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In our hands again?

Hello Gooners. All of us wait in anticipation for Sunday. The last day of the league season, where so much is left to be decided.

The week that passed by has been quite action packed. Sunday bought loads of important clashes in the Premier League. Newcastle were finally overpowered by the class of Yaya Toure, who scored twice, to move Manchester City ever so closer to their first Premier League crown. A late Djibril Cisse strike for QPR, against Stoke, may prove to be the singular most important goal in the Hoops’ season. Bolton dropped valuable points at home, and find themselves deep in trouble.

Blackburn Rovers were relegated, after a late Antonin Alcaraz goal ensured league safety for Wigan. It has been a tumultuous season for Rovers, with protests against manager Steve Kean, after almost every home fixture. Even a chicken with a Blackburn logo was released on the field, while other novel protests included a plane, with the message ‘In Venky’s we trust – Burnley Fans’. More importantly for us, Sp*rs could only muster a draw against a determined Aston Villa, which keeps us rooted to 3rd spot, one point ahead of our neighbours.

In our hands again. It has been quite a dismal end to the campaign, which has mirrored our previous seasons. A winning run of 7 games was halted by QPR, before we won two more against Manchester City and Wolves. Wigan bought us down to earth again. Since then, we have only managed to eke out 3 points against Stoke, Chelsea and Norwich, and a 5 point gap has been reduced to just 1.

St. Totteringham’s day celebrations have been put off, atleast until 5 PM GMT. While the Gunners travel to Birmingham to face West Brom, Sp*rs will take on Fulham at home. Newcastle still have an outside chance, though, when they travel to Everton.

The last time we faced this nail biting finish to the season, was in 2006, the final season at our beloved Highbury. The last game at the famous old stadium, Arsenal took on upstarts Wigan, while Sp*rs travelled to West Ham. Arsenal were 2-1 down at one stage, before Thierry Henry turned on the style, to win the game 4-2, while a certain Yossi Benayoun sunk Sp*rs, whose many players were out due to food poisoning before the game. Conspiracy? Probably.

However, we cannot rely on rotten pieces of meat this time round. 3 points is an absolute must at the Hawthorns, and regardless of how many goals Fulham get punctured by, we will have a place in next year’s Champions League. Anything but that, we face the realistic prospect of playing in the Europa League, and that means, a probable exodus from the club, a financial downfall, and the inability to sign top players for quite some time.

In other news, the past few days saw two former Arsenal legends retire, one from the game, and the other from his post as assistant manager. Both were defenders. They are Sol Campbell and Pat Rice.

I will start with a little tribute to Sol Campbell. Signed controversially on a free transfer from Sp*rs in the summer of 2001, Campbell came to be one of the mainstays in the Gunners’ defence for years to come. With stalwarts such as Tony Adams retiring from the game, the mantle had well and truely been passed. He first formed a solid partnership with Martin Keown, and then with Kolo Toure, the latter of which proved to be one of the stand out performers in Arsenal’s history making season of 2003-2004. Of course, our unbeaten run ended, off a Rooney dive, with Campbell the accused, but he has been an absolute rock for us. His command in the air, his leadership and organisational abilities have been indispensable. Another fine season in 2005 followed, with a FA Cup final win over Manchester United. He even scored in the Champions League final in 2006, a thumping header against Barcelona, but, alas we were not to leave our old ground as European champions. Campbell left Arsenal in 2006, to Portsmouth, where he won the FA Cup in 2008. He made a brief return to the North London, making 14 appearances, to help out the team during an injury-striken phase. Campbell was voted 15th in the “Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players” poll.

While Campbell served the club for little more than 5 years, Pat Rice has been a fantastic servant to the club, with an association that adds up to nearly 50 years. From Northern Ireland, and born in Belfast, he grew up in London, and joined the Gunners as a schoolboy. He made his debut in 1967, and slowly but gradually made the right-back position his own. He was an ever present in the 1970/71 side, that won the league and the cup, and at just 22, he was becoming the mainstay in defence. Rice was to stay with the Gunners for another 9 years, till 1980, and moved on to Watford after amassing 397 league games. He would return in 1984, as a youth team coach, for 12 years, before moving up the ranks to be assistant manager for the next 16 years. He has seen through successes like the doubles in 1997/98, 2001/02, and the unbeaten campaign in 2003/04, also FA Cup wins in 2003 and 2005. He has also been partly responsible in developing a host of exciting young talent over the past few seasons, in Cole, Flamini, Fabregas, Ca$hri, Greedybayor, van Persie, Wilshere, Gibbs, Ramsey, to name a few.

The squad gave Rice a farewell party, ahead of his last game against West Brom.

The game against Norwich was Rice’s last at the Emirates, and also Wenger’s 900th in charge of the Gunners. He boasts a win percentage of 57%, which is quite remarkable, for a 16 year tenure.

This means that there will be some more shuffling about in the backroom staff. Youth team coach Steve Bould has been promoted to assistant manager, and it is a good move. Bould played as a centre-back for the Gunners for nearly 11 seasons, making 288 appearances, and despite revealing recently that he loves his present role as developing young exciting talent, his appointment, will hopefully drill some good defensive skills into the club. Arsenal have conceded nearly 50 goals in the league, this season, which is quite unacceptable.

Moving on, Yossi Benayoun revealed on Israeli radio, that there is a minor chance he could stay with Arsenal for next season. I am not too sure, whether he will stay, but I think another year would be good. He is experienced, level headed and a pretty useful member to have in the team. He has done a good job, despite being one of the peripheral players. With Wilshere returning from injury, and Ramsey struggling to hit form, Benayoun will be the right cushion for the first few months of the season.

Another player, whose future at the club is a doubt, is Russian Andrey Arshavin. Loaned to Zenit St. Petersburg, Arshavin has slowly but gradually improved his form, and helped the club to a Russian Premier League title.

I haven’t yet thought about (my future). Everything will be decided after the European Championship,Of course, the result and quality of play there could affect my destiny.Without a doubt I can say that the decision to return to Zenit was correct. First of all, I am now playing regularly. Secondly, it’s hometown. Third, Zenit has ensured me of everything so that my thoughts are focused only on football.

According to reports, one player on the brink of a transfer to Arsenal is Yaan M’Villa, the Rennes midfielder. There is a good article on Gooner Daily, and what a useful asset he could be to the Gunners. To be honest, I haven’t watched this lad much. If he can bolster the squad, then it would be a good addition, and a strong statement of intent. I highly doubt this happening though, with Wenger still hoping against hope for Diaby to be fit again, and with youngsters such as Coquelin and Frimpong in the waiting list.

In other news, Per Mertesacker, has praised the new arrival at the club, his compatriot Lukas Podolski.

He is very confident.  When he feels he has to be there for the team and when we needed a goal he was always there. He was always one of the best players on the pitch and nothing could take him down. He is so confident and that is what I like.He is a fantastic striker,Everywhere he has played he has scored a lot of goals. He is very good on his first [touch] when he has the ball in front of him, that is a big quality and very good for us.I think he has good physical power and that is what is needed in the Premier League. He is very quick too. It is a challenge for him but he can cope with it.

Finally, the new home kit was revealed recently. My first thought, was they have gone bonkers. On a closer look, it is a tribute to Herbert Chapman’s revolutionary WM formation. The sleeve looks kind of like the Dutch flag, and if it helps keep Robin van Persie, who did participate in the photoshoot, then, so be it. The neck looks ghastly, but then again, if it helps us get some silverware, then change is a good thing.

More on the West Brom game coming up soon.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in General

 

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A lookback at the last 10 Arsenal vs Chelsea clashes

Arsenal and Chelsea have been London’s premier clubs for quite some time now, and have produced some entertaining clashes between them. Here’s a recap of the last 10 games between these two clubs.

10. Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 16th December 2007

(Arsenal – Gallas 45)

In an enthralling encounter, it was ex-Chelsea defender William Gallas header on the stroke of half-time, that won Arsenal all 3 points. Chelsea, had some good opportunities of their own, but the wasteful Shaun Wright-Phillips and big money signing Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko missed them, as Arsenal moved top of the table.

9. Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, 23rd March 2008

(Chelsea – Drogba 73,82; Arsenal – Sagna 59)

Didier Drogba added on to his fine record against the Gunners, with a brace, to cancel out an earlier rare headed goal by Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna. With the first half hugely dominated by Arsenal, with nothing to show for it, the second half became more open to both sides. Eventually, Chelsea’s depth and experience proved too good for an Arsenal side, whose season had started to crumble after Eduardo’s horrific injury.

8. Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, 30th November 2008

(Chelsea – Djourou (O.G) 31; Arsenal – van Persie 59,62)

Arsenal recorded an impressive win at Stamford Bridge, thanks to two well taken goals from Dutch striker Robin van Persie. Chelsea dominated much of the proceedings and took lead through a Djourou own goal, after the Swiss defender only managed to deflect a Bosingwa cross into his own net. van Persie made most of his chances, and despite Chelsea’s horde of attacks, Arsenal held on.

7. Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea, FA Cup semi-final, Wembley, 18th April 2009

(Arsenal – Walcott 18; Chelsea – Malouda 34, Drogba 84)

Chelsea’s experience and depth proved too good again for Arsenal, as the dumped the Gunners out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage, thanks to a late Didier Drogba goal, which kept Chelsea’s treble dream alive. Arsenal dominated the opening minutes, and got their reward on 18 minutes through Theo Walcott. But, from then on, they just couldnt match up to Chelsea’s physical presence. Florent Malouda equalized few minutes later, and Drogba wrapped up a deserved win, late on.

6. Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 10 May 2009

(Arsenal – Bendtner 70; Chelsea – Alex 28, Anelka 39, Toure (O.G) 49, Malouda 86)

Arsenal suffered the end of season jitters as they slumped to a 4-1 home defeat to a dominant Chelsea. Alex powerfully headed Chelsea ahead, and it seemed Nicolas Anelka had wrapped up the game before half time. Kolo Toure managed to put an Ashley Cole cross into his own net. Arsenal rallied, and got their reward on 70 minutes, through a Niklas Bendtner header, but Malouda wrapped up the win with 4 minutes to go.

5. Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 29th November 2009

(Chelsea – Drogba 41, 86, Vermaelen (O.G) 45)

The same old story again, as Didier Drogba continued to terrorize Arsenal, with a fine display to cap a 3-0 win for Chelsea. Ashley Cole’s cross was met with a fine Drogba finish, and another Cole cross was unfortunately turned into his own net by Thomas Vermaelen, to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead at half-time. Arsenal seemed to have gotten a lifeline, but Andrei Arshavin’s goal was ruled out for a foul on Cech by Eduardo. Despite all of Arsenal’s possession, it was Drogba who added finishing touches to the game with a thundering free-kick in the 86th minute.

4. Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, 7th February 2010

(Chelsea – Drogba 8, 23)

Didier Drogba helped ease the pressure off John Terry, accused of cheating ex-Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge by sleeping with his wife, with a fine brace, as he scored his 12th and 13th goals against the Gunners in just 10 games. It was John Terry, who set up Drogba’s opener, after his header off a Malouda corner was met by the Ivorian. Drogba made most of Clichy’s uncertainty to score the second in the 23rd minute. Some resolute defending from Chelsea, and Arsenal’s inability to convert possession into goals, saw Chelsea ease in on 3 points.

3. Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, 3rd October 2010

(Chelsea – Drogba 39, Alex 85)

It was another case of ‘not taking chances’, as Arsenal slipped to yet another Didier Drogba inspired loss at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea. Arsenal were dominant through the game, and created some fine chances, only for Koscielny, Chamakh and Arshavin to spurn them. Completely against the run of play, Chelsea took the lead, as Didier Drogba pounced on an Ashley Cole cross. Arsenal paid for their profligacy, as Brazilian defender Alex unleashed a freekick in the dying moments to hand the Blues 3 points.

2. Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 27th December 2010

(Arsenal – Song 44, Fabregas 51, Walcott 53; Chelsea – Ivanovic 57)

Arsenal came out of their traps, to secure an emphatic win over Chelsea. Arsenal dominated the proceedings, and this time, made it count, with 3 well taken goals to end Chelsea’s recent unbeaten reign over the Gunners. Alex Song finished from close range to put the Gunners into the lead just before half time. Theo Walcott made most of a Michael Essien mistake to tee Fabregas, and he himself finished moments later, as he raced past Chelsea’s defence. Ivanovic got one back minutes later, but Arsenal continued dominating, without adding to the scores, to secure 3 vital points in the title race.

1. Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, 29th October 2011

(Chelsea – Lampard 14, Terry 45, Mata 80; Arsenal – van Persie 36, 85, 90, Santos 49, Walcott 55)

Robin van Persie’s fine hattrick inspired Arsenal to an incredible 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge. The game had a frantic start, as Arsenal created several opportunities, but failed to convert them. Chelsea took the lead, after some fine work by Mata on the right to beat Santos. His cross was headed in by Lampard, who made most of Per Mertesacker’s naivety. Aaron Ramsey played a perfect through ball to Gervinho who unselfishly set up van Persie to score the equalizer. Terry, in controversy again, after he was accuses of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, headed home off a Lampard corner, seconds before the interval. Arsenal stepped up gears after the break, and equalized as Santos made a surging run from left-back. Walcott, who had been menacing all afternoon, then beat Chelsea’s entire defence, to shoot past Cech. Juan Mata scored a fantastic goal to level things 10 minutes from time. But, Arsenal found energy to win the enthralling game, as a Terry slip allowed van Persie to make it 4-3. He then finished emphatically past Cech late on to complete the rout.

Arsenal’s record in the last 10 games against Chelsea is P10 W4 D0 L6. 

The form guide is WLWLLLLLWW.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Best of the Best

 

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How good is Arsenal’s defence?

Lee Dixon. Tony Adams. Steve Bould. Nigel Winterburn. Martin Keown. David Seaman.

Lauren. Kolo Toure. Sol Campbell. Ashley Cole. Martin Keown. Jens Lehmann.

First, George Graham, and then Arsene Wenger, have managed to build two great defensive units in the past for Arsenal. While Graham managed to build a resilient, hard-tackling English unit, which lasted a good part of a decade, winning 3 championships, Arsene Wenger built a defence, mixed with both English and multicultural talent, which went on to win 2 league titles, one of which was an unbeaten campaign. This unit was more adept in going forward, and blended amazingly well with the talented array of players going forward.

However, over the last few seasons, the Arsenal defence, which had been renowned for so long, has disintegrated, and is a thing of the past. Arsenal shipped out Lauren, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, by 2006. Taking their places were young Swiss centre-backs Phillipe Senderos and Johan Djourou, along with Kolo Toure’s Ivorian teammate Emmanuel Eboue and Ashley Cole’s understudy Gael Clichy. The defence put in some massive displays in Europe as Arsenal went on to the Champions League final, before eventually losing. William Gallas was soon added to bolster the defence. The defence had some much needed experience now, in its heart and had two bombing full-backs. And, by 2007, Arsenal had signed French international Bacary Sagna to replace the erratic Emmanuel Eboue, who played second fiddle. Arsenal came so very close to silverware, before Eduardo suffered a horrific injury.

By 2009, the last of the Invincible’s defence, had gone, as Kolo Toure departed for Moneybags City. Arsenal secured the signature of a tough tackling Belgian centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, to partner William Gallas. Also, joining was former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre. In January, Wenger resigns Sol Campbell on a short term basis. But, a spate of poor performances, and Campbell, Gallas and Silvestre were shown the door. Phillipe Senderos, who has turned out for AC Milan, and Everton in the last couple of seasons, finally leaves on a free transfer. In came, two more unassuming Frenchmen Laurent Koscielny, and Sebastien Squillaci. The club has had a host of goalkeepers in this period, including Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone et al. By 2010, Arsene Wenger handed a contract to young Academy graduate Wojciech Szczesny. In the summer of 2011, Arsenal let go of Gael Clichy, to Moneybags City, while snapping up Brazilian interbational left-back Andre Santos and German centre-back Per Mertesacker.

So, after all the circus that’s taken place, Arsenal’s first choice defence reads,

Bacary Sagna. Laurent Koscielny. Thomas Vermaelen. Andre Santos. Wojciech Szczesny.

While, the second choice backline reads,

Carl Jenkinson. Per Mertesacker. Johan Djourou. Kieran Gibbs. Lukasz Fabianski.

With reserves such as Nico Yennaris, Sebastien Squillaci and young Spanish defencer Ignasi Miquel. The question I am asking is how good is Arsenal’s defence. Let’s take a look.

Wojciech Szczesny

Szczesny has been a breath of fresh air. He is passionate, young, talented and determined. He seems to be the answer for all of Arsenal’s goalkeeping woes in the past, and has pulled off some amazing saves this season. He is a fine goalie, but he isn’t the best when it comes to facing free-kicks.

On quite a few ocassions this season, the two Rooney free-kicks at Old Trafford, Larsson’s free kick in the Sunderland game and the Pedersen dead ball goal against Blackburn are proof. Szczesny was a bit late in reacting, and failed to read the flight of the ball, and when he did, he had little time to react. He has saved some mammoth penalties this season, including the di Natale one in Udinese and Dirk Kuyt against Liverpool. He remains the best bet for being goalkeeper in the coming seasons for the club.

Bacary Sagna

The French right-back has gone from strength to strength, and is probably the best right-back in the league. His performances have been consistent throughout the season. Defensively, he has the ability to break down attacks from the left, with ease. He showed his tenacity against players such as Martin Petrov, Stewart Downing and Gareth Bale, essentially left-wingers. However, when up against very skillful forwards, Sagna does tend to get caught out. For example, Luis Suarez or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic managed to waltz his way past Sagna numerous times, in the 4-0 thumping at the San Siro. What Sagna does best is provide the right platform for Theo Walcott to bomb forward on the right wing, while himself being able to provide thrusts from the back.

The emergence of Alex Song is vital for the good form of Bacary Sagna. What Song does best is rotate in the midfield area right in front of defence. This gives Sagna time to drop back. Though on some instances, Sagna gets caught out when the balls are played far behind him, and he is up against a pacy winger.

Laurent Koscielny

Without a shadow of a doubt, Koscielny is Arsenal’s most improved player this season. He must have felt, what can be called as a ‘culture shock’, when he arrived from Lorient at the start of last season. He was seen as a weakly built defender, who could not get to grips with the pace of the Premier League. However, this season, we have seen nothing short of brilliant from Koscielny. He has been comfortable in dealing with top strikers, the likes of Ba, Aguero, Ibrahimovic, Sessegnon and Adebayor.

What helps Koscielny is his nimble movement, which allows him to transfer his weight while defending against quick opponents. A clear case is how he kept Messi under wraps last season against Barcelona. His reading of the game has improved. In the second leg against AC Milan, it was quite visible the number of interceptions he managed to make. Another feature of Koscielny’s game is getting behind the striker, and taking hold of possesion in crucial positions. By early January, Koscielny ranked 1st in the league in between center backs for tackles at 2.7 per game, 1st in the league between center backs for interceptions with 2.8 per game, 2nd overall with 1.6 off-sides won per game and 30th overall with 5.7 clearances per game. He has put in some fantastic performances this season, which include the win in Marseille and at Chelsea, also the second leg against Milan.

Thomas Vermaelen

As Arsenal’s best defender, Vermaelen brings a lot to the team. Sorely missed through the entirity of last campaign, Vermaelen has played lot more games this season, more so at left-back. He is probably today’s version of Tony Adams, and what Arsenal have missed for so many seasons now, that little bit of steel at the back. Vermaelen, despite his short stature, can get over the striker, to make vital clearances, while his tackles also possess bite. His abilities also mean he has filled in at left-back, which has been a problematic spot for Arsenal this campaign.

The Belgian also brings with him natural marshalling abilities. He knows how to organize defences, to brace for an attack or a corner. His ability going forward is also unquestionable, when he thumped in important goals, namely the equalizer against Fulham, and the winner against Newcastle. What Vermaelen, at times, does lack, is alertness. In the Spurs match, he left acres of space, for Saha to score the first goal. And, against Manchester United, he was not quick enough to react, allowing Valencia to score the opening goal. Also, he can be suspect to that extra bit of injection of pace, as was visible against players like Bale, Robinho and Suarez.

Andre Santos

Santos was signed from Fenerbahce on the last day of the transfer window. He has since appeared 14 times, before his season was cut short in the meaningless Champions League game against Olympiakos. Santos has it in him to be Arsenal’s left back for the next few seasons. He is adventurous, pacy and scores goals. He did take some time to settle into Arsenal’s style of play, but when he seemed like staking down his place, he was dealt with the injury.

Santos loves going forward, probably because of his Brazilian genes, and the fact that he has to fill the boots of a certain Roberto Carlos. He can really bomb up and down the pitch, and scored two fine goals, one against Olympiakos and the other against Chelsea. However, criticism is that he forgets his defensive duties far too often, and that puts pressure back on the central defenders.

Lukasz Fabianski

Fabianski is a bit of a question mark, still. He is usually deployed in cup games, and dead rubber ties. He was horrendous in the Olympiakos game, but did manage to pull of some fine saves in the cup games. However, he is still second best to Szczesny, and I expect him to leave in the summer, for more first-team football.

Carl Jenkinson

Jenkinson, all of 19 years old, was signed from Charlton during the transfer window, and was thrown into the limelight very early, against Udinese in the Champions League and Liverpool in the Premier League, coming on for injured players. He also played in that game at Old Trafford. However, as his performances gradually began to get better, he suffered an injury.

Jenkinson, like Sagna loves to go forward, and like Santos, forgets he is still a defender. Gareth Bale, proved that for a few minutes in the league game in October. Jenkinson needs to work on his pace a bit, and also balancing between defence and attack.

Per Mertesacker

Mertesacker, like Santos was a deadline day signing, probably a desperate signing, rather. He struggled at first against pacy opponents in the Premier League. For example, the game against Norwich, where he was completely caught unaware, or even against Fulham, where he came up against the physicality of Dempsey, Ruiz and Zamora, and against Swansea, where he had to contend with the quick Swansea passing.

However, Mertesacker’s performances have gradually improved. He has vast experience at the international level, donning the German shirt over 70 times. He may lack a bit of pace, but his reading of the game was second to none. His performance against Manchester United stands out, where he kept Danny Wellbeck, the swift striker, quiet for large parts of the game. But, unfotunately even his season has been cut short by injury.

Johan Djourou

Let’s put this into perspective. Johan Djourou is not a bad option for 4th choice centre-back. He has been at Arsenal for 8 years now, and has represented Switzerland 30 times, and he is just 25. The problem with Djourou is, he just cant seem to put in that performance where he can quiet the critics. But instead, he goes from one shambolic display to another. But, is it really his fault that he was played at right-back for most part of the season, whereas his favoured position is centre-back. He had a torrid game against Fulham, and a pathetic game against Manchester United, where he was subbed at half-time. He conceded a penalty against Milan, without which, we had a great chance of going through

Flashes of optimism remain though. He was massive last season, more so in the game against Barcelona where he kept the best attack on the planet, unusually dormant. He played remarkably well in a few games this season, out of position, as well as providing a fine assist in Marseille. Yes, but he still needs to do a lot of work on his defending as well as his pace, if he wants to be a success at this club.

Kieran Gibbs

Gibbs comes from a long line of left-backs in the Arsenal production centre, which has produced the likes of Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy and Armand Traore, all of whom ply their trade elsewhere in the league. Gibbs, essentially, is very similiar to the player I mentioned, in terms of his game. He is defensively sound, and good going forward, and does have the ability of scoring an odd goal in a season.

He does have pace, but at times can be easily knackered by bulkier, more physical opponents. However, he seems willing to improve. He is all of 21, and has put in a fine performances this season, in the few times he has played. I do expect Arsene Wenger to keep Gibbs as second fiddle to Santos.

Nico Yennaris

Yennaris has been one of the revelations this season, though not to the scale of, say, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He played in the League Cup games against Shrewsbury and Bolton, but his biggest performance, was against Manchester United, when he came on to replace a hapless Djourou. He tracked Nani exceptionally well, and never allowed the Portugese winger to get in some decent crosses. He provides good stability at right-back.

Sebastien Squillaci

One of Arsene Wenger’s poorest signings, again, though, I have to say, he is not a bad player to have as 5th choice centre-half. He has appeared over 20 times for France, and has experienced French and Spanish football. Of course, the English game is a completely different ball game, and at age 31, I wouldn’t expect Squillaci to flourish much. He could be shown the door at the end of the season.

Ignasi Miquel

Another young player to look forward to, Ignasi Miquel looks a polished young defender, at the raw age of 19. He has put in some good performances, usually out of position at left-back in the League Cup and against Manchester City and Swansea in the league.

LOWDOWN

So, now that we have seen Arsenal’s defenders, what really is Arsenal’s best defensive unit.

At right-back, there can be no question about Bacary Sagna. He has been Arsenal’s most consistent player over the last 4 seasons.

At centre-back, Arsene Wenger has a pleasant problem on his hands, as he gets to choose between 3 world-class defenders. While Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, look a great pair, and complement each others styles, Thomas Vermaelen adds that extra bit of steel to the defence. I think Laurent Koscielny is one of the first names on the team sheet. The choice between Vermaelen and Mertesacker is a tough one, but I think Vermaelen just edges it.

At left-back, too, Arsene Wenger has a happy problem. Andre Santos has bags of experience, while Kieran Gibbs is young, raw and English. I think Andre Santos edges it here, because of his overall play.

SUMMARY

So, the answer to the question, how good is Arsenal’s defence?

Martin Keown, in an interview recently told that Arsenal’s defence is as good as any other in the league. I certainly think so, they are. A defence of Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Santos looks strong on paper. Arsenal need to stop making ridiculous errors, if they are to win any silverware next season. They have already conceded 39 goals in just 28 games, and that number needs to reduce.

I am no big football analyst, but Desi Gunner is. I read this amazing article, about Arsenal’s defensive issues. It is a must read.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in General

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Liverpool-Garcia 87)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Liverpool-Gerrard 7, Arsenal-Fabregas 80)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Get behind your team and your manager!

It’s that time of the season again. Heads swooning, shoulders dipping, glum faces, the lot!

Arsenal Football Club finds itself in a mire, having been knocked out of that one competition that we had real chances of winning, in a week that also saw us being almost knocked out of another competition.

I have taken a lot of time to contemplate what to write. I thought I would write on Sunday, the day after the Sunderland loss, and vent my feelings. However, I was at a loss of words. Finally, after three days of thoughts pouring out of my mind, I have been finally able to type down something, about what the fans stance should be.

We saw over the course of two games, our defence having its soul being ripped apart, in immediate succession. In Per Mertesacker, we lost a vastly experienced and cultured defender, who finally looked like he had adjusted to the demands of a demanding league. In Laurent Koscielny, we lost probably the best defender in the league at the moment. And, who were the ones who replaced them. A calamity and a disaster messrs Djourou and Squillaci.

And in hapless fashion, just like our defence, we were ripped apart, one by an extremely talented Milan, and then by a dogged and determined Sunderland. Swords have been polished and they are all out, as an outpouring of negativity ensued.

Talks of sacking Wenger, sacking the board, getting rid of deadwood, making multi-million pound signings followed over the course of 2 or 3 days. The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Independent all voiced their opinions about Wenger should do next. Writers, the likes of Piers Morgan, Mark Lawrenson, who as Wenger rightly quoted as people not having managed a club, let alone a club in European football.

It has been a late realisation of sorts of a poorly managed summer transfer window and a largely quiet winter one. A team crippled with injuries, that no other club is facing at the moment. We had all our 4 availalable full backs in the medical room nursing long term injuries, and what’s more they were all doing it at the same time. Andre Santos arrived as that bustling full-back Arsenal fans so longed to see. He played a few games and bam, he is out for 3 months. Kieran Gibbs, his deputy, too suffered the same fate. Mr Consistent Bacary Sagna, suffered an unfortunate injury in the North London derby, and then his deputy Carl Jenkinson too found himself taking the aid of a physio.

Players, the likes of Arshavin, once the darling of all of Europe; Chamakh, once touted as the next big thing in French soccer; Walcott, at one time, branded as England’s new hope, have all waned over the course of the season.

To add to the long list of woes, we had our best player from last season, Jack Wilshere, sustaining an injury from pre-season, and will probably sustain it till the end of the season.

Criticism pouring in blaming Arsene Wenger’s youth policy, of blooding in youngsters too early, and expecting them to win trophies. And mind you, these are the same people who billed Wilshere and Alex Olade-Chamberlain as too young to take the Premier League by storm.

Criticism aimed at Arsenal’s lack of tactics. The same system being employed, irrespective of whether the team is winning or losing. A team that has been living on past glories for quite some time now. Wenger’s substitutions all gone wrong, for eg. Arshavin being bought on for Chamberlain in the Manchester United game.

Not that I am against the criticism. There are actually hell loads of valid points in there. But, those who are actually criticising the team, it is time the team needs your support.

Arsene Wenger is still Arsene Wenger. He is still the same manager who broke the monopoly of Manchester United in the league. He is still the same man who guided us through an entire season unbeaten. He is still the same man, who changed the face of English football. He is the man who gave the football world the mercurial talents of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Fredrik Ljungberg, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Francesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere etc.

He is the man, who took Arsenal from mid-table mediocrity to a Champions League Final in the span of just 10 years. He has gifted us European Champions League football, season in, season out. He is the man who sustained us and kept us competitive as we oversaw a shift in stadiums. And what’s more, he has done it on a shoe-string budget. Hell, he is the reason why, in all probability, you shout for the team wearing guns on their chests. He has earned the right to get more chances to lift the team out of the slump that they find themselves under.

Would you rather side a Manchester City or a Chelsea, who don’t fall in the same categories of tradition, history and class as Arsenal. Who are owned by rich oil magnets and throw cash as is their will. Or a Manchester United or a Liverpool, who without a shadow of a doubt are as great as Arsenal, or probably greater, but find themselves deeply riddled in debt. A situation, which many in European football, including the top man in UEFA, Michel Platini describes as being ‘unethical’.

We face a huge game this weekend, against our local rivals, who have now created a gap of 10 points between us and them, and thus made a mockery of the North London divide, that has stood unflinching for so many years now. A team, brimming in confidence, and with the likes of real international superstars, Modric, Bale, van der Vaart and Adebayor. The importance of this game is as massive as ever.

I am concerned, about the current affairs of my team, as is any Arsenal fan for that matter. There is no two ways about it. We have gone 6 seasons without a trophy, which could be seven, unless we muster 5 goals against AC Milan, which seems as unlikely as ever.

But, this is the time when the team needs us the most. Its the fans, who make majority of a club that it is. Look at Portsmouth. They have a team that is battling for survival, literally, let alone survival in the Championship. Yet, week in, week out, I hear the Pompey chimes as loud as ever. Fans flocking in every week to support their team and club no matter what. Lets not be a Manchester United ‘prawn-sandwich brigade’ or a Newcastle ‘boo-boy’

Wenger is still the man for the job. Just imagine Arsenal getting a Mourinho or a Guardiola. It would be akin to Graeme Souness at Liverpool all those years back. They haven’t won a league title since. It would damage the entire structure of the club that Wenger has built with his devotion for so many years now. And, would you want that to happen for a trophy? Success is dependant on a thin line. It will come eventually. Even I am a bit worried, that the likes of van Persie, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Sagna may never have anything to show for all their talent at Arsenal. But, it will come eventually. It has to.

For now, all I ask all Arsenal fans, is, the season is not over yet. There’s still 13 league games to play and a Champions League game as well. Who knows, what may happen in  Europe, if we can replicate what Deportivo did to Milan, all those years back. But, nonetheless, we should get behind our team, pump up the volume, and support them vociferously, as they look to seal 4th spot.

It may not be ideal, but it’s the best we can get this season. Let’s not let down our club, which we claim to be die-hard supporters of and promised to stick by them though thick and thin. See out this season, and hope for the changes to ring in during the summer. That’s all I request from my fellow Gooners.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Ooh! To be a Gooner!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in General

 

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Milan Preview + Lots of Stats + Lots of News + More..

AC Milan vs Arsenal, San Siro, Champions League

Kickoff – 19:45 GMT (01:15 IST), 15th February 2012

The earth has done a full 70 rotations, and here we are, again, the Champions League. The best football competition in the world is back, and the wait has been too long, and everyone’s waiting for the action to get started.

Arsenal face their biggest test of the season, as they head to Italy to face the Italian champions, and 7 time European Cup winner AC Milan, in their formidable and hostile home, the San Siro. A tie, which Arsenal would have liked to avoid, but then again, as Arsene Wenger says, you can’t avoid anybody at this stage.

I say it’s a conspiracy. If we do beat Milan, it will be to face either a Barcelona or a Real Madrid.

Both teams go into this game, on the bounce of 2-1 away wins against dodgy opposition. While Arsenal required a 34 year old legend to strike a last gasp winner on a potholed pitch in Sunderland, it took a 19 year old hotshot to win the game for Milan at the Stadio Friuli in Udinese. Both games were mirrors of each other, as Arsenal and Milan were down 1-0 with 15 minutes to go.

Recent form for both sides have been topsy turvy. Arsenal recovered from losses to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United, to secure progress in the FA Cup by beating Aston Villa, and then thumping Blackburn and narrowing past Sunderland. Milan on the other hand, lost to Lazio and Inter, but did win 3-0 against both Novara and Cagliari. However, they lost to Juventus at home in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final, as recently as last week.

Going by the history books, the Gunners have a formidable one against Italian sides. Here’s how Arsenal have fared against Italian opposition.

1970/71 – Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – Lazio (A) – D 2-2

1970/71 – Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – Lazio (H) – W 2-0

1979/80 – European Cup Winners Cup – Juventus (H) – D 1-1

1979/80 – European Cup Winners Cup – Juventus (A) – W 1-0

1993/94 – European Cup Winners Cup – Torino (A) – D 0-0

1993/94 – European Cup Winners Cup – Torino (H) – W 1-0

1993/94 – European Cup Winners Cup Final – Parma (N) – W 1-0

1995 – European Super Cup – AC Milan (H) – D 0-0

1995 – European Super Cup – AC Milan (A) – L 2-0

1994/95 – UEFA Cup Winners Cup – Sampdoria (H) -W 3-2

1994/95 – UEFA Cup Winners Cup – Sampdoria (A) -L 3-2 (Won 3-2 on penalties)

1999/00 – Champions League – Fiorentina (A) – D 0-0

1999/00 – Champions League – Fiorentina (H) – L 1-0

2000/01 – Champions League – Lazio (H) – W 2-0

2000/01 – Champions League – Lazio (A) – D 1-1

2001/02 – Champions League – Juventus (H) – W 3-1

2001/02 – Champions League – Juventus (A) – L 1-0

2002/03 – Champions League – Roma (A) – W 3-1

2002/03 – Champions League – Roma (H) – D 1-1

2003/04 – Champions League – Inter Milan (H) – L 3-0

2003/04 – Champions League – Inter Milan (A) – W 5-1

2005/06 – Champions League – Juventus (H) – W 2-0

2005/06 – Champions League – Juventus (A) – D 0-0

2007/08 – Champions League – AC Milan (H) D 0-0

2007/08 – Champions League – AC Milan (A) – W 2-0

2008/09 – Champions League – Roma (H) – W 1-0

2008/09 – Champions League – Roma (A) – L 1-0 (Won 7-6 on penalties)

2011/12 – Champions League – Udinese (H) – W 1-0

2011/12 – Champions League – Udinese (A) – W 2-1

So, it is quite evident that Arsenal have had the better of Italian opposition on many-an-occassion. The proud record stands at P 29 W 14 D 9 L 6.

Moreover, Arsenal’s record at the San Siro is admirable. They thrashed Inter 5-1 in 2003/04, thanks to a certain Thierry Henry, who is in the squad for tomorrow’s game, and beat AC Milan 2-0 in 07/08, when Cesc Fabregas bossed the Milan midfield.

Aaron Ramsey, who scored the equaliser against Sunderland, is optimistic about Arsenal’s chances, going into the game. He also weighed up Arsenal’s team talk in midweek.

We had a meeting last week about doing well for the rest of the season and one of the points that came to us was to never give up in the game,That was the case against Sunderland, and we showed it against Aston Villa too.We have good team spirit here and belief that we can still win the game. It was nice for me to get on the scoresheet as well as Thierry getting the winner.It’s been a fantastic period for him coming back to the Club he supports and has done so much for. It’s a great story for him so far.There was a great atmosphere in the dressing room after the game and everyone was enjoying it. We were 1-0 down with just over 10 minutes to go, so it was a great win for us.

Both, the Welsh captain and Arsene Wenger have reiterated the need to attack Milan from the word ‘go’. It is of paramount importance to get an away goal, which will ofcourse boost the Gunners’ chances of progression.

AC Milan also have had their mind-talks. Both Clarence Seedorf and Kevin Prince-Boateng are in confident mood ahead of the clash. The Dutch midfielder, who, is like a billion years old now, says he is also pleased for his compatriot Robin van Persie, who is on a hot streak this season for Arsenal.

They are a strong all-round side and they always play good football,Van Persie is finally exploding and I am very happy for him, but we know what we are going to have to deal with and we are ready. It is going to be a tough game – Arsenal have always changed important players a lot over the last six or seven years and have still managed to perform well. They haven’t won trophies but they are still a dangerous team.I don’t like to talk about fear in sport, in general. I think you need to respect your opponent but if you prepare the way you should so you can perform at your best then it is down to you.”

And former Spu*s midfielder, yes, you heard right, Spu*s midfielder Boateng, is quietly confident of sinking his former club’s arch-rivals. The Ghanian international, who was recently in the news, after his model girlfriend revealed that the reason of Boateng’s recent injuries are down to the fact that they have sex nearly 10 times a week, has returned to full training after recovering from an injury.

Also, returning for Milan, are the preciously talented 22 year old Brazil striker Alexandre Pato and the highly experienced Italian international Allesandro Nesta. Also, Cristian Abbiati, Milan’s first choice goalkeeper will return to take his place from Marco Amelia.

Arsenal will be without Per Mertesacker, who injured himself, while attempting to control the ball, on the potholed pitch at Sunderland. He recently tweeted an image of his swollen ankle, and the news seems to be ligament damage. He is surely out of this one. Some good news, then that Jack Wilshere could return earlier than was predicted, after he suffered ‘another setback in his recovery’ last month. The tentative dates are end of the month.

The Mertesacker injury could mean a defensive reshuffle. Thomas Vermaelen, was recently quoted in the Belgian media, as being fedup of playing at left-back. However, later reports say that his comments were skewed, by the English media, who are adept at making monster-trucks out of tricycles. Here’s a transcript of the interview, I have taken from Arseblog News, who in turn have taken it from Untold Arsenal.

You have been injured for a while last season and also this season. Are you back at your old level?

I feel great and play like that. But because our left backs (Santos and Gibbs) are out injured I had to play as left back in the last weeks.  I think that is unfortunate but there is nothing that I can change about that.

Did you talk about it with Wenger?

Yes, but what is said between us stays between us. Everybody knows playing left back is not my preferred position.

Why do you think that despite all this  you after all are a good left back?

I don’t think I am a bad left back. I do my job over there. But I am never really completely satisfied with myself after playing there. I want to get to my highest level in each game and I don’t have this as a left back. When the team wins I’m happy, but still it is a bit frustrating.

Why are you so much better as a central defender than as a left back?

Tell me why does a striker performs better in attack than in midfield? I’m just trained as a central defender.

And, with left-back Kieran Gibbs returning to full fitness, it is common sense to say, Wenger will move Vermaelen to centre-back. Easier said than done, however. Gibbs is returning to first-team action after a four-month injury layoff, and is still short of match fitness and confidence, according to the manager. Pushing him into the first team, in a high-intensity encounter, would be a risk. The hunch is Vermaelen will continue at left-back, with Djourou partnering Koscielny.

In other news, Arsenal welcome back Gervinho after his African odyssey. While it ended in heartbreak for Ivory Coast, it was joyous for Zambia. Struck by tragedy in 1993, when the plane carrying the Zambian national side crashed near Libreville, killing everyone on board, it has taken 19 years for the ‘Chipolopolo’ to rebuild and reach the pinnacle of African football. What’s more, they did it just kilometers from where the tragedy had struck in 1993.

It speaks of volumes of the game itself, how underdogs have won against all odds. There was Greece, who won EURO 2004, after being touted as the first team to be eliminated after the Group stages. Then, there was Iraq, who won the Asia Cup in 2007, in the midst of political and civilian turmoil in their country. Now, football has a new team to celebrate about, Zambia.

Back to Gervinho then, who scored a brilliant goal in the semi-final, but missed a penalty in the shoot-out, which, had he scored, would have kept the Coast in contention. Also, former Arsenal defender Kolo Toure. Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba, missed a penalty in regulation time. Much has been discussed about the confidence of Gervinho, after that miss. He is still a young lad, with a bright future in front of him. The faster he gets past it, the better for him.

Moving on, Thierry Henry’s return to Arsenal has been nothing short of a fairytale. He scored the winner in the FA Cup game against Leeds, which secured passage into the next round. Then, he scored in his last minute at the Emirates against Blackburn, and he capped it off with a goal in the last minute of the Premier League, against Sunderland. He was full of praise recently, for Arshavin and both sets of supporters at the Stadium of Light.

Andrey’s cross was amazing,all I had to do was get a touch. It was perfect.You have to give him credit. I just had to get on the end of it. You can always miss but I was just the guy who put the ball in the net.I really must say I was on the end of a great cross. It just happens that it was me in the last minute so it is a story. But the most important thing was the three points whether I was in the team or not.

It’s always been a pleasure to come to Sunderland. I’ve always found this a very special place to play football and, when I was warming up, the fans near me started clapping. The atmosphere was fantastic.It being my last Premier League game, to score in the 90th minute was so special, something really magical.I stayed a bit longer with the Arsenal fans because I knew it was my last game in the Premier League so I wanted to say ‘Thanks, that’s it’.

And Henry also left a hint that he could be back next season as well. Legendary!

Sometimes you never know when something is going to end,I guess you can never say never. I never thought I was going to come back and play for Arsenal now. Who knows if I can say that this was definitely the end? We’ll see.

Wouldn’t it be the perfect ending to the fairytale, if he were to manage a winner at the San Siro as well. Meanwhile, I feel this is the perfect time for both England wingers, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to shine. Arsenal will need plenty of pace in Italy.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have confirmed they will be wearing the yellow kit, which was the away kit last season, and registered as 3rd kit this season. Not too sure, whether we will have ‘Fly Emirates’ or ‘Dubai’ as our shirt sponsor today, because AC Milan, too have the same shirt sponsor. The last time we had ‘Dubai’ on our jerseys, Tomas Rosicky scored a scorcher in Hamburg.

Milan are considered an ageing side. But, that’s all a myth. They have a massive and extremely talented squad. With 2 or 3 world-class players at every position, Milan will, undoubtedly start this game as favorites. Lead by the experienced Massimo Ambrosini, they boast the likes of Clarence Seedorf, who has won the Champions League, with 3 different clubs, Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan; midfielder Antonio Nocerino, who has been a brilliant player for them in midfield. Should Kevin Prince-Boateng start, it will be another player Arsenal will have to stifle. He has a good shot on him, and is known for the audacious.

Milan, in recent games have stuck to a rotation policy. Considering the fact they have a massive squad and a plethora of talent to choose from, it comes as no surprise. While Brazilian Thiago Silva and Allesandro Nesta will be the preffered centre-back pairing, Massimiliano Allegri has the likes of France international Phillipe Mexes, and Italian international Daniele Bonera at his disposal. With left-back Taye Taiwo loaned to QPR, Luca Antonini is expected to start in his place, and at right-back will be Ignazio Abate.

Up front, Milan will play 2 strikers, in a 4-4-2 formation, as they have for most of the season. With Pato just returning from injury, Cassano still injured, and El Shaarawy still a youngster, it seems more than likely that Ibrahimovic will be partnered by former Santos, Real Madrid and Manchester City striker Robinho.

Ibrahimovic is to Milan what van Persie is to Arsenal. The Swedish marksman has scored 21 goals this season, 4 in the Champions League, compared to van Persie’s 28, with 4 in the Champions League. Though Robinho has been under par in recent games, his talent cannot be undermined. Allegri could still however start with El Shaarawy.

Most probable lineups..

The fact that Milan have players like Gianluca Zambrotta, Fillipo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso (all World Cup winners), Alberto Aquilani, Mark van Bommel, Mario Yepes, Urby Emanuelson, Sulley Muntari, Antonio Cassano, former Arsenal midfielder Matheiu Flamini and Maxi Lopez, all internationals, some of whom are out of the first leg owing to injury; in reserve, is proof enough of the depth and quality of their squad, and a representation of the challenge that Arsenal will have to overcome in 2 legs.

But, like I said, football is capable of anything. It is going to be a treat to watch these two teams pit their wits against each other.

And we all know who we want to win!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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2009-2010 Season Review – More Unfinished Business

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

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

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

Big Belgian, Little Belgian!! 

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

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

Arshavin scores a belter!!

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

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

The comeback is complete!! 

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

A centre forward in disguise!

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

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

Spuds drubbed again!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramsey’s horrific injury..

The team celebrate a resurgent win!! 

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

Bendtner and Nasri, brilliant against Porto!! 

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

Bendtner’s 90th minute goal!! 

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

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

El Capitan wins and scores the equaliser! Legend!

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

Bendtner to the rescue again!!

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

A Messi masterclass! 😦

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

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

Dejection! 😦

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

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

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

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 4th Round

Carling Cup – 5th Round

Champions League – Quarter Finals

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

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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