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Arsenal 3-3 Norwich City

Arsenal 3 (Benayoun 2, van Persie 72, 80) – Norwich City 3 (Hoolahan 12, Holt 27, Morison 85)

Man of the Match – John Ruddy (Norwich City)

The chances of having St. Totteringham’s day celebrations, this year, seems pretty bleak now. In what can be described as one of the matches of the season, and one which never ceased to amaze and entertain, Arsenal garnered only a point, to move 2 points clear of Tottenham and Newcastle, albeit having played a game more.

There were no surprises in Arsenal’s lineup, with the same squad that played against Stoke being used. Norwich, however stuck to their policy of rotation, and made several changes. Simon Lappin came in place of the injured Adam Drury, while there was also place in the lineup for Canada striker Simeon Jackson. Also named was the Irish Messi, Wes Hoolahan.

Within no time, Arsenal were in the lead, after birthday boy Yossi Benayoun opened the scoring, with a fine curling effort, into the top corner of the net. Just 70 seconds had passed by at this stage.

However, contrary to what I had predicted earlier, Norwich didn’t seem like they were too keen on an early holiday. They almost equalized immediately, but Grant Holt’s strike was blocked by Kieran Gibbs. They didn’t have to wait long though. An unconvincing moment from Szczesny later, Norwich capitalized as Kyle Naughton’s ball was turned towards the goal by Wes Hoolahan. Szczesny fumbled, as the ball ended in the back of the net.

What was required from the Gunners on the afternoon was some impetus to gather the 3 points that they so required. However, they looked edgy, lackadaisical and lethargic in their approach. Norwich, playing for nothing, after having secured their top flight status, looked like a real menacing outfit.

An Arsenal attack fizzled out, and Norwich got hold of the ball, and chested and headed it around neatly, to set up Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan, who were up against Laurent Koscielny and an backtracking Kieran Gibbs. Holt’s shot took a big deflection off Gibbs’ and looped over a stranded Szczesny into the net.

Arsenal almost equalized, but van Persie failed to get to the end of a low Sagna cross. Moments later, the French right-back suffered an injury, and was replaced by his compatriot Francis Coquelin. He almost conceded a penalty, moments after coming on, as a cross from the right was met with a tangle of legs between Coquelin and Howson. Replays clearly showed Coquelin had fouled the Norwich midfielder. However, the referee refused to oblige.

Norwich were wrecking more havoc in Arsenal’s penalty box. Russel Martin was hauled down by Koscielny, and should’ve gotten a penalty. A furious Paul Lambert certainly thought so. Soon after, Grant Holt nearly gave the Canaries a 3-1 advantage going into the break, but for Koscielny’s brilliant last ditch challenge.

A chorus of boos echoed round the stadium, as the two teams trudged off the pitch at half-time. Surely a hairdryer treatment would do the trick.

Arsenal came racing out into the second half, but it was Norwich who created the first real opportunity, when Jackson almost did a Taraabt, with a shrug of shoulders to beat Vermaelen, who slipped, but his poor effort was saved by Szczesny. Moments later, Benayoun headed right into Ruddy’s hands, with Koscielny being impeded by Holt, but the referee clearly was in no mood to give penalties.

Right back Kyle Naughton, and then Simeon Jackson missed further chances for the Canaries. Arsenal responded with two misses of their own, van Persie and Ramsey the culprits. Rosicky and the impressive Gervinho both had shots on goal, but failed to score.

Arsenal almost had their equalizer, when substitute Marrouane Chamakh’s shot was blocked by Elliot Bennet, only to fall to Alex Song, who played his trademark assist to van Persie. The Dutchman didn’t dissapoint this time, and leveled the scores.

8 minutes later, the comeback was complete, when van Persie, brilliantly placed again, scored off a Rosicky through-ball, under John Ruddy, into the back of the net.

By this time, the adventurous Paul Lambert, had 3 strikers on the pitch, with Anthony Pilkington, Aaron Wilbraham and Steve Morison. It was Morison, who scored the final goal in the match, as he took the ball into his stride, and beat Szczesny at the far post.

What followed next was a frantic end to the game, with Arsenal creating numerous openings. First, van Persie was clearly pushed over by Naughton, with the goal wide open, in the penalty box, and the ref again refused to budge. Soon, Song attempts a backheel, Gibbs has a header, Song has another header, van Persie sent clear on goal, but all of these attempts were kept out by a brilliant John Ruddy.

As the final whistle blew, Arsene Wenger, clearly fuming, just about managed to shake the hands of his counterpart Paul Lambert. It was in our hands, but now it is not. And it is all down to us. We can just hope Manchester City and Aston Villa can do the business for us tomorrow.

The parting shot of the day was Robin van Persie waving at the crowd. Could they be goodbye waves? Only time will tell. For now, the team should just get back to thinking how to beat a West Brom side, keen on giving their boss Roy Hodgson a final hurrah, before he heads on to take the England job.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (6.5) – Looked nervous throughout the game. Nervy clearances, poor handling, bad distribution.

Sagna (7) – Slowed down too many attacks for me. Suffered a bad injury though.

Vermaelen (6.5) – Poor game. He may score a lot of goals, but he is a defender. Needs to concentrate on his defending. Was found wanting on many opportunities.

Koscielny (7.5) – We may have conceded 3, but he was brilliant. Without him, it could’ve been a rout. Sadly, he was partly at fault for the 3rd Norwich goal.

Gibbs (7.5) – He had a good game, I thought. Very good going forward, and almost scored what would have been a precious winner.

Song (6.5) – Failed to get in a single tackle in the game, as far as I remember. He too seemed to slow down the pace of the game at times, but he played a delicious assist for the equalizer.

Rosicky (7.5) – Worked hard in midfield, constantly running at the Canaries defence.

Ramsey (6.5) – I really like the lad, but he hasn’t been at his best of late. Hopefully the close season will give him a good break, and he can return an improved player. He worked hard today, but nothing going his way.

Benayoun (7.5) – Scored a fine goal, and was involved in some fine work in midfield.

Gervinho (7) – A much improved performance from last week at Stoke. His dribbling looks much better, and so does his confidence. Created some good chances today, and switched flanks well, too.

van Persie (8) – Where would we be without him. Scored two important goals. Hopefully, this was not his last game at the Emirates in Arsenal colors.

Subs –

Coquelin (7) – Injected a bit more pace than Sagna on the right, which was good to see.

Chamberlain (7.5) – Provided some much needed creativity, as soon as he came on. A good few minutes.

Chamakh (7) – There is still some life left in him, isn’t there.

Overall Team Rating – 7.10

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal

Stoke City 1 (Crouch 9) – Arsenal 1 (van Persie 15)

Man of the Match – Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)

If last week’s result bought as much as a frown on my face, today’s result, or rather results did much better to my anger management. A 1-1 draw at a rugby team, is not a bad result, at the end of the day, or in this case, towards the end of a campaign.

With just 2 games left now, Arsenal will need all 6 points against Norwich and West Brom, to be completely sure of 3rd spot. But, with Newcastle faltering, like they did today, losing 4-0 to Wigan, and Sp*rs own bad run, which has seen them lose to Norwich and QPR, it seems sealing 3rd spot could all but become a formality for the Gunners.

There were no surprises in team selection for Arsenal. With Arteta and Walcott out, Benayoun and Ramsey both started, with Gervinho on the wings. Surprisingly, for Stoke, Jermaine Pennant recovered in time, to start the match. Stoke have had a long and hard campaign, which has seen them play 52 games, including Europa league ties in locations as far as Split in Croatia, Thun in Switzerland, Kiev in Ukraine, Tel Aviv in Israel, Besiktas in Turkey and Valencia in Spain. However, their fitness levels remain appreciable.

It was, infact the home side, that made the brighter start to the game. However, Arsenal carved out the first two real chances of the game, with Benayoun timid’s shot and van Persie’s header both being saved by Begovic. Stoke got the early breakthrough, as Mathew Etherington, in acres of space, crossed to Peter Crouch and lanky striker had to just direct the ball into the net, despite the challenges of the Arsenal defence.

6 minutes later, scores were level, as Yossi Benayoun robbed Ryan Shotton off possession, and setting up Tomas Rosicky to delightfully cross for Robin van Persie, who headed in this time. It was the Dutchman’s 28th goal of the season.

Arsenal created more opportunities, but failed to trouble the scores. Gervinho should’ve gotten on the end of a fine Sagna cross. van Persie had a shot blocked, while Koscielny blazed his header over. It ended 1-1 at half-time.

The second half began, in the same fashion as the first with Stoke doing some early running, and Arsenal easing into the game. A van Persie header was easily held by Begovic. And there were more chances, as Gervinho and Vermaelen both skied their efforts. Aaron Ramsey almost scored, in the same stadium, where two years previously he had been struck with a career threatening injury, before he was bought off.

Arsenal had penalty claims turned down, when it seemed Glen Whelan had pushed Yossi Benayoun, but the referee didn’t oblige. It was Stoke, though, who had the better of opportunities to win it late on. Cameron Jerome almost did a Kevin Prince Boateng, but Szczesny produced a fine save. And in the dying moments, a Delap rocket, was almost turned in, but for Sagna’s alertness.

Now that Stoke away is out of the way, it is but natural to say that Arsenal simply must win their last two games, to be completely sure of that 3rd spot.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (8) – Had a fine game. His decision making was spot on.

Sagna (7.5) – At fault for the first goal, but otherwise a good game. Supported Gervinho well.

Vermaelen (7.5) – A good game from him, but again seems to get caught out far too often. Lucky for him, he is partnered by Koscielny.

Koscielny (8) – Another consistent game. Rarely put a wrong foot.

Gibbs (7.5) – Was given a good run around by Pennant, but never really looked troubled.

Song (7.5) – A good improved performance after the last two games. BTW, what are his shins made of? Metal? First, Balotelli and now Whitehead!

Rosicky (8.5) – Worked hard through the game, in pressing forward and tracking back. His clever cross proved to be vital.

Ramsey (7.5) – His work rate can’t be faulted. Had a decent game overall.

Benayoun (7.5) – Had a couple of decent opportunities. Industrious performance.

Gervinho (7) – Looks too lightweight for the Premier League, and not brave enough. His shooting is woeful. Wenger has a lot of work to do with him. His game today was overall decent, made some good runs, but then gave most of them away.

van Persie (7.5) – Scored the equalizer, and then had a couple of chances to score the winner. Was always under pressure from Stoke’s defenders.

Subs –

Diaby (7) – Looks well short of match fitness. By the looks of it, he has got another injury. Hope to see him next season!

Chamakh and Santos – Came on too late to get a rating.

Overall Team Rating – 7.58

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

I am actually at a bit of a loss of words, right now. Even though its been well over a day since one of the worst games of football I have witnessed, I still can’t find enough words to jot down a match review.

The worst game I saw this season, before this was the 1-1 draw between Manchester United and Liverpool. Both teams played crap, and were just happy to kick the hell out of each other. It also had a little racist incident, by the way. And next was the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Tottenham. Not that I give a shit about them, but the game’s result was important to us. What ensued was piss poor football. But, yesterday’s game topped it all. Here is an attempt at a match review.

Arsenal’s major injury concern before the Chelsea game, was in all obviousness, Mikel Arteta. He has been ruled out for the remaining 4 games of the season. However, there were returns for French defensive midfielders Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin. Also, Yossi Benayoun was ineligible to play against his parent club. Brother of Calamity, (thanks to god’s blessings), was replaced by Laurent Koscielny, who returned after his 2 game suspension. And, a timely return it was. Arsenal started with Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield.

Chelsea, on the other hand, were forced to make wholesale changes to the squad that played in absorbing encounters against Tottenham and Barcelona, in the FA Cup and Champions League respectively. Ashley Cole was replaced by young Ryan Bertrand. Branislav Ivanovic, who is still suspended, was replaced by Portugal international Jose Bosingwa. John Terry, Gary Cahill and Petr Cech kept their places. The midfield looked fresh, with Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Oriol Romeu, all of whom have played sparingly this season, drafted in. In what seemed a 4-3-3 formation, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Salomon Kalou were picked in attack.

Now, to the actual match itself. The first few minutes were the slowest minutes I have seen this season. Usually, teams like to start off with some fizz. After kickoff, Arsenal were just happy passing the ball in their own half. And the players, were just walking around, like they were taking a stroll in the park with their girlfriends. This is where the tone for the entire game is set.

Arsenal were very lethargic, and thus allowed Chelsea to have much of the ball. And, when Chelsea have the ball, it ain’t a pretty sight. They were spraying around the ball intelligently though, managing to frustrate the Gunners. However, it was Arsenal who made the first real attempt on target. van Persie managed to direct a Walcott freekick on to the post. Then, Fernando Torres had a great chance, after some good work by Florent Malouda, but he was denied by a last ditch interception from Laurent Koscielny. Minutes later, Malouda caused more problems when he played a ball over the top for Kalou, who missed an onrushing Szczesny, only for Koscielny to come to the rescue again.

In the second half, it seemed like Arsenal had gotten a bit of bashing from Wenger, when they got into the groove. (Mind you, only a little bit). Laurent Koscielny hit the post again with his header, and van Persie’s shot was turned away by Cech. Theo Walcott suffered an injury, which meant he was replaced by Le Forehead, Gervinho. A largely lacklustre Tomas Rosicky, and a dissapointing Chamberlain were soon bought off, as well, to be replaced by, surprise surprise, Abou Diaby and Andre Santos. Now, that’s how you win a match, I suppose.

There were no more real attempts on goal, really, after that, as both sides looked like they had already agreed on a draw, and were just creating chances for the heck of it. Towards the end, Alex Song played in Robin van Persie. Unfortunately, for the Dutchman, his right foot isn’t as talented as his left, and he completely miscued it. Before that, he turned in and out, beating Chelsea’s defence, but was beaten to the shot by Cech.

It took another Koscielny block to deny Sturridge later on.

The only reason I was cheerful come 1:30 AM IST, was that QPR managed to beat Sp*rs 1-0, and I saw a really entertaining El Clasico.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (7.5) – Had a good game, preventing a few goalscoring opportunities for Chelsea.

Sagna (7.5) – A decent game again, but still lacks a bit of cover from Walcott.

Vermaelen (8) – Was caught out a couple of times, and had Koscielny to rescue the situations.

Koscielny (9) – Fantastic defending. He is our best defender by a mile. (Country mile)

Gibbs (7.5) – Looked vulnerable to Chelsea’s attack a few times, but a good game overall.

Song (6.5) – He was poor. Just like the Wigan game, gave away the ball far too often, and never really looked like a defensive midfielder.

Rosicky (7) – Subdued by Romeu and Essien, to make any impact.

Chamberlain (6.5) – Can’t fault his effort, as he is still inexperienced at this level. Rarely got out of the traps.

Ramsey (6.5) – I thought he worked hard, but nothing really worked for him. Strange.

Walcott (6.5) – Ineffective against Bertrand. Stranger.

van Persie (7.5) – Why you no score with right foot? Beats me.

Subs –

Santos (7) – Put in more pace and creativity than Chamberlain on the left.

Gervinho (6.5) – Crossing needs to improve. I have never seen him once kick a football into the air.

Diaby (6.5) – Collecting a yellow card was his only contribution to a timid game

Overall Team Rating – 7.69

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

Arsenal 1 (Arteta 86) – Manchester City 0

Man of the Match – Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)

The week of misery has finally ended. It was quite a mixed week, after QPR beat Arsenal last week, in a really drab game. However, the team has made up for it, and how. Arsenal secured their 8th win in 9 league games, as they beat title-contenders, or rather title-pretenders, Manchester City, courtesy a late goal from Mikel Arteta.

There were no surprises in the Arsenal starting lineup, as Arsene Wenger decided to drop out of sorts Aaron Ramsey, and started Israel captain Yossi Benayoun, who has been preferred for his experience, in the big games this season.

Manchester City, on the other hand, had some concerns of their own, as David Silva missed out, with a minor knee problem. This meant a rare start for, who else, $amir Ca$hri.

Arsenal had a fine start, in the opening 15 minutes, with Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky running all strings in midfield. Arsenal were mixing it all up, and making it hard for City in the centre of midfield. Rosicky thumped his shot wide. Then, Arsenal should have taken the lead through a header from van Persie, but unfortunately it hit the back of his own teammate, Thomas Vermaelen and onto the post.

However, the game soon started to get ugly. Yaya Toure was injured in a tussle with Alex Song in midfield, and the latter found himself at the receiving end of a Mario Balotelli high boot, for which the Italian should have been sent off. However, the referee probably missed the tackle.

Balotelli got to the end of a Nasri pass, but it was cleared by left back Kieran Gibbs. Nasri then played provider again, as his long ball was almost met by Balotelli, but was eventually cleared by onrushing Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. The game was being played out a frenetic pace with some exciting end to end stuff. Arsenal, clearly were way ahead of the big spending Sky Blues.

The second half started differently however, with Balotelli switching flanks from time to time, and the out of form Aguero playing a more central role up front for Manchester City. Szczesny just about managed to parry away a looping Aguero header.

Arsenal then got a few opportunities of their own. Yossi Benayoun danced his way past City’s defence, but his shot was weak. Then, Alex Song played his trademark long ball through to van Persie, however, the Dutchman’s effort only struck the post.

Then, Laurent Koscielny was booked for a foul on Barry, which means he will miss the clashes against Wolves and Wigan. Off the resulting free kick, Balotelli’s attempted overhead kick proved futile.

Then, Arsenal thought they had scored, when van Persie beat Komapny to shoot past Hart, but his effort was deemed offside. The chance of the game arrived, soon after. Walcott’s effort found the post, again. With the goal gaping at his mercy, Vermaelen made a complete hash of his shot, and Benayoun did the same, off the rebound.

However, despite City’s resolve and determination, Arsenal were not to be denied, as Arteta won the ball in midfield, and unleashed a fantastic shot past Joe Hart, to seal three vital points for Arsenal.

In injury time, Balotelli got what he should have gotten much earlier, as his poor foul on Sagna, attracted a second yellow, and marching orders.

Arsenal still had the time to double the lead, but Ramsey scuffed his shot way off target, with the goal right in front of him.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (8) – Had little to do, but did it well.

Sagna (8.5) – Bombed forward a lot today. Was helped by Balotelli hardly doing any backtracing. Sent in a horde of crosses.

Vermaelen (8) – A fine performance, after last week’s QPR debacle.

Koscielny (8) – Looked comfortable for most of the evening.

Gibbs (7.5) – Like Sagna, he bombed forward a lot too, and didn’t shun his defensive duties.

Song (8.5) – A rock in the centre of midfield today.

Rosicky (8) – Lively throughout. Made a lot of darting runs.

Arteta (8.5) – Fantastic in midfield, and scored a fine goal, too.

Benayoun (8) – Another good game by him. Deserves more chances, than what he gets.

Walcott (7.5) – Well marshalled by Clichy on the evening. His performance in the second half gradually improved though.

van Persie (8) – Seems to be going through a bad phase, ain’t he? 😉

Subs –

Santos (7) – Like the commentator rightly said he is still a liability.

Ramsey (7) – Should have scored the second goal of the match.

Chamberlain – Came on too late to get a rating.

Overall Team Rating – 7.88

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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Load of Wenger, QPR Preview + Lineups

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

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

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

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

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

Chambo on Song

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

Chambo on Arteta

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

Chambo on van Persie

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

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

AW on the captains

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

AW on the goalscorers

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

AW on overtaking Manchester City

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

AW on new deals

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

AW on favouritism

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

AW on his ban

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

AW on Manchester City

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

AW on Milan

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

AW on the summer

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

AW on Mark Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the game, wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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

 

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Haircuts, Transfer Rumours, Title Chances and Honest Assessments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a wrap for today.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in General

 

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Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa

Arsenal 3 (Gibbs 16, Walcott 25, Arteta 90) – Aston Villa 0

Man of the Match – Theo Walcott (Arsenal)

Arsenal secured their 7th consecutive win against Aston Villa, on Saturday, to create some GAP between the London clubs. The earlier kickoff between Chelsea and Sp*rs, resulted in a drab goalless draw, which really didn’t help either side, but the Gunners are now 3 clear of Sp*rs and 8 off Chelsea, as they look to seal 3rd spot.

There was concern, however, even before the game started, when Arsenal’s best defender this season, Laurent Koscielny, injured himself in the warm-up, which meant a place in the starting line-up for the calamitous Johan Djourou. Koscielny, is expected to return back to action for next week’s trip to Loftus Road, to play QPR. There was a return to the starting line up for Gervinho, as both Chamberlain and Ramsey were benched.

Villa’s team selection was a wee bit surprising, with Alex McLeish opting for Gabriel Agbolahor to partner the world’s best striker, Emile Heskey, while they slotted in 4 midfielders.

Arsenal’s defensive woes seemed to expand, when Johan Djourou took a knock off Emile Heskey. However, he soon recovered and the Gunners shifted to top gear. Arsenal had much of the ball, but Villa missed a great opportunity on the counter, when Albrighton’s effort was poor.

van Persie looked in delicious touch, when he fed Walcott, but his shot was kept out by Given, and Sagna’s rebound was poor. Soon enough, Arsenal took the lead, as Kieran Gibbs was in plenty of space in Villa’s penalty box. He shot past Given to hand Arsenal the initiative.

The second goal, came 8 minutes later, when Cuellar’s ball was intercepted by Alex Song, who played a fantastic long ball, not the first time he has done it this season, into the path of Theo Walcott. A couple of touches later, Walcott finished emphatically.

Arsenal never let the pressure die. van Persie missed, what can be called a sitter, in the form he is in, while Arteta forced a fine save from Given. Just before half-time, Villa defender Stephen Warnock managed to make a goal line clearance to prevent Arsenal from scoring the 3rd goal.

The second half was much more even, as Villa tried to get back to the game, but it was very comfortable for the Gunners. The crowd loved a bit of van Persie skill, as he teased the Villa defenders. Rosicky had two decent chances, to close out the game, but one he missed, and the other one saved.

Arsenal then bought on Brazilian Andre Santos, who returned after a lengthy injury layoff. Arsenal finally got their third in injury time, as Arteta unleashed an unstoppable freekick past Given.

Elsewhere, Liverpool lost at home to Wigan, while Manchester City’s title challenge looks to be stuttering after they could only muster a draw at Stoke, thanks to a fantastic goal from Peter Crouch.

Match Ratings-

Szczesny (7.5) – A comfortable afternoon for the Pole.

Sagna (8.5) – Some fantastic stuff from Sagna on the right flank.

Vermaelen (8.5) – A flawless display from Vermaelen, against a tricky Villa attack.

Djourou (8) – Looked like a real defender, for once.

Gibbs (8) –  The goal should do him a world of good. Looks to be coming back to his best.

Song (8.5) – A fantastic long ball capped a fine display by the Cameroonian hardman.

Rosicky (8.5) – Looked really sharp yet again. His thrusts make him look like a 18 year old.

Arteta (8.5) – Never lost the ball, once during the game, as far as I remember. And a fine freekick.

Gervinho (7.5) – Slowly building up his confidence, with some decent dribbles and an assist.

Walcott (8.5) – Constant menace to Villa’s defence. Scored a goal, when played centrally.

van Persie (7.5) – It’s not a one man team, is it, after all?

Subs –

Santos (7) – Almost conceded a silly goal, but happy to see the smiling Brazilian return.

Ramsey (7.5) – Still a few games away from regaining his spot in the first team.

Chamberlain – Came on too late to get a rating.

Overall Team Rating – 8

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in 2011-2012, Match Reviews

 

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