Monthly Archives: February 2023

Smith-Rowe Continues his Road to Recovery

Emile Smith-Rowe vs Chelsea U21 (27/2/2023) - YouTube

Smith-Rowe got 45 minutes against Chelsea U-21s

Smith-Rowe’s performances last season earned him folklore status, as he repaid his manager’s faith in him, scoring 11 goals in 37 appearances. 10 goals from those 11 were scored in the Premier League with Smith-Rowe scoring in big games like Tottenham, Manchester United and even though Arsenal fell short in their bid to qualify for the Champions League, Smith-Rowe was one of the bright sparks of the campaign.

Smith-Rowe didn’t get much preseason game time in contrast to Gabriel Martinelli, and this was evident in the team selections for the new campaign with Martinelli being an ever-present in the side, while Smith-Rowe had to make do with four substitute appearances against Leicester, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and most recently, the team’s first Premier League defeat of the campaign to Manchester United. Smith-Rowe was odds on to get his first start of the campaign in the Europa League win over FC Zurich, but his injury problems ensured that he missed that game.

Unfortunately, Smith-Rowe had to undergo surgery on his groin, as the player had been experiencing some discomfort for quite some time, which clearly affected his training and ultimately, first team appearances. The injury recovery and rehabilitation kept Smith-Rowe out of the team till the new year, with the attacking midfielder making his comeback in the 3-0 thrashing of Oxford United in the FA Cup. There was a moment in that game where Smith-Rowe had a chance to execute a finish, but his rustiness was on show, but he managed to get 15 minutes under his belt unscathed. His last competitive appearance for the club was in the North London Derby last month, when he came on as a 92nd minute sub for Eddie Nketiah to see out the game.

At this point, it’s very important to manage his minutes adequately, as we are in the business end of the season, and we will need all hands on deck as Arsenal charges for their first league title in 19 seasons, as well as their first Europa League trophy. Smith-Rowe managed to play 45 minutes in the Arsenal U21s defeat to Chelsea with Arsenal Youth blogging correspondent, Jeorge Bird, publishing a match report. I certainly don’t watch our U21 games but to see Smith-Rowe going through 45 minutes without any complications is a huge development. 

With the games coming thick and fast, Smith-Rowe still has a role to play for the team and I’m sure he’s itching to be part of the action, especially in the Premier League. 

We can only hope that his road to recovery, remains a smooth one, without any setbacks hopefully.


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Thoughts on Marquinhos Dream Debut at Norwich

Marquinhos goal helps Norwich to Cardiff victory - Ghana Latest Football  News, Live Scores, Results - GHANAsoccernet

Marquinhos celebrating his debut goal at Carrow Road

Marquinhos was the first signing Arsenal made this summer, joining the team as a potential replacement for Nicolas Pepe that moved to OGC Nice early in the summer. There was some drama around his acquisition, with Wolverhampton Wanderers claiming that he had signed a pre-contract agreement with them, prior to joining Arsenal and they even threatened legal action. As at when Marquinhos was signed, Arsenal was still heavily linked with a move for then Leeds United’s Raphinha, so he was more or less an understudy for Bukayo Saka.

Arsenal got a glimpse of their new starlet’s ability during preseason, but he had a debut to remember for the club, scoring and assisting in the Europa League win against FC Zurich in the Europa League group stages. He made his Premier League debut in September 2022, coming on as a substitute for Saka in the 3-0 drubbing of Brentford. That game also had a landmark moment for Fabio Vieira, as he opened his Arsenal goalscoring account in that encounter. Marquinhos first outing in front of his home fans was on a beaming Thursday night in the Europa League, when Viking side, Bodo/Glimt, came to town. 

As the Europa League group stages reached its twilight, Marquinhos found games hard to come by with Mikel Arteta preferring to use Saka in the second-tier tournament, and he barely made the Premier League squads on a weekly basis. Yes, there were a couple of Under-21 games to stay fit, but Mikel Arteta wanted him to play competitive football, so it was no surprise when Norwich City came calling and Arsenal accepted a loan move for the Brazilian winger. 

Norwich City is currently seventh in the SkyBet Championship, just one point below the playoff places, and with 12 games left in the competition, they will want to stay as close as possible near the playoff zone, while hoping the likes of Blackburn, Millwall and Luton Town slip up. Vincent Kompany and his exciting Burnley side are odds on to win the Championship and gain promotion to the Premier League, while Sheffield United isn’t far off in second place for the second automatic promotion spot. Michael Carrick and his Middlesbrough team are sitting pretty in third, and will be breathing down the necks of Sheffield United.

After quite a long wait for his Norwich City debut, Marquinhos, donning the #13 jersey, started on the right wing when Cardiff City came to town. He looked like his usual vibrant self and was keen to impress the home crowd, who were seeing him for the first time. His first major highlight came early on when he latched onto Gabriel Sara’s carefully threaded pass and fired a left-footed shot that went wide off the mark.

Moments later, Marquinhos bagged his first assist when he evaded his marker and cushioned the ball for Gabriel Sara at the edge of the area. The Brazilian, who was Marquinhos’ teammate at Sao Paulo last season, showed glimpses of the chemistry they built up together on the other side of the Atlantic and blasted a piledriver that was too much for the Cardiff goalie to handle. Not long after providing an assist on his debut, Marquinhos scored his first goal when he crept into the box unmarked and attacked Abel Hernandez drilled effort on the byline to finish aplomb, sending the Norwich faithful into rapture.

The game was quite eventful, with Adam Idah, failing to convert, after shimmying past the goalie, who clearly impeded him outside the box. His replacement, Teemu Pukki, had a couple of half chances to score his first goal in Carrow Road since September 2022, but it was not to be for the Finnish forward. 

Norwich’s manager, David Wagner, waxed lyrical about Marquinhos’ performance in his post-match press conference,

“We’ve seen enough in training that we have the belief and the confidence to give him the shirt. I think he paid it back.

“You can’t ask for more in your first game than a first start, first goal, first assist, even if we know, and he knows as well, we have a lot of work to do with him. I’m very pleased for him.

“He’s a very calm guy, and a very smart guy as well. He understands football and he understood as well what happened so far.

“We should not forget he is very young, just 19, and when he came here he got injured and it took a little bit of time.

“Now we all together can look forward to working with him.”

Wagner’s comments are echoing what Edu Gaspar said about Marquinhos when he signed him early in the season. Arsenal scouts had watched him consistently and confirmed that he was the real deal, causing the club to let go of £3m, as well as bully Wolves (hahaha) to get his signature.

I hope he gets more game time for Norwich between now and the end of the season, and help them to Premier League qualification, only for them to get relegated next season. It’s a Norwich thing.


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Leicester 0-1 Arsenal: Gunners Remain at the Summit

Leicester City 0-1 Arsenal: Gabriel Martinelli goal gives Gunners win - BBC  Sport

Martinelli with the solitary goal

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Leicester 0-1 Arsenal (Martinelli 46′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Tomiyasu 93′); Jorginho, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard (Partey 84′), Martinelli; Trossard (Nketiah 70′)

Arsenal made a great gesture of giving the captain’s armband to Oleksandr Zinchenko in commemoration of the one year anniversary of the Russia – Ukraine conflict. The game itself was expected to be a tight affair, and the only change Mikel Arteta made to the team I previewed was bringing on Leandro Trossard for Eddie Nketiah. The Gunners had the lion’s share of possession and dominated proceedings early on without any clear cut chances created.

However, the Gunners took the lead from an amazing finish from Leandro Trossard, that was ruled out after a VAR check. Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard had worked up a series of short corners that didn’t have the desired effect, so Saka decided to go old school and swung the ball into the danger area, but the Leicester goalie, Danny Ward, punched the ball cleared and after a turnover of play, Granit Xhaka found Trossard on the edge of the area and evaded his marker before blasting the ball to the top corner with Ward rooted to the spot. Arsenal’s joy was short lived, as the VAR checks showed that Benjamin White had impeded the goalie in the buildup. Seemed pretty weak to me, but hey, I’ve seen worse.

The officiating in the Premier League has been shambolic in recent campaigns, and clearly there has been a lot of inconsistency even with the VAR system. It was on show yet again when Harry Souttar ‘slipped’ and clearly scythed down Saka in the Leicester box, but nothing was done. I don’t want to believe that the VAR officials actually checked the incident, because it would have been worse if they checked it and decided nothing was wrong with what the Leicester towering center back did.

With the game delicately poised at 0-0, Leicester thought they had gotten the lead when a poor Zinchenko header was fed straight to Tete, whose through ball found Seniorman Kelechi Iheanacho in behind the defense. The Nigerian forward showed great composure to chip the ball past Aaron Ramsdale in the Arsenal goal but he didn’t time his initial run early and the goal was ruled off for offside. 

Right after the restart, Arsenal commenced the game like a house on fire and got their reward with a lovely goal from Gabriel Martinelli. After some intricate passing play, the ball found its way to Trossard on the right that carefully threaded the ball through Timothy Castagne’s legs to Martinelli’s path. The Brazilian winger bore down on goal, with pressure from Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi but he picked his spot and placed the ball to Ward’s far post. Martinelli couldn’t celebrate the goal properly as his knee was stamped on by Ndidi inadvertently.

Arsenal thought they had doubled their money when Martinelli latched onto Odegaard’s pass in behind the Leicester defense, and unselfishly teed up Saka to side foot the ball to an empty net but Martinelli was rightfully offside and that chance went begging. Arsenal continued their onslaught with Saka feeding the captain of the day, Zinchenko, but his goal-bound shot was saved by Ward. Zinchenko has been a revelation this season, and his contributions to Arsenal’s attacking play have been immense.

Leicester made a couple of changes to move the wind to their sails but the game became a scrappy affair, marred by a lot of fouls and stopped plays. Jorginho in particular, was on the end of some nasty challenges but he held his own. There was a very nasty situation when Youri Tielemans and Xhaka went for the ball in the air. The Swiss midfielder received a whack in the head for his troubles, but the Belgian cultured midfielder linked with a move to Arsenal this summer landed on his ankle, and couldn’t continue the game, leaving Leicester to battle on with 10 men.

The ref’s whistle was like music to the ears of everyone involved with Arsenal, as Arteta’s men weathered the storm of poor form that hit them a couple of weeks ago, and the ship is steady at the top of the table. The win put Arsenal five points past Manchester City, but Pep Guardiola’s men went to Bournemouth and battered them with aplomb to cut the gap back to two. 

The Gunners are still in the summit and they are loving it.


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