Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Gunners Claw Back From the Jaws of Defeat

18 goals and counting…

After two victories against West Ham and Brighton, Liverpool offered the Gunners a stern test to prove if they were worthy of the top four finish the fans crave, since buying a player is now out of the question. Elsewhere, Tottenham had a tricky trip to Norwich while Everton hosted West Brom.

Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes to the squad that struggled to assert themselves against Brighton, opting for the exact lineup that decimated West Ham with consummate ease. In defense, the captain and Kieran Gibbs came in, in midfield, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla returned to the starting XI while the red-hot Theo Walcott replaced the Ox in attack.

As early as the fifth minute, the visitors took the lead after more atrocious defending from Arsenal. Luis Suarez mistimed a pass to Glen Johnson but Bacary Sagna slipped without a challenge, allowing the fullback to run into the box. Johnson crossed the ball into the danger area and Vermaelen miscued his clearance, leaving Danny Sturridge a clear cut chance with Wojciech Szczesny.

Sturridge’s shot was parried by the keeper and the ball waltzed past Aaron Ramsey to Jordan Henderson’s path, that laid it on for Suarez and the Uruguayan’s effort deflected off Per Mertesacker to hand Liverpool an early lead.

Jack Wilshere tore open the Liverpool defense with an inch-perfect pass to Walcott but the Englishman blasted his shot straight at Pepe Reina when Olivier Giroud was free on his left hand side.

Liverpool almost went two up when Szczesny tried to become a libero in his attempt to dribble Sturridge from a back pass but Liverpool failed to make the goalie pay.

Arsenal continued to press on for an equalizer and almost got it when Walcott’s sweetly curled shot to the far corner was parried to safety by Reina. Walcott instigated another attack with Ramsey, Cazorla and Lukas Podolski in the thick of things but the German’s cut back but cleared by an onrushing Steven Gerrard.

Arsenal’s defensive frailty was on show again when Mertesacker uncharacteristically passed the ball to Henderson that wasted no time in teeing up Suarez but Sagna recovered on time to block the ball for a corner kick.

There was a major concern for Arsene Wenger when Kieran Gibbs was in some discomfort and he was replaced by the appalling Andre Santos shortly afterwards. Gibbs has been a consistent player and it’s been a long while since he visited Arsenal’s treatment table. It’s really sad to know that he might face a spell on the sidelines, especially when his replacement is Andre Santos.

According to Wenger, Gibbs has a thigh strain and he’ll be out for three weeks, which means that Andre Santos might play against Arjen Robben next month. *gulp*

Late on, Liverpool carved open the Arsenal defense yet again and Henderson was one on one with Szczesny, so he chose to chip the goalie but his effort bounced off the roof of the net.

Like recent times, Arsene Wenger must have given his lads some harsh words in halftime and they came out all guns blazing in the start of the second half. Podolski made a mazy run on the left before swinging a cross that was nodded over the bar by Walcott. Wilshere darted forward to win a free kick on the edge of the area, but Podolski’s dead ball hit the Liverpool wall.

Arsenal’s misery was compounded when Henderson evaded Mertesacker like he wasn’t there before shoving off the challenge of Andre Santos as he crept into Arsenal’s box. His initial shot was blocked by Ramsey but Szczesny was in No Man’s Land, allowing Henderson to guide the ball to an unguarded net to make it 2-0 for the visitors.

Podolski executed a neat one-two with Giroud but he blasted his shot wide off the mark. When it seemed as if this was going to be one of those days for Arsenal, Wilshere swung in a free kick that was headed home by Giroud, to give his team a glimmer of hope.

Giroud makes it 2-1

Two minutes later, Cazorla found Giroud with a pin-point pass but the striker cushioned the ball for Walcott that rifled his shot past Reina to make it 2-2. When it seemed as if Liverpool was going to run away with the game, Arsenal popped up with two quick-fire goals from nowhere. Typical.

Walcott fashioned a chance for himself with his left foot but it missed the goal by a lick of paint. Mertesacker came on the end of a Cazorla corner kick but he nodded the ball over the bar.

Liverpool got a corner kick and were on the end of a swift counter attack from Arsenal. Walcott used his blistering pace to cover some ground before finding Podolski on his left. The German supplied a quick pass to Cazorla but the Spaniard’s drilling drive at goal was too much for Giroud.

Within minutes, Arsenal launched another counter attack from another Liverpool corner with Cazorla and Walcott involved this time. The English forward found Giroud with a tame pass but the Frenchman did well to bring the ball ahead of him before blasting a shot that was saved by Reina.

Arsenal almost went ahead when Giroud and Podolski combined superbly on the left. The German’s drilled pass came off Daniel Agger so it was miscued by Giroud with a gaping goal in his sight. Right at the death, but teams pushed on for a sucker punch and Liverpool almost got it when Andre Santos chose to pass the ball to the opposition but Suarez’ shot was parried by Szczesny.

At the end, a draw seemed like a fair result but the impact on the table showed that Everton turned out to be the big winners with their victory over West Brom that has given them some breathing space from Arsenal below them. Tottenham dropped points against Norwich, making the battle for fourth place more intense than ever.

At the end, getting a draw from a superb fightback showed great spirit but the sooner Arsenal learns to kill off games, the better for everyone.

Stoke visits the Emirates on Saturday and they’ll offer a different preposition.

Sayonara.

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Liverpool Preview and the Curious Case of David Beckham

When it seemed as if my dear ol’ Nigeria was going to get another unfortunate draw that would knock them out of the African Cup of Nations, it took Chelsea’s Victor Moses to come up with the goods twice from two spot kicks he created…and scored, unlike his Chelsea teammate and compatriot, John Mikel Obi.

Nigeria’s victory coupled with Zambia’s stalemate against Burkina Faso ensured that the defending African champions followed the same route with Chelsea in this season’s Champions League. But unlike Chelsea that had the luxury of going to the Europa League, Zambia will take a short trip back home.

For failing to win the group, Nigeria will play Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinals. *gulp*

****

With all the upsets of the FA Cup taking center stage during the weekend, Premier League football returned to our TV screens last night with the defending champions, Manchester City, going to London to take on the struggling QPR. Twitchy Ol’ ‘Arry Red Nakpin literally “parked the bus” and Roberto Mancini’s goons dropped points yet again.

This also means that a Manchester United victory tonight will extend their lead at the top to seven points.

Alan Pardew and his French Army also went to Villa Park to break the appalling record of being the only Premier League team without an away victory this season and he had his French contingent to thank, as newbie, Moussa Sissoko provided the ammunition for Papiss Cisse’s opener. Shortly afterwards, Yohan Cabaye’s sweetly struck effort turned out to be the match winner with a goal worthy of settling any contest.

Tonight, Arsenal will hope to continue their good run of form against a Liverpool side fresh from an FA Cup embarrassment in the hands of Oldham. Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers, is confident that his team will bounce back (via Sporting Life) and former Liverpool star, John Aldridge, believes that his team can get all three points against a vulnerable Arsenal (via Fox Sports).

Despite their recent misfortunes, Liverpool is just three points below Arsenal in the league and will hope to secure a priceless victory against their illustrious London rivals. Their last visit to the Emirates was fruitful with Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles scoring the goals that put the game beyond doubt.

Despite the fact that Arsenal has lost two of their last five matches, they will be more than a match for a Liverpool side that have struggled on the road this season. The Gunners have lost just once in their last 11 meetings with today’s opponents, but six of those games have ended as draws.

In 11 games at the Emirates so far, the Gunners have amassed six wins and three defeats while Liverpool has won only three away games, conceding 18 goals in the process.

To team news, the Gunners are set to welcome back the likes of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott to the first team. Arsenal’s skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, is also back in contention for a possible start, but the game will be too soon for Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin, that are still a bit short.

In goal, I’d expect Wojciech Szczesny to be the custodian between the sticks. The goalie came under the spotlight for the wrong reasons last weekend when he failed to deal with a set piece that went into his net. To be fair to the big Pole, the defense was ball watching as well and Szczesny has come out to say that Arsenal’s defense is not to blame for the club’s recent woes at the back (via Fox Sports).

Not to blame huh? YOUDUNMEANIT

In Szczesny’s words,

Over a long time I’ve honestly had enough of people saying Arsenal’s defence is not good enough. People judge defence on the back of goals conceded but you have to have a look at the defending in general. If my back four are completely exposed against Chelsea – most of the time in the first half there it was four of my defenders against six Chelsea players – they were disadvantaged all the time.

With this game coming too soon for Vermaelen, I expect Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to keep their places in the squad. Many Gooners will be happy to see Kieran Gibbs back in the side after Andre Santos’ torrid outing last time out, while Bacary Sagna will come in Carl Jenkinson’s stead.

In midfield, Arsene Wenger will be odds on to deploy Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere back to the starting lineup but judging from Abou Diaby’s performance against Liverpool in Anfield as well as Wenger’s undying faith in the Frenchman, he might get the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsey for the final midfield slot.

In attack, Wenger will unleash the devastating trio of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott on Liverpool’s rearguard. While many have sang Giroud’s praises in recent times, some skeptics feel that he hasn’t stamped his authority in the big games and a stellar performance tonight will go a long way in making those folks eat their words.

Elsewhere, the world famous David Beckham has been training with the Gunners to keep fit in his bid to take a final bow from football with probably one more football club. Beckham, 37, has enjoyed a glittering career that has seen him play in the upper echelons of world football in the form of football juggernauts like Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy.

He also served his nation from 1996 to 2009 making 115 appearances, scoring 17 goals for the Three Lions.

After seeing out his contract with the MLS side last season, Beckham has been a subject of constant speculation and the media Vultures did their bit to link the superstar with a host of clubs with QPR and West Ham heavily linked with a short term move for the midfielder. At some point, PSG were also linked with Beckham but nothing came into fruition.

With the star attraction keeping himself fit with the Gunners, many feel that Wenger could go a la Henry on the lad but the manager has cleared the air, stating that he’s only training at Arsenal and there are no plans to sign the player (via Arsenal.com).

Wenger also commended Beckham’s influence, stating that he comes very early for training, unlike that Brazilian bloke that was speeding like a Grand Theft Auto driver because he was late for training.

Beckham will probably be on the stands when the Gunners take on Liverpool tonight and I’m sure that he’ll have a smile or two when the Gunners score, despite the fact that he has Manchester United written all over him.

Here’s to a great game of football tonight.

Sayonara.

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More on Giroud and Ramsey Relishes New Role

OG12: The new talk of the town

With the FA Cup fixture against Brighton a done and dusted affair, the rewards of the battle has turned out to be a fifth round clash with npower Championship side, Blackburn Rovers. All attention will be switched to the Premier League with the world keeping half an eye on the newly-found French Revolution in Newcastle.

Arsenal will host Liverpool in what will be a feisty encounter as all Arsenal-Liverpool clashes are. Last season, it took a late Robin van Persie strike to settle the tie right at the death, but with the Dutchman now part of Arsenal’s history, all focus will be firmly fixed on the man on form, Olivier Giroud.

The French forward had a very slow start to his Arsenal career and the comparison with van Persie didn’t help his cause either. After that chipped effort against Coventry in September, he waited for two games before his smart toe poke against West Ham in Upton Park. Shortly afterwards, he came off the bench to score a header in that unbelievable 7-5 win over Reading.

He went through a purple patch in November, scoring five goals in four games for both club and country. Then the goals dried up a bit before his brace against Newcastle. In Giroud’s last two games, he has smashed in four goals and has taken his tally of the season to 13.

The forward has stated that he chose to come to England because of the intensity and determination has been key to his newly-found success in front of goal. Giroud’s recent exploits in goal haven’t gone unnoticed, as his manager has come out to say that he offers the club something different.

When Arsenal hosts Liverpool tomorrow, Giroud will be under the spotlight to continue his recent goalscoring form but his attack partner, Theo Walcott, has acknowledged that the game is going to be intense. The club may be languishing in mid-table but on their day they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Let’s not forget that they have the dangerous Luis Suarez in their ranks and he has been a constant thorn in the flesh of several defenses this season. Per Mertesacker wasn’t too impressive against Brighton and with Thomas Vermaelen not deemed fit enough just yet, the Gunners will have to stick with the Mertesielny combo again.

While Giroud has been getting the plaudits for his ever-increasing goal count, Aaron Ramsey has been a joy to watch in recent times, unlike the disappointing Ramsey we have become used to. Against West Ham and of course, Brighton, Ramsey was deployed in an unfamiliar holding midfield role, where he has excelled admirably, much to the player’s delight,

“I think I’ve played well in the last two games. That’s pleasing for me and hopefully I can keep myself in the team and carry on. Hopefully I get picked for the next game. I had a meeting with the boss the other week and he explained to me what’s required for this role. I think I’ve done that in the last couple of games and I feel good in myself. 

“[I’ve been] getting stuck in and winning the ball back, been involved a lot more and got a lot of touches of the ball so hopefully I can continue the form I’m in at the moment. You always have to be wary of the hole you’re leaving behind you, but there are occasions when I can get into the box and one of the other midfielders sits.”

Rambo: The new Arteta?

Against West Ham, Ramsey’s distribution was inch-perfect and he earned his week’s wages when he raced back to block the ball off the line to keep the scoreline intact. Against Brighton, Ramsey was efficient, didn’t roam around much and was always available for a pass.

While many fans cry for a holding midfielder in the mold of Alex Song, Arsenal has proven that technique and positional discipline is also as important as tackling and breaking up play. Mikel Arteta has manned the holding position as season long and his stats have been pretty much encouraging to say the least.

With the Spaniard still out injured, and of course, Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to buy a new holding midfielder, the club will have to make do with what it has in the forms of Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin. In all fairness, Ramsey hasn’t put a foot wrong in his last two games.

If he starts against Liverpool, it will be a real test for the lad as he’s odds on to lock horns with Steven Gerrard, his countryman, Joe Allen, and the rest of the lot in the Liverpool midfield.

A Liverpool preview will come up in tomorrow’s post.

Bonus Reading: My latest post in WhatCulture tagged, Premier League: 10 Most Important January Transfers So Far.

Let’s see how Newcastle’s French contingent will fare tonight.

Sayonara.

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Lessons Learned From Arsenal’s Win Over Brighton

I spent the best part of yesterday evening in Best Western Hotel, V.I., Lagos watching my elder sister launch her new clothing line, NeneKester, and it was a proud moment for me and the rest of my folks gathered in the arena. I tend to wonder what would have happened if Arsenal played Brighton yesterday instead of Saturday…

It was pulsating, nerve-racking and relieving at the end. After 90 minutes of football in the Amex Stadium, the Gunners had enough in the tank to see out the threat posed by a spirited Brighton side that gave Arsene Wenger’s men a run for their money. Beating Newcastle in the Third Round gave the hosts some confidence, but as Wenger rightly said, Arsenal’s quality saw them through.

Kudos most go to the hosts for never giving up despite falling behind twice. Even after Theo Walcott scored the goal that sealed the tie, the Seagulls had made claims for a penalty and on another day, it probably would have been given. C’mon, I’ve seen worse.

The only household name in the Brighton setup turned out to be that bloke whose girlfriend was shagged by John Terry. Speaking of Terry, he had a red card in the Champions League semifinal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, nine months later, Shakira had a son for Gerard Pique. Coincidence? Maybe…

The FA Cup Fifth Round draws have been made and the Gunners will play against npower Championship outfit, Blackburn, in the Emirates this time, after two away draws on the trot. With the eyes firmly on the prize, the Gunners will hope to see off the Rovers with a quarterfinal berth up for grabs.

Nonetheless, I want to throw some light on the lessons learned from Arsenal’s victory over Brighton and I’ll categorize them into the negatives and positives.

NEGATIVES

Same ol’ Defensive Shit, Different Game

I still have vivid memories of the early part of the season where Arsenal went through three league games without conceding a goal. Everyone, and I mean, everyone lauded Steve Bould for the great work he had done in tightening the gaps and closing the loopholes in the Arsenal defense.

The club also adopted the zonal marking system, that allows the Gunners to station themselves in strategic positions in the penalty box with everyone’s eyes firmly fixed on the inswinger. When Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott scored a header early on in the season, some questions were asked on the zonal marking initiative but the club remained persistent with it.

Well, one some days, it works for Arsenal and on other days, it sure doesn’t. Saturday turned out to be one of ‘em other days.

Brighton had a corner on the right hand side and as instructed, the Gunners moved to their several zonal marking positions. When the corner was swung in, Ashley Barnes, that was supposed to be marked by Abou Diaby, followed the ball with lethal intent and Per Mertesacker, as we all know, has the reaction time of a petrol tanker trying to make a U-turn.

With the ball floating into Wojciech Szczesny’s six-yard box, an unmarked Barnes to the ball before the goalkeeper and nodded the ball to an unguarded net. While a large percentage of the blame will probably to go Szczesny that could have done better in that situation, fingers should also be pointed at Diaby and Mertesacker for not doing their jobs probably.

While majority of the fault for the second goal will go to the useless Andre Santos, Mertesacker’s poor positioning and lack of awareness allowed Leonardo Ulloa to execute a timely diving header that left Szczesny for dead. The Big Friendly Giant has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performance in recent times but his form is currently going through a slump.

He needs to pick himself because with Thomas Vermaelen still out injured, Arsenal is one defensive injury away from playing Sebastian Squillaci.

The Enigma That is Andre Santos

When Andre Santos arrived on the shores of England on the summer transfer deadline of 2011, we had learned that he was an attacking fullback from Fenerbahce.

That description is very right about Andre Santos. He’s a flamboyant player, has a decent technique, has some excellent footwork, has good off the ball movement and can swing in a cross from time to time. These are the traits of a wingback / winger, not fullback.

As a fullback, Andre Santos is a shockingly ineffectual player. He doesn’t think before diving into a tackle, has poor marking skills and his positioning is as woeful as hoping for Andrey Arshavin to head a corner kick. To top it all off, the Brazilian fullback winger is a walking time bomb and usually explodes on the pitch because there are times where he’s nowhere to be found.

Arsenal fans have been pleading for Arsene Wenger to sign a striker, holding midfielder and probably a more experienced goalkeeper, but the boss has to a new left back to his wishlist.

Against Brighton, Andre Santos was so appalling that he had to make Laurent Koscielny work extra hard to cover his tracks while he was high up the pitch offering little or no assistance to Lukas Podolski.

Andre Santos’ putrid positioning paved the way for the corner kick that led to the equalizer. He was also in No Man’s Land when the cross came in for the second equalizer. In attack, he launched the ball into orbit when a pass to a better teammate was a more plausible option.

Dear Mr. Andre Santos, thanks for the nice tweets, cuddly smiles and great Emmanuel Eboue-esque attitude off the pitch but on it, you’re becoming a liability with each passing game.

Theo Walcott’s Selfishness Late On

This isn’t meant to be a big deal because the introduction of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere changed the outlook of the game. Jack Wilshere’s presence in the midfield was a huge plus and Theo Walcott’s late goal settled the tie.

However, there was a moment late on when Walcott would have granted Olivier Giroud a chance to score his first ever Arsenal hat-trick but he chose the selfish option to blast a shot from an incredibly acute angle that was parried by the goalie as expected.

Arsenal is a team renowned for having large reserves of selfless players that do their bits to feed their center forward the ammunition he needs to score goals on a consistent basis.

In the days of Robin van Persie, every Gunner on the pitch gave 110% percent to ensure that he broke every goalscoring record on the go. Many a times, it took an Alex Song over the top projectile, Gervinho cut back and most of all, a plethora of Walcott assists.

Perhaps now that Theo Walcott has signed da ting, he can learn how to pass da ting (via Charlie Melman of Bleacher Report)

POSITIVES

Lukas Podolski’s Efficient Performance

Since his arrival to North London, Podolski has had his hot and cold moments while strutting his stuff down the left. Despite the fact that he’s the Premier League’s most substituted player, his output on the pitch has been in one word – efficient.

He’s not your everyday winger that intends to wow the crowd with dribbling skills, fancy footwork and the rest of the lot. He’ll rather pass when he needs to and of course, shoot when the chance arrives.

Against West Ham, Podolski scored a sickening thunderbolt from quite some distance and ensured that he had a great day in the office with a superb hat-trick of assists to Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. Against Brighton, Podolski looked like a subdued figure but he still managed to notch up an assist for Giroud and curled in a free kick that hit the cross bar.

He has taken his tally for the season to 11 goals and 11 assists. If that’s not efficient, then I don’t know what the word means.

The Return of Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby to Full Fitness

On their days, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby can be world beaters, but they have the same fundamental problem – their inability to stay fit. Diaby’s career went downhill after that horrendous tackle he suffered in May 2006 while Rosicky’s problem began when his hamstring twanged in January 2008.

Since then, these players had suffered niggling injuries and constant set backs, robbing Arsenal off their services for the best part of their careers. Unlike Diaby that probably has his best years ahead of him, Rosicky, 32, is rapidly on the decline but it was good to see Little Mozart get some game time on Saturday, now that Cazorla has become synonymous with first-team action.

Diaby is returning to full fitness and looked out of sorts against Manchester City and Chelsea. Against Brighton, he made a rear foray forward and dinked a lovely ball to Giroud that swiped in a finish that buildup deserved.

With Arsenal’s rapidly increasing fixture list, the return to full fitness of Rosicky and Diaby has become a breath of fresh air.

The Red-Hot Olivier Giroud

Four goals in one week. Not bad huh?

Olivier Giroud has gone through his adaptation period and he’s repaying the faith Arsene Wenger had in him to splash out 12m for his services. He’s more or less Arsenal’s only center forward and arriving into the club as van Persie’s replacement put a great deal of pressure on the French forward to deliver.

With his attack partners, Walcott and Podolski doing their bit to share the goalscoring burden, Giroud has been liberated and his confidence levels have certainly increased to the extent where he now attempts to try to score in different ways. His first goal was a peach of a finish and he showed off his strength and technique in his second. ‘

There was even time to attempt a bicycle kick that would have been a masterpiece.

Besides the recent run of goalscoring, Giroud’s importance to the team is unrivaled, as he offers Arsenal a focal point in attack, links up well with his teammates and holds up play perfectly.

Arsenal fans can only hope that the goalscoring run continues as Giroud is now seven goals short of hitting the 20-goal mark.

The Fifth Round encounter against Blackburn is scheduled to take place in the middle of February, shortly after the visit of Bayern Munich to the Emirates. At that stage last season, the Gunners lost to a resurgent Sunderland in a pitch good enough to rear cattle.

Sayonara.

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Giroud on Fire as Gunners Scrape Past Brighton

OG12: The Man on Form

After the quick-fire defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea, the resounding 5-1 victory over West Ham served as a sign of good things to come but a lot was expected from Arsenal in the wake of their trip to the Amex Stadium to take on Brighton and Hove Albion, a side that knocked out Newcastle in the previous round.

With half an eye on the midweek clash against Liverpool, Arsene Wenger made some wholesale changes to the team, bringing on Andre Santos *gulp* and Carl Jenkinson in the fullback positions, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky in midfield and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in attack.

Seeing Rosicky on the pitch was a pleasant sight and the Czech maestro began to orchestrate the midfield in his usual flamboyant style and almost combined perfectly with Lukas Podolski using a backheel but the Brighton defense quelled the threat.

The home side made a rear foray forward and an over the top ball conned the Arsenal defense allowing David Lopez a clear sight at goal but Wojciech Szczesny did really well to parry the ball. From the resulting counter attack, Rosicky covered a lot of ground before squaring the ball for Podolski. The German had a touch before laying it for Olivier Giroud and the Frenchman’s finish was a peach – a sweetly curled effort that left Casper Ankergren for dead.

R2!!!!!!!

As expected, Andre Santos wasn’t having the best of games, allowing the opposition to take advantage of his defensive frailties. Brighton’s fullback, Inigo Calderon, shimmied past Andre Santos before dinking in a cross that almost put Szczesny in No Man’s Land but the ball landed on the roof of the Polish goalie’s net.

Andre Santos received the ball and chose to dribble a Brighton player instead of locating a teammate closely, and Arsenal was almost punished for it. Will Buckley intercepted the Brazilian and crossed the ball into the danger area, which made Szczesny parry the ball to Leonardo Ulloa and like Edin Dzeko a few weeks ago, the Spaniard guided the ball in but the offside flag spared Arsenal’s blushes.

Brighton continued to press the Gunners and got the equalizer they deserved when an unmarked Ashley Barnes headed a corner home. For some strange reason, Diaby and Mertesacker took the best moment to do some ball watching and Szczesny could have done better in anticipating the cross.

Hi-res-160092764_crop_exact

So much for Arsenal’s zonal marking. Shame.

Late in the first half, Rosicky had a tame effort that went wide.

Arsenal began the second half on a brighter note when Jenkinson finding some space in attack to blast a ball that was parried by the goalie. Podolski also curled in a sumptuous free kick that slammed the cross bar with the keeper rooted to the spot.

10 minutes into the restart, Diaby darted forward and chipped a lovely ball for Giroud. His first touch was perfect, his second even better. Arsenal’s OG12 had smashed in his second of the day, taking his overall tally to 13 goals.

After gesturing for the fans to know the hottest kid in the block, he went for a warm cuddle with Arsenal faithful stationed on that end of the pitch.

Giroud showed his superb off the ball movement to get on the end of Rosicky’s pass but his effort was blocked by the Brighton rearguard. The home side continued to believe in themselves and got their reward when Ulloa connected to an inch-perfect cross with a diving header past a hapless Szczesny.

For a player with the experience of Mertesacker, that was some schoolboy defending from ze Big Friendly Giant.

Arsene Wenger responded immediately by bringing on Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott for Rosicky and the ineffectual Ox. Arsenal won a free kick on the edge of the box in a position no different from where Podolski slammed the bar. Giroud took responsibility this time and grazed his effort over the bar.

With Wenger sensing that the home side were exploiting Andre Santos’ weaknesses on the left hand side, he summoned Kieran Gibbs to replace the Brazilian that had another torrid outing by his standards.

Podolski eased past Calderon and supplied a neat cut back to Giroud but the Frenchman’s acrobatic effort bounced off the ground and over the bar.

When it seemed as if a replay was on the cards, the Gunners had a corner that was headed away from the box but into Walcott’s path. The forward blasted his shot through a pile of bodies but the ball managed to find the back of the net.

Walcott celebrates his finish

For the third time in the game, the Gunners were ahead and many had hoped that the scoreline would remain intact for the final five minutes or so. Right at the death, the Seagulls made an appeal for a penalty that fell on deaf ears.

After the game, Wenger had nice words to say about his two-goal man, Olivier Giroud (via Arsenal.com). He also commended Brighton’s performance and effectively ruled out making any signing this month.

It was a good all-round performance but my major concern was the torrid time Andre Santos had on the pitch. The maverick arrived on deadline day two seasons ago but he has failed to convince me or any Gooner out there that he can be an able deputy for Gibbs. On the other flank, Jenkinson blended back into the team, despite being out of action for as long as I can remember.

Anyways, the Gunners are through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup and fingers will be crossed to know who the club’s next opponents will be.

Happy Sunday Gooners.

As for me, I’ll be spending the best part of the day checking out my elder sister, Nene Kester’s fashion collection at the Best Western Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Sayonara.

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