Monthly Archives: January 2012

10 Positives Taken From Arsenal’s Stunning Comeback Against Aston Villa

Arsenal hosted Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth Round on the back of three disappointing losses in a row. It was a classic game of two halves where the visitors rose to ascendancy in the first half only to brought back down to Earth following an inspired second half performance from the home team.

Aston Villa took the lead when Alex McLeish’s side perfectly executed a fantasy training move that reaped dividends. It involved some intricate passing from a corner kick that saw the ball lofted into Arsenal’s danger area. Richard Dunne rose the highest to nod the ball home.

The Villans doubled their lead courtesy of a swift counter attack that put Arsenal on the back foot. Darren Bent had a shot that was parried by Lukasz Fabianski but he showed his attacking predatory skills with a second bite of the cherry and it was enough to put the away side two goals up.

Robin van Persie scored Arsenal’s first goal from the spot after Aaron Ramsey was hacked down by Dunne. Theo Walcott had Lady Luck on his side when a defensive clearance was ricocheted off his body to level the contest. Van Persie scored the winner from the spot after Laurent Koscielny was scythed down in the box by Bent.

It was really heart warming to know that Aston Villa’s goal scorers (Dunne and Bent) offered Arsenal a chance back in the game with their fouls in the box. Arsenal also had two penalties awarded in a match and it’s been a long while since that feat was achieved.

This result will certainly boost the confidence of the lads and a lot of positives have been taken from this game. Here are my top 10 positives taken from Arsenal’s win against Aston Villa.

Enjoy!

Arsene Wenger’s Halftime Team Talk

To be honest, I feared the worst when Arsene Wenger’s men where ushered into the tunnels with choruses of boos from the fans. I don’t know what the manager told his lads but in my opinion, it clearly worked a treat.

Arsenal came into the second half all guns blazing and the players were rewarded with three goals. The words of inspiration from the manager in the dressing room was a major positive.

Arsenal’s Attacking Verve

Arsenal was highly unlucky in the first half but the team got its reward in the next 45 minutes. A lot of plaudits should go to the way Arsene Wenger’s men attacked their visitors with positive intent throughout the game. Arsenal is renowned for being an attacking side and the showing was on display last Sunday.

Performance of the Make-Shift Full Backs

Arsenal has been without its four recognized full backs since the tail end of 2011 and this has caused Wenger to use his center backs as make shift full backs. A handful of players have switched between these roles and there have been panicky performances from a few and some solid outings from others.

Thomas Vermaelen and Francis Coquelin manned the full back positions against Aston Villa and the supported the attack well.   They were also adept in their defensive duties and they held the fort in the absence of the injured full backs.

The Return of Bacary Sagna

Bacary Sagna fractured his leg in White Hart Lane last October and was diagnosed to make his return in the New Year. Without deputy Carl Jenkinson out injured, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou and Nico Yennaris have taken shifts in his absence.

In the dying minutes of the match, Bacary Sagna’s number was displayed in the dashboard and his entry into the pitch was a breath of fresh air. It’s good to see Mr. Consistency back.beroo

Laurent Koscielny’s Libero Role

The role of the libero came into light in the days of Franz Beckenbauer but it has been a bit extinct in recent times. Defenders like Inter Milan’s Lucio and Real Madrid’s Ricky Carvalho have made surges forward that led to goal scoring opportunities but it’s fair to say that Arsenal’s “libero” is Laurent Koscielny.

The French defender has a knack for making slalom runs upfront and another trademark run led to a penalty that was converted with consummate ease by Robin van Persie.

Alex Song’s Attacking Initiative

Alex Song starts every game as Arsenal’s “holding” midfielder but he has been phenomenal for the club in attack this season. He has made some great assists this season with my pick of the bunch being his jinking run against Borussia Dortmund before crossing the ball for Robin van Persie.

In the game against Aston Villa, Song made two telling passes that led to the penalties Arsenal converted. His through ball to Aaron Ramsey led to the first penalty while his one-two with Laurent Koscielny gave the center back the impetus to continue his run that led to the second penalty.

The Ox’s performance

The Ox has been a bright spark for Arsenal this season and he has been given a run-out by the manager following the exit of Gervinho for the African Cup of Nations. The Ox was a lively figure throughout the game and continued his fledgling Arsenal career with another great performance.

He was a terrorist down the left and was never afraid to take on his opposite number. The manager promised that 2012 will be the Year of the Ox; I’m glad to see that Wenger kept to that promise.

Robin van Persie’s Composure

Robin van Persie has turned into football’s definition of Midas, a player who everything he touches turns into goals. When Arsenal won two penalties against Aston Villa, he was faced with the ominous task of converting the spot kicks and he excelled admirably.

Van Persie now has 25 goals to his name in just January and he’s going to bang in more as long as he stays fit.

Mental Strength

In a period like this where thing have been going downhill for Arsenal, the team showed great mental strength to dust themselves up from a shaky first half performance to score three goals to win the tie. The players had the option of feeling sorry for themselves but they did well to put up a performance that has propelled Arsenal to the fifth Round of the FA Cup.

Arsenal’s Spirit

This season, Arsenal has shown great spirit to pick themselves up when the chips were really down. This team was bruised, battered and humiliated when they visited Old Trafford in August but the Gunners made a great run in the tail end of 2011.

The start of 2012 saw Arsenal wan Leeds United before losing three games in a row. The manager and his team was under serious stick from the fans and at half time and it seemed as if the gloomy times where set to continue. The club under the  able hands of Arsene Wenger turned the tides around to produce a scintillating second half performance.

These were my top 10 positives taken from Arsenal’s stunning comeback against Aston Villa. Feel free to share yours with your comments.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2: A Classic Game of Two Halves

van the Man

Before yesterday’s game, the aura surrounding Arsenal Football Club in January was the kind that could make the likes of Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein and the Grim Reaper feel at home.

Despair, frustration, anger and many more downhill attributes were the orders of the day as disappointing results on the pitch coupled with the club’s lack of transfer activity didn’t put the Board, the manager and his team in many Gooners’ good books.

Despite declaring that he was going to focus on the Premier League, the manager featured a very “strong” lineup to take on Aston Villa in his team’s bid to book a place in the 5th Round. Wojciech Szczesny got a breather while the back line was boosted by the return of Francis Coquelin to the right back position. Tomas Rosicky was given another start while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain retained his place in the team.

Arsenal drew first blood through a tame effort from Aaron Ramsey that was easy pickings for Shay Given in goal. Thomas Vermaelen stung the experienced goalie’s hands from a sweetly drilled effort from a cushioned Robin van Persie pass. There was a nervy moment when Fabianski challenged Darren Bent for the ball but he missed both the ball and the forward.

Against the run of play, Aston Villa took the lead from a well executed training move that caught Arsenal on the back foot. After some intricate passing from a corner kick, Robbie Keane lobbed the ball into the 6-yard box and Richard Dunne rose the highest to head the ball home.

Rosicky had the chance to level the tie but his shot was a bit too cheeky for a keeper of Given’s caliber. Aston Villa compounded the home team’s misery late on when a swift counter attack saw Bent drill his shot past Fabianski on his second attempt after initially forcing a good save from the Pole.

From the title of this post, the first half clearly belonged to the Villans but Arsene Wenger probably gave his players the hairdryer treatment and urged to step up their game. Arsenal began the second half as the brighter side and Per Mertesacker was denied his first goal in Arsenal colors when Stephen Ireland blocked his effort off the line.

Ramsey missed another glorious chance to bring Arsenal back in the game and the miss sent Thierry Henry to the turf. You can’t doubt Henry’s love and passion for this game. His reaction after Mertesacker’s miss against Swansea was definitely one for the cameras.

However, Ramsey atoned for that miss when he has hacked down by Dunne in the box. Up stepped van the Man to send Given the wrong way. In a few minutes, Arsenal leveled the contest courtesy of a freak goal by Theo Walcott.

In the buildup, Arsenal’s Usain Bolt made a fool of a defender before closing in on the goalie then goal-mouth scramble saw the ball ricochet off the pacey winger to send the Emirates into raptures.

Arsenal’s 3rd goal and match clincher arrived when Laurent Koscielny made one of his slalom runs forward after a brilliant one-two with Alex Song. He was scythed down in the box by Darren Bent leaving the man with the whistle no choice. Van Persie stepped up again to smash in goal number 25 for the season.

The Gooners activated their party mode when Thierry Henry and Bacary Sagna entered the pitch in the dying moments. I also forgot to mention that Mikel Arteta played some part in today’s fixture after coming in for Rosicky.

Fabianski (6.5) raised my blood pressure with every back pass he received and didn’t really do enough to displace Szczesny as Arsenal’s Number One.

Coquelin (7.0) was really good with the ball at his feet and supported Theo Walcott well in attack.

Vermaelen (7.5) offered a lot in Arsenal and was adept in his defensive duties.

Koscielny (8.0) continued his inspired form and made the assist for the match winning goal.

Mertesacker (7.5) has clearly grown in confidence but his first Arsenal goal still eludes him.

Song (8.0) showed more attacking initiative than Ramsey and Rosicky despite being Arsenal’s holding midfielder.

Ramsey (6.5) dwelt on the ball far too long but did well to win a penalty for his team.

Rosicky (6.5) lacked sharpness in attack but he made a few good passes.

The Ox (7.5) was a terrorist down the left and was never afraid to take on his opposite number.

Walcott (7.0) scored his first goal at the Emirates since August. He also showed some good dribbling skills to get past his opponents.

Van Persie (8.0) kept a cool head to beat Shay Given twice from the penalty spot. This goal machine can’t stop scoring :(

Arteta (7.0) steadied the ship in midfield when he came on.

Henry and Sagna didn’t play long enough to get ratings.

If you think Walcott’s goal was freaky, here’s a freaky fact for you. Aston Villa’s goal scorers (Dunne and Bent) offered Arsenal chances to come back into the game as they were the culprits that caused the two penalties for the first and third goals.

After three disappointing defeats on the trot, the Gunners can look into Wednesday’s game against Bolton with a newly found confidence and optimism. The mere fact that the injured players are returning to full fitness is definitely a breath of fresh air.

As Arsene Wenger reiterated, it’s time to focus on the Premier League.

Notwithstanding, this was a classic game of two halves.

Sayonara.

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

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enigma106:

Aston Villa match preview on WaZoBia Gooners

Originally posted on Wazobia Gooners:

Same scoreline anyone?

When I opened the doors of my WaZoBia Gooners apartment yesterday night, I’m pretty sure that I had a quick glance at Batman with 1000 other bats leaving the premises because the enigma was “back in building”. There was also the issue of many cobwebs but I think I’ll live.

It’s been a long while since I blogged in the online community of Nigerian Gooners and I’m pretty sure that I cracked a few ribs with my match reports in pidgin English.

Like every other true Arsenal fan, the enigma has not been happy with what has been going on in the club he supports but the only thing we can offer Arsenal at this point in time is our support. I wrote a post in my blog about the Civil War between the AKBs and the AMGs and it’s fair to say that I’ve learnt a thing or…

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Mr. Consistency Returns and Arsenal to focus on the Premier League

The FA Cup still remains one of the sweetest competitions in England because of the countless drama that goes on the field of play. It’s the only tournament where a certain Lukasz Fabianski can be seen leaving his box like a raging bull to attack a Didier Drogba, who ends up dribbling him before placing the ball in an unguarded net in a semifinal. It’s also the only competition where a team can win another with seven recognized defenders in its starting lineup.

The pick of the 4th Round games saw a “Say No to Racism” get together as the four teams that dominated the headlines for racism allegations locked horns against each other.

The traditional handshakes were cancelled in Loftus Road because nobody wanted to see Anton Ferdinand and that ex-girlfriend shagger exchange blows before getting a chance to sweat on the pitch. In Anfield, Patrice Evra wore the armband for the Red Devils against King Kenny’s Red Army but the Uruguayan ear-biting spitting herbivore was seen on the stands not looking half bad.

Apparently, the football did the talking as Juan Mata’s penalty was enough to propel Chelsea to the 5th Round while a late strike from Dirk Kuyt ensured that the bullies from Manchester will have only the Premier League and Europa League to fight for.

Arsenal takes on Aston Villa today and many Gooners have high hopes for this tournament as its stands out as the most realistic chance of ending Arsenal’s trophy drought but the manager wants to put all his focus on the Premier League:

I have always told you exactly the same, the priority is be in the top four” 

“In recent years I felt that we produced always the consistency at the top, top level and it is not enough for some people maybe, but for me that is the brand of a top level club – consistency in the top four.”

However, the boss said a thing or two about football’s oldest club competition. He uttered that he has won it four times, lost a final and has been in countless semis. He also talked about his FA Cup record and how his side aimed for the unprecedented quadruple last season.

If was Arsenal’s manager, I would fire all guns blazing in the FA Cup because the only “recognizable” threats  are Chelsea and Liverpool and these are teams Arsenal can beat on their day. The Gunners can continue their surge in the league as the fixtures in February aren’t that bad.

The club has received a timely boost as Mr. Consistency Bacary Sagna is back in full training after suffering a fracture in his leg last October. Arsene Wenger is also relieved to have the Frenchman back. Djourou has struggled in the right position so the news of Sagna’s return is like good music to my ears.

Last season, Sagna’s consistency and fitness ensured that he missed only five Premier League games from a possible 38 and he was ever-present in Europe even though he got a silly red card following a bust up with a player when Arsenal played Partizan Belgrade in Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League. In just four and half years into his Arsenal career, Sagna is already closing in on 200 appearances and he has been a devoted servant to Arsenal since moving from AJ Auxerre.

In other Arsenal related news, Wenger has hailed Laurent Koscielny and for some strange reason, he said that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reminds him of Wayne Rooney.

Koscielny deserves every plaudit coming his way because he has adapted fully in England and he has made a couple of impressive performances this season. As for the comparison between the Ox and Wazza, I’m a bit confused because the Ox doesn’t look anything like Shrek.

Arsenal takes on Aston Villa this evening but I’m going to write the preview for that game in the online community for Nigerian Gooners, WaZoBia Gooners.

The last time I wrote on that splendid website, Fred Flintstone was taking his driving lessons on a dinosaur.

Here’s to Mr. Consistency.

Welcome Bac’ :)

Sayonara.

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

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10 Reasons Why Arsenal Misses Jack Wilshere

Jack Andrew Garry Wilshere was born on a New Year’s Day in 1992 and joined Arsenal’s Youth Academy at the young age of nine. His potential was very massive at such an age and he rose through the ranks before making his Arsenal debut at the age of 16 beating Cesc Fabregas’ record in the process.

He was introduced slowly into the first team and made some appearances in the Cup ties but his big break arrived when he secured a loan move to Bolton Wanderers in the winter of 2010. Under the tutelage of Owen Coyle, Wilshere made 14 league appearances and scored one goal.

Everyone tipped Wilshere to go to Bolton again for another season but Arsene Wenger slotted the youngster straight into the first team and Wilshere repaid the manager’s faith with a string of scintillating performances.

Wilshere’s performances on the pitch were good enough to send Abou Diaby and Denilson down the pecking order and the youngster was rightly rewarded with the PFA Young Player of the Year award for 2011. He also earned a place in the Team of the Year and was voted as Arsenal’s Player of the Season for 2011.

This season, Arsene Wenger had hoped that Wilshere would build on his performances in the last campaign but an ankle stress fracture suffered in the summer kept Wilshere out for a very large chunk of the season. He was tipped to make a comeback in February but he has suffered another injury setback.

Wilshere has grown to become one of Arsenal’s most influential players and his absence from the field of play has been a bitter pill to swallow all season long. Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why Arsenal misses Jack Wilshere:

GOOD PASSING RANGE

Jack Wilshere is arguably one of the best passers of the ball at Arsenal. His passes to teammates upfront pierce defenses like hot knife through butter.  In his short Arsenal career thus far, his best pass still remains that diagonal ball he gave to Nicklas Bendtner in the 3-0 Carling Cup semifinal victory over Ipswich Town.

Since the exit of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer, Arsenal has really lacked in the creativity department as the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky haven’t come to the party yet. Arsenal clearly misses Wilshere’s good passing range.

BRAVERY

Jack Wilshere goes into every game like a general wielding a sword and a shield ready for battle. Last season still remains Wilshere’s best in Arsenal colors and there were so many games he stamped his authority showing off his amazing bravery.

When Arsenal visited the Britannia Stadium (the ground where Aaron Ramsey’s leg was snapped like a twig), Wilshere was one of Arsenal’s best players and he refused to be bullied by the goons from Stoke City. He epitomized it all by facing off with Jermaine Pennant and Dean Whitehead.

He earned a booking for his troubles though.

PASSION

Wilshere is the kind of player that loves football for what it is: the beautiful game. Wilshere played close to 4,000 minutes of football for Arsenal last season but he reiterated his desire to represent England in the Under-21 European Championships despite the fact that he was becoming a Three Lions first team regular.

Wilshere also declared his interest in representing Team Great Britain n the forthcoming Olympic Games in London and this clearly shows that Wilshere’s passion for the game is second to none.

BALANCE IN MIDFIELD

Arsene Wenger adopted a new improved 4-2-3-1 formation to bring out the best in Cesc Fabregas and it was a move that paid dividends as the Spaniard smashed in 19 goals and 19 assists in the 2009/10 season.

However, Wenger handed Jack Wilshere a role in between Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song to maintain the balance in midfield. Wilshere excelled in this role and his performances as Arsenal’s box to box midfielder left fans drooling. Mikel Arteta currently occupies that role since joining the club from Everton and he has been phenomenal in that position.

Arsenal has clearly struggled in Arteta’s absence and with no Wilshere in that role; the struggle is bound to continue because Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun don’t have the defensive awareness to cope with the demands of the role.

WORK RATE

Despite having such a small stature, Jack Wilshere possesses the stamina of an Ox (not Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain). He’s a general in midfield and he also regarded as a tireless worker because of his high work rate.

Wilshere covered a lot of distances every game he played and there were games he amassed up to 12km on the pitch. The only midfielder that managed that such long distances on the pitch was Mathieu Flamini the Flanimal in the 2007/08 season.

The only player present in Arsenal’s squad that can match Wilshere’s work rate is Alex Song and there’s a limit to what a player can do. Wilshere’s work rate has been badly missed this season.

TECHNICAL PROWESS

Arsenal was regarded as the most technical team in the Premier League last season because of the large outlay of football “technicians” present in the squad. They were led by technical chief Cesc Fabregas and he was followed closely by Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Abou Diaby, Andrey Arshavin, Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna.

In the League of Extraordinary Arsenal Technicians, Jack Wilshere was well placed among those at the top and his close control, swift movement, cutting in and the way he curled the ball sweetly proved his worth in gold.

Many of the players in the aforementioned list are haven’t been on the pitch this season because some have been sold off, loaned out or out injured. Sadly, Jack Wilshere is presently in the last class.

HIGH CONCENTRATION LEVELS

Wilshere’s role as a box to box midfielder allowed him to work on his defensive side as well as buildup his attacking prowess. Wilshere made a lot of tackles and he was also an effective marker of the ball high up in midfield.

However, Wilshere’s concentration levels on the pitch were very high and the midfielder hardly put up a wrong foot all game long. This season, lapses in concentration as high up in midfield have cost Arsenal dearly with the latest disastrous lapse shown the Swansea City vs. Arsenal game.

What seemed like a simple routine pass from Andrey Arshavin to Aaron Ramsey turned into a nightmare as Swansea capitalized on that error to score a goal. First teamers Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Ramsey have had their fair share of sloppy passes this season and this was hardly seen when Wilshere was on the pitch.

COMPOSURE ON THE BALL

If Jack Wilshere was termed as a mystery, the greatest enigma would be how composed he is with the ball. Wilshere was 19 in the 2010/11 season but he played like a footballer that has been in the game for all eternity, a sentiment that was shared by England’s boss Fabio Capello.

He scored only two goals last season but my pick of the bunch remains his chipped effort in the 6-0 thrashing of Eduardo’s Shakhtar Donetsk. This season, lack of composure in midfield and in front of goal has cost Arsenal in vital moments this season.

Theo Walcott’s miss against Queens Park Rangers still stands out though.

FLAMBOYANT STYLE OF PLAY

Wilshere’s versatility in midfield makes him an unpredictable player to come up against. While primarily playing in the center of the pack, Wilshere moves into channels and is a big fan of the art called “one-two”.

His flamboyancy was a major plus for Arsenal last season and it has been clearly missed this season.

ARSENAL’S BEST MIDFIELDER

If you take a good and honest look at Arsenal Football Club, you can count a handful of players that can challenge for a first team place in the biggest teams in world football. FC Barcelona can be rated as the best team in the world so I intend to use the club as a basis for my comparison.

In goal Wojciech Szczesny isn’t really match for Victor Valdes but he’ll get there in a few years time. In the defense, Bacary Sagna can match Dani Alves pound for pound and Thomas Vermaelen is better than Gerald Pique defensively while it’s the other way round in offense.

Barcelona is blessed with the midfielders of the 21st century but there can still be a place for a player of Jack Wilshere’s quality. I’ll take Robin van Persie above any forward Barcelona has to offer with the exception of that Messi-less wizard from Planet Krypton.

Jack Wilshere is Arsenal’s best midfielder and he’s followed closely by the impressive Alex Song.

SUMMARY

Arsenal has clearly struggled with the absence of Jack Wilshere because his “replacements” haven’t even come close to matching what he did last season and the results on the pitch are glaring for everyone to see.

Age is slowly creeping in on Tomas Rosicky and his countless niggling injuries have made him lose that spark even though he still has some bags of quality in him. Yossi Benayoun has been on the fringes this season and he has put up decent performances in his short stint but not anywhere close to Wilshere’s level of performance.

My key focus would be on Aaron Ramsey. Like Wilshere, he has been touted as the future of Arsenal’s midfield but the Welsh captain has been very inconsistent to say the least. He has had his good days for sure but in his off days, he can be very frustrating to watch.

With Wilshere still out and Arsene Wenger’s refusal to buy a worthy replacement for Fabregas and Nasri, a huge burden of responsibility has been placed on Ramsey’s young shoulders and he has shown that it’s too much for him to bear.

I wish Jack Wilshere a speedy recovery and I pray that he doesn’t suffer any more setbacks after this recent one.

Sayonara.

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