Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thoughts on Tonight’s Champions League Fixtures

After a long wait, the Champions League has taken center stage yet again and all eyes would be on England’s first representatives against one of the juggernauts of European Football, FC Barcelona. The Catalans have been so consistent in this competition and they have always excelled in the latter stages. Arsenal fans can vividly remember the heartbreak of 2006 but Manchester United Fans would be gnashing their teeth anytime they remember the finals in 2009 and 2011.

Tonight Barcelona would visit the city of Manchester to take on the attacking force known as Manchester City. They had been invincible at home till Jose Mourinho came to town and after suffering their first loss since November, the Citizens for the first time in ages looked shaky and the loss was followed up with a goalless stalemate against Norwich.

Man City got their revenge against the Blues by knocking them out of the FA Cup with goals from Stevan Jovetic and ex-Gunner, Samir Nasri, putting the Blues to the sword. In Barcelona, Man City faces a different prospect and all eyes would be on Lionel Messi and co. to come up with the goods as they’ve always done in the past.

Messi is one player that has laid his mark on English opposition and Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that they have been punished severely by the little magician. Manchester United has been on the receiving end of some Messi magic but for reasons best known to Chuck Norris and Lord Voldemort, Messi is usually toothless when he plays against Chelsea.

Many have been quick to write off Manchester City tonight but I expect a very close encounter and the home side might just edge the tie if Barcelona becomes complacent. Besides, City has its fair share of Spanish contingent that has locked horns with Barcelona in the past so it’s gonna be a feisty clash.

Gooner Daily Predictions: Manchester City 2 Barcelona 1

Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibracadabra and his Parisien cohorts will take a short trip to Germany to take on a Bayer 04 Leverkusen side that wasn’t too impressive in the group stages. Losing 5-0 to a piss poor Manchester United side was a low point for the German outfit but they are in a good run of form in the Bundesliga as they are odds on to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Everyone’s firm focus would be on the Man City vs. Barca game but I’d have half an eye on the proceedings at the Bay Arena.

Gooner Daily Predictions : Leverkusen 2 PSG 3

 

Enjoy the games wherever you are.

Sayonara

 

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Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1: Sweet Revenge…Where it Mattered

With the Gunners suffering a drubbing in the hands of yesterday’s opponents a week ago, there was an air of caution at the Emirates. With half an eye on the crunch Champions League clash against Bayern Munich, Arsene Wenger made a couple of changes to the squad with Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini, Lukas Podolski and to everyone’s surprise, Yaya Sanogo getting a run out.

Liverpool were the quickest off the blocks with Steven Gerrard feeding Daniel Sturridge on the edge of the area. The English forward blasted a one-timed shot that was saved by Fabianski. Luis Suarez chipped a delicate ball to Sturridge’s path and the striker skipped past Fabianski but his shot hit the side netting.

Shortly after Monreal got himself booker for a nasty challenge on Joe Allen, Sanogo and the Ox combined superbly on the right flank but the ball ran out of the line before the Ox could cross it into the danger area. Arsenal’s first meaningful attack arrived when Per Mertesacker flicked a corner with a looping header but Brad Jones was on hand to tip it over the bar.

Arsenal’s breakthrough arrived when Mikel Arteta’s cross was deflected into Sanogo’s path. The French striker blasted the ball on Daniel Agger’s back before the Ox reacted the quickest to place the ball past Jones.

Raheem Sterling skipped past Jenkinson on the right and bore down on goal but his shot slammed the side netting. Arsenal swiftly launched a counter attack but Podolski sliced his effort wide. Ozil instigated another attacking move with a lovely pass to Podolski but with Sanogo in acres of space, Poldi’s cross was rather erratic.

Luis Suarez got on the end of a long ball and blasted a first-timed shot that was saved by Fabianski. In the start of the second half, Suarez had another chance that was saved by the Flying Fab. With Liverpool failing to take the  initiative, Arsenal launched a counter attack and when the Ox cut the ball into the danger area, Podolski reacted first to blast the ball past Jones.

With Suarez missing yet another chance, Arsenal almost made their lead more comfortable when Ozil blasted a goal bound effort that was failed superbly by Jones. Suarez won a penalty for his side after he was brought down courtesy of a clumsy challenge by Podolski. Gerrard sent Fabianski the wrong way to break Arsenal’s long standing clean sheet record at the Emirates.

Suarez was blatantly fouled by the Ox afterwards but Liverpool’s appeals fell on deaf ears. Arsene Wenger brought on Santi Cazorla for Podolski and he was gifted a chance by Martin Skrtel but he blasted his shot over the bar.

Kieran Gibbs came on for the Ox to add some defensive stability but an error from Laurent Koscielny allowed Liverpool a foray at Arsenal’s goal but Suarez’ shot was saved by Fabianski. After a couple of half chances from Liverpool, Wenger brought on Giroud to replace Sanogo.

Late on, there was a comical moment when Fabianski attempted to waste some time by tying his shoelaces but Sturridge did him the honors and told him to get on with the game.

The ref’s whistle was last music to the ears of Arsenal fans as they have booked a place in the FA Cup quarterfinals against another Merseyside outfit, Everton.

 

Arsenal 0 Man Utd 0: Sadly, the Gunners Fail to Turn Up

Tomas Rosicky

Emirates Stadium (Premier League)

Player Ratings (via the Independent)Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

 

It was a game where Arsenal was expected to put up a better outing from that nightmarish performance in Anfield. The manager made some expected changes as a more assured Kieran Gibbs replaced the shaky Nacho Monreal and the manager opted for a more experienced head in the form of Tomas Rosicky ahead of the Ox.

As early as the third minute, Wojciech Szczesny handed a simple pass to Mikel Arteta but the Spaniard inexplicably chose to lose the ball in front of his box gifting a chance to Robin van Persie but the Flying Dutchman’s shot was saved superbly by Szczesny. Mesut Ozil glided past some defenders before feeding Jack Wilshere that had a couple of touches before lashing a shot that was blocked by Chris Smalling. Santi Cazorla swung in the resulting corner but an unmarked Olivier Giroud glanced his header wide.

The Gunners continued to press and Rosicky fashioned a chance for himself that was deflected off Nemanja Vidic but the ball was dealt with easily by David de Gea. Rafael made a jinking run on the right flank before swinging a cross that was attacked by RVP in the near post. Per Mertesacker matched the striker pound for pound and blocked the ball from imminent danger. RVP was sent clean on goal by Juan Mata but his wayward shot went wide.

Giroud combined with Gibbs to no avail but he was handed another chance on a platter but he sent Cazorla’s corner wide off the mark.

Olivier Giroud 6/10

A familiar sight for Giroud all game long. He had a stinker

There was a moment of concern when Giroud challenged for the ball in the air with a brave Rafael but the Brazilian fullback landed awkwardly and required swift medical attention. He earned himself an ovation when he got back to his team to the relief of everyone watching the scary incident.

At the start of the second half, Mata lofted a ball into the danger area that was flicked by Michael Carrick but thankfully, no Manchester United player was in the same wavelength. Arsenal threatened again as Ozil swung in a corner that was headed goalwards by Laurent Koscielny. With de Gea beaten, he had Antonio Valencia to thank as the winger sprung off the ground to head the ball off the line. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was placed in the same situation on Saturday but Martin Skrtel’s header went in. That’s football for you.

Close shave: Antonio Valencia cleared Laurent Koscielny's effort off the line in the second half

The Gunners had a strong claim for a penalty when Vidic blatantly shoved Giroud but all appeals to Mark Clattenberg fell on deaf ears. Gibbs cut in from the left and supplied a pass to Giroud but his effort went wide. It was end to end stuff as Mata latched unto Tom Cleverley’s pass to drill a shot that sailed effortlessly wide.

Bacary Sagna swung in a lot of crosses that was dealt with by Vidic and after blasting a shot over, Arsene Wenger replaced Rosicky with the Ox. Shortly afterwards, Giroud managed to evade Vidic to meet Sagna’s perfectly-timed low cross but his bad night went worse as his touch was rather inconclusive. What a shame!!!

With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, Manchester United almost punished them when Shrek floated in a cross that was headed in point-blank range by RVP. Up stepped Super Szczesny to make a magnificent save that kept his team in the game.

 

FlawedCavernousKakarikis World Class Save! Wojciech Szczęsny v Robin van Persie GIF (Arsenal v Man United)

Late on Ozil threaded a ball to Cazorla that sent a shot at goal but de Gea made a good save. At the end, it was a classic case of two points rather than one point gained as the Gunners failed to turn up against one of the weakest Manchester United sides in history. In 11 games against the Red Devils in the Premier League, the Aaron Ramsey-inspired win in 2011 remains the Gunners only victory.

Arsene Wenger spoke about the team’s nervousness going forward and the whole nine yards in his post-match interview but watching this game proved why the Gunners made a terrible mistake by not investing in a new center forward in January. For all his aerial prowess and work rate on the night, Giroud had a very poor game.

Inches: Giroud stretches in vain as he fails to make contact and Arsenal's chances of winning disappear

The chance of the game,…missed by Giroud

He is also renowned for his linkup play with his teammates but those touches evaded him yesterday as he killed attacks times without number. He also had two clear cut opportunities with his head which he wasted and the final straw was that poor effort from Sagna’s cross with a goal gaping at him.

He’s all we have at the moment so the least we as fans can do will be to give him our undying support with the hope that he steps up his game. With Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey gone, the goals haven’t been coming by that easily but Cazorla has done well recently with his purple patch of five goals in six games.

The Gunners had the chance to return to the top of the Premier League but sadly, they failed to turn up.

Sayonara.

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