A Tale of the Emirates Stadium, the Home of Clean Sheets
It’s really disheartening to know that the Gunners haven’t won anything since their move to the magnificent state-of-the-art Emirates stadium in 2006. The club’s eternal home, Highbury, witnessed trophy-laden years under so many managers from the days of football revolutionary, Herbert Chapman, to the club’s current stalwart on the dugout, Arsene Wenger.
Under Arsene Wenger, the club has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a couple of Community Shields but there have been some near misses in the forms of the 2006 Champions League final, the 2007 Carling Cup final and not so long ago, the disappointing 2011 Carling Cup demise against Birmingham City.
However, there’s a renewed sense of optimism brewing among the manager, players and fans alike, and they unanimously feel that this may be the season the club ends its long-standing trophy drought. This can only be actualized by the club’s performances on the pitch and despite an early Capital One Cup exit in the hands of Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea team, the Gunners are currently in pole position in the Premier League, recently surged to a FA Cup fifth round berth with a tasty clash against Liverpool and there’s still some business in the Champions League against the almighty Bayern Munich.
Since defeating the Bavarian outfit in the tail end of last season, the Gunners went on a hot away streak before suffering a stinging defeat to one of the poorest Manchester United sides you’d ever see. Gooner of Steel celebrated the team’s scintillating away form with a well-written and researched article that’s worth a read.
This season, Arsenal harbored hopes to make the Emirates Stadium a fortress but the performances at the Emirates Cup raised a few eyebrows. The campaign went to a worst possible start when Aston Villa grabbed all three points at the Emirates courtesy of a brace from Christian Benteke and some horrendous refereeing from Anthony Taylor. That defeat sparked an outage on social networking platforms and the Wenger Out Brigade were in full voice.
The Gunners next home game was against a Fenerbahce side they had dismantled in Turkey and it took an Aaron Ramsey brace to put the encounter to bed. The only downside to a satisfying victory was the hamstring injury suffered by Lukas Podolski which dented his chances of a regular place in the first team.
On transfer deadline day, Andre Villas-Boas and his new-look expensive Tottenham side arrived at The Home of Football, as those folks in Arsenal Arsenal call it, but it took an Olivier Giroud deft finish to settle the contest. After securing two clean sheets in the first three games at the Emirates, Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron dented the record when he scored the consolation goal in the game tagged as the “Mesut Ozil” show.
Ozil opened his goalscoring account as the Gunners kept a clean sheet against Napoli in the Champions League but despite the fact that the Gunners ran riot past Norwich with goals from Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, the visitors managed to score what proved to be a consolation goal, thereby denying Wojciech Szczesny a clean sheet bonus.
Arsenal’s next two games at the Emirates were nothing to write home about as they slumped to a 2-1 loss against Dortmund and this was followed with a Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea. Wenger had not defeated his Portuguese counterpart, Jose Mourinho, in eight outings, and the defeat in October made it nine.
November turned out to be the month of clean sheets for the Gunners and their defense faced their sternest test yet when they came up against the world-famous “SAS” (Luiz Suarez and Daniel Sturridge) combination but the Arsenal defense kept them at bay all game long. Giroud and Wilshere scored braces in the routine 2-0 wins over Southampton and Olympique Marseille respectively.
In December, the Gunners kept another clean in the home victory over Hull City but the impregnable run of clean sheets was ended by a powerful strike from Gerard Deulofeu in the 1-1 disappointing draw with Everton and this was followed by a goalless stalemate against Chelsea (Wenger fails to win Mourinho yet again).
In 2014, Wojciech Szczesny and the Arsenal defense have done their parts in ensuring that they haven’t conceded any goal at home and in the clashes against Cardiff, Tottenham, Fulham and most recently, Coventry, the Gunners haven’t conceded any goal. This means that in 18 games played at the Emirates this season, the Gunners have kept a whooping 12 clean sheets, with just a goal conceded in their last 10 home matches.
While the clean sheet record at home can be lauded as a truly remarkable feat, Arsenal’s resolve will be tested when Manchester United (February), Bayern Munich (February) and Manchester City (March) come to town.
Nonetheless, kudos must go to Wojciech Szczesny for his tremendous saves, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker for their telepathic understanding, Nacho Monreal/Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna/Carl Jenkinson for balancing their attacking and most importantly, defensive play superbly.
The midfielders like Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini also do their bits in protecting the back four but I must commend the ageless Czech maestro, Tomas Rosicky, for his tireless running, amazing work rate and of course, those crunchy tackles.
Finally, Olivier Giroud also deserves some credit for being Arsenal’s first line of defense and even though he’s not scoring in industrial quantities like Robin van Persie, you can’t doubt his commitment to the cause, his superb linkup and his aerial prowess that is used both offensively and defensively.
Here’s to the Emirates Stadium, the home of clean sheets.
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