Daily Archives: August 12, 2011

10 players that need to step their game up in the 2011/12 season

The 2010/11 season was a season to forget in Arsenal Football Club. A season that promised so much ended in shambles and the panic button was pressed so hard that it sprang out of the remote control. The club won the 2011 Emirates Cup following a draw with 7-time Champions League winners AC Milan and a 3-2 victory over Celtic. At the start of the New Year, Arsenal was the only club that was still eligible to win every competition football as a port had to offer but disaster struck as the season progressed.

The Gunners had another clear shot of silverware on the 27th of February when they took on Birmingham in Wembley but the game will be remembered for the error that won Birmingham the game after a mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal was shown the exit door in the Champions League by Barcelona and Manchester United drove the nail in the club’s FA Cup coffin despite starting the tie with 7 recognized defenders. The Premier League offered the Gunners a chance to end the 6-year trophy drought as well as the 7-year Premier League drought.

The last Arsenal team that won the Premier League did it in grand style as they went to an entire season unbeaten so Wenger’s class of 2011 had it all to do when they were told that victories in their last nine games would have been enough to put their names in history. The last nine games that included: Blackburn (home), Blackpool (Away), Liverpool (Home), Tottenham (Away), Bolton (Away), Manchester United (Home), Stoke Rugby FC (Away), Aston Villa (Home) and Fulham (Away).

With Manchester United competing on three fronts (League, FA Cup and Champions League), Arsenal was expected to have the fresher legs and had the chance to rest because every game was played on Sunday but it wasn’t still enough for the Gunners as they decided to put up a dismal run of form that can be compared with the likes of Wigan, Sunderland and Wolves.

The run started with a bore draw at the Emirates against a Blackburn side that has a goalie that opens the floodgates anytime he plays against Arsenal. Mad Jens Lehmann came back from retirement to be the custodian between the sticks in the 3-1 win at Bloomfield Road against the relegated Blackpool so Arsenal was faced with the “week of destiny” with games coming up against Liverpool, Tottenham and Bolton. With Manchester United making steady progress at the summit of the table, there was no room for error but Farmer Emmanuel Eboue inspired an amazing comeback for Liverpool in the 101st minute after Arsenal had gone ahead in the 98th minute. The spoils were also shared in the North London Derby after an intense battle so Arsenal required a win against Bolton to stay in touch with the leaders.

After conceding a headed goal to loanee Danny Sturridge, Wojciech Szczesny spared Arsenal’s blushes by making a good penalty save before Robin van Persie brought Arsenal back into the game after a neat one-two with Francesc Fabregas. Nasri and Chamakh had the chances to kill the game off but it was Tamir Cohen’s header in the 90th minute that inflicted the final blow in Arsenal’s title aspirations.

The fact that Arsenal lost to a side that was pummeled 5-0 by Stoke Rugby FC wasn’t enough, the defeat also meant that Chelsea had usurped Arsenal to second place as the new challengers for the title and where really close but Manchester United’s character shone through when they needed it the most. I’m very certain if Manchester United or Chelsea were behind Arsenal with 3 points, the match would have ended in a draw or a win for Arsenal’s rivals because the squad’s mentality is very low.

The remaining fixtures were mere formalities so no eyebrows were raised when Manchester City leapfrogged Arsenal to take the final Champions League automatic slot. At the end of the Premier League campaign, Arsenal scored 72 goals and conceded 43 with a final league position of 4th place after amassing 68 points. Some players like Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on 10 Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up or face the axe.

Here’s my take on the infamous ten.

10. Manuel Almunia

After doing so well to render mad Jens Lehmann out of business, Manuel Almunia became a shadow of the blonde haired player that took the Premier League by storm and saved a million and one penalties at the Emirates. Anytime the name West Brom will be mentioned while he’s asleep, I’m pretty sure that he’ll scream and start having nightmares because West Brom was the club that sent Almunia’s Arsenal career into oblivion both home and away. Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone are clearly above the Spaniard and he has been heavily linked with a move to Spain or Turkey. I just hope that Arsenal can do its best to get at least £1m for the aging goalie.

9. Denilson Perreira Neves

Even though he has been packaged in a box and has been sent across the Atlantic to his previous employers, Denilson was a false clone of the player that featured in over 50 games for Arsenal in the 2008/09 season. It’s true that Wilshere’s emergence last season limited him to a meager appearances but Denilson was an absolute stinker in 90% of the games he played for Arsenal last season. So bad that he couldn’t even play well against the lowly sides Arsenal faced in the Cup competitions. He was the first player to wave the white flag shortly after the Fulham game and I’m pretty sure that he won’t wear the Red and White ever again.

8. Abou Vassiriki Diaby

In the summer of the 2008/09 season, Abou Diaby was the reason Samir Nasri suffered a broken leg in Austria but he probably got himself acquainted with a female physio working at Arsenal because he spent more times on the treatment table than on the pitch. His appearances were so low than 21 players in the 25-man squad list had more minutes than him. Diaby is a man that plays with a loose nut in his brain and he can be very frustrating to watch at times. So frustrating that a gooner threw his footwear at the television in a public viewing centre in my days at Owerri; a television that did not belong to him.

If Diaby continues in this mold, his Arsenal days will definitely be numbered and he has already started the season with a 10-week layoff thanks to the demons of injury.

7. Tomas Rosicky

“Little Mozart” as he is fondly called in some parts of the World suffered an injury that was more than enough to make him announce his retirement from the beautiful game but he has done really well to fight his ‘enemies’ to stay fit. However, his injury has taken its toll on his football and Rosicky was a fringe player that offered nothing to the club last season. He was afraid to go into any tackle and the goal he missed against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final was more than enough to shatter someone’s confidence. TR7 has been okay from the preseason games I’ve watched so far so he’ll have to step his game up because the attacking midfield position is suddenly up for grabs again with the imminent departure of Fabregas and Nasri.

6. Farmer Emmanuel Eboue

Farmer Emmanuel Eboue has had his moments at Arsenal football club. Starting from when he usurped Lauren to become Arsenal’s No. 1 right back to when he scored his first Arsenal goal against Hamburg in the 2006/07 season. From when he scored that belter in the same season against Reading in the Carling Cup till when we was promoted to the position of a right winger after the acquisition of Bacary Sagna. There were times where he turned into a diving specialist to win set pieces for Arsenal, there was also a game where he turned into a pantomime villain against Wigan and he was substituted despite coming on as a sub. Last season, Farmer Eboue was a major disappointment and he dug his own Arsenal grave when the Gunners hosted Liverpool on the 16th of April, 2011 after conceding that penalty thanks to a push on Lucas Leiva. Farmer Eboue has been linked with a move to Galatasaray and it seems as if he’s odds on to complete the move.

5. Sebastien Squillaci

The Squisha (as I prefer to call him) arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain and the “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a very in teaching the younger ones like Djourou and Koscielny but he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre. He even lived up to the Legendary No. 18 own goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut. To be frank, I don’t even want Squillaci to step up his game; I want him to enter the nearest train through the English Channel to play for any French outfit available. Seeing that guy wear the Red and White sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make.

4. Kieran Gibbs

Kieran Gibbs spent a long while out injured two seasons ago when he damaged his metatarsal in the Champions League match against Standard Liege but he wasn’t too impressive when he deputized for Clichy last season with his most glaring mistakes present in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final. His positioning was questionable and he offered no threat going forward but Clichy’s exit has given him the chance to shine this upcoming season so I hope that he’ll do well to grab the bull by the horns and balls.

3. Nicklas Bendtner

Bendtner scored nine goals for Arsenal last season but the bulk of his goals were scored against lowly sides in the Cup competitions because of his limited chances. He banged in a hattrick against Leyton Orient and he scored a peach of a goal when Arsenal played Ipswich in the Carling Cup semis but Bendtner has decided to call it quits in his fledgling Arsenal career because he feels that he’s good enough to start every game in an Arsenal side that has a Robin van Persie. Many clubs have placed their radars on Bendtner but he still remains an Arsenal player so he’ll have to step his game up if no team decides to buy him again because he has a contract to fulfill.

2. Marouane Chamakh

Last season, Arsenal’s new boy deputized for the injured rVp and B52 and he was in a hot streak with 10 goals in his first 21 appearances but the goals dried up faster than the wells in the Sahara, Kalahari and the Atacama deserts put together with one goal in his remaining matches for Arsenal. He hasn’t impressed yet this preseason but I truly hope that he’ll step his game up because we can’t bank on van Persie to stay fit for an entire season.

1. Andrei Arshavin

With 10 goals and 17 assists to his name last season, people will still ask,

“Why on Earth is Arshavin’s name doing in the same list with Manuel Almunia?”

But the truth is that Arshavin was quite disappointing even if he delivered. He was so disappointing that he lost his place in the starting lineup to Theo Walcott and he didn’t win it back till the season ended. With Nasri going out the way very soon, Arshavin will only have the threat of Gervinho to contend with even though Carlos Vela, Ryo Miyaichi and the Chambered Ox are somewhere in the mix.

I just hope that these Gunners will do well to kill their personal demons and play very well in the upcoming season because Arsene Wenger’s future might just be in their hands.

Going trophyless again after selling key players like Fabregas and Nasri will definitely backfire on Wenger.


10 Football Attributes Juan Manuel Mata possesses

Born on the 28th of April 1988 in the city of Oviedo, Juan Manuel Mata started his career in Real Madrid’s youth ranks in 2004 before stepping up to Real Madrid Castilla two years later. In his time at Castilla, the left-footed youngster made 35 Liga Adelante appearances and scored 10 goals but that was his last act as a Real Madrid player because Valencia CF snapped him up on a free transfer.

In the Mestalla, Mata has flourished as a player and has been very consistent for the Spanish outfit. In his first season at the club, he made 24 Liga BBVA appearances and scored 5 goals. In his second season in Valencia, he was ever-present for the club and missed only one league match all season long scoring 11 in the process. Mata became a household name in Valencia after the club’s biggest assets; David Villa and David Silva were sold out after seasons of courtship from many suitors.

On the International scene, Spain is a country that is blessed with a vast array of talent in midfield so Mata has featured sparingly for the nation but he got his debut against Turkey on the 28th of March, 2009. He has played only 11 games for Spain and has scored four goals but he has featured for the country in all available youth levels with the highest amount of appearances in the Under-21 level.

Mata hasn’t won anything at club level but the three medals he amassed have been won in the national team colors of Spain. In 2006, he won the European Under-19 Championships before winning the 2010 World Cup with Spain last summer. He was voted as the MVP in the recently concluded European Under-21 Championships that took place in Scandinavia. Spain also emerged as the winners of that tournament.

Mata has been on the radar of Arsenal Football Club and has been touted as the potential replacement for Arsenal’s departing captain, Francesc Fabregas.

Here’s my take on the top 10 footballing attributes possessed by Juan Manuel Mata.



Mata is a very skillful player that’s never afraid to take on his man and the fact that he’s a left footed player makes it extremely difficult for defenders to come up against him because left footers have this knack for an unpredictable style of dribbling. FC Bayern and Holland’s Arjen Robben is a classic example of the ideal dribbler. You can’t also talk about left-footed dribblers without mentioning the World’s best player, Lionel Messi.


Judging by Mata’s overall statistics in his days in Real Madrid Castilla and Valencia, he has played 168 league games and he has smashed the net 43 times. Bear it in mind that Mata is a player that cuts in from the wings or plays behind the main striker so this goal to game ratio is very good. Even Football Manager gave him a finishing rating of 18/20. You know what that means.


Juan Mata’s has close control and can be a live wire with the ball at his feet. Thee so many things he can do with the ball that would make you admire the beautiful game even more. He also knows how to strike the ball sweetly. Only football “technicians” own such an attribute

Off the Ball movement

When Juan Mata is not with the ball, he’s a constant thorn in the flesh of many defenders because his of the ball movement is sleek. From throw-ins to more passes from a teammate, Mata is a player that can be backed upon to make himself available for a pass.


Standing with a frame of just 1.70m, Juan Mata is in the mold of players that have a low centre of gravity so his feet tend to move quicker than your average Joe and he uses this attribute to his advantage. He’ the kind of player that likes a through ball well ahead of him because he can use his pace to good effect.


Juan Mata can be in the hole behind the striker and can assume the mantle of the attacking playmaker. This is a role that he plays freely and he has an eagle eye for a pass that can tear defenses open like hot knife through butter.


This is a very powerful tool that has been an upper hand for many football teams from the days of Nasazzi in the 1930 World Cup. Any team that has a player who’s very versatile has a big bonus because the player can be deployed in any of the available positions he’s adept in to cover up for the space that has been made by the injured player. Juan Mata is a striker that can play on the left wing. He’s also very comfortable playing in the No. 10 and Valencia has benefitted greatly from his versatility.


Juan Mata’s body movement is a class act and he’s regarded as one of the most flamboyant wingers in Spain. Villarreal’s Santi Cazorla and Manchester City’s David Silva also fall into that mold of Spanish flamboyant wingers.


Juan Mata is a very selfless individual that’s never afraid to tee another teammate up to take the glory of a goal as well as when he’s far up the pitch. He plays with his eyes open because it’s already in his nature to feed a teammate when available.


There are so many strikers in the Planet that have spurned one on one chances because of their lack of composure but Mata is a player that picks his spot when he’s closing in on the opponent’s goalie. Every lethal finisher in the football World has a high degree of composure attached to their play. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Filippo Inzaghi, Hernan Crespo, Robin van Persie but to name a few. All these strikers have that killer instinct and know where to put the ball before it gets to their feet. It’s pleasing to know that Mata is somewhere up in the mix.


With a player as great as Francesc Fabregas Soler literally out of Arsenal, Mata is the best player to fill in his boots and a bid of at least £25m will be more than enough to seal the deal for the Spanish youngster so the gooners will be keeping their fingers crossed as the days go by.

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In your spare time, you can also read about the 10 football attributes Gervinho possesses.



Replacements for Fabregas and Nigel Winterburn believes in Arsenal without him

Thank God its Friday.

A day before Arsenal’s curtain raiser at St. James Park. Every gooner looks into a new season with optimism but there’s a dark cloud that is covering everything Red and White and it involves two of the club’s best players that are moments are from having new employers.

Samir Nasri has been at the club for three years and has been mediocre in his first two seasons. His third season at Arsenal was his best because he surpassed everything he had achieved in the previous two. He scored more goals (15), he was a better player, his technique improved and so did his confidence levels. Wenger had the chance to offer him a new deal when he was still on fire but he chose to wait till the summer. Another costly mistake by Arsenal’s professor.

With a year left on his contract, Arsenal had two possible options for the French maestro; to renew his contract or to sell him instead of letting him go for free. The contract has been on the table for all eternity and it seems as if Nasri has decided to fold his arms so Arsenal might be forced to cash in on the player. Teams like Inter, Bayern and Chelsea courted the player but the oil rich Manchester City put their money where their mouth is to make several bids for the player. The media Vultures have reported that the Arab money boys are preparing a £22m bid for Samir Nasri and there are also claims that he might be earning £185,000 every week. A 270% hike in his salary. For a player that has a year left on his contract, that’s a marvelous piece of business and I’m pretty sure that Wenger is going to cash in on the lad despite claims emanating that he’s willing to keep him at the club and let him go for free.

With Fabregas poised on a move away from Arsenal, Nasri might follow suit. However, a new replacement has been linked to Arsenal by the media Vultures, Jadson Rodrigues da Silva or Jadson as his simply known in Shakhtar Donetsk. Jadson started his football career back at home with Atletico Paranaense in 2003 playing 66 league games for them scoring 20 goals. As expected, his exploits in the Brazilian league didn’t go unnoticed so he was snapped up by Shakhtar for £4.3m. In his time at Shakhtar, Jadson has helped the club to win four Ukrainian league titles (2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010), three Ukrainian Super Cups, one Ukrainian Cup (2008) and the Europa League (2009). As a renowned Brazilian attacking midfielder, Jadson has an amazing technique on the ball because Brazil and technique go hand in hand. He’s also an expert penalty taker like other renowned Brazilians too. Finally, he’s a flamboyant attacking midfielder with excellent dribbling skills, a deft first touch and a nice passing range.

In my opinion, all Brazilian attacking midfielders are the same but each player has a distinct attribute that separates him from the lot. Ronaldinho has all the features Jadson possesses but he has extraordinary inhuman dribbling skills; so extraordinary that players clean the turf with their shorts when Ronaldinho comes around them, Kaka on the other hand is a lethal finisher and has a quick acceleration, Robinho is a trickster while Rivaldo (in his time) had the sweetest left foot in existence.

Still sticking with transfer news, the media Vultures say that Wenger has revived his interest for Boy Wonder Karim Benzema. I’m pretty sure that signing a player like Benzema will cool the troubled waters at Arsenal because he could be used as the main striker will van Persie could drop a bit deeper. Benzema could cost around £27m – £30m but money can’t be the issue because the sales of Fabregas and Nasri would fetch up to £60m.

There are also reports revealing that Arsenal is linked with FC Twente’s Bryan Ruiz who is available for just £13.75m. That transfer fee is a typical Arsenal-like fee but I doubt if we’ll go for the lad because he’s primarily a left winger and Arsenal is blessed in abundance in that playing position. So blessed that Wenger will start using a blindfold and a lucky dip to pick a player from the box. Another player linked with a move to Arsenal is Hamburg’s Eljero Elia. Juventus have placed tabs on the player but he’s saying that he’ll prefer Arsenal to Chelsea.

More wingers…bleeeh!!!

Newcastle has also joined the long list of teams that want Nicklas Bendtner and they are considering making a bid for the rangy Great Dane. There’s no point writing about Bendtner’s situation because it’s already a done deal: Bendtner wants out. Whether its Besiktas, Sporting CP, Dortmund, Hamburg, Sevilla, Aston Villa, Newcastle or even Enyimba FC or my Platoon 1’s football team in my NYSC camp in Okada, Benin, they should bring an amount that will be acceptable to Arsenal FC.

When I became an Arsenal fan ages ago, the first back four I ever knew was an all-English affair led by Mr. Offside himself, Tony Adams. His partner was Martin Keown or Steve Bould as the case maybe but the center backs had the support of two brilliant wing backs, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. After hanging up his boots, Winterburn became a commentator and still remains a life-long fan of Arsenal. While monitoring the ongoing situation at the club, he has concluded that Arsenal can still challenge for the league title without Fabregas and Nasri. He says,

“if you lose Fabregas, then you lose Nasri, you have really weakened your team but you have to be positive as long as you can bring in two players that will compliment the team, then hopefully Arsenal can be in a situation where they can challenge for the top four”

He then went on to say,

“A big signing doesn’t mean that you’re going to be successful…(Torres, anyone)…..Manchester United have made big signings that haven’t worked our for them but they’ve also made relatively unknown players that have worked very well for them….. (Bebe and Obertan..lol)”

“You’ve got to bring in the right type of player and I’m confident that before the end of this transfer window, Arsenal will make major signings. Whether they are big enough for the gooners, I don’t know”

I’m 100% behind this Arsenal legend. Its true that Arsenal hasn’t won anything even after King Henry departed but they have been close and he wasn’t really missed because Emmanuel Greedybayor (as annoying as it may seem) did a very good job in the 2007/08 campaign with his 30-goal haul. Robin van Persie has taken over the mantle of goal scoring and he smashed in 22 last season. An injury-free van Persie will be very disastrous to the opposition and I’m confident (like Winterburn) that Arsenal would sign ideal replacement for the want-away players.

In other Arsenal news, Wenger he declared that he’s happy with his center backs, so its fair to say that they’ll be no more Samba, Cahill, Jagielka, Dann or Mertesacker. 🙁

Get ready for another season with Sebastien Squillaci, Mr. Calamity himself.

The sentence of the day goes to Arsenal Mania,

Cesc Fabregas: “bought for pennies, (soon to be) sold for pounds and a few fond memories in between”.

I’ll miss Francesc Fabregas Soler 🙁

My 2nd best player of all time after Thierry Henry but just like Henry,

I’ll still be at Arsenal even if Cesc goes to Barca. 🙂

My blood cells are Red and White.

The last time I checked, those were the colours of Arsenal football club.


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