Monthly Archives: January 2015

Brighton Preview and the Magic of the FA Cup

The FA Cup may not be as glittering in terms of its rewards like the Champions League or Premier League but what it offers is that unpredictable knockout football. Hey, it was the competition that ended the Gunners trophy drought so you can say that Arsenal fans have a thing or two for it. Let’s not forget that it’s also the competition Arsene Wenger has won the most (five times) in his 18-year stint with the club and I’m sure he loves ’em cup runs.

Imagine being Wenger in last season’s FA Cup final conceding two goals in eight minutes. I’m sure he felt in his heart that if he lost that competition, he would have chosen not to renew his deal because if the lads were not motivated enough to win a Hull side they beat a couple of weeks in the run to the final, then there’s no point hanging around. Well, the boys turned up the style and that would go down as one of the best Cup finals I’ve ever witnessed as a fan.

So last season’s adventure was over and it was now about the Gunners defending their crown. Sadly for Hull, they were faced in front of the firing line again and it took goals from Per Mertesacker (his only goal this season) and Alexis Sanchez (I’ve lost count of how many goals he’s scored) to take the Gunners to the fourth round.

The Fourth Round took center stage yesterday with some results that would go down well with the Emirates faithful. It started with a shock win for Birmingham City over Swansea but the Swans have been utter shite recently so the result wasn’t really all that ‘shocking’ per se. Then there was the Manchester United vs. Cambridge that ended up as a bore draw. LVG’s side was shambolic as you’d expect but since Cambridge couldn’t nick in a goal at home, you’d expect them to have their work cut out for them at Old Trafford. Then there was the Chelsea vs. Bradford game where a bullish Mourinho stated that it would be a disgrace to lose to Bradford. Little did he know that Bradford would make history by being the first team to beat Mourinho by four goals in his home stadium. Manchester City still had the Arsenal hangover against Middlesbro’ugh and there were goals for Marouane Chamakh and Yaya Sanogo as the Alan Pardew army marched on past Southampton. The day was wrapped up with a stalemate between Liverpool and Bolton.

Today the Gunners come up against a Brighton side they faced off two seasons ago. It wasn’t a stroll in the park as many expected and I can vividly remember that Andre Santos had a torrid time. Two goals from Olivier Giroud and a late Theo Walcott goal settled the contest.

To team news, Wojciech Szczesny could be in line to make a return to first team football action and it would be interesting to see how he handles it. In defense, Kieran Gibbs is working his way back to full fitness and I expect him to get a run out with Hector Bellerin continuing his good run of form on the right. Laurent Koscielny would get some deserved rest with Calum Chambers and Per Mertesacker in the heart of the defense.

In midfield, Mathieu Flamini has been displaced from the first team by Francis Coquelin, so I have a hunch that he’d be odds on to play today. Aaron Ramsey is still in need of games so he’d play alongside the ageless Czech, Tomas Rosicky, in the middle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud will complete the front three.

Here’s to a great game of football


Does Abou Diaby Still Have a Future with the Club?

The tale of Abou Diaby and Arsenal is one that one can think about with sheer pity. A lanky talented individual joined the club at the same time with Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott in the winter of 2006 but a career threatening injury he suffered at the Stadium of Light in May 2006 took a massive toll in his development as a footballer. After eons out he managed to make a full recovery and several niggling injuries plagued the Frenchman in the entirety of his Arsenal but there have been times he was fit and when he was fit, boy, Diaby has turned up the style in some games.

Yes, there have been a handful of good performances from the Frenchman here and there but he always tends to give the fans that warm fuzzy feeling which makes them that wishing he was available for use by his manager. Diaby’s best football came in the 2009/10 campaign where he played up to 40 games, yes, 40 games and he was called up to represent France in the 2010 FIFA World Cup where he featured in their three group stage fixtures before they crashed out of the tournament.

When he suffered that anterior cruciate ligament injury that sidelined him for almost a year, many thought that his Arsenal career was up but everyone was astonished to see him play a part in the last League game of the season against Norwich. This season, Diaby made his only appearance in the Capital One Cup third round defeat to Southampton and it was reported afterwards that he had suffered a hamstring injury that has sidelined him quite some time.

When Wenger was recently asked about the status of the French midfielder, his answer was somewhat saddening,

“At the moment he is not in a position where he will be able to play soon because he is not on the field at all.

I will make a decision on his contract”

Diaby has played just 16 Premier League games in the past four seasons and it seems unlikely that he would add to that tally this season. With the vast array of midfield talent in the club, one wonders what the future holds for the Frenchman. Reports show that he has reached the twilight zone with his contract and many don’t expect the club to renew his contract. The manager once stated that if the lad remains fit, then he may review his situation and probably think of retaining his stay in the club.

I feel really sad for Diaby and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors, whether it’s at Arsenal or someplace else.


Bielik Deal Done, Gabriel Paulista Next?

There’s something about the January transfer window. It’s like that kinda girl you have a thing for but can’t really do anything because of the ‘barriers’ here and there. At Arsenal, there have been a couple of transfers in this window but not all of them have gone all the way to make significant impacts. The most expensive January signing the club has ever made was that Russian hobbit that hit the ground running like a house on fire but as the years went by, he lost some form and confidence before shipped away in a blue ribbon to his former employers.

At the beginning of the season, the club did some good business in replacing the departed Lukasz Fabianski and Bacary Sagna with David Ooooooooooooooooospina and Matt Debuchy. Calum Chambers and Alexis Sanchez were the other additions but it was glaring that the club needed a new center back especially after selling Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona. There was also talk of getting a new defensive midfielder but a center back looked more like a priority.

When Laurent Koscielny got injured, Arsenal’s lack of depth at the back was badly exposed with makeshift center backs like Nacho Monreal, Chambers and even Debuchy featuring alongside Per Mertesacker. Mikel Arteta’s fitness issues as well as Mathieu Flamini’s niggling injuries / poor form raised concerns for a new DM… then the Coq came along and his fantasy story continues. There has been some whispers about an ‘arrangement’ to sign Morgan Schneiderlein in the summer but the Coq-y one would serve as the club’s interim mitigation plan in the holding midfield role till the summer. However, the club has purchased 17-year-old Polish wonderkid, Kryztian Bielik, for a fee believed to be around £2.5m. Of course, the YouTube folks have created some compilations and he looks really decent and I hope he gets his debut during the Brighton game.

Which brings us to the next question – which center back is going to join Arsenal this January? Talks of West Ham’s Winston Reid has been gathering momentum but the Hammers want £8m for a bloke with barely five months left on his contract. What are they smoking at Upton Park? Or preferably, what type of gum is the big Walrus chewing?

Out of the blue, the Spanish Press emerge with speculation on Villarreal’s Gabriel Paulista and the player himself has been talking about being ‘calm’ as things are progressing. The last time Arsenal and Villarreal did business, they actually paid some money (£2m) to buy Pascal Cygan. I really hope his spirit doesn’t linger in the dressing room affecting other players and all, but there could potentially be some problems in the Bautista deal because the lad might have work permit issue.

I’d keep you updated as things unfold.