wenger will most probably ploy Koscielny with Vermaelen, while benching Mertesacker, who is still a bit slow to English standards. Both Koscielny and Vermaelen can play like liberos, and both have shown vast improvement in performances. Koscielny is the best tackler in the league, and has the right defending trick, while Vermaelen brings guts and tackles.

Partnership!

3) Form of Robin van Persie

Much of Arsenal’s season so far has been based on the form of van Persie. He has shown his class, this season, and has lead the team from the front. Already having scored 25 goals in all competitions, and 19 in the league, he has also netted 4 goals in 5 games this year. Arsenal will be hoping he can continue his hot streak for the rest of the season, as the Gunners enter the business end of the campaign.

2) FA Cup Prospects

The FA Cup represents Arsenal’s best chance of a trophy this season. Having beaten Leeds and Aston Villa, both in cup-style fashion, it seems like Arsenal are destined for the Cup. While it took a returning club legend to slot home the winner against Leeds, it took a spirited second-half comeback from 2 goals down, to 3-2 up in the space of 7 minutes against Villa. Moreover, the last silverware we lifted was the FA Cup in 2005. How nice it would be, to end the trophy drought by lifting the FA Cup.

1) Champions League Prospects

There may be some arguments to this, but I feel Arsenal’s style of football will be better suited for Europe this season. Also, it is the only trophy missing in Arsene Wenger’s glittering CV. A trophy, we came so close to lifting in 2006, returns to action with Italian giants AC Milan, waiting on Feb 15th. Should we progress, we could face the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona. But, Wenger is known to spring a surprise in the deepest of dumps. Will this finally end our wait for European glory. I am not sure, but I have been dreaming for days, Vermaelen and van Persie lifting the famous ‘trophy with ears’!

So, these are the positives for the rest of the season. There are still plenty of games to play for, and a lot left to fight for. So, Keep Calm and get behind your team, fellow Gooners.

Keep the faith! 🙂

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Best of the Best

 

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