Cup Draws and some Transfer Deadline Day Madness
It all began on the 28th of August, 2011. Robin van Persie, the new skipper, led his under-strength Arsenal side against fierce rivals, Manchester United, in their Theater of Dreams. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to that fixture with optimism because Arsenal had its fair share of injuries and suspensions. The bench was nothing to write home about.
Wojciech Szczesny was the guardian between the sticks but he was protected by a relatively shaky defence. Two youngsters, Armand Traore and Carl Jenkinson manned the flanks, while Djourcielny played in the heart of the defense.
Francis Coquelin had the harshest of venues to make his debut but he had Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky in front of him. Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott completed the attacking trio.
After seeing the team sheet, I thought, “shaky defense and an experienced attack”, not bad huh?
After witnessing my worst 90 minutes as an Arsenal fan, I was filled up with pity for my sorry manager, his sorry-ass players and what lied ahead for Arsenal Football Club. We were languishing in 17th place, staying afloat relegation waters.
“It’s only three games”, I thought.
On the 31st of August, 2011, I and many Gooners out there were somewhat perplexed to see how that day panned out. Uncle Scrooge wiped off the dust from the Emirates cheque book to bring five “relief materials” that played a vital role in saving the club’s bacon.
Relief materials began arriving Emirates stadium barely 24hrs, as the aftermath of the devastation left by an 8.2 magnitude earthquake which brought Arsenal on it’s knees.
French envoy C. Y. Park unceremoniously arrived 1st due to French interests and proximity.
On the 31st, Turkish authorities sent in Brazilian-born mercenary Andre Santos.
Next was the arrival of a 6.6 ton German cargo named MV Per, which was closely followed by Ambassador Mikel Arteta from Everton.
Admiral Villas-Boas (AVB) of the Royal Blue Navy on compassionate grounds, deployed for a brief period Israeli trained mosad Yossi Benayoun to oversee operations until hostilities cease at Arsenal.”
With the obvious exception of Park Chu-Young, Arsenal fans are thankful to Wenger for his transfer shrewdness in bringing on some experienced internationals that rubbed on their influence on the rest of the squad.
Andre Santos has taken over from the reins of Farmer Emmanuel Eboue to be the joker of the squad, and unlike Gael Clichy that managed two goals in his eight-year stint with Arsenal, the cuddly mavericks slammed in three important goals for Arsenal last season – the match winner against Olympiakos and the equalizers against Chelsea and West Brom. Per Mertesacker brought on his height, composure, experience and coordination to Arsenal’s defense. His presence also brought out the best in Laurent Koscielny, that endeared himself to Arsenal hearts last season.
Mikel Arteta was by far the best signing from the lot and his vast levels of experience as well as his maturity and balanced played a role in maintaining stability in the middle. Yossi Benayoun was a fringe player for a large chunk of his Arsenal loan spell but he was immense in the team’s surge for a third place berth in the tail end of the campaign.
One year on, and a lot of things have changed in this part of the world. The club showed its proactiveness in securing deals for two forwards and added a perfect ingredient in the attacking midfield slot. Like last season, two key players also left to seek greener pastures elsewhere but the mood at the Emirates remains vibrant.
Theo Walcott was close to joining the Arsenal exodus after reaching a deadlock in signing a contract extension but Wenger is convinced that he’s going to stay.
“He’s focused on doing well, whatever happens at the end of the season will happen at the end of the season. He loves the club and I’m hopeful that we can find an agreement at some stage. It’s not about money
Many skeptics believe that Walcott can do a Flamini on Arsenal but we’ll see how things go in the near future. What matters right now is that Walcott is around for the short-term, and we hope that Arsenal can do its best to milk him dry before he leaves for some intergalactic team in Planet Jupiter.
Despite securing Walcott’s short-term future, Arsenal is still on the lookout for that “special, special player” and the club has purchased a 17-year-old wonderkid, Dejan Iliev, from FK Belasica in Macedonia.
Yes, Wenger has finally gotten that special lad that will bench Szczesny all season long. Yer right. Iliev has gone straight to Arsenal’s Mutant Academy to join the likes of James Shea and Damian Martinez as one for the friggin future.
There has also been some talk of Cheick Tiote moving to the Emirates but Wenger had openly denied making a move for the Ivorian. The media Vultures also say that Arsenal is making a shock loan bid for Chelsea’s Michael Essien. I’ll take Tiote or Essien over Diaby anyday anytime but I won’t be bothered if no holding midfielder arrives because Arteta can play the “Pirlo” role as well.
Arsenal’s deadwood attacking trio of Park Chu-Young, Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner have been linked with moves away but NB52’s loan move to Juventus has gained heavy momentum as the Old Lady’s Sporting Director, Beppe Marotta, has confirmed that the Dane has arrived in Italy for a medical. The Juventus hierarchy stated that they wanted Dimitar Berbatov, but the Bulgarian opted to join Fulham instead.
That’s enough transfer madness for one post.
The chums at UEFA did the draws for the Champions League group stages and it was an event that graced with the creme de la creme of the beautiful game. After going through a process that saw George Weah, Ruud Gullit and Fabio Cannavaro do the honors of unveiling different teams, the 32 sides were drawn as follows:
Group A: FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris St. Germain, Dinamo Zagreb
Group B: Arsenal, Schalke 04, Olympiakos, SC Montpellier Herault
Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga
Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund (Group of Death)
Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Nordsjaelland
Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov
Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic
Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, Cruj
Taking a candid look at the English contingent, it’s fair to say that Arsenal and Manchester United were handed relatively easy groups. Chelsea faces two tricky prospects in the form of Shakhtar and Juventus, and you can never tell what newcomers, Nordsjaelland have up their sleeves. Manchester City’s mettle will be tested yet again, and they can thank their lucky stars that they aren’t facing Napoli and Bayern-esque teams again.
Concentrating on Group B, Arsenal will start its Champions League adventure with a visit to Olivier Giroud’s former home ground, a prospect the striker will relish. However, Montpellier’s coach, Rene Girard, has stated that they’ll welcome their prodigal son with open arms,
“It could be worse, Arsenal is a great team, Olympiakos has a very passionate home support and Schalke play open German football.
It is a small sign of destiny, we are pleased, but it must be even more for us. He will probably be welcomed, but on the field, we will not be friends.
I expect Arsenal to ease through such a group but the Champions League is filled with thrills that can make the back of one’s hair stand up.
Arsenal has also been drawn with Coventry City in the Capitol One Cup
Time to pull the plug on this post.
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