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Chelsea circus, Liverpool aftermath and Milan revenge

Welcome to another brilliant Monday, Gooners. It is that time of the week again, when your team has won on the weekend, and gives you that ‘on-top-of-the-world’ feeling.

Of course, it doesn’t top the feeling we had last Sunday, when we trounced Sp*rs, but certainly comparable, considering that all other results went our way elsewhere in the Premier League. Niklas Bendtner did us a bit of a favour, albeit his face-mask, as Sunderland, yes, those muggers, drew Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby. West Brom too put in a spirited display and beat a clueless Chelsea. And, though we hate Manchester United to every shred, they did us a favour by orchestrating a daylight robbery at Shit Fart Lane.

He ain't half bad, that Dane, after all!

The biggest news from the weekend, apart from the Suarez dive, and the Henderson elbow is the sacking of yet another Chelsea manager. The victim this time was Andre Villas Boas, a young manager, who was tipped to be the top manager in the continent in few years’ time. It is but one in a long list of managerial casualties at Stamford Bridge, a list which has the likes of Mourinho, Grant, Scolari, Hiddink and Ancelotti. Roman Abrahamovich certainly has done another error there.

Jose Mourinho won them their first league title in 2005, after a hiatus of 50 years, and by 2006, they had another league title. Apart from that, he also won Chelsea the League Cup twice, and the FA Cup once, and for once it seemed that the era of Manchester United domination in the Premier League had come to an end. After a 2nd placed finish in 2006-2007, and a poor start to the 2007-08 campaign, Mourinho was sacked. It seemed a very poor decision at the time, and clearly, Abrahamovich’s insistence on playing players like Andriy Shevchenko, who clearly looked out of place in the Premier League, among other decisions, cost Mourinho his job. Replacing the charismatic Portugese was a dull Israeli, Avram Grant, who took the Blues to their first Champions League Final, which they eventually lost on penalties to Manchester United, who did the double that season.

Luiz Felipe Scolari was given the boot after 7 months in charge, which is hardly enough time to judge a manager’s tenure. Hiddink replaced him, and despite a quite good reign, he wasn’t offered a permanent contract. Instead, it was offered to Carlo Ancelotti, who won the double, i.e the Premier League and the FA Cup, in his first full season. On the way to the league title, they set the record for the highest goals in a season, at 103. One season later, Ancelotti was sacked, after he failed to win anything. And, now Villas Boas has suffered the same fate.

League Managers’ Association chief executive Richard Bevan, had this to say, on the Chelsea managerial saga.

What is for sure is that, despite unlimited wealth, they haven’t worked out how to build a successful football club,Looking for his [owner Roman Abramovich’s] eighth manager in nine years is a serious embarrassment.If a club has frequent managerial changes, you will have that sort of situation,When you take over a football club, you must ensure there are clear agreed objectives and goals right from the start. You must make sure that you manage expectations from the players, everyone at the club, the fans and even the media.Players need to know the manager’s strategy and job is not in question and there is a clear remit. You get success if you have time and stability comes from that, otherwise it’s very difficult for a manager like Andre to impose his philosophy and build a team.

Anyways, enough of the circus, that is named Chelsea, for now. The hero for Arsenal, right now, Robin van Persie won the man of the match champagne bottle, but he later handed it to Wojciech Szczesny, who saved a penalty, and made made numerous other saves, to win the game. He was also full of praise for Bacary Sagna, and Alex Song, both of who assisted the goals. Moreover, the moment of the game was surely van Persie kissing Song’s boots, after the Cameroonian’s delightful assist. It was a goal akin to the one RVP scored against Everton at home.

It was the same pass from the same guy, Alex, an unbelievable pass,This one I hit with the inside of my foot, but again it was an unbelievable pass.Alex is a really good player, he can see it and actually do it. And I have to thank Szczesny as well.

Arsene Wenger and Szczesny both admitted that Liverpool deserved to win the game, and that they killed us in the first half.

There were two men of the match today, Wojciech Szczesny and van Persie.It means a lot, to score at Anfield is big because Anfield is a massive ground,I’m proud of that, but even more proud of this win. I don’t think we really deserved it to be honest because Liverpool played better.I think we are 10 points ahead of Liverpool now and we can wait to see what Spurs do tomorrow (against Manchester United). It’s a big win, a massive win.

Arsenal’s Polish goalkeeper paid tribute to the manager, as well.

He made me the No 1 goalkeeper at Arsenal at 20 years of age. That gives you a lot of confidence and I am just trying to repay that faith with every single performance.I have had my ups and down, but the manager keeps believing in me and I hope that performances like this just prove him right.

Szczesny has come a long way since his debut at Old Trafford. The moment when he patted Koscielny after he scored a rather unfortunate own goal, takes us back to the bygone era of the famous Back Four. I do think Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Santos and Szczesny have the ability to become as great as Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn and Seaman. Of course, they will take their time, and I hope they will be ready for it next season.

Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta recovered in time to leave for London, with the team bus, according to reports. It was a really nice gesture from Liverpool fans to applaud the former Everton midfielder. Arteta, later said,

I have suffered the biggest fear of my life, I only remember the fall by the blow and nothing after. It was terrifying but now I am better. Sincerely, I do not remember too much apart from the impact. I have heard people applauded me as I left the field and I am grateful for this reception.

While we are about injuries, Jack Wilshere is slated to return towards the end of the season, and hopefully in time for the European Championships. It has been a frustrating season for the young Englishman, who has seen his returning date being postponed several times. Arsene Wenger is remaining cautious in this case.

We have good news but Jack isn’t close to a ­comeback,The last scan was good and he can start to jog again so he is on the way back – but we have to be very cautious with him.I hope to have him back before the end of the season, but we go step by step.

One player who returned to action was Abou Diaby. He played about half-an-hour, replacing Arteta at Anfield, and looked lively during his time on the pitch. Unfortunately, or rather, as usual, he has suffered a setback. Another ‘tight hamstring’, means he is out of contention to play the Milan game tomorrow. Other doubts are Kieran Gibbs and Yossi Benayoun.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in no way related to Roman Abrahamovich, recently revealed in an interview that one of the proudest moments of his career, was when he was given an Arsenal shirt, with his name behind it. He told he was made an offer by Arsenal, but declined it, instead, to join Ajax, citing the reason that Arsene Wenger didn’t want him enough. Rather than buy him out right, he was offered a trial at the club, which to him was demeaning. He says he had enough trust on his ability, and that Arsenal should have made a direct offer for him. How self-obsessed can one be? I hope, sooner or later, we extract revenge from this egoistic Swede, who thinks he is better than Pele.

Finally, ahead of the Milan game, Arsene Wenger says that the Gunners will give it their all, in the second leg, despite virtually being out.

We want to make the impossible possible. From the first leg it looks impossible but we have to have a real go, play with belief and think we can do it.You never know. Maybe I will change the structure of the team to go for it and see if we can put them under pressure and score some goals.We have nothing to lose. For us to find the right balance between having to completely go forward and not concede a goal will be the difficulty for us because they have talented players.We have a lot to answer for and to respond to in the second leg. Everyone expects us to be out, but we are not yet, we are still in there.We look decimated after the game. I don’t know who will be available on Tuesday night. Maybe I will play with six strikers as we have to score goals!

Seems highly unlikely, that we will knock Milan out, but as a Gunner fan for a long time, I am highly optimistic. Of course, Milan are no Blackburn or Sp*rs, but we have to believe in the team and its abilities.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in General

 

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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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2010-2011 Season Review – Heartbreakingly Close

Well, here’s my last season review. The 2010-2011 season, another topsy-turvy season, full of memories, both good, bad and the ugly.

Arsene Wenger was, again, characteristically quiet in the transfer market. The only signings were the prolific Moroccan striker Marrouane Chamakh on a free transfer and French defenders Laurent Koscielny from Lorient and Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla for a combined fee of £12 million. Koscielny had seen a meteoric rise through French football, having played for Guingamp in Ligue 3 and Tours FC in Ligue 2, very recently.

Arsenal’s 3 most experienced defenders had left the club. William Gallas made a switch down North London with rivals Cunty Spuds, Sol Campbell moved to Newcastle and Mikael Silvestre joined German side Werder Bremen. Phillipe Senderos too made a cross-London switch to Fulham. Striker Eduardo left for Shakhthar Donetsk to play more frequent first-team football. Highly talented, but struck with a fatal injury in 2008, Eduardo was never able to reach his previous heights nor regain his old touch.

Arsenal’s first game was Liverpool at Anfield in the league, and not a Champions League qualifier, as they had finished 3rd the previous season. Chamakh and Koscielny both debuted for Arsenal and so did Joe Cole, all three of them making the headlines, the next day. While Cole got sent off for a tackle on Koscielny, Koscielny himself was on the receiving end of the ref’s marching orders. The 10 men battled and took the lead through David N’gog, and Arsenal’s patience finally paid off as Chamakh’s diverted shot was bundled home by Pepe Reina.

It’s a howler!! 

Arsenal’s intentions were clearly there to be seen as they thrashed newcomers Blackpool 6-0, Theo Walcott claiming a hat-trick. Chamakh was impressive in the opening games, creating space for midfielders to spray in balls, with his hold-up play. He scored against Blackpool as well as against Bolton in a 4-1 win.

Baptism of fire for the new boys!

Braga, like Blackpool too were hit for a 6 as a rampant Arsenal started their Champions League campaign in ruthless fashion. Fabregas and Carlos Vela both bagged a brace apiece, while Chamakh and Arshavin added to the goals.

After Blackpool, it’s Braga’s turn! 

The winning start was halted at the Stadium of Light, against Sunderland. Fabregas had scored the luckiest of goals as his shot deflected off Anton Ferdinand to lob over Mignolet. Arsenal should have won this game, but Tomas Rosicky blazed his penalty over. Darren Bent made the Gunners pay with a 95th minute equaliser.

And the following Tuesday, Cunty Spuds hosted Arsenal in the League Cup. Henri Lansbury had scored the opener in the 15th minute. Spuds fought back hard to equalise in the 49th minute, but Arsenal took stranglehold of the game as Samir Nasri converted two penalties in extra-time, and Andrey Arshavin rounded off the scoring in the 105th minute, for yet another win at Shit Fart Lane.

The local boys Lansbury, Gibbs and Wilshere! 

Days later, Arsenal were bought back down to earth by West Bromwich Albion. West Brom were clinical, while Arsenal were wasteful, as they took a 3-0 lead by 73 minutes. Two goals by Samir Nasri weren”t enough to prevent a 2-3 home loss. A 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, against Chelsea followed, with Alex scoring a scorcher. (Why does everyone reserve their best against us?)

Birmingham were beaten 2-1 at the Emirates, with goals from Chamakh and Nasri, and big-spending Manchester City were beaten in their own backyard 3-0, despite playing a makeshift defence of Squillaci and Johann Djourou, against the likes of Carlos Tevez and David Silva. Nasri and Fabregas were brilliant throughout. Shakhthar were thrashed 5-1 at the Emirates, as the Gunners made it 14 goals in just 3 Champions League games.

Newcastle were eliminated 4-0 in the League Cup, Walcott helping himself to two more. Arsenal battled hard against West Ham, before Alex Song popped up with a 88th minute winner.

1-0 to the Arsenal!!And that’s how we like it!! 

But Arsenal’s form graph had more curves than Jennifer Lopez. They lost 2-1 in Ukraine to Shakhthar Donetsk, old boy Eduardo scoring the winner, but not celebrating. And Newcastle piled misery, escaping with a 1-0 win, the was-to-be £35 million man Andy Carroll scoring the winner.

Chamakh built on his impressive form, scoring 2 against Wolves at the Molineux, one in the first minute, and the next in the very last. And more away points were secured at the Goodison in a 2-1 win.It was around this time the blasted cable operator decided to remove ESPN-Star Sports and replace it with the greatest Ranji Trophy matches between Baroda and Mumbai, with the introduction of Neo Cricket and Neo Sports. Boy, the only spectators for these games were the batting team, the TV umpires and the ground staff. What a goofball.

I was so desperate for watching the North London derby, I dialled up half the people in my contacts to find out who was getting ESPN or anyone who would be streaming the game. Finally, Prajwal Pai responded positively. After lots of waiting, I finally got to his house to discover his cable operator, too, had just removed the channels.This was turning into a nightmare. We followed the game via BBC live text. Soon, Arsenal were 2-0 up by 28 minutes and in total control. I could never imagine what was to transpire in the second half. Gareth Bale scored one in the 50th minute, before Rafael van der Vaart equalised in the 67th minute through a penalty. And we decided to stream the last 5 minutes. The first thing we saw was Younes Kaboul heading Cunty Spuds into the lead in the 86th minute. We had lost a home North London derby after ages.

Despite rare occurances, this should be made illegal!

If that was not enough, Arsenal were beaten 2-0 in Portugal by Braga, the same team that we had decimated 6-0 few days earlier, which meant a win was necessary to book progress to the next round. On this form, I would have expected Arsenal to capitulate at Villa Park, but a brilliant and much-sought win was secured. Arsenal won 4-2 and Arshavin scored a peach.

Villa dispatched! 

Jack Wilshere was brilliant all season for Arsenal Though short and lightly built, he was a wonderful schemer and acute in midfield. It was just like watching Andres Iniesta in action. How Arsenal needed a pass master. And what’s more, he was just 19. He was not one to be daunted to make or take a tackle. A legend in the making, and something that Arsenal were looking for a long time.

3 important points were chalked up Fulham were beaten  2-1 at home, which was won all thanks to the brilliance of Samir Nasri. He scored the first, dancing past Fulham’s defence. Diomansy Kamara equalised, but a flash of genius from Nasri in the 75th minute won the game. He dinked the ball past a crowded defence to slot home the winner. Partizan Belgrade, too, were beaten 3-1, as van Persie announced his return from injury by scoring a penalty.

Samir puts his dancing boots on! 

Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford for their next fixture, and third-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was called into action. The game was quite a rash affair, and Park Ji-Sung scored the only goal of the game in the 41st minute. Szczesny was called into action quite a number of times and the Pole made a good account of himself. Arsenal were now 2 points behind Manure, having played a game more.

The form graph saw an upward curve as Arsenal hosted Chelsea. The cable operator, thankfully, decided to  put ESPN for some time, and I got to watch this game. Arsenal were all over Chelsea, just like the home fans were over Cashley Cole. The Gunners dominated and were 3-0 up in 54 minutes; Song, Fabregas and Walcott helping themselves to goals. The game ended 3-1, and it seemed Arsenal were there or thereabouts in the title race.

Destroyers-in-chief! 

Sebastien Squillaci seemed to be putting himself in a long line of legendary Arsenal defenders such as Ian Ure, Gus Caesar, Igor Stepanovs, Nelson Vivas and Pascal ‘Zinedine’ Cygan as his own goal against Wigan Athletic would prove. Arsenal’s bogey team, Birmingham were beaten 3-0, with a great free-kick from Robin van Persie. I despised Birmingham City. They played crappy football and one of them injured one of us so badly, it almost ruined a promising career.  Not only did they derail us that campaign, they played a big part in this season as well.

January bought in some much needed Cup respite, as well as uneeded Cup replays. Leeds United were held to a draw by a 90th minute Fabregas penalty. It would have been a shock result, had Leeds held on, exactly a year after Leeds had ousted Manure at the same stage. Ipswich Town beat Arsenal 1-0 in a terrible game in the League Cup semi-final.

In the league, Robin van Persie was just starting a phenomenal year by warming up against West Ham, where he scored a brace and Wigan, where he hit a hat-trick. He also scored at Elland Road, in a 3-1 win, to secure passage to the next round, while Ipswich too were duly rounded 3-0 at the Emirates. Arsenal were in contention for all 4 trophies, at this stage, or were they?

Robin scores a hat-trick! 

Fabregas scored another face-saving penalty against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup, to help the Gunners avoid another replay in an already piling fixture list, while Koscielny headed in a priceless 75th minute header against Everton to secure 3 points for the Gunners.

Another one of those penalties! 

The game of the season, the game of the century. Call it what you may, for me it was the most dreadful match any Gunner could have endured. Arsenal were rampant in the first half, and raced to a 4-0 lead in the 26th minute, van Persie scoring 2. It looked like Arsenal could run a cricket score here. Then, everything started going haywire. Abou Diaby and Joey Barton got involced in a scuffle, for which the former was sent off for lashing out at latter. The latter then scored a penalty some time later. It was 4-1. Surely, 3 goals were too much to ask for a team who had sold off their prized asset. Two minutes later, Kevin Nolan scored, and Leon Best’s goal made it 4-3 with 15 minutes to go. Just when it seemed Arsenal would see off all this Newcastle pressure, some bloke called Cheik Tiote fired in the ball from planet Pluto, and BAM, it was 4-4 in no time. Arsenal had missed a glorious opportunity to go 2 points behind leaders Manure. (Seriously, why do they reserve their best for Arsenal?)

That goal! 😦

The game of the season was actually played 11 days later at the Emirates. Arsenal had again drawn Barcelona, this time in the knockout stage. Barcelona were reigning supreme in the world of football. None of the games they played, they had less than 70% possession. In Lionel Messi, they had the world’s best player, in Xavi and Iniesta, two gnome-sized superhumans, and in David Villa, one of the most lethal strikers in Europe. In defence, they boasted the likes of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, who were the World-Cup winning defence, and a steady goalkeeper in Victor Valdes. All in all, they had the team that Planet Earth would put out, would there be an intergalactic football tournament. Moreover, they were bristling with confidence. They had won 16 games on the bounce in La Liga, and 4 days before the Arsenal tie, they had shockingly drawn Sporting Gijon.

And Arsenal?Well, they were the only team on the planet that would throw away leads of 4-0 and end up drawing the match. They were without their best defender Thomas Vermaelen. But there was more to it. Arsenal had guts. They were never fazed by better opposition, like the 05-06 European run would show, where a second string side beat the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal. Were Barcelona next in line?

They may be good, they may be great; but they can never beat our strongest, 11 on 11!

I had been waiting for the game in excitement ever since the draw was made. It was a very tense affair from the start as both teams were trying to get the better of the other. Both had very similar styles of play, trying to keep maximum possession of the ball. One certain man who stood out, was Arsenal’s own gnome-sized midfielder, the immensely talented Jack Wilshere. Up against a formidable midfield of Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets, Arsenal’s trio of Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshere were holding their own in an enthralling combat. Both teams created a flurry of chances. Arsenal’s fantastic start in the opening minutes was soon countered by Barca’s ability to keep the ball. Messi sent Villa through and he obliged with the opening goal of the match. I am sure all Gooners around the world were thinking ‘Here we go again’. But there was no stopping Arsenal. They kept probing Barca’s defence, even as Messi was guilty of closing out the tie. When it seemed it would end 1-0, Robin van Persie found himself facing Valdes in the narrowest of angles, and he let in a shot past him, that Valdes would have rued missing. The stadium erupted as the scoreboard read Arsenal 1 Barcelona 1. And 7 minutes later, Nasri was through on the right flank. He waited as van Persie and Arshavin entered play. Nasri sent the ball through to Arshavin, who precisely slotted home the goal of his life. Arsenal had just done the impossible, beating FC Barcelona fair and square. Absolute pandemonium erupted around the Emirates. Dani Alves had a chance later on, but somehow was kept out. As the final whistle blew, there was unparalleled joy. I was jumping around the living room. That was one unforgettable game of football.

Yes, that was cheeky Robin 

It’s that Russian again!!! 

Barca f*cked! 

From the heights of beating Barcelona in the biggest stage of all, Arsenal travelled down London, to Brisbane Road, to play lower league Leyton Orient in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. Tomas Rosicky’s strike seemed to have settled matters, before Orient equalized in the dying moments of the game, to force another replay. Beating Barcelona one moment and drawing Leyton Orient the next. Being an Arsenal fan is not for the faint-hearted.

Having gone 6 seasons without a trophy, the Carling Cup final against Birmingham at Wembley seemed the perfect setting to win silverware. Arsenal were without Fabregas and Walcott, who had been injured in a 1-0 win over Stoke Rugby team 3 days prior. I was with great expectation, to see Arsenal finally get their hands of the cup. Nikola Zigic, a giant of a striker headed Birmingham into the lead. But, Arsenal’s pressure finally told as Robin van Persie equalized, injuring him in the process, though he continued to play. Ben Foster became the  goalkeeper for ‘Team Earth’ for a day as he kept out all of Arsenal’s shots, from Nasri, Arshavin, van Persie and Bendtner. In the 89th minute, calamity. Szczesny seemed to be taking control of the ball, as Koscielny waited for him to retrieve it. But, for some reason, he didn’t. The ball rolled to Obafemi Martins, in front of an empty net. He obliged and tapped home the winner. It was too late for the Gunners to muster a response and Birmingham had snatched the cup from Arsenal. I just couldn’t speak after the game, I was so distraught. As Wilshere and Co. climbed the steps to take their runners-up medals, I just wondered what would have been.

More cup-final heatbreak! 😦

Days later, Arsenal responded with a 5-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient. Bendtner got a hat-trick. But the biggest test was to hold on to a 2-1 lead against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Arsenal defended resolutely throughout the first half, but all hard work was undone as Lionel Messi made most of a Fabregas mistake to slot past Almunia. The score was 2-2 on aggregate, but the Catalans would go though on away goals. Barca were rampant in the first half, creating chance after chance. Arsenal could hardly get the ball past the halfway line. But, Samir Nasri’s corner was deflected in by Sergio Busquets for an own goal, and it seemed Arsenal would wriggle through somehow. It was completely against the run of play and undeserved. But no Gunner cared. But, from there, it all spiraled down. One of the most horrendous decisions by a ref, saw Robin van Persie being sent off. He was in an offside position when the referee blew, and kicked the ball 0.95 seconds after the whistle. Plus, the noise of over 90,000 fans in the stadium. The referee sent him off. It seemed like Barca had the ref’s favoring them again. There was no stopping them after that. Xavi scored soon after that and Messi converted a spot-kick to send Barca through. Jack Wilshere sent Niklas Bendtner through, in the dying moments, and had he scored, Arsenal would have gone through. But, I am pretty sure, every Arsenal fan in the world knew he wouldn’t. He didn’t. It ended Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal.

The worst decision in the history of the sport! 😦

It’s over, at the Nou Camp, again! 😦

4 days later, Arsenal faced another mountain to climb. Manchester United away in the 6th round of the FA Cup. Arsenal enjoyed lion’s share of the possession, but Fabio’s goal in the 28th and Rooney’s in the 49th meant Arsenal were knocked out of their third competition in 2 weeks. The season was deteriorating and fast.

More misery in the cup! 😦

And again, the Premier League was the last frontier of possible silverware. West Brom, who had already beaten the Gunners were 2-0 up at the Hawthorns, and an exit from a 4th competition in the space of 25 days seemed imminent. Andrey Arshavin rose to the occasion and let in a brilliant goal, before van Persie wriggled the ball past the goal-line. Blackburn held the Gunners to a goalless draw at the Emirates, to leave Arsenal 7 points off the pace, with a game in hand.

Jens Lehmann was the answer to Arsenal’s goalkeeping injury woes, as he made a return against Blackpool in the league. Arsenal won 3-1 to keep the gap the same, with a game against United still to come. The game in hand was against Liverpool, who visited the Emirates next. There was talk about Liverpool letting the Gunners win, as that was the only way they could prevent United from reaching the 19th title, and breaking Liverpool’s record of 18. Jamie Carragher suffered an injury, and it resulted in treatment on the pitch for nearly 8 minutes. I was on a return journey from Bangalore and was depending on my friends’ text updates for live scores. When the 90th minute came, with the game still goalless, I knew it was all over. But then, I got the news that van Persie had converted a 98th minute penalty to hand Arsenal the lead in a must-win game. I didn’t bother touching my cell for the next 10 minutes or so. I was so confident that there was no coming back for Liverpool after this. The next thing I saw on my cell was Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool. Dirk Kuyt had scored a penalty in the 102nd minute. It struck me, Arsenal had no luck.

Kuyt strikes home Manure’s 19th title!

An exciting North London derby was up next. Both teams were treating it like a dead rubber and a fun tie. But, it was end-to-end stuff, with the game ending 3-3. Tottenham could have added to Arsenal’s misery, but Szczesny’s safe pair of hands denied them the chance. Instead, it went to Bolton Wanderers. Tamir Cohen’s 90th minute header effectively ended the title challenge. Arsenal were now 9 points off the pace, with 4 games to go.

That’s that..

Aaron Ramsey scored the only goal against Manchester United, as Arsenal closed the gap for Chelsea to 3 points, giving them hope, if not us, to win the league. Alas, for Liverpool, Manchester United went on to win their 19th title as Arsenal’s fans endured 2 more defeats; away to Stoke and home to Aston Villa.

Finally something to smile about 

Only a 89th minute Walcott goal avoided a 3rd straight end of the season run of losses against Fulham. Arsenal slipped to 4th, below Manchester City.

From being genuine contenders in 4 competitions at one stage, to the agony of getting knocked out of all in quick succession was a bitter pill to follow.

But, our time will come. It has to. I believe in the Arsenal. C’Mon you Gooners!!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – 6th Round

Carling Cup – Runners-Up

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (22 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2009-2010 Season Review – More Unfinished Business

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

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

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

Big Belgian, Little Belgian!! 

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

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

Arshavin scores a belter!!

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

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

The comeback is complete!! 

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

A centre forward in disguise!

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

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

Spuds drubbed again!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramsey’s horrific injury..

The team celebrate a resurgent win!! 

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

Bendtner and Nasri, brilliant against Porto!! 

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

Bendtner’s 90th minute goal!! 

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

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

El Capitan wins and scores the equaliser! Legend!

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

Bendtner to the rescue again!!

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

A Messi masterclass! 😦

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

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

Dejection! 😦

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

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

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

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 4th Round

Carling Cup – 5th Round

Champions League – Quarter Finals

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

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2007-2008 Season Review – So close, yet so far again

23 June. I still remember the date. I had just returned home, and was logging on to BBC, to check the latest headlines, and was met with the worst headline, Gooners around the world could hear.The headline said, Arsenal star Thierry Henry joins Barcelona. It was a really sad moment for all Gooners, as Arsenal’s French talisman had left for Catalonia after 8 years stellar service for the club, scoring 226 goals and providing 92 assists. He was not only a spectacular goal-poacher, but his vast array of skills had made him the finest Premier League players of his time. More on him later.

Another player who left Arsenal, was the Swede Freddie Ljungberg, to West Ham, whose transfer was less talked about after the Henry saga. Ljungberg also had been a fine player, and had adorned the Arsenal crest on his chest for 9 years, scoring 73 goals.

LEGENDS

Anyways, now that the long protracted transfer saga of Thierry Henry had done, Arsenal had the 2007-2008 season to look forward to. Arsenal had come inches close to winning the Carling Cup, the previous campaign, and surely the young guns had loads to look forward to.

Arsene Wenger was,. characteristically quiet in the transfer market. His only major signings were Croatian striker, Eduardo da Silva; and the French duo of Bacary Sagna and Lassana Diarra. Eduardo had a big reputation in Croatia, where the Brazilian-born player had netted 73 goals in 104 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb. William Gallas was made Arsenal captain.

Post-Henry Arsenal had started their campaign against Fulham, at home. The game, as I remember was increasingly frustrating as Arsenal created bucketloads of chances, but trailed Fulham 1-0 for most part of the game, after David Healy’s goal. Hleb found himself free in the box, in the 93rd minute, and he scored, to hand Arsenal a winning start.

Arsenal had safely negotiated through the Champions League qualifiers against Czech outfit Sparta Prague, and only a 81st minute screamer from Cesc Fabregas gave the Gunners all points against Manchester City, after Schmeichel junior had saved a Robin van Persie spot kick. Arsenal then went on a rampage of wins, beating Portsmouth 3-1 at home. Next up, the North London Derby at Shit Fart Lane. A certain young Welshman, Gareth Bale, had scored an exquisite free kick to hand Spurs the lead and false hopes of getting the better of their more accomplished neighbors. Dimitar Gergatov, yes, that’s his stupid Bulgarian name; had the chance of his life, when he went clear, only for a brilliant Kolo Toure, with a last ditch tackle. Arsenal missed many chances, hitting the bar and skying their efforts or being saved by an in-form Paul Robinson. Emmanuel Adebayor equalised through a header, while Gergatov then had another attempt cleared off the line by Gael Clichy.  And minutes later, Fabregas got the ball from half a kilometre out, I guess; and let in a dynamite. Absolute dynamite.  The action was getting frantic, as Darren Bent missed a sitter, which Harry Redknapp’s missus would have scored.  And, in the 90th, the Gunners sealed all points as Adebayor scored a peach, to leave Shit Fart lane as silent as, yes, a fart.

Absolute Dynamite

Oozing with confidence, Arsenal brushed aside Derby County 5-0, and then beat Juande Ramos’ Seville 3-0, Newcastle 2-0 in the League Cup, West Ham and Steaua Bucharest; both away 1-0, thanks to solitary van Persie strikes, and finally Sunderland and Bolton 2-0 and 3-2 respectively.

That’s a netbuster

Fabregas was in brilliant form, contributing with 7 goals from midfield, and Arsenal were sitting pretty at the top, come October. And they were taking plaudits in Europe, after thrashing Slavia Prague 7-0 at the Emirates Stadium. The commentator’s exact words after Fabregas scored the 6th goal was “This is perfect football!! Arsenal are playing the heavenly game!!”

The scoreboard paints the picture

The brilliant run continued, as Fabregas scored a 80th minute equaliser at Anfield. Manchester United were next in the Premier League, and again I was watching the game with Suraj Sathyanarayan. Wayne Rooney scored again at the Emirates, just before half time. And Fabregas had equalised for Arsenal, before Ronaldo looked to have scored the winner in the 82nd minute. Arsenal made a barrage of attacks, before William Gallas’ chance goal, in the 94th minute or something, made it 2-2. I can still remember Fabregas screaming into Ferdinand’s ears after the equaliser!!

Gallas pokes the ball home

Arsenal’s incredible run of 28 games unbeaten in all competitions was finally halted in Spain, as Seville beat Arsenal 3-1. While Fabregas was clearly running the show, there was another unsung hero in the team, who goes by the name Matheiu Flamini. He was immense all season, and provided the perfect foil for Fabregas to go ahead and perform his playmaker role to perfection. After his near error-free season, Flamini inexplicably decided to leave for AC Milan.

Flamini and Fabregas

Another player to step up to the plate, was Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker, was turning out out be a goal machine. He contributed 30 goals in all competitions that season, and scored many spectacular ones in the process. He was later to change his surname from Adebayor to Greedybayor.

He was pretty good too

Arsenal managed to hold on to top spot,even though they could only muster a point out of their travels to the North East, to face Newcastle and Middlesbrough. However, the Gunners bounced back as William Gallas’ solitary strike was enough to see of a largely dissapointing Chelsea.

Cech is bewildered as Gallas scores

A very young Arsenal side made the trip to Blackburn in the Carling Cup, with the oldest player being Eduardo, aged 24. The young guns, down to 10 men, emerged 3-2 winners on a chilly night, in extra time, thanks to the goal from their oldest player. And more plaudits were heaped upon the young team, as they won the North London derby, 3 days before Christmas 2-1, after Nicklas Bendtner’s goal, 2 fucking seconds after he came on as a sub!!

Bendtner beats Spuds and gravity to score!

1-0 down at half-time at Goodison, Eduardo turned the game on it’s head as his craft delivered two brilliant goals, before 3 points were sealed with a 4-1 triumph.

Spuds finally got a win over their North London rivals after nearly 9 years, as they beat a disjointed Arsenal 5-1 in the League Cup semifinals. Arsenal were really poor that night (You have to be, if you are losing to Spurs) and also there was an on-pitch scuffle between Adebayor and Bendtner, which was quickly quelled, but it was a worrying sign that the Gunners were self-destructing after a magnificent campaign, so far.

Soon, that was put aside, as Arsenal beat Newcastle 3-0 twice in 4 days, and then a brilliant Eduardo goal sealed points at Eastlands, before Arsenal took full advantage of their game in hand, as a late Adebayor goal against Blackburn put the North Londoners 5 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester United. I watched the last 10 minutes of the game, and the tension around the Emirates was palpable. When Adebayor scored, I had this feeling that the Premier League was coming to North London. How wrong was I?

A week later, Arsenal failed to turn up at Old Trafford. Injuries seemed to have mounted, as a significantly weak Arsenal side succumbed to a 4-0 loss, and down to 10 men as the ever-stupid Eboue was sent off for a cynical challenge. The season changing game a week later, after a goalless draw against Kaka’s AC Milan, at St. Andrews. In the 8th minute of the game, a certain fucking cunt, named Martin Taylor, who himself was an untalented twat, made a horrendous challenge on Arsenal’s immensely talented Brazilian-Croat, which broke the latters leg.It was an unreal moment. Watching on TV, I certainly didn’t know the extension of the injury. All I knew, was that,it was something horribly gone wrong,if Adebayor’s. Hleb’s and Fabregas’ expressions were anything to go by. Eduardo was stretchered off and that was that. Birmingham capitalized on Arsenal’s mental frailty, as a James McFadden free-kick put them ahead, before a Walcott brace pulled back the Gunners level in the second half. As it seemed that Arsenal would leave the Midlands with 3 vital points, came the decisive moment of Arsenal’s season. Gael Clichy made an inexplicable mistake as he allowed Stuart Parnaby to run into the penalty box, when he failed to clear the ball. He caught him on the run, and it was a penalty, duly crashed home by McFadden, the last kick of the game. William Gallas sat on the half-way circle, as a protest. It all seemed too rosy till now, but in fact it was all spiralling downwards.

Eduardo’s horrific injury

AC Milan was conquered at the San Siro, as Arsenal became the first English to beat Milan in their formidable backyard. A brilliant performance by the Gunners, against one of the best teams in the world, was rewarded in the 84th minute, as Fabregas’ brilliant long range effort, proving to be the icebreaker. Theo Walcott’s darting run was then tapped in by Emmanuel Adebayor, as Arsenal enjoyed a famous win under the lights in Italy.Joy was unparalleled and relief was long-coming.

Milan conquered

But, that signalled a downfall, as Arsenal could secure only 3 points in their next 4 games in the Premier League. A 94th minute equaliser from Bendtner, and a 86th minute one from Toure, rescued 2 points for Arsenal against Villa and Boro, at home, and then they were beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. The moment, where I lost all hope was against Bolton at the Reebok. Arsenal simply had to win this one to stay in the hunt, and 2-0 down at Half-time, to a brace from Matthew Taylor, and down to 10 men, after Diaby got sent off, was hardly the script. I switched off the TV in disgust, and went to sleep. But, I regret that decision, to this day. Arsenal sparked a second half comeback mission. Gallas got one back, before van Persie equalised in deteriorating conditions at The Reebok, under the rain. And,an unprecedented winner came in the 90th minute, as the 10 men brilliantly battled, with all odds stacked up against them. Arsenal were still in the title race.

Fab celebrates an amazing turnaround

Arsenal then had to face Liverpool thrice in a week, and it started off with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the first leg of the Champions League quarters. Arsenal had a clear penalty shout, when Dirk Kuyt bought down Alexander Hleb, but the referee waved play-on. It was a clear indicator as to how even luck had deserted us in the decisive moments of the season. Arsenal struggled to a 1-1 draw on the weekend in the Premier League, and the gap widened at the top of the table.Arsenal’s dreams were on the line at Anfield. In a pulsating game. Arsenal took the lead as Diaby poked one past Reina in the 13th. Sami Hyppia soon equalised, and a brilliant Fernando Torres goal in the 69th put the Reds ahead. All seemed over, before Theo Walcott came on. A corner was cleared, and Walcott made a pacy waltz through the Reds’ defence, running the length of the pitch, to give a perfect pass to Adebayor to drive home. It was 2-2, and Arsenal were in the drivers’ seat now, on away goals. Alas, it was not to be. After being denied a penalty a week earlier,Arsenal conceded one in the 86th. Ryan Babel dived for a nomination for the Oscars, after minimal contact from Toure. Steven Gerrard scored, and Babel sealed the win when Arsenal put everything forward, in search for an equaliser. Arsenal’s luck had run out, as their European dreams were ended by poor refereeing, on a hard night in Anfield.

How could this not be a penalty?

It’s all over in Europe

And the watershed moment, came at Old Trafford, few days later. Arsenal, by now were 6 points behind United, and only a win here would keep them on United’s back. A loss would signal an end to Premier League hopes, as a 9 point deficit would be impossible to overcome, with only 4 games to go. I was in delirium when Adebayor’s chance effort handed Arsenal the lead, but 6 minues later Gallas was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area. Ronaldo stepped up and scored. Arsenal’s fate was sealed, as an Owen Hargreaves free kick meant 3 points to United. I vividly remember that moment. As United were lining it up, I knew this was it. It is one of the worst feelings in the world, for a football fan. Lehmann didn’t even move to save it, and was beaten completely. Just weeks earlier, we had beaten AC Milan at the San Siro, and were 5 points ahead in the Premier League. And now, we were out of both competitions, and we had no one to blame.

And in the league

12 points were derived from 4 dead-rubber Premier League games. There was a sense of failure in all Arsenal players in all of the games, even though they won. There were no animated celebrations, even after a 6-2 thumping of Derby. It had been a long hard season, and a much-deserved trophy had eluded them throughout.

Living through a teams ups and downs is part of a football fans’ life. The 2007-2008 season was an epic season for me, and for Gunners’ fans across the globe.The team had lit our lives and provided many heart-stopping moments, both joyous and sad. However, my unflinching loyalties towards them were only strengthened.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Semi Finals

Champions League – Quarter Finals

Top Scorer – Emmanuel Adebayor (30 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2006-2007 Season Review – Dawn of a new era

New stadium. New outlook. And a new whole beginning for Arsenal Football Club, as they entered the 2006-2007 season, as they made the switch down the road from their spiritual home, Highbury, their home for 93 years; to the new state-of-the-art 60,000 seater modern arena Ashburton Grove aka The Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal had narrowly missed out on being the first London club to lift the Champions League trophy by 13 men from Barcelona. Well, as if 13 weren’t enough, the Catalans had relentlessly pursued Arsenal’s demigod striker Thierry Henry, over a period of 2 seasons; and Arsenal’s incapability to beat Barcelona in the final had just heightened speculation over the transfer. However,finally came in the news that Thierry Henry had decided to stay at Arsenal as he signed a contract extension.

Meanwhile, Arsenal were in the thick of transfer activity, as Robert Pires, left for Villarreal; where he got what he wanted, a 2 year deal. And finally, Villarreal came to Arsenal’s rescue as they signed the legendary Pascal Cygan for a whopping £2 million. Jose Antonio Reyes, who had seen a decline in form, joined Real Madrid, in a straight loan swap with Julio Baptista. Sol Campbell, left on a free to Portsmouth after 195 appearances for Arsenal. And the summers longest transfer saga saw Cashley Cole, who under Arsenal had transformed to being the world’s best left-back, move to Roman Abrahamovich FC, for the sake of wads of money; in a deal that saw William Gallas joining the Gunners.

Arsenal’s first game at the Emirates was a testimonial game. A game, which was a tribute to one of the most talented footballers the Premier League has seen, i.e Dennis Bergkamp. Bergkamp had joined the Gunners for £7.5 million from Inter Milan, where he had an uninspiring time, and had turned out to be one of the greatest foreign players to grace the English game. More on that, in another blog post.

There’s only one Dennis Bergkamp!

Anyways, Arsenal had won their first fixture 2-1, courtesy to goals from Henry and Kanu, in a match graced by legends of both his former clubs, Ajax and Arsenal, such as Cruyff, van Basten, Seaman, Dixon, Wright, Vieira etc.

Thanks to their last-minute grab of 4th place from cunty Spurs, Arsenal had the opportunity to play in the Champions League, and faced Dinamo Zagreb in the Qualifying Round. Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners in the away tie, in a game where new signing Tomas Rosicky, who had joined from Borussia Dortmund, made his debut. The first competitive game for Arsenal at their new stadium was a league game against Aston Villa. I still remember, waiting in eagerness for the fixture, to catch a glimpse of the stadium.

Arsenal seemed to be playing like an away side that afternoon, and clearly needed time to get adapted to new surroundings, even though the crowd were quite vocal that afternoon. Olof Mellberg, of all people, had the honor of scoring the first goal at the Emirates.  Arsenal threw on 17 year old youngster Theo Walcott, in search of the equaliser, which eventually was scored by Gilberto.

It’s GILBEERTTOO!!!

Passage to the group stages of the Champions League was secured with a 2-1 win over Dinamo, in the first floodlit and European game at the Emirates. Arsenal were still stuttering in the league 2 weeks later, as a loss away to Manchester City and a home draw to Middlesbrough saw them pick up just 2 points from 3 games. A hard-fought 2-1 win in Hamburg, where Rosicky scored a screamer, was the perfect lift Arsenal needed ahead of a visit to Old Trafford.

It’s ROOSSISSSKKKYYY!!!

An uphill task was in store, as Arsenal were without talisman Thierry Henry for the game. Undaunted, Arsenal took the game to United. I remember watching the game with a couple of United upstarts, Suraj Sathyanarayan and Jaidev. In an almost uneventful first half, Arsenal should’ve taken the lead when Gilberto slipped and his penalty was saved by Kusczak.  Anyways, as both teams pressed for a winner in the second half, United almost had the lead, when Ronaldo’s fierce shot was smashed right bang into the face of Jens Lehmann. Ouch!!That must’ve hurt. And, finally in the 86th minute, Arsenal got their deserved winner when Fabregas played a killer pass to Emmanuel Adebayor, who poked his long leg to slot the ball past the keeper!  I remember the glum faces of my fellow game-watchers, and it gives immense pleasure to a Gooner to watch sulking Manure fans.

Lehmann takes one on the face!!

It’s AADDEEEBBAAAYYOOORR!!!

“Hey Fab, did you see the look on Fergusmoan??”

Off the bounce of the inspiring victory against Fergusmoan’s men, Arsenal picked up victories against Sheffield United;which incidentally was their first league win at the Emirates; Porto, Charlton; where van Persie showed his ‘Robin’ instincts with an airbourne screamer; and Watford.

“It’s Superman!!It’s Batman!! No, you idiots!!It’s Robin!!

A disappointing loss in Moscow was followed by a class display at Reading, in a 4-0 win. However, league form dipped, and Arsenal fell 10 points off the pace after drawing 1-1 at Everton and losing to West Ham, to a solitary goal by Marlon Harewood, which sparked a sideline battle between Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew.

Wenger and Pardew go for it!!

Arsenal’s topsy-turvy form continued as another late Adebayor strike, this time at Goodison, ensured passage to the next round of the Carling Cup, while a 3-0 beating of Liverpool, pushed us to the third spot. Liverpool failed to turn up in the game, which was won by the defensive pairing of Gallas and Toure.

Further 1-1 frustration against Newcastle at home, was compounded by losses, away to Bolton and Fulham. Reebok was one of the worst grounds in the Premier League, to play in the evening. The lighting was so dull, and the crowd was crap. Even Glossop FC have a more vocal home support. And moreover, Bolton was aided by Mike Dean, who simply refused to acknowledge Bolton’s physicality. There were loads of elbows, high tackles, dives from Bolton, and Arsenal had to suffer at the ends of a partial referee. To add to it, ‘The Incredible Sulk’ Nicolas Anelka, who had left behind a promising career at Arsenal, to virtually become an European nomad, scored and celebrated with his stupid butterfly celebration.

The first North London derby at the Emirates was a perfect way to peg back some form, as Gilberto’s twin penalties propelled Arsenal to a 3-0 win over a dismal Spurs side. (When were they good anyways? ) And a trip down London, was nearly fruitful, when Mathieu Flamini had scored in the 79th to hand Arsenal the lead, only for Michael Essien’s shot from planet Mars, to steal it away in stoppage time.

The kings of North London!!

A 6-2 thumping of Blackburn and a 2-1 win away at Watford kept Arsenal at 3rd spot, before Cristian Nade’s goal (this time from planet Jupiter )at Sheffield United, in a 1-0 loss, meant Arsenal dropped to 5th.

Then came a resurgent run from the Gunners. Post a 4-0 win over Charlton in the league, Arsenal faced a domestic cup double header against Liverpool, both at Anfield. The FA Cup tie was first up, and thanks to the stupid broadcasters preferred showing Manure play Aston Villa (everyone knew the result beforehand); I had to wait till next morning to know the result.  But, at the end of it, the wait was worth it. Tomas Rosicky’s brace, both goals top-notch, secured a 3-1 win.

Get in there, my son!!And stay stuck!!

3 days later, a young very Gunners side, comprising of 6 teenagers, inflicted further humiliation on Liverpool, as they ran out 6-3 winners. Again, I missed this game, thanks to the cable operator, who refused to put the channel.  ‘The Beast’ Julio Baptista, scored 4, and interestingly, could have scored 5, had he not missed a penalty!  Jeremie Aliadiere, was brilliant that evening, and in the mix in all the goals!!

Aliadere, Baptista, and the great Anfield job!! 

The scoreboard tells the story!!

Aliadiere was kind of a strange footballer. He had spent a good part of the 8 years playing for the reserves, since joining when he was a 16 year old. When he did play, he was very unpredictable. At times, he would play like a seasoned centre-forward, like in the game against Liverpool; or would cut a lonely figure, totally out of place. He soon would leave for Middlesbrough, and I haven’t followed his career since.

The amazing run of form continued with a 2-0 win at Ewood Park, Henry scoring a brilliant goal, after sprinting half the length of the ground. Manchester United, up next, at the Emirates; and the Red Devils were supremely sitting at the top of the table; 6 points clear of second placed Chelsea, and 15 ahead of Arsenal. Wayne Rooney gave United the lead, and they looked to be coasting for victory, before van Persie equalised with a shot to the far-post from a narrow angle. Pandemonium erupted in the stands, as Arsenal pressed for a winner. And, they did get it as Henry rose above the United defence, to head home a perfect Eboue cross.

It’s Robin again!!

Henry and Wenger!!

Arsenal’s cup fixtures were piling up as they had drawn the Bolton Wrestling team in the FA Cup, and Spuds in the Carling semi’s. Arsenal snatched draws in both, Toure scoring in the 83rd against Bolton; and Baptista making up for his earlier own goal, to snatch a brace, at Shit Fart Lane.  Both second legs ended positively for Arsenal, who needed extra time in both games to progress.

Meanwhile, Arsenal required a late Henry equaliser at The Riverside. Who would have thought it would be his last in an Arsenal shirt?  Wigan proved to be frustrating opposition, as they scored a screamer through Dutch international Denny Landzaat, and wasted nearly the rest of the match wasting time, thanks to their keeper Chris Kirkland. Arsenal showed desperation, and were rewarded with two late goals, to steal a 2-1 win under Kirkland’s nose.

February 25, 2007. Millennium Stadium. Chelsea vs Arsenal. League Cup Final. Let me correct you. It was Chelsea’s team of handsomely paid (and paid for) stars vs Arsenal’s Youth team. The Gunners had started with 5 teenagers, including a 17 year old Theo Walcott, destined for great things. Add to that, Fabregas, Aliadiere and Senderos, Arsenal were literally playing a very very young team. Chelshit, on the other hand, had the ‘£30 million flop in the box’ Andriy Shevchenko and German captain Michael Ballack, their summer signings. Plus, vastly experienced internationals such as Lampard, Carvalho,Terry, Drogba, Makelele, Cech and Essien. There was certainly no stage fright, as the Gunners got on to a rocking start, finding their passing feet in the early minutes. Soon, Abou Diaby played a through-ball to Theo Walcott, and BAM!! The youngster from the South Coast announced his arrival on the big stage as he placed the ball into the top corner to fire Arsenal into the lead. However, the billionaires soon equalised through Drogba. Overall, Arsenal were brilliant throughout the game and looked to be most likely to score, in comparison to their accomplished opposition. And soon, inexperience told as Drogba snatched a 2nd goal in the 84th minute, to leave the Gunners heartbroken.  I was as proud of Arsenal that evening, as proud can one be, after a gallant display of guts and talent from Arsenal.

Walcott fires past Cech!!

“We were crap before Russian moneybags (chorus)!!”

Next few games were tough for Arsenal, as they were knocked out of the FA Cup to a 87th minute winner from Benni McCarthy. A week later, they were out of the Champions League as well, as Alex, who would later join Chavski, scored a 83rd minute equaliser at the Emirates, to earn PSV Eindhoven a 2-1 aggregate victory. More last minute heartbreak at Merseyside followed as Everton dealt a 91st minute blow, with Andy Johnson the culprit. And Liverpool completed Merseyside formalities with a 4-1 crushing at Anfield, Peter Crouch scoring a perfect strikers hat-trick.  West Ham heaped frustration as they scraped a 1-0 win at the Emirates. Rob Green was made of concrete, that particular afternoon, as he emerged with a clean sheet, despite 29 shots on target from Arsenal.

Pride and a 4th place finish was all Arsenal had to play for, and they rounded the job, with 3 wins and 4 draws in the last 7 games of the season, comprising of more late drama; this time at Shit Hart Lane, as Jermaine Jenas equalised in the 95th minute. Gulp!  Also, Arsenal denied Chelsea a hat-trick of Premier League titles, as they held the Blues to a 1-1 draw, and sending the trophy to Old Trafford, after 4 years.

Thus ended Arsenal’s eventful first season at the Emirates. It was a season where Arsenal’s young guns heralded the dawn of a new era in the club’s history, by providing some memorable moments. All that eluded was a trophy.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Runners Up

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (13 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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