Monthly Archives: March 2012

Queens Park Rangers Preview: Another Win Would Be Simply Gr-eight

Goal Number 35! :(.... a goal short of Premier League history

When Arsenal hosted Queens Park Rangers in the last game of 2011, Robin van Persie was a hattrick short of making Premier League history as he had scored 34 league goals in the calendar year. England great and record holder Alan Shearer had tipped Arsenal’s talisman to break his record and all eyes were firmly fixed on van Persie that evening.

The Dutchman received a nice through ball from Thomas Vermaelen but he skewed his effort over the bar. Shawn Wright-Phillips was having a good time down the right but he gifted Arsenal a goal when he handed a pass to the much criticized Andrey Arshavin that did well to tee up van Persie early enough for the Flying Dutchman to slot home his 35th Premier League goal of 2011.

Arsenal began 2012 on an all-time low, losing three Premier League games in a row and followed it up with a disappointing boring stalemate against Bolton. Since the beginning of February though, Arsenal is unbeaten in eight league games and have won seven games on the bounce, overhauling the Chicken on a Basketball in third place. Those 5pur2′ fans that bought their “Mind the Gap” t-shirts are going bonkers because there’s no refund.

QPR have picked up more red cards (6) than any other team in the top flight this season, half of which have come since Mark Hughes took over. They have won just two of their last 18 Premier League matches and QPR’s only victory in the last two months came in that dramatic 3-2 turnaround against Liverpool. It is a run that has seen them join the relegation dogfight for survival. It’s also worth noting that no side have dropped more points from winning positions than QPR in the Premier League in 2011-12 (15).

Mark Hughes replaced Neil Warnock in a bid to change the club’s fortunes and a lot of money was invested in January to bring in players that seemed good enough to keep the club afloat in Premier League waters but Sparky is no better than Warnock at the moment as his side is presently a position below Warnock when he was relieved of his job.

They were in 17th place when the Welshman took over and they are presently sitting in 18th spot and with difficult matches against the top sides still to come. To add to their misery, their most potent attacking force Djibril Cisse, earned himself a four-match ban after seeing a red card against Sunderland, his second from just five league games.

QPR’s skipper Joey Barton has some history with Arsenal this season and there’ll be no love lost when he takes onto the pitch with Gervinho and 10 other Gunners.

Joey Hitler, u prick!

His recent form hasn’t been sky-high, but Joey Barton should return in the QPR starting eleven, not only because of his experience but also because of his propensity to get Arsenal players sent off. Abou Diaby and Gervinho can attest to that. Arsenal will also have to contend with the threat of Adel Taarabt and the winger whose full name is even taller than him, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

On the treatment table, QPR have doubts over the fitness of DJ Campbell (doubt – hamstring), Hall (doubt – knock), Heider Helguson (doubt – groin) while Djibril Cisse (suspended),Arsenal old boy, Armand Traore (hamstring) and Kieron Dyer (foot), Faurlin (knee) will definitely miss out.

Arsenal on the other hand are riding high and like DJ Khaled and T-Pain shrieked, all they do is win, win, no matter what. The Gunners arrive in Loftus Road with confidence levels so high, that it can be the jet fuel for Emirates Airlines. Arsene Wenger called for focus in his press conference:

I see us fighting like mad to win the game tomorrow, I don’t look further than that.

We are focused on QPR, believe me. We know that is always a tricky game for everybody and that is what is important to us. After that we focus on the next one and our capability to finish the season in a strong way depends on just how much we focus on every game.

I’ve also learnt that Arsene Wenger will be facing a three-match ban from UEFA and a fine of  €40,000

Arsenal have scored 27 goals away from home so far, and their defence has really improved on the road too and they have won a lower percentage of games against QPR than versus any other opponent in Premier League history (22%). The Gunners have seen more opposition players red carded against them than any other team this season (5) and with QPR’s poor disciplinary record, I won’t mind another early bath for one of their players.

Arsenal now have the joint-longest run of consecutive league wins (7) in 2011-12 Premier League. They last won eight in a row in March 2004 and since his arrival in England, Thomas Vermaelen has scored more goals (12) than any other Premier League defender. It’s also worth noting that Arsenal have won more points from losing positions than any other team this season (19).

To team news, I expect an unchanged lineup from the squad that gazumped Aston Villa last week. Laurent Koscielny has passed his fitness test for today’s game but I expect Wenger to throw caution to the wind with half an eye on next week’s crucial clash against Manchester City.

Today marks the 11th anniversary of David “Rocky” Rocastle’s tragic death. Rocky was 33 when he lost the battle in North London derby. Also extend your prayers to Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov, that was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Arsenal, another win will be simply gr-eight.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal in the Summer: To Spend or Not to Spend

Arteta feels that his team doesn't have to splurge

In the tail end of last season, Arsenal was faced with a task of amassing a series of wins to secure league honors for the first team in seven years or so. While fellow title rivals had the “distraction” of the Champions League and FA Cup, Arsene Wenger’s men had only Sunday Premier League fixtures to contend with.

We all know how those fixtures panned out. Arsenal became the first team in eons involved in a two-horse title race to end up in fourth place.

In an amazing twist of fate triggered by Bacary Sagna’s strong header against 5pur2, Arsenal overtuned a potential 13-point deficit to a three point lead over fourth placed Tottenham and the Gunners are in pole position to finish behind those bullies from Manchester.

However, the Arsenal faithful have braced themselves for yet another trophy-less campaign and the Black Widow Spider residing in Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet has extended her rent for an extra year at least.

Centuries ago, I published an article on why Arsenal remains trophy-less and I created a list of reasons why the club is still in that predicament.

One of the points I emphasized on was the club’s lack of transfer ruthlessness:

In the days of old, Arsene Wenger wasn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth was in terms of signings. There were times when we paid fees for players like Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes, Dennis Bergkamp and a host of others. But after our move to the Emirates, Wenger hasn’t been as callous as he needs to be when it comes to signing the top talent.

In recent times, he has changed his approach by honing younglings from our Mutant Academy or other academies in the Milky Way to give them a chance at the very highest level. If a player is massively overpriced there’s no point attempting to sign them unless you’re Real Madrid or Manchester City, but it appears, in the transfer market at least, Wenger does take no for answer instead of pressurising the Board of Directors into increasing the transfer budget slightly to clinch that marquee signature. This has made us lose a few players that would have contributed immensely to taking the club forward.

Arsenal was a few million pounds away from buying Xabi Alonso, Gareth Barry, Ryan Tower of Babel and a host of others. The first two players mentioned would certainly have done a much better job than Denilson and Abou Diaby. While it’s always good for his job to maintain a healthy relationship with the Board, Wenger could’ve won many more trophies in his Arsenal tenure had he had the ability to attract the top players to the Emirates.

We have a very strong first team but our second tier isn’t up to scratch. Last season, the shameful draws against Leyton Orient in Brisbane Road, Leeds at the Emirates with the defeat to Ipswich in the Carling Spoon semis first leg proved that fact.

Even if Wenger doesn’t want to halt the progress of the younglings like Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Johan Djourou, he has to remember that Arsenal is an injury prone squad. A center back, a recognized defensive midfielder and a striker are badly needed in Arsenal FC. I hope he gets it right this summer.

However, there’s a Gunner that doesn’t believe that Arsenal has to splurge this summer.

Mikel Arteta believes that the squad has what it takes to challenge for the title next season provided that they have better luck with injuries. He has paid attention to the many transfer rumors linking the club to targets such as Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze, FC Cologne’s Lukas Podolski and Lille’s Eden Hazard.

The fans have urged Arsene Wenger to bring in star names that can help relieve the burden on club captain Robin van Persie amongst other reasons.

However, Arteta is uncertain that there is such a strong need for new players and has instead pointed out the debilitating effects of injuries on the squad’s rhythm and depth in the current term:

“Obviously if you spend a lot of money to bring in top players you have a better chance because you have a bigger squad and you can change the team around but, for me, a key thing with our squad is the injuries.”

“We’ve been hit with important, long-term injuries the whole season that really, really affect the team.”

Arteta went on to say that he would like to see the same XI playing for 10-15 games on the trot, then they can be judged on their abilities. He also talked about the togetherness and mental strength of this present lot and promised that the run could continue till the end of the season.
 
To an extent, I understand the angle Mikel Arteta is coming from and I’m not really in the opinion that we should break bank for the likes of Hazard or Gotze. There are many quality players out there that can do a good job for Arsenal but Arsene Wenger has to get them this summer as well as keeping his squad intact.

The performances of Wojciech Szczesny has ended any pleas for a new goalie while Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone and Emiliano Martinez are good deputies. The return to full fitness of Bacary Sagna as well as the other full backs have changed Arsenal’s fortunes as they’ve returned with their width, guile, perfect balance in attack and defense and most importantly, crosses.
 
There’s a lot of personnel in the midfield but Alex Song needs another strong enforcer like Yann M’ Vila. I know that the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin have hugh potential but they still need a series of loan deals to bolster their confidence.

We also know that Robin van Persie needs an able deputy to relieve the goal scoring burden off him and the tales of Lukas Podolski have become tiring to say the least.

Arsenal in the summer: to splurge or not to splurge.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal’s Resurgence “Frustrates” Emmanuel Petit and a Tale of Le Forehead

Gervinho evading a marker

The quarterfinals of the Champions League reached its halfway point and no eyebrows were raised when the Dark Horses of the competition swept past their French hosts in the bid to play the final in their own stadium. The Marseille goalie should’ve done better from Mario Gomez’ effort but Arjen Robben’s sweet finish was certainly the icing on a half-baked cake.

The “other” game promised much but AC Milan’s experience shone through as they halted Barcelona from scoring for the first time in 30 Champions League games or so. The old hags like Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Ambrosini and Clarence Seedorf stole the show but this tweet was worth sharing in today’s post:

https://twitter.com/#!/aqqevalp/status/185085397838204928

When Arsenal went through that bad patch of form that saw them capitulate in AC Milan’s cattle-grazing center, fingers were pointed at Arsene Wenger and his squad for such a putrid performance.

Ex-Gunner Emmanuel Petit singled out some players in the team and stated that they were not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s calibre. Petit added that the club revolved its football around Francesca and $amantha and said a thing or two about the defense.

Petit continued to express his rage as he reiterated that the young players haven’t done enough to justify the confidence that Arsene Wenger has in them. He singled out Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey for some harsh yet deserved criticism and ended his interview with this quote:

“What is needed is five or six players of real stature, great experience, players who are 27 – 30 years old at most. Players with technical qualities, obviously, but also strong character. A group of guys who refuse to accept defeat, who inspire confidence in the rest of the team”

The Gunners went on to lose the next game (Sunderland, FA Cup) but they picked themselves up and kick-started a consistent resurgent run that can make the club change its official website to wwwwww.arsenal.com

The legend is overjoyed with his former side’s return to a rich vein of form but he’s frustrated that the Gunners have suffered the ignominy of yet another trophy-less campaign:

“The performances since the criticism have been magnificent. But I am disappointed as well.”

“Why did they have to wait for the criticism to show people what they can do? I am quite frustrated because it proved they can do more”

Petit still fears that Robin van Persie might leave Arsenal to win titles and he revealed that sacking Arsene Wenger would have been the biggest mistake Arsenal could have ever made.

Emmanuel Petit remains a true ambassador of the club and he like other legends, hold the club dearly to his heart.

In his youthful days at the ASEC Abidjan academy, Gervais Yao Kouassi was so good with the ball at his feet, his Brazilian trainer fashioned a catchy nickname for him, Gervinho.

Like Farmer Emmanuel Eboue, he got his breakthrough in Beveren of Belgium before snapped by Le Mans for £575,000. Two seasons, 59 games and nine goals after LOSC Lille Metropole came knocking on Le Mans’ door and the multiplied his initial fee by 10 to sell him for £5.75m.

He dazzled the Lille faithful with 13 league goals in 32 appearances in his first season and followed it up with 15 goals in 35 appearances inspiring the French outfit to their first League and Cup double since the days of Napoleon Bonaparte.

He was snapped up by Arsenal this summer for £11m and he became synonymous with the starting lineup before traveling to Gabon to represent the Elephants of Ivory Coast in the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Since his return, Le Forehead has been faced with the threat of an exuberant Ox and he’s working his way back to the first team. Gervinho says that he has done well at Arsenal but he can do better.

He said that his career has gone a long way since his switch to the Emirates and he’s pleased because he has improved himself as a player. He also believes that Arsenal win will lots of trophies next season and he ran out of superlatives for captain Van-tastic.

To wrap it all up, Denilson is eager to extend his stay at Sao Paulo, Real Sociedad is keen on sealing a permanent move for Carlos Vela and Mathieu Flamini the Flanimal could be in line for a sensational Emirates comeback.

Sayonara.

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Laurent Koscielny’s Injury Update and Arsene Wenger Plays Down AC Milan’s Title Chances

Jenko's new hairdo

After watching Arsenal bow out valiantly from the Champions League Knockout Phase, I was faced with the grueling task of boring myself for the best part of 90 minutes watching the only team carrying “England’s flag” in the competition.

Chelsea came up against a side with so many skillful and technical players that they were better off playing football on the “streets” instead of the green grass. Like a classic tale of the Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Benfica huffed and puffed but they couldn’t “blow” Chelsea’s house away.

The match clincher arrived when Ramires the Great Lizard made one of his trademark aimless surging runs only to get clattered by some bloke, El Flop-ino picked up the pieces and sent a cross to Asamoah Gyan…Cabo Snoop…Salomon Kalou, who dispatched his effort with consummate ease.

In the other quarterfinal, those expecting a shock result were made to go back home empty-handed as Real Madrid strolled past this year’s surprise package, APOEL Nicosia.

Still sticking with the Champions League, Arsene Wenger has stated that AC Milan has no realistic chance of lifting the trophy this season. Arsenal’s gaffer said that he knows Milan “very well” but they are not up to the task as they face a daunting challenge in the form of the emperors of modern-day football, FC Barcelona.

He also joked about the condition of their pitch, labeling it as a disaster when his team came around for the Italian Job in February. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion on issues like this, but I’m indifferent. If Milan pulls off a very against Barcelona, the world as I know it won’t come to an end.

Moving over to Arsenal news, Carl Jenkinson has earned a place in the spotlight following his recent “controversial” hairstyle he unveiled when Arsenal hosted Tottenham at the Emirates. The youngster has had a fledgling career understudying the consistent Bacary Sagna but a stress fracture in his back sidelined him for a large chunk of the season.

Arsenal.com released a special report on Jenkinson’s Mohican haircut with razor-thin sides. In the special report, his teammates Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robin van Persie voiced their concerns about the hair-do but Jenkinson defended his decision stating that he let his hairdresser “do what he wants”.

The Ox says that it’s getting out of control while van Persie quoted:

“We all want to help him. We have the slight feeling that this hair is a bad influence on the team, or maybe it’s a good influence since everyone is having a laugh”

Judging from the recent pictures of Jenkinson’s hair-do, I must say that I’ve seen worse. If you label Jenko’s hairstyle as controversial, what will you say about Marouane Fellaini’s Lice Haven, or Joey Barton’s Nazi-like hair-do.

However, I strongly believe that I could sharpen my knife with Marek Hamsik’s tomahawk hair-do.

The standout players in the hair malfunction business will certainly be the entire TP Mazempe side that showcased their talents in the 2009 Club World Cup.

Last season, a relatively unknown center back joined Arsenal from FC Lorient for £8.25m. With the long-term absense of Thomas Vermaelen courtesy of an Achilles tendon injury, he and the much-maligned Johan Djourou forged a very strong understanding and earned a catchy joint nickname, Djourcielny.

The way his career has turned around is a massive fairytale. Five years ago, he was plying his trade in Tours FC, a Ligue 2 outfit. In his second season at Tours FC, he was an ever-present figure, missing only four league appearances and he earned a place in the Ligue 2 Team of the Year at the end of that season.

FC Lorient snatched him up for €1.7m and he was also a regular starter in the mid-table outfit, amassing a 100% tackle rating. With the exits of Mercenary Gallas, Phillippe Senderos and Mikael Silvestre, Arsene Wenger offered this lad a chance to play top flight football on a consistent basis.

He notched up 43 appearances in his first season at Arsenal and even got on the scoresheet three times. His account opener was in the 6-0 mauling of Blackpool, his next was a solid header against Ipswich and his last and most important, was the match winner against Everton in February 2011.

He has also received two red cards in Arsenal colors, the first on his debut against Liverpool and the other for a professional foul on Nile Ranger when Newcastle visited the Emirates.

The lowest point of his Arsenal career will undoubtedly be that infamous cock-up he had with Wojciech Szczesny in the Carling Cup final but he had an excellent season for Arsenal by his standards.

Koscielny has grown in confidence and ability this season and he has become a contender for the Player of the Season alongside Alex Song and everyone’s favorite, Robin van Persie.

Having missed last weekend’s win over Aston Villa suffering from tendinitis, there is some positive news on his knee, so there’s no Kos for concern. Koscielny remains confident of facing QPR but I hope he doesn’t play for two reasons.

The first being that he’s not fully fit and his replacement Johan Djourou didn’t put a foot wrong against Aston Villa. The second and most important reason is that Koscielny is a yellow card away from getting a two-match ban, and we have Manchester City lurking around the horizon.

That’s today’s bit.

Sayonara.

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New Deal For Alex Song, Good News on Jack Wilshere and Poldi For Glory

I will play Wunderbar at the Emirates next season!

 

I had a very awkward dream yesterday night. I saw the Premier League’s top referees, led by Howard Webb protesting in front of Old Trafford over unpaid levies. Micheal Oliver was going bonkers holding a fork and a lighted torch yelling how he wasn’t paid for his Man of the Match performance against Fulham after denying the Cottagers a penalty.

In an interview to the media vultures, Oliver disclosed how a certain fee was paid for every penalty Manchester United is awarded, and an even bigger fee paid when the opposition is denied a penalty.

Finally, we learnt that the referee of the Blackpool vs. Manchester United game went to bask the Caribbean Sun following his incredible performance for turning deaf ears to Blackpool’s pleas over Rafael’s clear foul in the box. For all Arsenal’s shrewdness in the transfer window, it won’t hurt a bit to get a ref or two on our side.

I also dreamt that Gareth Bale used a large chunk of his funds to create the largest primate resort in existence called the Bale Foundation. He also erected the Bale Academy of Diving with reputed trainers like Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Didier Drogba.

Bale has told some media Vultures that Tottenham’s blip is over, like we actually give two fledgling fucks in the Red half of North London.

Ever wondered why the Chicken on a Basketball crossed the road? It went to search for the 10-point gap it had lost.

Before giving you my Arsenal digest for today, a little nose poking elsewhere won’t hurt a bit. Unless you’re living in a cave with no internet, colored TV and far away from civilization, you must have heard that the managerial ho Claudio Ranieri has been sacked for the umpteenth time.

I never realized that the Post- Mourinho hangover would be one of the greatest football hangovers in existence. Inter have sacked five coaches since Jose Mourinho left while Chelsea has shown four the door out.

Managers like Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes and Thomas Schaaf among others represent continuity and the first two names in the aforementioned list has proved countless times what could happen if you simply keep the faith.

Alex Song has been a revelation this season and he’s odds on to be a contender for the Player of the Season alongside Laurent Koscielny and everyone’s favorite, Robin van Persie.

Song’s has been flourishing in recent weeks and his assists have gone a long way in Arsenal’s recent resurgence. The Cameroonian gem currently earns £55,000 per week in a deal that would expire in 2014 and the Daily Mail reports that Arsenal is set to hand him a new five year deal worth £75,000 per week.

A new deal is no less than Song deserves and it’s sure to spur him on to put up more consistent performances we’ve been accustomed too. There are still rumors surfacing that Song could be partnered by Yann M’ Vila next season.

Having these two athletic enforcers in the middle of pitch next season will make Arsenal a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League once again.

Still sticking with good news, Caught Offside has published an encouraging article concerning Arsenal’s midfield dynamo, Jack Wilshere. It’s reported that Wilshere could be available for Arsenal’s clash against Chelsea next month.

Having Wilshere in the dugout would certainly be a pleasing sight for everyone at the Emirates but I feel that he should be given a breather this season. There still the European Championships and pre-season this summer so easing Wilshere slowly into action will be in the club’s best interests.

Besides, Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky are in the form of their lives.

After taking a very coy approach on the Lukas Podolski matter in recent weeks, Arsene Wenger has been surprisingly open about the German International in a recent interview.

The Boss revealed that Poldi is needed at the Emirates for glory next season. Wenger said that Podolski’s arrival will ease the pressure off van Persie next season, which will help push Arsenal towards that elusive trophy next season.

If Arsenal had a player like Podolski come off the bench against AC Milan, we probably would have been gearing ourselves for another clash with Barcelona. Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young haven’t proven their worth to the club and I can only hope that they’ll get new employers next season, we can only afford to have 25 players registered.

To wrap it all up, Kieran Gibbs believes that Theo Walcott is the best winger and he also believes that the Gunners are unbeatable. Mikel Arteta on the other hand talks up the team’s spirit but is wary of complacency.

A classic mixture of youthful exuberance and experienced level head. Ingredients of a trophy-winning side.

Sayonara.

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