Daily Archives: November 15, 2011
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.
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.
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.
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.