Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Intensified Battle for Third Place and a List of Underrated Gunners


In a gruelling campaign that’s reaching its climax, various teams in the Premier League are close to achieving their pre-season targets while others are in great peril. At the tail end of the log table, Wolves’ fate has more or less been sealed but Bolton, Blackburn, Wigan, Queens Park Rangers and probably Aston Villa are in a dogfight to escape the clutches of relegation.

While the owners of newly-promoted Norwich and Swansea can give themselves a pat on the back for a successful campaign, the hierarchy in the Red half of Merseyside will certainly be gnashing their teeth over the wasted investments this year. Despite blowing wads of cash in their bid to be with the elite, Liverpool is languishing in eighth place and things are getting worse for King Kenny and his hordes.

When Arsenal defeated Manchester City, their arch-rivals went eight points clear but a series of disappointing results for the Red Devils have seen the oil moneybags cut the gap to just three points making the upcoming Manchester Derby a mouthwatering contest.

However, there’s a position in the Premier League that’s now a piece of unfinished business. After the blistering run of seven wins in a row coupled with bad results elsewhere, Arsenal was in pole position to end the season as the third best team in the land.

Queens Park Rangers showcased the team’s complacency but the victory of Manchester City turned every frown upside down. Wigan came to down with a game plan that worked superbly for them but the Gunners didn’t give a Manchester City-esque response against a second-tier Chelsea side that had half an eye in today’s semifinal against Barcelona.

Even Bacary Sagna has admitted that the performance wasn’t good enough.

Newcastle’s impressive win over Stoke has seen them emerge as Arsenal’s newest threat for the coveted automatic Champions League slot and if the Magpies win their game in hand, they’ll be level on points with the Gunners. However, Thomas Vermaelen believes that the Gunners can hold the fort to claim third place:

“We didn’t win the last two games, and they were really good chances to put ourselves into third place comfortably. At the moment we still have to fight for third place. It will be a big effort for everybody to get that third place. It is not going to be easy, but that is because you play in England and it is not an easy league. Everybody can beat everybody.”

“There are a lot of teams involved, ourselves, Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle. It is going to be tight, but it is going to be interesting. It is going to be hard to keep third place, but I am confident that we will.”  

Arsenal will visit the Britannia Stadium to play that Rugby outfit before hosting Norwich City, then the Gunners will end the campaign away to West Brom. The way Arsenal has played this season has thought me to expect the unexpected from these lads.

This team came back from two goals down to decimate Tottenham’s best team in 50 years and they were also a goal away from turning a four-goal deficit against the defending champions of the Serie A. Unfortunately enough, this is the same team that has lost 10 Premier League games this season and are bracing themselves up for yet another trophy-less campaign.

Despite the major lows of the season, there have been many things to cheer about and one can look no further than the individual performances of some certain players that stepped up the plate this season.

Starting from the top of the pile, Robin van Persie showed the world what he could do if he stayed injury free and his scintillating performances as well as numerous goals earned him the PFA Player of the Year award. The Flying Dutchman has stated that winning the prestigious is a dream come true for him. set up a voting poll for the potential winner of the Premier League Golden Boot. On the Red corner, you’ll find Arsenal’s perpetual goalscoring machine of the first kind, RVP, and one the Blue corner, you’ll find Manchester United’s net-bursting Ogre, Shrek.

Robin van Persie deservedly stole the limelight but there is a list of some Gunners that have been massively underrated for their performances this season. When I took a candid look at the PFA Team of the Year, I was very disappointed not to see the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Alex Song and Theo Walcott in the list.

Koscielny has been a beast this season and is certainly better than Fabrizio Coloccini in my opinion. Vermaelen ran out of superlatives for his defensive partner labelling him as a key ingredient to Arsenal’s success story next season. The Frenchman played a lot of football last season but the way he matured tremendously has been a major jaw dropper.

If Koscielny is not selected for France in the forthcoming European Championships, I’ll go berserk. The likes of Mamadou Sakho and Phillippe Mexes have not been as impressive as the Bosscielny this season.

The central midfield pairing of the season were Yaya Toure and Scotty Parker. Alex Song has been a phenom in this campaign but I don’t want to be biased on this analysis. In as much as I hate everything Tottenham stands for, Parker has had one hell of a season and I have a hunch that he slightly displaced Song to earn himself a place in the Team of the Year.

I believe that Song could be among the nominees for the African Footballer of the Year but he’ll face stiff competition from Yaya Toure (who also displaced him in the Team of the Year) as well as Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba. I haven’t even mentioned other outstanding Africans playing in other leagues.

Theo Walcott missed out on England’s last big tournament but he’s odds on to stake his claim for a starting place in this summer’s Euros. Walcott’s game has improved tremendously but the complacency factor still creeps in from time to time. He’s currently nursing a hamstring injury that has ruled him out for the rest of the season but he’ll be fit enough for the tourney.

Despite the fact that the performances of Laurent Koscielny, Alex Song and Theo Walcott haven’t been given the credit they duly deserve, the fans of Arsenal Football Club will continue to give them their undying support.

Kos is certainly the Boss and it’s not a greyhound, it’s not a cheetah, it’s Theo Walcott.

Finally, there’s only one Song.


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A Tribute to Manuel Rivero Almunia: Loyalty Against All Odds

When he was still our Number 1

After spending eight seasons on a nomadic spree with six different Spanish sides, Manuel Almunia joined Arsenal for £2.6m in 2004. In his early years at Arsenal, he played the role of second fiddle to Mad Jens Lehmann. He was termed as  Arsenal’s “cup” keeper because he got his chances in the Carling and FA Cups.

His only major piece of silverware with the club is currently the last piece of silverware Arsenal has won, the 2005 FA Cup.

His breakthrough season was undoubtedly the 2007/08 campaign were he notched up 38 appearances in all competitions and that was the last campaign Arsenal were serious contenders for Premier League honors.

Arsenal’s Champions League adventure was halted in the hand of a familiar foes, Liverpool. The game will be fondly remembered for Theo Walcott’s 80-yard dash but Kolo Toure’s stupidity late on cost a penalty that was slammed home by Steven Gerrard. Ryan Babel added insult to injury to put the game beyond doubt.

Arsenal was also humiliated in the FA Cup after being on the end of a 4-0 thrashing by Manchester United. Arsene Wenger had set his sights on a crunch encounter with the defending Champions League holders, AC Milan, so he tweaked his squad a bit handing starts to the likes of Justin Hoyte et al.

The way Arsenal surrendered its winning position in the league that season was shameful. At February, Arsene Wenger’s team was five points ahead of Manchester United and eight points clear off Chelsea.

The team capitulated from within with those quick-fire draws against Birmingham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wigan coupled with the losses to Manchester United and Chelsea saw the Gunners finish the campaign in third place.

Almunia did really well in that campaign.

Maybe it was the blonde hair.

Mad Jens Lehmann waved his goodbyes and returned to the Bundesliga leaving the Number One spot available for the taking. Knowing fully that his place wasn’t threatened by the then-error prone Lukasz Fabianski, complacency started creeping in to Almunia’s game.

However, he was a vital part of the Arsenal side that had an impregnable home record in the Champions League in the 2008/09 season. Arsenal were paired in a group containing FC Porto, Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev. The home ties were 4-0, 0-0 and 1-0 respectively.

Arsenal beat Roma 1-0 at the Emirates and won on penalties in the second leg. Arsenal then drew away in the quarterfinal against Villarreal before thumping them 3-0 at home.

While Mad Jens Lehmann set the pace with a clean sheet record that stood at 10 games, Almunia on the other hand had five consecutive clean sheets at the Emirates before that horrible semifinal clash against Manchester United.

Like Thomas Vermaelen’s infamous slip in the San Siro that allowed Robinho to pull the trigger, Kieran Gibbs slipped at the vital moment to allow Park Ji-Sung put the visitors ahead. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 35-yard free kick still haunts me in my dreams and I was very glad to see the back of him when he secured that big money move to Real Madrid.

I actually hosted a party when Ronaldo was sold to Madrid. Like Thierry Henry before him, CR7 was a tormentor in chief to Arsenal and the rest of the Premier League teams. I was also ecstatic when a Wayne Rooney exit seemed on the cards but the sly fox used his exit claims to get a very fat salary.

The 2009/10 season was an on and off season for Almunia. He was blameless in the Champions League exit in the hands of Barcelona. Lionel Messi was on fire that day and I still have fond memories of his one-two with Mikael Silvestre.

His deputy Fabianski was between the sticks when Arsenal was knocked out of the Carling Cup against Manchester City. Stoke City also drive the nails in the club’s FA Cup coffin.

Arsenal had only the Premier League to fight for and Almunia and Fabianski played their part in yet another trophy-less campaign. The way Tottenham’s Danny Rose’s shot passed through Almunia’s hands was questionable and Fabianski’s inability to deal with a routine corner cost his team the game against Wigan.

That summer, the frustrations of the fans was well known to Arsene Wenger so he made it clear that he needed a new custodian between the sticks for the forthcoming season.

The media Vultures played their part in linking us to keepers from all over the Milky Way. This even caused the official Arsenal site to create a new column called “Transfer Leaked”.

Goalies like Hugo Lloris and Gianluigi Buffon were out of our reach so Wenger set his sights on the only Aussie that has been keeping since the pre-historic era Sir Mark Schwarzer. At 38, he was probably needed for a season or two so Wenger took a stand with his £2m bids. Fulham rejected both offers so we had to stick with what we had.

Almunia was heavily criticized for the cheap goal he conceded against David N’ Gog in the curtain raiser at Anfield. A routine clean sheet against Blackpool followed. He was also relatively untroubled against Champions League newbies Braga. He then put up a brilliant performance away to Blackburn.

When West Brom visited the Emirates last season, everyone expected a routine win. Almunia got injured when he clashed with Odemwingie but he took the wrong decision to stay on the pitch instead of relinquishing his place to Fabianski at half time.

His second half performance cost him his place in the team.

The defense was in shambles when Peter Odemwingie scored West Brom and he was expected to do better from a Gonzalo Jara shot that skipped past him. He was also in No Man’s Land in the buildup to Jerome Thomas’ third goal. Samir Nasri put up a late rally but it wasn’t to be.

Arsenal had dropped more points thanks to more suspect goalkeeping and that was the last straw for Arsene Wenger.

Almunia concedes the penalty

While Fabianski staked his claim as Arsenal’s Number One, Almunia spent a considerable time out injured. Out of the blue, Wojciech Szczesny emerged and his performances earned him a new contract which also indicated that Almunia had dropped two places down the pecking order.

With the January transfer window around the corner, Wenger told all interested parties that Almunia was available for a knockdown price of £1.5m. To be frank at that point, I wanted Almunia to take the offer from Malaga or Galatasaray because he’s approaching the twilight years of his career.

Instead of crying to the media Vultures about how is place had been lost, Almunia spent his time in the physio room regaining his fitness.

Fabianski’s shoulder injury meant that he had climbed one place to number two but when Szczesny got injured against Barcelona, Arsenal referred back to the old hag that was clearly out of shape and favor. The same man that was regarded as an outcast, Manuel Rivero Almunia.

When Dani Alves dislocated Szczesny’s finger with that free kick. I saw a goalie with unshaved beards running into the pitch and wearing his gloves like an upcoming youngster kid that has been dying for his chance.

The first goal was conceded to a player that has his own footballing planet. The second conceded was to a midfield demigod. The third conceded was to that wizard.

He still made a considerable amount of saves and put his body on the line like his life depended on it. Szcsesny was diagnosed to spend 6 weeks out but Almunia’s performances became shaky and confidence bereft till this happened…

That awkward moment

He had caused more damage to himself than his team causing Wenger to bring Lehmann out from retirement to stay between the sticks. Szczesny recovered earlier than expected and the game against West Brom turned out to Manuel Almunia’s last for the club.

In eight seasons at Arsenal, Almunia had notched up 175 games for the Gunners, keeping 53 clean sheets in the process.

Manuel Almunia has revealed that he is ready to leave Arsenal at the end of the season, but insists he wants to remain in England:

“I’m looking for a nice move next season, I want to start a new episode of my life. It’s a very respectful relationship and now I’m free, I can do what I like and he’s happy with my work at Arsenal for ideas.”

“I have got lazy to move too far, because life here in London is fantastic and I hope I can have a club to go to next season so I can stay.”

I wish Manuel Almunia all the best and I’ll certainly miss him because he offered Arsenal the good, the bad and most certainly, the ugly.

Here’s to Manuel Rivero Almunia.

The soft spoken and mature man who remained loyal to Arsenal FC.

Against all odds.


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Reviewing the Goals Scored by the 2012 PFA Player of the Year, RVP

From L-R: Cannon shooting Chicken, Gareth Bale, RVP & Walker, RVP, RVP!!!

If you take a close peek at the illustration above you’ll see Arsenal’s talisman holding the club’s “first trophy” in seven years, the 2012 PFA Player of the Year award. As expected, esteemed footballers, media vulture reps and fans like graced the gala event.

It’s worth noting that you can find a picture of the lead actor of the hit movie, Legends of the Fall, Gareth Bale, in the second box below. Thanks to Kanyeezy for uploading the content in my Arsenal BlackBerry group, Team Goonerdaily.


Robin van Persie began his youth career in Exclesior before making a move to the club that gave him his football education, Feyernoord. In his three-year stint in Feyernoord’s first team from 2001 to 2004, van Persie won the UEFA Cup with the Dutch outfit but he had a lot of irreconcilable differences with the manager and present Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk.

He won the best young talent of the EreDivisie award in 2002 and had a tumultuous time in the tail end of his Feyernoord career. After making 59 appearances and scoring 15 league goals in three years at the club, van Persie parted ways with Feyernoord and joined Arsenal as a long-term replacement for the great Dennis Bergkamp.

In Arsenal, Robin van Persie made his debut against Manchester United in the Community Shield of 2004 and has been a loyal stalwart to the club ever since. Van Persie has had the pleasure of playing beside excellent forwards like Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp but the early seasons of his Arsenal career has been blighted by injuries.

With the exit of his predecessors, van Persie has stepped up the plate to become the most important player in Arsenal Football Club and he has currently amassed a total of 129 goals in just 273 appearances for the club with 93 of those goals scored in the Premier League.

On the international scene, van Persie has represented the Netherlands on four different levels and he’s currently an essential piece of the Oranje’s jigsaw puzzle. It’s really funny to know that its the same Bert van Marwijk that’s the present  manager of the Netherlands but they’ve put their differences aside for the good of the game.

The Flying Dutchman has also been recognized for his football exploits with the EreDivisie Best Young Talent award (2002), Rotterdam Sportsman of the Year (2006), Euro 2008 Bronze Boot and Arsenal Player of the Season (2009).

However, his outstanding goalscoring run as well as his magnificent team efforts have earned him a place in Premier League history as 39th PFA Player of the Year, despite facing stiff competition from Manchester United’s goalscoring Ogre, Shrek.

Van Persie’s 34 goals this season certainly played a major role in winning what John Terry considers as “the ultimate accolade to be voted for by your fellow professionals whom you play against week-in and week-out“.

In a somewhat chronological order, I’m going to review each goal as we relive those moments that made the Arsenal faithful create the hit single, “He scores when he wants



Goal ONE against Udinese at Frulli

Arsenal’s black dreadlocked Harry Potter with the big forehead received the ball from a deflected Tomas Rosicky shot. he casted a few Expecto Patronum spells and the Udinese players watched again as he waltzed past them. His final ball found Robin van Persie that did the rest with a neat left-footed finish.

Goal TWO against Manchester United at Old Trafford

Arsenal looked very demoralized but there was still time for the Gunners to add to their count. Carl Jenkinson was free on the right and he sent a cross into Manchester United’s box. Phil Jones headed it away but the header came back to Jenkinson who nodded it straight to the path of RVP who smashed the roof with his effort.


Hitting the 100-goal mark

Goal THREE against Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park

With halftime looming around the corner, the deadlock was broken after Sven Bender lost the ball in midfield to Robin van Persie. The ball got to Theo Walcott then he sent a sumptuous through ball to van Persie. Arsenal’s captain picked his spot and finished aplomb.

Goal FOUR and FIVE against Bolton at the Emirates

Arsenal went into a flyer at the start of the second half thanks to some decisive attacking play. Gervinho got the ball in midfield and made a run but he was tackled by some bloke but as Aaron Ramsey received the ball, Mr. Clattenburg waved play-on instead of stopping play for an infringement. Ramsey moved with the ball before setting up RVP on the edge of the box. He dallied a bit before creating a chance for himself to beat Jaaskelainen on his near post.

Ramsey sent another through ball to Walcott on the right hand side and the winger had acres of space to exploit. He raised his head up and found van Persie free so he sent a well weighted ball to Arsenal’s captain who made the slightest of touches to score Arsenal’s second goal. That was also his 100th for the club after six years of magnificent service.


V for Victory, V for van Persie

Goal SIX and SEVEN against Sunderland at the Emirates

The start Arsenal made to the game rocked the tentacles of the Kraken and Arsenal history was just eight seconds away from being rewritten. Shortly after kickoff, Rosicky fed Gervinho who made a tricky run before passing the ball to Robin van Persie. The intelligent forward let the ball move across him before side-footing it home with his fabled chocolate leg. Arsenal was one up after 28 seconds; Gilberto Silva still holds the record for the fastest Arsenal goal in that 4-0 win over PSV in just 20 seconds and RVP wasn’t far off.

When it all seemed as if all hope was lost and Arsenal was heading for another disappointing draw, Benayoun passed the ball to RVP but the striker was impeded by the rugged Wes Brown. Like Seb Larsson in the first half, van Persie took his time and let out a few bursts of air before curling the ball over the wall to Mignolet’s net.

Goal EIGHT and NINE against Stoke City at the Emirates

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.

Goal 10, 11 and 12 against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge

Arsenal pegged the hosts back when Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey combined well before giving Gervinho a through ball. The Ivorian was one-on-one with Petr Cech but he unselfishly fed Robin van Persie who wasted no time in dispatching the ball to an unguarded net.

Florent Malouda was crowded by an Arsenal midfield so he decided to give a back pass to John Terry who decided to slip in the best possible time so the ball fell gracefully to the wrongest person on Earth in such a situation, Robin van Persie. RVP ran at Petr Cech before attempting a “Box and X” Playstation move on the goalie to place the ball to the empty net.

Mata smashed the ball goalwards but Koscielny put his body on fire to block the shot. Rosicky won the ball before feeding Song who gave Arteta. The Spaniard moved with the ball before providing a ball to the red-hot van Persie who rifled the ball past the hapless Cech.


That delicate chip

Goal 13 against West Brom at the Emirates

Aaron Ramsey started a delightful move that saw Theo Walcott go clear of the defender marking him. Ben Foster made a good save from Walcott’s effort but the ball sailed aimlessly to the wrong player in the planet as Robin van Persie scored his easiest goal in 2011 with a simple right-footed finish from less than six yards out.

Goal 14 and 15 against Norwich at Carrow Road

Arsenal’s breakthrough came when Walcott used his pace to evade his marker before drilling the ball into the heart of the defense to an awaiting predator called Robin van Persie that finished off with consummate ease.

Van Persie scored what proved to be the winner when he chipped the ball over the goalie after receiving a carefully-weighted pass from Alex Song.

Goal 16 and 17 against Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates

Alex Song invoked the spirit of Lionel Messi and singlehandedly took on five or more defenders showing quick feet before sending a cross that was headed home by van Persie

Late on, the Dutchman showed amazing awareness as he was the first player to get one the end of Vermaelen’s flick-on to make it 2-0 from point blank range.


Goal of the Season contender

Goal 18 against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium

Van Persie put the icing on a well-baked cake when he converted Walcott’s pass and he was quick to show his appreciation to a player that has contributed immensely to his goal scoring exploits in 2011. Walcott had a clear-cut chance to finish it himself but he chose to give his captain.

Goal 19 against Everton at the Emirates

When the chips were down and it seemed like it was going to be one of those days for Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny picked the ball further up the pitch before feeding Alex Song. The Cameroonian gem looked up to see his captain before lofting a carefully-weighted ball that was executed magnificently by Robin van Persie.

It was a goal that epitomized everything van Persie stood for in 2011; technique, precision and class.

Goal 20 against Aston Villa at Villa Park

Arsenal took the lead when Theo Walcott used his blistering pace to evade Clark but the defender got a handful of the winger’s jersey leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot.

There was no guessing who the penalty taker would be as Robin van Persie stepped up to slam the spot kick home.

Goal 21 against Queens Park Rangers at the Emirates

Shaun Wright-Phillips was having a good time down the right but he gifted Arsenal a goal when he handed a pass to the much criticized Andrey Arshavin that did well to tee up van Persie early enough for the Flying Dutchman to slot the ball home.


A game of two halves

Goal 22 against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium

Arsenal went off to a flyer when Arshavin teed up the red-hot Robin van Persie that feinted a shot at first before lashing it past Vorm in goal with just four minutes gone.

Goal 23 against Manchester United at the Emirates

Koscielny showed great determination to halt Rafael’s charge goalwards before launching a counter attack with a pinpoint pass to Rosicky. The Czech captain fed the Ox who in turn gave a cushioned pass to van Persie. Van Persie hit it first time and his drilled effort beat Lindegaard to level the contest for the Gunners.

Goal 24 and 25 against Aston Villa at the Emirates

Ramsey atoned for an earlier miss when he has hacked down by Dunne in the box. Up stepped van the Man to send Given the wrong way.

Arsenal’s 3rd goal and match clincher arrived when Laurent Koscielny made one of his slalom runs forward after a brilliant one-two with Alex Song. He was scythed down in the box by Darren Bent leaving the man with the whistle no choice. Van Persie stepped up again to smash in goal number 25 for the season.


A goal to remember in the North London derby

Goal 26, 27 and 28 against Blackburn at the Emirates

Arsenal got off to a flyer when the predator in the box van Persie got on the end of a Theo Walcott pass.

Arsenal restored the lead when Alex Song’s amazing through ball found Walcott that fed van Persie again for another easy tap in. His third was in similar fashion.

Goal 29 against Tottenham Hotspurs at the Emirates

Benoit Assou-Ekoto sent a panicky clearance that arrived at van Persie’s feet. Surrounded by Spuds, Arsenal’s talisman still managed to find some space before curling the ball sweetly past Friedel.


Simply van-tastic

Goals 30 and 31 against Liverpool at Anfield

Arsenal got their equalizer when Bacary Sagna floated a cross that was headed home by Robin van Persie.

When it seemed like a draw was going to be the likeliest outcome, Songinho attempted a delicate chip that was finished in astonishing fashion by a truly magnificent player, Robin van Persie.

Goal 32 against AC Milan at the Emirates

The Ox made another jinking run that caused more problems for the AC Milan defense and he compounded their misery by winning a penalty. Robin van Persie stepped up to send Abbiati the wrong way.

Goal 33 against Newcastle at the Emirates

Arsenal pegged Newcastle back when van Persie showed off his technical prowess to get an equalizer in timely fashion. Sagna and Rosicky were brilliant on the right hand side before Theo Walcott’s drilled cross arrived at van Persie’s feet. Arsenal’s captain guided the ball past Williamson before smashing his attempt past Tim Krul.



Goal 34 against Wolves at Molineux

Arsenal got off to a flyer when a Robin van Persie incisive through ball put Theo Walcott through but the winger was denied a clear-cut goalscoring chance by Sebastien Bassong. According to the FIFA Rule Book, the ref was left with only one decision to make, thereby giving Bassong a chance for an early bath.

Arsenal’s captain stepped up to score one of the cheekiest penalties you’ll ever see. Thierry Henry showed such class against Leeds United in the yesteryear.


I hope you’ve enjoyed the review.

With three games left to play in the season, van Persie has to be on his toes to get some more goals because Manchester United’s Shrek is breathing down his neck for the Golden Boot award.

However, the winner of the Golden Bench award has also been decided.

"I came here to win trophies"


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