Monthly Archives: November 2012

Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0: If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It

It clearly seemed as if Arsenal was back in business following the resounding victory over Tottenham that was accompanied by an efficient performance against Montpellier to seal qualification to the next phase of the Champions League.

With Manchester United and West Brom, yes, West Brom winning their games, coupled with the fact that either Chelsea or Manchester City were going to drop points today, a win against a struggling Aston Villa side would have helped the Gunners in their bid to chase the leading pack.

Arsene Wenger had seemed to have found his winning formula in recent weeks but for some strange reason known to the Gorgonites of Hasbro’s Toy Soldier series, Wenger tweaked his starting line-up to include everyone’s favorite pantomime villian, Aaron Ramsey. The midfield triumvirate of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere have been phenomenal in recent weeks, but the manager felt it was high time to bring the former Welsh captain to the fold, sacrificing Wilshere in the process.

The boss also handed start to the dynamic young fullback duo of Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, which offered captain, Thomas Vermaelen and the recuperating Bacary Sagna chances to get breathers.

Aston Villa drew first blood when Andreas Weimann fired a shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny and this was followed by a sweetly curled effort from the cultured left foot of Barry Bannan, which was easy pickings for Szczesny. At the 19th minute mark, the Aston Villa faithful rose to their feet, applauding their captain, Stiliyan Petrov that is recuperating from his Leukaemia. It was a truly emotional moment, even if it was cliché.

The home side continued to be on the ascendancy but Karim El Ahmadi earned himself a booking for a silly dive. There was a moment that caused concern to everyone connected with Arsenal when Per Mertesacker was clutching his shoulder after landing awkwardly. Theo Walcott has been in a somewhat similar situation and we all know how that has panned out.

Arsenal found their footing as the game progress with the first real chance for the Gunners coming Aaron Ramsey’s way. The Welshman showed good footwork to fashion a chance for himself, but his tame attempt of a finish was saved by Brad Guzan’s leg. Shortly afterwards, the game settled in a scrap-fest as both teams produced some terrible football with misplaced passes, lots of air balls and what have you.

A nervy moment arrived when Szczesny anticipated a cross aimed at Gabby Agbonlahor but the Polish goalie ran out of room and in unfortunate circumstances, the ball was adjudged to hit his hand, leaving the ref no choice but to blow a free kick. The Villans attempted a training routine that unlocked the Arsenal rearguard but an offside call spared Arsenal’s blushes, as Weimann blasted his attempt into the net.

Right at the death, Olivier Giroud waltzed to the left before drilling a cross into the box but to everyone’s surprise, Laurent Koscielny fired his point-blank shot over the bar, when it seemed easy to score. In his defense, you can say that the ball came to his weaker left foot but it’s really perplexing to know what Koscielny was doing there in the first place as it was from open play.

In the start of the second 45 minutes, Santi Cazorla attempted a neat one-two with Giroud but his left-footed shot went over. Giroud instigated a lot of attacking moves and teed up the Ox that burnt some reserves of pace before stabbing in a cross that was spurned by You-Know-Who, Ramsey. The Welshman clearly left his shooting boots at home, as he was on the end of a flick from a corner kick but he killed a bird in the sky with his attempted shot.

After some intricate passing play between Brett Holman and Christian Benteke, Agbonlahor fired a goal-bound shot that was saved by Szczesny. The moment of inevitability arrived when Podolski was substituted for Gervinho, that turned to be a peripheral and disappointing figure all game long.

Aston Villa hit Arsenal on the break with Weimann sending a teasing ball into Benteke’s path but Carl Jenkinson was on hand to make a vital interception. Wenger responded to Aston Villa’s assault with the introduction of Andrey Arshavin. The  home side almost grabbed the headlines when an unmarked Holman blasted a goal-bound shot that was tipped over by Szczesny before the ball the cross bar.

In the dying minutes of the game, Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin for Giroud, thereby allowing Gervinho to attack through the middle. The ref’s whistle ended the game and it clearly felt like two points dropped rather than a point gained.

I might seem harsh but Ramsey’s performance was questionable and he has proven that he;s not ready to start ganes for this club, especially fixtures where the stakes are very high. Despite being out for a long while, Wilshere had blended into the nucleus of the team and his goal against Montpellier showed how well he has progressed.

But Wenger chose to drop the Englishman for the disappointing Ramsey. As the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 2 Montpellier 0: Qualification Done and Dusted

With the Gunners returning to winning ways following that resounding victory over Tottenham, Arsene Wenger’s men had an issue that required addressing – qualification to the next round of the Champions League.

Defending French champions, Montpellier, had an outside chance of playing in the Europa League if they got a positive result from the Emirates, but the daunting prospect of playing Olympiakos in Athens was an extra incentive for the Gunners, knowing fully that they have struggled in that part of the world.

The gods of injuries ravaged Theo Walcott yet again, as he pulled out from the squad due to a shoulder problem, allowing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to stake another claim for a starting berth. On the bright side, Kieran Gibbs and Gervinho returned back to the team but had to be content with places on the dugout.

Jack Wilshere was uncharacteristically sloppy in the early stages of the game but Arsenal’s first reasonable stint in attack saw Laurent Koscielny get on the end of a Thomas Vermaelen cross but the woodwork came to Geoffery Jourdren’s rescue.

Shortly afterwards, Per Mertesacker, yes, Mertesacker, darted forward with the ball and showed some fancy footwork in the edge of the area before he was blocked.

Montpellier’s skipper, Mapou Yanga-Mpiwa, played in an unfamiliar holding midfield role but he tore the Arsenal defense apart with a through ball to Anthony Mounier but Wojciech Szczesny bolted forward to anticipate the ball superbly. I can swear on Howard Webb’s head that Vito Mannone would have stayed on his line, waiting to make a super save or something.

Olivier Giroud and the Ox had half chances but Lukas Podolski had two chances to put his team ahead but he spurned both of them. The first chance arose when Koscielny was making one of his trademark slalom forays forward but he was blocked by Yanga-Mpiwa. The defender dallied on the ball and was robbed by Podolski’s whose right-footed drive went wide.

Later on, Podolski received a cushioned pass from Santi Cazorla but with the angle clearly against him, he still went for the shot and blasted his effort wide.

Ending the half with a scoreless stalemate didn’t go down well with everyone connected with Arsenal because a win for Olympiakos against Schalke would have put the Gunners in a precarious position.

Arsenal broke the deadlock when Podolski and Vermaelen combined well on the left before the Arsenal captain lofted a ball into the box. Giroud attacked the ball and cushioned it for Wilshere that wasn’t going to miss from that range.

Jackie Boy makes it one

That goal instilled some confidence into the Arsenal side but the players lost their footing as the game progressed. There were cases were the ball was lost further up the pitch and Montpellier threatened a couple of times as well.

Arsenal put their foot back on the pedal and were rewarded from a super goal from Podolski. The Ox used his reserves of pace to great effect on the right before teeing up Podolski. The German forward executed an inch-perfect one-two with Giroud before thumping a thunderous shot past Jourdren.

Podolski was certainly in the mood for target practice and the Ox created another chance for the German but his attempt was block by a defender. Wenger replaced the Ox with Aaron Ramsey and the home side almost made it three when Cazorla’s dipping shot was saved by the goalie.

Late on, Giroud and Cazorla were replaced by Francis Coquelin and Le Forehead. The final whistle ensured that Arsenal had kept secured a knock out phase berth as well as a befitting clean sheet to cap up a great night. There were lots of positives as well, ranging from Giroud’s assists, an improved defensive performance and the cohesion in attack.

Szczesny (7.0) made that vital interception to shove off the major threat Montpellier posed.

Sagna (8.0) swung in so many good crosses of immense quality and was a live-wire with the ball at his feet.

Vermaelen (7.0) made some encouraging runs forward and played a role in the first goal.

Koscielny (7.0) was steady in defense and was unfortunate not to score Arsenal’s opening goal.

Mertesacker (7.0) didn’t put a wrong foot all game long.

Arteta (7.5) was combative in midfield and made a lot of vital interceptions to break up opposition play.

Wilshere (7.5) scored a well-taken goal.

Cazorla (8.0) was ubiquitous in midfield and supported the attack superbly.

Ox (7.5) was direct in his approach and ran at the opposition defense with confidence.

Podolski (8.0) slammed in a thunderous volley.

Giroud (8.0) put his former employers to the sword with two assists to his teammates.

Ramsey (7.0) didn’t do half bad.

Le Coq and Le Forehead didn’t play long enough to have Gooner Daily ratings.

The news of the other game in Germany was like music to the ears of every Arsenal fan because it meant that the Gunners were going to play another dead rubber fixture against Olympiakos in Athens, like the previous visits, knowing that qualification has been done and dusted.

Sayonara.

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Post-Tottenham Hangover Continues and Charlton gets Frimponged

EPL: Olivier Giroud , Arsenal v Tottenham

Usain Bolt?

Picture this scenario…

It’s 10.30 pm on a Friday night and you’re really in the mood to get some alcohol into your system. You get dressed, pick up your keys and head straight to Elegushi beach. You start with a bottle of Moet before running into a couple of friends on a strict Hennessey diet. Another friend comes along and buys a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and shortly afterwards, you end your drink-fest with some Absolut Vodka.

With all these fluids in your system and no chick to …, you get your drunk ass on your bed and we all know what comes next…

A friggin’ H.A.N.G.O.V.E.R

Converting this footballing terms, Per Mertesacker’s header was my Hennessey, Lukas Podolski’s fictitious finish was my Moet, Olivier Giroud’s low drive was my Grey Goose, Santi Cazorla’s tap in was my Absolut Vodka and Theo Walcott’s placed effort was my Novo.

Even if the North London derby took place on Saturday, the flames set ablaze from that fixture hasn’t been doused yet. From an Arsenal perspective, the game allowed the Gunners to express themselves to their faithful fans in the best possible fashion.

There were many stand-out performers for the Gunners and they have been in the news as well. Sticking with the goalscorers in the order at which they decimated Tottenham, Mertesacker has expressed his delight in scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the North London derby.

BFG

Mertesacker acknowledged that his team went to sleep at the beginning and Emmanuel Adebayor’s red card might have played a role in his team’s resurgence. The Big Friendly Giant has been a phenom this season and he has settled well into the heart of the Arsenal defense, becoming synonymous with first-team football this season.

Lukas Podolski has been immense in his first season at the Emirates and he has supplied his fair share of goals and assists thus far, making him an indispensable player in the team. However, I still wonder what the German forward must do to finish a game, because the amount of times I’ve seen Podolski’s number on the fourth official’s board is no different from the amount of chances Emile Heskey is liable to miss in a game.

Before Podolski made the left flank his for keeps, many Gunners have played admirably in that position, and one can look no further than Robert Pires, that was a constant threat down the left alongside Ca$hley Cuntly Cole. Pires holds Podolski in high regard and the Frenchman believes that Podolski will be a legend at the Emirates.

Olivier Giroud has found his feet in the right time and everyone can see that the goalscoring floodgates have opened as well. Giroud is pleased to have made his mark in the North London derby but he was a bit sympathetic to his compatriot, Hugo Lloris, that shipped in five goals for the Spuds.

Giroud will play his former employers, Montpellier, on Wednesday and I’m sure that he’ll get a rousing reception from the small faction of the French away fans that would visit the Emirates. I’m also tipping Giroud to score but I believe that if he scores, his celebration would be like this,

Santi Cazorla scored the fourth goal that put the game beyond Tottenham’s reach after some intricate passing play from the Gunners. I’m pretty sure that Cazorla is the forerunner for the Signing of the Season award and I must commend Wenger for his vision in snapping the little magician from Malaga.

Jack Wilshere has run out of superlatives for his new teammate but he also stated that Cazorla is different from Cesc Fabregas,

“He was different class today. His touch, his vision is a joke. He’s a dream to play with. He never gives the ball away and he’s creative, he’s busy around the pitch [and] he’s a joy to play with.

“It’s great to have him in the team. A lot of people said they didn’t know about him before, but I’ve heard of him for a few years now. He’s a great player and when you’ve got someone like that in your team, who’s going to bring you in, you just want to get out there.”

“For me he’s a different player to Cesc – Cesc is more of a passer. I think with Santi, he can pick the ball [up and] he can beat a player. He’s got a great shot on him. I think he’s just different class and he’s great to play with.”

Wilshere isn’t the only individual that has been overawed by Cazorla’s brilliance this season – the list is endless; Cazorla’s teammates, Arsene Wenger, the Board, the fans, pundits and media Vultures alike. Wilshere also admitted that a top four finish won’t be a stroll in the park this season, as West Brom, Newcastle, Tottenham and Everton are on the prowl.

Moving over to transfer news, the World’s best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, has taken some time off Juventus’ bench to talk to some media Vultures about Arsenal. Bendtner has clearly seen that the grass isn’t greener on the other side and he has declared that he’s open to an Arsenal return.

Despite Bendtner’s big mouth and cocky attitude, I won’t mind having NB 52 back at Arsenal for the following reasons,

  •  His goal-to-game ratio at Arsenal is quite impressive, considering the fact that he’s not a first team regular. In every season he played for Arsenal bar his first (where he was away on loan at Birmingham), Bendtner closed in on double figures and he surpassed the mark twice with 15 goals (2008/09) and 12 goals (2009/10)
  • He has never said anything negative about Arsenal, its manager or his fellow teammates even securing a move to Sunderland and more recently, Juventus. Yes, he has some off field issues but he doesn’t seem to have any problem with teammates or anything too disruptive (think Balotelli).
  • In the 2010/11 season, he scored nine goals and raked up five assists despite playing on the wing, and usually playing only the final 15 minutes when the team was already losing.  He is way better than Chamakh, and I’d take him over the Moroccan anyday, anytime.

 Arsene Wenger has the final say on Bendtner’s situation and we will have to wait till the summer to see how things pan out.

The Denchster, Emmanuel Frimpong, has joined Charlton Athletic on loan, till January 2013. The holding midfielder did really well to recover from a cruciate ligament injury he suffered last season from a Joey Barton tackle. Frimpong intends to use this opportunity to get some much-needed playing time and he also hopes that he would join the likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Song and Ashley Cole who have all enjoyed successful spells in the Arsenal team after completing loan spells away from the club.

Finally, I’m proud to announce that your daily Arsenal digest, Gooner Daily, has won the award for the Best Sports blog in this year’s Nigerian Blog Awards.

The Nigerian Blog Awards were launched in 2010 to recognize excellence in blogging by Nigerians or by non-Nigerians who blog about Nigeria.

I’m really proud to receive this award and I want to thank my esteemed readers for being there from Day 1 till date. For those that don’t know, Gooner Daily turns two next week.

Special shoutouts go to @dKingpin and @Obitwyce for their endless support from the start till today. You guys rock!!!

Sayonara.

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