Monthly Archives: November 2011

Arsenal 0 Manchester City 1: The Gunners valiant in defeat

Arsenal’s impressive winning streak suffered a little dent when Fulham visited the Emirates so all eyes were cast for the mouth-watering quarterfinal tie between Arsene Wenger’s men and the moneybags from Manchester City.

I chose not to write a preview for the Carling Cup quarterfinal because I had a big hunch that Wenger was going to mix things up in his starting lineup and I wasn’t surprised when I saw a back line with Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel. The Squisha has featured sparingly for Arsenal this season and the arrival of Per Mertesacker has further reduced his chances of playing for Arsenal.

Arsenal’s midfield wasn’t half bad as Wenger handed starts to Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong at the center of the park while Yossi Benayoun and the Chambered Ox offered wit down the flanks. Robin van Persie has been a key player for Arsenal this season but he was given a breather as Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young were given chances to prove their worth to the gooners.

Roberto Mancini has the luxury of a very big squad to pick so handed starts to big names like Aleksandr Kolarov, Adam Johnson, Nigel de Jong and Owen Hargreaves. Former Gunners like Kolo Toure and $amir Na$ri also took center stage in what turned out to be a really good match for the neutrals.

The match began in absolute silence in recognition of the loss of a great Premier League stalwart that left this planet at the age of 42. He represented few teams in the league but his exploits at Newcastle and Bolton can never be forgotten. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

Nasri received a barrage of boos with every touch and it was fully expected following his shenanigans this summer. Kolarav penetrated down the left and drilled in a cross but no Man City player was in the middle to kill it off. Ignasi Miquel made a dangerous back pass that brought Lukasz Fabianski out of his comfort zone that ultimately led to a Man City throw but the visitors didn’t capitalize on it.

Arsenal had the first real break that almost led to a goal. The Chambered Ox used his pace to tee up Chamakh, who held onto the ball before laying it up for Coquelin. The young Frenchman squared the ball across the six yard box to Park CY but the Man City goalie Pantilimon and the post kept the ball out. A good chance gone begging.

Alex Chamberlain showed some sultry dribbling skills as he skipped Hargreaves and de Jong with consummate ease before twisting past Stefan Savic but Toure anticipated the ball well to avert the danger. Chamberlain was the star attraction again when he executed a perfectly timed one-two with Chamakh before flashing the ball goalwards with his weaker foot but the goalie tipped the ball over the bar.

As early as the 33rd minute, Mancini made a tactical switch to replace Kolarov with Sergio Aguero but It was funny to know that Samir Nasri’s number was displayed initially by the fourth official. Chamberlain was pulling the strings in the midfield as he went past Hargreaves again before feeding Djourou but the Swiss’ cross was largely disappointing for an expectant Chamakh.

At the end of the first half, an Arsenal side that looked weaker on paper controlled the entire game and renowned experienced midfielders like Hargreaves and de Jong were run ragged by the exciting youngsters of Arsenal. On the bad side, Fabianski seemed shaky, Park CY was having a stinker and Chamakh spent more time outside the box than in it.

Chamberlain made mince meat of Pablo Zabaleta but the Argentine showed good recovery to clear the ball out for a corner. Man City’s goalie Pantilimon was having a stormer between the sticks as he kept the Gunners at bay making save after save. He parried quickfire shots from Coquelin and Frimpong.

Man City were starting to assert themselves as the game progressed. Edin Dzeko, Aguero and Hargreaves tried the Arsenal net but their efforts were poor. Park CY set up Benayoun with a cross-field diagonal ball and the Isreali did well to send it into the box for Chamakh but the Moroccan sent his effort wide.

Weger took Park CY out of his misery and brought Gervinho that had an exciting 15-minute cameo that last time out against Fulham. In the space of minutes, Gervinho had two attempts on goal but they were quite dreadful to say the least. Wenger brought on Thomas Vermaelen for Miquel to steady the ship at the back.

In the 84th minute, Arsenal received a sucker punch as Adam Johnson’s pass found Aguero that was all alone. The Argentine dynamo picked his spot and placed it past Fabianski in goal. Wenger took off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 89th minute and he probably expected a miracle from the wrongest player in the world in such a situation at the moment, Andrey Arshavin.

The fourth official raised the electronic board and the crowd did their bit to cheer on their players as a big number “four” was displayed.

In the 92nd minute, Lukasz Fabianski probably watched the video clip how Paul Robinson won a penalty for Blackburn against Wigan so he added numbers into the box when a corner was about to be played. Pantilimon caught the ball and would’ve probably scored from his box if he had half the technique Xabi Alonso possesses but he chose to send the ball to Adam Johnson but Fabianski bravely got back and headed the ball away.

Arsenal’s last chance to send the game to extra time came when Gervinho evaded Zabaleta to send in a delicious cross that begged for the slightest of touches but none came from any player wearing the Red and White. That was it as Manchester City booked their place in the semis of the Carling Cup and they’ll be joined with Liverpool.

Fabianski (6.5) did okay and was blameless for the goal he conceded.

Djourou (6.5) didn’t really support Oxlade-Chamberlain as the gooners would’ve liked.

Koscielny (7.5) put up a stellar performance for the Gunners.

Squillaci (7.5) showed the kind of form that won him the Ligue 1 Revelation of the Year award in his AS Monaco days (2003)

Miquel (6.5) did okay in the left back position.

Frimpong (7.0) blocked off Manchester City from the midfield.

Coquelin (7.5) was largely impressive and he also offered a lot in attack.

Benayoun (7.0) showed his flair and did pretty well on the flanks.

Oxlade-Chamberlain (8.5) was the star attraction from an Arsenal point of view.

Park CY (5.0) didn’t come to the pitch with his shooting boots.

Chamakh (6.5) didn’t offer much in attack but was heavily involved in link-up play.

Gervinho (6.5) move well with the ball but failed to take his chances.

Vermaelen and Arshavin didn’t play long enough to get ratings.

After the game there was still time for a bust-up between Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Frimpong. Both players had a clash on Twitter shortly after Nasri left for the greens of Manchester City but they gestured to each other as they approached the tunnel. Arsenal denied punches were thrown but a witness confirmed the players confronted each other as they left for the dressing rooms at the Emirates Stadium.

The tweet of the day goes to @Hamster41:

“@Hamster41: Enjoy the Carling Cup semi-finals City and Liverpool. While we play in the Champions League.”

In as much as they are still in the lowest regarded competition amongst the three English football has to offer, they stand a chance of winning a trophy.

A feat Arsenal hasn’t achieved since the days King Arthur ruled Camelot.

Sayonara.

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Thomas Vermaelen: A quick focus on the Verminator and his top 10 football attributes

The Verminator

Born on the 14th of November 1985 in the Belgian city of Kapellen, Thomas Vermaelen began his career in the 2000/01 season in Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen but he made a move to neighboring Holland to continue his education at Ajax Amsterdam.

It took him over four years to find his feet in Amsterdam but a loan move to RKC Waalwijk in the 2004/05 campaign did wonders to his confidence and he returned to Ajax to stake his claim for a first team place and never looked back. After notching up 98 league appearances for de Godenzonen, Arsenal acquired his services for £9.5m and he set the Premier League alight in his debut season, making 33 appearances, scoring an impressive eight goals in the process.

Thomas Vermaelen arrived in the shores of England after a good spell at Ajax Amsterdam. It was fabled that Vermaelen was watched over 49 times by Arsenal’s scouts to confirm that he was the man for Arsenal’s defense and he has proved that because he’s presently regarded as Arsenal’s star defender and he’s a regular starter whenever he’s fit.

He scored a header in his Arsenal debut against Everton in Goodison Park and his stellar performances didn’t go unnoticed as he was awarded a place in the 2009 PFA Team of the Year. A lot was expected of the Belgian defender in his second season at the club but an Achilles tendon injury he sustained in international duty kept him out of action for the best part of seven months. Vermaelen has also been plagued by injuries in his third season with the club.

Vermaelen has currently made 61 appearances for Arsenal (44 league apps) and he has scored 10 goals for the club with nine of them registered in the Premier League. On the international scene, he has amassed 33 caps for his nation and he scored his only Belgian goal in a 3-0 victory against Hungary in a friendly in 14th November 2009, a befitting birthday gift he gave himself.

As a footballer, Vermaelen is blessed with many talents and I’ll like to give my take on his top 10:

Bravery

Vermaelen is a defender that can die for the cause and play every game as if its his last.

He’s never afraid to go in for that challenge without being to mindful about the repercussions. This was evidenced in the Champions League playoff tie against Udinese that resulted in an ankle injury.

Tackling

Vermaelen is a defender that’s never afraid to hit the turf with the aim of making a tackle. It’s that no-nonsense nature that has helped Arsenal’s defense in recent times. His ability to read the game is simply amazing and he has a high tackling ratio in the Premier League.

Coordination

Vermaelen has a very cool head when faced with adversity and he orchestrates the Arsenal defense like a conductor of a music band. He’s also very vocal and he directs his fellow defenders on the pitch from time to time.

Influence

In the latter years of his Ajax days, Vermaelen wore the captain’s armband for the club and led the team with valor. His leadership in Arsenal’s back line has propelled him to the role of vice captain behind Robin van Persie.

Marking

Vermaelen is so good at marking that opposition forwards search for his presence long after the game is over. When he’s really in the mood, he can frustrate any striker Arsenal is coming up against.

Attacking threat

Vermaelen scored 8 goals in his first season at Arsenal and most of them were things of beauty. He broke his duck on his debut with a solid header against Everton but he also scored a peach of a goal against Wigan and another piledriver against Blackburn.

This season, he scored a well-taken goal against West Brom.

Aggression

Thomas Vermaelen is a defender that’s renowned for his aggressive style of play. Irrespective of who the striker is, the Verminator takes on all comers and is always looking to be dominant.

In a league that has physical strikers like Didier Drogba, Kenwyne Jones and Yakubu Aiyegbeni amongst others, aggression is a key attribute for Arsenal’s defense.

Technique

The Verminator is a defender that’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet. His close control is pretty impressive for a center back and he has a decent first touch.

Jumping

At 6′ 0″, Vermaelen is not the tallest of center backs but he knows how to leap higher than a frog because he jumps as if he has some springs hidden in his studs. In recent times, over the top balls was a constant problem for former defenders like William Gallas and Kolo Toure but Vermaelen has quelled that threat from the opposition.

Heading

Vermaelen is a constant threat for Arsenal from set pieces and he nodded in a couple of headers in his first season at the club with goals recorded from his head against Everton and Wigan. This season, Vermaelen used his head to salvage a draw for Arsenal after conceding an unfortunate own goal at the other end of the pitch

Summary

At the age of 26, Vermaelen is going to rule Arsenal’s defense for many more years to come and he’ll certainly be Arsenal’s captain if Robin van Persie decides to leave Arsenal for greener pastures in the near future that’s if the club’s trophy woes still continue.

Here’s to Thomas Vermaelen.

Arsenal’s own Verminator.

Sayonara.

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Thomas Vermaelen cleans up his mess

Arsene Wenger came up against a manager that had never managed a win against him in his Tottenham days and Arsenal’s starting lineup on looked good enough to win the game, on paper at least. The boss made two changes from the squad that was very impressive in midweek against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Johan Djourou deputized for Laurent Koscielny and the much talked about Andrey Arshavin replaced Gervinho.

The game against Fulham was a frustrating affair from start to finish but there were moments of quality from time to time. Fulham almost drew first blood when Bryan Ruiz made a fool out of Andre Santos before sending the ball into the danger area. Djourou provided adequate cover in the heart of the defense to execute an inch-perfect goal-saving tackle.

Alex Song teed up Robin van Persie and the Arsenal captain wasted no time before setting up Aaron Ramsey but Mark Schwarzer made a great save from the top drawer. Theo Walcott rolled back the years to make a jinking run that was reminiscent of the assist he gave Emmanuel Adebayor in March 2008 at Anfield. The winger ran a great length of the field only to pass the ball to Ramsey that fed the ball to the birds in the sky.

Andre Santos jousted forward and made a Samba-like Marseille Roulette but he lost the ball in the process. The full back charged forward to win the ball back but his final pass was disappointing because Schwarzer was there to mop up play. Moussa Dembele stung Wojciech Szczesny’s hands with a left-footed shot and Per Mertesacker had the last attack of the first half when he nodded Mikel Arteta’s free kick wide.

Arsenal was the brighter side at the start of the second half with Theo Walcott giving John Arne Riise a torrid time before drilling a cross that brought confusion between Phillippe Senderos and Mark Schwarzer but the Fulham backline dealt with the threat. Robin van Persie lit the Emirates alight when he received a pass from Arshavin, shimmied the center back before firing a goal-bound shot that beat Schwarzer hands down but Chris Baird was in the right place to clear the ball off the line.

Against the run of play, Fulham went ahead when Arteta lost the ball in the midfield and a cross-field ball was attacked by Riise but Thomas Vermaelen unfortunately lashed at the ball to beat Szczesny at his near post.

Ramsey was suspect for producing complacent moments while Arshavin’s performance on the field for 75 minutes was likened to the horror movie Saw VI so Wenger responded by bringing on Abou Diaby to replace Ramsey while Gervinho came on for Mertesacker.

In my opinion, bringing on Diaby was a very wrong move because of his lackadaisical attitude in his play especially in pivotal moments of a game and Arsenal was made to suffer the Diabytes Syndrome later on in the match. There was a point in time when Diaby was with the ball at the edge of the area with teammates to feed the ball to at both sides but the lanky Frenchman chose to dwell on the ball only to lose it later. Abou Diaby at his frustrating best.

Djourou made a goal-bound header but Schwarzer popped up with the goods again for Fulham. Van Persie had two half chances that didn’t threaten the Fulham goal. His free kick sailed effortlessly wide while his shot from Andre Santos’ cross was launched into orbit.

When it seemed as if it was going to be one of those days for Arsenal, Vermaelen was seen surging forward in a buildup play and it was really soothing to see him on the end of Theo Walcott’s cross to bring Arsenal back in the match.

If Arsenal had lost the match by a lone goal, my headline would have been “The Verminator becomes Arsenal’s terminator” but it’s heartwarming to know that he cleaned up the mess he made in the other end of the pitch.

Szczesny (6.5) was relatively untroubled but I felt that his concentration wasn’t fully in check when Vermaelen conceded the own goal because the ball wasn’t really fast.

Djourou (6.5) didn’t offer much in attack as you would expect from a center back playing on the flanks but he was solid defensively.

Andre Santos (7.5) worked tirelessly on the left wing to play as a full back as well as the left winger for Arsenal because Arshavin was missing in action.

Vermaelen (7.0) did the double in both goal posts. :D

Mertesacker (6.5) was steady at the back.

Song (7.5) covered a lot of distance on the pitch and did very well to help his teammates that were out of position most times.

Arteta (6.0) disappointed me a bit and compounded it by losing the ball that led to Fulham’s opener.

Ramsey (6.0) lacked the spark he was renowned for and missed a few chances for Arsenal.

Arshavin (5.0) put up another putrid performance and Gervinho’s 15-minute cameo was two times better than his 75-minute outing.

Walcott (8.0) was a constant thorn to Riise and showed good dribbling skills as well as the assist for Arsenal’s equalizer.

Van Persie (7.5) worked really hard for his team and was unlucky not to do what he has become renowned for.

Gervinho (7.5) ran at the Fulham defense was real drive and positive intent unlike the man he replaced that was more or less a peripheral figure for one hour 15 minutes.

Diaby (6.0) held on the ball too much when he was supposed to feed a teammate. In my opinion, I would have prepared to see Tomas Rosicky. Oh Arsene!

Chamakh (6.55) had no real attacking impact on the game but showed his work rate to win some balls in midfield.

Arsenal’s draw against Fulham has dented the impressive run that saw the Gunners win eight of their last nine games. It’s true that players are meant to rest in some games but Arsene Wenger of all people should know that you should never change a “winning team” especially when they are all fit.

The game against Fulham was of utmost importance to Arsenal because the club is fighting hard to break into the top four. I wouldn’t have had any trouble if Arshavin started in the Carling Spoon quarter final against Manchester City.

Gervinho, Walcott and van Persie had built up an amazing chemistry and van Persie has benefitted from the consistent services of these wingers. Arshavin came back to the fold and disrupted that mojo and it’s really sad to know how he has become the shadow of the attacking midfielder that took the world by storm years ago.

I hope he gets his act right soon enough because he’s not getting any younger.

Thomas thanks for cleaning up your mess. At least, Arsenal is still unbeaten.

Sayonara.

You can follow Gooner Daily on Twitter @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

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