Daily Archives: January 24, 2012
In the hit movie 2012, a series of cataclysmic events led to the end of the world as we know it. The same can be related to Arsenal Football Club at the start of this year because the tsunamis and earthquakes have started rocking the club and it’s fair to say that things are falling apart.
The club has lost further ground on a Champions League spot and the recent loss to arch-rivals Manchester United following a tactical error by the boss has made Gooners call for his head on a plate. Notwithstanding, there’s still a chunk of the season to be played and the Premier League’s unpredictability could see more twists and turns in Arsenal’s fate.
As a proud Arsenal fan, I still believe that the club can still achieve great things and I’ve created a list of 20 events or occurrences that will happen in the course of the year. In a somewhat chronological order, I present to you 20 bold predictions for Arsenal in 2012.
Arsenal Will Loan an Emergency Fullback
In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Arsenal lost Bacary Sagna (leg), Carl Jenkinson (back), Kieran Gibbs (groin) and Andre Santos (ankle) to injuries. Arsene Wenger had to resort to makeshift fullbacks like Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou to hold the fort till the injured players returned.
Djourou has really struggled as a fullback and Arsenal clearly lacks that width natural fullbacks bring to the team’s attack. Defensively, Vermaelen has been stable while Djourou has been opened up times without number.
With barely a week to go in the January transfer window, Arsene Wenger is going to loan an emergency fullback to sure things up at the back.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Will Start Shining
Arsenal signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for a whooping £12m but the boss has featured the youngster sparingly, stating that he’s doing it to “protect” the kid from the media Vultures. Arsene Wenger handed the youngster a debut in the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford but the Ox hit the ground running in his first Champions League start with a goal against Olympiakos.
The Carling Cup was a breeding ground for the Ox and he lit up the Emirates with brilliant performances in every game he played. Exuding tremendous confidence for a player his age, he showed a glimpse of the massive quality that made a few fans drool with the prospect of playing him in the future.
The Ox started against Manchester United and was Arsenal’s best player by a far mile. The same Gooners that criticized Wenger for “wasting” £12m on an unproven youngster chastised the manager for removing him for Andrey Arshavin.
This clearly proves that the Ox will get a run-out in the first team and he’s bound to shine.
Jack Wilshere Will Usurp Aaron Ramsey in the Starting Lineup
Jack Wilshere is still on the road to full fitness and he has been scheduled to return to first team action in February. Alex Song has become synonymous with the starting lineup and each game without Mikel Arteta shows his unprecedented importance to Arsenal Football Club.
Jack Wilshere was a first team regular last season and he’s odds on to pick up where he left off when he’s fully fit but a constant member of Arsenal’s present midfield triumvirate will have to be axed. In my opinion, that player is Aaron Ramsey.
Gervinho Will Lead Ivory Coast to African Cup of Nations Glory
Gervais Yao Kouassi left Arsenal in January to join the Elephants of Ivory Coast in their bid to end the country’s African Cup of Nations trophy drought that dates far back as 1992. Ivory Coast was tipped for great things in the 2010 FIFA World Cup but they were unlucky to be paired in the same group with juggernauts Brazil and Portugal.
In a Nations Cup tournament without the likes of Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa, the Elephants have been touted as favorites to book a final berth with Ghana.
The nation’s hopes rests on their inspirational captain Didier Drogba, alongside Farmer Eboue, the Toure brothers and Arsenal’s Gervinho.
There Will Be More Injuries
Arsenal is a club that’s always plagued by injuries. 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. Sadly, this trend is bound to continue.
Arsenal Will Qualify For the UEFA Champions League
Many skeptics believe that Arsenal is assured of a Europa League place next season but I firmly believe that there’s still an element of hope for Arsene Wenger and his men. The teams from Manchester have shown a certain degree of consistency but Chelsea’s performances in recent times has been suspect.
If Chelsea continues to play the way they’ve been playing in recent weeks, a surge from Arsenal can see them usurp their West London rivals.
With the Gunners five points behind Chelsea, it will be an uphill task though.
Arsenal Will Finish Below Tottenham Hotspurs
Sometimes, the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow but the odds of Arsenal finishing above Tottenham this season are slim to none. For the past 15 years, Arsenal has celebrated St. Totteringham’s day but Harry Redknapp’s side has been one of the most consistent teams in the Premier League this season.
Their performance against Manchester City showed Tottenham’s character to claw two goals after going behind only to be undone by captain Ledley King. I expect Tottenham to dust them up and pick up where they left off.
At that pace, Arsenal is certainly going to finish below Spurs.
Robin van Persie Will Win the EPL Golden Boot
Robin van Persie has epitomized everything Arsenal stands for this season and his performances on the field of play have been nothing short of inspirational. Arsenal just surpassed the halfway point of the season and van Persie has already registered 19 goals in the Premier League.
Like Midas, everything van Persie touches changes to goals and at the rate he’s banging them in, he’ll definitely emerge as the Golden Boot winner at the end of the season.
Wojciech Szczesny Will Be Nominated for the EPL Golden Gloves
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 a very vocal lad that instills confidence on his centre backs. This season, he has made impossible saves; the standout being the save from Lee Cattermole’s header when Arsenal hosted Sunderland.
This season, I can only think of two goalies that have been better than Szczesny in the Premier League: Swansea’s Vorm and Manchester City’s Joe Hart.
In my opinion, Szczesny has vaulted in front of the likes of Petr Cech and David de Gea in the pecking order for the Golden Gloves.
Arsenal Will Win the FA Cup
I heard a funny joke about Thierry Henry walking into Arsenal’s trophy cabinet at the Emirates and he uttered that it was the same way he left it.
Arsenal has been without silverware for six years and the club came really close in February 2011 but the infamous cock-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny handed Birmingham City their first trophy in 48 years. Both players have improved mentally after that event and Koscielny has grown to become one of the best center backs in the Premier League.
Arsenal was knocked out of the Carling Cup quarterfinal by Manchester City and is currently struggling in the Premier League. The FA Cup is Arsenal’s most realistic chance of winning any silverware so Arsene Wenger will go all guns blazing for that competition.
The FA Cup was the last trophy Arsenal won way back in 2005, it’s only befitting for the Gunners to win it again seven years later.
Laurent Koscielny Will Represent France in Euro 2012
Laurent Koscielny is a French footballer with Polish descent but he made the terms clear that he wanted to represent France at international level. He got his wish by making his debut in a friendly against the United States and he was largely impressive.
Koscielny has been a beast at the back for Arsenal this season and his performances will definitely merit him a place in the Les Bleus side that will travel to Ukraine and Poland for the 2012 European Championships.
Mikel Arteta Will Win His First Spanish Cap
Like Brazil, Spain is a country that’s blessed with an abundance of talent for a player like Mikel Arteta to be overlooked year after year. I had a hunch that he wasn’t fully “exposed” in his Everton days and his chance with Arsenal will probably put him under the “spotlight”.
Arteta might miss out on a chance to represent Spain in the European Championships but I’m confident that he’ll win his first Spanish cap at some point in 2012.
Robin van Persie Will Sign a New Contract
Robin van Persie will be in a similar situation with Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy this summer but a new contract is on the cards for the captain of Arsenal Football Club. Tales are emerging that he’s going to earn as high as £150,000.
I believe that van Persie will be convinced enough to sign the new deal and extend his years at Arsenal.
There’ll be a Mass Exodus in the Summer
There have been a lot of deadwood presently occupying valuable space at Arsenal and the club will call time on them this summer. Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson are everyone’s favorites to leave the club. They’ll be closely followed by Manuel Almunia, Sebastien Squillaci and Andrey Arshavin.
Marouane Chamakh and Lukasz Fabianski might follow suit this summer in their bid to get first team action elsewhere to get their careers back on track.
Arsenal Will Sign Lukas Podolski
Arsenal is heavily linked to FC Cologne’s Lukas Podolski and the possibility of signing the forward in January s very low. However, with the potential exit of Marouane Chamakh, Arsene Wenger will pick up Arsenal’s check book to get him a German Machine called Lukas Podolski.
Yossi Benayoun Will be Sent Back to Chelsea
Arsenal lost two midfield juggernauts in the form of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and replaced them with Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. Arteta has integrated himself into the first team while Benayoun has been on the fringes.
The Isreali has been pretty decent for the Gunners but I don’t think his move would be made permanent.
Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey Will Represent Team Great Britain
Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey represent the future of Arsenal but they are yet to win a trophy with the club so they’ll hunt for glory while wearing the colours of Team Great Britain, a football team that carry the hopes of four united nations.
A large of chunk of Team Great Britain will contain Englishmen, but Wales finest Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will be part of the team’s jigsaw puzzle. I believe that the central midfield will be run by Wilshere and Ramsey.
Carlos Vela Will Come of Age
After several loan moves to Spain, Arsenal lobber-in-chief Carlos Alberto Garrido Vela returned back to the club in stunning fashion with a hattrick against Sheffield United. He hasn’t really gotten many chances to show what he’s made of so more loan moves came his way with West Brom and Real Sociedad.
Carlos Vela will return back to Arsenal next season and with the potential exit of Andrey Arshavin, he’ll get a chance to deputize for Gervinho who’ll probably represent Ivory Coast again in the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
I’m tipping Carlos Vela for great things next season but I hope Wenger will give him the chance to achieve them.
Alex Song Will Be Nominated in the African Footballer of the Year Shortlist
Alex Song is turning out to be one of the finest defensive midfielders in the Premier League and he has added some attacking flair to his game with his numerous assists this season.
If Song maintains this consistent form throughout 2012, he’ll be nominated in the shortlist of Africa’s finest footballers.
Emmanuel Frimpong Will be Called-Up by Ghana for the 2013 Nations Cup
Emmanuel Frimpong would have gotten his chance to play for Arsenal last season but a knee cruciate ligament injury he suffered sidelined him for the entire season. Frimpong and Francis Coquelin have been labeled as holding midfield deputies for Alex Song, and the youngsters have put up a good shift in Song’s absence.
Frimpong’s outing against Manchester City in the Carling Cup quarterfinals still stands out as his best in his short Arsenal career. He was a general in the midfield and he gave Samir Nasri a torrid time on the pitch…and off it.
He had the option of waiting for an England call-up but he has pledged his allegiance to his motherland Ghana. He has been impressive at Wolves and he’ll give Song a run for his money next season. If he maintains his good form, he’ll be called up by the Black Stars.
I’ve just shared my top 20 bold predictions for Arsenal in 2012. Feel free to share the ones I missed out with your comments.
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The Curious Case of Andrei Arshavin reblogged from Memoirs of a Gooner