Monthly Archives: December 2011

5 Reasons Why Arsenal Needs to Sign a Full Back in January

In recent seasons, Arsenal Football Club has been haunted by bad luck, squad indiscipline, poor officiating decisions and of course, mysterious injuries.

This season, Arsenal has had its fair share of bad luck and one can’t look further than the surprising 4-3 defeat in the hands of Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Gervinho opened the scoring after receiving a delightful through ball from Alex Song. Yakubu Aiyegbeni scored two goals (one offside) and that was where the scoring stopped for the home side.

Despite leading at halftime thanks to an emphatic Mikel Arteta finish, Arsenal somewhat connived to concede two own goals and Marouane Chamakh’s late header wasn’t enough to give Arsene Wenger’s men a point.

Regarding squad indiscipline, the regular culprit Alex Song has done time after receiving bans from the FA and youngsters like Carl Jenkinson and Emmanuel Frimpong have already been brandished red cards in their short Arsenal careers.

I can open up a blog to write about the amount of officiating decisions that have gone for and against the Gunners this season alone and games like Liverpool (Suarez’ offside), Tottenham (van der Vaart’s handball), Blackburn (Yakubu’s offside) and many more will come to light.

Injuries have become an essential part of football because of its unpredictability and the way teams handle them goes a long way in reshaping the ‘destiny’ of the club for that season at least. Manchester United for instance, have lost their inspirational captain Nemanja Vidic to a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the campaign but they have the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to provide support for the aging Rio Ferdinand.

Arsenal is a club that’s renowned for having a formidable squad that challenges for honors every season but Arsene Wenger’s team has been hit very hard by the demons of injury as all four recognized fullbacks are currently on the sidelines nursing injuries.

Bacary Sagna suffered a leg fracture in October when Arsenal visited White Hart Lane to play rivals Tottenham, Jenkinson has back issues, Andre Santos went for a surgery to solve an ankle problem and Kieran Gibbs recently suffered a set back in his groin injury.

Arsene Wenger has been forced to use his center backs as make-shift full backs and they haven’t been half bad in those positions. He’s still waiting on the return to fitness of these players but the fans are calling for emergency full backs to hold the fort at least.

Here are five reasons why Arsenal needs to sign a full back in January:

Injury Worries

This is the principal reason why a full back has to be signed in January because Arsenal is lacking personnel in those positions. Arsenal’s primary left fullback Andre Santos, is sidelined till Spring and Kieran Gibbs is a player that has become consistent in getting injured so Arsenal is in dire need of a new left back.

Bacary Sagna on the other hand is a player that’s renowned for his stamina and natural fitness but he fractured his leg in October and his replacement Carl Jenkinson, is also out of action.

A new full back needs to be signed to provide adequate cover for these injured players till they return.

Thomas Vermaelen Needs to Return to his favored position

In Thomas Vermaelen’s first full season at Arsenal, he scored eight goals and won a place in the PFA Team of the Year for 2009 thanks to his valiant and commanding stellar performances all season long. Unfortunately, he couldn’t build on his blistering form in his second season as he suffered an Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him for seven months.

Injuries to the full backs have forced Arsene Wenger to deploy the Verm as a left back and I’m pretty sure he’s not happy with it but he picks the team above self. If a new full back is signed, Vermaelen will go back to his favored center back position.

Johan Djourou Offers Little or No Attacking Threat

His assist to Aaron Ramsey in the match against Olympique Marseille was a peach of a cross but it’s fair to say that Johan Djourou has been the weakest link of the make-shift full backs deployed by Arsene Wenger. Defensively, he has been solid in some games and very shaky in others but upfront hasn’t really done that well to provide adequate support to the right winger.

When Arsenal hosted Everton in the game that marked the club’s 125th anniversary, I can’t recall anytime Djourou sent in a cross from the right hand side. Theo Walcott was more than a match for Leighton Baines but the game will be forever remembered for Robin van Persie’s “Van-tastic” finish that was more than enough to seal the points for Arsenal.

A new right back has to be signed to relieve Djourou of his services to say the least.

Lack of Service from the Flanks

Arsenal has played three matches (Manchester City, Aston Villa and Wolves) with its make-shift full backs and it’s obvious that no clear cut goalscoring chances have been provided from the full back positions. However, they’ve added solidity to Arsenal’s defensive play though.

Bacary Sagna and Andre Santos are full backs that maraud the flanks and they contribute immensely to Arsenal’s attacking play. Arsenal has to search for a new full back that will pick up were Sagna and Santos left off with quality crosses into the box as well as proper support for the wingers.

Healthy Competition

At this point in time, Andre Santos and Bacary Sagna are sure of their first team berths and it has led to a bit of complacency from Andre Santos at least. When Arsenal played Chelsea in that enthralling encounter that saw Robin van Persie smash in an impressive hattrick, Chelsea scored their third goal after a bit of sloppy play from Andre Santos.

The Brazilian full back dallied on Wojciech Szczesny’s simple throw and the buildup led to a brilliant Juan Mata shot that went past Szczesny to level the tie at 3-3. If Andre Santos played as if every game was his last, I’m sure that Arsenal wouldn’t have conceded such a cheap goal.

Arsenal needs to sign a left full back that will give Andre Santos a run for his money because I’m sure that Kieran Gibbs will still spend more time in the physio room as the season progresses.

I can’t recall many right backs presently better than Bacary Sagna in world football with the exception of probably Dani Alves, Maicon and Sergi Ramos but Arsene Wenger needs to sign a right back that can deputize in Sagna’s stead when he needs a breather.

That’s supposed to be Carl Jenkinson’s job but…he’s out injured.

Feel free to share your comments on these reasons because its quite a debatable topic.

Sayonara.

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The Wolves aftermath and more speculations about Thierry Henry’s loan move

The first half of the Premier League season has painted a vivid picture for football fans all over the world.

We’ve learnt that Bolton, Wigan and Blackburn are presently in hot soup and they stand a chance of playing npower Championship football next season.

We’ve also learnt that the destination of this season’s Premier League title is odds on to be in the city of Manchester, as the clubs from London continue producing inconsistent performances.

Arsenal had a big chance to cement their stay in the top four for a week as well as put their fierce rivals Tottenham under some pressure but the disappointing draw against Wolves has raised a few eyebrows yet again.

Funnily enough, it wasn’t like the Everton or Aston Villa performance where Arsenal played crap but had enough in the gas to get all three points.

In Arsene Wenger’s newsletter to Arsenal fans worldwide, he reiterated that he couldn’t fault the attitude, commitment or desire of his players to win the game. Wayne Hennessey had the game of his life and will probably go back to being mediocre when Wolves take on an opponent of ‘equal stature’.

Down the years, many goalies pick the game against Arsenal to make the media Vultures sing their praises all week long. Ben Foster was a goalkeeper that conceded an 85-yard punt from Paul Robinson but he became a colossus in the Carling Cup final and we all know how that result ended.

It was expected that a few words would emanate from the Arsenal camp and Mikel Arteta has said that Arsenal needs to be more ruthless at home. In the Premier League, home form is an important attribute that goes a long way in shaping the destiny of a club in a season.

Stoke City is a club that has a very dismal away record but the Britannia Stadium has become a fortress for them. This has been one of the key reasons why their Premier League status has been intact since their promotion in 2008.

I don’t even want to write about Manchester United’s home form last season. 18 wins in 19 home games with a shaky away form was more than enough to hand Sir Alex Ferguson and his hordes a history 19th title.

Per Mertesacker is another player that has said a thing or two to the media Vultures. He said that the draw against Wolves was a missed opportunity but he still believes that Arsenal can break into the top four.

Arsenal is within touching distance of Tottenham and Chelsea and with the form Andres Villas-Boa Constrictor’s side is showing, they’ll be the likeliest candidates to be usurped by the Gunners.

Moving over to everyone’s favorite section of the news, the media Vultures are at it again linking Arsenal to many forwards in the business.

Give Me Football reports that Arsenal is considering a January bid for AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato. It’s reported that the duck from Pato Blanco isn’t really in good terms with his boss Max Allegri and he could be seeking a move away from San Siro. It’s believed that a bid of £25m could be enough to seal the deal.

Pato is a proven talent that has bags on pace as well as good dribbling skills and a clinical finishing ability. He’ll add a lot to Arsene Wenger’s side because he could be deployed as a center forward or in the wings.

Mirror Football has also reported that Arsenal is linked with Montpellier Herault SC’s Oliver Giroud and the striker currently has an audacious price tag of £40m. Giroud has been in good form this season with 13 goals in 18 appearances but the £40m price tag will make him beyond Arsenal’s reach.

Still sticking with transfer news from Ligue 1, Arsene Wenger has ruled out a move for Lyon’s Yoann Gourcuff because the midfield is too crowded for the French playmaker.

Lyon has to understand that Arsene Wenger is no Harry Redknapp or Roberto Mancini that can afford to get the Steven Pienaars, Nico Kranjcars and Owen Hargreaves to hand them warm and cozy spots in the bench.

Besides, Arsenal has more than enough personnel in the midfield this season so Gourcuff will have to wait till the summer.

Thierry Henry has been training with Arsenal for a while since the close of the MLS season and has been linked countless times with a move to the Emirates.

With Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh leaving the club next month for the African Cup of Nations, some firepower will be needed upfront and the fans have pleaded with the manager to get Lukas Podolski among others.

Arsene Wenger is getting frustrated with the barrage of questions asked regarding Henry’s possible arrival and it seems as if some Arsenal fans will get their wish because the Daily Mail has reported that Arsenal has finally offered Thierry Henry a two-month loan deal.

I gave five reasons why Arsenal shouldn’t re-sign Henry and it didn’t go down well with most of the Gooners reading the article.

As a true Arsenal fan, I hope Thierry Henry does well again in his second coming because Arsenal needs a lethal finisher to support Robin van Persie and a clinical free kick taker.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 1 Wolves 1: Wayne Hennessey Puts Up a Goalkeeping Clinic

 

Arsenal had the chance to continue its good form with a win against Wolves that would have propelled Arsene Wenger’s men into the top four for only the second time this season. The Gunners had won seven of their last eight games at home and they come up against opponents that had not scored an away goal in Arsenal’s home ground since the inception of the Premier League.

Wenger made four changes to the squad that won Aston Villa in the midweek fixtures. Johan Djourou was deemed fit enough to replace Francis Coquelin at right back. Alex Song returned from his one-match suspension while Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun came in Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott’s stead.

Wolves had a quick break when Steven Ward’s through pass went beyond Johan Djourou leaving Matt Jarvis the threat of Per Mertesacker to shove off but the big German made a decent block to break up play.

Jarvis tried to launch another move from the left hand side but a swift counter attack by the home side was enough to create the game’s opener. Rosicky did very well to hold up the ball upfield beofre teeing up Benayoun that sliced in a magnificent through ball for Gervinho.The Ivorian shimmed past Wayne Hennessey in goal before slotting the ball home.

All eyes were on Robin van Persie as the forward was just two goals shy of breaking Alan Shearer’s Premier League record for most goals scored in a year that currently stands at 36. Gervinho and van Persie linked up well in attack but the Dutchman had a quick lash at the ball when he had enough time to take an extra touch or two.

Van Persie worked hard to win the ball off Karl Henry in defense before fashioning a chance for Rosicky. As expected, the goal-shy Rosicky sent a pass to Mikel Arteta that blasted his effort off a Wolves defender. Rosicky was in a better position to shoot but when you’re a player that has scored only one goal in 2011, what would you expect?

Rosicky created another chance for van Persie that was manhandled by a Wolves defender but Arsenal’s captain still tried his best to send a shot in that was saved by Hennessey in his near post. Van Persie was laying siege to the Wolves defense and was fouled right on the edge of the 18-yard box but Arteta’s excuse for a free kick was very tame to say the least.

Out of nothing, Wolves won a fictitious corner kick off Per Mertesacker. Jarvis swung the ball in but it was cleared out of the box before the ball arrived at Stephen Hunt’s feet. The Irish winger fired a shot goalwards and the ball ricocheted off Laurent Koscielny’s body but Steven Fletcher was on hand to score a real poacher’s effort with his head.

At the start of the second half, Arsenal continued to barrage the Wolves defense and Koscielny fired a shot that went off a defender’s arm. The Emirates erupted with shouts for a penalty but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Rosicky used the outside of his boot to swing the ball and Mertesacker rose the highest to head the ball goalwards but the goalie was equal to the challenge.

Andrey Arshavin came in for Benayoun while Aaron Ramsey replaced Alex Song that was in danger of losing his discipline after picking up a yellow card for a rash challenge on Fletcher and Hunt. Arsenal’s chances of getting the match winning goal were bolstered when Nenad Milijas picked up a straight red for a lounge on Arteta.

Ramsey flicked the ball to van Persie who was onside but his shot couldn’t go past the impressive Hennessey in goal. Arshavin attempted a neat one-two with van Persie but his left-footed effort just missed by a lick of paint.

The onslaught on the Wolves goal continued but Wayne Hennessey was in inspired form. Van Persie had a free kick that was destined for the net but the Wolves goalie stepped up again to pull another save from the top drawer. Ramsey sent another through ball to van Persie that drilled an effort to Hennessey’s near post but the goalie’s legs stopped the ball.

Marouane Chamakh came on for Djourou and his major involvement in the game was to clash heads with his captain following a corner kick from Arteta. Van Persie was concussed while Chamakh had to leave the pitch to dress the wound he sustained following the clash.

The 4th official raised his board and Arsenal had only six more minutes to get that goal that was needed to move them to the top four and Hennessey stepped up again when Thomas Vermaelen was unmarked inside the box to make another impressive block.

At the sound of the whistle, the Wolves players celebrated with their hero in goal whose one-man show kept Arsenal at bay. In this corresponding fixture last season in November, it was the Arsenal players that created with Lukasz Fabianski as he put up his best ever performance in an Arsenal shirt that night.

Szczesny (6.5) was faced with only one attempt on goal and it went past him.

Djourou (7.0) was solid in defense and ventured forward a few times.

Vermaelen (7.0) put up a good performance and was unlucky not to score Arsenal’s winning goal.

Koscielny (7.0) was rock-solid in defense.

Mertesacker (7.0) almost scored his first Arsenal goal with a header but the goalie came to Wolves’ rescue.

Song (6.5) did okay in midfield and was lucky not to see red.

Arteta (7.0) worked hard in midfield and swung many dead balls in.

Rosicky (6.5) showed some spark in his play but lacked that cutting edge.

Benayoun (6.5) gave an assist but was a bit disappointing in my opinion.

Gervinho (7.5) used his trickery to score Arsenal’s goal.

Van Persie (7.5) gave his all to score but the goalie was more than a match for him.

Arshavin (7.0) showed good movement and was unlucky not  to score.

Ramsey (7.5) sent in a lot of through balls that cut the defense like hot knife through butter.

Chamakh didn’t play long enough to get a rating.

In one of the most mysterious weekends were points were dropped faster than Usain Bolt’s 100m record for Jamaica, Arsenal had the chance on a platter to get a win that would have been enough to add to Andre Villas-Boa Constrictor’s woes but Arsene Wenger’s men picked the right game to be plofligate.

Sayonara.

Good News on Jack Wilshere, 2012 the Year of the Ox and Wolves Preview

Can he break Alan Shearer's record today?

2011 will be a year that will fill Gooners with mixed emotions because it had it all but like every other Arsenal fan, I look forward to 2012 with hope and optimism for the foreseeable future.

Jack Wilshere is certainly a player that had a great start in 2011 and his exploits on the pitch won him the PFA Young Player of the Year award in April. An ankle injury suffered during the preseason has kept Wilshere out of action for the remainder of the year but we’ve received good news that he’ll start running this week.

Wilshere’s return to full fitness will be a massive boost to Arsene Wenger as he plans to win the title amongst other honors in 2012. Arsenal has a very realistic chance of winning the FA Cup while a win over AC Milan in the Champions League first knockout round will go a long way to determine if Arsene Wenger’s men are good enough to win the biggest prize of them all.

FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and FC Bayern are still in the competition so you’ll have to be one Hell of an optimist if you believe that Arsenal is good enough to win the Champions League.

Arsenal signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for £12m and the youngster has featured sparingly for the Gunners. He strutted his stuff on his debut with a goal thereby making an instant impact and he has terrorized defenses in the Carling Cup.With Gervinho flying to Africa pretty soon coupled with Andrey Arshavin’s putrid performances, the fans have called on Arsene Wenger to have more of the Ox.

Arsene Wenger has hinted that 2012 will be the year of the Ox:

“In 2012, at the beginning of the year, he will play games. Alex is a talented boy, it is all there – he just needs that toughness in the game and because every game for us is so tight.”

“At Aston Villa last week, again, I could have brought him on and you have the hesitation to do it – but you do not want him to be a little bit over-ruled by the intensity of the game.”

“He is ready to play. Alex is just missing that experience at the top level. You have to throw him a few games.”

I’ve seen this bloke play and this confidence levels can be compared to Wojciech Szczesny in goal. He’s never afraid to take on his man and he possesses the crossing ability of an old-fashioned English winger. Let’s not forget that he has reserves of raw pace that’s comparable to Theo Walcott.

In other Arsenal news, Arsene Wenger has lavished praise on Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin will be handed a new contract in the coming weeks.

In the Boxing Day fixtures, Santa Claus brought some presents to Manchester United by giving Dimitar Berbatov new shooting boots and the Bulgarian used them to run Wigan ragged with a stunning hattrick. Santa also ensured that the festive period would be great for the Red Devils as all fellow title hopefuls dropped points.

Andre Villas-Boa Constrictor was a puzzled man yet again as Fulham came to Stamford Bridge to share the spoils with Chelsea. Liverpool also dropped points against relegation-threatened Blackburn but the biggest of them all was the goalless stalemate between West Brom and Manchester City.

Arsenal take on Wolves today knowing that a win will propel them into the promised land and they’ll stay there this time. A player that’s paying close attention to this game is Robin van Persie as he’s just two goals shy of equaling Alan Shearer’s record but Arsene Wenger is pondering resting the Dutch forward.

Wenger believes that starting three games in a week is a “big demand” for van Persie and he intends to access the situation. It’s true that van Persie isn’t Dirk Kuyt or Park Ji-Sung but Wenger should remember that van Persie doesn’t have to play all 90 minutes in each game. That’s why we have Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young.

Following the midweek win over Aston Villa, Arsenal has amassed 25 points from a possible 30 and it’s fair to say that the club is still in good form despite the setbacks from Fulham and Manchester City. Wolves are known for their dogged style of play and stubbornness but Mick McCarthy’s men have lost six of their last nine games.

Wolves come into this game one point and one place above the drop zone, having picked up just four points out of a possible 32 on the road this season. They are also without Jamie O’Hara (groin), Joey Craddock (hamstring), Edwards (groin), Foley (ankle).

Arsenal come into the game with all their full backs still missing in action and Vito Mannone (shoulder) is the latest member to renew his license with the injury club.

To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue between the sticks. Make-shift full backs Thomas Vermaelen and Francis Coquelin will continue in the full back positions while Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will continue at the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

Alex Song has served his suspension so he’ll be drafted back to the squad alongside Mikel Arteta (who’s a card away from suspension) in the middle of the park. Aaron Ramsey will be deployed in the hole behind the forward line.

Gervinho and Walcott will provide wit and pace down the flanks while the red-hot Robin van Persie will spearhead the attack.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Lest I forget, I’ll be honored if you can vote for me (@enigma106) in YNaija’s Birdies as the Male Tweeter to watch out for in 2012 (Next Rated) category.

Sayonara.

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Arsene Wenger on Thierry Henry, Injuries and a Roundup of Transfer Tidbits

The African Cup of Nations is around the corner with the likes of Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh getting ready to leave Arsenal for an entire month or so. The media Vultures have done their bit to link players in and out of the club with the latest potential arrival being the third installment in the Lord of the Ring series, the Return of the King.

King Thierry Henry has been linked with a loan move back to the club he played his best football and I gave five reasons why Arsenal shouldn’t re-sign the French forward. Many Gooners and football fans alike shared their opinions with their comments and a large chunk of them want Henry back but Arsene Wenger has said that he’ll take his time over Henry’s decision:

“That’s why I have Christmas Day off – I have to think about that, short-term is ideal for us, but I haven’t made any enquiry yet. Thierry is not here at the moment. It has never come up in conversation!

“The first of January is the vital date for us. We have seven days to make decisions and I will make a decision in the next seven days on players.”

Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal long enough to know what’s best for the club so any decision he makes on Henry will be okay be the Board, the players and of course, the Gooners.

Arsenal’s defense has been stretched to the limit and it’s sad to know that Kieran Gibbs suffered another setback on his hernia operation and he has undergone another surgery that will sideline him for another month. Wenger told a couple of media Vultures gathered that he has taken a new approach with his defensive line.

He said that he has told his makeshift full backs not to venture forward a lot because ‘center backs are not full backs’. He talked about the resilience of the defense and he praised the understated players in the squad for their performances of late.

Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky have done very well with their cameo performances off the bench and I feel it’s high time they get a run-out in the first team. Aaron Ramsey hasn’t lit up the Gooners with his performances of late and he’ll be the likeliest player to be relegated to the bench when Jack Wilshere returns to full fitness.

Benayoun is certainly better than Andrey Arshavin at the moment and I hope that Wenger would give him a chance from the left wing when Gervinho books his flight to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

To wrap it all up, Wenger believes that Arsenal is back in the title rice and he says that maximum points over the festive period will reignite the club’s title challenge. Just a few days ago, Wenger ruled Arsenal out of the title race following a narrow loss to Manchester City.

Moving over to transfer gossip, the regular suspects are dominating the headlines again.

Marouane Chamakh intends to finish the season with Arsenal but he has said that he’ll make a decision in the summer. Metro reports that Chamakh wants to leave Arsenal for another English club.

This is Futbol has linked Zenit with a move for their legend Andrey Arshavin while Caught Offside reports that FC Barcelona is plotting a move to sign Robin van Persie. It’s reported that Zenit is prepared to made a bid of £13.7m for the diminutive Russian and that’s okay for a 30-year old that will have a year left in his contract at the end of the season.

On possible arrivals, Arsene Wenger has ruled out a move for Bolton’s Gary Cahill and Football Friends Online has reported that Arsenal is interested in signing Fulham’s Bobby Zamora.

The quote of the day goes to Nick Glancy,

Happy birthday, Aaron Ramsey.

Happy Boxing Day.

Sayonara.

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