Author Archives: enigma106

Arsenal’s Rivals Drop Points: A Perfect Weekend Indeed

The Premier League weekend began with strugglers, Queens Park Rangers, battling hard to get a point against a Peter Crouch-inspired Stoke City. Despite his advancing years, the lanky forward still put up a virtuoso performance. However, Nico Kranjcar’s free kick was a thing of beauty. With several fixtures being played by 3.00pm, Arsenal fans watched as their team ran Aston Villa ragged with those three minutes of absolutely brilliant football that led to quick-fire goals before putting the home side at arms length till the ref blew his final whistle.

Mesut Ozil is one player that has been going through a lot lately with the German coming under heavy criticism for his lethargic style of play. It’s not as if he has been that horrible (compared to the likes of Aaron Ramsey that has been absolute shit this season) but when things aren’t going well at the club, there must be that one scapegoat that would be on the spotlight. So watching him latch unto Danny Welbeck’s pass and placing it past Brad Guzan was fulfilling.

The provider, Welbeck, was another player that was under a measure of pressure to deliver in his new club. Yes, he joined from Arsenal’s eternal rivals, Manchester United, and he’s a young lad but playing in the position where top strikers like Ian Wright, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie made names for themselves comes with its own dose of pressure, bearing in mind that Arsenal is a team renowned for its creativity from its midfield. The post denied him a dream debut goal and he was culpable for a series of misses in his second game for the club, so it was a delightful affair seeing Deadline Day Danny take his goal well from a trademark pass from Mesut Ozil.

Ozil (right) is congratulated by team-mates Welbeck (second right), Kieran Gibbs (second left) and Aaron Ramsey

With the Gunners getting their first Premier League win in four games that sent them back to the top four, it was a case of seeing how their other title challenging rivals would turn up.

The late fixture on Saturday saw the free-spending Liverpool come up against West Ham and Arsenal fans had half an eye on Carl Jenkinson, a player that was sent to the hammers to continue his football education. Even with the new-look back line that had Javi Manquillo, Alberto Moreno and big-money signing, Dejan Lovren, West Ham banged in two goals in the first seven minutes or so, before Raheem Sterling scored what proved to be Liverpool’s consolation goal.

Balotelli tho. That’s some leap

Morgan Amalfitano’s goal was the final nail in the Liverpool coffin and the stats showed that despite spending Heaven and Earth following the loss of Luis Suarez, the Reds have lost three of their opening five fixtures, which is rather shocking if you ask me.

Sunday’s fixtures had a tasty feel about them, as the “newly-improved” Manchester United visited the King Power Stadium to play against Leicester City while Arsenal’s cross town rivals, Tottenham, hosted West Brom in what seemed to be like a stroll in the park. West Brom had a strong penalty claim and even had a goal disallowed but in the end, it was a James Morrison strike that was enough to hand the visitors all three points at the White Hart Lane.

Tottenham 0-1 West Brom: Morrison sinks sorry Spurs

With Manchester United playing their host of stars against Leicester, many felt that they were going to run riot on their hosts and in just 19 minutes goals from Robin van Persie and Angel di Maria (Oooooh, what a goal!) set the tone for seemed like a United victory but Ulloa’s pin-point header reduced the deficit for the home side. When Ander Herrera flicked the third in, one must have expected Leicester to lie down and play dead but a David Nugent penalty restored some hope and out of the blue, the experienced Argentine, Esteban Cambiasso, fired in the equalizer.

Jamie Vardy was having a stormer as he was directly involved in all Leicester’s goals and it was somewhere in the script that he was going to turn up with his own goal and the way he placed the ball past David de Gea was stuff of legends.

Ulloa rounded up the scoring with another penalty and the final result sent shockwaves through the football world.

The final two fixtures saw Everton host Crystal Palace and the big game of the weekend between Manchester City and Chelsea. While my eyes were glued to the City vs. Chelsea game, I kept tabs on the proceedings in Goodison Park and when Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring, I wasn’t surprised. However, three goals from Mila Jedinak, Frazier Campbell and Yannick Bolasie stunned me and after seeing Leighton Baines score yet another penalty (soft penalty indeed), it seemed to go down to the wire but Crystal Palace held their nerves to go back to London with all maximum points.

At the Etihad, Andre Schurrle’s opener was cancelled out by Frank Lampard of all people and Manuel Pellegrini’s post-match comments were mind-blowing to say the least,

“It was very similar to the Stoke team, with a big team playing against a small team with very good players, trying to defend, trying to keep the score [nil-nil]. They had nine players in front of their box. I said last week that it will be very difficult for us to defend the title because every team will play the way Chelsea did. I repeat that I think they had no intention to win the game. They came just to draw and they scored on the counterattack against 10 players.”

At the end, it was a perfect weekend for the Gunners as all their rivals dropped points. I can only wish to have more of such weekends.

Don’t you just love the English Premier League?

Sayonara.

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Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 3: Ozil Repays his Manager’s Faith

Ozil (right) is congratulated by team-mates Welbeck (second right), Kieran Gibbs (second left) and Aaron Ramsey

Aston Villa 0 – Arsenal 3 (Ozil 33′, Welbeck 34′, Cissokho o.g. 35′)

Villa Park (Emirates Stadium)

Player RatingsMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With the Gunners losing in such an unconvincing fashion against Dortmund, the players had to give better accounts of themselves in the game against Aston Villa. The manager made five changes from the team that shared the spoils with Manchester City but the Gunners began the game in nervy fashion when Wojciech Szczesny made a poor clearance but he was alert to parry Fabian Delph’s drive at goal. Aaron Ramsey hasn’t been in good form of recent but he compounded his miseries when he lost the ball further up the pitch to Kieran Richardson and the winger fed Gabby Agbonlahor that closed in on goal. With Szczesny in No Man’s Land, Koscielny was on hand to make a vital interception.

Ozil swung in a corner kick that was attacked by Calum Chambers. Danny Welbeck showed great improvisation to attempt a scissors kick but his a shot was blocked by the defense. Cazorla dipped in a cross that fell to Ramsey’s path and he didn’t need a second invitation to drill a shot that went wide.

Aston Villa almost took the lead when Tom Cleverley swung in a dead ball that was headed at point-blank range by Ciaran Clark but Szczesny stepped up the plate to make a magnificent save. With the home team failing to take the initiative, the Gunners grabbed the lead when Welbeck split the defense with a neat pass to Mesut Ozil that placed the ball past Brad Guzan. You could see the relief in the German’s reaction because he needed that badly.

Mesut Ozil evades Philippe Senderos to latch on to Danny Welbeck's pass and score Arsenal's opening goal against Aston Villa

Senderos didn’t close him down on time

Ozil turned from scorer to provider in typical fashion as he latched on to Cazorla’s pass to feed Welbeck that opened his Arsenal goalscoring account with a blasted effort into an unguarded net.

Welbz is the guy!

Two goals changed to three almost immediately when Kieran Gibbs fired a tame shot that was deflected into the net by Aly Cissokho. The last time Cissokho played against the Gunners, he was part of that Liverpool team that decimated Arsenal at Anfield last season. It was sweet seeing him suffer the ignominy of an own goal.

Aly Cissokho (left) scores an own goal to make it 3-0 to Arsenal in the space of four minutes

lol

As expected, Welbeck’s opening goal gave him some measure of confidence and he attempted a neat shot at the edge of the area that was saved by Guzan. Ramsey almost put Aston Villa back in the game when he made an awkward pass that gifted the home side a corner. The resulting corner went to Clark’s path but the Ox made a superb block from Clark’s shot.

Chambers showed his inexperience as he grabbed unto a player further up in midfield, probably forgetting that he was walking on a tight rope with the yellow card he had initially received. Luckily for the lad, the ref decided to be lenient with him.‎ Chambers made a neat one-two with the Ox before drilling a cross that was blocked by Phillippe Senderos with Ramsey on the prowl. Arsene Wenger summoned Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky that came on to have a decent run-out with 20 minutes or so to go. The remainder of the game was played in pedestrian fashion as the damage had been done in that three-goal blitz in the first half.

The game itself was a more comfortable affair in sharp contrast to the horror outing the Gunners put up in Germany. Speaking of Germany, it was a wonderful performance from Ozil that has come under some stick with the fans and media alike. Yes, he came to the club with a mammoth price tag and the expectations were massive but this season he has been played ‘out of position’ and with his lethargic style of play coming into mind, he was bound to struggled.

However, Jack Wilshere’s knock paved the way for the German to ‎play in his favored No. 10 role and we could see the massive difference it made. If he was walloping in the right wing, I don’t think he would have latched unto Welbeck’s pass to coolly place the ball past Guzan. The manager urged for patience but Ozil repaid Arsene Wenger’s faith in him.

Sayonara.

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Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 3: Player Ratings

Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal: Ozil stars as Welbeck bags first Gunners goal

The Gunners endured a torrid game against Dortmund in midweek and they had to put up a better performance against an Aston Villa side riding high in the league. Just like last season at Villa Park where the Gunners scored two goals in 66 seconds, it had a deja vu like feeling as the Gunners banged in three goals in three minutes. Gooner Daily rates the performances of the players on the day.

DEFENSE

Wojciech Szczesny was relatively untroubled all game long but he made himself big to superbly stop header from Ciaran Clark to keep the hosts at bay. 7/10

Calum Chambers returned to the side following his bout with tonsillitis but he put up a sturdy performance in the back. He can also consider himself lucky not to get a red card for his innocuous challenge. 7/10

Kieran Gibbs marauded the left flank with freedom and he made his first telling contribution of the game as his tame shot that was guided into the net by Aly Cissokho. 7/10

Per Mertesacker struggled in Germany in midweek but he had an untroubled evening, making good passes and doing his thing at the back. 7/10

Laurent Koscielny is a colossus. He made a couple of tackles in the course of the game but his moment of glory arrived when he raced to make a great clearance when his goalie was caught in No Man’s Land. 7/10

MIDFIELD

Mikel Arteta was run ragged in the Signal Iduna Park but he had a good day at the office in Villa Park. He made a couple of good passes and made some interceptions as well. 7/10

To Aaron Ramsey, it’s as if we are in the 2011/12 season all over again. Rambo tried really hard to score and he had a couple of half-chances that went wide. However, his passing was ridiculously shocking for a player of his high standards. 4/10

Mesut Ozil has some under some heavy criticism from the fans and media alike but when he played in his favored No. 10 position, he had a stormer. The German schemer received a pass from Danny Welbeck and placed the ball past Brad Guzan in goal. He even turned from scorer to provider in his typical Mesut Ozil fashion. Wunderbar!!! 9/10

Santi Cazorla had his neat touches as usual and swung in a couple of corner kicks. He didn’t influence the attacking play as much as he’d have liked though. 6/10

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was very direct in his attacking play and he made a superb defensive block for a Clark goal-bound shot. 6/10

ATTACK

It might have taken him two games, but Danny Welbeck has finally opened his Arsenal account in typical fashion – latching unto a Mesut Ozil pass before side-footing the ball past a hapless Guzan. He also created a neat assist for the match opener. 8/10

SUBSTITUTES

Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski came in and had couples of neat touches without having any real impact in Arsenal’s attacking play. 6/10 each.

Do you agree with these ratings? Feel free to share yours with your comments.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Gunners Linked with Moves for Lugano and Yobo

Could they be teammates?

Last season, Arsenal went through the entire campaign with just three central defenders. Per Mertesacker played 52 games, Laurent Koscielny played 49 games and the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, managed just 21 appearances, largely due to his injury layoffs. Luckily for the Gunners, both Koscielny and Mertesacker didn’t have any major injuries but their fatigue going into the new campaign was a concern bearing in mind that both players featured in the World Cup. While Koscielny and compatriots left Brazil at the quarterfinal stage, Mertesacker and his teammates went all the way to the final, beating Argentina to seal a victory for Germany.

As the new season began, Arsenal made some signings in various positions but the writing was on the wall when Vermaelen wasn’t involved in some preseason action. Even Arsene Wenger himself shared his thoughts in regard to Vermaelen’s situation,

“Look, it could happen. I’ve said since the start of pre-season that Thomas could leave us because he needs to play now. He had an outstanding attitude and behaviour but he’s in a position where it’s difficult to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity.”

A couple of days later, Vermaelen moved to FC Barcelona and everyone expected the Gunners to get a center back that was going to challenge Koscielny and Mertesacker for their places in the squad. Olympiakos’ youngster, Kostas Manolas, was heavily linked with a move to North London but he opted for AS Roma after they showed more interest than the Gunners. With the Gunners failing to sign any other defensive targets, they went into the new campaign with a light defense (personnel wise) and many people believed that it was going to come back to haunt them. Little did we know that it was sooner rather than later.

With Per Mertesacker given an extended break following his World Cup exertions, Calum Chambers was thrust into the thick of things right from the onset but Kieran Gibbs was the first defender to suffer an injury in the opening Premier League encounter against Crystal Palace. A few games later, Koscielny suffered a gashed head and struggled through out the game against Leicester before he was removed.

Last weekend, Matt Debuchy injured himself and the fans have been fearing for the worst. The defender has confirmed that there’s no fracture (thank goodness) but he also stated that he has ‘broken’ a ligament in his ankle and he’d have to wait on the medical staff to know whether he’s gonna require surgery or not.

Debuchy suffered the injury in the 81st minute of Arsenal's 2-2 Premier League draw against Manchester City

Shortly afterwards, it was Nacho Monreal’s turn to suffer a back injury, which compounds Arsenal’s woes at the back. As it stands, Arseanal has just three fit senior defenders in Gibbs, Koscielny and Mertesacker and they’re are two able young deputies in the forms of Chambers and Hector Bellerin waiting to get a chance to strut their stuff.

With the transfer window shut, Arsenal can’t delve into their cheque books to sign till January at least, but there is a stop-gap option, which is signing a player on a free transfer. Per the rule book, Premier League clubs can still sign free agents despite the transfer window closing on September 1, 2014.

The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal is considering making an offer for the veteran Uruguayan defender, Diego Lugano (33). The former Uruguay captain has been playing active football for the past 15 years, beginning his career in Nacional (Uruguay) and Sao Paulo before making the bold move across the Atlantic to Europe. After spending five seasons with Fenerbahce, Lugano moved to PSG and played for a couple of seasons before moving to SC Malaga on loan and finally, spending a campaign with West Brom.

Arsenal are considering signing former West Brom defender Diego Lugano

Since he was released by West Brom in the summer, Lugano has been without a club and of course, he’d jump at an opportunity to return to the Premier League in a club as ambitious as Arsenal. He would probably know that he’d occupy the Pascal Cygan / Mikael Silvestre / Sebastien Squillaci type of role and I’m sure he’d put in a good shift when he’s summoned. Lugano is a big commanding center back that’s very good in the air but the only challenge he might have is his declining pace but with a player like Mertesacker that’s in the same category, he’d feel right at home.

The Gunners have also been linked with a move for another Premier League stalwart, Joseph Yobo (34). The Nigerian defender began his European adventure with Standard Liege before switching to Olympique Marseille in 2001. Yobo’s stint at Marseille was brief and he made a move to Premier League outfit, Everton, where he made a name for himself. Yobo became one of the most consistent players in the Everton squad, and was one of only seven players in the entire league to play every minute of every game throughout the 2006/07 season.

In 2006, Yobo was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, and with those rumors in mind, he actually delayed signing a new contract with the club. With Arsenal refuting the claims to sign him, Yobo extended his stay in Merseyside and continued to feature consistently before losing his place in the first team to the likes of Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and Sylvian Distin. After a couple of loan spells at Fenerbahce, Yobo sealed a permanent move and shortly afterwards, he had a brief stint with Norwich City.

Yobo is a player with vast experience of playing in the Premier League having amassed 267 games in his 10 years at Everton. However, age is on his side, his form is on the wane and his performance in the World Cup with Nigeria was bittersweet. His final game for his country was in the Round of 16 fixture against France were he conceded an epic own goal following a mix-up with his goalie, Vincent Enyeama. He’s currently Nigeria’s most-capped player with 101 appearances.

Signing one of them (or both) would be good for the team’s defensive depth because the Gunners are shockingly light at the back. With Debuchy out injured, I see Chambers and Bellerin battling for his position which would mean that the central defensive combo of Koscielny and Mertesacker won’t have the cover they need.

Who knows if Lugano and / or Yobo would be the answer.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal and Injuries: Freakish Coincidence or Curse from Beyond?

Wilshere injury worry adds to Arsenal misery

Wilshere has added to Arsenal’s injury woes

Injuries they say, is part and parcel of the beautiful game.

There are a million and one reasons why teams are instructed to register a\25 players for every campaign with the Under-21 youngsters eligible to play. One reason is obviously depth, but the issue of the quality in depth is a tale for another day. At a club like Arsenal, squad depth has been debated on countless occasions and it’s always funny to know that the team always lacks in a certain department with each passing season.

Last season, the acquisition of a striker was key, as Olivier Giroud was burdened in the previous campaign but Arsene Wenger opted for a young raw talent in Yaya Sanogo, and the fans have seen how his fledgling career has panned out so far. Having just three central defenders, or better still, two and a half (Thomas Vermaelen was always injured most of the time) was suicidal but Wenger had the insurance of using Bacary Sagna as a make-shift center back when the club was down to their bare minimums at the back. The fans also clamored for a holding midfielder as Mikel Arteta played far too many games but that challenge wasn’t mitigated.

With Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski leaving on a Bosman, Arsenal replaced them with Matt Debuchy and David Ospina. With Carl Jenkinson going on loan and Calum Chambers joining the club, he looked more like Debuchy’s deputy but his versatility ensured that he was also going to serve as the back-up center back. Then there was the marquee signing in Alexis Sanchez, a different alternative to Giroud but not the man to serve as an adequate back up.

The campaign began with the curtain raiser against Manchester City and the Premier League opener against Crystal Palace.Yaya Sanogo and Kieran Gibbs picked up hamstring injuries, and Giroud went to the Besiktas home game without his deputy but in the Besiktas game, Mikel Arteta was the next person to suffer an injury, which offered his deputy, Mathieu Flamini, a chance back into the team.

After a horrific first half against Everton, the Gunners fought really hard to claw two goals but with seconds to spare, Giroud charged on Sylvain Distin in his bid to win the ball as Arsenal were pressing for that elusive killer third goal. Distin made a clearance that hit Giroud’s leg but when he landed and stayed on the ground for quite some time, it seemed really serious. Our fears were realized when he learned that the French forward would be out for four to five months, which caused widespread panic in the Arsenal blogosphere. Giroud wasn’t everyone’s preferred forward to lead the line but after watching Sanogo’s shit fest against Leicester, Giroud looked like Messi in the eyes of the fans.

The Gunners responded on Transfer Deadline Day with the acquisition of Danny Welbeck but the new lad needs time to settle into his new team. He would have had a dream debut if his chipped effort that went beyond Joe Hart went in but this was followed by a rather disappointing outing against Dortmund on Tuesday. He had a couple of clean chances you’d have expected him to bury but that level of composure wasn’t there and he was found wanting.

In the game against Leicester, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up knocks but both players were fit enough to feature two weeks later, as the Gunners hosted Manchester City at the Emirates. In that game, Arsenal lost Matt Debuchy to a bizarre injury that saw him stretched off from the pitch. With the game against Dortmund coming up, Nacho Monreal had back problems, Flamini picked up a thigh strain and Chambers suffered from tonsillitis, adding to the Gunners defensive woes. To add insult to injury, Jack Wilshere is the latest Gunner to suffer an injury after he ‘turned’ his ankle in the Dortmund defeat.

“Jack Wilshere has turned his ankle, it’s difficult to say how bad it is because I am a bit cautious.

“Normally it’s not very bad but because of his history I’m a bit cautious.”

These are the quotes from the manager and for a player like Wilshere with a wretched injury record (not even close to Abou Diaby’s record though), it’s okay for one to fear for the worst.

So with just seven games gone, Arsenal has had Sanogo (hamstring), Gibbs (hamstring – recovered), Arteta (ankle – recovered), Giroud (lower leg), Ozil (ankle – recovered), Ox (knock – recovered), Debuchy (ankle), Monreal (back), Diaby (diabytes – recovered, I think!), Flamini (thigh), Chambers (tonsillitis) and Wilshere (ankle) all injured at some point this season. If you add Serge Gnabry (thigh) and Theo Walcott (knee) to the aforementioned list, this indicates that Arsenal has had 14 players that had a reason or two to visit the treatment room this season.

When I read this excellent article about the new fitness recruit, Shad Forsyth, I was very optimistic about his addition to the squad and I’d hoped that he’d do his bit to help the players with their niggling fitness issues and the whole nine yards. However, with each passing game, the Gunners seem to somehow have a player that suffers an injury and at this rate, I’m wondering whether it’s a freakish coincidence or some curse from some power somewhere.

Arsene Wenger has a big squad at his disposal but while he can boast about a plethora of options in midfield, the quantity of personnel in the defense is nothing to write home about. Why he allowed his team to be in this situation is inexplicable. Arsenal can ill-afford to have any more injuries but at this rate, I’m just bewildered and perplexed, wondering why things are panning out this way for the players.

I’ve always likened Arsenal to the mythical creature, Hydra, because if you take out one head, another would pop up but at this rate, if anything happens to the fit defenders we have right now, it would be a nice recipe for disaster. I just hope we can sort out our fitness issues, because the more fit players Wenger has at his disposal, the better for the club.

Sayonara.

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