Monthly Archives: October 2011
This is a special blog post that comes at the tail end of every month or the start of the next month. It’s a culture I’ve developed where I engage my readers in an interactive voting session for them to place their votes for those special moments October as a month had to offer.
The month of October has been a jolly good month for Arsene Wenger and his men because it can be regarded as Arsenal’s month of resurgence. The club is currently on a streak that has seen them win eight of their last nine matches and Arsenal won five in the six games that were played in the month of October.
Save of the Month
Just like last month, Lukasz Fabianski only featured in the Carling Cup tie against Bolton while Wojciech Szczesny had a run that saw him concede seven goals in the five games he kept for Arsenal. However, there were some saves both goalies made that stood out in the month of October.
Feel free to vote in the section that you feel was the best.
The nominations are Szczesny’s save from Frank Lampard’s free kick when Arsenal played Chelsea in Stamford Bridge, Szczesny’s save from Lee Cattermole’s close ranger when Arsenal played Sunderland at the Emirates and Fabianski’s save from Gael Kakuta’s free kick when Arsenal played Bolton.
Assist of the Month
The attacking play of Arsenal was much improved in the month of October because some members of the team did well to create 14 assists that were dispatched goalwards by the forwards. There were three assists that caught the eye in October.
They are Johan Djourou’s cross for Aaron Ramsey when Arsenal played Olympique Marseille, Gervinho’s pass for Robin van Persie when Arsenal played Stoke and Aaron Ramsey’s pass for Gervinho in the same game.
Goal of the Month
Arsenal smashed in 14 goals in the month of October and there was a player that had a large chunk of those goals. Robin van Persie scored half (seven) of the goals for the month of October while Aaron Ramsey scored two. Gervinho, Andrey Arshavin, Park Ju-Young, Andre Santos and Theo Walcott had to settle for one goal apiece.
Three goals were the pick of the bunch from the 14 scored this month and the nominations are Robin van Persie’s third goal against Chelsea, Park Ju-Young’s curling effort against Bolton and Robin van Persie’s free kick against Sunderland.
Match of the Month
Arsenal played six matches in the month of October and they were victorious in five games. However, there were three matches that left gooners with very fond memories in October and the nominations are Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Stoke, Arsenal’s late 1-0 win over Olympique Marseille and Arsenal’s incredible 5-3 victory over rivals Chelsea.
Worst match of the Month
In a very happy month for Arsenal, there was a game that stood out as the worst match and it’s more or less a unanimous decision because no other match was as horrible as it. The Gunners were sloppy in the match and Bacary Sagna fractured his leg in the same game.
Tottenham’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal was the only game that was regarded as Arsenal’s worst match this month.
Most Improved Player
A lot of players featured for Arsene Wenger in the month of October but there were three Gunners that performed in an improved manner. The nominees for this award were Andre Santos, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.
Most Disappointing Player
This is an award that goes to the Gunner that failed to impress in the entire month. Andrey Arshavin has been the most disappointing player for August and September and it’s unfortunate to know that he has been nominated again this month following his below-par performances. However, he has been joined by Johan Djourou and Per Mertesacker.
Player of the Month
This is the prestigious award for the Gunner that was regarded as the best for the month of October with performances that were simply breathtaking. This month’s nominees for the Gunner of the Month are Laurent Koscielny, Robin van Persie and Gervinho.
The voting sequence will last for a week and the results will be published on Sunday. The link to this post will be added at the end of my posts during the week.
Have a great Sunday ahead.
If an AfricaMagic herbalist, a soothsayer or Pastor T.B. Joshua told me on Friday that Arsenal would run riot against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge, I would have given off the kind of laughter villains give in modern-day movies. When teams visit Chelsea’s home ground, they tend to park the bus but the game between Chelsea and Arsenal was one of the most open games I’ve witnessed as a football fan.
Arsenal’s defense was shambolic at the start of the game and the club’s defense was torn open by the team wearing blue. Cashley Cuntly Cole was in behind the Arsenal backline but Fernando Torres couldn’t capitalize on it. However, Chelsea broke the deadlock when the Lampback of NotreDame headed a Juan Mata cross after he skinned past Andre Santos.
Mikel Arteta chipped a lovely ball for Robin van Persie but his control let him down. Cole was free outside the box before letting one rip but Wojciech Szczesny was equal to the challenge. Arsenal pegged the hosts back when Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey combined well before giving Gervinho a through ball. The Ivorian was one-on-one with Petr Cech but he unselfishly fed Robin van Persie who wasted no time in dispatching the ball to an unguarded net.
A few months ago, Gervinho had the chance to feed van Persie at Ewood Park in August but he chose a miserly approach and that turned out to be a turning point in that game.
Ramires the Great Lizard waltzed past Andre Santos before teeing up Daniel Sturridge who wasted no time in sending the ball home but he was ruled offside. Theo Walcott was fouled by John Mikel on the edge of the area but van Persie’s free kick went over the wall. With the game easing off to a close, Frank Lampard swung in a corner from the right and it was converted by that ex-girlfriend shagger John Terry.
Per Mertesacker was at fault for both goals and Arsenal went into the break behind in the London derby. Arsenal began the second half as the brighter with Gervinho showing some good movement on the right hand side before sending a ball to Ramsey but his effort went over the bar.
Chelsea attacked again but Laurent Koscielny did well to win the ball then undid his good work with a poor clearance that arrived on Lampard’s feet who laid the ball on for Torres but the striker’s effort was tame. Arsenal equalized the contest when Alex Song provided a lovely pass for Andre Santos and the Samba Boy showed good composure to slot the ball under Petr Cech.
A ball played over the top for Cuntly Cole then out of the blue, Wojciech Szczesny ran out of his box to anticipate the ball only to foul the full back. The Pole got a yellow card for his troubles but he made a splendid save from the resulting Lampard free kick.
Arsenal’s third goal was a real puzzler. Theo Walcott was fouled on the right hand side then he stood up to receive it only to make a jinking run that saw him go past Chelsea defenders before smashing it past Cech. In the build-up to the goal, Walcott actually fell on the ground, stood up quickly before making a quick footed move to ease past John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic and the rest was history.
Chelsea pushed on for an equalizer so their manager Andre Boa-Constrictor brought on Romelu Medusa for Ramires the Great Lizard. Arsene Wenger also brought in reinforcements to his side with Carl Jenkinson and Tomas Rosicky replacing Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott.
In the 80th minute, Arsenal gifted Chelsea a goal when Andre Santos’ sloppiness at the back gave Juan Mata a chance to strike one from distance and that was some hit. With few minutes to spare and the game tied at 3-3, the next goal was of utmost importance and Chelsea decided to return the favour to Arsenal by giving them a goal on a plate.
Florent Malouda was crowded by an Arsenal midfield so he decided to give a back pass to John Terry who decided to slip in the best possible time so the ball fell gracefully to the wrongest person on Earth in such a situation, Robin van Persie. RVP ran at Petr Cech before attempting a “Box and X” Playstation move on the goalie to place the ball to the empty net.
I became very wary late on but Wenger steadied the ship by bringing on Thomas Vermaelen to see off the tie. As Chelsea pushed on for another equalizer, the y left enough pore spaces at the back so a final counter attack for the Gunners was enough to put the game beyond doubt.
Lampard swung in a free kick at the death; Szczesny went for the ball then put a hand to it. Mata smashed the ball goalwards but Koscielny put his body on fire to block the shot. Rosicky won the ball before feeding Song who gave Arteta. The Spaniard moved with the ball before providing a ball to the red-hot van Persie who rifled the ball past the hapless Cech.
A super hattrick from a super player and this feat made him the second only player to record a hattrick in Stamford Bridge with the first being Aston Villa’s Dion Dublin in 1997. In Arsenal’s last 14 goals, van Persie has nine. That strike was 28th Premier League goal in 27 Premier League games and his 33rd goal in 37 games in 2011. This striker is simply amazing.
Van Persie’s match clincher ensured that Chelsea received five goals in Stamford Bridge. A record that was last achieved in 1934 and it’s heart-warming to know that Arsenal was the last team that made it possible.
Szczesny (8.0) made a number of good saves as the game progressed.
Djourou (6.0) was exposed countless times in a position that he’s not too familiar with.
Andre Santos (8.5) scored a brilliant goal and put up a lovely number of quality tackles on the left.
Mertesacker (6.5) had a torrid first half but he did well to redeem himself in the second half.
Koscielny (7.0) did well to make some goal saving tackles.
Song (7.0) worked hard in midfield.
Arteta (8.0) was heavily involved in Arsenal’s attacking play.
Ramsey (8.5) put up a stellar performance.
Gervinho (7.5) provided an unselfish assist to van Persie.
Walcott (8.0) scored a magical goal.
Van Persie (10.0) burnt Stamford Bridge with a stunning hattrick.
Jenkinson (7.0) did well when he came on.
Rosicky (7.0) has involved in play.
Arsenal was clearly written off when Manchester United humiliated them and it seemed as if they were going to be doomed with no hope of a Champions League berth but this win has propelled the club to 6th place and they are just three points behind Chelsea.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
The tweet of the day goes to ChiEbuka Nworah’
“HEY CH3L5EA! WHAT’S D MATA? U LOOK TERRYFIED. DID U CECH THE TIME? IT SAYS 3 PAST 5!”
In England, there are teams that stand out from the crowd for more reasons than one. London will be divided yet again as Chelsea and Arsenal battle for bragging rights in a contest where the winner always emerges as the ‘Pride of London’ for that day at least.
The last time these teams met Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott contributed immensely as Arsenal recorded an overdue win for Arsenal over their West London neighbors because Chelsea had been the top dog in recent meetings between the sides.
Chelsea hosts Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League’s lunch-time fixture and I’ll like to give an analysis of each player in different positions on the pitch to see how the fixture can be predicted from the eyes of an Arsenal blogger. I intend to be unbiased in my analysis though.
My analysis will be done on the potential first team for tomorrow’s clash.
GOALIES: Petr Cech vs. Wojciech Szczesny
The records and experience speak for itself. Petr Cech is regarded as one of the best goalies in the business and he has proven himself over the years. A potentially serious head injury almost thwarted its career but it certainly played a small role because the Cech with a Rugby helmet after the injury isn’t nearly as good as the Cech that conceded only six goals in Stamford Bridge and nine goals away all season long to create a Premier League record for the best defense.
Wojciech Szczesny on the other hand is a young goalie that rising higher with each passing day and will certainly get to Petr Cech’s level in the foreseeable future. He has great reflexes and his command of his area is very impressive and his best years are certainly ahead of him.
Winner: Petr Cech
RIGHT BACKS: Branislav Ivanovic vs. Johan Djourou
Both teams go into the match without their regular right backs that have missed out due to suspension (Jose Bosingwa) and injury (Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson) so both managers will have to make do with their deputies. Branislav Ivanovic is a very strong centre back that’s also adept as a right back and he certainly uses his attributes as a centre back to great effect on the right flank. His strength and stamina are powerful tools he uses against opposition wingers and he’s also a threat from corners and free kicks because of his aerial prowess.
Like Ivanovic, Johan Djourou is also a centre back that has been redeployed as a right back to help the club in an injury crisis currently suffered by the recognized personnel in the right back position. Bacary Sagna fractured his leg while Carl Jenkinson has knee troubles so Djourou will have his work cut out in Stamford Bridge as he continues to play in such an unfamiliar position.
Winner: Branislav Ivanovic
LEFT BACKS: Ashley Cole vs. Andre Santos
Cashley Cuntly Cole was a player with 100% Arsenal DNA and he marauded the left hand side with Robert Pires when Arsene Wenger coached his second generation of Arsenal stars. Pace, resilience, determination, work rate as well as bone-crunching tackles were attributes that are possessed by Ashley Cole and it was used to great effect by Arsenal.
Arsenal bought Andre Santos as a replacement for the departed Gael Clichy and he has even got his name of the score sheet when Arsenal hosted Olympiakos in the Champions League group stages. Even though Kieran Gibbs has selected above the Brazilian in recent weeks, injury has paved the way for the Samba boy to strut his stuff.
Winner: Ashley Cole
CENTER BACKS: John Terry vs. Laurent Koscielny
One can fault John Terry’s ability off the pitch; girlfriend shagging, racist abusing, you name it but on the field of play, John Terry is a general that put his body in the line for the entire 90 minutes for his side. His dedication to the cause almost cost him a lot when Arsenal played Chelsea in the Carling Cup final of 2007. Not many players would have fared better with a Shaolin Kick from Abou Diaby but the English captain was still fit enough to celebrate with his teammates when they edged their North London neighbors out with a 2-1 win thanks to Didier Drogba.
Laurent Koscielny arrived in the Premier League last season and he played close to 4000 minutes of football in his first season as he featured in all competitions but Laurent has really improved on his game and has become a threat in the air when defending high balls over the top. Koscielny will give Per Mertesacker a run for his money when Thomas Vermaelen becomes fully fit.
Winner: John Terry
CENTER BACKS: David Luiz vs. Per Mertesacker
The £21m man hasn’t spent up to a year in England but I’m pretty sure that the Chelsea faithful already have a theme song for the bloke whose hair reminds me of Ivan Campo and Carles Puyol. He’s a strong individual that has an attacking prowess likened to the great Lucio and he has done well to make the second center back slot his own.
Per Mertesacker is an experienced individual that has been there and done that in international football. With a height ranging up to two meters tall, Mertesacker is a very intelligent center back that reads the game like a novel before taking action to a move he always comes out on top.
Winner: Per Mertesacker
HOLDING MIDFIELDERS: John Obi Mikel vs. Alex Song
In the World Youth Championships of 2005, there was only one player that was better than John Mikel Obi in that tournament and that player has gone on to take the world by storm with his breathtaking goals, assists, dribbles and overall play. Mikel on the other hand was heralded as Nigeria’s Number. 10 after the retirement of the legendary jay Jay Okocha but the attacking midfielder was converted to a holding midfielder and has excelled in that role to the Nigerian national team’s detriment.
Alex Song is a gem that was carefully nurtured by Arsene Wenger and he has turned out to be a holding midfielder that can command a first team place in any team in the world. His close control and skills has certainly caught the eye but he needs to work on his passing though.
WINNER: Alex Song
CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Raul Meireles vs. Mikel Arteta
This Portuguese chap certainly takes his fashion seriously in his own personal way and his hands, body, back and even his neck have gone under the ink to have drawing that are probably permanent but his footballing abilities can’t be questioned. He may not be the best passer of the ball but he has a very high work rate and he’s a major threat from outside the area because he has a very sweet right foot that is technically blessed.
Arsenal’s new signing has vast of experience in the Premier League and forged his way into Evertonian hearts with his cultured style of play that ranges from passes, shots as well as his ability with a dead ball. He has been a major hit at Arsenal and has also played in every game since his arrival with the exception of the Carling Cup encounters.
WINNER: Mikel Arteta
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Frank Lampard vs. Aaron Ramsey
The old dog has refused to lie down and see younger Chelsea puppies take his place from him. Frank Lampard is one of those players that will certainly be celebrated in all corners of the globe when he decides to hang his boots. His contribution to Chelsea and football at large has been so immense and I’m sure that I’ll miss the Hunchback of StamfordDame, England’s own Quasimodo.
He’s certainly one of the younger ‘puppies’ at the Emirates but this ‘dawg’ already has vast levels of experience because he started playing at the highest level at a very young age. Injury almost halted his career last year but Aaron Ramsey worked tirelessly to gain full fitness and he has grown in his new ‘Fabregas-esque’ role at the club. His pass to Gervinho last week was a stuff made in dreams.
WINNER: Frank Lampard
LEFT WINGERS: Juan Manuel Mata vs. Gervinho
The little winger from Oviedo decided to take a big step in his career and he hasn’t been half bad in the start to his Chelsea career. He has also done well to hand on some assists and score some goals himself
The ‘foreheaded’ one has been an inspiration for Arsenal and he has picked up where he left off in his LOSC Lille Metropole days. Gervinho is a bag that has bags of tricks and he came into the party to hand on two assists for Robin van Persie when Arsenal hosted Stoke. Certainly Arsenal’s signing of the season in my books.
RIGHT WINGERS: Nicolas Anelka vs. Theo Walcott
These players have contrasting styles of plays and I’m pretty sure that most of my readers might not agree with my final outcome. Nicolas Anelka is a striker-turned winger that has a canny style of play and can pop up with the goods when they are needed while Theo Walcott is an explosive forward that has improved in his contribution on the pitch to Arsenal. Goals, assists as well as good tentative play.
WINNER: Theo Walcott
STRIKER: Fernando Torres vs. Robin van Persie
There was actually a point in time when these two strikers were incomparable but Fernaando Torres was still wearing a jersey that had the same colors with Robin van Persie’s jersey but after making the British transfer record to London and changed his jersey from Red to Blue, his career suddenly found the Blues but he’s picking his feet slowly and could be a real threat tomorrow.
Robin van Persie. Six goals in Arsenal’s last nine games, 25 goals n his last 26 Premier League games and 30 goals in 36 games in 2011. Enough written; for once, the records ‘speaks’ for themselves.
WINNER: Robin van Persie
After juxtaposing of the potential first team of both sides, Arsenal had six points while Chelsea had five. With the Chelsea backline winning with a victory that seemed flawless and Arsenal’s attack knocking Chelsea’s out with a technical knockout, a draw might just be the settler for such a tie but tomorrow will tell though.
Remember that I made this analysis with my own judgment but I tried my best to give reasons to justify my final outcome. Feel free to prove me wrong with your comments.
The spectacle of the Carling Cup graced the Emirates again and a new look typical Carling Cup side was expected from the manager that had qualified for the quarterfinals in eight consecutive occasions since Carling took over the sponsorship rights from Worthington or Worth Nothing as my pal Tomasz calls it.
Arsene Wenger made a significant amount of changes on the starting berth as well as the reserves and it was no surprise when Lukasz Fabianski emerged as the custodian between the sticks in yesterday’s tie. 12 months ago, Wojciech Szczesny’s outburst won him a place in the squad to play Newcastle United while Fabianski was sitting pretty as Arsenal’s number one but that’s football for you.
With Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson out injured and Johan Djourou having the potential to pick up a mysterious strain or something close to it, Wenger handed a first senior appearance for youngster, Nico Yennaris. Andre Santos is the only recognized left full back and with Kieran Gibbs still relaxing at the club’s treatment table, Wenger gave Ignasi Miquel another chance to strut his stuff in the left back position this time.
Wenger decided to give the Arsenal fans a Carling Cup treat with his selection in the centre of the defense. He decided to pair up Arsenal’s worst defender by a far mile (Sebastien Squillaci) with its best defender and the leader of the pack, Thomas Vermaelen.
The midfield also had the perfect blend with the right mix of youth and experience with the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin providing solidity in the middle of the park while Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided wit from the flanks. Wenger finally decided to play Andrey Arshavin in the position he excelled as a player in Zenit St. Petersburg, the hole behind the striker while Arsenal’s soon-to-be soldier Park Chu-Young spearheaded the attack.
The bench was reminiscent of the bench Arsene Wenger took to Old Trafford with Vito Mannone being the only player that had started a match for Arsenal. I’m pretty sure that the average age of the remaining six players in the dugout didn’t exceed 18.
Bolton threatened from the start of the match when Andrey Arshavin fouled Geitar Steinsson. Gael Kakuta took the free kick but it was handled well by the Arsenal backline. Darren Pratley made a flick that brought out the best in Wojciech Szczesny in the 3-0 victory last month but he was on hand to fire a shot that was saved by Lukasz Fabianski after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lost possession in the midfield.
Park Chu-Young then fired a 25-yard drive that was saved by Bolton’s Alan Bogdan. The goalie had a horror outing when Bolton hosted Chelsea so he was out to impress Owen Coyle. Yossi Benayoun came close to opening the scoring but his effort just missed the right side of the goal.
Arsenal won a free kick on the edge of the area and Thomas Vermaelen fancied a chance so he drove the ball straight at goal thereby producing another good save from Bogdan. Park fired another tame effort late in the first half but Bogdan made another simple save.
At halftime, it was a goalless stalemate and both teams went into their dressing rooms to receive pep talks from the managers. It seemed as if Owen Coyle’s team talk worked a treat because Bolton began the second half with a bang. Arsenal reject Fabrice Muamba dispossessed Emmanuel Frimpong easily in the middle before driving forward and feeding in Pratley, who in turn teed up the midfielder with a return ball which was duly slammed into the roof of the net from six yards out.
The Arsenal defense was all over the place and were almost punished Gael Kakuta’s cross found Ivan Klasnic who could only nod the ball over the bar. This quick-fire attack from Bolton spurred on the hosts and the equalizer came from a player that has been under serious stick this season, Andrey Arshavin.
Arshavin made a jinking run to the box and it seemed as if he was going to pass the ball to a teammate so the Bolton defenders kept backing the little Russian and in a matter of split seconds, he was inside Bolton’s box drilling the ball past a hapless Bogdan that watched it sail past him.
That goal must have done a lot of wonders for Arshavin because it was his first goal since that gift of a goal he scored in September when Swansea visited the Emirates. The gooners were very ecstatic when Arshavin equalized but the goal that was scored was better with each passing replay.
Andrey Arshavin invited the Bolton defense to him leaving Park Chu-Young free on the edge of the area. A simply weighted pass followed but Park scored the type of a goal that the Arsenal fans witnessed week in week out from the great Thierry Henry. It was a first time sweetly curled effort that eased past Bogdan before hitting the back of the net.
The match was watched live in Korea Republic and the goal was already on YouTube seconds after Park curled in the sweet effort. One cannot underestimate the effort Asians put into watching football. I’ll never forget the Manchester United vs. Tottenham game where Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo locked horns against each other. It was estimated that the amount of Asians watching that game on big screens on the streets of Korea were large enough to actually fill up White Hart Lane that day.
Bolton pushed on for an equalizer and they brought out the best of Arsenal’s current number 2 goalie, Fabianski. Mark Davies went really close but his effort missed by a whisker. Francis Coquelin fouled the same player to concede a free kick in a decent position for Bolton. Gael Kakuta’s effort was destined for the back of the net but Fabianski popped up to make a top drawer save.
Chris Eagles replaced Kakuta and was involved in the action with a long-range piledriver that was saved yet again by the Pole guarding the poles. The barrage on Fabianski’s goal continued with Ivan Klasnic as well as Gary Cahill but there was no stopping Fabianski who was in inspired form to keep Bolton at bay.
Park almost netted a brace but his attempt went wide. Late on Ryo Miyaichi made a last-ditch intervention to block Cahill’s effort that would sent the game into extra time. The ref blew his whistle and Arsene Wenger continued his impressive record in the Carling Cup by making the quarterfinals yet again.
Arsenal last won the competition in 1993 but Wenger has come close twice by losing to Chelsea in the 2007 final before losing to Birmingham last season. Wenger had a few things to say at his press conference:
“The first half we had the chances. Second half they caught us and scored. From then on we were tested. The more experienced players took control of the game – Arshavin, Park and Benayoun. They turned things around. When we were 2-1 up with 20 minutes to go our legs had gone a bit. Some of these players had not played at this intensity before.”
He also made a comment about the injury returnee Thomas Vermaelen:
“Vermaelen will be a bit short for Saturday. It didn’t look too bad but he came off with a slight calf problem. I didn’t expect the game to have this kind of intensity. It was big pressure for a centre back.”
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have been doing okay in his absence so I have utmost confidence in both players when they play against the rejuvenated Fernando Torres. The Arsenal bad omen, Didier Drogba has been suspended so that’s a major plus if you ask me.
Wenger also had sweet words for Park, Miyaichi and the Chambered Ox.
Arsenal is back in business.
Next stop, the Stamford Blue London bridge.
I hope we’ll be able to sing that nursery rhyme after 90 minutes,
“London bridge is falling down, falling down…..”
While Arsene Wenger and his club played their home games in Highbury, those in the helm of affairs at the club came up with a plan to move to a 60,361-seater state-of-the-art stadium not far away from Arsenal’s home for 93 years. The move was finalized in the start of the 2006/07 season and the club had gone on to play 99 games at the Emirates Stadium before Stoke’s visit yesterday.
For those that are fans of numbers, Arsenal had won 66, drawn 22 and lost 11 games in the ground they call home before kickoff yesterday. The Gunners had also smashed in 198 goals prior to the Stoke match averaging two goals per game at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that won the tie at the Riviera in the South of France. Goal scoring hero, Aaron Ramsey returned to the side in place of Tomas Rosicky, Gervinho got the nod ahead of Andrey Arshavin but the most surprising change of them all was handing Marouane Chamakh a starting berth ahead of the red-hot Robin van Persie. The Moroccan had managed a disappointing two goals in his last 31 appearances and it was a decision that would have cost Wenger the game if he chose not to play van Persie at all.
With all captains, van Persie, Vermaelen and Rosicky all missing in action, Alex Song wore the armband for the first time in his Arsenal career since joining the club from SC Bastia in 2006. Arsenal hit the ground running when Mikel Arteta swung in a corner to the danger area and the ball met an unmarked Chamakh who made poor contact with the ball to nod it wide off the mark.
Song sent in a ball for Arteta and the Spaniard found himself free on the edge of the box because Stoke defended really deep. The crowd urged Arteta to pull the trigger but he feinted with his right foot before letting one rip with his left foot to send the ball wide.
Aaron Ramsey had a great game yesterday and he started by chipping a lovely ball for Gervinho. The Ivorian controlled the ball with his chest but he couldn’t capitalize on it because it was really close to Asmir Begovic in Stoke’s goal. Stoke knew that they couldn’t match Arsenal from open play so the crowd got weary when Walcott conceded the first throw-in of the game on Arsenal’s right hand side. Rory Delap did his thing but Per Mertesacker rose the highest to head the ball out to safety.
Ramsey fed Walcott on the right then the winger used his pace to get in behind Mark Wilson before sending a stinging cross that was stabbed away by Begovic. Ramsey lurked outside the area when Arteta had another corner but his effort missed the target by a lick of paint.
As Arsenal continued to press and probe Stoke’s defense, the breakthrough arrived when Ramsey cleverly chipped the ball over the defense to Gervinho who timed his run to perfection. The Ivorian brought the ball under control before finishing emphatically with his left foot. Gervinho was all over the place and he threatened Wilson from the right side after a pass from Arteta what ended up as a corner.
So much has been made about the poor officiating of the referees in the Premier League and this tie was to be no different. A simple over the top ball was challenged by Peter Crouch and Laurent Koscielny with the lanky Englishman uncharacteristically coming out as second best but Lee Mason blew his whistle for a free kick that looked more ridiculous with every replay of the incident viewed. Stoke, being a side that’s renowned for their set piece prowess executed a training move that came to great effect in the best possible way.
Glenn Whelan took forever to deliver the set piece but he chose to feed Ryan Shawcross who was relatively unmarked on the far side. Stoke’s captain headed the ball into Arsenal’s danger area and Jon Walters was on hand to come out on top in an aerial duel with Koscielny. Walter’s header was going in but Crouch made sure that it went into Arsenal’s goal and the tie was level from a Stoke side that was second best throughout the game.
That was Crouch’s sixth career goal against Arsenal and his first since his stunning hattrick against Wenger’s side in 2008. Arteta crossed a ball for Chamakh but Andy Wilkinson decided to swap jerseys with the Moroccan in the box even if Arsenal’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears. At the sound of Lee Mason’s whistle, it seemed like one of those days and there were already cries for the inclusion of Robin van Persie.
Arsenal was very sloppy at the start of the second half with Song being the chief culprit of some mistimed passes. Gervinho and Arteta got involved in the attacking play with the Spaniard setting up Walcott with a lovely pass but his final ball couldn’t match Arsenal’s impressive build up play. This made the guys at the commentary box begin their barrage of criticism on Arsenal’s winger.
Arsenal threatened again with another Arteta corner kick but after some scrambled headers, Koscielny attempted a bicycle kick that was miscued though. Arsenal continued in the driver’s seat in the game but their activity in the final third was put under question.
When Wenger felt that Chamakh had played to his full capacity without any great effect, he unleashed the Flying Dutchman to the Emirates that was appreciated by roars from the Emirates faithful and if you’re a fan of numbers, here’s a tip for you. Robin van Persie had scored four in four against Stoke, 23 goals in his last 25 league games and he had also amassed 28 goals in 35 games in 2011.
Van Persie was involved in the thick of things with some lovely movement before sending a cross that was missed by Koscielny in the far post. Arsenal almost produced a horror moment when Johan Djourou headed a ball back for Wojciech Szczesny who was far away from his box. Jon Walters challenged the young goalie but he did well to shimmy the striker before passing the ball to another player.
Andrey Arshavin replaced Walcott who was still looking for his first goal at the Emirates in 2011. The forward’s last goal at home was recorded in the 3-1 victory against Chelsea in Boxing Day of 2010. In the turn of the New Year, Walcott has scored away in the 3-0 victory of West Ham at Upton Park in January, the embarrassing 4-4 draw against Newcastle at St. James Park in February, the enthralling 3-3 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in April, the 2-2 curtain closer against Fulham at Craven Cottage in May and the 8-2 humiliating loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford in August.
The Arsenal crowd awaited the 200th goal at the Emirates and it was only befitting that such a goal would be scored by the man of the moment, Robin van Persie. Gervinho was involved in the attacking play again and he did well to evade the threat of Wilson before teeing van Persie in the near post where the intelligent striker had a quick snap shot that beat Begovic in his near post. With the game easing off, Gervinho popped up again on the left to send another assist for van Persie whose effort couldn’t be stopped despite Begovic’s hand on the shot.
That was van Persie’s sixth goal in Arsenal’s last nine. That’s a striker that’s as hot as supernova.
Emmanuel Frimpong came in for Gervinho and the Ivorian received a standing ovation from the Emirates faithful.
Szczesny (6.5) was faced with a scary moment that would have cost him his place in the side but he excelled admirably in the situation.
Djourou (6.5) deputized well at the unfamiliar right back position n place of the injured Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson.
Andre Santos (6.5) did well to support the attack and showed his Samba touches on the left hand side.
Mertesacker (6.5) did okay in defense.
Koscielny (7.5) was more than a handful for Peter Crouch.
Song (6.0) was very sloppy in the midfield and gave many balls out. Not a good captain’s performance.
Arteta (8.0) was heavily involved in Arsenal’s attack and sent in a lot of good corners that were not utilized by the Gunners.
Ramsey (7.5) sent a peach of a pass for Gervinho’s first goal at the Emirates.
Gervinho (9.0) put up his best performance yet for Arsenal. He gave Arsene Wenger his best birthday present today, a goal and two assists.
Walcott (6.0) was disappointing.
Chamakh (6.0) failed to justify the decision to bench van Persie.
Arshavin (6.5) showed good movement with the ball.
Van Persie (8.5) had two well taken goals that showed his intelligence and sharpness as a striker.
Frimpong didn’t stay enough to get a rating.
This weekend ended well for the Red half of North London. It was fabled that Arsenal always struggled shortly after some European encounters and it seemed to be one of those days till Robin van Persie proved his worth to Arsenal in gold.
I also witnessed some brilliant football this weekend with my picks of the bunch being AC Milan’s amazing 4-3 victory at Lecce despite being 3-0 down at halftime. Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a brilliant hattrick but the team of the weekend was the Arab Money backed side from Manchester.
Manchester United won the Premier League last season thanks to their amazing home form that saw them win 18 of their 19 games at Old Trafford but their ‘noisy’ and oil-rich neighbors ran riot with six goals to send them five points clear at the top.
The quote of the day goes to Ogbonna Nwodo,
“From the makers of Sex and the City comes this thriller from Old Trafford Cinemas: Six and the City”