Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cardiff City Preview: Time to Hunt some Blue Birds

The Premier League is widely known for its unpredictability and a team like Cardiff City, 15th on the Premier League table with 13 points is a living proof of the cunning nature of the most exciting league in the world. Manchester City arrived in the Welsh capital in bullish mode but they were humbled, Tottenham escaped a draw against the Welsh side with a late strike from Paulinho, Chelsea beat them comfortably but the home side salvaged a last-gasp equalizer against the defending champions last weekend.

Cardiff City have been incredibly reliant on set pieces this season but who can blame them? Manchester City were undone by two corner kicks superbly dispatched by Frazier Campbell and “Kim the Korean” as last week’s commentator labeled him scored from Peter Whittingham’s dead ball delivery right at the death.

Whittingham is currently a stalwart at Cardiff, and he’s also the longest serving player in the club since his winter transfer to the Welsh capital in 2007. His deliveries have been a major play of how Cardiff play and he has created 20 chances for his teammates this season, with his last being the assist to Kim Bo-Kyung against Manchester United. In Peter Odemwingie and Frazier Campbell, the Blue Birds have a potent strike force that could hurt the Gunners, and Odemwingie’s record against Arsenal isn’t bad, as he has scored two goals in his last three against the Gunners.

The teams have never met in the Premier League, and have not met in a league fixture for fifty-one years. In that time they have met in cup fixtures in which Cardiff have lost four of their last five. The Gunners are undefeated against the Bluebirds in their last eleven, a run that stretches back to 1961. The last three meetings between Arsenal and Cardiff have been in the FA Cup and Eduardo da Silva’s comeback game from injury came in a 4-0 demolition of the Blue Birds in 2009, where he scored a brace.

We miss you Dudu

Cardiff have had a solid start to life in the big-time and are extremely tough to beat, especially at home. Against the top 10 they’ve won twice and drawn twice in seven games which is something the Gunners have to be mindful about. Only Manchester United and Aston Villa have gained more points from losing positions than Cardiff this season (five) and most importantly for the home side, three of Cardiff’s six home games this season have been decided by goals in the 87th minute or later (W1, D1, L1).

Arsene Wenger even had some kind words for the home side ahead of today’s game,

“They look to have good solidarity, good togetherness [and] fantastic support as well,” Wenger said of Cardiff, who beat Manchester City earlier this season before pulling off an impressive 2-2 draw against Manchester United last weekend. “They are all on the same wavelength in the team and are very efficient at home on set-pieces.

“Even on Sunday [against United] when they were 2-1 down against Man United, many teams could have thought ‘OK, it’s Man United, we will not come back.’

“But you always had the feeling that they don’t give up. You could feel that they would come back. They have that special attitude and belief in the side, and that makes them dangerous.”

However, the Gunners arrive in confident mood after dispatching Southampton last week as well as a midweek Champions League victory over the group’s whooping boys, Olympique Marseille. The Gunners have the best away form in the division and the only game they failed to score was the 1-0 narrow loss to Manchester United a few weeks ago.

One player that’s obviously going to be in the spotlight is former Cardiff hero and local boy, Aaron Ramsey. Despite being in Arsenal for five years, Ramsey remains a Cardiff fan by heart and this was shown when he took out time to watch the Swansea vs. Cardiff Welsh Derby. Cardiff’s manager, Malky Mackay, also had some encouraging words for the Welsh man on fire,

“I hope he gets a great reception here and I am pretty sure he will. He is a fine young man, I met him a couple of weeks ago when the Welsh squad were here. He popped in and at that point I said to him to make sure that in a couple of weeks’ time he goes easy with us. It’s good to see a young British player grasping the nettle at Premier League level and actually being one of the main men at Arsenal.”

It’s worth noting that Ramsey has made more tackles (57) than any other player in the Premier League and his goal haul this season (11) has been a bright spark in Arsenal’s campaign thus far.

To injury news, Striker Rudy Gestede is out with a knee injury with no confirmed return date and however, the Chilean pitbull, Gary Medel, will be available for selection after the FA didn’t take any retrospective action on his altercation with Marouane Fellaini last weekend. At Arsenal, the long-term absentees, Abou Diaby (Knee), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Knee), Lukas Podolski (Hamstring), Yaya Sanago (Back) and Ryo Miyachi (Hamstring) are still out of contention but Kieran Gibbs will face a late fitness test from illness, even though it seems likely that Nacho Monreal will get the nod in such a game.

My expected lineup would be, 

Cardiff City 4-1-4-1 football formationArsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation

Enjoy the game wherever you are. And let’s hope that Arsenal hunts some Blue Birds.

Sayonara.

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A Tribute to Wojciech Szczesny: Arsenal’s Unsung Hero

(Photo: Reuters)<br>Szczesny has kept 17 clean sheets in 43 appearances so far in his debut season as Arsenal's No.1

There’s something really exciting about this current Arsenal team.

With 12 games gone in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger’s side sits four points clear at the top, with the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea on the prowl. In the Champions League, the Gunners have amassed 12 points from five games, with the match against SSC Napoli in a fortnight going to be a decider of their European destiny.

A lot can be attributed to Arsenal’s good form in the Premier League and Europe – Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere currently lead the club’s scoring charts, the acquisition of Mesut Ozil has been a massive lift, and he has even notched up half a dozen assists, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta have doing their dirty work superbly and of course, the defensive quartet of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna have been in phenomenal form.

Despite the fact that the outfield players are getting all the plaudits they duly deserve, there has been a player that has been a model of consistency throughout the campaign and like fine wine, he’s getting better with each passing game. It all began with a League debut at Old Trafford in December 2010, following mysterious injuries to Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.

Since then, Wojciech Szczesny has been on a steep learning curve and with more games under his belt at such a young age, he continued to flourish even though he had some bad times along the way. His nadir at Arsenal came in the biggest of stages – the 2011 Carling Cup final against Birmingham City where a lack of communication between him and Koscielny led to an easy chance for Obafemi Martins that wasted no time in punishing the Gunners.

Arsenal faces anxious wait over Robin van Persie's fitness as 'destroyed' duo apology for Carling Cup error

Just when everyone thought that Arsenal’s long wait for a trophy was finally over, a new signing and a young goalie joined forces to shatter the hopes of the expectant fans. The club had already defeated Birmingham twice in the Premier League, so the game was meant to be a stroll in the park. The poor form continued afterwards with the Gunners knocked out from the Champions League by Barcelona and the FA Cup by Manchester United.

Despite that setback, Szczesny continued to progress and in the 2011/12 season, his penalty save against Udinese aided the Gunners in their qualification from the playoffs to the Group Stages. That season, Szczesny was ever-present for the Gunners making 49 appearances and it’s also worth noting that he played every league game for the club. He made a lot of outstanding saves that season and I can’t think of any save better than the one he made against Wolves in April 2012.

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected of the young Pole working his way up the food chain. He began the 2012/13 campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a howler against Southampton.

Even after his errors coupled with fairly average performances from his deputy, Vito Mannone, Wenger returned Szczesny into the team and even used him in domestic cup fixtures, clearly showing that he had little or no faith in the deputy Italian. This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.

He got a wake up call when Wenger dropped him to the bench against Bayern Munich (away) and the fact that his father blasted the boss for his poor form didn’t help his cause. A rib injury to Fabianski allowed the younger Pole to return to first-team action and this saw a change in his fortunes as Szczesny kept clean sheets against Everton (home), Fulham (away), Queens Park Rangers (away) and Newcastle (away).

While he may want to forget his antics against Southampton (home) and Aston Villa (home), he can look back with pride when he reflects on his performance against Sunderland (away) as well those vital saves he made against Queens Park Rangers (away) and Wigan (home).

The graphic illustration below (culled from 7am Kick Off) shows a comparison of Szczesny with other top keepers in the Premier League last season.

Comparison of Arsenal 5 most-likely keeper signings

Julio Cesar played a game less than Szczesny because Twitchy Ol’ ‘Arry Red Napkin alternated between the Brazilian shot stopper and Robert Green but Szczesny missed a couple of games through injury as well as that period in Spring when he was dropped for his compatriot, Fabianski. Julio Cesar, Simon Mignolet and Asmir Begovic understandably made more saves than Szczesny due to the quality of sefenders in front of them.

Arsenal was heavily linked with a move for Julio Cesar in the summer following his impressive performances in the 2013 Confederations Cup but nothing concrete has come to fruition as Wenger placed his faith in Szczesny and this season, the goalkeeper has been transformed to one of the finest goalies in the business.

Szczesny had a shaky start to the new campaign with a torrid performance against Aston Villa but he responded superbly with three clean sheets in the next four games which included a superb performance in the North London Derby. Even though Giroud will be remembered fondly for his deft finish, Szczesny improvised save from Jermaine Defoe was the stuff of legends.

9644365175 3131799ddb o GIF: Wojciech Szczesny makes a brilliant save to deny a deflected Jermain Defoe effort

Szczesny continued his fine form as the season progressed and his magnificent save from Mila Jedinak against Crystal Palaceturned out to be the difference between a victory and a draw, as Giroud sealed the points late on.

iZRRkiDyVH9mR Wojciech Szczęsnys amazing save from Mile Jedinak in Arsenals win at Palace [GIF]

Had that shot went in, the Eagles would have leveled the tie and the Gunners playing with 10 men that odds wouldn’t have been in their favor. November is usually regarded as a bogey month for the Gunners, yet Szczesny has kept four clean sheets in his last five games which include Liverpool, Dortmund (away), Southampton and Olymique Marseille.

Despite the fact that the Pole has shown vast improvement in concentration and shot stopping, Szczesny sits behind a defense that seems incredibly hard to play through. Koscielny and Mertesacker have been a brilliant central defensive pairing this season and Szczesny has benefited from their defensive output. While Koscielny remains the hot head that anticipates the ball and uses his pace like a cover, BFG sweeps things at the back and his calmness, composure, height and coordination has been very vital for the Gunners this season.

The Pole recently signed a new long-term deal with the club and despite being just 23 years of age, he has already professed his desire to finish his career with the club. Szczesny has made a lot of saves this season and his distribution has also improved but we all know that he’s not a finished article yet, and his best years are well ahead of him.

However, Gunners can sleep well at night knowing that there’s a reliable custodian between the sticks.

Arsenal’s unsung hero.

Wojciech Tomasz Szczesny.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: Is Szczesny the Best Goalkeeper in the Premier League? – 7am Kick Off

Canon Crested Arsenal Fan of the Week @enigma106 – Canon Crested

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A Gooner’s Perspective V: Arsenal’s Striking Options and Link with Loic Remy

Loic Remy celebrates scoring for Newcastle United against Chelsea

Would you mind Loic Remy at Arsenal?

Every Arsenal fan is always entitled to his/her opinion and these views are more than likely to be supported by one and opposed by another. A Gooner’s Perspective will be a series of posts dedicated to airing the views of selected Gooners on certain issues with the club.

In the first two episodes of a Gooner’s Perspective, several Gooners have shared their views about the club’s antics in the 2011/12 season as well as their hopes for the foreseeable future. The third episode was focused on Robin van Persie’s off the pitch shenanigans and the fourth installment had to do with thoughts on Theo Walcott playing as a center forward.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Gooners that are going to share their opinions on a Gooner’s Perspective V, which is focused on the club’s striking options and the transfer speculation linking the club with Newcastle’s hitman, Loic Remy;

@Dondeonbeke: Gideon is a wayward lawyer that was very intelligent in the past…then school happened. FYI, He’s not related to Zelalem. (-___-)

@daviruz: This Trojan Horse…*sneezes*…Virus, Eric,  sure loves his Arsenal and women. He also has his own blog, Movie Reviews, where you can get reviews of your favorite movies from a personal point of view.

@alijaxz: Edosa is an ICT specialist that deals with cars too. He claims he breathes, sleeps, eats and lives Arsenal. *yawns…renders bacteria homeless*

@wheelsindkWilson is a Gooner by nature, easy going lad and an absolute charmer. I can vouch for the last attribute, which has certainly been a reason why I failed to introduce girls to him in our FUTO days. :D

@alexmustii: Alex is a Fantasy Premier League olopaa, and he loves his Arsenal with a passion. Ever since Mesut Özil joined the club, all his “O’s” in his convos are now “Ö’s”. Öh well.

Enigma: Good morning guys

Wilson: Enigi my niggi, hailings.

Eric: Oga mi, I dey hail o.

Gideon: Morning guys, today is my Call to Bar…I’m so excited. *dances etighi*

Alex: K!!!!

Edosa: Alex, why evils na?

Wilson: loooooooooool

Enigma: Welcome everyone, you guys know about a Gooner’s Perspective and today’s discussion will be focused on Arsenal’s striking options and the media Vultures linking our dear club with Loic Remy.

Alex: I hope we aren’t gonna talk about Nicklas “Whore Best” Bendtner. I really hate that guy.

Gideon: Calm your titties Alex. And it’s “World Best”.

Alex: *Yimu*

Enigma: Alex, your evulry knoweth no bounds. Let’s get down to business guys, what are your thoughts on our season thus far?

Eric: Arsenal’s season has been quite impressive. At least, my blood pressure has been normal this season.

Wilson: Hahahaha! In my opinion, Arsenal has shown much mental strength so far, picking themselves up from the home loss against Aston Villa, before firing on all cylinders, tearing apart all teams with the exception of the Manchester United game of course.

Gideon: Wilson, Enigma asked for your simple opinion. If he wanted to know what Wenger wanted to say, he would have gone to Arsenal.com. See your mouth like “Mental strength”.

Wilson: You this Zelalem’s long lost cousin, it’s too early for this kind of evulry na. 😦

Enigma: Hehehe! Do you guys believe that Arsenal can win the Premier League this season?

Alex: I think we win. We have been beating the lower teams and sharing the spoils with the bigger ones.

Eric: If we maintain this resilience and steel we have at the moment, we will win the league.

Wilson: I believe we can win the title. All they need to do is to keep improving on their style of play, especially when they are playing against other title contenders.

Gideon: Any team that is four points ahead of the chasing pack with 12 games gone can certainly win the league. Injuries could still play a role though and I must say that we have coped with our injuries this season.

Enigma: What are your thoughts of our alpha-dog in attack, Olivier Giroud, and his present back up strikers?

Same OG…according to Wilson

Eric: His hold-up play and goals have been a major highlight this season. Apart from Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott, we need another back up striker if we wanna win trophies.

Edosa: He has done well this season but there’s still room for improvement. We could do with some better strikers though, because our current back up strikers are nothing to write home about.

Wilson: Giroud has done well this season, scoring goals, creating assists and he’s our only striker at the moment. We don’t have any back up strikers, just a confused Danish Samurai and a pin-eyed amusement PARK.

Gideon: Wilson, and you say I’m evil. As for me, Giroud has had an awesome season so far. Not just for his numerous goals and assists but  his work rate has been exemplary and his defensive output is awesome.

Alex: Giroud is doing okay. Arsenal’s back up strikers are worthless to say the least – the Danish Samurai WhoreBest should just transform into a FIFA 14 playable character and play for Barcelona or Real Madrid, leading them to glory with his ego and unskilled play. As for Sanogo, he has sworn to replace Abou Diaby as our new lab rat for sports science experiments.

Wilson: Hahahahahahahahahhahah! *faints*

Enigma: Jeeez, Alex, aren’t you a bit harsh on Bendtner? Do you think he’s delusional?

Wilson: Bendtner is in a new breed of delusion yet to be understood!

Eric: Wilson is on his evil form this morning…lmao!!! I feel that Bendtner is smoking his personal brand of weed mixed with codeine.

Gideon: Bendtner has his flaws no doubt, but we don’t have to exacerbate an innocuous comment to fit with a rhetoric.

Enigma: When did you guys know Loic Remy and what were your thoughts when he joined Queens Park Rangers?

Alex: Until Remy came to the Premier League, I didn’t really know him. He showed what he was made of when he played for QPR last season, but I’d say his contribution wasn’t phenomenal because he couldn’t save them from relegation.

Eric: I knew him when he joined QPR but I used him a couple of times on Football Manager 11 or 12 or so. About his performances for QPR…Bleeeeeeeeeeh! I was indifferent.

Wilson: I never really followed Remy’s progress in Ligue 1 but he caught the eye when he played for QPR. He did his best for them but apparently, his best wasn’t good enough to save them from relegation.

Edosa: Remy was linked to Arsenal in his Marseille days and he was likened to Thierry Henry. I regarded his move to QPR as a coup and I was bewildered why Arsenal didn’t take a punt on him. He did very well and scored a lot of goals.

Gideon: I feel he should have gone to a better club. However, he had a good season with QPR and I can vividly remember watching some of his goals and was totally gobsmacked.

Enigma: Now that he has joined Newcastle, what are your thoughts of Remy?

Alex: He has been a good bargain for them. I hope he sustains his tempo.

Wilson: He’s on a fine run of goalscoring form and he’s looking like the real deal for them.

Gideon: My thoughts are the same as when he joined QPR. He’s surely good enough for a bigger and better team.

Eric: He’s really helping Newcastle a lot and we can witness his contributions on the pitch.

Enigma: If you’re Arsene Wenger, would you sign Loic Remy and why?

Arsène Wenger - Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger says his team must re-discover their attacking instincts

Sign him up!!!!

Alex: There are no better options in the winter transfer window. Giroud needs a deputy for Heaven’s sake because he’s not a machine. Even machines break down after lengthy use.

Eric: I would sign him as he looks a better poacher and a bit more physical with some bursts of pace than Giroud, which offers Arsenal’s attack a different dimension.

Wilson: I’d snap him up easily (it’s a matter of bonjour and c’ava, and he’s signed). He will be cheap, he’s French and he’d provide a much needed back up for Giroud.

Edosa: He’s the kinda striker Arsenal needs. He’s a runner and a dribbler different from Giroud.

Gideon: I believe he’s a perfect compliment to Giroud. Fast, nippy striker that has a dribble in him.

Enigma: That’s a wrap folks.

Enigma: I’ll like to say a big thank you to Gideon, Edosa, Eric, Alex and Wilson for taking part in the fifth installment of a Gooner’s Perspective. Thanks for sharing your various opinions on the club after our heart, Arsenal.

Enigma: Gideon, congratulations on your Call to Bar! O ye Charge and Bail Lawyer of Life. You guy’s shouldn’t forget to vote for Eric’s Movie Blog in the Nigerian Blog Awards.

You can follow @Dondeonbeke (Gideon), @daviruz (Eric), @alijaxz (Edosa), @wheelsindk (Wilson) and @alexmustii (Alex) on Twitter

Sayonara.

Gooner Daily has been nominated for the Best Sports blog category in the 2013 Nigerian Blog Awards. Please vote!

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