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Bradford 1 Arsenal 1 (3 – 2 pens.): Profligate, Pathetic and Embarrassing

There goes another trophy…

The morning after an Arsenal defeat.

A somewhat familiar feeling all season long. Unlike in previous times where Arsene Wenger was quick to attribute his shortcomings in the Capital One cup to the use of “kids”, lacking sharpness, poor refereeing decision or what have you, the boss summed up his team’s putrid performance stating that his team couldn’t convert their chances.

He had spoken about his intent to field an experienced line-up bearing in mind that his next game was a week away, and boy, did he field an experienced squad. Wojciech Szczesny was in goal protected by the same back line that kept a clean sheet against West Brom. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla were handed rare Capital One starts alongside Francis Coquelin, with Mikel Arteta getting the axe.

I had a big problem with Arsenal’s attack as Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey were tasked with providing support to Gervinho. I’ve never hidden my disgust in seeing Gervinho play strike for the Gunners and another appalling performance from the Ivorian has put him in my bad books for years to come, till he leaves the Emirates for another team that would settle for such mediocrity.

Early on, Ramsey and Coquelin tried to connect with some intricate passing play but Le Coq’s heavy ball was too much for Ramsey to control in the box. On the other end of the pitch, Nakhi Wells fashioned a chance for himself but Szczesny was equal to that challenge. Bradford hit Arsenal on the break with Per Mertesacker doing his best to intercept the ball but Szczesny showed great bravery to smother the ball to quell an imminent threat that Bradford forward line posed.

With one-third of the game gone, Wells nutmeged Thomas Vermaelen before hitting the deck in a familiar Premier League fashion. Bradford skipper, Gary Jones dinked a cross into Arsenal’s danger area and after a flick from Will Atkinson, the ball was thumped home by Garry Thompson, sending Valley Parade into raptures.

Cazorla lofted a cross for Podolski which was intercepted by Stephen Darby but Kieran Gibbs latched on to the ball before blasting his effort wide. Francis Coquelin was having a good game in midfield and drifted forward, evading a couple of markers before firing a shot that clipped the post. It seemed as if it was going to be one of those nights.

Late on, Arsenal’s best chance of the game arrived when some brilliant passing play between Wilshere and Ramsey teed up Podolski that cushioned a delicate pass to Kieran Gibbs. The fullback drilled the ball across the six-yard box that left the goalie for dead. With a gaping goal in sight, the center forward for the night, Gervinho, put his legs on the ball put it still managed to drift wide.

The frustration on his teammates were evident and I couldn’t hide my rage, as I broke my tumbler in my sitting room. That act incensed my uncle but in due time, the broken pieces of glass were swept away. Things I do for Arsenal.

Arsenal began the second half in a somewhat frantic fashion but their finishing let them down yet again. Cazorla did well to create a chance for Ramsey in the box but the Welshman’s effort went wide off the mark. Sagna teed up Coquelin on the right hand side but his cross into the box evaded everybody.

Arsene Wenger decided to take out Le Coq for the ineffectual Marouane Chamakh, that went on to have a shocker. Ramsey got himself a bleeding nose when James Hanson raised his boot recklessly but not maliciously. The boss went for broke by bringing on Tomas Rosicky and the Ox for Ramsey and Podolski.

One must tend to wonder what Podolski has to do to remain on the pitch. Gervinho was having another disappointing outing, yet he remained on the pitch while a player of Podolski’s quality was sent to the dugout.

Wilshere darted forward and fired a shot that was saved by Matt Duke. Shortly afterwards, Rosicky created a chance for Gervinho but he shot wide. When it seemed as if Bradford was closing in for a famous win, Cazorla swung in a corner that was headed back to his direction. He had a second bite of the cherry and his delicious cross found his skipper, Vermaelen, that spared Arsenal’s blushes with a much-needed equalizer.

phew!

Right at the death, Cazorla curled in a free kick that was saved by Duke. Within seconds, the Spaniard slammed in another shot that was saved by the inspired Duke, sending the game into extra time.

In extra time, Arsenal, like the Big Bad Wolf, continued to huff and puff but they couldn’t blow Bradford away because the little Bradford pigs built their defense on a brick wall. Gibbs had a shot that was parried to safety and Cazorla blasted another thunderbolt that beat the keeper but he had his woodwork to thank as the shot smashed the cross bar.

120 minutes of football wasn’t able to separate both sides, so they had to settle for the lottery of penalties. The last time I witnessed Arsenal play a penalty shootout was in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League Knockout Round against AS Roma. Bradford was in a more buoyant mood, as they had won three games with penalty shootouts this season already.

Nathan Doyle began the proceedings and dispatched his spot kick past Szczesny, despite the goalie guessing the right way and getting a hand to it. Santi Cazorla stepped up confidently and despite putting up a great show all night long, the Spaniard’s spot kick was saved by Duke. Bradford’s skipper stepped up and sent Szczesny the wrong way.

Within moments, Chamakh took the long walk to the penalty box and fired his shot to the post. After two penalties, Bradford was two goals to the good.

Stephen Darby had the chance to put his team on the driver’s seat but his disappointing spot kick was duly saved by Szczesny. Jack Wilshere knew that he had to score to give his team a glimmer of hope, and the young man sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 2 –1. Substitute Alan Cornell blasted his shot past Szczesny to make it 3 -1 and with the next Arsenal penalty being the most important, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped up the plate to make it 3 – 2.

Ritchie Jones was given the chance to become Bradford’s hero by taking the final spot kick. Szczesny’s eyes were firmly focused on the ball and the big Pole did really well to make a great save. Despite having a horrible start to the shoot-out, Arsenal’s custodian between the sticks made two good saves to put his team in it.

Up stepped the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, the man that scored the equalizer that prevented Arsenal from being on the back pages for all the wrong reasons. He sent the goalie the wrong way…but he missed!

At that point in time, Bradford’s elation knew no bounds while it was a pretty familiar feeling with everyone concerned with Arsenal. Shame, disappointment, frustration, anger… you can add the rest to this list. As expected, the fans took out their frustrations on poor ol’ Twitter and if words could kill, Wenger would have been dead by now. They even created a trending topic #WengerOut

Another potential winnable trophy has gone beyond our grasp yet again and all we can do is sulk, sulk and errrr…sulk. The defeat epitomizes everything that is wrong with Arsenal right now.

It’s high time I pull the plug on today’s post, I have a meeting in a bit.

Besides, there’s also life outside Arsenal.

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Bradford Preview: One More Step from Ending the Drought

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Arsenal’s last Capital One Cup encounter was entertaining, enthralling and epic.

In all my years as an Arsenal fan, I haven’t seen a game that made me go through so many emotional phases like the game against Reading. I started the game with arrogance (simple stroll in the park, I thought), but that was quickly changed to a state of surprise (1 – 0), perplexion, bewilderment (2 – 0) and shock (3 – 0) before getting heavy doses of frustration and despair (4 – 0).

I began the second half with doubt (4 – 1), but it was changed to hope (4 – 2). At 4 – 3, urgency became my watchword and when Walcott made it 4 – 4, my euphoria knew no bounds. 5 – 4 was somewhat orgasmic,  but the equalizer was a bitter pill to swallow. After the final two goals that put the game beyond doubt, the only feeling I had was pride.

Arsenal’s reward for winning tonight would be a place in the semifinals of the Capital One cup but your reward could be plenty if you try to earn some money out of players rewards cards from this link right here like I did.

December is a very busy month from a footballing perspective and the games are coming thick and fast. The Capitol One offers Arsenal a very realistic chance of ending the club’s trophy drought and Wenger has stated that he intends to use an experienced squad tonight,

“We will have an experience squad at Bradford. We have a good recovery time ahead of the game at Reading on Monday. So we can use the players we want to use.”

The casualty list has a new recruit as it seems as if Olivier Giroud hasn’t recovered from that nasty kick he received on his back against West Brom. The regular absentees (Walcott, Diaby, Koscielny and Andre Santos) are still out and there are some youngsters (Yennaris and Miquel) that are in the list as well.

Wenger still has half an eye on Monday’s game against Reading but with fatigue creeping in, he’ll be odds on to tweak the squad a bit. With Vito Mannone just returning back to the squad, this game might come too soon for him so I expect Damian Martinez to get another run-out in goal. He didn’t fare too well in his last outing and he’ll surely have a point to prove, I guess.

In the defense, I see Sebastien Squillaci returning to the starting line up, but with Johan Djourou’s fitness not mentioned in a long while, one can only assume that he’s injured. With Per Mertesacker being an ever-present figure for the Gunners this season, he might be the player that would be axed for the Squid.

In the fullback positions, Carl Jenkinson will maraud the right flank with the young Jernade Meade strutting his stuff on the left. The youngster hopes for more chances to earn a new deal at the Emirates. Unlike some forwards that don’t want to sign da ting.

In midfield, I expect the same triumvirate that started in Greece to get another chance to stake a claim for a first-team berth. Francis Coquelin would start as the midfield enforcer with Aaron Ramsey manning the box-to-box role. Tomas Rosicky will further up the pitch as the primary playmaker. These three didn’t have much cohesion in Athens but I’m sure that they’ll give the fans a much-improved performance against a weaker Bradford side.

In attack, Arsenal doesn’t really have much options so we might see a Gervinho-Chamakh-Ox combo. Gervinho put up a spirited performance against West Brom on Saturday but his output on the final third was very appalling. Chamakh was a confused figure in Greece but he can find some solace in the fact that his only Arsenal goals this season came in this competition. The Ox was in good form against West Brom would want to continue that run.

Bradford might be a League Two outfit but this won’t be a stroll in the park for the Gunners. They are fighting hard for promotion into League One and they have the backing of a hostile crowd that will cheer their team on in Valley Parade. Bradford’s Curtis Good is relishing the prospect of playing the Gunners and we can bet that they’ll be at their best tonight.

A win would give the Gunners a chance to appear in the semis, which would mean that they’ll be two games away from another chance to play in Wembley. Hopefully, Koscielny and Szczesny won’t feature at the same time should Arsenal secure a final berth. We all know how that panned out in 2011.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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