Daily Archives: April 23, 2013

Van Persie Wins the League, Arsenal Scraps For Euro Qualification – Reality Check

A bitter pill to swallow

In the tail end of last season, Arsenal exhibited the kind of form that showed what champions were made of. After two horror away outings against AC Milan and Sunderland that saw the Gunners eliminated from those competitions, Arsene Wenger’s men had only the Premier League to fight for.

When Arsenal needed some players to stand up and be counted with qualification for Champions League football the ultimate prize (shamefully), some men proved their mettle for the Red and White Army. Thomas Vermaelen stepped up with some vital match winners against Newcastle and Everton, Alex Song continued to turn on the style with some trademark assists, Tomas Rosicky was on a renaissance and at the top of the pile stood Arsenal’s talismanic perpetual goalscoring machine of the first kind – Robin van Persie.

After shipping in 30 goals in the Premier League, winning the Golden Boot with a plethora of individual awards, Arsenal were faced with their biggest decision in the summer. We all know how everything panned out and I’m certainly in no mood to take you down memory lane.

With a lethal goalscorer gone, many had tipped Wenger to go for the Falcaos, Benzemas and Lewandowskis of world football, but the manager had proactively purchased two players that would fill into the big shoes of the departed goalscoring machine. The earlier purchase was a renowned German superstar that had already notched up a century of appearances for his nation while the latter purchase came into the limelight after his goalscoring exploits helped his team to their maiden Ligue 1 title.

While Lukas Podolski enjoyed a pretty decent start to his Arsenal career with goals against Liverpool, Southampton (damn, what a free kick!) and Montpellier, Olivier Giroud struggled to find his feet but managed to break his duck against Coventry in the Capital One cup. As the season progressed, Podolski popped with a couple of vital goals while Giroud went through his purple patches of goalscoring form as well.

While Robin van Persie scored 37 goals in his final season at Arsenal, the combination of Giroud and Podolski have amassed 31 goals thus far and with the Frenchman bracing himself to serve a three-match ban following his red card against Fulham (Arsenal has appealed to the FA), it’s fair to say that his goalscoring hurl is over for the season, except he intends to repeat his brace against Newcastle on the final day of the campaign. Podolski on the other hand, will be given a chance to spearhead Arsenal’s attack (Wenger believes he can do it) and he’ll be odds on to add to his current tally.

Judging two players that came from relatively different football cultures, I must say that Wenger struck gold with his new forwards and many things will be expected of them next season, as they’ll have no excuses of adapting to the rigors of the Premier League.

Looking away from the goalscoring exploits of Podolski and Giroud, I tend to ask myself what went wrong for Arsenal this season. There was the issue of instability in goal, some atrocious and shambolic defending, individual errors, below-par performances for some players, toothless attacking outings against teams that smothered the Gunners, tactical errors from the boss as well as the regulars – injuries, suspensions and bad officiating from the Premier League’s incompetent referees.

Van Persie on the other hand, joined a team with a wizard of a manager, a vital blend of exuberant youth and experienced old hags, stellar defensive performances, a feared home ground, undoubted favor from the referees, and of course, Shrek. While Arsenal continued to struggle with those perceived weaker Premier League sides, Manchester United dispatched them in ruthless fashion and the fact that the Gunners are currently 22 points behind the table toppers is damn right puzzling to say the least.

While the Gunners remain hopeful for Champions League qualification, they continue to look over their shoulders as Chelsea and Tottenham continue to breath down their necks. If its any solace, both London sides will clash with each other for their game in hand and every hopeful Gooner is in alignment with the assessment that three wins from Arsenal’s remaining four games can guarantee Champions League qualification.

We tend to forget that these four games are against a Manchester United side hell-bent on reaching and probably surpassing Jose Mourinho’s long-standing Premier League points record for Chelsea (95 points). There’s also the potential threat of Queens Park Rangers and Wigan floating on relegation waters and they will be hoping to get the points they need to escape the inevitable drop. With only 37 points in the bag, Newcastle isn’t still assured of their Premier League status so I don’t expect them to roll over and play dead for Arsenal.

Despite the hugely impressive performances of late, Arsenal’s nervy win over Fulham was a major cause for concern as the players failed to capitalize on the numerical advantage provided to them by Steve Sidwell’s aberration of a tackle and it was really awkward to know that Fulham was closer to scoring an equalizer than Arsenal extending their lead.

At this point in time, many people didn’t care how the Gunners played against Fulham because we got all three points but you don’t need any soothsayer to predict the outcome of what will happen if the Gunners replicate such a performance against Manchester United at the Emirates this weekend.

Some football fans like Wilson Dike believe that van Persie deserves a guard of honor at the Emirates, as we couldn’t give him what he wanted and he got it somewhere else, citing that a player of his caliber deserves to win the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson took what seemed like a risk to buy a 29-year-old attacker with an injury record more glaring than the lack of hair on Howard Webb’s head but after taking that risk, he has reaped the rewards.

24 Premier League goals for a striker worth 24 million pounds. 1 mil per goal? HYFR.

While it hurts like hell to see van Persie and Manchester United win the Premier League yet again, Arsenal fans remain optimistic that next season will be better than this campaign. A phrase that has been repeated for the past eight years.

I really hope that Arsenal would do well to qualify for the Champions League, then we wait patiently to see what Monsieur Wenger has in store for us this summer.


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