Monthly Archives: January 2015
It’s one of those Fridays you look forward to because tomorrow is Saturday and of course, the Premier League returns to our screens. Last weekend saw a host of lower division in the spotlight for their efforts against the big guns in the country but they’d get their chance to battle again in the 5th round of the FA Cup.
The January transfer window is coming to a close and many Arsenal fans can be satisfied with the club’s dealings in the period. Francis Coquelin’s return to the first team setup was timed to perfection and since then, he has gone a long way to staking a permanent claim for that jersey. Sometimes bad things happen to some people so that good things can happen to others. Like the classic case of Mikel Arteta.
Since his arrival in 2011, the lego-haired Spaniard has been an integral player to the club and following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen, he was appointed club-captain by Arsene Wenger. Funnily enough, even while the Verm was still with the club, Arteta probably wore the arm band more than him. The midfielder signed a four year deal with the club and he was going to be a free agent this summer if the club didn’t hand him a new contract. Speculation rose about the player’s future but he remained as calm as ever, doing his thing while waiting for things to unfold.
Arteta’s agent, Inaki Ibanez, has told footmercato.net that his client will still be at the Emirates Stadium next season.
“Mikel is no longer free next June, because he now has an extra year on his contract
Arteta is a player Wenger has trusts and he’s always on the first team sheet whenever he’s fit. But the issue is – Arteta is hardly fit nowadays. One minute you see him dictating tempo with his calm influence and spraying those accurate passes with consummate ease, next minute you see his number on the dashboard as he starts limping towards the touchline for another midfielder to take his place. The latest info in the Arteta fitness saga was that a ‘bony
Tottenham spur’ was found in his ankle so he needed surgery to remove it which would sideline him to April at best.
His fitness issues are certainly not Diaby-esque but it’s really unfortunate to see that constant injuries continue to rob Arteta off his services to his club. Arsene Wenger stated that Daiby’s fitness would determine if he’d a new contract but with Arteta facing some fitness issues of his own and reaching his twilight years, was his contract extension deserved? I’d say yes! Arteta is Wenger’s general on the pitch and his influence can never be matched. Many players that joined the club have confessed to how he helped them settle in but his biggest show of influence in my opinion, was seeing him order Per Mertesacker to go back and defend when the German wanted to race forward to attack a set piece when the Gunners were leading 1-0.
I’m happy he’s gonna stay around for a little longer, even if I can’t say if he’d continue go get a consistent amount of game time with Coquelin’s emergence and the side talk of Morgan Schneiderlein coming in the sideline. However, you can’t trade experience for anything.
Just take a look at Tomas Rosicky.
Many Arsenal fans can vividly remember that Arsene Wenger promised to get a replacement center back if Thomas Vermaelen left, because he stated that the former skipper needed to play football consistently and he wasn’t going stand in his way. Then Barcelona in their infinite wisdom and riches too, came around with £15m for the Belgian Verminator. The Gunners wrapped their captain in wool and fed him to the Spanish juggernauts.
With the Belgian gone, it was glaring that someone had to come in from the other direction. Going through the entire last season with just three center backs (or should I say two-and-a-half, the Verm was always injured) was suicidal but with the Belgian gone, Wenger bought Calum Chambers that would have served as a backup center back but Matt Debuchy’s injuries offered Chambers to play predominantly as a right back.
Then Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles tendons decided to be thorns in his flesh and they sideline him for a while. This forced Wenger to play Per Mertesacker in every bloody match with the likes of Nacho Monreal, Chambers and even Debuchy. The January window was on the horizon and fans wished for a DM and a CB, although there were those unrealistic fans that wanted a DM, a CB, Chuck Norris, Skullomania from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat’s very own Sub Zero.
With Francis Coquelin stepping up the plate, even the most fervent ‘Buy-a-new-DM’ fans have been awed by his performance and wouldn’t mind if he continues. With Mikel Arteta signing an extension, one must wonder that Wenger still has his Coq in his plans.
Then there was the issue of the center back. Several names were mentioned but when Villarreal’s manager revealed that Arsenal wanted his young prodigy, Gabriel Paulista, many fans folded their arms and watched things unfold as there was the niggling issue of getting the lad a work permit but the Arsenal hierarchy kept a cool head and sorted everything out.
So what do you know about the new boy? He began his career with Brazilian outfit, EC Vitoria, making 130 appearances and scoring seven goals in a four-year stint before taking the bold step to move to Europe. He also received the individual award for the best defender in the Campeonato Baiano in 2012 and 2013. Like many South Americans, he’s a technically gifted player with raw reserves of pace and it’s also worth noting that he’s a very versatile lad, as he’s capable of playing a center back or a full back when the needs demands. He had some achievements in his brief stay at Villarreal but he would be fondly remembered to locking Diego Costa in a cage and throwing away the keys when Atletico faced the Yellow Submarines.
His arrival has been received well by the Emirates faithful and we eagerly anticipate seeing him in action.
Brighton 2 Arsenal 3
With the surprises on show on Saturday, Arsene Wenger was reminded that if you loose your guard in the FA Cup, you’d be duly punished. It was expected that some players in the team where going to get some deserved rest so it was paramount for the manager to rotate the squad effectively to keep everyone fresh.
Wojciech Szczesny replaced David Ospina in goal and there were starts for Calum Chambers and the fit-again Kieran Gibbs. I was thinking that Laurent Koscielny was going to get some rest but it was glaring that Per Mertesacker needed a breather too. With the imminent arrival of Gabriel Paulista, it was heartwarming to know that this position is well covered. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini returned ahead of the Coq with Aaron Ramsey and captain of the day, Tomas Rosicky, in the middle. Olivier Giroud was flanked by the returnees, Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott.
It was important to start the game well and Arsenal got to the best possible start when Chambers skipped past his marker before drilling a cross for Walcott. The Englishman has been rusty of late but we saw the Walcott of old as he controlled the ball immaculately before blasting it past Stokedale in goal. It took just 90 seconds for the Gunners to take the lead.
Özil got into his stride and threaded a pass to Ramsey. The Welsh Jesus let one rip but the shot was blocked by a Brighton defender. Arsenal extended their lead when Rosicky cushioned an inch-perfect pass to the path of Özil that controlled the ball with his first touch and sent the goalie the wrong way with the second.
That second goal brought an air of complacency into Arsenal’s game and they were almost punished when Koscielny lost possession in his area but Baldock hoofed his shot over the bar. At the start of the second half, Brighton received a glimmer of hope when the ball crept into O’ Grady’s path and the forward fired a shot that left Szczesny rooted to the spot. Arsenal restored their two goal cushion when Rosicky sent a blind pass to Giroud and when he received the Frenchman’s chipped effort, he blasted the ball under the goalie to make it three.
Walcott had a near post effort that was saved and there was even time for the manager to bring on Alexis Sanchez and Chuba Akpom for Giroud and Walcott. Brighton clawed another goal in when Baldock was clean through on goal and he executed a neat chipped effort over Szczesny. Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin to add some steel to the midfield and there were two late freekicks from Alexis that threatened the goalie.
In the end, the goals were more than enough to book a fifth round berth and it was also good to know that it was achieved with so many regular first team players getting a rest. Wenger rested seven players from the Etihad game and the players that were brought on had it in them to achieve what the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester City failed to do.
Have a great week.