Monthly Archives: July 2011

Commitment issues and King Henry’s homecoming

Questions have been asked about Wenger’s philosophy, tactics, physios and players but he has done well to give answers to keep everyone in check. Arsenal’s most successful manager of all time is currently going through a spell that would have cost him his job if he was in any other club. Frank Rijkaard defeated Wenger to win European club football’s biggest prize in 2006 but was sacked after going trophy-less seasons after. Carlo Ancelotti is a classic example of how ruthless some club owners can be. Shortly after winning the club’s first league and cup double in eons in the 2009/10 campaign, the U.S.S.R. dictator wasted no time in giving him the boot despite the fact that he overcame all adversity to finish in 2nd place after a grueling campaign.

Since his time at Arsenal, Wenger has built up many players with most of them owing their footballing careers to him. Francesc Fabregas was a young talented midfielder that played his football in Barcelona’s Mutant Academy but he was groomed and polished to perfection by AW the Alchemist. He came in as a direct replacement for Arsenal’s talisman Patrick Vieira, who served the club for 9 amazing years. Since his arrival, Fabregas grew from strength to strength to become one of the best central midfielders in his generation. He has also scooped many individual records and awards in his time at Arsenal but there’s something that has eluded Fabregas so far. The same thing that has eluded everybody that has been in Arsenal since the club’s move to the Emirates Stadium. Trophies.

It’s very true that a branch can’t make up a tree but Fabregas has given his all for the club with the hope of winning silverware but something always happen at the day of reckoning. Even after scoring 19 goals, supplying almost the same amount in assists and breaking his leg in service to the team in the tail end of the 2009/10 season, he watched from the sidelines and witnessed his team get decimated by Lionel Messi in the Champions League quarter finals, manhandled by Stoke in the FA Cup and lost the decisive games in the Premier League.

When his leg healed, he jumped into the jet with 22 other Spainiards to South Africa and spent an entire month in Africa winning football’s biggest prize in the process. He was wooed by his national teammates playing for that Alien club called Barcelona but Wenger convinced him to his team a chance to win things and he decided to stay with the Gunners. His performances last season were not as sky-high as his performances in the previous season but he still gave his all. He struggled with his hamstring for a considerable chunk of the season but got injured a week before getting a shot to win Arsenal’s first silverware in 6 years. The Carling Cup.

The team was so unified that they told Wenger that the injured Fabregas was going to lift the trophy despite the fact that he wasn’t going to kick the ball with them for 90 minutes. Fabregas watched as Nikola Zigic put Birmingham in front before his vice captain scored an amazing equalizer but got injured in the process. Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny put the nail in Arsenal’s coffin as Obafemi Martins put his name in the history books. Barcelona inflicted damage again in the Champions League, Manchester United did their bit in the FA Cup and Arsenal’s title challenge ended in a disaster making them the first team involved in a two-horse finishing fourth.

As expected, many players in the squad became wary and many grumbled a lot. Denilson was the first to raise the white flag and he has been sent across the Atlantic to play for his previous employers. Nicklas Bendtner was next in line to declare his intentions about leaving and he has been a subject of speculation with many suitors awaiting his signature. There was a point when Andrey Arshavin was linked out but he cleared the air and said that he’s staying. Clichy refused to sign a new deal and he’s now in the Blue half of Manchester. The futures of Manuel Almunia, Carlos Vela and Farmer Eboue are still hanging in the balance but the most notable names seeking greener pastures elsewhere are Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Arsene Wenger has claimed that no money would be able to tempt the club to part with Cesc Fabregas providing he wants to stay, but suggested that his skipper and Samir Nasri must be committed to the club if they are to continue at the Emirates. He says,

“If Fabregas is committed to this club and wants to stay, no money will get him out of here. We are not in a position where we need to sell our players. We want to keep our players. We are not looking after money. We want the players to stay here, from our side that is clear.”

“It’s not ideal for us on the financial side [Nasri potentially leaving on a free transfer next summer] but, on the sporting side, he is an important player. We have to deal with the situation one way or another. In the next 10 days we have to be clear on that front.”

“If you ask me if I want to keep him [Nasri], I say yes. But he needs to be committed to that as well. I don’t give them [Fabregas and Nasri] 10 days, the transfer period is until August 31.” “Ideally, we go into big games in two weeks, in the next two weeks we have to sort our problems out. There is no specific deadline of one day or 24 hours. It’s not like you shoot a shuttle into space. Sometimes it’s very quick on that front and sometimes it’s very slow.”

“If I translate your question you are asking [on potentially signing Mata] that if the two go do we need to sign one then of course. They are two exceptional players and that’s why personally I want to keep the two. I play the players who are available and Nasri is available so I play him.”

“Yesterday, I made a check up of all our situations and, I must tell you, nothing has moved since yesterday. Not one way, nor another way. Cesc loves deeply this club, he loves deeply as well Barcelona. That shows you that an honest player can love two clubs at the same time. He cares about this club and that’s why I hope we can keep him.”

This saga has gone on for a very long while and it’s eating into me. If Fabregas wants to go to Barcelona, he should ping Pep Guardiola with his BlackBerry and tell him that he should cough out £40m or hold his peace forever. We live in a World where Andy Carroll can be purchased for £35m and Jordan Henderson can be acquired for £20m so why would Barcelona insult Arsenal with a meager £26m bid for the best 24-year old central midfielder in existence?

As for Samir Nasri, I prayed to God that Inter Milan, Bayern Munich or oil money PSG would wake up from their slumber and bring the £20m that Manchester City wants to offer because Nasri is very replaceable. As a player, he’s still in his learning curve and I’m in the opinion that Juan Mata is way better than him so if he doesn’t want to sign a new deal, so be it. The Wenger of old would have accepted Man City’s bid but the only thing constant in life is change.

Moving over to happier news, Thierry Daniel Henry will be the star attraction of Arsenal’s match against the New York Red Bulls this evening. He was voted as the best ever player to wear the Red and White and he’s still Arsenal’s all-time top goal scorer with 226 goals with 174 scored in the league. Henry is a player I’ve adored all my life and I’m pretty sure that I’ll get his autograph someday; even if he’s very old in a mansion wearing a set of pyjamas like Hugh Hefner. Henry has said that today’s game is going to be emotional and you’d expect that from a Gunner at heart.

When Arsenal played Barcelona in 2009, Henry couldn’t believe that he was playing against the club he was worshiped and adored and he didn’t play well at all. His services were not even needed in the 2nd leg because Messi did all the damage himself with 4 well-taken goals.

Welcome back, King Thierry Henry.

I hope that the fans will sing all your songs this evening.

I could do with an own goal though 🙂

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Here’s to the Emirates Cup

Sayonara

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Arsenal 2 Boca Juniors 2: New season, same old feeling

As expected, the Emirates Cup is a tourney that provides a spectacle for the Arsenal faithful as well as show off new recruits to the gooners in their home turf. Since its inception in the 2006/07 campaign, Arsenal has missed out of it just once winning three of the last four tourneys. The gooners didn’t expect the exact first team lineup that finished last season in fourth place but it was evident that blending was going to be the order of the day.

Arsene Wenger’s lineup for the team had a mix of experienced Arsenal heads as well as the newbies. Lukasz Fabianski was drafted back in goal for Wojciech Szczesny who was given a day off. This is more or less a hint that the younger Pole might be Arsenal’s custodian for the forthcoming season that resumes in a fortnight against Newcastle in St. James Park. Gunner rookie Carl Jerkinson was handed a non-competitive home debut ahead of Bacary Sagna and Farmer Eboue. At 6’ 1”, that lad seems too tall to be a full back but it’s something that I’ll have to get used to. Armand Traore was also given a shot to prove to Wenger that he’ll be good enough to deputize Kieran Gibbs in the worst injury crisis because we all know that Mr. Gibbsy has a thing for injuring himself. Djourcielny continued their partnership in the heart of Arsenal’s defense to pick up where they left off last season. Koscielny played more games than he would have liked last season but his combination with Johan Djourou was Arsenal’s best defensive combo last season.

The midfield triumvirate was more or less an Arsenal standard with the exception of the African Blondie, Alex Song. Emmanuel Frimpong was brought in his stead. Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri completed the trio. The attacking trio had an exciting outlook with Arsenal’s Flying Dutchman Robin van Persie spearheading the attack with Andrei Arshavin and new signing Gervinho providing wit on the flanks.

On paper, the squad was still strong enough to beat a Boca side that had Juan Roman Riquelme as the only household name. Before the match commenced, the commentator labeled Arsenal’s trophy drought as “a genuine burden rather than a mere annoyance”. Even if Arsenal was the home side, Wenger’s boys wore their blue away strip. The game went off to a flyer with Arsenal drawing first blood. Gervinho combined well with Wilshere in the box but 2011’s PFA Young Player of the Year was clipped inside the 18-yard box and the man with the whistle did nothing about it. This was the same Martin Atkinson that awarded Chelsea a penalty against Manchester United after the theatrics of Yuri Zhirkov.

Riquelme is renowned as one of the best passers of the ball in his generation and it was evidenced in today’s game but his proposed pass to Lucas Viatri was intercepted superbly by Mr. Anticipation himself, Laurent Koscielny. The tables were turned with Wilshere and Gervinho combining superbly to tee up Arshavin. After his customary twist and turn in the box, the ball was cleared away for a corner to the home side. Minutes later, Gervinho used his pace to go round Boca’s full back before sending a good cross to rVp but his chocolate leg let him down because the shot hit the side netting. Nasri was clipped outside the box but rVp’s free kick was easy pickings for the keeper.

Riquelme then sent another defense splitting pass for loanee Mario Cvitanich but Jenkinson was wise enough to move up the field thereby leaving the linesman with no other choice but to raise his flag up. Even after Atkinson had blown his whistle for an offside, Cvitanich lashed his shot at goal and thoughts of Massimo Busacca ran through my head. Gervinho was a very lively figure as the game progressed and he used his pace well to win another free kick for Arsenal. Nasri killed a bird with his attempt though. Koscielny changed defense to attack in a swift fashion with a long diagonal ball to Arshavin who was on the right hand side of the attack. He fed Frimpong who quickly teed the ball up for Gervinho. The Ivorian winger put his hands into his hat of magic tricks but no rabbit came out because the ball was intercepted easily by the Boca defender. Traore and Arshavin connected well on the left but van Persie was sandwiched by two players as soon as the ball got to him but Atkinson waved play on.

Arsenal kept launching wave after wave of attacks on the South American counterparts to with no end product. Jenkinson did well to create space for himself on the right and sent a delicious cross into the danger area but no player on blue was there to capitalize on it. Gervinho then fed the French Greedy Boy at the edge of the area but he chose to pass the ball to a Jack Wilshere who was expecting him to shoot. Same ol’ Arsenal.

After another swift attack spearheaded by Gervinho, Arsenal got their breakthrough. Traore’s panicky clearance in the defense found Jack Wilshere who noticed that Gervinho was free on the left hand side. A delightful over the top through ball went ahead of Gervinho but he used his pace to reach the ball, his amazing first touch to bring the ball under control before raising his head to see Robin van Persie through on goal. A simple pass followed and van Persie did the rest with his right chocolate leg. The fans were doing the Mexican Wave in the buildup to the goal but the wave was halted and clapping and cheering followed up when van Persie hit the back of the net.

Gervinho was still on the thick of things when Nasri fed him on the right hand side. His chipped cross went above the keeper but there was no Arsenal player available to guide the ball into an unguarded net. Wilshere was at the end of many rough tackles from the Boca but the ref’s patience went thin in the 33rd minute after a challenge by Somoza on Wilshere thereby earning him a place in the referees jotter with a yellow card brandished. rVp, Nasri and Arshavin turned on the style in the midfield and the diminutive Russian was fouled outside the area. Shortly before van Persie geared himself up for the free kick, I noticed three gulls that were flying past Boca’s goal area. Van Persie forgot the net and killed one of the birds with his proposed free kick. Van Persie’s last free kick was scored in January courtesy of a slight deflection. He really needs to work on his dead balls because Arsenal is a side that wins a lot of free kicks at the edge of the area.

There are teams in football that use the tactic of a set piece to their advantage and Arsenal needs to join that league instead of hoping for the perfect goal they always try to score. In the days Juninho Pernambucano was in Lyon, Florent Malouda and Sidney Govou were allowed to run with the ball till they ran out of ideas because no team wanted to concede a free kick to Lyon. In recent times, teams hardly concede throw-ins to Stoke City because of the threat called Rory Delap. In van Persie takes some time out to work on his free kicks, he’ll be a real force to be reckoned with. He has the technique, shot power and curl to make his free kicks count. He just has to work on the trajectory of his kicks. I’m laying so much emphasis on van Persie’s free kicks because I felt hurt after the commentator made a comment after he spurned the free kick.

“If they built the post twice as high, the ball would still hit the bar”

Koscielny did some good defensive work from a Riquelme free kick and the ref blew his whistle for half time. Everything seemed as if it was going to plan for Wenger’s men. At the start of the second half, Wenger brought on five new faces into the playing squad. Fabianski had a very boring at his office so he was substituted for Vito Mannone, Arsenal’s most “experienced” and worst defender by a far mile replaced his compatriot Laurent Koscielny, Wales’ captain replace Jack Wilshere, Arsenal’s left-footed Aztec Warrior replaced the best player of the first half Gervinho and the Snood master Marouane Chamakh replaced van Persie. This was the first time in many months that I saw Chamakh without a snood and it felt awkward thanks to FIFA.

Shortly after kickoff, Arsenal fired all cylinders with a goal after 43 seconds by Aaron Ramsey after some brilliant work from Carlos Vela. Vela waltzed past three Boca defenders before leaving the ball for Ramsey who was poised on pulling the trigger and the unstoppable cannon he released was strong enough to push an immovable object. The keeper also played a part in the goal because the ball literally passed through him.

Riquelme was a peripheral figure in the first half but he stamped his authority in the second half with a series of defense splitting passes that terrorized the Arsenal defense. He fed Lucas Viatri who lashed a hard volley straight at goal but Mannone was on hand to tip the ball over the bar. While Arsenal was getting ready to enter their comfort zone, Sebastien Squillaci showed Wenger and everyone else why he has been regarded as a calamity. After receiving a simple pass from Djourou, he dwelt on the ball and was dispossessed easily by a Boca chap who quickly passed it to Riquelme. The creative midfielder sent a simple through ball to Viatri and he smashed Mannone’s goal with a first time shot. From basically nothing, Boca was back in the game thanks to the tomfoolery of Squillaci. Wenger withdrew Arshavin and brought in Farmer Eboue to sure up the defense from Boca’s half but Arsenal was the plotter of its own downfall thanks to another goal from Boca sub, Pablo Mouche. Riquelme did his thing in the middle and sent a through between Djourou and Squillaci. Djourou noticed that Mannone was coming for the ball but he wasn’t fully aware of Pablo Mouche’s presence. As soon as he saw Mouche, he executed a sliding tackle and guided the ball for Mouche who wasted no time in planting the ball to an unguarded net.

Two goals scored in just three minutes. All the hardwork done by Gervinho, van Persie, Wilshere, Vela and Ramsey undone by Squillaci and Djourou in just three goddamned minutes. Typical Arsenal.

Vela sent a quick through ball to Nasri but he couldn’t get past the last defender that happened to be a slow 38-year old veteran called Schalvi. With all his cries for more money, he couldn’t even dribble a 38-year old slow poke yet he wants pay parity with Fabregas. Oh well. Eboue had a late effort that went wide and Jenkinson got booked at the death for retaliating on Pablo Mouche after he was skinned by the forward. Riquelme had the chance to win the game for Boca with a free kick on the left hand side and I was hoping for the worst. That was the same spot where Tranquillo Barnetta beat Joe Hart in that Euro qualifier. Mannone set up his three-man wall and positioned himself superbly. The Evil Riquelme fired the free kick straight at goal from that impossible angle but Mannone pulled up another great save to keep the game level.

Mr. Atkinson blew the final whistle and that was it. Arsenal 2 Boca Juniors 2.

Gooner Daily Ratings

Fabianski (6.2) had a very boring day at the office. He didn’t even make a single save.

Jenkinson (7.0) was a constant threat down the right and he sent in quite a large number of crosses.

Traore (6.4) didn’t really impress me but he wasn’t really exposed.

Koscielny (7.5) was a colossus in defense. Djourou (6.2) was at fault for Boca’s equalizer.

Frimpong (6.8) did a lot of running in the midfield.

Wilshere (6.9) suffered a lot of tackles but did okay.

Nasri (6.4) twisted and turned to no great effect.

Gervinho (8.0) ran at the Boca defense times without number and switched flanks with consummate ease. He even provided as assist for van Persie (6.8) who took his goal well.

Arshavin (6.5) had a decent game by his new standards.

Mannone (7.5) was very impressive in the second half with some top notch saves.

Squillaci (6.0) was as disappointing as ever.

Ramsey (7.3) scored a screamer.

Vela (7.1) provided a good assist.

Chamakh (6.7) worked hard for his team.

Farmer Eboue didn’t stay long enough to get a Gooner Daily rating.

The new season is just a fortnight away and Arsenal is still suffering from the same injuries that crippled the club last season.  The Gunners were impressive with the corners and free kicks they faced so Szczesny’s claims of training hard against set pieces might be true. However, a new center back is badly needed in Arsenal Football Club. Be it Samba, Cahill, Jagielka, Harry Potter or Captain America, Arsenal needs a mentally sound center back to support Thomas Vermaelen.

In other news, the club has reported that Walcott’s ankle injury isn’t as bad as it was feared, Wenger has revealed that he’ll seal up his proposed deals sooner rather than later, Henry believes that Gervinho would be a hit and Gervinho has even labeled Henry as his idol.

I’ll also implore you to check out Sounak Mukherjee’s brilliant article on the Arsenal Transfer story so far.

You can follow this blog on Twitter, visit the Facebook page and like and you can also visit my Bleacher Report sports writer profile and become a fan.

Arsene Wenger, It’s a new season.

Please we don’t want to have those same ol’ feelings.

Sayonara

Diaby out, transfer roundup and Emirates Cup preview

This is the first of many more Saturdays I’m going to spend in Lagos and it’s going to be graced with Arsenal football. This is that time of the year where the Gunners have a shot at the only piece of silverware that fails to enter the club’s cabinet because the Black Widow spider residing there doesn’t regard it as a trophy worth entering her home. Apologies for not publishing any post yesterday. I spent a lot of time sorting myself out before getting my ass to Genesis Deluxe Cinemas to watch the final installment of the Harry Potter series. In my high school days at King’s College, I read all 7 books but watching the movie end made me very sad because it was evident that there’ll be no more Harry Potter for years to come. It’s not like the X-Men series where you can create Origins or First Class out of the blue.

Moving over to Arsenal news, I’m about to write about something gooners have become accustomed to. Abou Vassiriki Diaby will miss the start of the new season because he has been sidelined for 10 weeks. Since his arrival in the winter of 2005, Abou Diaby has been a victim of many injuries with the most horrific being the broken ankle he suffered in the hands of Sunderland’s Dan Smith in May 2006. After spending many months out recuperating, Diaby has been a regular customer in Arsenal’s treatment room; so regular that 21 players in the 25-man list played more games than him last season.

I wish him all the best and a quick recovery but he’s one player that I can’t wait to see his contract expire. In as much as Wenger has mentioned that he has massive potential and can be likened to the great Vieira, Diaby isn’t really an Arsenal material. He has the technique, agility, strength and stamina to play for any team but his mental IQ is very low. He dwells on the ball too much and he puts his teammates under pressure. Let’s not forget the amazing own goal he scored in Old Trafford that condemned his team to defeat.

Diaby can thrive well in a club that lacks the ambition to win trophies and I’m hoping that he’ll be sold back home to France or a mid-table Premier League outfit someday. I’m still in the opinion that Diaby is in Arsenal because he’s French. Sir Alex Chewie, Mou-rhino, Pep Guardy the Bald, Carlo the Cannibal or Villas Boa Constrictor won’t have the patience to have a player like Diaby on their side. Despite all my taunts at the lanky Frenchman, Diaby still remains an Arsenal player so I’ll cut him some slack.

Moving over to the media Vultures section of today’s post, I’ll start with possible departures as always. It seems as if Arsenal will be resigned to losing Henri Lansbury because Norwich is gearing up a £1.5m permanent move for the youngster. I watched him play in the Carling Spoon third round and I was hugely impressed but I won’t shed a tear if he’s sold to a club where he’s guaranteed of first team football for the rest of his days. Henri is a fine player and a future starlet but there are many players in his playing position that have their ‘future starlet’ tag on their heads. I hope he achieves a cult hero status in Carrow Road.

Nicklas Bendtner has been the subject of discussion for media Vultures and gooners alike for many weeks but it seems as if everything will be laid to rest because there are reports emerging that he’ll be unveiled as a Sporting CP player very soon. After starting his career in FC Copenhagen before being shown the light by AW the Alchemist, Bendtner has decided to take a new step in another direction by forcing a move out of Arsenal with his father/agent at the thick of things spearheading every possible move.

Good luck to B52 as he’s ready to ply his trade in Portugal. At least he can rest assured that he’ll play European football every season and I’m sure that Platini will find a way to make Sporting CP play Arsenal.

Moving to arrivals, the media Vultures say that Arsenal would soon seal the deal for the signing that Matas. He has been linked heavily to Arsenal but he’s still wearing the White and Black of the Mestalla-based outfit. Signing a player like Mata would show Wenger’s positive intent to win silverware because Mata will be a quality addition to the squad. He’s the kind of player that rVp and El Capitan have been whining to Wenger about and I’m pretty sure that the gooners will drool with the prospect of his signing.

Arsenal will start their Emirates Cup adventure against Boca Juniors this evening and I’m sure that Juan Roman Riquelme will be under the spotlight for the reasons best known to the dementors of Azkaban. He was the player that missed that crucial penalty after Jose Mari fell like a sack of potatoes from a fictitious foul by Man City’s Clichy. The match review for the game will come up in tomorrow’s post.

That’s all for today but you can check out Will (@iamgooonerblog)‘s article on signing Cahill and Jagielka.

I was also very impressed with Yogi Warrior’s post on the early life of rVp. Trust me, its worth a read.

Sayonara

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