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All the reaction, Wigan preview + Lineups

Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic, Premier League, Emirates Stadium

Kickoff – 20:00 GMT (00:30 IST), Monday, 16th April 2011

Hello Gooners. It has been another good few days. With 6 points from 6 in the last two games, with vital wins over Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, there’s not much we can complain for.

Well, the title race has been blown wide open, thanks to a stunning strike from Scotland international Shaun Maloney, for Wigan Athletic against Manchester City. The gap was cut down back to 5 points, and despite Roberto Mancini saying that he expects Manchester United to go on and win the title, deep down he knows that Wigan threw him a lifeline, which they have to hold on to dearly now. Earlier today, Manchester City thrashed a hapless Norwich City 6-1, quite an ironic scoreline, at Carrow Road, 24 hours ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Aston Villa at Old Trafford. With the gap down to 2, pressure will be on Fergie’s men, to make it 5, as they play a team, who could get sucked into the basement battle, in no time.

The FA Cup semi-final, meanwhile pitted the two Merseyside clubs against each other, as Everton took on Liverpool. It was quite an exciting game, and the Wembley pitch just seems to getting poorer and poorer. Nikica Jelavic’s 24th minute strike, was rather harshly cancelled out by a mistake off his own teammate Sylain Distin, whose attempted backpass, was finished off by Luis Suarez. Andy Carroll seems to be back to his goalscoring nick, despite missing howlers through the game, he managed to pounce home the winner in the 87th minute.

Coming back to Arsenal, then. Here’s all the reaction from Arsene Wenger, post the win over Manchester City.

AW on the run-in

For some people these predictions are their job,Believe me, they don’t know much better than you or me and the result of every game is just a consequence of your performance on the day. Nobody can really predict that because your performance on the day depends on you, but also depends on the other team as well. To predict both is nearly impossible. You can have an idea but football has surprised us so many times, especially recently in the last two or three months. We have all been surprised by many results and predictions. What would be interesting is to make a championship of the predictors and see who comes out on top at the end.Let’s not anticipate, that is something else that is important. When it gets to the last sprint, the focus on the next game becomes the most important part because you are always tempted to anticipate. We have the experience to know just to deal with the next one and that is the only important thing.

AW on the team this season

It [a top-four finish] is very important to us,It has a big meaning for us because we want to play at the top but also because of where we came from, that would be a great achievement for us. This team has gone through difficult times but we know that we belong with the best and we have shown that again on Sunday. That is why it is important that we continue to go in a strong way.It is very intense. The closer you get to the end and you go for something important, the more the pressure is there. So to keep your nerve is vital.

AW on Bacary Sagna being the best right-back in the Premier League

I think so, personally, and I believe that everybody at the Club would share this opinion,Many people outside the Club have this opinion as well.I must say with the right back position I have been quite lucky because we had Lee Dixon when I arrived, then Lauren, and Sagna afterwards. They have all been real winners and extremely consistent. On that front we were very lucky.They are all real battlers, they are ready to die to win. All these players have been inspirational for everybody because their physical level, commitment, intelligence and desire to win is all there.

AW on Yossi Benayoun

First of all he knows the job in this [wide] position,He is highly focused in the big games, that is a massive part, because you cannot switch off.So we have a good balance in the team with him and a good focus. And of course he has quality. We have to say that in the games he has started he did extremely well and the team did extremely well as well. That is never a coincidence.No, not yet [I have not made a decision],That will happen at the end of the season. We have to look at the situation in a global way because we have many players out on loan so we need to deal with these situations.

Moving on, Mikel Arteta, has been massive this season. He has blended in seamlessly in the midfield, and now is one of Arsenal’s most vital players. He scored a fine winner against Manchester City.

We need to finish the season really strong,We’ve shown we have a lot of fighters here. We have missed big players this season; Abou DiabyJack Wilshere, and they haven’t played at all and are massive players.We know we have really good players and maybe, just maybe, we can do even better than what we have done this year.I’m trying to contribute the best way to the team that I can,Scoring goals is not one of my most important jobs because we have better players in the team to do that. But it’s always nice to help.Robin [van Persie] has been creating goals for other players. As long as we keep winning, that’s the most important thing. We are also keeping clean sheets as well which is important from now until the end of the season.Everybody likes to score a goal and I’m no different. When Robin scores three then I’m happy as well because we win the game. But this goal [against Man City] was special and it won the game.

Third place gives you direct access to the Champions League,It’s really important. It’s been a big fight; we have come all the way through from the back.We’ve put in a big effort, we are in a strong position now and we don’t want to waste it. We had a setback at QPR and it says a lot for our spirit that we came straight back.Everyone was saying we were in trouble again because Newcastle look really strong, Chelsea have been winning and I’m sure they’ll be there until the end.It will be a big fight and I think it will go right until the end. There are some big games ahead. Everyone must play each other; we’ve got Chelsea here and have got to go to Stoke so it can change again.I don’t think it will be easy, We have some good examples this year when we have dropped points against teams near the bottom.We have to go there with the right mentality and the right approach and sense of pride. When you’re playing away from home there are no easy games in the Premier League.

Robin van Persie, without a shadow of a doubt has been Arsenal’s talisman this season. Taking over the reins from Cesc Fabregas, and after the stuttering start to the campaign, the Dutchman has led the team by example.

I don’t think it changed me a lot in the way I am because I believe you should always stay the same,I think the only thing that has changed for me is that it has been made official. Before that I was always helping people out where I could because we all help each other out, it’s not only me. This is the way our club is.I do realise that some stuff starts with me but that counts for every single person for themselves as well. Good behaviour starts from yourself. If you expect that from other people, you should start by yourself and be helpful to everyone else. That has nothing to do with the captaincy, it is the way you should be. Everybody should try to be positive and try to help each other out. I don’t think I am the main starter in all of that.I was very proud [to be made captain], obviously,If you look at the history of Arsenal captains, being part of that is a very special feeling. It makes me proud because Arsenal is a massive club. You look at Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas – those guys were proper captains. I like it, it feels comfortable and not weird.

Meanwhile, after the relatively easy win over Wolves, and Spurs’ shock loss to Norwich at home, Arsenal moved 5 points clear of their rivals, and are now in pole position to seal 3rd spot. Here’s the manager’s complete post match interview.

AW on the result
We started well and then had a situation where we could control the game. Did we push on or not? After that we played a bit with the handbrake on, they played deeper and defended like mad with a great spirit until the end of the game. If they keep that spirit then they still have a chance of staying in the league. On our part we controlled the game, although they actually had a spell in the second half where they created chances. Szczesny made a good save but after that it was a comfortable win.

AW on top-three situation
I am very happy that we are in this position but I am also very cautious because some teams have been in that position before. We want to win our next game because where we have come from this season we must be focused. We have come from very deep and to stay in this position we have to focus on our next game.

AW on the penalty

It looked to me [like a penalty] but I have not seen it again. You could argue that he is the last man as well. The referee had no choice but I think the punishment is harsh because you give away a penalty and you lose a man as well.

AW on spoiling the game
It spoils the game for the supporters because they know they have little chance to come back after. I never forget that we lost Robin van Persie in Barcelona last season when he got a second yellow card for kicking the ball away. It was just strict application of the rules. Today I think the referee had no choice because it is the rule.

AW on Van Persie’s finish

It was a surprise to me because I have never seen him doing that. It was just what came into his mind at the last second he said.

AW on ending his four-game goal draught

It is not easy for a striker like Van Persie who is not used to not scoring. I think he equalled the record of Ian Wright by scoring against 17 different teams in the Premier League out of 20. That is absolutely remarkable in the modern game so I would like to congratulate him because that has never been done before. When your striker scores against 17 different teams, that is sensational.

AW on possibility to improve on record
He could have beaten it if he had scored against Manchester City. The last two chances he had were Man City and tonight. He hit the post twice and Vermaelen saved one on the line against City.

AW on the Wigan game

Wigan did not deserve to lose at Chelsea and they got a great result tonight. It is a good warning for us to prepare well in that game.

AW on FA decision not to extend Balotelli ban

I still don’t understand. If you look at the case of Balotelli you get an explanation and you have to accept it. Then you look at the case of Derry, you get an explanation and you can accept it. But if you put the two together it looks absolutely unbelievable. When the referee has seen something nobody can get over the rule.We need an exceptional committee of ethics who can get over that. The global situation does not make common sense. For people who love football you cannot accept that one is punished and the other is not. But I am not keen to get Balotelli suspended because I have no interest at all in that.

The man who was responsible for both the early goals was Theo Walcott, as he won the penalty and then played a fine one-two with Robin van Persie, before finishing off, to put the game to bed.
I’m 23 now and I am still growing. I am not afraid of getting hurt,A few years ago I had shoulder injuries, ankle problems and back problems and that was just me learning the other side of the game.Now I am just going into games and enjoying myself, not being scared of anything. The manager always tells me not to be afraid going into tackles. I am a totally different Theo Walcott now.We are playing great football and it’s nice to be part of that and not on the treatment table.
 Moving on, Le Prof spoke on a host of issues ahead of the Wigan clash.
AW on the Ladies
Arsenal Ladies are always doing well,I am a big supporter and admirer and I wish them well against Frankfurt and I am sure they will surprise us as always in a positive way. The German teams are always very strong. Their national side didn’t do well in the last World Cup at home but usually they are always there in the top two or three in the world.
 AW on Benayoun
He has been very patient and very professional,He came here with a lack of [playing time] and it took him a while to become really sharp. He kept working and waited for his place.We kept faith in him and put him in for big games because he is an intelligent and talented player. He has a good team attitude.The problem with Yossi was more physical because he is a guy who plays on his sharpness and quick movement. He had a big injury don’t forget and it took him some time to come back.After that, when you do not play big games it takes you time to find the confidence again. Now he is there.
AW on Wilshere’s return
I will not take any risks with him,He is making slow progress so we still have to monitor the situation a little bit at the moment. As I told you last week, the next three weeks would be decisive and now we have two weeks in front of us. I cannot tell you more.
AW on how the league’s dynamics have changed
We are in a different situation because we are on the way up, and last year we were on the way down,The dynamic is completely different. We are on a very strong run, but last year we were on a strong run downwards. Where we finish we will see at the end of the season but at the moment our focus is to maintain our momentum and finish in a stronger position than last year. It is possible if we maintain our results, [like we are] at the moment.Champions League football is still our main target of the season. For a while it was very difficult, for some people [they thought] it was impossible, but now it is feasible. Considering where we came from, we want to take our chance now.
AW on transfers
What has not changed at all is our policy that we will be as ambitious as ever and spend the money we have available, if possible in an intelligent and wise way,We have always spent money because we are ambitious for top-class players and if you look at the history of our last 15 years, we have always had top-class players. Sol Campbell is one of them.It does not mean you cannot win the title,There are two basic trophies for me that are the sign of the quality of a team; they are the Premier League and the Champions League.The Champions League is prestigious and it is half league and half cup. That means that at the end, the teams who wins must show real quality.All the rest, they are trophies of course and they are important, but they do not really reflect the deep quality of a team. The championship does, and we want to win it.Our ambition is intact, to win the championship. It depends on how we finish the season to decide how much we need to buy to have a chance to win the championship next season.
AW on van Persie
It does not look like he is worrying but you know that a striker who has scored in every single game but then has a period he does not like it,But I am convinced that he thought about it. I didn’t worry at all, but the guys who score goals like to continue to score.What you can do one day, you can do the next. We are on a strong run and if you look at our last 10 games, we are defensively more stable because we have kept a few clean sheets.We can score goals and Robin van Persie comes out of a period when he scored a bit less. We still managed to win the games, that is positive.
Yes [he has exceeded my expectations], not on the quality of his games though because I expect a lot from him,The way it goes beyond my level of expectation is the number of goals he has scored, that is for sure. Where he is sensational as well is as a captain. He has done extremely well on and off the field.
AW on video replays
I would like to assess the situation as a whole at the end of the season,Last weekend was a very bad weekend, but we need to assess the global situation.I think the football authorities need to sit together and see how we can improve it. It is time for us to help the referees and not be so conservative and finally opt for video. Video will help the referees, not question their authority. It will give them more credit, more authority and [produce] fewer mistakes.We need instant video replays on the demand of the referee. It would not stop the game, it would sometimes given an even bigger flow to the game. Why? If I am a linesman and the offside situation is a 50:50, I am tempted to stop the game. If I know I have video behind me I am tempted to let it go. You could improve the flow of the game and then check after. I believe that football is the [No 1] sport in the whole world but we have to accept that we have a more conservative approach than any other sport. It can be a strength but on the refereeing side I think it is a weakness.If the referee thinks there is an obvious situation he has not seen well, let’s go and check. You could still be wrong but in fewer cases. I don’t think that the referees are bad, I just think that there are so many situations and they cannot see everything in the game. It is impossible for a human being, no matter how good you are. Out of 100 situations [if you used video replays] you would be less wrong than you are today because you could have help.I believe that maybe we need to promote young talents who come to the game,” he said. “The bigger the basis is quantity-wise, the more chance you have to produce top-level referees. We need to think about how we can promote young talents because it is a difficult job.
AW on Szczesny
He has improved in his focus, the consistency of it,The talent was always there but he is maturing quickly.You can’t be completely on the inside or completely on the outside. I like that he is a good communicator. You have to adjust, it’s important to find a balance.The mental part of a keeper is vital. Look at Joe Hart, who is a fantastic goalkeeper for England. For me he shows that strength.I wouldn’t like to say publicly what he [Szczesny] needs to do to improve, I’d rather tell him myself. Overall he has the basic talent to be a top-class keeper, how far he goes will depend on how much he wants to improve.
AW on diving
We should have a superior committee of ethics that could still punish a player [after a match] and if this committee could punish an obvious dive with a three-match ban, the players would not do it anymore.I would support that for obvious diving. A guy who trips himself with his other leg, no.Everybody wants to win football games and when you have played football, you always try to be on the fringe if you want to win. For example, you touch the ball and it goes out you shout ‘throw in for us’, things like that. But a dive in the box? I think sometimes you can only get it out after the game.I think that the foreign players have brought good and bad things, In England you respected that you got well kicked but on the other side players did not go down for nothing. The second thing I admired here in England is that players never surrounded the referees to demand a yellow card for somebody else, they let the referee make a decision. But that has gone as well. Not everywhere but there is a trend now to surround the referee and [demand] a yellow card and that never happened when I arrived.Yes [that has come from foreign players],” added Wenger. “But I must say the English players learn quickly.
AW on the defence
It is getting there, because everyone does their job well. What we used to think is that clean sheets are only linked to defenders but it is not like that. It is more a team effort and on that front I believe we have improved. Of course our overall defensive record is still not good, but if you take into consideration that we conceded eight at Manchester United and four at Blackburn at the start of the season, our record since that period is quite good defensively.
AW on Ramsey
It is his first full season in the Premier League and he worked very hard [at Wolves] on Wednesday night again,He always looks like he will score but doesn’t score at the moment. Once that will be done I think he will be more relaxed in front of goal and score more. He has played many games this year and for a first season that is tremendous. I am quite happy I can give him a breather sometimes now. Aaron has played many games but he did absorb them well. He was tired two or three weeks ago, and it allowed me to give a breather [on Wednesday] to Tomas Rosicky who has played many games recently.I don’t think it is a long-term option for him because he is more a central player in the way I see him developing,Sometimes to balance the team, especially considering on the other side we have a real winger, I put a midfielder in there. That’s why in some games like at Everton I played him on the left. It worked then but at QPR we lost and it didn’t work. It is not linked with one position, it is to balance the team. I think in the education of a player it is important that he plays in different positions.
Arsenal’s renaissance of late, can be hugely attributed the form of one man, Tomas Rosicky. The sight of Rosicky bombing down the midfield, is a joy. He spoke about how the team has got help from the fans and the importance of finishing 3rd.
Recently the atmosphere at our home games has been absolutely amazing – the team can feel it and it is a big help for us,It is a great feeling to have the supporters so passionately behind you for the whole 90 minutes. The supporters really do make a difference at Emirates Stadium and we’re hoping that we can keep that connection by winning more games.
Wigan beat Manchester United on Wednesday, so that’s an indication that it will be a tough test for us,We’ll have to be on top of our game to win, no doubt about it. Wigan have some very good players and a good young manager, so this will be a very tough match for us.We have a great chance to stay in [third] position, but now we have to make sure of it. That starts against Wigan on Monday – and make no mistake, it’s a very big game for us. People might not usually regard a match against Wigan as such a big one, but they are still battling relegation, so there is a lot at stake for both of us.We saw what can happen against a team fighting for its life when we played away at QPR, and we expect the same kind of performance from Wigan on Monday. We have to give 100 per cent to get the result.
Robin van Persie rose out of his rather uncharacteristic patch of not scoring with a cheeky penalty against Wigan. He spoke about Arsenal’s mental strength.
As you have seen, Mikel has been showcasing his right foot recently,What a great weapon it is, and things are going really well for him. Looking around the team now, we have lots of different things like that in our armoury – everyone has qualities and they are all coming together to create a big threat. It is a good sign that a lot of these weapons are coming alive now and you are seeing a number of players prove decisive for us. I see it as real proof that this team is growing. Mikel’s goal last week was a great example of all that we have been about recently – first he was defending to get the ball from Pizarro, then he brought it forward and had the shot. It was a transition from effort to quality in a few seconds and the outcome was perfect.Effort and quality will both be needed again against a good Wigan side,” he said. “I like their manager, Roberto Martinez, a lot – he likes his side to play football from the back and wants to achieve things by playing the right way. They are having a really good period, being very unlucky at Chelsea and then winning in very confident fashion against Manchester United. In the last five or six weeks they have done really well so we have a very tough task on our hands to beat them and know they won’t surrender easily. I am confident, though, that if we play well and work hard for each other we will create the chances to win and keep our hands on third place.
 Prior to the Wolves game I’d gone four games without a goal, but I didn’t really let it bother me,I could have scored in each of those four games – and when that’s the case it’s not a big problem, because the chances are still coming to you. Against Manchester City I could have scored twice, one going off the line and the other hitting the post. Against Villa I had another cleared off the line, I hit the post again against Everton and had a one-on-one well saved against QPR. As long as I’m taking my opportunities with confidence and 100 per cent sharpness I accept that it won’t always come off, because that is part of football. We won all of those games apart from one, so it wasn’t as if things went badly for us.
Team news, then. Gervinho is fit again after completing the training session ahead of the game, while Gibbs has  half a chance of playing. However, Santos is expected to start. Wigan’s only casualty is striker Hugo Rodallega, who will be given a late fitness test.
There’s no way this fixture can be taken lightly, especially after what Wigan did to Manchester United in midweek, and Liverpool a few weeks earlier. They played a high pressing game, and never allowed their opposition to settle. They slogged it out in the centre of midfield, as they completely shut down supply lines in midfield. Midfield, again will be vital, and Arsene Wenger will be hoping, the trio of Rosicky, Arteta and Benayoun can overrun Wigan’s raw, but exciting midfield. Arsenal defenders will have to be wary of the pace and skill of Wigan’s wingers Jean Beausejour and Victor Moses, especially the latter, who has been in fine form of late. Brother of calamity put in a good performance against Wolves, as well as Aston Villa few weeks back, and should build upon these.
3 points is vital to maintain pressure on our rivals, as we face a crunch game at the weekend against Chelsea, which makes today’s game all the more important.
I end on a rather poignant note. Football witnessed a tragedy, as a young Italian footballer Piermario Morosini, lost his life after a cardiac arrest on the field. This is just one in a recent list of events that have shook the football world, and emphasis will be now on better monitoring of players.
Football’s ugly head was also revealed over the weekend, as a section of the Chelsea fans booed during the minute’s silence to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Such people should be banned from attending football games, henceforth. But then, I am a mere mortal. The FA takes such decisions, and also whether the diver par excellence Ashley Young is to be banned.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Liverpool-Garcia 87)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Liverpool-Gerrard 7, Arsenal-Fabregas 80)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Get behind your team and your manager!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Ooh! To be a Gooner!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in General

 

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Italian Ruins, Potholed Pitches, Unhappy Legends and Strained Muscles

Sunderland vs Arsenal, Stadium of Light, FA Cup 5th Round

Kickoff – 17:15 GMT (22:45 IST), 18th February 2012

Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!

Ten thousand thundering typhoons!

Smoldering smokestacks!

Were Captain Haddock an Arsenal fan, I am pretty much sure, this would have been his reaction to Arsenal’s capitulation at the San Siro. Infact, these were the same reactions that I had.

Having been so excited all week about the clash, probably every minute spent pondering over the game, walking nervously around the hall minutes before kick off, wondering ‘It is just 1 goal’, when Kevin Prince-Boateng scored a scorcher, calming myself ‘Now we just need an away goal’, when Robinho scored the second, messaging all my friends ‘It’s all over man 😦 ‘ , when Robinho scored the third, and heaping insults on Djourou after he conceded the fourth; next day roaming around with an unshaven glum face all round my office, with colleagues trying to console me saying ‘Don’t kill yourself dude’, it is time finally to try and narrow down some issues on the match and investigating how Arsenal got mauled so emphatically.

First, the pitch. Whatever the Arsenal fans might say about the Gunners not performing up to the mark, the Milan pitch was a disgrace to the competition. How the Italian side get away with all this, I have no idea. Now, Milan play a very narrow formation, with minimal wingplay. Even their full-backs, namely Luca Antonini and Ignazio Abate, are more defensive minded, and rarely go forward. They started with 4 central midfielders on the night., ‘the ‘grand old man of football’ Clarence Seedorf, Mark van Bommel, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Antonio Nocerino. Arsenal have a completely different style to Milan, and rely on wingplay. This entire season Arsene Wenger has deployed wingers, Gervinho, Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Even our full-backs are proper full-backs. Andre Santos, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna all love going forward.

Now, by disintegrating the pitch, it was pretty evident Milan had spotted Arsenal’s strength and decided to turn it into a weakness. Considering the fact that the flanks on the San Siro pitch were laid out just about 24 hours before kick-off is a clear pointer of that claim. Moreover, Robin van Persie decided to change his boots, going for a harder studded boot, so as to facilitate his wing play on the horror of a pitch. Arsene Wenger decided to drop Chamberlain on the bench and started with Tomas Rosicky, who is more adept a central role, than on the left. Had the pitch been perfect, or at least had a semblance of normalcy about it, Wenger would have started with the pacy Chamberlain who would have wreaked havoc with the Milan defence. None of the players looked comfortable on the night. The ball was rolling so slowly around the flanks that at one time, Vermaelen had to back-track his header, which he thought was heading for a corner.

Second, I don’t want to be too critical of how the Milan groundsmen prepared the pitch, as it was same for both side. Arsenal should have been prepared to adapt to it. Now, we go into an European game against the Italian champions, in their formidable home, and we can in the least expect a tough game on the cards. Unfortunately, Arsenal couldn’t adapt to the fact how Milan had taken the game by storm. Milan exploited the nervousness and fragility of the Arsenal rearguard, and swooped down like vultures would on a carcass. The Gunners failed to adapt, and got all their tactics wrong.

Alex Song was unable to contain the advances of both Nocerino and Boateng, and didn’t get too much help from Ramsey and Arteta. Sagna wasn’t helped by Walcott either as he tried to counter the threat of Ibrahimovic, Emmanuelson and Antonini.

Thirdly, Arsenal lost their best defender at the moment, Laurent Koscielny to an unfortunate injury. He picked up a strain, and it mean he would be replaced by Calamity Djourou, who ofcourse went on to concede a penalty. Thomas Vermaelen had an unfortunate slip on the horrendous playing surface, which lead to Milan’s third.

Finally, the Gunners fielded a very naive and relatively inexperienced side on the night, even though it was the best of the resources we had. Szczesny has looked nervous in recent games and he did so on Wednesday. His goalkicks, clearances and distribution was poor. Aaron Ramsey had a poor night too, and was well tracked by the menacing Mark van Bommel. Tomas Rosicky was good in patches, but honestly had no direction about his forward play. Theo Walcott, can best be described as ‘poor’ on the night, notwithstanding the poor condition of the ground.

Now, here we are, on the brink of exit in the Champions League. All my banter dished out to Manure supporters about them watching the Europa League has come back to haunt me.

Arsenal players and the manager have all had their say on the Milan game. Wojciech Szczesny was among the first Arsenal players to speak the media, saying Arsenal deserved the mauling.

It’s not impossible to come back but it’s going to be very difficult,Milan showed how good they are tonight and it’s going to be very difficult. We showed last week against Blackburn how good we can be if we are on the front foot and if we manage to score an early goal then anything can happen.We have quality attacking players and we can score goals so why not? But we have to realise that it’s going to be really, really difficult.It was a very difficult night and it’s hard to take right now. We have to admit that Milan were the better team and they completely deserved the victory. It’s hard to take but hopefully we can pick ourselves up.We’re full of belief that we can still have a successful season. It’s a big blow for us tonight but I’m confident we’ll pick ourselves up and do our best in all the games we have coming up.

Thomas Vermaelen had one of his worst nights in an Arsenal jersey.

We have another game and the only thing we can do is show our pride and give 100 per cent,We have to give something back to the fans who came all the way here, we disappointed them. The only thing we can do is try to get a good result in the home game.The fans supported us all the way to Milan and we disappointed them, which is not good. We will try to give them something back when we next play at home.It was not a good evening for us, they scored four times and we did not play well. It’s simple – we conceded too many chances and too many goals and it was just a bad evening.They played well, they were aggressive – more than us I think and you can see that from the result. It’s difficult to give an explanation so soon after the game because I am disappointed. The result was really bad.What happened, we have to forget now. We have to learn from it and just keep going to the next game.

Surprisingly, the harshest criticism on the team came from their own manager, Arsene Wenger, who  launched a scathing attack on the team, for probably the first time in his Arsenal managerial career.

We were never in the game,We were very poor offensively and defensively. It was shocking to see how we were beaten everywhere. It was our worst performance in Europe by far.Not once in the 90 minutes were we in the game. You question everything on a night like that but it’s difficult to analyse and it’s better not to talk too much, analyse it with a cooler head and to regroup for the next game.We don’t live in a dream world. There is may be 2% or 5% chance statistically, but realistically we are out of this competition. We made mistake after mistake and we were punished.It is too big a deficit to turn over, we certainly will try, but it will be very difficult. We will give it our best and we certainly cannot be worse than we were tonight.We left ourselves in a position where we had to chase the game from early on and we continued to lose the ball in positions where you cannot afford to lose it at this level and we left ourselves exposed. It was a big problem for us and we were slow to respond all evening.We will not talk too much tonight − we will take our punishment and get over this. The season isn’t finished.We have a big game on Saturday to show character & spirit. We have to regroup, but there’s not a lot of time.

Call me optimistic or crazy or whatever, I think we have a great chance of putting things right in the second leg. Of course, it is going to be an uphill task, the hill being Mount Everest in the case. But, this is football. What would it be, if scores were decided before the ball was kicked. Anything is possible in this sport. Remember Deportivo la Coruna in the 2003/04 season of the Champions League? They were 4-1 down after the first leg at the San Siro, but came back in emphatic fashion in the second leg, to wipe out Milan 4-0. So, all is not over yet, folks.

Arsenal have come in for quite a fair share of criticism from club greats such as Dennis Bergkamp, Martin Keown, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira etc.

Here is what legendary right-back Lee Dixon had to say.

Everything that could go wrong in the game did and it was a really, really poor performance – It was a good performance from Milan, I thought they did ever so well. (Kevin Prince) Boateng, Robinho and (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic tore Arsenal to pieces, simple as that.There are not a lot of positives to be honest with you. It’ll be difficult for Arsene to pick the players up before a massive FA Cup tie at Sunderland this weekend. He’s got his work cut out.

And, World Cup winner, and former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit, said the following words.

I asked myself what has become of the team that I knew.It’s a gulf which is confirmed weekend after weekend and what is perhaps the most worrying thing is the club won’t do anything this summer to reverse the trend. They don’t want to go back to overspending in the transfer market, and I think they’re right. But for two seasons, the level of the team has only gone down.Certain young players haven’t done enough to justify the confidence that Arsene has in them. Walcott – somehow he’s going to have to reach the next stage. It’s been years that he’s been at the same level. Ramsey, against Milan, I got the impression it was his (twin) brother on the pitch. In the way they behave, in their body language, we see they’re not there anymore.We shouldn’t hesitate to talk about the end of the cycle. Regardless of age, we have to look seriously at certain players. Right now you have to send out a strong signal.You have to say to Arshavin, and to Rosicky: ‘Gentlemen, thank you, but goodbye’. And soon.’

Dennis Bergkamp had an extensive discussion with another Arsenal great, Alan Smith, and shared the following views on a variety of issues like the squad, Wenger’s future and on the passing style employed by the club.

DB10 on the team:

I feel there are a lot of similar players there at the moment. It needs to be more diverse.You need a few strong characters who can get the team going, in training as well as matches.You also need a few players who can make a difference in terms of scoring goals. I don’t feel there are enough of them.You look at the midfield and compare it with ours. We had Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Ray Parlour – when it wasn’t working for one of the big names, one of these could step up.You can’t only depend on one or two players. When they’re having an off day, you need someone else.

DB10 on the style of play

Sometimes you need more of a winning mentality than a passing mentality.I’m not sure Arsenal have enough of that in their players, when the attitude becomes more important than the ability just to pass the ball.I don’t know if the English mentality is missing a little bit.We had it with the back four, of course, who had the mentality of thinking, ‘OK, this game is ours now.Sometimes I see their games and it’s always the same way of playing, a bit too predictable. They are all fantastic players, that must be said, but sometimes you need a bit more of the other side.

DB10 on Arsene Wenger

Yeah, I think so, because the way I know him, he’s a winner. He can’t just let go.He would think he hasn’t finished there yet. He would want to finish on a high or at least do something that makes the team successful again.So I think he will wait and push as hard as possible to achieve that before he leaves.I’ve worked with Arsène for 11 years and it goes up and down.You do well, then you need some time to rebuild, then you do well again. But the thing now is that he isn’t winning any trophies.That’s what I was talking about earlier. Sometimes you just need to win something by showing a certain attitude to get the team going again.That isn’t happening at the moment so it is a bit of a struggle.But I wouldn’t say that’s down to Wenger because he has been fantastic and he still is fantastic for the club.He brings in young players and sells them on for more money. Financially, he’s doing great.

DB10 on RVP

To be honest, I would still prefer to see Robin play a bit deeper behind the main striker so that he could pick his moments the way I used to.I think he could be even better in that role, but the way he’s playing now you can hardly blame the coach for putting him there.

Most would agree with Bergkamp here. The club ain’t in a doomsday like situation, like the kind Rangers or Portsmouth are in. The club has been inches away from silverware in recent seasons, and the fans should keep their faith in the manager and the team.

Phew that’s a lot of legends having their opinion their. Speaking of legends, there have been rumours that Pat Rice will finally retire from his stellar stint at Arsenal. He amassed 528 games for the club as a right-back from 1966 to 1980. He joined Arsenal as a youth coach in 1984, and even briefly became the manager in 1996, before Arsene Wenger took over. He has been Arsene Wenger’s trusted assistant, and though never in the spotlight, is said to be key to the team’s affairs. Here’s to 42 years of exemplary service.

Legend!

Meanwhile, rumours are floating that the man touted for the job is none other than the present youth coach, Steve Bould. Bould was another memeber of the famous back four, and played in 11 seasons for the club. He has been the coach of the youth side since 2001. Another candidate is ofcourse, Dennis Bergkamp, who has been assistant coach at Ajax Amsterdam.

Moving on, we have another massive game on Saturday, which will decide if we have any shot at silverware this weekend. The Gunners will have to deal with a terrible pitch for the third time in a week. Phil Bardsley, the Sunderland right-back was quoted as saying, the pitch still looks terrible.

If that is the case, the Gunners should brace to having more players injured, after losing Per Mertesacker last week on the same ground, and Laurent Koscielny at the San Siro. Now, Arsenal’s team selection will be interesting to see. Whether Arsene Wenger will field his strongest side or whether he rests key players ahead of next week’s mammoth clash against Tottenham in the North London derby. Reports claim Mertesacker had an extensive ankle scan in London as well as Germany and he could be out for the rest of the season. This could be a major cause of concern for Arsene Wenger as Mertesacker, despite having a slow start has put in some really good displays recently. Meanwhile, Laurent Koscielny seems to be available for selection for the Sunderland game, despite picking up a strain. That could be a massive boost. But, the Mertesacker injury means, one more injury/suspension and we will have Squillaci strutting his stuff. (Not a pretty sight). By the looks of it, Calamity Djourou would partner Vermaelen at the back, with Sagna and Gibbs continuing on the flanks.

I expect Arsene Wenger to give some of the other players a run out. Robin van Persie looks a bit jaggered, and could be on the bench, to be replaced by Morrocan Marrouane Chamakh. So will be Ramsey, Song, Rosicky and Arteta. I feel Coquelin, Arshavin and Benayoun could start the game. This will be ideal for the team. Lukasz Fabianski is expected to take his place in goal, as he did against Leeds and Aston Villa, in the earlier FA Cup games. Gervinho, who returns from the Africa Cup of Nations, will take his place on the left, while Chamberlain replaces the under performing Walcott on the right. Such a squad rotation will bode well, for the entire team, who need a bit of rest. But, then again this is my prediction. Wenger certainly will have different ideas.

Arshavin, Benayoun, Chamakh and Coquelin all deserve a run in the first team. And the fact that they are completely fresh, having been used sparsely this year. Sunderland actually put in a commendable game last week, and under Martin O’Neill are a completely different proposition. I wouldn’t be too dissapointed if the tie goes to a replay.

Sunderland will be waiting for the Gunners, knowing fully well that they will be tired and mentally down after  the midweek exertions. They have had a good week to rest and prepare well for the FA Cup clash. They will, in all probability field the same side that took to the pitch last week in the Premier League game.

Thierry Henry scored the winner last time around. It will require a completely different performance this week around to win the game. Henry, despite comments that he could damage his reputation by resigning for the Gunners, certainly proved all of them wrong. Touted as a PR move by an under-pressure manager, Henry has scored two goals, that could be decisive for the rest of the season. His late goal against Leeds was a piece of magic, and the winner against a dodgy opposition, which resulted in progress in the Cup. His goal against Blackburn was just the cherry on top of a tasty cake, while his poked goal against Sunderland was  massive. An extra-time winner is always cherished, but this was special as it was Henry’s last goal in the Premier League, and it moved the Gunners to 4th spot. However, he would like to quickly forget his last game for the club. Henry came on as a second half replacement for Walcott. He tried hard to inspire a goal, but was ultimately succesfull. Supposedly, he has been vocal with the team, giving them pep talks before games, and was influential in the 3-2 comeback against Aston Villa. And he says, he could be back next year. Now, that would be a story!

Anyways, hoping for a win on Saturday, and progress in the Cup!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Previews

 

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The Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was Suarez wrong in shaking Evra’s hands?

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

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

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

Debate is open on this.

Was Ferdinand wrong in declining Evra’s hands?

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

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

Then again, debate is open on this.

Is Evra’s celebration justified?

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

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

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

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

Are Ferguson’s comments justified?

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

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

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

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

Is Dalglish’s post-match interview behavior justified.

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in General

 

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Top 15 Thierry Henry Arsenal goals

Finally, we have got the news that we have been waiting for, with bated breath, for the past couple of weeks. Arsenal’s all time goal-scorer, and the greatest player to have donned the famous red-and-white strip is back. Thierry Henry, who lit the English game  with his fine individual talents, is back after signing a 2 month loan deal from New York Red Bulls. Freak, he’s so good, he has a best 15 list in a top-10’s category. 😀

15. vs Manchester United, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 21st January 2007, W 2-1

With 92 minutes gone, and score levels, Thierry Henry heads highest over a to prod home a Emmanuel Eboue cross. This was his second last goal.

14. vs Juventus, Champions League Quarter-Finals, Highbury, 28th March 2006, W 2-0

On a famous European night at Highbury, Thierry Henry collects a delightful pass from Cesc Fabregas, stumbles, but scores in front of an empty net, despite being off  balance, leaving the world’s best goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, thoroughly embarassed.

13. vs Aston Villa, Premier League, Highbury, 1st April 2006, W 5-0

A sublime long-range effort. Henry takes a fine backheel from Adebayor, gauges the position of Villa custodian Thomas Sorensen and lets in an unstoppable shot.

12. vs Manchester United, FA Community Shield, Millennium Stadium, 10th August 2003, D 1-1, Lost on penalties 3-4

This free-kick was taken, like from 100 yards out. Yet, it was perfectly placed to the right side of the keeper. Tim Howard was beaten comprehensively.

11. vs Manchester City, Premier League, Highbury, 1st February 2004, W 2-1

A scorcher. Henry gets a pass from Robert Pires, right outside the penalty box. He senses his chance, and unleashes an unstoppable thunderbolt.

10. vs Manchester United, Premier League, Highbury, 28th March 2004, D 1-1

Henry plays a skillful one-two with Spaniard Jose Antonio Reyes, and unleashes another of his scorchers. The ball swerves on its way to completely beat United keeper Roy Caroll.

9. vs West Ham United, Premier League, Upton Park, 24th August 2002, D 2-2

Henry receives a pass from Patrick Vieira, with his back to goal. But, he ghosts past a defender and smashes one past David James. Speak of awareness.

8. vs Sparta Prague, Champions League Group Stage, Generali Arena, 18th October 2005, W 2-0

Henry came on as a 15th minute substitute, replacing an injured Jose Antonio Reyes. Minutes later, he bagged an amazing goal, shooting from the outside of his right-foot, to equal Ian Wright’s club record of 185 goals.

7. vs Watford, Premier League, Vicerage Road, 23rd April 2000, W 3-2

Henry bamboozled 4 Watford defenders en route to scoring this one. Martin Tyler’s exact words – “The opposition just melted away from him!”

6. vs Inter Milan, Champions League Group Stage, San Siro, 25th November 2003, W 5-1

On one of Arsenal’s greatest nights, where Italian giants Inter Milan were humbled, Henry scored one of his best goals. Sprinting half the length of the pitch, under the stern challenge of Javier Zanetti, Henry scored off his left-foot.

5. vs Charlton Athletic, Premier League, Highbury, 2nd October 2004, W 4-0

A true underlining of the man’s ability. With Jonathan Fortune all over the Frenchman, Henry has the tenacity to make a cheeky backheel, that ended in the back of the net.

4. vs Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Highbury, 16th November 2002, W 3-0

Surely this had to be there. Collecting the ball deep into his own half, Henry produced a magical run. Shrugging off the challenge of Mathew Etherington, and then hoodwinking Stephen Carr and Ledley King, Henry shot past Kasey Keller and celebrated in front of the Spurs faithful. And now, that moment is immortalized with a statue outside Emirates Stadium.

3. vs Real Madrid, Champions League Round of 16, Santiago Bernabeu, 21st February 2006, W 1-0

Completely written-off against a star-studded Real Madrid, on another of Arsenal’s great European nights, Henry silenced the Madridistas with an absolute beauty. He took possession, near the half-way line, and then beat Ronaldo, Alvara Mejia and Luis Guti, to shoot past Iker Casillas.

2. vs Liverpool, Premier League, Highbury, 9th April 2004, W 4-2

A classic. With Arsenal having been knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League, by Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, and 2-1 down at half-time, Henry scored this collector’s item to make it 3-2 after Robert Pires’ equaliser. Having dropped deep, Henry had the whole of Liverpool’s defence to beat. Which he did, with panache and pace. Liverpool backed off and Henry calmly slotted past Jerzy Dudek, to score one of the most important goals of the 2003-2004 unbeaten campaign.

1. vs Manchester United, Premier League, Highbury, 1st October 2000, W 1-0

Henry’s greatest Arsenal goal. With 30 minutes gone, and completely against the run of play, Henry collects a pass from Gilles Grimandi, with his back facing goal, and Dennis Irwin keeping a tight leash. In a flash of a moment, Henry loops the ball, and then volleys it into the net of a hapless Fabien Barthez. And yes, it has great commentary to go with it. This goal came second in the list of Arsenal’s greatest ever goals, seconly to Dennis Bergkamp’s masterclass against Newcastle in 2002.

"That's deliberate!That's majestic! " So good, the commentator told "Sheer Brilliance' twice! 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Best of the Best

 

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