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20 facts about Arsenal so far this season

The fourth month of the 10-month long Premier League season is around its midway point and the gooners have witnessed a lot from the team they support. The club ended last season on a sad note and put themselves in an almost precarious situation when they had to face the gamble of qualifying for the Champions League through the knock out phase.

Udinese Calcio provided a very good threat but Arsene Wenger’s men turned on the style to begin a journey that has seen them top Group F just past the halfway point of the Champions’ League group stage proper. So far, the Gunners have been engaged in three football competitions and they had a shambolic start in the one that they’ve won 13 times, the Premier League.

From my review of the season so far, I’ve been able to gather a lot of facts about Arsenal Football Club and I’ll like to share my top 20. Here’s my take on 20 facts about Arsenal so far.

Robin van Persie is a goal scoring machine

Since the turn of 2011, Arsenal’s lethal forward Robin van Persie has been on an unbelievable goal scoring streak amassing 28 Premier League goals in his last 27 Premier League games as well as 34 goals in 38 games in this calendar year.

Everything van Persie touches has changed to goals and he proved this fact yet again when he came off the bench to score a brace against Stoke City. More recently, he scored his easiest goal of 2011 when Arsenal hosted West Brom with a simple finish from less than six yards out.

When Aaron Ramsey scores something mysterious happens elsewhere

Call this coincidence but three major deaths have been recorded a day after Aaron Ramsey found the back of the net for Arsenal.

When he scored the only goal in the narrow 1-0 win over Manchester United, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan the next day; when he scored Arsenal’s equalizer against Tottenham, Apple’s Steve Jobs released his latest and final software called iDied a day after and when he scored Arsenal’s last minute match winner against Olympique Marseille, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi was caught and killed the next day.

There’s something freaky about Aaron Ramsey scoring and I wonder what will happen next when he decides to score again.

Bad refereeing decisions have played its part yet again

One tends to wonder if the issues of referees and Arsenal must be a curse from beyond but the match-day officials have played a role in some decisions that has gone against the Gunners this season.

When Arsenal hosted Liverpool at the Emirates in August, Luis Suarez was offside when he received the ball from Raul Meireles but the linesman chose not to raise his flag and the outcome ultimately led to a goal. More recently in Arsenal’s match against Stoke City, Peter Crouch and Laurent Koscielny challenged for the ball in the air but the ref blew his whistle for a foul that never occurred. It wasn’t surprising to know that Peter Crouch got on the end of a nice training move to score Stoke’s equalizer.

Squad indiscipline

There was a time when Arsenal was accused for not ‘sticking in’ too much when the likes of Bolton and Blackburn under Sam Allardyce took time out to be bullying Arsenal’s players but the trend has changed for the worst because the new-look Arsenal has started breeding ruffians that are never afraid to get a yellow or even worse.

Alex Song escaped with a red card when he stamped on Joey Hitler’s foot when Arsenal played Newcastle but he didn’t escape the eagle eyes of the FA after the match. However Emmanuel Frimpong (Liverpool) and Carl Jenkinson (Manchester United) didn’t escape the clutches of the referees though.

Unfortunate injuries

This is the biggest cliché Arsenal fans have become accustomed to. Year and year, Arsenal will always have a player that will spend a considerable time on the sidelines especially when he’s needed the most.

Jack Wilshere was a phenom last season for Arsenal but he hasn’t kicked the ball this season because of an ankle injury that he sustained in the summer. Thomas Vermaelen spent seven long months out last season and after suffering a late tackle when Arsenal played Udinese Calcio he has been out for quite some time but he’s back to full fitness while Bacary Sagna has become the most recent long-term absentee after fracturing his leg when Arsenal played Tottenham.

On the good side, regular customers like Robin van Persie and Aaron Ramsey have been playing at  optimum health but Kieran Gibbs and Abou Diaby have picked up where they left off last season with more injury problems.

Bad Luck

If you search a dictionary for the football meaning of the word ‘bad luck’, you’ll probably see a picture of Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny looking very gloomy at Wembley. This season, Arsenal’s visit to Ewood Park was the Google definition of football bad luck.

How on Earth can a team score five goals in a match while their opponents scored two yet they ended up losing? I’m pretty sure that Albert Einstein won’t be able to give me an answer to that.

Andrey Arshavin’s inconsistency

Look for the Prince of Persia somewhere in Alamuth, steal his dagger then activate the Sands of Time to rewind the football world back to May 2008. Zenit St. Petersburg played Glasgow Rangers in the final of the UEFA Cup. Rangers run to the final saw them record many goalless draws that were settled with penalties but a little Russian delivered two through passes that cut their defense open like hot knife through butter.

Move a bit forward to the European Championships that took place in Switzerland and Austria in the summer of 2008. The little Russian was suspended from some matches in the group stage but singlehandedly destroyed tournament favorites Holland in the quarter finals before losing to the eventual winners Spain in the semis.

Finally, move forward to February 2nd, 2009. After a very long transfer saga that was almost thwarted with issues concerning money, this little Russian inherited the jersey left by Sol Campbell to wow the Arsenal faithful with breathtaking performances with the pick of the bunch being his amazing four-goal haul when Arsenal visited Anfield.

Return back to reality and see the same Andrey Arshavin that was regarded well above Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri as one of Arsenal’s world class players after Cesc Fabregas. He has become a very peripheral figure in matches and he can be a pain to watch at times.

I hope he gets his act right soon enough.

Alex Song’s sloppy passes

Trust me, no one has sang more sweet tunes for a fellow African gem like Alex Song than me. The Cameroonian joined Arsenal from SC Bastia and was sent to Charlton to improve his football because he struggled to make the squad with the likes of Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini and Lassana Diarra still present in the squad. The way they all departed was not taken likely by the fans……me included.

Wenger went back to the lab and brought out one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League. Naturally built and with the stamina of an ox, Song added technique, skill, confidence and goal scoring to his game making him one of the finest players to have being molded by Wenger.

However, there’s a part of Alex Song’s game that needs some massive improvement. This season, his passes to teammates have been very poor and he has handed the opposition times without number. I hope he will decide someday to give the ball to the people that really know what to do with it and do his own job on the pitch. His pass to Gervinho when Arsenal played Blackburn was a peach though.

Per Mertesacker is a slow poke

Imagine a scenario where a tortoise, a snail and Per Mertesacker will be on the starting grid for a 100m dash, who do you think would emerge as the winner?

Even though he has the height of Jack’s Beanstalk, the composure and calmness of a rattlesnake waiting for a rat to enter its striking range and the positioning of great defenders from yesteryear, Mertesacker’s pace is a real cause for concern in a fast-paced league like the English Premiership and it has already been exploited by the opposition this season.

Nevertheless, I consider him as a good signing because he has added a lot of experience and coordination to Arsenal’s backline but certainly not some pace.

Marouane Chamakh’s confidence has hidden under a rock

There was a certain Moroccan sensation that played his entire career in Girondins de Bordeaux before switching to the Red half of North London. He started with a few goals during the preseason before forcing Pepe Reina to score an own goal on the opening day of last season in Anfield.

He scored his first goal on his home debut against recently relegated Blackpool before joining the party when Arsenal thrashed Bolton by 4-1 in September. He also scored on his Champions League debut in the 6-0 spanking of eventual Europa League finalists SC Braga and continued his personal scoring record in the competition that extended from his Bordeaux days.

He scored in his Arsenal’s second Champions League tie against Partizan before scoring the match winner against Birmingham City in mid-October. He scored again in Arsenal’s third Champions League game against Shakhtar and it seemed as if he was destined to score in every game of the Champions League as long as he played.

The goals dried up a bit but he found some form again in November scoring a brace against Wolves before scoring Tottenham and Aston Villa. Marouane Chamakh’s toe poke in Villa Park was his 10th goal in just 21 appearances averaging a goal every two games then Robin van Persie came along and Chamakh found himself relegated to the bench and featured in lowly Cup ties.

In recent times, Chamakh has been a ghostly figure on the pitch and the player that amassed a goal in two has currently scored just two goals in his last 33 games or so. It’s so unfortunate to see how his form waned like a player that returned from a long-term injury but it’s fair to say that Chamakh’s days are probably numbered in the club and with the likes of PSG gunning for him; you can never tell what will happen next.

Arsenal’s worst result in the 21st century

The last time Arsenal conceded eight goals in a game, my father’s father was not even born because Zeus was still commissioning the Olympic Games as far back as 1896. 115 years later, Arsene Wenger carried a bunch of kids in his bench as well as same ‘experienced’ heads to visit Old Trafford on a faithful Sunday evening.

Wayne Rooney was in scintillating form and Arsenal’s defense activated their self-destruct sequence. Shortly after the match anti-Arsenal fans and media Vultures alike created the punch line of the season,

“I’ll 8-2 be an Arsenal fan right now”

Potential transfer targets were missed yet again

Last summer was very busy from an Arsenal point of view and the media Vultures flew around the Gunner camp to release reports linking players in and out of the club. There were very notable departures for Arsene Wenger’s side this season.

Gael Clichy quietly packed his bags and joined Manchester City while the three-year long Fabregate saga involving Arsenal and Barcelona finally came to an end. Samir Nasri put the club at ransom at some point before making a big money move to the Etihad Stadium. This meant that there was enough money in the bank and Arsenal was in need of dire replacements especially in midfield and the defense.

The media Vultures heralded Gary Cahill as the defensive messiah and Chris Samba literally pleaded with Arsenal to come and get him. Clichy’s departure brought up names like Leighton Baines and Jose Enrique but Arsene Wenger folded his arms as the days went by without any activity. In the midfield, Eden Hazard and Yann M’ Vila were also linked to the club but the pleas from the fans to buy them also fell on deaf ears.

Personal milestones for Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has been under serious stick at the start of the season following a run of poor results but there was still time for the Gunners boss to celebrate his 15th anniversary as Arsenal’s manager as well as his 62nd birthday.

This milestone still puts him 10 years behind the great Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of service to a football club but Arsene Wenger’s managerial career is worth emulating as he proves yet again that continuity is a key attribute for the stability of any football club.

Chelsea’s Abramovich had a certain Special One that won the club’s first set of trophies since the days Merlin was the Chief Wizard of Camelot but after rescinding the Portuguese contract, he has gone on to bring in an influx of managers that he ended up sacking with the exception of Guus Hiddink that left on his own accord.

Panicky deadline day signings

Say what you must but Arsenal fans should extend a little bit of gratitude to Manchester United for opening Arsene Wenger’s eyes in the worst possible manner. He had lost midfield juggernauts like Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and decided to place all his faith on Andrey Arshavin, Aaron Ramsey and probably Tomas Rosicky to handle the burden of creativity. I had a feeling that if Arsenal escaped Old Trafford with a draw or probably a surprise win, Wenger might just have stuck with his thin squad.

But on the bright side, Arsenal fans are elated when the usually miserly boss cleaned off the dust from Arsenal’s cheque book to buy five players that have integrated themselves well into the Arsenal setup with little time to gel.

Andre Santos arrival has been a breath of fresh air as Arsenal now has a full back that can offer a whole lot in attack as well as remain responsible at the back. Per Mertesacker has added calmness and coordination to a usually panicky Arsenal defense. Mikel Arteta has been a blessing to Arsenal as he has provided the perfect balance in the midfield. Yossi Benayoun’s wit and versatility has been a tool that has been exploited by Wenger and Park Chu-Young’s finish against Bolton was a goal made in dreams.

A simple word to Manchester United: Thanks. J

Initial struggle after the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri

To lose a player that provided 100 assists in eight seasons was a very bitter pill to swallow and the other midfield maestro that was touted as his favored replacement followed suit weeks later. The club clearly struggled in late August and early September as the team’s lack of creative spark was glaring for all to see.

The only player that offered a glimmer of hope in terms of creativity was sent off on his Arsenal debut in St. James Park but he helped the club in their Champions League playoff aspirations.

Aaron Ramsey has finally come of age

Aaron Ramsey had a steep learning curve that was halted untimely by injury and it took him a long recuperation process and a few loan spells in npower Championship sides to hit the ground running.

It was fabled that Ramsey’s long-term injury paved the way for Jack Wilshere but the tables have been turned because Wilshere’s spell on the sidelines has given Ramsey the license to get a great number of games under his belt and he has thrived very well with his new opportunity.

Wilshere is still regarded as Arsenal’s best midfielder by a mile and it’s also obvious that Alex Song will be staring every game so the real battle for the final midfield spot will be between Ramsey and Mikel Arteta because they’ll definitely be selected above Tomas Rosicky et al.

Wojciech Szczesny is gradually working his way up the Premier League goalkeeping food chain

To think that Arsenal had such a talented goalie that started last season as the fourth choice custodian between the sticks. If Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski didn’t suffer mysterious injuries like they did last season, the world might have been denied a young, confident and commanding Pole called Wojciech Szczesny.

Standing at a massive 1.95m, Szczesny is a dominant force in the box and he’s a very vocal lad that instills confidence on his centre backs. This season, he has made impossible saves with the standout save being that save from Lee Cattermole’s header when Arsenal hosted Sunderland.

This season, I can only think of four goalies that have been better than Szczesny in the Premier League; Swansea’s Vorm, Pepe Reina, Brad Friedel and Joe Hart. In my opinion, Szczesny has usurped the likes of Petr Cech and David de Gea.

Laurent Koscielny’s massive improvement

The Frenchman has done well in Thomas Vermaelen’s absence to make performances that have been rewarded with his very first French cap in a friendly against USA.

Most people will feel that Per Mertesacker should be Vermaelen’s starting partner but with the form Koscielny is in, I’ll put my money on the French lad to play along the Verminator when Arsenal faces tough opposition.

October has been a month to remember

The season started on a very bad note for Arsene Wenger and his men but they’ve done well to go back to the drawing room and find their feet. Arsenal started October with a narrow 2-1 loss to Tottenham but the club has gone on to win every other game in the month with the most notable victory being the enthralling 5-3 spanking against fellow title rivals Chelsea.

Arsenal’s overall play has massively improved

As the months went by, Arsenal is gradually becoming a very solid football side with quality in every position of the pitch. Wojciech Szczesny’s emergence has brought an end to the club’s goalkeeping woes while the defense has improved with the return to full fitness of Thomas Vermaelen.

There’s an abundance of talent in midfield with Alex Song getting better with each passing game while Aaron Ramsey is repaying Arsene Wenger’s faith shown in him. Robin van Persie has been phenomenal in attack while Gervinho has added dynamism to the squad.

There’s also a measure of depth in the squad with the likes of Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky spending more time on the dugout to come into the game as impact subs.

There are many other facts but these are my top 20.

I hope that you enjoyed reading the article.

Sayonara.

A brief review on Arsenal’s ambassadors on international duty this weekend

I guess that I’ll have to start by apologizing for some of the content in my last post. I wrote that I was probably going to get some stick by putting Eduardo and Carlos Vela in a list that had Pascal Cygan, Denilson and Mikael Silvestre and boy, did I get some stick or what. Many gooners expected names like Francis Jeffers and Sebastien Squillaci to be in the list but as I wrote in that same post, the list is endless..

Moving on from that minor setback, this weekend turned out to be a boring affair because I was forced to watch some countries bore me to tears with 0-0 draws as well as a 1-0 England win in a game that I anticipated to have a boatload of goals at least. From a neutral point of view, it was an interesting match between two football heavyweights but Vicente del Bosque had to succumb to just his sixth loss as Spain’s manager which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

The most important fixtures from a European perspective where the European Championships playoffs that took place between eight teams with only four joining the remaining 12 that have already qualified. In other parts of the globe, Arsenal sent 16 ambassadors to represent their national teams and here’s a full list of the Gunners in action:

Aaron Ramsey

The Welsh captain led his fellow dragons as they breathed a baptism of fire past Norway in a resounding 4-1 victory. The world’s best left-footed Chimpanzee opened the deadlock before the fastest hobbit currently playing in Liverpool made it two. Wolves Sam Vokes completed the rout with a brace.

Laurent Koscielny

The Kosinator has been in inspired form this season and it was only a matter of time before he was going to be called up by Laurent Blanc. He finally made his first cap for France in their 1-0 victory over the United States. Fulham’s Clint Dempsey was ubiquitous on the pitch and Everton’s Tim Howard made an unbelievable save from Karim Benzema’s free kick. Marseille’s Loic Remy scored what proved to be the winner with a placed effort from an over the top pass.

Tomas Rosicky

Little Mozart captained his side to put one foot in the European Championships after a 2-0 win against surprise package Montenegro. Rosicky was voted as the Man of the Match as he pulled all the strings in the midfield.

Theo Walcott

The pacey winger played 45 minutes in England’s 1-0 victory over Spain. As expected, the Spaniards dominated possession but the Lampback of NotreDame bellied his years and came up with the goods again.

There was so much talk at the start of the season that the Lampback was past his prime but he has been impressive in the Premier League since AVB handed him another chance. He even got a goal and gave an assist when Chelsea played Arsenal but the pick of the bunch was the performance of Captain Van-tastic.

Gervinho

The fore-headed one was in action when the Elephants took on last summer’s World Cup hosts in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at Port Elizabeth but it ended in a 1-1 draw. Sibuniso Gaxa scored an embarrassing own goal to put Gervinho’s side ahead but a Katlego Mphela free kick leveled the contest.

I will never forget Mphela’s free kick against Spain in the 2010 Confederations Cup. It left me screaming so hard that my mum came out of her room to check if anything had happened to her beloved son. I would like you all to scream like me so I’ve decided to put the video of the goal in this post.

Andrey Arshavin

Russia’s football czar led his country to a 1-1 draw against Euro 2004 winners Greece. Roman Shirokov gave the visitors a quick lead in just two minutes but the experienced Kostas Katsouranis leveled the tie. Arshavin played all 90 minutes.

Robin van Persie and Johan Djourou

This lethal forward got injured for five months in a fixture against Italy last year so Arsene Wenger took out time to talk Bert van Marwijk about the striker’s availability in the friendly game against Switzerland. He played the entire match and shot blanks in a 0-0 draw but he was sent back home on a Red Ribbon as Holland is set to play Germany tomorrow without the Flying Dutchman.

Johan Djourou was on the other end of the pitch for 90 minutes and he was among the players that made sure that van Persie and the rest of the Dutch attack remained quiet throughout the game.

Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski

Both goalies were called up by Poland’s coach but Wojciech Szczesny got the nod when Poland took on Italy. Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini scored for Italy in the 2-0 win but Szczesny can be happy with his performance because he kept the Italians at bay several times.

Lukasz Fabianski will probably get the nod when Poland plays Hungary on Tuesday.

Thomas Vermaelen

The Verminator enjoyed some good time out at the dugout as Belgium defeated Romania by a 2-1 scoreline. The man-mountain Daniel van Buyten put the Belgians ahead and an own goal from Rasvan Cocis but Vermaelen’s side two up. Romanian veteran Daniel Niculae reduced the deficit for the visitors but it wasn’t enough as the game ended like that.

Vermaelen has followed the Belgium side that will play France in Paris and I’m pretty sure that Vermaelen will want to get him some French fries on the pitch on Tuesday.

Alex Song

Alex Song was in the starting lineup when Cameroon brushed Sudan aside in the LG Friendly Cup. The game ended at 3-1 in favor of Cameroon.

Per Mertesacker

Arsenal’s beanpole defender spent time on the bench like his defensive counterpart Thomas Vermaelen. However, it was a free scoring contest as Ukraine and Germany ended the game with three goals apiece.

Andriy Yarmolenko opened the scoring for the hosts and Yevgen Konoplyanka made it two. Bayern’s Toni Kroos pulled one back for the Germans but Serhiy Nazarenko brought Ukraine back to their comfort zone as the first half ended with a two-goal advantage for the Andriy Shevchenko captained side.

Joachim Loew probably went haywire in the dressing room as the Germans came back strongly in the second half. Bayer Leverkusen’s Simon Rolfes made it 3-2 before Bayern Munich’s Young Money singer turned footballer, Young Mueller Baby scored what proved to be the final goal of the fiesty encounter.

Park Chu-Young

Everybody expected Park Chu-Young to score again when Korea Republic visited United Arab Emirates and he duly delivered. Park has been a goal scoring machine for his nation this season and his goal against Bolton was a thing of beauty.

With the present form of van Persie, Park and Marouane Chamakh will have to be content with a place on the bench and they’ll have to strut their stuff when deployed in Cup matches.

As for the Under-21 level, youngsters like Francis Coquelin and Alex the Chambered Ox continued their fledgling careers.

We have one more week before we go back to civilization n the form of club football.

Till then,

Sayonara.

Olympique Marseille 0 Arsenal 1: Aaron Ramsey makes the trip worthwhile

Olympique Marseille and Arsenal were suffering from the same case of mediocrity in their respective leagues and dominance in Europe. Marseille ended last season as runners-up to the French Ligue 1 behind Gervinho’s former employers but they are uncharacteristically 14 points off the pace while their London counterparts are currently 12 points behind Manchester City with just eight games gone.

Marseille surprisingly had a miserly home defense in the Champions League as Chelsea and Manchester United visited the Stade Velodrome and couldn’t score a goal while Arsenal had not recorded an away clean sheet in the Champions League since that famous 2-0 victory in San Siro three and half years ago.

Andrey Arshavin got the nod ahead of Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey was fit enough to make it to the bench whilst Kieran Gibbs remained out.

With just three minutes gone, Alex Song produced a horror moment where he was robbed off the ball after dwelling on it only to receive a yellow card for a tackle he made trying to recover the ball back. Mathieu Valbuena lofted the free kick in but Wojciech Szczesny was equal to the challenge. Shortly afterwards, a cross field ball was sent to Lucho Gonzalez’ path but Laurent Koscielny came across to anticipate the ball only to receive a shout from his goalie so the Frenchman ducked as Szczesny caught the ball.

The last time Koscielny and Szczesny were involved in a mix-up, Arsenal lost their best shot of a trophy on the 27th of February, 2011.

Song sent a ball to Theo Walcott who controlled it well before swinging it into the box. Robin van Persie got on the end of the cross but he strayed fractionally offside. On the other end of the pitch, Bruno Cheyrou was unmarked from a throw-in but his effort sailed effortlessly over the bar.

The first major talking point of the match arrived when Carl Jenkinson allegedly handed a cross inside the box but the man with the whistle was having none of it. Andre Ayew was the closest on the crime scene and he was quick to let out his frustrations vocally on the ref only to be brandished with a yellow card.

Vabuena made mince meat of Andre Santos on the right flank but the Brazilian full back decided to exert his revenge on the French elf before getting his name in the Slovenian referee’s book. Song and Mikel Arteta combined well before teeing up Jenkinson but his proposed cross for van Persie was intercepted by Souleymane Diawara for a corner kick.

Arsenal had a series of corners that were handled well by the Marseille defense but another talking point surfaced when Diawara deliberately handled the ball inside the box before clearing the ball off the line when van Persie’s header beat Steve Mandanda fair and square.

Walcott used his blistering pace to great effect as he dribbled past Jeremy Morel but his ball in the final third was blocked off for another corner that yielded no fruit. A major concern came from the Arsenal bench when Jenkinson hit the turf while clutching his knee. Johan Djourou warmed up a bit but his services were not needed because Jenkinson continued with the game.

Out of the blue, Loic Remy used his pace to keep the ball in play before jinking past Per Mertesacker to advance into the Arsenal box. Jenkinson ran at the player with the hope of winning the ball but Remy skipped past him too before Song arrived on the scene to mop up any threat that ultimately led to Marseille’s first corner of the game.

Laurent Koscielny showed some uncertainty with a panicky clearance that went in for a throw-in. Cesar Azpilicueta pelted it to Valbuena and the French hobbit’s cross arrived on the feet of Lucho but his effort went wide.

That was all the first half had to offer and Marseille were sitting pretty at the top at that point of the game. Arsenal started as the brighter side after the interval and a pass by Tomas Rosicky which was intended for van Persie was anticipated by Mandanda.

Jenkinson couldn’t continue with the tie so Johan Djourou came in his stead. Song sent a nice pass to van Persie but Mandanda did well to save the Arsenal captain’s low drive that came off his fabled chocolate leg. Rosicky did extremely well to create a through pass for Walcott but his finish was quite atrocious.

The pacey Englishman was replaced by Gervinho who added wit to Arsenal’’s play from the flanks. The ref’s performance was put under question when he awarded a card to Djourou for a tackle that was won fairly by the Swiss brick wall.

Late on, Arsene Wenger brought Aaron Ramsey back into the fold to replace the peripheral Andrey Arshavin. Valbuena made Per Mertesacker show him his number before drilling a ball that was anticipated by Laurent Koscielny.

Gervinho made a good run before feeding van Persie but his shot was saved by Marseille’s goalie. At the 90th minute of play, I’d already prepared a title for today’s post:

Olympique Marseille 0 Arsenal 0: The Gunners show lack of quality and confidence perhaps?

But it was smashed to bits when Djourou produced a cross Bacary Sagna and Jenkinson would have been proud of that arrived at the foot of Ramsey and the Welsh captain wasted no time in smashing it past the onrushing Mandanda to win the game for Arsenal right at the death.

Football is all about moments like that and it was a joy to behold.

Ramsey’s goal meant a lot to Arsenal at this critical stage of the season. For starters, it was Arsenal’s first away clean sheet since the famous 2-0 win against AC Milan in March 2008, it was a goal that was going to raise the confidence of the players, It signified that Arsenal had recorded an away win and they have been hard to come by nowadays and it has brought Ramsey to the spotlight for all the right reasons.

Szczesny (6.5) had an untroubled outing but did okay under the circumstances.

Jenkinson (7.0) made a large amount of crosses and supported Walcott superbly on the right hand side.

Andre Santos (6.5) didn’t offer much in attack and had his lucky stars thank when the referee left him on the pitch.

Koscielny (7.5) was very impressive in defense and made many vital interceptions.

Mertesacker (6.5) was on the end of some disgraceful dribbles against the opposition but he did okay for make some challenges in the course of the game.

Song (6.5) put his team under pressure in the game and was lucky that his mistakes were not utilized by the opposition.

Arteta (7.0) coordinated himself well and was always available for a pass.

Rosicky (7.5) showed good movement on the ball and defended well off it.

Arshavin (5.5) was painful to watch.

Walcott (6.0) eased off as the game progressed.

Van Persie (6.5) lacked good service but did well to get on the end of some moves that ended up being offside.

Djourou (7.5) provided a brilliant assist.

Gervinho (7.0) added some steel to the attack.

Ramsey (7.5) was Arsenal’s hero at the end of the encounter despite being on the pitch for a short while.

The fans chanted the ‘One Nil to the Arsenal’ song and the winning run that Arteta hoped for is currently ongoing. A win against Stoke will be highly welcome before Arsenal hosts Bolton in the Carling Cup.

As Jordin Spark said in her hit song,

It’s one step at a time for Wenger’s men.

Sayonara.

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Lessons learnt from the Gunners on international duty

As one of the superpowers of European and world football, Arsenal is among the clubs that has a lot of players that are essential pieces of their jigsaw puzzle. Arsenal had a good number of ambassadors in last summer’s World Cup but Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner were the only Gunners that got on the score sheet.

Interlulls are always scheduled to come in between club fixtures and this one was no different. There are times you wish that the international break shouldn’t come by especially when you’re in great form while their other times when you want it to come soon enough.

Arsenal is currently going through a bad spell and the international break has provided Arsene Wenger with enough time to go back to his drawing board to cook up new tactics as well as to inject a new approach to his side because this present Arsenal squad is in dire need of change.

Change can come in form of a new formation such as the reliable 4-4-2 that almost propelled Arsenal to the Premier League title in the 2007/08 season before William Gallas’ antics coupled with those hopeless draws closed the curtain on Arsenal’s Premier League hopes. Tomas Rosicky and Aliaksandr Hleb provided wit on the flanks while Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini the Flanimal forged an extremely good understanding in the middle of the park.

Arsenal has wingers that can do with Rosicky and Hleb did back in the days but leaving Alex Song and any other creative midfielder like Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta or Yossi Benayoun would mean that Robin van Persie will play with a strike partner and I’m pretty sure that it would be welcomed by the Arsenal faithful.

Change can also come in form an injection of a defensive coach to the club’s current staff because it’s fair to say that there are many men in Arsenal that defend like toddlers. I was very impressed with the six-man defensive outlook Arsenal used in their box when defending corners when they played Newcastle in August but Wenger failed to stick with that tactic and his team has been duly punished.

A change in Arsenal’s fortunes is something that everyone has been praying for because the way the injuries, suspensions and ill-luck pile up can only be likened from the hands of Loki himself.

Arsenal sent some ambassadors to represent their nations last weekend as well as tonight while some will get the final piece of international action tomorrow before returning to London to play Sunderland on Saturday.

Park Chu-Young proved again that he could be a beast in front of goal and he’s one player that deserves a run out in the club. We also know that Park CY has told everyone that he has only two years to spend with Arsenal before representing the Korean Army and he says that he wants to end his stay in Europe with a flourish so employing the 4-4-2 tactic with him and RVP could bring devastating results for Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey has shown the world how he can lead by example and he has always been vocal about his high hopes for Wales. Gary Speed’s present side has some household names and the future is bright for that footballing nation with the likes of Ramsey and Bale the Chimp spearheading its football affairs.

Robin van Persie has shown the gooners that it’s not every time he represents Holland that he ends up with a mysterious injury. He also showed his adeptness on the right wing and his sleek and deft touches were vital for Holland but it wasn’t enough as their 100% record with shattered to bits by Sweden in Rasunda.

Laurent Koscielny’s continuous wait for his French debut should have sent a clear message to him that there’s still hope for the bloke to join Poland but the decision still rests with him. He really showed everyone last season that Arsene Wenger knows a bargain when he sees one. He still has a thing or two to learn though.

Johan Djourou missed out on his nation’s qualifier against Wales through suspension but it’s funny to see how he has gone back to the number four slot in Arsenal’s defense after showing so much promise last season. He had a stinker against Blackburn but I’m sure that he won’t dwell on it.

Per Mertesacker used his enormous height to great effect when Germany played Turkey but I was disappointed that it wasn’t exploited in White Hart Lane despite Wenger’s attempt to give him that Samba-esque role but I’ll point my finger at the remaining 10 teammates that were tasked with floating the ball up for him.

Arshavin wasn’t really a peripheral figure when Russia beat Slovakia but Arshavin is a player that really needs to step up for Arsenal because his place is seriously under threat. Gervinho has usurped him from a starting berth on the left wing and he also has the potential threat of Ryo Miyaichi to contend with.

Lukasz Fabianski showed signs of rustiness when Poland played Korea Republic but he’ll get another bite on the cherry when Poland play Belarus. It’s really interesting to know that Fabianski and Szczesny are fighting for a place in both club and country but I tend to wonder what happened to Artur Boruc because he was the next best thing after the great Jerzy Dudek.

Tomas Rosicky showed off the moves that made people call him the Little Mozart and I certainly hope that the trend will continue in Arsenal. Tomas used to command a first team shirt for Arsenal when he arrived from Dortmund but his hamstring injury paved the way for others and he has really struggled to get his place. It’s more shocking to know that he can’t still get a place even after Francesca and Samantha left the club.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Wenger a lot to think about following his brilliant hattrick but it’s also heartwarming to know that he can offer Arsenal some hope from the bench when the chips are down.

Marouane Chamakh scored for Morocco to seal their qualification to the African Cup of Nations after a four-year absence but he hasn’t been able to recapture the form of his first five months at Arsenal where he scored 10 goals in 21 appearances. I hope he gets his act right soon enough.

Gervinho was suspect for being very selfish in his recent Arsenal matches but he provided an assist for a former Gunner/junkie Kolo Toure. Yao Kouassi has been a big hit at Arsenal and I hope that Sunderland will be on the end of his trickery and hopefully goals.

Theo Walcott’s assist for Young showed how massively he has improved over the turn of the year. It’s really awkward to know that Fabio Hitler selected the One-Dimensional Lennon and the winger whose name is taller than him, Short Wright-Philips above Theo but England’s loss was Arsenal’s gain because it unleashed the beast within. Nasri also unleashed the post-World Cup beast and he’s presently earning the big greens at Etihad Stadium.

Finally, it’s refreshing to know that the Gunners are returning back to London unscathed and they’ll be ready to rediscover their form with a victory against Sunderland.

I forgot to add the world’s best striker’s name to the list. His goal against Portugal sent Morten Olson’s men to the Group Stages of the Euros while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are going to the play-offs but they could qualify from the Best Placed runners up category.

Ronaldo’s free kick was a thing of beauty but Ricardo Quaresma needs to be flogged though.

We know that he’s the king of the outside of the boot technique but I’m sure that God knew what he was doing when he gave us TWO FEET.

Sayonara.

Arsenal’s international ambassadors and a sad day for Nigeria

Super Chickens

The Super Chickens of Nigeria were under the watchful eyes of 140,000,000 patriots with the uphill task of getting a victory that was going to be more than enough to seal qualification to the 2012 African Cup of Nations. Supporting the Nigerian national team is a lot different from Arsenal or any other football club.

Arsenal has lost four games in seven but the world as I know it hasn’t ended; Nigeria drew with Guinea this afternoon and I would probably had shot myself in the foot if I wielded a gun.

Down the years, I’ve seen my fair share of disappointments from my country. The team’s second round decimation in the hands of Denmark in the 1998 World Cup, the horrible performance coupled with the messed up jersey in the 2002 World Cup, failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and another disappointing campaign in the World Cup in South Africa last summer.

All we had to do was to score a bloody goal and keep another bloody clean sheet but we are going to gear ourselves for another tournament without the Super Chickens. What hurts the most is that African juggernauts like Egypt and Cameroun are going to miss out.

At least, we won’t get a bronze medal this time :d

Moving over to involving Arsenal, 16 Gunners were called up to represent their nations and it’s good to know that no bones were broken too.

Aaron Ramsey scored from the spot when Wales beat Switzerland with a two-goal margin. Bale the Chimp also got on the score sheet. Ramsey will lead his dragons to Sofia to play those Balkans that have surnames that end up with –ov.

Park Chu-Young got a chance to play some football again and he took out his frustrations with a brace against Poland in a match were Lukasz Fabianski was the custodian between the sticks for next summer’s European Championships co-hosts. I hope he gets some action for Arsene Wenger’s side soon enough because he’ll probably be eager to get a piece of the action for his new side.

Let’s not forget that he has to serve his nation in the Army in 2013.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was in scintillating form by scoring a brilliant hattrick for England’s Under-21s against Iceland’s Under-21s. His final goal was the icing of the cake as he rounded three players before firing past the goalkeeper at his near post. The Chambered Ox is one player that will be an ace in the deck for Arsene Wenger this season.

Theo Walcott gave a sweet assist for Ashley Young in England’s shock 2-2 draw with hard-fighting Montenegro. However, the game was marred by a red card for England’s star player Wayne Rooney when he lashed out on a Montenegrin player. Kieran Gibbs spent the game on the dugout.

Arsenal’s talisman played for 90 minutes when Holland defeated Moldova with a solitary goal. That victory was Holland’s ninth in the nine games they’ve played so far. Only Spain and Germany have matched that 100% record. Van Persie will be in action again when Holland play Sweden on Tuesday.

Laurent Koscielny spent 90 minutes on the bench when France thrashed Albania with three unreplied goals. In my Football Manager 2011, Koscielny has notched up over 70 caps for…………Poland. He still has a choice to play for Poland though because he’s still uncapped and he has Polish origins too.

Johan Djourou didn’t play when Switzerland lost to Gary Speed’s Wales. His defensive teammate, Per Mertesacker was involved in Germany’s 3-1 win over Turkey. Thomas Mueller scored a lovely placed effort but Mario Gomez’ stunner was a thing of beauty.

Andrey Arshavin led his Russian side to a slender 1-0 win over Slovakia but qualification isn’t certain yet for the Russian because they need a win against Andorra to book a place in Poland and Ukraine. Arshavin missed out on the World Cup and I’m pretty sure that he’ll want to shine on the world stage again.

Tomas Rosicky led his Czech side in the 2-0 loss to world champions Spain. Rosicky gave his all for his team but the technical play of Spain was too much for the Czechs. Football superpowers like Holland, Germany and Portugal bowed to Spain in the World Cup so the Czechs were going to be no different.

Alex Song played for Cameroun when they beat DR Congo but it’s too little too late for the Indomitable Lions because they are not going to play a part in the African Cup of Nations in January.

Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh and Yossi Benayoun are yet to play though.

The final phase of qualification takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wojciech Szczesny didn’t play for Poland yesterday but he has told the media Vultures that he can’t wait for the Euros and the praise he got from Oliver Ganges Kahn has been a motivation.

I’m sure that he wasn’t talking about that hot Kelly Rowland video.

Sayonara.

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