Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Players Believe We Can Win the Title. What About the Fans?

The second phase of international fixtures take center stage and there has been one casualty from an Arsenal perspective as David Ospina picked up a knock for Colombia in their last-gasp win against Bolivia. There was also a concern when Danny Welbeck was seen with an ice pack on his knee after he was substituted for Jamie Vardy.

After the international break ends, teams will concentrate on the business end of the league as points are there for the taking. For the title race, it’s looking like Leicester City and Tottenham are on the fore front with Arsenal trailing behind but despite this deficit, the players still believe that they have a fighting chance of winning the Premier League. It seems like a very long time ago when Danny Welbeck’s header put the Gunners two points behind Leicester but after a series of insipid performances against Manchester United and Swansea, the Gunners fell further behind the leading pack for the title.

Mesut Ozil has been one of the Gunners’ outstanding performers in the Premier League campaign and he has been instrumental to the team picking points with the plethora of assists he has garnered this season. The German midfielder, fresh from revealing his new boots and a disappointing friendly defeat to England, still believes it’s possible for the Gunners to win the Premier League,

“I do not think it impossible. Although there are only a few games left, Leicester have a run against some of the big teams to come.

“We ourselves must in any case not allow any more slip-ups. The hope of the title is still there – we have the players for the title.”

The midfielder commended Leicester for their fighting spirit but he’s hopeful for the table toppers to make mistakes, because as it stands, it can only take an implosion for Claudio Ranieri’s men to lose the title. They have been very focused this season and with 13 ‘1-0’ victories, it shows their high levels of concentration.

Laurent Koscielny, that has been skippering the side for a couple of games has shared Ozil’s sentiments on the team’s title chances. Koscielny has struggled a bit this season with injury concerns of his own was part of the Arsenal side that was so resolute defensively against Everton at Goodison Park. He says,

“We failed in some important games,” the defender said, speaking to a media conference. “When we had to score, we did not, we put ourselves in a difficult situation. We had to look forward and we did it this weekend at Everton. There are eight games left, eight finals to hope for something.”

“I can understand the frustration of the fans, we gave ourselves a chance of winning this trophy. I think the coach is still the man of the situation. Mathematically everything is still possible.”

Mathematically, it is still possible for Arsenal to win the Premier League but they have to go on a run of victories while their fellow title rivals slip up. The fixtures in the run-in are really tough but there are some that feel the Gunners might not be able to win the title because of their penchant for messing up when it really matters.

There is a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season, so we have to remain optimistic as fans until it’s mathematically impossible to finish in first place. Leicester has been invincible in recent weeks but they have a challenging list of fixtures, as do Tottenham. This article on Sky Sports analyses the title race, even though it’s a bit on the old side.

Time to send a prayer or two for the Nigerians that play at Egypt tonight.

Sayonara.

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Good One England, I Didn’t See that Coming!

 

Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli (right) keeps a close eye on Arsenal playmaker Ozil (left) during the early stages of the match

This photo has North London written all over it

The international break continued in full flow with the Saturday lineup of games taking center stage. Olivier Giroud had previously scored for Les Bleus in the 3-2 win over the Netherlands but in Germany vs. England, I was looking forward to an exciting game of football. Both teams featured strong lineups even though I was a bit concerned about the German back line because it oozed of inexperience.

From an Arsenal perspective, Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck were on the opposing ends of the divide but when Mario Gomez’s goal was wrongly ruled out for offside, I knew that we had a game on our hands. The game sprung into life when Toni Kroos used his left foot to blast a shot that beat Jack Butland on his near post. The goalie seemed to have pulled up short in the buildup to the goal and was replaced by Southampton’s Fraser Forster. Gomez wasn’t to be denied a second time as he rose highest to guide a cross into the net with Forster rooted to the spot.

Then Hodgson made the changes that turned the game on its head – bringing on Jamie Vardy and Ross Barkley for Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana.

Goalscorer Vardy replaces Welbeck in the 71st minute before playing a major role in England's impressive comeback victory

Prior to that moment, Harry Kane had scored a fantastic goal, showing good control to evade his marker before blasting the ball past Manuel Neuer. I wonder whats up with the transparent face mask though. I must have thought that his nose would have healed eons ago. Then came a moment of sheer audacity from a player high in confidence – Vardy flicking Nathaniel Clyne’s drilled cross into Neuer’s net despite some pressure from Antonio Rudiger.

At 2-2, the game was delicately poised and with time running out, the team that managed to score one more goal would put the game beyond doubt. Germany attacked and the ball fell kindly to Andre Schurrle on the right. I still don’t know whether he was trying to shoot the ball or whether he was trying to pass it but it was a wasted opportunity for the world champions. Late on, Eric Dier reacted first to a corner kick and headed the ball past Neuer to make it three!

2-0 down, 3-2 up! I honesty didn’t see that coming. The English side has been renowned for being perennial underachievers but this current crop has some enthusiasm in the way they play and Hodgson has done well to reward players that have been in fine form at their respective clubs instead of them being in the team on some other criteria, that’s why I didn’t bat an eyelid when Theo Walcott didn’t participate in the game.

It’s still early days and the real business will be done in Euro 2016 but this was a very impressive result for the England side.

Hey, they still have two World Wars and one World Cup innit?

Sayonara.

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Quick Roundup of Gunners on International Duty

Elneny would feature against Iwobi today

There’s usually this dullness that comes with international football, but it’s always nice to see some players strut their stuff on the international scene. The hope as always, would be that the players come back to North London unscathed.

Gooner Daily gives a quick update on Arsenal’s ambassadors on international duty.

Wojciech Szczesny

He may not be playing for the Gunners this season but his progress is being monitored by the Arsenal staff. After leaving his Roma duties, he got the nod ahead of his Polish rival and former teammate, Lukasz Fabianski, in Poland’s 1-0 win over Serbia yesterday. The Poles have a match against Finland tomorrow but it’s down to the manager to decide whether Szczesny features again.

Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud

Didier Deschamps has called up the Arsenal duo for France’s friendlies against Netherlands and Russia. The Dutch team will contend with the embarrassment of not qualifying for the European Championships holding in France but Giroud would be hoping for get some goals under his belt as he’s currently in a drought of two goals in his last 13 or so.

Mesut Ozil

The German superstar has been called up for Germany’s high-profile friendly against England. He’s also odds on to feature in Germany’s friendly with Italy. The last time both sides met in a competitive fixture, the Azzurri got the upper head, so there would be a bit of revenge in the air.

David Ospina

Ospina played 90 minutes in Colombia’s World Cup qualifier win over Bolivia but he had to take the ball out of his net on two occasions. He will play in Colombia’s second game against Ecuador that comes up next week.

Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck

The Arsenal attacking duo have been called up by Roy Hodgson for England’s friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands. There have been some concerns about Welbeck’s fitness as he missed out on some training sessions but it’s quite expected having been out of the game for so long. Walcott will offer an attacking outlet for the Three Lions and will want to play his part for his nation.

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis played the full game for the South American champions but he could not help his side avoid defeat to their superior opponents. Both teams met in the finals of the Copa America last year but the Chilean triumphed in that fixture. Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold, and the Argentines have gained three points on enemy territory. Alexis will feature again for the Chileans as they visit Venezuela next week.

Joel Campbell

The winger has found himself on the bench yet again following the emergence of Alex Iwobi but at international level, he’s undroppable. Costa Rica has a double-legged affair with Jamaica and I expect Campbell to do his best for his nation in both encounters.

Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny

It’s always nice when two club teammates find themselves on opposing sides at international level and that’s what is going to happen with Iwobi and Elneny lock horns at Kaduna, Nigeria and Alexandria, Egypt in the next couple of days. In what has been tagged as a ‘do-or-die’ affair, Nigeria and Egypt are set to fight it out to end the right to be at the 2017 African Cup of Nations. I will follow this game with keen interest, bearing in mind that my blood bleeds green.

Chuba Akpom, Calum Chambers and Isaac Hayden

Gareth Southgate has called up these Arsenal youngsters for England U-21 qualifiers against Switzerland. Chambers is quite a regular at U-21 level but a part of me is still hoping for Akpom to pledge his allegiance to Nigeria instead of England.

Hector Bellerin

The speedster turned 21 last weekend and he’s approaching his final year at U-21 level because there would be a time where he would be no longer available for selection at this level. Nonetheless, he has been called up for Spain U-21’s qualifiers against Croatia and Norway.

Serge Gnabry

It has been a disastrous campaign for the young German but he was called up by Germany U-21s for the clashes against Faroe Islands and Russia.

Sayonara.

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