Monthly Archives: November 2012

Everton 1 Arsenal 1: Spoils Shared in Arteta’s Homecoming

This was a game were history favored Arsene Wenger and his Red Army. It has been ages since Arsenal lost at Goodison Park that has been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners in recent times.

Following the disappointing draw against Aston Villa, the boss made some changes with both fullbacks getting the axe. Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna returned to the fold. Further up the pitch, an illness suffered by Lukas Podolski allowed Aaron Ramsey to enjoy a continued run in the team and Theo Walcott returned from his shoulder injury.

With just 52 seconds gone, Walcott made a direct run at the Everton defense before teeing up Ramsey. The Welshman held the ball just in time for Walcott to make a diagonal run and he wasted no time in squaring the ball for the pacey forward, whose deflected finish went past Tim Howard to give the Gunners the brightest of starts.

Shortly afterwards, Laurent Koscielny suffered an injury and was replaced by Kieran Gibbs, which gave Thomas Vermaelen the chance to return to his favored central defensive position.

Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines were constant thorns in Arsenal’s flesh and they combined superbly on the left hand side. After a neat back heel from Pienaar, Baines drilled in a cross that was intercepted for a corner kick by Wojciech Szczesny. Baines lofted in a corner that was headed by Marouane Fellaini but Szczesny made another fine save before Sagna cleared it away to safety.

The Baines-Pienaar combo worked its magic down the left again but Jack Wilshere showed great awareness to track back and intercept a cross aimed at Fellaini.

Sagna had to do a lot of defending due to the attacking threat Baines and Pienaar posed down the left but the French fullback waltzed forward and won a free kick in the process. Vermaelen fired the resulting free kick straight at Howard but the shot required the American goalie to smother the ball in his second attempt.

Against the run of play, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot when Sagna gifted possession to Everton on a platter, and Fellaini wasted no time in curling the ball past Szczesny. The keeper was clearly livid with his defense because it was a goal that would have been avoided.

Fellaini almost turned from scorer to provider when he fashioned a chance of Nikita Jelavic. The Croatian striker controlled the ball superbly before dinking it over Per Mertesacker but his shameful finish didn’t match the buildup.

Another sloppy play from Arsenal allowed Baines to spring through to intercept the ball but Jelavic interfered with play, thereby causing an offside. Late on, Santi Cazorla had a tame shot that went wide.

In the early part of the second half, Ramsey left Baines for dead before sending a delightful cross that was miscued by Giroud. When Jelavic broke away through a counter attack on the right, he crossed the ball to Steven Naismith’s path but Gibbs was on hand to make a vital block.

Pienaar was having the time of his life on the left and he had a golden chance to make it 2 – 1 from a tight angle. His initial ball was ricocheted by Mertesacker, handing Pienaar a second bite of the cherry, but his second attempt was palmed to safety by Szczesny.

Pienaar was at the thick of things yet again and the Everton faithful had believed that Arteta was adjudged to have fouled the South African in the box. The ref gave deaf ears to their penalty appeals.

Walcott found Olivier Giroud with a neat cross but the Frenchman’s header just missed the post by a lick of paint. An unmarked Cazorla had another shot that stung Howard’s palms.

Wenger withdrew Aaron Ramsey for Gervinho to inject some life into Arsenal’s attack. After some amazing end to end football, Arsenal almost gave the Toffes a sucker punch when Walcott’s pass to Giroud saw the Frenchman locate an unmarked Gervinho but the cross was beyond the Ivorian’s reach.

Francis Coquelin came on for a surprisingly ineffectual Santi Cazorla and the ref’s whistle sounded moments later.

In the end, there were some positives and negatives to take away from the daunting trip to Merseyside. On the brighter note, Jack Wilshere’s performance in midfield is worth commending and Walcott’s importance in this team continues to grow. The club had promised to sort his future out before Christmas, which is now a matter of weeks away.

Szczesny’s introduction to the team has steadied the defensive ship a bit and the young Pole was never afraid to accept some defensive responsibilities by intercepting a boatload of crosses that came from the left hand side. He also made a couple of tidy saves and he had every right to be cross at his defense for the cheap goal they conceded.

On the bad side, this draw against Everton hasn’t helped Arsenal’s cause, as Tottenham’s win over Liverpool made the Spuds leapfrog the Gunners into fifth place. With Everton avoiding defeat against Arsenal, the Gunners are currently languishing in seventh place with 14 games gone.

At this rate, it would be a real miracle if Arsenal manage to get that coveted Champions League spot, and funnily enough, teams above the Gunners (bar the Manchester bullies) aren’t really consistent. West Brom were brought back to Earth against Swansea while Chelsea continues to fire blanks.

Elsewhere, fatigue is taking its toll on Santi Cazorla and he wasn’t in his electrifying best yesterday. With Tomas Rosicky returning back into the team, it’s high time the diminutive Spaniard gets a breather.

There’s no point sulking on these quick-fire away draws and all focus must be fixed on this weekend’s clash against Swansea before taking care of business in Athens.

All in all, it was a good homecoming for Arteta. Shame he couldn’t crown the moment with a goal.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on the Disappointing Draw against Aston Villa

Still wondering what Podolski must do to finish a league game

At Arsenal, like every other football club, the fans play many vital roles for the team they support all season long. For starters, they pay handsome fees to watch their team and they also buy a boatload of merchandise, showing off their colors for the world to see.

Unless you’re living in a faraway cave with no access to internet, colored TV and civilization, you should know that Arsenal fans are hugely divided into two factions.

On one corner, we have the AKBs (Arsene Knows Best) who feel that Arsenal will head into oblivion without Wenger, and all he does is right in their sight. On the other corner, we have the AMGs / WOBs (Arsene Must Go / Wenger Out Brigade) that are tired of their stubborn manager, his huge ego, undying faith with youth, inability to keep his top players and his blinded principles that have ultimately led to the club’s current barren spell without silverware.

Don’t get it twisted, these AMGs love their club with all their hearts but they’re just frustrated with their manager, and I can bet that they hand a hand in those “You don’t know what you’re doing” chants at Villa Park, after seeing their manager replace Olivier Giroud with Francis Coquelin.

The manager has defended his decision to make that substitution and he has stated that Jack Wilshere picked up a minor ankle injury, so he had to rest the Englishman, thereby handing a starting berth to Aaron Ramsey. Wenger has been in this business long enough to know how to run his team but the way the fans get on his case in the wake of any disappointing result is somewhat disturbing.

These are the same fans that chastised Wenger for buying a relatively-unearthed 18-year-old winger from Southampton for a whooping £12m, but they barraged the manager with insults when he withdrew this same youngster for Andrey Arshavin in January 2012.

With Wilshere suffering a long term injury last season, Ramsey was handed a chance to stake a claim for a first-team berth but his inconsistent performances paved the way for a resurgent Tomas Rosicky in the tail end of the campaign and I’d believed that the imminent return of Jack Wilshere would stir Ramsey to up his game.

There are two sides to Ramsey’s performance on Saturday.

Some say that he was Arsenal’s most productive player as fatigue took its toll on the Spanish duo of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, which meant that Ramsey’s energy and verve complimented for the losses in his midfield partners. Others say that Ramsey was shite yet again, as he continued to miss chance after chance without really stamping his authority on the game.

However, it was pretty shocking to see how toothless Arsenal was against a team that shipped in five goals in the Etihad Stadium. Aston Villa’s goalie, Brad Guzan, wasn’t really disturbed in the first half and the best chance arrived when Giroud waltzed to the left before drilling in a cross for Koscielny. Those sort of balls are bread and butter for players like Giroud, Walcott and Podolski but it was a classic case of a wrong player in the right place and that chance went begging.

The goalless stalemate in Midlands has ensured that Arsenal is still languishing in sixth place, 10 points behind the table toppers, Manchester United. I can remember vividly when I asked a Manchester United fan why his team’s home kit looks like a table cloth. He replied, stating that its because they are meant to be on top of the table.

Looking at the current league standings, the Red Devils are on top of the table but Andre Santos had other plans for the jersey he retrieved from van Persie,

This is the reason why Andre Santos took van Persie's jersey. :D

This is the reason why Andre Santos took van Persie’s jersey. 😀

With Arsenal further behind the leading pack, anything less than a victory against Everton on Merseyside will be regarded as a major disappointment. However, Everton are in good form this season and are currently in fifth place.

Wenger had stated that his team had a chance to win the game but as always, they lacked sharpness in the final third. This sentiment has also been shared by Kieran Gibbs, as he believed that the team lacked conviction. Just like the games against Manchester United and Norwich, it has been painful seeing Arsenal struggle in the attacking department, despite having so many talented attacking-minded players in the team.

Robin van Persie’s rightful replacement, Olivier Giroud, hasn’t set the Emirates ablaze with the kind of form that won him the Ligue 1 Golden Boot last season, but he’s slowly finding his feet in North London. In my honest opinion he has done really well, as he has started adding the goals to the equation. Against Aston Villa, Giroud linked up play brilliantly with his teammates and almost created an assist for Laurent Koscielny, had he worn his shooting boots.

Lukas Podolski is another player that has been immense for the Gunners this season and his work ethic has been brilliant thus far. However, Podolski tends to become a peripheral figure as some games progress before that moment of inevitability where his number pops up in the fourth official’s board. Podolski didn’t really come into the fray at Villa Park and his replacement, Gervinho, was an aberration.

With Theo Walcott facing another spell in the sidelines, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed another chance to strut his stuff and it’s fair to say that he did okay by his standards. At the tender age of 19, he has still learning his trade but he has to be commended for his hard work and level-headedness so far.

My major concern will be in Arsenal’s midfield. Despite having a large haul of the club’s best technicians in this department, the lack of depth in this area of the pitch is pretty alarming bearing in mind that the club is supposed to have a considerable chunk of playing personnel in this area of the pitch.

The unnecessary sale of Alex Song has forced Mikel Arteta to shun his attacking duties to play as a primary holding midfielder and he has excelled admirably in this role. However, it has become glaring that Wenger clearly lacks faith in Arteta’s deputies for the holding midfield role, as Emmanuel Frimpong has been shipped on loan while Francis Coquelin remains on the fringes.

Age and fatigue are slowly taking their tolls on Arteta’s performances but Coquelin hasn’t really done enough to prove that he’s ready to make that step up. Or maybe there’s something that Wenger is seeing sitting on a chair which we the fans can’t see climbing a tall tree.

The box-to-box role was manned by Wilshere in the 2010/11 campaign but Song’s presence as the midfield enforcer allowed Arteta to make that role his last season. With Arteta replacing Song in the holding role, Abou Diaby was giving a new lease of life playing in that role but as usual, the lanky Frenchman is back on the treatment table, his home away from home.

Ramsey keeps coming up with hot and cold performances and Wilshere is slowly integrating himself into the team, following a long-term lay off. Wilshere has recently stated that he’s getting used to the way Arsenal play and he’ll be back to his best by Christmas.

The disappointing 0 – 0 draw against Aston Villa hasn’t brought an end to the world as we know it, but all attention must be drawn into getting maximum points at Goodison Park on Wednesday night. Carl Jenkinson is confident that his team will win against Everton while Wojciech Szczesny has labelled the game as a six-pointer.

Getting a positive result against Everton will give the Gunners that right momentum to head into this weekend’s home tie against Swansea.

I really hope that the Gunners will have their shooting boots in Merseyside because the last time I checked, games are won by goals.

Sayonara.

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2012: A Year in Review and Gooner Daily turns 2

Gooner Daily’s Birthday Cake 😀

It all began on the 26th of November, 2010, in Maitama, Abuja.

Four graduates from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri had a few drinks and long dialogues about Arsenal, old school stuff, girls and money making plans for the foreseeable future. That night, Gooner Daily was launched – 730 days and 625,207 hits later, the blog is celebrating its second anniversary.

Adding that amount to the 483,108 article reads I have on my Bleacher Report sports writer profile, I’m proud to know that my articles on Arsenal have been read 1,108,315 times thus far…and I’m not stopping any time soon because I love what I do and do what I love – blogging about Arsenal. 😛

The blog has been very active on Twitter and it presently has 4,191 fantastic followers. The blog also has an ever-growing Facebook page that currently has 1,355 ‘likes’. These ever increasing numbers continue to inspire the blogger himself, @enigma106.

I, like every thoroughbred Gooner began 2012 on a high as the red-hot Robin van Persie picked up where he left off in 2011, scoring goal after goal in such a frantic fashion. However, January was a painful month to be an Arsenal fan, as the team failed to win any league game that month, coupled with three disappointing league defeats and that infamous Andrey Arshavin for the Ox substitution.

February began on a high note with the 7 – 1 thumping of Blackburn but quick-fire exit from the Champions League (technically) and the FA Cup (against Sunderland in that aberration of a pitch) brought the gloomy days back to the Emirates. An emphatic 5 – 2 victory in the 150th North London derby paved the way for a run of victories in Spring that was halted by a puzzling defeat to Queens Park Rangers.

After overturning a 10-point deficit from those Spuds from White Shite Lane to end the campaign in third place, the Gunners were lauded for their resilience, character and mental strength for finishing the season despite all the shortcomings (too many to mention), that ultimately led to another trophy-less campaign.

Euro 2012 provided a necessary distraction but a lot of business was conducted during the summer, as Alex Song and Robin van Persie left for greener pastures while the club responded with the acquisitions of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.

As the 2012/13 season progressed, Gooner Daily has been with the Arsenal realm all the way, providing its esteemed readers with team news, speculations, contract shenanigans, match previews, match reviews and much more.

This season began with everyone running out of superlatives on the defensive Dark Lord, Steve Bouldimort, for tightening up Arsenal’s leaky defense after the run of three League clean sheets but such tales are gone with the wind. The new boys have also come to the fold, and its heart warming to know that the Giroud-Podolski-Cazorla combo has produced 16 goals thus far.

The season is approaching the half-way mark and the Gunners have already secured qualification into the Knockout Round of the Champions League, a quarterfinal berth in the Capital One Cup but they are further behind the leading pack in the Premier League.

The 2012 Nigerian Blog Awards came along and thanks to your votes and other criteria, Gooner Daily emerged as the Judges’ Choice for the Best Sports blog in Nigeria. A proud achievement in every sense of the word.

Blogging about Arsenal on consistently for two years has been a worthwhile experience. I’ve learned a lot from others, made a boatload of friends and I can look back on the past two years with a keen sense of pride and satisfaction knowing fully that I added fuel to the fire I have a passion for, which is gradually turning into an inferno.

However, this wouldn’t have been possible without some special individuals and teams, as the case may be, and I’m about to take time out to express my profound gratitude.

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to the blog’s news aggregators, Arsenal News.net, Naija Sites, Football Bullet, Four Four Two.com, Only Arsenal News.com, Arsenal News.co.uk, Start Page.co.uk, Just Arsenal Blogs, Goonersphere and the rest of the lot. With my blog’s exposure to these various sites, the hits have been piling up and viewing my site stats fills me up with a keen sense of satisfaction.

However, if you know any site you would like to recommend the blog to be featured on, don’t hesistate to contact me.

Plans are ongoing to move the blog to a new site with a self-hosted domain, but the site is still under construction and everybody will be notified when www.goonerdaily.com goes live. Like the way I’ve been anticipating the new BlackBerry N-Series phone models to hit the market, the new site will be ready in the first quarter of 2013.

I’d also want to give a big shout out to my Twitter followers and I want to thank y’all for the endless retweets, mentions, conversations and much more. Don’t forget to spread the word. 😀

While growing up in the blogging world, I always looked up to my blogging mentor, Arseblog, for inspiration but there are so many Arsenal blogs that I can’t go a day without taking a peek of the rich content they have to offer.

I strongly recommend every Arsenal fan to check out these top-notch blogs; 1 Nil Down 2 One Up, Blazing Cannons, Poznan in my Pants, Sunday Morning Gooner, Arsenal Ghana, Gambeano Snitch, Highbury House, Memoirs of a Gooner, WaZoBia Gooners and Soccer Fan Base.

Thank me later.

Finally, I want to give a special shout out to a set of individuals. These folks are the craziest, most creative, hevul, highly intelligent and humorous set of Arsenal fans I’ve ever known. I’ve not met a bunch, seen a couple and even schooled with a considerable chunk but we all form one big Gooner family.

This goes to the members of my Arsenal BlackBerry group, Team Gooner Daily,

High Chief Boooobinus (@dKingpin), Oga Jonah (@Obitwyce), Da Viruz (@daviruz), Wayward Barrister Dondeon (@Dondeonbeke), Yeezy (@eromzy), Wuruwara Master (@IamKayRobs), K Stunner (@K_Sturna), Chuck Bass (@ChuksBass), Steph (@steph_aloba), AOE (@alijaxz), Vybz Kartel (@mayorbaze), Utunu (@I_am_OGB), McDreamy the Ghost (@tjarse), Immanuel (@arch1kid), Antoto (@Antony_Soulkool), Bhydemi Brainz (@bhydemi), Musty (@alexmustii), Mallam Ramsey (@nwakibie), Cuntinho (@davicky1), Bola Gunner (@bolagunner), Wily Wily (@wheelsindk), Kizz Kid (Bra) …and the rest that have been itahrized.

You guys rock!!!

Sorry, if I have missed out on anyone! Just bear in mind that you’re also remembered fondly.

So, here’s to another year of your daily Arsenal digest, Gooner Daily.

As I always say,

Sayonara

You can download the Gooner Daily  BlackBerry App to receive notifications on your Smart Phone when a post is published.

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