Daily Archives: October 24, 2011
While Arsene Wenger and his club played their home games in Highbury, those in the helm of affairs at the club came up with a plan to move to a 60,361-seater state-of-the-art stadium not far away from Arsenal’s home for 93 years. The move was finalized in the start of the 2006/07 season and the club had gone on to play 99 games at the Emirates Stadium before Stoke’s visit yesterday.
For those that are fans of numbers, Arsenal had won 66, drawn 22 and lost 11 games in the ground they call home before kickoff yesterday. The Gunners had also smashed in 198 goals prior to the Stoke match averaging two goals per game at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that won the tie at the Riviera in the South of France. Goal scoring hero, Aaron Ramsey returned to the side in place of Tomas Rosicky, Gervinho got the nod ahead of Andrey Arshavin but the most surprising change of them all was handing Marouane Chamakh a starting berth ahead of the red-hot Robin van Persie. The Moroccan had managed a disappointing two goals in his last 31 appearances and it was a decision that would have cost Wenger the game if he chose not to play van Persie at all.
With all captains, van Persie, Vermaelen and Rosicky all missing in action, Alex Song wore the armband for the first time in his Arsenal career since joining the club from SC Bastia in 2006. Arsenal hit the ground running when Mikel Arteta swung in a corner to the danger area and the ball met an unmarked Chamakh who made poor contact with the ball to nod it wide off the mark.
Song sent in a ball for Arteta and the Spaniard found himself free on the edge of the box because Stoke defended really deep. The crowd urged Arteta to pull the trigger but he feinted with his right foot before letting one rip with his left foot to send the ball wide.
Aaron Ramsey had a great game yesterday and he started by chipping a lovely ball for Gervinho. The Ivorian controlled the ball with his chest but he couldn’t capitalize on it because it was really close to Asmir Begovic in Stoke’s goal. Stoke knew that they couldn’t match Arsenal from open play so the crowd got weary when Walcott conceded the first throw-in of the game on Arsenal’s right hand side. Rory Delap did his thing but Per Mertesacker rose the highest to head the ball out to safety.
Ramsey fed Walcott on the right then the winger used his pace to get in behind Mark Wilson before sending a stinging cross that was stabbed away by Begovic. Ramsey lurked outside the area when Arteta had another corner but his effort missed the target by a lick of paint.
As Arsenal continued to press and probe Stoke’s defense, the breakthrough arrived when Ramsey cleverly chipped the ball over the defense to Gervinho who timed his run to perfection. The Ivorian brought the ball under control before finishing emphatically with his left foot. Gervinho was all over the place and he threatened Wilson from the right side after a pass from Arteta what ended up as a corner.
So much has been made about the poor officiating of the referees in the Premier League and this tie was to be no different. A simple over the top ball was challenged by Peter Crouch and Laurent Koscielny with the lanky Englishman uncharacteristically coming out as second best but Lee Mason blew his whistle for a free kick that looked more ridiculous with every replay of the incident viewed. Stoke, being a side that’s renowned for their set piece prowess executed a training move that came to great effect in the best possible way.
Glenn Whelan took forever to deliver the set piece but he chose to feed Ryan Shawcross who was relatively unmarked on the far side. Stoke’s captain headed the ball into Arsenal’s danger area and Jon Walters was on hand to come out on top in an aerial duel with Koscielny. Walter’s header was going in but Crouch made sure that it went into Arsenal’s goal and the tie was level from a Stoke side that was second best throughout the game.
That was Crouch’s sixth career goal against Arsenal and his first since his stunning hattrick against Wenger’s side in 2008. Arteta crossed a ball for Chamakh but Andy Wilkinson decided to swap jerseys with the Moroccan in the box even if Arsenal’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears. At the sound of Lee Mason’s whistle, it seemed like one of those days and there were already cries for the inclusion of Robin van Persie.
Arsenal was very sloppy at the start of the second half with Song being the chief culprit of some mistimed passes. Gervinho and Arteta got involved in the attacking play with the Spaniard setting up Walcott with a lovely pass but his final ball couldn’t match Arsenal’s impressive build up play. This made the guys at the commentary box begin their barrage of criticism on Arsenal’s winger.
Arsenal threatened again with another Arteta corner kick but after some scrambled headers, Koscielny attempted a bicycle kick that was miscued though. Arsenal continued in the driver’s seat in the game but their activity in the final third was put under question.
When Wenger felt that Chamakh had played to his full capacity without any great effect, he unleashed the Flying Dutchman to the Emirates that was appreciated by roars from the Emirates faithful and if you’re a fan of numbers, here’s a tip for you. Robin van Persie had scored four in four against Stoke, 23 goals in his last 25 league games and he had also amassed 28 goals in 35 games in 2011.
Van Persie was involved in the thick of things with some lovely movement before sending a cross that was missed by Koscielny in the far post. Arsenal almost produced a horror moment when Johan Djourou headed a ball back for Wojciech Szczesny who was far away from his box. Jon Walters challenged the young goalie but he did well to shimmy the striker before passing the ball to another player.
Andrey Arshavin replaced Walcott who was still looking for his first goal at the Emirates in 2011. The forward’s last goal at home was recorded in the 3-1 victory against Chelsea in Boxing Day of 2010. In the turn of the New Year, Walcott has scored away in the 3-0 victory of West Ham at Upton Park in January, the embarrassing 4-4 draw against Newcastle at St. James Park in February, the enthralling 3-3 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in April, the 2-2 curtain closer against Fulham at Craven Cottage in May and the 8-2 humiliating loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford in August.
The Arsenal crowd awaited the 200th goal at the Emirates and it was only befitting that such a goal would be scored by the man of the moment, Robin van Persie. Gervinho was involved in the attacking play again and he did well to evade the threat of Wilson before teeing van Persie in the near post where the intelligent striker had a quick snap shot that beat Begovic in his near post. With the game easing off, Gervinho popped up again on the left to send another assist for van Persie whose effort couldn’t be stopped despite Begovic’s hand on the shot.
That was van Persie’s sixth goal in Arsenal’s last nine. That’s a striker that’s as hot as supernova.
Emmanuel Frimpong came in for Gervinho and the Ivorian received a standing ovation from the Emirates faithful.
Szczesny (6.5) was faced with a scary moment that would have cost him his place in the side but he excelled admirably in the situation.
Djourou (6.5) deputized well at the unfamiliar right back position n place of the injured Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson.
Andre Santos (6.5) did well to support the attack and showed his Samba touches on the left hand side.
Mertesacker (6.5) did okay in defense.
Koscielny (7.5) was more than a handful for Peter Crouch.
Song (6.0) was very sloppy in the midfield and gave many balls out. Not a good captain’s performance.
Arteta (8.0) was heavily involved in Arsenal’s attack and sent in a lot of good corners that were not utilized by the Gunners.
Ramsey (7.5) sent a peach of a pass for Gervinho’s first goal at the Emirates.
Gervinho (9.0) put up his best performance yet for Arsenal. He gave Arsene Wenger his best birthday present today, a goal and two assists.
Walcott (6.0) was disappointing.
Chamakh (6.0) failed to justify the decision to bench van Persie.
Arshavin (6.5) showed good movement with the ball.
Van Persie (8.5) had two well taken goals that showed his intelligence and sharpness as a striker.
Frimpong didn’t stay enough to get a rating.
This weekend ended well for the Red half of North London. It was fabled that Arsenal always struggled shortly after some European encounters and it seemed to be one of those days till Robin van Persie proved his worth to Arsenal in gold.
I also witnessed some brilliant football this weekend with my picks of the bunch being AC Milan’s amazing 4-3 victory at Lecce despite being 3-0 down at halftime. Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a brilliant hattrick but the team of the weekend was the Arab Money backed side from Manchester.
Manchester United won the Premier League last season thanks to their amazing home form that saw them win 18 of their 19 games at Old Trafford but their ‘noisy’ and oil-rich neighbors ran riot with six goals to send them five points clear at the top.
The quote of the day goes to Ogbonna Nwodo,
“From the makers of Sex and the City comes this thriller from Old Trafford Cinemas: Six and the City”
The Emirates Stadium hosted its 100th match since its inauguration in August 2006 and the Gunners marked the milestone with an impressive victory over the impressive Stoke City. It was also a good to know that the 100th game at the Emirates coincided with Arsene Wenger’s 62nd birthday.
Tony Pulis has taken Stoke from strength to strength and its impressive to know that he hasn’t been relegated n his 18 years as a football manager. Since gaining promotion in 2008, he has made Stoke City a decent mid-table Premier League outfit with a dreaded home ground in Stoke-on-Trent called the Britannia.
Stoke is renowned for its direct style of play as well as tall players that utilize set pieces to great effect. The club also has a not-so-secret weapon called Rory Delap. His long throws have been a very big problem for Stoke’s opponents and most teams haven’t been able to quell the threat he poses.
Arsenal defeated Stoke thanks to a goal from new signing Gervinho as well as a brace from the club’s talisman Robin van Persie and I’ll like to give my take on the positives drawn from the match.
Arsenal can always count on Robin van Persie
Arsenal needed a new leader after the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Arsene Wenger looked no further than the Flying Dutchman he bought from Feyernoord in 2004. The early part of his Arsenal career was blighted by injuries but 2011 will be a year van Persie will never forget.
For those who are fans of ‘numbers’, van Persie’s stats are simply remarkable. He has notched up 25 goals in his last 26 Premier League games and 30 goals in 36 games in this calendar year. He also has the record for the fastest ever goal recorded at the Emirates and he scored Arsenal’s 200th goal in the 100th game at the Emirates.
Aaron Ramsey has finally come of age
Aaron Ramsey did well in the tail end of 2009 and the early part of 2010 to be selected ahead of Denilson and Abou Diaby to challenge for his first team place. But his horrific injury coupled with Jack Wilshere’s emergence made him struggle for a place in the first team after his return from injury but the tides have turned as Ramsey’s has finally come of age in Wilshere’s absence.
For what it’s worth, Ramsey will give Arsene Wenger something to think about when Wilshere is fully fit.
Gervinho has come into the party
Gervinho has been a massive hit at the Emirates since his move from LOSC Lille Metropole and he produced a performance that was worthy of the outlay play for him. He scored the match’s opener and handed two assists to the red-hot Robin van Persie.
Szczesny’s confidence in adversity
At the young age of 21, Wojciech Szczesny has matured to a very decent goalie and he showed his level-headedness when he was faced with a threatening decision against Stoke’s Jon Walters. Szczesny did well to get the ball under control before dribbling the striker.
A renowned panicky goalie like Christian Abbiati wouldn’t have fared well in such a moment.
Arsenal’s recent run of form
The Gunners are back with a bang with six wins in their last seven games. Following the embarrassing defeat against Blackburn in Ewood Park, the Gunners have recorded wins against Shrewsbury Town, Bolton, Olympiakos, Sunderland, Olympique Marseille and Stoke City.
Arsenal has a Carling Cup encounter against Bolton but their mettle will be put to the test when they play Chelsea next week.
Laurent Koscielny’s improved play
Laurent Koscielny arrived in Arsenal last season from FC Lorient and he has been pretty impressive so far this season. With Thomas Vermaelen still out injured, a lot of questions have been raised on who his partner might be when the Belgian returns to full fitness.
Koscielny has been a beast at the back for the Gunners and he has shown some dominance in the aerial department even if he’s not the tallest of defenders. Wenger has the final say though.
Johan Djourou’s familiarity with his new role
With Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson out injured, Arsene Wenger had to dig deep to search for a player that would deputize for them till they return to full fitness and he turned his attention to the Swiss brick wall that was very impressive last season, Johan Djourou.
Djourou didn’t really fare too well when Arsenal played Blackburn but he delivered a peach of a cross when Arsenal played Olympique Marseille in a match that ended on a high thanks to Aaron Ramsey’s strike at the death.
Mikel Arteta’s consistency
Since his deadline day move from Everton, Mikel Arteta has played in every Arsenal game except the Carling Cup encounter against Shrewsbury Town and he has maintained a high level of consistency.
Arteta has been heavily involved in Arsenal’s buildup play and he has supplied a large number of quality crosses through set pieces. Arteta will also give Wenger something to think about when Jack Wilshere returns to full fitness.
There are many more positives you would have liked me to add but it’s fair to say that I’ve ran out of options.
Feel free to leave a comment or two.
The Arsenal of old is back.