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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 🙂

 
1 Comment

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

 

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Bucketload of Everton and Aston Villa reaction

A very good day to all Gooners out there. It is a really great feeling, to see your team on a fantastic streak, as Arsenal are in right now. I really can’t remember the last time I was really buzzing. It just translates into your mood, the way the Gunners fare. If they lose, the day is really lousy as lousy can be, but if they win, it can be a really enjoyable day. The last few weeks have been really enjoyable, and Arsenal secured 3 more vital points against Aston Villa on Saturday. Schoolboy stuff.

I couldn’t cover all the post-Everton reaction, because there was very little time between that and the Saturday kickoff. Anyways, here it is.

Aaron Ramsey started after a while on the sidelines. He scuffed a couple of opportunities, but he put in a decent display, and will provide Arsene Wenger a pleasant headache in midfield. Aaron Ramsey said,

It was great, we battled well and it came off,The back four did a wonderful job and kept a good line. As a team I think we kept our composure and looked very solid so overall we are delighted with the win and hopefully we can keep it going.Overall I thought we did very well in the first half an hour and created a few opportunities. Then the crowd started to get behind them and they started to get a few tackles in. It was always going to be a tough place to come and they proved that in the end. But we dealt with it really well and I think we deserved the points in the end. The results definitely went our way on the night and we are carrying on our good form of late. Hopefully we can just continue to do this now until the end of the season. We have proved what we are capable of achieving and how motivated we are to finish third. We are definitely doing that at the moment but we are going about our own business and hopefully we can continue it.

Arsenal’s defence, which has been the talking point for much of the season, has been flawless over the past few games. The centre back of pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen is moulding to be one of the best partnerships in the league. Laurent Koscielny said,

It is not just the four defenders, it is all the team,Robin [van Persie] put in a lot of effort to help us too so all of the team defend and we attack together too. We have to take that into the next game. We have had some difficult periods this season but we have some good players and a good team. In football it changes quickly and in three or four weeks we have won. We need to keep that and the most important thing is to keep in the top four.We know Chelsea had an important game against Manchester City [on Wednesday] and their next game against Tottenham so if they lost and we won it was good for the table,”Wednesday night was good but the most important thing is the next game against Aston Villa. If we win it is very good for us. It is very important, we are very happy but now we want to keep this place. It is important to continue to play well.

Thomas Vermaelen, who scored vital winners against Newcastle and Everton, said,

I am always confident – we keep winning games but we don’t look at Tottenham, we only look at ourselves,We have some difficult games to come. We don’t have to look at other teams because that will keep the focus away from our own performances. That’s the most important thing ­ to keep the focus on ourselves.At the moment we have had some good results against some difficult teams. Everton won against Man City and Tottenham at Goodison Park so it’s a great result to come here and win.We showed a great mentality. We won a lot of duels at the back and that’s why we got the three points.The Champions League is important for us and third place gives you straight qualification into it, while with fourth place you have to play a qualifier,Third place is better but it is not going to be easy ­ there are a few games to play and not easy ones, so let’s focus on ourselves and see how far we can go.

Le Prof, too was full of praise for the central defensive pairing.

They look solid and I think they have a good balance defensively and offensively,They can both play with the ball as well and for us that is very important for the basis of our game. It starts at the back and they have the quality to do that as well. Defensively they are not the tallest but they have a fantastic leap and both of them have good pace. Vermaelen looks like a frustrated centre forward because he has the timing to get into the box as well.

He also said that Kieran Gibbs is a fast improving player.

Because he has been out for a long time, when you start a game you are a bit more cautious,But he slowly becomes himself again and you see that most of the time for a full back with the initiative it takes going forward. Defensively in the challenges he is stronger. I still feel there is more to come from him and from game to game there are improvements there.He was transformed into a full back but the natural [ability] always comes out. It is good because we have a game that is based on that.

Gibbs had got his chance earlier in the season, when Andre Santos got injured against Olympiakos. However, Gibbs, too , got injured and missed a major chunk of the season. He has returned and put in some fine displays at the problematic left-back spot. Another selection headache for Wenger. Does he opt for the experienced Brazilian international, or the young English upstart.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger voiced his views on quite a few matters.

AW on the pressure

What you want is improvement from the team, so if this improvement is going in a spectacular way it is great,But it is about finishing the job. We have good ingredients because we are on the same wavelength to play our game, and the spirit in the side is good. Now we must continue our development.I felt we always had a strong spirit, but of course you question it when you are mid-table. That is why I feel this team was maybe under more pressure than any other team, and maybe they have learned from it.It has tested our character, and the response was positive. If you look at all the problems we had over the season and how we responded, the attitude was always right and correct. The end of the season will tell us where we stand but I am very positive that we will fight until the end.

AW on set pieces

We are a bit more dangerous because I feel our runs are better, our combinations are better and overall we look more dangerous,I remember Benayoun scoring from a corner [at Aston Villa in December], which you don’t expect. That brought us two important extra points, and against Everton we again scored from a corner. That goes against the idea that we are not good on set pieces and if you look at the number of points we have taken, it is not fantastic but it is not too bad. Benayoun is a technical player and on the night you are very grateful because you don’t expect him to score a header.

AW on consistency

I believe what is most important at this stage of the season is our consistency and momentum,More than any other result, I believe this is the period which matters most what you do, so we just want to keep our focus on that.You have to focus on how we want to play football, that is the best way to deal with the pressure. In the end you enjoy it and it is a privilege to play games of importance. They become more and more important.There is something in the team because we have been to Liverpool twice [recently] and taken six points.They were points where we not only had to show our footballing qualities but also our mental state. That looks quite positive.

AW on the solidity of the team

It confirms the solidity of the team,Especially when you go to Goodison Park where you know you will be under pressure and the crowd knows the game. To come back having not conceded I am very happy because we have shown signs of mastering situations and not panicking. Especially against a team that is top class on crosses and set-pieces. Usually people would not say Arsenal would not concede in circumstances like that so I am very pleased.

AW on Chelsea v Tottenham

What I want us to continue is our run and not be in a position where you have to look at the other results,That is why I believe that the main focus is on us, not to be obsessed by other results and to just keep going.Of course the players will be aware of what is going on but it is not the last day of the season. We are in a position where what will matter is what we do at three o’clock against Aston Villa. We have to be professional and focus on what is important. What is important is our performance. We are happy and we keep people who love Arsenal happy if we turn up with a top performance. We have regained credit with our fans because we have shown a fantastic attitude and the more we show that, the more we will gain credit. That is the most important thing to do.

AW on Podolski

Nothing is done. No, he has not had a medical,I don’t master the timing [of any announcement] because that does not just rely on us. It could happen soon, it could happen later, I don’t know.It is always a concern [that someone else could come in for him]. The speed in which you do things is important, but at the end of the day it is always the player who makes the decision.It is about how much they want to join you.

AW on summer transfers

We will not be a lot on the market, quantity-wise I mean. Quality-wise, certainly,But the [maximum] number of the squad is 25. We have many players out on loan and we will take a gamble if we find top, top quality of course.But don’t forget we have many players out on loan and we have not had Jack Wilshere or Abou Diaby for the whole season.These players will be back and it means that number and quality-wise we are strong because we are in the position we are in without these players.You want to make me say that last year was bad and I agree with you – last year was terrible for us because we finished on August 31 at 11.55pm and we do not want to repeat that, of course,

AW on Fabrice Muamba

He had big players in front of him and it was very difficult to take them out and put Fabrice in at the time,The second reason is that he is so highly motivated that I felt he was ready to play and needed to play.There always comes a moment in the career of a player that you play him now or you let him go. Because I didn’t play him, I let him go but I knew he would have a career.I let him go for his benefit and he understood that very well. When he was at Birmingham he drove back many times and we had a little chat about how things were going. We felt attached to him because we wanted him absolutely to be successful.Against us, he is always very keen to prove that we made a mistake in letting him go,“He is always outstanding against us and I hope he will do that again soon.Today we are in a better mood than one week ago. I am not a medical specialist and do not know if he will play football again, but the most important thing is that he recovers completely. Afterwards hopefully we will have the joy of seeing him on the football pitch again.

AW on being favorites

We are favourites because we are in third, but being favourite never meant a lot,We must just put every effort in to do it.As soon as you ease off, things change quickly. We have tricky fixtures and how well we finish depends on our attitude. If we keep our attitude, we have a chance.

AW on Abou Diaby

Diaby is available again, but he should be in the group next week,I don’t want to take any gamble on him now. Apart from that it will be the same squad as at Everton.He can be massive for us, but at the moment we have had so many setbacks with him that we don’t want to take a gamble. He needs another game [for the reserves], and then he will be ready.

AW on Jack Wilshere

Wilshere is back with the ball and for us that is a huge step,The work we do with the ball is always quite demanding.Today we can say if all goes well now in three weeks he will be back with the squad. Then another two weeks to get fit. I don’t have to hold him back yet because at the moment he suffers a lot for fitness. But after three weeks we’ll have to.I think he will play this season if he has no setbacks now. His last scan was positive, so he should be capable to play.

That’s a decision fortunately I don’t have to make,I will only intervene if I believe medically he is at risk. He is an England player and if he has played some games before the end of the season it is a possibility [for him to go to Euro 2012]. If he has not played at all before the end of the season I don’t think it’s realistic.The next three weeks will decide how well he progresses. We have gone for a very cautious attitude with him. We will not force him into training with any pain. So we might have to be slower than expected. If all goes well he will be back in full training in three weeks. But that is not sure yet.The Olympics destroys the start of season for us,If Wilshere could play I would rather he went to the Euros than the Olympics. It depends how well he will develop.

AW on next season

Let’s see how we finish. We have big games coming up,If we maintain consistency until the end of the season we can think like that.If we don’t drop any more points I would say we can come to that conclusion. With nine games to go, we’ve got five at home and four away. It all depends on how we finish.

AW on Thomas Vermaelen

That is why people love him and respect him,Somewhere as well you must give us some credit. We took him from Ajax, when nobody knew about him and he became a player. So it is give and give. Then you have a happy marriage.I was always clear he was part of the team you build for tomorrow, no matter what happens at the end of the season. That is still true today. We don’t know what happens at the end of the season but Vermaelen has the class to play for Arsenal so you want him to sign for a long contract. The fact he did it made me very happy.

AW on the image of the game

The common image by football is always that you do not behave well, because when one guy out of a thousand does something silly, in another job they are not in the newspapers,But in our job, because it is a public job, people speak about it. You have a tendency to put everyone in the same bracket.Overall I feel that it is extremely sad what happened to Fabrice, but the only positive is that it looks like he is recovering well. Also, the image that football has given is quite positive.

AW on time wasting

It [time wasting] is basically most of the time from goalkeepers and we have to see how that can be stopped,I do not say we are more innocent than any other team – it is human that a goalkeeper tries to gain time when his team is leading away from home, especially in stadiums where they are not supposed to win.The rule has been created to speed the game up. At the start when the ball went out, you always used to have to take the goal kick from the side it went out, so to gain time it was said that anywhere on the line can be used. Maybe there is a way of thinking [to change that]. We have to think about it.

Phew, that was a load of Wengerisms. Moving on, Benik Afobe has been loaned to Championship side Reading, who are aiming to make a comeback into the Premier League, and currently lie 2nd. Also, Nico Yennaris has moved to Notts County, also on loan, as part of his football education.

Ahead of the Aston Villa game, Bacary Sagna told why he feels the run-in is going to be hard, and that the Villa game would be vital.

The Villa game is massive,Tottenham are just one point behind us, but we were 12 points behind them in February. We are here now and we deserve to be here, but we have to give even more.We can’t think about ‘what if?’ – we just have to give our best and look after our team, not [concentrate] on the others.Villa have very good players, like Charles N’Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor. We know they can bring us problems. But we must focus on ourselves and make sure we play.There are no easy games,Even if everyone thought we would win at Everton, we were struggling. It was a hard game physically and mentally as well because it is never easy to win away.We can’t anticipate the games. When Villa came to us in the FA Cup they were 2-0 up, so it is a warning. We know they have good players, and can play good football. But we are at home and we need to impose ourselves.

Arsenal’s very own samba boy, Andre Santos revealed, he was sad that he couldn’t help the team out during a difficult phase of the season.

It was very hard,When I found that I would need an operation it was very hard news to take. I was in the changing room when they told me and I cried.All of the players were trying to comfort me, but I was scared because I’d never been through this before and surgeries are never guaranteed to go 100 per cent well.But everything did go well and I have to thank Doctor Abdala from Sao Paulo and everyone here, Colin Lewin for example, who helped me with my treatment. Also Simon, Tony and Marcos, they were essential for my return.Both Kieran and I were injured at the time. When you can see that the team needs you but there’s nothing you can do about it, well it gives you a sour taste,You want to help but it’s just impossible to do your job. But Arsenal has built a strong family and I believe that the players who filled in, like Ignasi Miquel and Thomas Vermaelen, did a great job.They were disciplined and followed the manager’s instructions very sharply, so I give a lot of credit to them.We’ve got most of the injured players back in action now but we had very good back-up for these players as well,It wasn’t easy for us but now the squad is stable and we’ll do our best to have a great final sprint.“One hundred per cent [a top-three place] is our target, our main objective. It means automatic qualification for the Champions League and that is what we want.

Ivorian winger Gervinho has been somewhat of a question mark this campaign. There  have been some flashes of talent, but also of mediocrity, and his first season at the Emirates has been mixed. He talked about working harder to be more clinical in front of goal.

I am happy about my first season but I know I can do better,I have scored and given assists but I also created a few chances that I missed. If I had been more efficient, it would have been even better.I need to work hard at training to become more clinical in front of goal. I’m not worried though.People say that the second season is always better for a foreign player but I don’t think it will be much easier.Every game is tough for me because the level of competition is so high in the Premier League, and every time you have to be at your best.

Captain Vantastic, Robin van Persie has put the Muamba incident into perspective.

I think the whole of football has had a bit of a reality check,We’re all very passionate about this game, and sometimes we are over passionate about winning a game – me as well – but when something like this happens, we realise what’s really important in life, and that’s being healthy. When something like this happens, it puts everything in its place.This has had a big impact on the whole football world because you know it could happen to anyone. He had heart tests with Arsenal, Birmingham and Bolton – but this came out of the blue. He’s a 23 year-old midfielder in the Premier League – that makes him fitter than most. It’s so shocking, but the good thing is it’s made everyone come together, everyone realises ‘that could have been me’ and the support he is getting is great to see. I hear Bolton have been fantastic too, and my dream is that he can play again for them. He deserves it.You saw us all wearing T-shirts for Fabrice Muamba on Saturday, and we’re all thinking of him every day here. We care about him and everyone is hoping he can recover.

He also spoke about the momentum has shifted from Chelsea, to Tottenham, and now firmly with Arsenal.

In the battle for third place the momentum is ours now, we are winning games and the other teams are dropping points,They have tough fixtures coming up too because Chelsea meet Spurs this Saturday. From our point of view, for those two to play each other at this moment is fantastic because we know one of them – or even both of them – will definitely drop points.So we have to win against Villa to take advantage of that. If we have to win ugly, then let’s do that. It’s part of our job too. We have shown great character in the last few weeks, so why not do it every week now?You can see that the mentality has changed lately,Twice we have had to come back from very hard periods this season – at the start of the season after losing at Old Trafford, then recently when we lost to AC Milan and Sunderland.After those two games everyone was thinking this is going from bad to worse, because our next fixtures were Tottenham, Liverpool, Milan, Newcastle and Everton – but we won them all.

Off late, the form of Theo Walcott has been impressive. The brace against Sp*rs has done him a real world of good. He seems more sharper now, and assisted both goals against Newcastle. He said,

In the first half of that game it wasn’t quite happening for me, but I was still trying – perhaps too hard, really – and I wasn’t hiding,Although we came back to 2-2, part of me wanted the first half to end because of how things had been going for me. You can tell when people aren’t happy, and it’s not nice. But getting those goals was great for me and for the fans – and hopefully I can show a bit more of that than I have lately.I’ve only just turned 23 and people sometimes forget that – players often aren’t breaking into the team until around this age, and I’ve played a lot of games. There’s a lot more to come from me.That night I think my performance had everything it needed in terms of defensive and positional play,” he said. “It’s important to remember that as a winger you need to work hard defensively and maintain the right position while getting up and down the pitch.I got two assists as well – yes, I’ll take the second one! – and everything seemed to work out.

Walcott also couldn’t hide his admiration for Thomas Vermaelen.

[They were] brilliant – really important goals as well,The Newcastle win was massive and he showed that desire to get from defence to attack and latch onto things. He’s an absolute soldier, someone you’d always want in front of you, a real leader who just wants to win.To see him banging in another big goal at Everton was great. I’m happy for him – he had his injury problems last season but he’s one of the best defenders in the world without a doubt.

Post the Aston Villa game, Mikel Arteta, who scored a fantastic free kick right at the death, to put the cherry on top, talked about the spirit within the team.

To be honest I was really surprised with the spirit when I came here – even when we were down it was so good,It is something you rely on because if you start blaming each other and shouting at each other it is not good. This group has always been positive, the manager has always been positive with the players and we have kept at it. We have the talent, we know we have the ability to win games and sometimes it is just about the balance in confidence. We have it all together now.I don’t know, I was just confident,I had my family here as well and I wanted to score for them.  Robin takes them really well too and he takes a lot of the free-kicks. When you come to a new club it is not easy. When I was at Everton I used to take all of them and score many goals from free-kicks. But it was nice to score against Villa in that way. When you are winning, life is good and you can see that the fans are enjoying it at the moment. They deserve it as well because they were behind us when things weren’t going right. Hopefully we can finish the season strongly because we have a group of players and staff who really mean business.

Finally, Kieran Gibbs, who scored his second goal of the season, and did a fine little celebration afterwards.

Gibbs on the team

The team is playing really well at the moment, we have found some momentum and we want to keep that going,We are all gelling together well. People don’t realise that we had a lot of signings at the start of the season, and they have settled in really well.We have shown how we have gelled and we are all aware of each other qualities, so we just need to remain consistent.

Gibbs on his celebration

I just said hello to my Grandad [Jim],He passed away when I was nine, about 11 years ago now. He was a scout for Arsenal and a big fan, like the rest of my family. I hope it was a proud moment for them. It was strange to score, but it was about time. I’m not sure how many games I have played now, but it’s always nice to help out the team. I’m just happy to be back playing, we have turned things around dramatically and I’m happy to be part of it.I scored goals for the reserves but hadn’t done much since becoming a left back and getting into the first team. I’m just happy to help the team and it was another good win for us.

Gibbs on seeing out games

The most important thing has been the way we have been winning, making people aware what we are capable of,Whereas in the past we might have lost some of those games due to lack of concentration, we seem to be sealing victories now. We just have this belief at the minute that we are not going to lose a game. We were down against Spurs and Newcastle but we don’t give up now. We have a resilience now that we are not going to lose games. We need to keep that.We would have liked to have played like this all season but we suffered through injuries and a dip in form. That is football.If we can keep this group together, everyone is hungry, we have a group of players who know each other well and they are gelling,” he said. “The new signings have done fantastically well.

Gibbs on Walcott

For me, yes [he is the best winger in the country],Put it this way, I wouldn’t like to be coming up against him.I looked up to him quite a lot when he first came to the club, it is a pleasure and a joy to play with him. He is an outstanding player. He is one of my best friends and a top boy. He is a model pro, takes his work really seriously and is a really nice guy.

That’s a lot of reaction, then guys. I will keep you updated through the week, of course. Have a good one.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in General

 

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Aston Villa Preview + Lineups

Arsenal vs Aston Villa, Emirates Stadium, Premier League

Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (20:30 IST), 24th March 2012

Common sense has finally prevailed, and normal service resumes as Arsenal face Aston Villa, finally a league game on a Saturday, after a couple of midweek ties.

The Gunners are high in spirits after securing a 6th win on the bounce, a tricky one against Everton. It has been a big turnaround over the last few weeks after all the doom and gloom following the trouncing in Milan and Sunderland.

Arsenal’s defence has been much criticised this season, for making schoolboy errors, and shipping away too many goals. However, as of late, Arsene Wenger has all 4 available players at their positions fit and available for selection. This means, that, of course there won’t be a player playing out of position and making a complete hash of it.

The defence of Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs has been mean and have won 7 of the 8 games they have all started together, drawing the other one. It is a sign of good things to come. And, what’s more, they can score goals as well, with Vermaelen netting winners against Newcastle and Everton, Sagna’s header against Sp*rs and Koscielny effort against Milan.

Looking down the barrel at one point of time, 13 points behind Sp*rs, Arsenal gave completely turned the tables, and are now a point ahead. Results have gone our way, with Chelsea’s poor form, coupled with their managerial merry-go-round, saw them lose a 5 point lead, to a 6 point deficit.

Aston Villa, on the other hand, have had a topsy turvy season. Too many draws means, they lie in 15th position, almost clear of relegation, but still a largely frustrating league campaign. Injury to their top striker Darren Bent hasn’t helped in the least.

Villa fans have had enough of manager Alex McLeish, and of course feel that their club has taken a backward step. Gabriel Agbonlahor’s recent comments that the fans havent helped the team in their games, has only added fuel to the fire.

Last time these two clubs met in the leagye, was in December and Arsenal escaped with a 2-1 win, thanks to a late Yossi Benayoun goal. While, in the cup, on 29th January, Arsenal overturned a 2-0 deficit at half-time to emerge 3-2 winners. Last season, though, Aston Villa emerged from Emirates with all 3 points. So, nothing comes easy against Aston Villa.

Team news. Arsenal have no fresh injury worries ahead of the game. It will be interesting to see, if Arsene Wenger decides to go with the same formation as he did against Everton, where he played 4 central midfielders in Arteta, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, while deploying only one winger in Theo Walcott, or he opts for an adventurous midfield, with Chamberlain or Gervinho starting.

Aston Villa have a few injury concerns though. Charles N’Zogbia is a doubt with a knee injury, while the usual players out are Darren Bent, Richard Dunne and Fabian Delph.

One thing we can expect is a tight game from Villa. They will surely come to the Emirates with a plan to stifle Arsenal’s attack, and that is why I think the selection of Chamberlain is vital. He can provide the thrust against an inconsistent Villa backine. Alan Hutton, of course got sent off in December, and will be hugely frustrated if he comes up against the Ox. The injury to N’Zogbia means, Gary Gardner comes in to partner Chris Herd in defensive midfield, and this is a battle where Rosicky and Arteta will have to win. Elsewhere, I expect Theo Walcott to cause Steven Warnock a lot of problems. However, Arsenal’s defence will have to be at their best again. Ireland, Agbonlahor, Albrighton and Petrov can be a handful, like they displayed against Chelsea, when they beat the Blues 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Speaking of which, Arsenal could have a gap of 4 points over Sp*rs, should Chelsea beat them, and of course we beat Aston Villa.

Enjoy the game.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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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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The rebirth of Tomas Rosicky

The date was 23rd May 2006. A little Czech had temporarily left his country’s World Cup training camp, to fly across to North London to seal a permanent transfer to Arsenal. He was dubbed ‘Little Mozart’, for his neat passing play, and his creativity in the middle of the park.

He seemed a like for like replacement for French midfielder Robert Pires, who left for Villarreal after scoring 84 goals in 284 appearances for the club. Rosicky, though did take some time to adapt to the pace of the English game. He scored his first goal for the club, a screamer against Hamburg, in Germany in a Champions League game. It seemed very similar to a goal he had scored for Czech Republic against USA in the World Cup. Rosicky seemed a perfect fit in a very creative midfield, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb.

Alexander Hleb, the captain of Belarus, and Tomas Rosicky were both deployed on the flanks, to good effect. Both were similar sort of players, exported from the Bundesliga. Despite, predominantly playing as a central attacking midfielder for Dortmund, Rosicky slided in well on the left flank. His next goals, came after 4 months, at Anfield.

Arsenal were drawn to play Liverpool twice in a week, at Anfield, once in the FA Cup, and once in the Carling Cup. The FA Cup win was sealed 3-1, with two goals from Rosicky, one of which was a peach.

Rosicky had another fairly quiet second season in 2007-2008. Arsenal finally emerged from the shadow of Thierry Henry, and took the Premier League by storm, as a young side played some brilliant attacking football. Niggling injury problems meant he constantly frequented the physio’s room, and ended up making only 18 appearances, in a season, which unraveled towards the end, after a promising few months.

Rosicky was hit hard when he missed the entirety of the 2008-2009 campaign, as his hamstring tendon injury problem recurred. Rumours were strife that Arsene Wenger would let go of this obviously talented, but injury prone player. However, Wenger kept faith in the player, as he returned to team action in the 2009-2010 season. After 18 months, he returned to full first team training with the team.

He signed a new two and half year deal in January 2010, stating that he wanted to repay the faith the club had shown in him, despite his injury issues. Rosicky had 5 assists till then and the end of the season. The 2010-2011 campaign was disappointing for Rosicky, as he managed a solitary goal, against Leyton Orient in a FA Cup game. By now, he had fallen behind in the pecking order of Wilshere, Fabregas and Nasri. His injury problems returned and he missed the rear end of the season. This season started off in the same fashion as Arsenal were humiliatingly crushed 8-2 at Old Trafford, a game which Rosicky started.

As of late, Rosicky has made a mockery of his past problems, and reminded Gunner fans, why he was signed in the first place. His burst of pace in the centre of midfield, helps the team switch from defence to attack in a matter of seconds. He has also improved his passing, which he was criticized in the past, for being too slow, to compliment Arsenal’s style of play.

One important aspect of Rosicky’s game is switching play, and tempo. Though Arteta, is the best man for the job, Rosicky can be instrumental in forward surges. He can involve in quick interplay with wide players, while also drifting wide occasionally to bring in wide players into the centre. He has been quick to form a bit of chemistry with Robin van Persie. van Persie, who has been the best player for Arsenal this season, can be often seen, coming back in midfield. This allows Rosicky enough time, to create space and make inroads into the opposition.

Another feature of Rosicky’s game, of late has been his pressing. He can be instantly seen barracking the opposition’s midfield. This has allowed the defence to move deep, while also allowing the midfield, to brace itself for an attack. As was clear in the game against Spurs, when Arsenal completely dominated midfield. Rosicky was in the thick of action, as he quickly won back the ball from Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart in key areas.

Rosicky brings with him passion. His body language is anything but negative. His celebration against Spurs was that of a passionate footballer. Against Milan, Rosicky was outstanding, in midfield, as he played alongside the prodigious Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Mark van Bommel just couldn’t get a grip on them, as Arsenal raced to a 3-0 half-time lead. Arsenal may have lost 4-3 on aggregate, but the performance of the team as a whole, and Rosicky in particular was promising. His dejection at the end of it all was for all to see.

He is finally coming to the player Arsenal have lacked in midfield in recent times. A player with a bit of bite. His recent performances have been resurgent. Arsenal fans can now hope for much better things to come from him. ‘Little Mozart’ is reborn.

Tomas celebrates against Milan!

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in General

 

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Brimming With Pride!

It’s been over 30 hours since that almost famous match at the Emirates Stadium, and I am still smiling. Smiling, because rival fans are coming up to me and telling “Arsenal were brilliant against Milan, and almost did the impossible. Respect.”

After a topsy-turvy season, that it has been so far, to listen to such words, is heart-warming. Arsenal really played a gutsy game against Milan, and gave its fans real hope. A real sense of joy, that Arsenal is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of football. That dreams are real.

Consigned to the fact that there were no hopes of qualification, I switched on my idiot box at precisely 1:10 AM, on Wednesday morning. The cameras rolled on from the Milan side to the referees to the Arsenal side. You could see the determination in the eyes of the players. Was it possible?

Arsenal attacked right from the moment the game started. There was not a dull moment in the first half. A side, reeling with injuries, nearly 7 injuries in midfield, looked to make the impossible, possible, and overturn a 4 goal deficit, against the Italian champions.

The Italians were quickly put under pressure, as Arsenal’s pacy midfield looked to catch Milan from the start. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, was sizzling in midfield, as World Cup finalist Mark van Bommel tried to get to grips with him. The fact that the 18 year old former Southampton winger was sick the previous night and yet asked the manager to start, speaks remarkable volumes about him. He, didn’t, for a moment look fazed. And, what’s more, he is just 18 years old.

His first corner was cleared comfortably by Ibrahimovic. But, his second corner landed perfectly to the head of Laurent Koscielny, who lost all markers, and was alone to head the ball past Cristian Abbiati. The early goal was all so important to build the momentum.

Milan looked so cocky throughout the game. Ibrahimovic and Boateng had done enough small talk before the first leg, and they justified it in the first leg. However, Milan were so overconfident, that they even named 2 keepers on the bench, a ridiculous decision, for which, Allegri got reprimanded, by Silvio Berlusconi.

Soon, Arsenal created a flurry of chances. Theo Walcott sent van Persie clear of Milan’s defence, but the Dutchman’s effort was saved by Abbiati. Then, a mistake from Emmanuelson, saw van Persie in a great position, but he and Rosicky made a hash of a great chance. Arsenal surged forward again through Theo Walcott, who bamboozled Djamel Mesbah, leaving Rosicky in a great position to score. Score, he did, to the roaring approval of a vociferous crowd at the Emirates.

The defence, I should say was unflinching. Thomas Vermaelen was gigantic, in doggedness, if not in size. He put himself on the line on many a time, and made a number of clearances. Laurent Koscielny, as ever, was composed, and never allowed Ibrahimovic to impose himself. The Frenchman looked all so comfortable dealing with the big Swede. Gibbs and Sagna, too put massive efforts, as Milan lacked creativity to work through Arsenal’s defence. The discipline was for all to see, as they kept a high line, and Ibrahimovic found himself flagged for offside, numerous times.

Chance became real hope, as Chamberlain surged forward, challenging the Rossoneri’s defence, whose best was to concede a penalty. van Persie had to replace the ball on the penalty spot, which may have disturbed his concentration, but not his will. Arsenal were 3-0 up, and Milan probably had their hearts in their mouths.

Milan were a completely different side in the second half though. More so, because Arsenal were tiring out, after having done most of the running in the opening half. They looked lot more composed in midfield. We can go another decade, speaking about van Persie’s miss, but he claims he would do it again, if he was in a similar position.

Chamberlain and Walcott played through injuries, because they had to. Arsenal had no real options on the bench. Park and Chamakh were thrown late on, but by that time Arsenal were out of steam

The final whistle bought a palpable sense of relief among the Milan players’ and fans. They were just happy to reach the finish line, and qualify to the next stage. On the flip side, the Gunners’ looked devastated. Not something you see often, when you win 3-0. Tomas Rosicky and Thomas Vermaelen looked crestfallen as they made their way to the tunnel. van Persie afforded a smile, but the dejection was clear to see.

3 weeks after a humiliating loss at the San Siro, and a painful loss at the Stadium of Light, Arsenal were all but written off as a force to be reckoned with, in the English game. Sites and papers were running amok with articles outlining Arsenal’s frailties, its problems and its shortcomings. And 2-0 down against Spurs’ after 34 minutes, you could almost see the media rubbing its hand again.

No one knows for sure, what happened. But, the team managed to find its resolve, its steel, to turn around things. They demolished Spurs 5-2, in 27 minutes, with some breathtaking attacking football. van Persie’s goal was a peach. Tomas Rosicky’s celebration was passionate. A week later, they came up against the Carling Cup champions, and, despite not being able to control the game, defended admirably well, and escaped with a 2-1 win. 3 days later, the Italian champions were run over by a young midfield.

I have always loved Arsenal, but the performance against Milan, makes me so proud of my team. So proud of my choice of choosing Arsenal as the club I wanted to support. Now, I am doubly proud.

Thanks Arsenal. 🙂

Proud to be a Gunner!

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in General

 

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Arsenal 3-0 AC Milan

Arsenal 3 (Koscielny 7, Rosicky 26, van Persie 43 (pen)) – AC Milan 0

Man of the Match – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)

Most Gunners fans had accepted ouster from the Champions League, prior to this game, and were watching this just for the fun of it. 4-0 down from the first leg, beating Milan 5-0, with their stifling defence and their brilliant counter attacking play would always have been a mountain to climb.

What happened was completely the opposite, as Arsenal made Milan almost pay for their complacency, and nearly threatened to topple them over. Despite being knocked out from the Champions League, the team gave a magnificent and brave performance, one that won’t be forgotten in a long time.

Arsenal suffered a spate of injuries in midfield, with Arteta, Benayoun, Diaby and Ramsey all ruled out. Add to that Wilshere, Frimpong and Coquelin. Only Tomas Rosicky and Alex Song passed fit to start, the former requiring a late fitness test. Milan, on the other hand had not named Seedorf, Boateng, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Nesta and Pato as they travelled to North London.

Arsenal had to make-do with 3 wingers/forwards in midfield, in Gervinho, Walcott and Chamberlain. Milan started with an attacking 4-3-3 formation, starting Ibrahimovic, Robinho and El-Shaarawy in attack.

What happened next was least expected. I had told yesterday in my preview, that Arsenal will have to score a goal in the opening 15 minutes. And they did, as they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Laurent Koscielny, the most unlikely of goalscorers, went clear of all Milan’s defenders, as he headed in the first off a Chamberlain corner. The celebration was quiet, but everyone knew that a comeback was on.

It seemed roles were reversed from the first leg, and Arsenal’s relatively inexperienced midfield bossed Milan’s midfield. Alex Song, was massive in the centre of midfield, as he pegged back Milan’s attacks numerous times. Arsenal seemed to have rattled the Italians with the early goal, as the attacks grew. Robin van Persie had a good chance to double the lead, when he was in open space, after a mistake by Urby Emanuelson. However, he chose to play in Tomas Rosicky, who played him back, but Cristian Abbiati had made the save.

Soon, however, Arsenal got their deserved second, as Theo Walcott surged down the right, past Algerian left-back Djamel Mesbah, and Rosicky slotted past Abbiati. The impossible seemed possible now.

Milan looked toothless in attack, with Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen thwarting all of their attacks, with dogged determination. Ibrahimovic must have been caught in the offside position a million times through the game, as the Gunners’ defence kept their discipline. Milan did have one shot, though, from right-back Ignazio Abate, but was calmly collected by Szczesny.

Soon, Arsenal had turned the game around, as the impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain ran at the Rossoneri’s defence, who just couldn’t deal with the youngster’s pace, and toppled him over. The referee took some time to take a decision, and when he did, he awarded a penalty to Arsenal. The penalty had to be delayed after the ball seemed to have gone off the penalty spot. However, van Persie gathered his concentration back and slammed home the penalty, to send the Emirates crowd into raptures.

Milan, could have however hurted the Gunners’ soon after, but El-Shaarawy shot a fantastic chance wide. The second half started with the same fashion as Arsenal fashioned some forays into Milan’s defence. However, Oxlade-Chamberlain played through a hamstring strain, which considerably reduced his effect. The best chance of the game fell to van Persie, however. Rosicky won the ball in midfield, and released Gervinho on the left, whose low shot was saved by Abbiati. It rebounded off to the Dutchman, but he misconnected, and Abbiati saved again comfortably.

By then, Milan seemed to have found the control, that was so lacking in the first half. They kept possession well and frustrated Arsenal. Ibrahimovic almost made most of a Szczesny mistake, but his effort was wide. Antonio Nocerino, got the best chance to kill the tie, with the goal wide open, but Szczesny collected after the Italian completely made a hash out of it.

Arsenal threw of Moroccan Marrouane Chamakh and South Korea captain Park Chu-Young, but Milan held on to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate. They, however, paid so dearly, for their lacklustre and complacent defence.

Arsenal may be out of Europe, but this result is just one among a recent impressive run of form, and will help the Gunners’ in their push for fourth spot. They have made the fans proud. 🙂

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (8) – A composed game from the young Pole. Made a number of saves, which were more of desperate attempts from Milan.

Sagna (7.5) – Sagna had a fine game yesterday. Was rarely troubled by Milan’s attack.

Vermaelen (8.5) – The short Belgian was gigantic in the heart of defence, as he made several clearances. Was a colossus.

Koscielny (8.5) – Like Vermaelen, Koscielny too was a rock in the centre of defence. Kept out Ibrahimovic and Robinho well under check.

Gibbs (7.5) –  Gibbs had another composed game. Was found wanting at times, with El-Shaarawy attacking his flank, but Gibbs overall had a good game.

Song (8) – Another fine display from the Cameroonian. Helped Arsenal rule the midfield in the first half.

Rosicky (8) – Scored a vital goal, and his attack play was impressive. Played deep to help out Song, and sparked pacy counter-attacks.

Gervinho (7.5) -Didn’t look very sharp today. Seems to be still lacking a bit of fitness, after the rigors of travelling to and fro from Africa, after the Cup of Nations.

Oxlade-Chamberlain (8.5) – Tormented the Milan midfield and defence. He played as a playmaker, and sprayed balls around with ease. Won the penalty, which resulted in the third goal.

Walcott (7.5) – Gave Mesbah and Thiago Silva a hard time, with some well timed runs, on the flanks.

van Persie (8) – Scored a brilliant penalty, under pressure, and had to drop in deep for most periods of the game. Though he was well marked by Mexes, van Persie looked dangerous all night.

Subs –

Chamakh (7.5) – Seemed to offer Arsenal a different option for Arsenal in attack, but too little time to make an impact.

Park– Came on too late to get a rating, or make an impact.

Overall Team Rating – 7.91

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Optimism vs Realism & Milan Preview and Lineups

Arsenal vs AC Milan, Emirates Stadium, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg

Kickoff – 19:45 GMT (01:15 IST), 6th March 2012

The day is finally here. Three weeks back, I was hoping we would go into the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 at the Emirates, with a 1-1 or 0-1 aggregate score. But, here we are, anyways, with a 4-0 aggregate score, and a massive challenge to go through to the next round.

Events over the last two weeks, though, have been hugely optimistic. We banged 5 goals past Sp*rs, and snatched a late win at Liverpool, 6 points from two tough games, and a rejuvenated team. Of course, as I have said Milan are no Sp*rs, or a Blackburn, who we thumped 7 against, but there is still a football match to be won.

Arsene Wenger certainly believes the tie is not over yet.

We want to have a real go,The best way is to ignore the first game and do what we did against Tottenham. We were 2-0 down and just kept going because we wanted to win.We have to gamble a little bit and we have to go forward,We know that.The target is to find a good balance between attacking and defending because we have a double target – not to concede as well.I know my players well. I know they’ve been hurt by the first result and I know they will have their pride and they’ll come out tomorrow to give a different performance.If they can score four we can do it as well. Why not?

Yes, why not, you may ask. Arsenal will have to go gung-ho, in the opening minutes, I feel. The opening 30 minutes will be crucial. If we can get a goal, or even two, within this time, we have a game on our hands. However, if we concede a goal on the counter-attack, then the tie is over.

I expect Arsene Wenger to start with all three, Walcott, Gervinho and Chamberlain, to bomboard Milan with pace. I would also expect Tomas Rosicky to start, to bring some pace in the centre of midfield, in place of Mikel Arteta, who has been ruled out, because of the concussion suffered in the Liverpool match. Only an early barrage of attacks will peg back Milan, but if the game starts at a slow pace, Milan will look only to close out the tie.

Alex Song will be key in midfield. Arsenal will have to cut all supply lines in the centre of midfield, and catch Milan on the break. We are still not sure what kind of performance we will get from Theo Walcott. He looks utterly clueless at times, when played on the flanks, and totally out of ideas. He did score 2 goals against Tottenham, but his overall display, in that game, apart from the goals, was below average. His play against Liverpool wasn’t too impressive either. If he starts, it would mean a 4-4-2 formation, with Chamberlain and Gervinho on the flanks. Walcott will play just behind the striker, and hope that van Persie can get in behind the Milan defence, just like he did on Saturday, in goal scoring situations.

While the Milan pitch was atrocious, that can be no complaint for a loss. Arsenal will have to find a way to keep Ibrahimovic and Robinho quiet. Sagna and Gibbs will have to be on their toes, to revert from attack to defence quickly, because in the first leg, Milan looked dangerous on the counter. Szczesny, Koscielny and Vermaelen will have to put in big performances.

Abou Diaby’s absence is a big blow. I think, if he was fit, he would have boosted our midfield, and helped us make forays into Milan. Sadly, he, Arteta, and Benayoun are ruled out.

Massimiliano Allegri is expecting a hard game from the Gunners.

In football, anything can happen,I think we need to step on the pitch fired up for 90 minutes without thinking what we did in the first leg.We must be conscious that we are going to face a team with great qualities and a team which will try to change the course of the tie right from the beginning.I also know the English teams will never surrender.

Milan, have named a 21 man squad without the likes of Ambrosini, Seedorf, Nesta, Boateng, Pato and Gattuso. Probably, injuries, or rest, or tactical. However, they still have enough depth in their squad. Gunner fans can only hope they play complacently, allowing Arsenal to make inroads.

Scoring 5 goals without a reply, will be hard task. I can’t even remember the last time we had a clean sheet. We conceded against Blackburn, Sunderland in the league, Milan, Sunderland in the cup, Tottenham and against Liverpool. Should we concede, even a 5-1 win is no good.

Kieran Gibbs, in the pre-match interview stated, that the second leg was all about regaining lost pride.

You don’t really like to accept to get beaten 4-0 in the Champions League.We’ve shown a fantastic mentality to come back in the last couple of games. We have created a momentum now. We’d like to continue that.

According to history books, a 4 goal deficit has been overturned only 3 times in European competition.

1961: Leixos 5-0 Chaux de Fonds (Leixos won 7-6 on aggregate)

1984: Partizan Belgrade 6-2 QPR (6-6 on aggregate. Belgrade won on away goals rule)

1985: Real Madrid 5-1 Borussia Moenchengladbach (5-5 on aggregate. Madrid won on away goals rule)

Team news, then. Arsenal are having a torrid time with injuries at the moment. With Benayoun, Arteta, Diaby, Ramsey, Coquelin all ruled out, among long-term absentees like Wilshere and Frimpong, and Arshavin loaned out, the only options available are Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky. To make matters worse, Tomas Rosicky is still a doubt and will face a late fitness test. If he doesn’t clear it, Wenger will be forced to start with two strikers, Chamakh finally getting a start.

Milan have not named Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Allesandro Nesta and Kevin Prince-Boateng in their 21 man squad. Sulley Muntari, loaned from Inter, is cup-tied. I think Milan will look to win the midfield battle by playing Mark van Bommel, Antonio Nocerino and Urby Emanuelson. Apart from that they haven’t got too many options in midfield. Djamel Mesbah, a left-back, could start at left-midfield. Or, Milan also have the option of Liverpool flop Alberto Aquilani. They could also ploy a third striker in Stefan El-Shaarawy. The depth Milan’s squad and options, is, well, pretty deep.

If you are a Gooner, do not expect Arsenal to turn over the 4 goal deficit. A 1-0 win would make me happy and help the Gunners regain some lost pride. The clue is to be realistic and not overly optimistic. Of course, we would be top of the world should we topple Milan over, but for now I am just hoping for an exciting game of football.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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Spu*s Preview + Team News + Loads of Other Stuff..

Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur, Emirates Stadium, Premier League

Kickoff – 13:30 GMT (19:00 IST), 26th February 2012

Another Sunday comes our way, and after a week of much soul-searching for everyone related to the club, there is nothing bigger and better than beating your cross-town rivals in a derby game.

Yes, Milan made us look like schoolboys from a slum in Los Angeles. Not that there’s any connection there. And, then Sunderland heaped more misery on Wenger’s team, and with it ensued a whole lot of media negativity, about Wenger having to leave, Arsenal players having to leave, board having to leave, Arsenal responsible for global warming etc.

And, like after any other defeat, emerging from the shadows was Johan Djourou, the customary clumsy defender Arsenal have in their ranks after the likes of Ian Ure, Gus Caesar, Igor Stepanovs and Pascal Cygan, with comments like ‘You are going to see the best of me as I am playing in my favoured centre-back position’ and ‘Arsenal will be back stronger and better’. Yes, we know what the routine is like, because it has been quite a long time since this very pattern has been followed with utmost sincerity.

But, amidst all the doom and gloom, compounded with the fact that our fiercest neighbours are 10 points ahead of us, which seems an event of the long bygone past; there is a derby game, which Arsenal must win. There are no doubts about that, are there?

The Sunderland loss saw the Arsenal Supporters Trust raise many questions to the board, about the functioning of the club. Of course, the financial analysis by AST reveals that the Gunners are a healthy business, and that they are financially very sound. But, to the common Arsenal fan, who seem to be least bothered about it, will only want to see the results on the pitch, and hoping for a piece of silverware to go with it. The meeting between AST and the board, was fruitful by the fact that the club has decided not to hike prices for season-tickets. However, club level tickets will be increased by 2%. Ivan Gazidis, said

We understand the pressure fans are under in the current economic climate and hope this will go some way to helping them.Our season-ticket holders are the heart of our Club and we are recognising their loyalty by holding their ticket prices for next season.This is the fourth year out of six that we have held season-ticket prices flat against continuing pressure to keep pace with rising operational and player costs.

This seems to be a fair decision, with the possibilty of Europa League football being played at the Emirates next season.

Also, another fact revealed by the AST was that Arsenal have the fourth highest wage bill in the league. This is largely down to the fact that mediocre performers like Chamakh, Djourou, Squillaci and Almunia, who rarely even get to play, pocket £50,000-£60,000 every week. Seems ridiculous amounts of money. Heck, I run more than them and I get paid a penury compared to that, and I am at a job which requires me to sit, yet I run more than them. It is time the club gets rid of such deadwood.

Amidst all the turmoil, if rumors are to be believed, Stan Kroenke will be in attendance for the North London  derby. After being accused of being an owner, who doesn’t even bother watching a game, it seems a nice decision by him. Whether it will inspire the team to a win, is completely a different matter.

While we are on the matter of under performing players, Theo Walcott is one. He has been found wanting in most games, and seems out of ideas. However, Ian Wright came to the winger’s defence recently.

There is talk about whether Gunners skipper Robin van Persie, 28, will sign a new contract which is unsettling.And it is also really disappointing to hear people have a pop at Theo Walcott, 22.He is a good, young England player with a big future.

I am not sure where this comes from really, considering that Walcott has demanded £85,000 in wages. Bollocks, I say. On the lighter side, I found this hilarious illustration on one of the communities in Facebook.

Meanwhile, its been a week since Thierry Henry moved back to New York after a mixed loan spell. Coming on as a sub against Leeds to prod home the winner, and then unable to inspire the team to a result at Swansea, then supposedly making an invigorating team talk in the 3-2 reversal against Villa, a late goal in the Blackburn thumping, and a priceless late winner at Sunderland, he finished it off with an unyielding 45 minutes at the San Siro. Statistically speaking, Henry played 191 minutes, scored 3 goals, and had he played all season that would mean 54 goals all season. 😀 Before leaving for the States, Henry had a message for everyone supporting the club.

If you are an Arsenal fan then you are an Arsenal fan, that’s the way it is. Once a Gunner you are always a Gunner, you can’t change.I can’t talk for people whose families have supported Arsenal forever. But I am sure if you talk to their parents, and their parents too, they will tell you to enjoy this generation because they had some bad moments.I am sure the fans will understand that they have to stay with the team. We all need to be together because it’s the same when the team is winning and also when you lose.Even the generation before that won the Double in 1998 or 1971, they had some very bad moments,So that is what I would like to say to the fans: do not forget that.It was not always nice and pretty, you have to remember that we had some times where we just wanted to go home at the end of the game. The difference is how this team can react and I think this team can do that.We realise it is going to be a hell of a task but who knows? The Sunderland game is just around the corner so we have to go there and win.

But, of course, the Sunderland game was lost. Sigh! Moving on, Gervinho did at times look lively in the cup game against Sunderland. He is just back after a draining experience at the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. Gervinho, unfortunately missed a penalty in the shootout in the final against eventual champions Zambia. However, Arsene Wenger says Gervinho will come over it

He was very down when I spoke with him on Monday,We don’t know [what impact the Africa Cup of Nations will have]. I see Yaya Toure played on Thursday night for Manchester City and sometimes the best thing to get things out of your system is to play a game and have a performance.When you are young it is important to focus on the next game and show you are a good player.

Moving on, Arsenal are one of only 16 clubs in England, to have responded positively to the Football vs Homophobia campaign. The other 15 teams are Aston Villa, Fulham, Liverpool, Newcastle Utd, Norwich City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Derby County, Ipswich Town, Millwall, Huddersfield Town, MK Dons, Wycombe Wanderers, Exeter City, Port Vale and Hyde FC.

Just like Johan Djourou, this time the PR initiative was handed to Bacary Sagna, who had the task of telling the fans that the team will have to fight hard.

We have to keep our heads up, work hard and think about the Premier League because we have a derby next weekend against Tottenham.We need to do it for us and for the fans as well. We have to react. We can’t play like this against Tottenham otherwise we will lose.We have one week to get ready for the game, to question ourselves, to work and to talk to each other. We are professional and we have to fight until the end. Personally I want to do it and everyone else wants to do it as well.We just want to thank them one more time even if we didn’t get the result. It is not easy for us and for them as well. We are just thankful for the support that they give us and we’ll try to win next weekend.We have to look forwards. We are fourth in the Premier League and we can’t let it go like this.

Sagna has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent players over the last few seasons. It is a joy to watch him come marauding from the back. He will surely have some scores to settle, after he was injured at Shit Fart Lane, last time round, and kept him out for 3 weeks.

Another player, who has been doing well, recently is Riyo Miyaichi. The Japanese youngster, transferred from Feyenoord over the summer, was shipped to Bolton on loan during the January transfer window. And, he has come good for them with a goal against Millwall in the FA Cup. It seemed a bit Henry-ish, the finish and he was quick to thank the mercurial Frenchman after his goal-scoring exploits.

I like the style in which you attack from the left to get into the box, like Thierry Henry does,When I was in Arsenal, I saw it many times as Henry scores the same way during training. Van Persie also did it plenty of times at opposite side, from the right flank with a left foot shot.They showed a very good example for me and that helped me score.At Arsenal the atmosphere is incredibly tense, but here (at Bolton) things are much more friendly.There were certainly difficult times. But it wasn’t a waste to practice with superstars (like those at Arsenal) every day. In fact I think that sort of experience was irreplaceable.

Couple of years back, Jack Wilshere was loaned out to Bolton, where he put in some commanding performances, and returned to enjoy a good first season with Arsenal. Hoping, Miyaichi returns with the same outcome.

Staying with youngsters, young midfielder Oghuzan Ozyakup has chosen to play for Turkey, despite captaining Holland to the final of the U-17 European Championship Final in 2009. He chose the land of his parents over the country where he was born.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s big German defender Per Mertesacker has been ruled out for the season, after he suffered an injury on Sunderland’s tractor pitch. However, he revealed recently he would be fit for the European Championships in the summer.

My participation in Euro 2012 is not in danger.Dr Stöckle in Tübingen did the operation on Tuesday evening, attached a piece of bone back to the ankle and patched up the deltoid ligament on the inside of the ankle.All went well and I’m in Donaustauf, Bavaria, for the physical rehabilitation.

Speaking of injuries, one man who will be returning from one is right-back Carl Jenkinson. After being thrust to the first-team, in no time, the youngster suffered an unlucky injury, which kept him out for quite some time. He returned in the reserve game against Norwich reserves. Also, in the side, which won 5-0 were Russian, Israeli and South Korean captains, i.e Arshavin, Benayoun and Park along with Morocco international Marrouane Chamakh. Despite all the international stars on show, it was infact Spanish defender Ignasi Miquel who donned the captain’s armband. Arshavin scored 2 goals, which will hopefully instil some confidence, while Park and Benayoun grabbed one each. It seemed like Wenger gave them a run out, not only because there could have been some discontent at the lack of first team chances, but also to keep all his options open, going into an important run-in.

Arshavin has been the subject of much transfer news recently and could be the subject of a bidding war between Russian clubs Anzhi Makhachkala and his previous club Zenit St. Petersburg. Anzhi recently appointed former Russia coach Guus Hiddink as their manager, and will be looking to sign the Russian midfielder before the Russian transfer window closes. Arsene Wenger still says he is one the midfield options and an important player for the club and wouldn’t want him to leave as of yet.

Staying with rumours, Walcott could be swapped with Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge. Seems a good move for me. Sturridge was an Arsenal fan as a kid, and has put in some good performances this season for the Blues. Would be an improvement over the over rated Walcott. Also, Lukas Podolski, who recently had a fallout with his club FC Koln, could be the subject of a move to Arsenal, after it was revealed recently that he and Mertesacker are good mates, and that Per is ‘doing his bit’, to get the German striker to North London. Another player linked is the all-action Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.

Speaking of options, Arsenal will have one more option in the goalkeeping department after Henri Lansbury kept his first cleansheet. A defensive midfielder by trade, he kept goal for West Ham, becoming the second loaned goalkeeper from Arsenal this season! For some weird reason, Sam Allardyce decided not to go with a goalkeeper on his substitutes bench. Rob Green was sent off with 37 minutes to play in the Championship game against Blackpool. West Ham, who were 2-1 up at the time of the red card, eventually won 4-1.

Fabianski, here I come!

Another youngster, who seems to be at the top of his game is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has however told he is keeping his feet on the ground, literally. He emphasized, how his dad, Mark Chamberlain, an ex England international, is helping him stay firmly rooted.

With him being by my side I can never get too big for my boots. He always keeps me rooted and highlights the things I need to do better.When I do have a good game he’ll have a quiet word and say ‘well done’, but that’s as far as it goes because he points out that I’ve now got to keep doing it.As a winger, when you have a good game and take people on then people expect the same every week. I’ve got to do what I can to apply that consistency, and that’s what he tells me.It’s the same with my mum – she was always encouraging me to do my schoolwork and focus on other things in life. I think I’ve got a well-grounded family network and that definitely helps me.

In other news, probably fuelled by the media, Ivan Gazidis has told Robin van Persie that he will have to see out his present contract at Arsenal, which runs out for one more year. No one’s sure if that really happened or no. van Persie is in a situation similiar to that of Nasri’s. A year left on the contract, would the club be cashing on him now. Mark van Bommel, meanwhile says van Persie would be perfect for Milan. Seriously, how many strikers can a team have? They already have Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Pato, Cassano and El-Shaarawy. Are Milan the new Barcelona? We might come to know very soon.

Samir Nasri, or le cunt recently in an interview with the media had some words for Arsenal.

Sometimes it’s good to win ugly,Arsenal are proof of that. They play good football but, after seven years, they don’t win.I don’t want Arsenal to fall down,I have respect for the players and the manager.It’s always tough when you change,When you go to another team and have to be involved 100% and I wasn’t.Now I start to be settled and you will see a better Samir every week.I never asked City to pay £24m so it’s not me.

Well, you keep it to yourself, you f*cking benchwarmer! And, while we are at it, on-loan striker Niklas Bendtner has been banned from driving for 56 days after he crashed his Porsche, after driving it at 104 kmph.

Twitter wars, then, and one is brewing up between Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong and columnist Piers Morgan, who is an Arsenal fan. Here’s how its going!

@piersmorgan Stop chatting soo much rubbish you. UNO nothing about football u sit behind ur laptop nd just talk utter rubbish

@Frimpong26AFC Oh really, Mr Frimpon? Well truth hurts, sunshine. And I’m not afraid to tell it. (you can’t even get in THIS #Arsenal team)

@piersmorgan just don’t bring ur ugly face to the emirates cus we as Arsenal are sick and tired of ur abuse towards players and coach .we don’t need ur support u better of reading script leave the football to ppl that no about it. Wasteman. it still amazes me u call urself a fan? A fan don’t doesn’t do the things u do.the fans are the ppl that travels thousands of miles every weekend to support their team fans are the 60,000 ppl we have every sat fans don’t turn their back on their team. so yes piers u ain’t a fan u just some big old school bully that has too much time on twitter now u go bed wake up early 2 read

@Frimpong26AFC Big words, big guy. I suggest you focus on improving your game – rather than abusing loyal fans. Most of whom agree with me.

I actually like @Frimpong26AFC and his passion – but his youthful arrogance and complacency sums up #Arsenal ‘s malaise

@piersmorgan Loyal?? Well in football u have bad and good times the LOYAL fans are the one that remember the Good times And wait for More.

@Frimpong26AFC I’ve followed #Arsenal for 42yrs and own 4 season tickets. That entitles me to an opinion. Which is: we need a new manager.

@Frimpong26AFC you’re so loyal to #Arsenal you went to Wolves. So put a DEEENNCH in it and stop pandering to the blinkered minority.

@piersmorgan when was ur last game at the emirates? Instead of the Internet. What have u ever done for Arsenal in 42 years? Nothing

@piersmorgan ur entitled opinion of course u r but there are ways of doing it and tellin ur 2millfollowers rubbish we don’t need ain’t class

@Frimpong26AFC I’ve supported them. Nothing more, nothing less. And I want us to be competitive again, not perennial losers. #Arsenal

@Frimpong26AFC you started this by abusing a diehard fan who cares about his team. That demeans you Emmanuel, and I thought better of you.

@Frimpong26AFC I genuinely believe it’s time Arsene moved on, and we had fresh blood as manager. I am not alone. #Arsenal

Fancy a bet, Mr Loyalty @Frimpong26AFC ? I predict you’ll leave #Arsenal for more money somewhere else, before I stop being a fan.

Fancy a bet, Mr Loyalty @Frimpong26AFC ? I predict you’ll leave #Arsenal for more money somewhere else, before I stop being a fan.

I couldn’t give a damn what @Frimpong26AFC has to say. Much more interested in @Persie_Official staying than some rent-a-gob fringe player.

I quite fancy becoming manager myself. First two actions: 1) Pay @Persie_Official whatever he wants to stay 2) Sell @Frimpong26AFC to Spurs.

@Frimpong26AFC If only you were half as good on the pitch as you are with the cheap insults to #Arsenal fans, Frimpong. Pipe down, son.

I hope people read way fat Morgan is saying wen I start being rude don’t tweet me saying Frimpong is disrespectful and rude.KMT

@Frimpong26AFC You were shockingly rude the other night. To a fan that pays your wages. I suggest you learn some humility. And how to spell.

Right, off to the gym. Going to pretend my trainer is @Frimpong26AFC and give him a good hammering with the gloves. #Arsenal

@piersmorgan Well done y don’t we meet and do it properly instead of pretending

Seriously, I wonder what would happen if they really get into a brawl. Would be enthralling to watch 😀

Ahead of the North London derby, both clubs have issue a statement.

Fans should be aware that breaches of ground regulations will not be tolerated,A north London derby is always a special occasion and we hope this game will be remembered for both the action on the pitch as well as the positive support for both teams off it.

This is of course after Emmanuel Adebayor was supposedly the target of Arsenal fans in the earlier North London derby in October. I do agree that chants regarding the Togo team bus attack are completely against order, but is calling a cunt, a cunt, an offence? I don’t think so.

Team news, then. Laurent Koscielny was substituted late in the first half at the San Siro. After the match, Wenger said he ‘should’ be fit for next week. And, he should be. Kieran Gibbs was hauled into the first team after four months on the sidelines, on the biggest stage of all, the Champions League, and suffered a strain. He missed the Sunderland game, but should be fit for Sunday’s clash. Wenger’s team selection will be quite intriguing to watch. While Oxlade-Chamberlain, will be one of the first names on the team sheet, Wenger will have to choose between Gervinho, who had a decent game against Sunderland, and Walcott, who, as ever, looks, out of sort. I assume he will play Chamberlain on the right and Gervinho on the left. Also, Arshavin and Benayoun put in good performances against Norwich reserves in midweek. Of course, the present Spu*s side is a completely different proposition from Norwich reserves, but a surprise element could take the opposition by surprise. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin will both miss the game after picking up injuries against Sunderland. Szczesny returns after Flappyanski took his place in the FA Cup.

Spu*s selection looks pretty much straighforward. Despite missing Greedybayor, Rafael ‘Handball’ van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Ledley King for the FA Cup tie at Stevenage, it seems all of them are fit and in contention to face Arsenal. Redknapp’s team selection also will be equally interesting to watch. Whether he goes in with one striker or two strikers up front. Either ways it will prove problematic to the Gunners’ leaky defence. Should he choose 2 strikers upfront, it will be Saha and Adebayor, who clicked together instantly, in the 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle. That will mean a midfield of Bale, and the Croatians Modric and Modric . If he goes with only Adebayor up front, he will play wide Bale and Lennon wide and Modric/van der Vaart or Modric/Krajkcar in attacking midfield. As I said, either ways they will provide a bag full of problems. Spurs also have some decent options on the bench. The likes of Rose (Remember that cunt who scored a long range screamer couple years back), Lennon/van der Vaart/Kranjkcar (depending on team selection) and Defoe. Compare that to Walcott, Chamakh, (Yes, you got the point, I assume!)

As is clearly evident, believe it or not, Spurs do look a stronger side than the Gunners. Maybe, the Mayans were right, after all. The end of the world is preceded by strange occurings. Emmanuel Petit and Lee Dixon, in a recent interview, had this to tell.

This is the most important derby in Arsene Wenger’s 16 years as Arsenal manager,It comes at a very poignant time in the club’s history.If they don’t get Champions League football next season it’s going to be a nightmare,To get back to where they were, Arsenal need to sign big players in the summer and you can’t do that if you don’t play Champions League.Spurs are a better team than Arsenal,

There has definitely been a gradual shift of power over the last few seasons.There’s no bigger game than the north London derby at this stage of the season with so much at stake. So roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

Spurs were branded a team without ambition for almost a decade,But in the last two years they have signed so many good players and big characters that this team seems far more competitive than Arsenal.

All of a sudden the politics changed and they started to spend a lot of money. Big wages, bringing in many international players with big experience, big characters – mixing the likes of Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor with very good players already in the team like Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe.Now the quality is there and they have the mentality too. It will be very interesting to see how Arsenal react to this, especially at home. It’s a massive test after what’s happened during the last week.

Going into a north London derby, as fans you’ll read lots of stuff. As players you put that all out of the way, you forget it, because it is ultimately about what happens on the day.The thing to pay more attention to is recent results and Arsenal’s form is poor.That in itself is demoralising. But when I was at the club, if we ever had a bad series of results the next game you want to be a big one because it gets your mind focused on what’s coming rather than feeling sorry for yourself.

Meanwhile, Alex Fynn, who authored the book ‘The Great Divide’ in 2000, which explained the Arsenal’s dominance over Tottenham, said,

Certainly there is no great divide now,If anything, it may be role reversal.Wenger needed a challenge from his backroom staff and the board,This is the most significant problem he has failed to deal with.The other major clubs have arguably had better backroom staff and refreshed them on several occasions. Just look at Manchester United.Wenger has never had this and, as other clubs have moved on, Arsenal have stood still and maybe even gone backwards.Why has he not surrounded himself with men of quality? What on earth is [retired former Arsenal captain] Patrick Vieira doing at Manchester City?

I know this is my longest preview till date, but the clash is such it deserves nothing less. Meanwhile, while the world seems to coming to an end very soon, all I can hope is I have something to cheer come Sunday. 3 points and nothing less is what I expect.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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