Category Archives: Arsenal

Arsenal 1 Man Utd 2: We Just Can’t Beat ‘em

I’ve been out for a couple of days due to work related issues (as always) and this is the first article in a long while that I’m publishing with my phone. After the debacle at Swansea, you would have expected the Gunners to show some enthusiasm against a Manchester United side that was struggling with form and injuries. The stat boys say that Loius van Gaal’s team had picked up 39 injuries already this season, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw a backline that contained the likes of McNair and Tyler Blackett with Antonio Valencia playing as a make shift right back.

Sure, the Gunners had injury concerns of their own but you’d have fancied them to rip such a shaky defense apart. Arsenal began the game well and dominated possession but for all their good work, there was no end product. Many shots were aimed straight at David de Gea but the undoubted chance of the game arrived when Alexis Sanchez pressured de Gea into making a hurried clearance that was intercepted in midfield. Danny Welbeck teed up an unmarked Jack Wilshere but instead of passing the ball to a Sanchez in a better position to score, or at least blast the bloody ball in the net, the poster boy played it straight at de Gea, much to the disgust of everyone connected with Arsenal.

It’s misses like that always come back to bite you in the ass, and as expected, it did. Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs failed to communicate well which saw the goalie make a tame punch to Valencia (injured himself in the process). The Ecuadorian fired an opportunistic shot that was going wide but Gibbs guided the ball to Arsenal’s net. A sting in the tail but was I surprised? Hell no!

Santi Cazorla had come on for an injured Wilshere and also had a chance to end his wretched run in front of goal when Welbeck cushioned a neat header for him but he fired the ball straight at de Gea. Arsenal’s moment of anguish arrived late on when an unfortunate Nacho Monreal was allowed to mark both Angel di Maria and Shrek (where the hell was Per Mertesacker). The Angel threaded a neat ball to Shrek and the England captain waited for Martinez to commit himself before executing a neat chip to put the game beyond doubt. Unbelievably, that was also Man Utd’s first shot on goal.

Arsenal had summoned Olivier Giroud for the yet again ineffectual Ramsey and the striker almost made an instant impact when he nodded a corner kick over the bar. He wasn’t to be denied a second time when he latched onto Mikel Arteta’s lovely dinked effort to slam a shot past a hapless de Gea. Of course, it was too little too late. Di Maria even had a late chance to kill off the game but his finish was rather awkward. In the end, it didn’t matter as the Gunners lost yet again to Manchester United side with frailties at the back. De Gea might have won the man of the match award but in all honesty, it was more of a case of Arsenal’s wayward finishing rather great saves from the Spaniard.

One might ask, what does Arsenal have to do to win games like this? Why is Arsene Wenger so stubborn to persist with the same set of players that have been shite all season long? Why does Jack Wilshere hold onto the ball far too long? Why do we suffer so many injuries? When will Danny Welbeck start scoring again?

Players like Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla need to sit games out for a couple of weeks to reflect on their bad form. Right now, they tend to get on the end of very insightful attacking moves but their finishing has been atrocious. Many people have seen how vocal Lukas Podolski has been due to his lack of game time. Isn’t it high time for the manager to give him a run of games to at least get a chance to prove to everyone what his made of?

I can’t deny that I am happy to see Giroud return to first team football because despite the fact that Welbeck is one of the hardest working players I’ve seen wear the sacred Red and White, he isn’t the natural goalscorer that would give you 20 goals a season. Yes, Giroud’s record against the top-tier teams of the Premier League has been shambolic but you can trust him to give you goals against the Leicesters, Tottenhams, Swansea and co of the league, something Welbeck hasn’t been able to deliver.

But hey, I’m no Wenger, just a Process Engineer working in an oil and gas company whose passion for the club makes him write about ‘em.

It’s sad to see things pan out this way but football is an unforgiving sport because it’s a home clash against Borussia Dortmund that comes up next.

Try to enjoy your Sunday doing the things you love. Don’t worry about Arsenal till Wednesday at least.

Sayonara.

Has Ramsey’s Criticism this Season been Deserved?

 

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey reacts during their Champions League Group D soccer match against Anderlecht at Constant Vanden Stock stadium in Brussels October 22, 2014.   REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Permit me to take you down memory to a famous evening at Wembley. After Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny had played their roles in clawing the Gunners out from the embarrassing jaws of defeat, a moment arrived deep into extra time that sent all Arsenal fans worldwide to raptures. The silky Olivier Giroud noticed a player making one of his trademarks late surges into the box and he executed a neat back-heeled pass that was poked home by Arsenal’s undoubted player of the season, Aaron Ramsey.

With his highest ever goalscoring tally at club level, Ramsey ascended from being a frustrating player to watch (remember 2011/12 season?) to being the next best thing against Arsenal. He was the epitome of everything good at the club and many Arsenal fans even say that if he had remained fit all season long, they might had won the Premier League. That’s a justifiable claim bearing in mind how he performed in the 2013/14 Premier League.

Funnily enough, it wasn’t just the goals that epitomized Ramsey’s scintillating form for the club last season. Ramsey’s 2013/14 stats (via WhoScored) were been jaw-dropping to say the least.

STATS (EPL Only)

Aaron Ramsey

Appearances (Subs)

20 (3)

Goals Scored

10

Assists

8

Shots per Game

2.2

Minutes per Goal

176.4

Tackles per Game

3.3

Bookings (Yellow / Red)

3 / 0

Attempted Dribbles per Game

1.3

Chances Created

32

Total Passes (Accurate Passes)

1262 (1064)

Pass Completion %

84.3

Total Long Balls (Accurate)

89 (62)

Total Through Balls (Accurate)

23 (7)

With the fitness levels of an Ox, Ramsey played Arsenal’s first 18 games in the Premier League, notching up eight goals and six assists. In these 18 games, Arsenal amassed 12 wins, three draws and suffered three defeats. Ramsey missed out on Arsenal’s remaining 14 League games and in his absence, the Gunners had eight victories, three draws and suffered three defeats which include those humiliating results against Liverpool and Chelsea.

This showed that the Gunners had a 66% win ratio in the Premier League when Ramsey took to the pitch but had a 57% win ratio while he was at the treatment table.

He made his return in a brief cameo against West Ham and after getting some extra games under his belt, Ramsey scored Hull twice (Premier League and FA Cup final) as well as a wonder strike against Norwich in the final league game of the season.

With Wales not qualifying for the World Cup, Ramsey watched his teammates in the soccer fiesta and was certainly happy for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker that came back home with the trophy.

Things were expected of him in the new campaign and Ramsey obliged with a Man of the Match performance in the FA Community Shield against Manchester City, where he notched up a goal and an assist. He was Arsenal’s savior yet again in the curtain raiser against Crystal Palace then he earned himself a foolish red card in the qualifier against Besiktas. Many Arsenal fans fretted at the prospect of missing Ramsey for the vital second leg at the Emirates but Alexis Sanchez turned up on the night and never looked back.

Ramsey made his return in the League with a late goal against Everton and he created a neat assist for Jack Wilshere against Manchester City before suffering a hamstring injury in the North London Derby. Since then, Rambo’s form has been downright erratic for a player of his high standards. His blood-like thirst for goals has seen him drift away from performing his other essential duties on the pitch and with the likes of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini not getting enough ‘assistance’ from Ramsey, they have been left exposed countless times and in most cases, Arsenal ends up conceding a goal.

At some point, Ramsey lost his place in the team due to his fitness issues and / or bad patch of form. Sadly, he continued his wretched run with another uncharacteristic torrid outing against Swansea and he was eventually substituted.

According to the Daily Mail, Ramsey has hit back on the fans that have criticized his form, labeling it as ‘unfair’,

‘I’m not worried. I know my qualities. ‘I’ve had a few injuries this season and I’m just getting back. To be honest, I’m still not 100 per cent physically there. It does take a bit out of me.

‘It will take me a few more games to be back to my best. I’m not worried. Certain criticism from people is unfair.’

Ramsey, like a couple of his teammates, is currently going through a rough patch and for a player of his caliber, I’d say that the criticism he has received has been deserved. Criticism is a honest way to letting an individual know how you really feel about him and you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you that Ramsey isn’t playing well at the moment.

Is there something that can be done about it? Yes!

As Wenger advised, Ramsey needs to go back to the basics to do his primary job as a midfielder. We live in a world where attacking players are judged by the goals they score but sometimes, those aren’t the stats we need to be bothered about. Last season, Ramsey was a growing influential figure within the team and his absence was a bitter pill to swallow as the Gunners lacked his determination, inspiration, commitment, doggedness and technical ability.

If he can focus on improving his game, starting with the all-important clash against Manchester United, it would go a long way in restoring him to his good form.

You have to be good before you can become the Alexis, I mean, best.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Lukas Podolski Linked with Napoli

 

Lukas Podolski played 90 minutes in Germany’s 4-0 win over Gibraltar and provided a neat assist for Thomas Mueller. This was the first time the forward played a full game since Arsenal’s Capital One Cup defeat to Southampton back in September. Arsene Wenger even stated a long while ago that the German is his best finisher but somehow, the striker has been frozen out for as long as I can remember. The last time he had an extended run of games was in the tail end of last season and he repaid Wenger’s faith with well-taken braces against West Ham and Hull which took his tally for the campaign to 12 goals.

This season, Podolski has renewed his bench warming duties but he did come on to devastating effect against Anderlecht, scoring the goal that gave his team all three points on the night. He also had a brief cameo in the Burnley where he almost destroyed the cross bar with a thunderous shot. After notching up his 121st cap against Gibraltar, Podolski voiced his frustrations about his lack of playing time,

“I’ve spent the last four months making brief appearances, I’ve had to wrap myself up warm in my winter coat with my hat and scarf on to watch the others playing.

“I would rather show Arsenal what I am capable if, but this chance to show what I can do is not being given to me.

“I want to play football for many years to come so am I meant just to say everything’s fine and sit my contract out?”

If a player like Nicklas Bendtner was earning the kind of bucks Podolski earns, I’m pretty sure he’d have preferred to sit his contract out. Podolski is 29 years old and he has at least three to four more seasons left in him. Many Arsenal fans have their opinions about the lad but while he can be an incredibly frustrating player to watch (especially when he gets anonymous in games), he is also a quality striker that can be relied upon to finish off a ball when the chance comes.

Germany’s manager, Joachim Loew, has urged the player to leave Arsenal to get regular playing time, because his place in the German team is severely threatened. Despite being a World Cup winner, Podolski played a bit part role in the tournament and even with Marco Reus missing the tournament through injury, there was still no place for Podolski in Germany’s starting XI in most of the games. German great, Rudi Voeller has backed Podolski to excel at Arsenal but I feel that time is running out.

Podolski plays predominantly from the left but with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deployed from the left, Podolski hardly stands a chance there. In the center forward position, Podolski is further down the pecking order Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck. When the manager is looking for a goal against Swansea and he brings on Yaya Sanogo ahead of Podolski, that clearly means that the boss favours the young lanky French lad that has never scored for the club over a player that has scored 29 goals in 75 apps for Arsenal.

According to Football Italia, Podolski is heavily linked with a move to SSC Napoli this winter. The Italian outfit were dealt a heavy blow when their talented winger, Lozenro Insigne, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury on his knee and he’s definitely going to miss the rest of the season, getting a player like Podolski would be a plausible option, bearing in mind that he’s going to fill Insigne’s boots, should he decide to leave North London for Naples.

Rafa Benitez’ side are currently in third place behind League leaders, Juventus, and second placed AS Roma. Former Arsenal target, Gonzalo Higuain, and Jose Callejon are leading the club’s scoring charts with eight goals each. Napoli is also leading their Europa League group and are in pole position to qualify to the next round.

If things don’t improve for the German, he may be forced to make a decision in January. Let’s hope it’s the right one for the player and the club.

Sayonara.

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Good News on Injuries and International Football Updates

Danny Welbeck and Kieran Gibbs

I traveled for a conference for a couple of days so I wasn’t chanced to blog. It’s one of the things I’ve come to terms with as I’m still trying to strike that balance between working in an Oil and Gas company and blogging about Arsenal. We should obviously know what takes precedence. Irrespective though, not much has happened since I last published a post three days ago.

International football has taken center stage and as a Nigerian, I watched the Super Eagles take on a Congo side with a hostile crowd backing them. The Eagles needed a two-goal cushion to help their cause in their bid to qualify for the 2015 AFCON that’s now scheduled to take place in Equatorial Guinea and goals from Ikechukwu Uche and Aaron Samuel helped Stephen Keshi’s side achieve that. Sadly, the Congolese fans attempted to attack the Super Eagles but the police and other authorities had to intervene. What a shame. Such poor losers.

Moving over to European football, Arsenal had its contingent on the international stage and many eyes were on the England vs Slovenia game that featured many Gunners. Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and “Dat Guy” Danny Welbeck played all 90 minutes with the Ox coming on late on. The visitors grabbed the lead when Jordan Henderson nodded in a hilarious own goal but things were leveled when Shrek won a penalty and blasted in the dead ball past Samir Handanovic. The Three Lions went ahead when Welbeck showed good anticipation to the rebound the ball after some good work from Adam Lallana and the game was settled when Welbeck connected well with Raheem Sterling to place the ball home. I certainly hope that his confidence will be boosted ahead of the all-important clash against Manchester United and he hasn’t been on the goals lately so he needed this.

Elsewhere, Arsenal’s man on fire, Alexis Sanchez, opened the scoring in Chile’s 5-0 demolition against Venezuela. It wasn’t the neatest goal you’d see Alexis score but it was a very good team goal all round that involved intricate passing play before Alexis (that got ahead of his teammate, Gary Medel) nodded the ball home from point blank range. Santi Cazorla played for 70 minutes in Spain’s 3-0 thumping of Belarus before he was replaced by Jose Callejon. Goals from Isco, Busquets the Diver and Pedro settled the contest.

Lukas Podolski played 90 minutes for Germany and created an assist in their 4-0 victory over minnows, Gibraltar. With a population of just 30,000 people, Gibraltar doesn’t have much ‘professional footballers’. The illustration below speaks louder than words.

Gibraltar 'actual occupations' team graphic is absolutely brilliant

In four qualifiers played thus far, Gibraltar has shipped in seven goals against Poland and Ireland, three goals against Georgia and yesterday, four goals against Germany. They are yet to score in the qualifiers and only God knows how they’d celebrate when they score. Hope it won’t be like Tahiti’s boat paddling when they scored Nigeria in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Wojciech Szczesny kept a clean sheet for Poland in their 4-0 drubbing of Georgia and the Poles are in pole position in the group ahead of Germany, which has been a major highlight of the qualifiers thus far. Time will tell to know if they can keep up but Robert Lewandowski and co. are in a rich vein of form. Joel Campbell also got involved in some international action as Costa Rica endured a pulsating encounter against Uruguay before winning on penalties. It was 3-3 in normal regulation time.

Off the pitch, there has been some encouraging news in regard to fitness of some players. When Olivier Giroud fractured his leg against Everton, even the most optimistic of fans expected him to return to action in early 2015 but in his absence Danny Welbeck has pretty good job. The Englishman has scored five goals in 12 games for the Gunners but he has notched up a couple of assists as well. Having a striker like Giroud back way ahead of schedule is a major plus, because the Handsome French Bloke is integral to the Gunners style of play.

With 17 goals in his first season and 22 goals in his second, Giroud’s progression has been good and it’s also worth noting that Arsenal has missed Giroud on the pitch, especially his headed clearances when the Gunners defend dead balls. The amount of goals the Gunners have conceded to headed balls have been appalling. Giroud’s return will also put Welbeck in some measure of pressure, that would spur the Englishman to perform better knowing that his place in the team will be threatened by the HFB.

Finally, there’s also some good news on Matt Debuchy, as the fullback hopes to return to action as soon as possible. He suffered a bizarre injury against Manchester City but in his absence Calum Chambers has done a decent job, well, until the game against Swansea where he was taken to the cleaners by Jefferson Montero. In all honesty, I’m not looking forward to seeing the duel between Chambers and Angel di Maria but hey, that’s football. Who knows if he’d put the angel in a cage and throw away the keys.

That’s it for Sunday folks.

Sayonara.

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What Can Podolski and Rosicky Do to Get Games?

With no club football coming anytime soon, it’s always good to stay and take stock of how things have panned out thus far this season. By this time last season, the Gunners were riding high with Premier League aspirations and it seemed as if they were actually cut out for it. As we all know, their league campaign crumbled as the months went by and it was good seeing the Gunners win the FA Cup. Arsenal’s run to the FA Cup final in Wembley was quite memorable and many players contributed in one way or another.

For a ‘fringe’ player like Lukas Podolski, his brace against Coventry served as his only goals in the competition but he went on to score eight league goals and one in the Champions League to take his tally for the campaign to 11. Tomas Rosicky on the other hand, had a handful of matches and his moment of glory in the competition when he ran the length of the pitch before chipping the ball over Hugo Lloris. He also scored a screamer against the same opposition in the league as well as that Norwich-esque finish against Sunderland.

This season, the games have been hard to come by for Podolski and Rosicky. The ageless Czech has played just 22 minutes of Premier League football this season and he has had just 31 Champions League minutes. The only time he played a full game was in the Capital One defeat to Southampton where he conceded the penalty that brought the opposition into the game.

The Czech maestro is quite perplexed about his current predicament,

“I understand that I am 34-years-old and that it probably plays a role whether I like it or not. That’s without doubt. However, I’m not in physical decline. When I played for the national team against Holland I ran 12km and according to the tests at Arsenal I’m in the top five (players) in terms of speed. 

“We are on good terms, so I do not really know what it is. It is purely a coach’s decision. It’s not my decline. My health is fine too. Of course I want to play, but there’s not much I can do about it.” 

Maybe all good things come to an end, but I wouldn’t want to see Rosicky’s career end this way with the Gunners. In the tail end of the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons, Rosicky served as the renaissance man and he helped the team to Champions League berths with his brilliant play. But with the quality of players at Arsenal’s disposal, the chances of the Czech star featuring are few and far between. His versatility ensures that he can be deployed in any of the advanced midfield positions but as it stands, Wenger is sticking to the current lot at the moment. Alexis is currently playing as a No. 10 and he has excelled admirably there. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a major bright spark this season and the Gunners boss may not want to stifle his progress, especially with Theo Walcott on his way to full fitness. Some say that Santi Cazorla is meant to be axed from the squad but his creativity has been a highlight this season.

As for Podolski, he has struggled when he featured in the center forward position and is more or less limited to the left wing. His goal to game ratio is exemplary but many Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that Podolski gets anonymous in many games. However, Wenger’s decision to play Yaya Sanogo, a player that had never scored for the club, ahead of the German when the Gunners needed a goal, was quite puzzling. The German has confessed that he’s not happy with his situation and he’d seek talks with his manager over his future.

I still believe that Podolski and Rosicky will get their chances in the foreseeable future, but one wonders if they’d be patient enough.

Sayonara.

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