Category Archives: Champions League

Arsenal’s Transfer Targets Raise the Eye at the World Cup

The best thing about a competition like the World Cup is that the football doesn’t stop till the final day on July 13, 2014. As expected, shocks and surprised have been the order of the day and I’m pretty sure that many fans wouldn’t quickly forget how Netherlands decimated Spain.

Yesterday’s set of fixtures had their own twist as the day began with Colombia securing a comfortable result against the modern day Spartans. Shortly after West Ham’s Pablo Armero got the lead, the South American side played so poorly and one wondered if the Greeks had it in them to pull off something tangible for themselves. Unfortunately, they didn’t have Leonidas or Thermistocles in their ranks so there wasn’t going to be any epic fighting.

With the Colombia game done and dusted, all eyes were turned to the Uruguay vs. Costa Rica game, a match that everyone deemed to be a stroll in the park. Edinson Cavani’s goal made it seem as if it was going to be business as usual but that fine young lad, Joel Campbell, popped one with one of the finest strikes in the tournament to bring his country level. The Costa Ricans continued to push Uruguay hard and against all odds, they scored two more goals that put the game beyond doubt with Campbell again having a hand in the match clincher.

Costa Rica’s shock victory threw down the gauntlet to England and Italy and I had hoped that it wouldn’t be a repeat of the bore fest I witnessed in euro 2012. Unlike that game were being conservative was the order of the day, both teams showcased some attacking football and that Chuck Norris looking graceful regista in the middle of the park was as influential as ever, spraying passes like they were bread and butter. Juventus’ Claudio Marchisio and Liverpool’s Danny Sturridge got the strikes for their nations but in the end, it was the bad boy, Mario Balotelli, that scored the goal that handed the Italians maximum points.

Then there was the early morning unorthodox fixture between Ivory Coast and Japan and for some strange reason, I saw myself watching the game as if it was a 2.00pm game, rather than the 2.00am fixture it was meant to be. To my surprise, the red-hot Wilfried Bony got the nod ahead of The legendary Didier Drogba and he even got on the score sheet courtesy of an assist from Serge Aurier, a player that has been touted as Sagna’s long-term replacement. Aurier was at it again with another assist for a former Gunner, Gervinho, and it was enough to hand Africa’s first victory in the tournament.

So there we have it. A certain Joel Campbell, whose future still hangs on the balance, the want-away Mario Balotelli and of course, everyone’s favourite Serge Aurier that has been heavily linked with a move to North London.

Many would be hoping for the manager to buy that center forward that would score more goals that the amount of gel Cristiano Ronaldo uses on his hair, but I won’t mind having me some Campbell and could play his part in the 2014/15 campaign. That lad is a truly talented kid and I hope he continues to improve but I’d love to see him at Arsenal sooner, rather than later.

As for Serge Aurier, I would be extremely livid if another team comes and snaps him away from Arsenal’s clutches despite the fact that hour has openly flirted with the Gunners this summer. Last season, he scored six goals and supplied six assists for his team and his versatility allowed him to play as a right back and even as a center back, depending on his managers tactical setup. Aurier would be a perfect fit for Arsenal and I pray that Arsene Wenger and his team secure a move for the lad once Ivory Coast gets knocked out of the competition.

Then there is the curious case of Mario Balotelli. At Internazionale, Manchester City and AC Milan, the maverick scored lots of goals but he’s more remembered for his antics and shenanigans rather than his talented displays. Arsenal has had its fare share of hot heads in the past but Balotelli has a lot of baggage with him and I hope that the Gunners links for him isn’t concrete.

So it’s back to watching the greatest competition in the world and I’m gonna support my next best national team after my Nigeria.

#AllezLesBleus

Sayonara.

UEFA Champions League: Bold Predictions for the UCL Semis

 

Just before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draws were made, I published an article on some bold predictions for the last eight and there’s nothing cooler than seeing your predictions work out. I had stated that;

  • Two Teams from the Same Nationality Would Lock Horns – Yup, there was a clash between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, two teams from the same nation. 
  • The Ibrahimovic – C. Ronaldo – Diego Costa Golazo Fest Would Continue – Cristiano Ronaldo got in on the scoring act but injuries plighted Zlatan and Diego Costa’s chances of getting on the score sheet.
  • Atletico Madrid Would Cruise to the Semifinals – The Red and White Dark Horses surprised everyone in the football world with a two-legged victory over juggernauts, Barcelona, but I wasn’t perturbed cuz’ I said so. 
  • A ‘Big’ Team Would be Dumped Out - If FC Barcelona is your definition of “big”, then you’re correct. :D
  • End of the Line for Manchester United – Of course, they never stood a chance with the defending champions.

The draws for the semifinals coming up soon and the road to Lisbon is getting closer with each passing game. Gooner Daily has decided to take a tentacle from Paul the Octopus to make a couple of predictions ahead of the next phase of Europe’s elite football competition.

Atletico’s Profligacy Will Cost Them a Place in the Finals

David Villa smashed three shots against the woodwork when he played his former employers

In the absence of a clinical forward like Diego Costa through injury, Atletico Madrid needed their next experienced forward, David Villa, to step up in his absence. David Villa had a good game by his standards but he left his shooting boots at home as he missed a hat-trick of chances that smashed the woodwork.

As the game progressed, Atletico found more loopholes in the Barcelona defense but their poor finishing coupled with Barca’s toothlessness in front of goal saw them book a place in the last four. Against vastly experienced sides like Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, Atletico’s naivety in front of goal could be exposed and they would be brushed aside.

Notwithstanding, they have been the team of the tournament thus far.

Jose Mourinho and his Goons Would Progress to the Finals

As we all know, Jose Mourinho is one hell of a charismatic character and while he can be a massive pain in the ass sometimes, you can’t take nothing away from his tactical acumen.

He had noticed how Eden Hazard had been struggling on the wings right from the kickoff but he took a bold step to replace him in a game of that magnitude with Andre Schurrle. David Moyes on the other hand, saw that Wayne Rooney was clearly struggling at the Allianz Arena but Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj came on for other players while Shrek remained on the pitch.

 

Super Sub

 

I’m not here to laud Mourinho for his tactics because PSG also had chances to kill the game off and they weren’t taken but Mourinho is a coach that knows how to adapt to different game plans and when his team gets drawn against either Bayern, Real Madrid or Atletico, Mourinho would have the edge.

As expected, he would probably park a large bus away then balance the scoreline at home. Bleeeeeeh

There Would be Penalty Shootouts in One of the Fixtures

At the semifinal stage, there would be some tactical battles on and off the pitch. Teams would take cautious approaches over the course of two legs and I’m confident that there would be a fixture that would be settled by the lottery of a penalty shootout.

Let’s just hope that Sergio Ramos won’t be available to shoot another ball that would be launched into orbit if Real Madrid turns out to be among the teams playing in the shootout.

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

Sayonara

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Bold Predictions for the Champions League Quarterfinals

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With the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 completed, eight teams have advanced to the quarterfinals while eight other teams have been sent packing and it’s worth noting that ALL the teams that topped their respective groups are currently in the last eight, which goes to say that earning a quarterfinal berth is half secured when you top your group because you’d a ‘favorable’ draw. Note to Arsenal.

However, with the draws for the Quarterfinals coming up soon, Gooner Daily has decided to take a tentacle from Paul the Octopus to make a couple of predictions ahead of the next phase of Europe’s elite football competition.

Two Teams from the Same Nationality Would Lock Horns

The quarterfinals would see two teams representing England, two representing Germany, three from Spain and one from France. Gooner Daily believes that UEFA, in their infinite wisdom, would pair two clubs from the same nation together.

Go get ready to expect a Manchester United vs. Chelsea clash, an El Clasico, Madrid Derby or Atletico vs. Barcelona or maybe, a repeat of last season’s final between Bayern and Dortmund.

The Ibrahimovic – C. Ronaldo – Diego Costa Golazo Fest Would Continue

Irrespective of who Paris St. Germain, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid is going to play, expect another bout of goalscoring display from three of the finest forwards in this season’s competition, the mercurial Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Brazilian-turned-Spanish sensation, Diego Costa and the world’s best footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo.

I would be scared if I’m coming up against any of these forwards.

Atletico Madrid Would Cruise to the Semifinals

This season’s dark horses have been Diego Simeone’s Atletico. Their efforts in the group stages probably went unnoticed as they easily topped the group that had Zenit St. Petersburg, FC Porto and Austria Vienna. When they took a slender 1-0 lead at San Siro in the first knockout round, the football world was stunned to how they decimated their illustrious Milan opponents in the second leg.

With Atletico in the quarterfinals, many so-called ‘big teams’ would be licking their lips at the prospect of getting a draw against them. They are in for a surprise because Gooner Daily strongly believes that this side would cruise to the semis.

A ‘Big’ Team Would be Dumped Out

The Champions League, like every other football competition, has its own twists and turns. I expect the quarterfinals to spring up a big surprise for neutral football lovers, so I expect a big team, that is expected to go as far as winning the competition, to be dumped out acrimoniously.

Teams like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the forerunners to go all the way to the final. Call me a prophet of doom if you must, but Gooner Daily believes that one of these so-called big sides would be heading towards the exit door, sooner rather than later.

End of the Line for Manchester United

David Moyes and his Manchester United side have been all about breaking records this season and his side was the only team that managed to win their group and suffer a defeat in their first leg encounter.

However, the former Gunner with the little boy inside him inspired his team with a scintillating hat-trick, only to suffer an injury late in the game.

Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Olympiakos may have guaranteed them a place in the last eight but judging from their shambolic performances this season and the quality of opposition at this stage of the competition, Gooner Daily believes that it’s the end of the line for the Old Trafford-based outfit.

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

Sayonara

Bayern 1 Arsenal 1: At Least, They Gave Their All…

Allianz Arena (Champions League)

Bayern: Schweinsteiger 54′ – Arsenal: Podolski 57′

Player Ratings via Telegraph – Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

 

It was always going to be like an uphill task but with the Gunners having nothing to lose, Arsene Wenger fielded what proved to be a very strong attacking side with the intent of springing a surprise at the home of the world and European champions. With Wojciech Szczesny suspended, Lukasz Fabianski deputized in goal but injuries to Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal saw the captain retain his place in the first team, albeit in the left back position. Elsewhere, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud returned to the starting XI as well.

According to the commentators, the Norwegian referee had overseen two victories for English sides on German soil as he was the match official in Chelsea’s away win at Schalke and Manchester United’s pummeling of Bayer Leverkusen.

Arsenal was quick out of the blocks with the Ox running at the Bayern defense and it took a cynical challenge from Dante to stop the raging Ox in his tracks. Podolski almost teed up Giroud with a cross but it was blocked. The resulting corner from Santi Cazorla was piss poor and Bayern used it as an opportunity to instigate a counter attacking move with saw David Alaba and Franck Ribery combine before his cross was fired over by Arjen Robben.

Thiago Alcantara lofted a free kick that was blasted in by Javi Martinez but the linesman’s flag spared Arsenal’s blushes. Bayern continued to launch waves of attacks with Alaba lashing a shot wide with his weaker right foot and shortly afterwards, Mario Mandzukic headed a cross over the bar.

At the start of the second half, Arsenal replaced the ineffectual Mesut Ozil with Tomas Rosicky. Ozil attempted only 12 passes in the first half and had a surprising 58% accuracy. His passing stats only bettered Fabianski’s 48% passing accuracy which was evidenced by his poor distribution all game long.

Mikel Arteta was lucky to remain on the pitch after he had clattered Ribery despite walking on thin ice from the yellow he received in the first half. Robben managed to get the better of Thomas Vermaelen but he attempted a blatant dive much to the disgust of everyone connected with Arsenal. Bayern’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears as the ref signaled for the bald Dutch diver to get back up on his feet.

With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, Bayern broke the deadlock when Ribery threaded a neat through ball to an unmarked Bastian Schweinsteiger that caught Fabianski on his blind side. This goal drove the final nail in Arsenal’s qualification coffin.

Instead of sulking and putting their heads down for losing 3 – 0 on aggregate, the Gunners came firing on all cylinders with a swift attack as Podolski attempted a one-two with Giroud but the French striker’s return pass fell to Philip Lahm’s path. With Podolski determined to get the ball, he gave Lahm a nudge that made the full-back hit the deck like a sack of potatoes. After retrieving the ball in what seemed to be an impossible angle, Podolski blasted a thunderous shot with that hammer of his, leaving Manuel Neuer no chance in Hell.

The goal instilled some confidence into the away team and continued an onslaught in their bid to make their own version of history. Podolski had a cross blocked by Alaba but it fell to the Ox’s path but his tame shot was saved by Neuer. The German goalie received a simple back pass and his over-confidence made him concede possession immediately to the Gunners but Rosicky failed to capitalize on his error.

The Ox lost the ball in Arsenal’s danger area and after some neat passing play, Thiago fed an unmarked Mandzukic but his poor control allowed Fabianski to smother the ball. Robben was allowed to make a run and was allowed a shot at goal but Fabianski made another good save. With the Ox pulling up, he was replaced by Mathieu Flamini and shortly after that Serge Gnabry replaced Arteta that was one card away from making things very difficult for his team.

Cazorla sighted Gnabry on Alaba’s blind side and he dinked a ball for the young German but the Austrian was aware of the danger and he nodded the ball to safety. Podolski teed up Gnabry but the young bloke skied his effort. Late on, Robben was at it again as he was bundled over by Koscielny leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Thomas Muller fired the ball through the middle but Fabianski’s trailing leg blocked the ball on the line.

With Muller determined to score a rebound, Fabianski showed off his bravery to push the ball away before he was tackled by the striker. That turned out to be the last noteworthy incident of the game and Arsenal’s Champions League adventure had ended on the knockout stage for the fourth season in a row.

All this wouldn’t have happened if the Gunners topped their group but there’s no point crying over spilled milk.

At least, they gave their all.

Sayonara.

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Bayern Preview: One of Those European Nights

It’s fair to say that we have seen a different Arsene Wenger this season. While playing his usually breathtaking football with intricate passing and technique at its peak, Wenger has shown a different perspective this season with some games were he goes all out to defend a lead and win ugly – a trait not usually characterised with Arsenal. There was even a game when the Gunners tore a script from the Stoke booklet to score three goals against the Potters through set pieces.

I’ve also been surprised to know that Wenger has learned a lot from his mistakes in the past and he has passed on that mentality to his players. There have been countless seasons when Wenger was faced with the dilemma of a domestic Cup fixture just before a European knockout clash and he’d inexplicably choose to ‘rest’ some his first team lads with half an eye on the European encounter.

The Gunners failed to top what proved to be a tough group and their rewards for that was a double date with arguably the best team in the world. With the Bayern clash around the corner, Wenger picked a strong team in the FA Cup fifth round clash with Liverpool and his team were victorious on the day, giving themselves a measure of revenge for the spanking they had received from the same club a week earlier. They went on to lose to Bayern in a game marred by Mesut Ozil’s missed spot kick and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card.

Last weekend, the Gunners had a classic case of deja vu as they faced another Merseyside opponent in the FA Cup before the daunting second leg against Bayern. Wenger was spot on with his selection, and even better with his substitutions during the game as the Gunners booked a semifinal berth against Wigan at Wembley.

With the FA Cup done and dusted till April at least, Arsene Wenger and his hordes are going to the Allianz Arena to play a Bayern Munich side in a rich vein of form and they are firing on all cylinders in the Bundesliga, creating records on the go. The Gunners have already been written off by journos, pundits and nay sayers. ‘A two nil loss at home against a side like Bayern is a step too far’, they say.

But I love these sort of odds. Nothing to lose and nothing to play for but pride.

Funnily enough, the Gunners were in the same exact situation last season after losing 3-1 at home to ‘almighty’ Bayern. How did they respond? A spirited away performance that saw the German juggernauts resort to time wasting to save their bacons as the Gunners ran the show in Munich. Unfortunately, the 2-0 victory wasn’t enough for qualification but that win was a catalyst in the Gunners surge for a fourth place finish as they went on to claim eight victories in 10 games.

Some people say that ‘lightning can’t strike twice’ but football footballers should look at the underdogs, Wigan Athletic, that beat the overwhelming favorites, Manchester City, in the same competition. I can bet that Zeus sent the same thunderbolt twice.

I’m not taking anything from Bayern – they have been awesome this season and the prospect of playing them sends chills down the spines of the opposition players. But at the end of the day, it still boils down to what happens after 90 minutes.

To team news, Lukasz Fabianski is about to play back to back games for quite some time with Szczesny’s suspension in the first leg. There will be an alteration in the defense after the devastating news that Kieran Gibbs won’t be available for this clash. I don’t want to fathom the prospect of playing Nacho Monreal to face the red-hot Arjen Robben so I’m hopeful that Wenger would deploy the Verminator on that position while Mertesielny continues in the heart of the defense.

In midfield, Mikel Arteta has served his suspension and he will be available for selection alongside the Flanimal. This game would be an interesting one for Mesut Ozil and he would want to kill the ghosts that haunted him against Bayern a fortnight ago. In attack, I expect Santi Cazorla and the Ox to maraud the flanks but the major change would be the return of Olivier Giroud to his rightful place ahead of Yaya Sanogo.

I trust my club and I believe this is gonna be one hell of a game. However, I take solace in the mere fact that my team has performed admirably in some European grounds like San Siro, Santiago Bernabeu, Signal Iduna Park and most recently, the feared Allianz Arena.

Let’s just hope that it would be one of those European Nights.

Sayonara.

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