Monthly Archives: March 2013

Quick Focus on Arsenal’s NextGen: The Gunners of Tomorrow

Behind the Numbers - NextGen

Photo via Arsenal.com

Q: Age is no guarantee for efficiency

James Bond: And youth is no guarantee for innovation – Skyfall

While brooding success on the pitch remains a priority in the dealings of running a football club, leading football teams pay a lot of attention, dedication and resources to honing young talent which leads to any of the following scenarios,

  • A. The young lad grows through the ranks, gets a breakthrough in the first-team and leads the line for years to come
  • B. The young lad shows his exceptional talent on the world stage and sniffed away by one of the numerous predators in world football
  • C. The young lad shows what he’s made of in patches, but lacks the abilities on the pitch (and probably off it) before cast away to lower league mediocrity

In many football clubs, the youngsters have fallen into all three categories and Arsenal is no different.

The talismanic Jack Wilshere can be classified as the top of the list in Category A. Despite arriving from PSG’s youth academy, I’ll place a player like Nicolas Anelka in Category B while a lad like Justin Hoyte, unfortunately, would be ranked in Category C.

Arsenal has had its fair share of youngsters that have grown up to become world beaters while others have plummeted into mediocrity. This season, the NextGen Series has offered Arsenal’s kids for the future a chance to strut their stuff under the watchful eyes of football scouts all over the world as well as a certain Arsene Wenger, a manager never afraid to hand a chance to a youngster.

Some of these youngsters have even been honored with exposure to the first team with Jernade Meade getting a run-out in a somewhat dead-rubber match against Olympiakos in Athens, Thomas Eisfeld was a colossus in midfield in the 7-5 thriller against Reading and the exciting Serge Gnabry had a decent pre-season by his standards.

This season, he has gained substitute appearances for his team against Norwich, Schalke 04 as well as some Capital One Cup games. When the German speedster made his Premier League debut in October, he became the club’s third youngest player in its history, after Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas.

While the football world places a keen eye on players in Gnabry’s mold, senior players within the team have voiced their opinions as well, providing positive remarks.

Mikel Arteta is the vice captain of the club and is heralded as one of the most senior players in the team (his age tells the same story too). The lego-haired Spaniard believes that playing at the Emirates will be an unforgettable experience for these lads, and he has tipped them to become important players for the club in the foreseeable future.

Abou Diaby has openly stated his regret for not getting such an opportunity in the days of his youth but I’m pretty sure that even if AJ Auxerre’s Youth Academy had the chance to feature in such an illustrious competition, Diaby wouldn’t have played because he would probably be injured. -___-

The lanky Frenchman stated that the NextGen Series is having an impact in developing Arsenal’s finest. The midfielder has also been afforded the opportunity of playing alongside the youngsters as he had to go through the rout of playing some Under-21 football in his bid to gain full fitness after making a return from one of his trademark injuries.

As expected, Diaby tipped Serge Gnabry alongside Chuba Akpom for great things and we’ll have to wait and see what category they’ll fall into in the coming years.

Akpom as well as defenders Sead Hajrovic and Martun Angha have played the highest amount of games in the NextGen series (7) with Hector Bellerin, Elton Monteiro and Kristoffer Olsson not far off with a game less.

Like Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin was snapped up from Barcelona’s Youth Academy with the promise of first-team football from Arsene Wenger. Funnily enough, Arsenal signed Bellerin in the same season Fabregas was shipped back to Barcelona.

However, this stunning volley against Manchester United’s Under-21s is worth a second view.

After finishing as runners up in a group that had the likes of Olympiakos, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille, Terry Burton’s young lads locked horns against the NextGen defending champions, Internazionale, in a pitch good enough to play Water Polo but captain Nico Yennaris was the difference between both sides as he blasted a 30-yard thunderbolt past the hapless Inter goalie.

The solitary win against Inter has seen the young Gunners book a quarterfinal berth with CSKA Moscow, and a win against the Russian outfit will bring them within sights of a trophy, an unfamiliar sight for Arsenal in recent times…except the magnificent Arsenal Ladies that win quadruples with consummate ease.

I wish the Young Guns the best of luck in their game against CSKA, and we can only hope for better conditions of the pitch, as well as another inspiring performance from the lads.

Here’s to Arsenal’s NextGen, the Gunners of tomorrow.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal: Latest Updates on Injuries and International Football

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scores against San Marino

International fixtures.

Bleeeeeeh!

Arsenal like every European juggernaut out there, had a large contingent of players that went to represent their motherlands in their bids to qualify for the ultimate showpiece in Brazil next year. The Brazilians were stunned by a brilliant Italian side with Super Mario Balotelli scoring the pick of the game with a sweetly curled effort that gave Julio Cesar no chance in hell.

From an Arsenal perspective, the first phase of qualifiers are over but there are other sets of fixtures coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday with the pick of the bunch being the feisty encounter between France and Spain.

While Mathieu Valbuena’s scintillating performance against Georgia was capped with goals from Arsenal’s own Olivier Giroud, Valbuena himself and Franck Ribery propelled France to pole position in their group, a late Teemu Pukki goal helped Finland to a shock 1-1 draw with Spain.

Santi Cazorla played a part in that fixture but Nacho Monreal had to make do with a place on the bench all game long.

Elsewhere, the Ox was the star of the show when England ran riot past minnows, San Marino and Aaron Ramsey fired in a penalty for Wales in their 2-1 defeat to Scotland but was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The former Welsh captain has apologized for “letting his team down” and he’s odds on to miss the crucial qualifier against Croatia in Swansea’s home ground, the Liberty Stadium.

In the Czech Republic’s uninspiring 3-0 slump to Denmark, Tomas Rosicky played for 30 minutes but it was also noteworthy to know that the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, was nowhere to be found, as he has been banned from the National team for six months, after his infamous drunk-driving incident.

The much talked-about Andreas Cornelius opened the scoring before goals from Simon Kjaer and Niki Zimling completed the rout. James Blunt’s long lost clone with a helmet, Petr Cech, still had to make some stunning saves to keep the scoreline respectable.

Arsenal skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, played for 90 minutes as the red-hot Belgium eased past FYR Macedonia. Looking at this Belgium lineup, I can only think and imagine what the heights they could reach in the 2014 World Cup finals, should they qualify from their group.

While Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard would take the credit for scoring the goals that put Macedonia to the sword, the likes of Daniel van Buyten, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini, Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele and Christian Benteke all did their bits as well.

The aforementioned names are shining stars in their respective clubs.

Meanwhile in Poland, Wojceich Szczesny was in the bench yet again as Poland succumed to a crushing 3-1 defeat at home to their fellow co-hosts of Euro 2012, Ukraine. Southampton’s Artur Boruc was the custodian between the sticks but goals from Oleg Husyev, Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Zozulya canceled out Lukasz Piszczek’s effort.

While we wait for the final sets of fixtures to come up this week, Arsenal fans will be gnashing their teeth to know that they’ll be without Theo Walcott for the vital games against Reading, West Brom and probably till the summer (I hope not), as the Englishman has twanged his groin.

Walcott has been on a hot streak this season with 18 goals to his name thus far but he has taken his foot off the pedal in recent times, and he’s currently in what could be classified as a goal drought, as his last strike came in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool in late January.

To be honest, I’m not all gloomy about Walcott’s injury because he has somewhat under-performed after sealing that fat contract. Prior to signing the deal, Arsene Wenger played to his tunes as he was at the end of every set piece as well as getting a run-out through the middle in Giroud’s expense.

He still remains a potent force for Arsenal but he could do with some rest right about now but it’s unfortunate to know that the “rest” will be enforced by injury.

With Walcott out of the equation, this will give Wenger a chance to create some competition for the right wing slot with the possible contenders being Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the much-maligned Gervinho.

Both players have featured sparingly for the Gunners throughout the season and have failed to light any fireworks thus far, but many will be hoping that the Ox standout performance for England will give him some much-needed confidence boost.

Gervinho is another player in dire need of a confidence boost and many Arsenal fans can only hope that his well-taken goal against Swansea will be the catalyst for better performances as the season progresses.

Still on injuries, Goal.com reports that Lukas Podolski might go under the knife to fix a niggling ankle problem at the end of the season. He played for 17 minutes in Germany’s 3-0 win over Kazakhstan and he will be hoping to get some Premier League action against Reading next week.

Abou Diaby, a player renowned for his fragile nature, took out time to talk to Arsenal Player about his health. Diaby was proud to announce that he manages his body better, and he was very pleased with the amount of starts he has gotten this season. Diaby amassed a meager 17 starts over the course of the last two seasons, but the lanky Frenchman has started 14 games this campaign.

For a player with much talent at his disposal, it’s really sad to know that countless niggling injuries have robbed Arsenal off his services for the best part of his fledgling career.

In the run-in for that coveted Champions League place, Arsenal will need all the men it can get and Abou Diaby is one player that would get a run-out in Arsenal’s surge for a fourth-place finish.

Arsenal fans will be hopeful that they won’t lose another player to these international fixtures.

Sayonara.

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A Tribute to my Blogging Family: And the Leibster Award Goes to…

liebster-award3

As a thoroughbred supporter of Arsenal Football Club, I’ve always gone that extra mile to watch every possible game bearing in mind that I’m my own version of the Emirates here in Nigeria.

Unlike some fans in London that are opportuned to see their Gunners play every weekend and of course, in mid-week (I’m jealous), my “Emirates” can be my living room, a pub, or even a viewing center. When the Gunners score a goal, I and that fan in London share the same euphoria and when we lose games; our days become pretty much fucked up as well.

Blogging about Arsenal was born after I was persuaded by three of my brothers from another mum, dKingpin, Obitwyce and Juba to share my views with the internet world. Since the launch of this blog in November 2010, I’ve gone on a wonderful adventure that has bonded me with so many Gooners and friends alike across the globe, even to the extent when I won the 2012 Best Sports Blog Award in last year’s Nigerian Blog Awards nominations.

While I was here doing what I love as usual, my blogging buddy and fellow Gooner, Punkenstein, nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is an award given to WordPress.com bloggers with under 200 WordPress.com followers on their list. I currently have 198 though #justsaying. 😀

The Liebster Award originated somewhere close to Per Mertesacker’s village and Leibster means dearest or beloved while Liebe means love. Prior to this German for Dummies lecture, ze only words I knew were Guten Tag and Guten Morgan.

Getting this Leibster Nominated from a fellow talented blogger like Punkenstein is an honor but the nomination comes with its rules listed below,

Ze Rules

  1. Thank the fellow blogger that nominated you
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself
  3. Answer the questions the blogger has asked you in the post you were nominated
  4. Nominate 11 other people
  5. Ask the 11 nominees questions as well
  6. Last and definitely least, let them know that you nominated them.

Punkenstein, you’re one hell of a writer. Despite the obvious fact that you live, eat and sleep Arsenal, you have a penchant for writing about the Nigerian Premier League, which is pretty cool IMO. You’re also adept in other sports and I love the “random yarns” in your amazing blog.

I’m sure you know this but I also subscribe to your blog so that I don’t miss anything.

 

11 Random Facts about Myself

  • I was born in ze ‘80s
  • I believe that the Football Manager series are the greatest sets of games ever made. Trust me, you don’t want to know what this game has done to me over the years, and it gets better with each passing sequel. I’m already in 2031 in my FM 13 and of course, I manage Arsenal.
  • After finishing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 3 in quick succession, I actually craved to be in the battlefield alongside guys like Captain Price, Soap, Ghost, Roach, Sandman, Truck, Grinch, SSgt. Briggs, Gaz and Yuri while hunting down modern-day ‘Imran Zakhaevs’, ‘General Shepherds’ and ‘Makarovs’.
  • I don’t smoke (watching ze pink lips) but I’m very cool with folks that do.
  • I’ve done unbelievable things to watch Arsenal matches – Trust me, the list is endless.
  • I hate fufu (Don’t judge me)
  • I consider myself to be a “social drinker” – I only drink in parties, weddings and sometimes burials. -__-
  • I have an addiction for fair girls, but my girlfriend is chocolate-skinned.
  • I love my job (Yes, I have a life besides blogging about Arsenal)
  • I’m addicted to music
  • Besides writing a blog about Arsenal, I’m also a sports writer for Bleacher ReportFTBPro and What Culture.

Answers to Punkenstein’s Questions

1. Has your mother ever called you “mad”?

Nah, I’ve always been a good kid *halo appears on my head*

2. What one thing would you never buy if you had £1b in your account today?

Beats by Dre Headphones – I don’t make beats, so what’s the hype about it? *Enters getaway Keke Napep*

3. Have you ever been to the east (of Nigeria)?

Duuuuuuuuuuuh! I’m from Ebonyi State – Salt of the Nation.

4. If yes, what’s it like there? Never been.

In one word – HOT!!!!!!!!

5. Are you, today, who you hoped 5 years ago to be?

Five years ago (2008), I was in my 300 Level studying Chemical Engineering in the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. I’d hoped to be a successful engineer with a good job and loads of cash. Yeah, I’m who I hoped I’d be. 😀

6. Frank Spencer and Mr. Bean, Who’s worse/better?

It’s just like comparing Peter Griffin to Homer Simpson in terms of stupidity. Mr. Bean is in his own world abeg…that guy is just epic!!!

7. What’s the oddest item you saw on sale while stuck in traffic?

A guy selling Gold Circle condoms – In traffic, like seriously? -___-

8. Are you considered a tweet-celeb? -_-

In the Arsenal world as @goonerdaily (4,605 ffers) yeah! But for my own personal account @enigma106 (1,188 ffers) – I’ll letchu know when I give two fledgling fucks

9. Gay rights, yay or nay?

I’d say “yay”…It’s their decision not to enjoy what we “straight folks” enjoy. They shouldn’t be discriminated for that. 

10. Can you cook?

Yeah…a mad cook as well. In FUTO, I was the Chef-chenko of my lodge, European Villa, Umuchima

11. Are we done yet? :)

Yezzir

In my time as a blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to feast my eyes on a number of amazing blogs. My nominees for the Liebster blog award, noted for their refreshing content, are:

Awesome blogs like One Nil Down Two One Up, Sunday Morning Gooner, O Posts, Lady Arse, Gunnerblog and of course, Arseblog deserve to be on my list, but due to the iron-clad rules I have to adhere too (for WordPress.com blogs only), they only deserve honorable mentions.

Finally, My Questions for the Nominees

  1. If you have a gun with only one bullet in it and you’re to use it to kill anyone in the world, who will it be and why?
  2. Where will you like to spend your honeymoon with your future spouse? (disregard this Q if you’re already married -__-)
  3. How did you feel after Robin van Persie left to join Manchester United?
  4. If you have a chance to screw any of the girls that have acted alongside James Bond in his movies, who will it be and why? (This isn’t for ‘These are not Memoirs’ and ‘Rated Erotic’ – I know you’re ladies)
  5. If you have a chance to be anywhere in the world right now, where will it be and why?
  6. How did you get interested in writing?
  7. If you had the chance to date any celebrity at all, who would you date and why?
  8. Which would you prefer to have this year – 10,000 more page views or 100 more WordPress.com followers?
  9. If you ever played Mortal Kombat, who was your best Kharacter?
  10. What would you rate as your greatest achievement so far?

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it. If you didn’t then don’t worry because I’ll be back feeding you with your daily Arsenal digest next time around. This post saw the light of day because it was really nice that someone feels I deserve this award. And it’s not just anyone. I was nominated by a blogger that’s a damn good writer.

NB: There is no general committee that handles this award. its’s just a recognition from one blogger to another for how awesome they are.

Besides, I now know a number of blogs I can follow off the nominees list of others… which basically is what the Liebster is all about in my view. #stolen 😛

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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