Category Archives: Arsenal

A Septemba’ to Rememba’ for Xhaka

Arsenal vs Tottenham: Premier League result and report as Gunners dominate Spurs in north London derby at the Emriates stadium | The Independent

Xhaka celebrating the match clincher against Spurs

Let me take you guys down memory lane to sometime in October 2019 at the Emirates Stadium when Arsenal shared the spoils with Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

The forgotten footballing god from Olympus, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, put the home side ahead after just seven minutes and the lead was doubled two minutes later by the shaggy-haired David Luiz. However, Crystal Palace’s penalty merchant, Luka Milivojevic, halved the deficit from the spot (of course!) and Jordan Ayew got the equalizer on the 52nd minute, much to the disgust of the Emirates faithful.

Then the moment of madness arrived – something you can tell your kids and they might even tell their own kids. With the game delicately poised at 2-2, it was only evident that the manager would seek to make some changes in his bid to win the game. The attacking trio of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe were pretty much starved off the ball for the entirety of the game, and there was a certain Mesut Ozil rotting in the stands, so the manager, in his infinite wisdom, brought on an 18-year-old winger, Bukayo Saka, for the club captain, Xhaka to add more attacking impetus.

This isn’t the first time Xhaka has been subbed, and if I recall clearly, he was jeered by the crowd when his number popped up on the fourth officials board earlier in the season. This time, Xhaka, for the life of me was having none of it. He threw his armband on the pitch, rather than passing it to his vice captain, Aubameyang, screamed ‘f*ck off’ to the Gooners, cupped his ear to further incite the fans before taking his shirt off and storming into the dressing room. 

These were my words from the Crystal Palace match report on the blog the next day, and at that point, Granit Xhaka’s future in Arsenal in jeopardy, he was stripped off the captaincy by Unai Emery, and his agent was facilitating a deal with Hertha Berlin ahead of winter transfer window move. However, in a certain twist of fate, Emery ebeninged his way out, and in came Mikel Arteta, who managed to convince Xhaka that he still had a home at the Emirates and within months, the Swiss captain, signed a contract extension with the club till 2024. 

Fast forward to the start of the new campaign, Xhaka is given a new lease of life as well as an advanced role in the team, and as early as the second game of the season, the Swiss midfielder scored his first goal of the season, latching unto Gabriel Jesus’ ball in the box and prod the ball home. Xhaka was only available to score that goal because of his new attacking impetus granted to him by his manager. This was followed up with another assist to William Saliba in the victory against new boys, Bournemouth.

Xhaka, like the rest of his teammates, began September in a disappointing manner following the loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford. His second game in the month took place in his home country of Switzerland, as Arsenal visited FC Zurich for the Europa League opener. I’m sure the locals would have been pleased to see their hero from Basel strutting his stuff while wearing the armband for the first time in eons. Xhaka followed that strong showing at Zurich with a great performance against Brentford, which was culminated with that sumptuous dinked assist that was nodded home by the August Player of the Month, Gabriel Jesus.

Known for having such an engine which goes hand in hand with unreal levels of fitness, Xhaka went off on international duty, playing 120 minutes for Switzerland against Spain and Czech Republic. It’s also worth noting that Xhaka has notched up 106 caps for his country, since his debut in 2011. 

Last weekend, Xhaka found his scoring boots yet again in the 3-1 victory over our fierce rivals, Tottenham, taking his scoring tally to two goals in nine games. Prior to that, Xhaka had scored two goals in his last 75 games, which spanned across two seasons. 

His efforts have been recognized by the Arsenal faithful as Xhaka has been voted as the Player of the Month for September. He amassed a whopping 84 percent of the votes with Gabriel Jesus (eight percent) and Bukayo Saka (four percent) completing the podium. 

I am very elated with the massive improvement I’ve witnessed on the pitch from Xhaka, but massive kudos would also go to Thomas Partey as well as Oleksandr Zinchenko for the roles they play in central midfield, which have allowed Xhaka add this new dimension to his game. Due to his amazing technique, he has always had a sweet strike on him, but playing in this new ‘left number eight’ role has allowed Xhaka to provide some attacking output to his repertoire, and with two goals and three assists to his name, it’s evident that it has reaped some dividends.

Let’s hope he keeps this great form going, as he has become a very essential cog to the midfield.

It was certainly a Septemba to rememba for Xhaka

Sayonara.

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The Goals Keep Coming for the Flo’

Video & remarkable stats as Arsenal's Folarin Balogun nets again for Reims  – 101 Great Goals

Folarin Balogun celebrating a goal for Reims

In my North London Derby match report, I was hoping that the September Manager of the Month, Erik Ten Hag, would go to the Etihad Stadium and put up a show for the neutrals. What we got instead was absolute domination from Manchester City, with a certain Erling Haaland taking the spotlight for breaking yet another record in the Premier League – three consecutive Haa-ttricks on his home turf – a feat achieved in just eight games. There is no argument that the Norwegian forward with the blood of the All-Father, Odin, running down his veins, is a freaking goal machine!

Speaking of goals, Arsenal’s young forward, Folarin Balogun, has been banging them in at Stade de Reims, the French outfit he was loaned to this season. Balogun made his debut as a subsitute for Reims in the 4-1 drubbing they received from the Arsenal extension, Olympique Marseille. Our boy, Nuno Tavares, also netted on his debut for the French juggernauts. Balogun followed up his impressive start with a goal the very next week in the 2-4 home defeat against Clermont Foot. The scoring streak continued with his third goal for Reims against Strasbourg. The goal had a huge significance as it was the equalizer for Reims, as well as their first points of the campaign.

Balogun had his first blank in the impressive 1-1 draw against Lyon, playing for an hour before he was subbed off. However, he resumed his scoring run in the fifth game of the campaign against Angers SCO, coming off the bench to score a goal (Reims’ third), as well as supply an assist for his teammate, Alexis Flips, to make it 4-2. That was Reims first win of the campaign and the Arsenal youngster played a role in making it happen. He returned to the starting lineup for the next two games against Toulouse and Monaco (both losses), and yesterday, he scored his sixth goal of the season in the 2-2 draw with Troyes.

With just one win, four draws and four losses in the first nine matches of the Ligue Un season, Stade de Reims is currently languishing in the relegation zone on 16th, but Arsenal’s loanee, Flo Balogun, is having an exemplary campaign with six goals in nine appearances for the club.

The youngster had spoken about the decision to send him out on loan,

“Before I moved, the gaffer (Arteta) just wanted me to develop as a man. It was kind of like an open answer and it was for me to interpret what he meant by ‘develop as a man’.

By moving abroad, I’m starting to learn what he meant by that. It doesn’t just mean on the pitch but also off the pitch. I think by the time I go back I’ll be in a better place to compete than I was before I left.”

With only Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah recognized as the center forwards at the club, Flo Balogun, would have explored the option of sticking around, featuring regularly for the Reserve teams and get the occasional run outs in the Europa League or domestic cup competitions, but Arsenal had bigger plans for him, approving a move to the French Ligue Un, which served as an excellent brooding ground for a certain William Saliba. Despite his tender age, the experiences Saliba garnered in his St. Etienne and more importantly, Olympique Marseille days, have played a massive role in the player we are seeing today. For someone we had never experienced at the club for three seasons since his big money arrival as an 18-year-old, Saliba is playing at a monstrous level and has been downright exceptional in his early season performances with the club. I read somewhere that he has won possession (71 times) more than any defender in the Premier League this season and in the North London Derby, he won the time a massive 11 times.

Middlesbrough on goal drought after benching Balogun

Balogun celebrating a goal with Boro

Being exposed to consistent football, over 50 games for Marseille, boded well for Saliba and he’s odds on to be on a jet to Qatar this November with the Les Bleus. Flo Balogun on the other hand is on a very good trajectory but I would say that we need to tread with caution for the young lad. Saliba had three full seasons of consecutive football with two French clubs that molded him into the excellent defender he is turning out to be. Balogun, on the other hand, had a rather indifferent loan spell with Middlesbrough where he started nine games and made nine substitute appearances, scoring just three goals. 

I’m in the opinion that he remains at Stade de Reims for at least another season, where he will continue to build his confidence as a striker, and his six goals in nine games for the French minnows shows that the talent is obviously there to be harnessed and Arsenal will be the long term beneficiaries.

The goals keep coming for the Flo, and we are loving it!

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: North London is Red, so is the Premier League

Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: Player ratings as Gunners cruise to north London derby victory

Partey celebrating his goal

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham (Partey 20′, G. Jesus 49′, Xhaka 67′) | (Kane (PK) 31′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White (Tomiyasu 89′), Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Tierney 73′); Partey (Lokonga 73′), Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard (F. Vieira 80′), Martinelli; Jesus (Nketiah 80′)

I had previewed the North London Derby yesterday and touched on Gabriel Jesus’ comments regarding what was labelled as a very important match for everyone connected with Arsenal. The old enemy had arrived in town, basking in the confidence of still being unbeaten in the Premier League, and also hoping to latch unto their counter attacking style, which proved to be Arsenal’s undoing in their recent defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. 

Tottenham lined up in the same way you’d expect from Antonio Conte’s teams with three at the back, two wing backs, two dogged central midfielders and a three-pronged attack led by the North London Derby’s top scorer, and pretty much the scourge of Arsenal, Harry Kane. However, it was the home side that began on the ascendancy, with Gabriel Martinelli drilling a goal-bound shot that clipped the post before missing the mark. Despite being on the back foot, Tottenham almost took the lead when Richarlison was clean on goal and didn’t really connect well with his shot but Aaron Ramsdale was on hand to make a great save.

The Gunners took the lead and sent the fans to delirium following some brilliant play on the right. Bukayo Saka connected well with Ben White whose cushioned ball to Thomas Partey was curled first time, leaving Hugo Lloris with no chance in Hell to execute a save.

VIDEO: Thomas Partey scores a stunning goal for Arsenal against Tottenham in London derby - Ghana Latest Football News, Live Scores, Results - GHANAsoccernet

Arsenal’s captain, Martin Odegaard, confirmed after the game that Partey’s strike was planned,

“It was a great goal. We knew before the game he was going to be free in those areas and we practised that a lot, to find him in those areas, and he made a great shot. 

“I think he played a great game as well so a lot of credit to him, and of course the team.”

What makes that goal more exciting was the fact that there were 21 passes in the build-up to Partey’s strike, which is the joint-most leading to a goal in the Premier League this season after Fabio Vieira’s strike against Brentford.

The home side’s joy was short lived as Tottenham grabbed an equalizer following yet another error from Gabriel Magalhaes. A through ball in behind the defense putting the Gunners backline in sixes and sevens, and it seemed like they had handled the threat, but a poor clearance brought the ball to Richarlison’s path who guided the ball well in the box before he was scythed down by Gabriel. The ref didn’t need to consult VAR as he pointed to the spot and up stepped Harry Kane.

Harry Kane becomes first Premier League player to score 100 away goals - Sportstar

Kane becomes the first Premier League player to score 100 away goals

There are some certainties in this life – death, taxes, and Harry Kane scoring in the North London Derby, and he didn’t disappoint, firing down the middle as Ramsdale moved to his right hand side.

Tottenham’s equalizer certainly rocked their hosts and both teams went into the break on a stalemate, with the hopes of controlling the game in the second half. Prior to the ref’s whistle, Kane nodded the ball straight at Ramsdale, while Gabriel Jesus went on a slalom run in the box, leaving some defenders for dead with his silky dribbling skills before firing a shot that was smothered by Lloris.

Arsenal began the second 45 minutes like a house on fire and grabbed a well deserved lead when Saka found a sweet spot in the box and fired a shot that was parried by Lloris to his defender, Cristian Romero’s path. The Argentine unleashed his inner Skhodran Mustafi, dallying on the ball, and in a comical moment, the ball squirmed under Lloris, with the predatory Jesus on hand to smash in his fifth goal of the season to an unguarded net. They all can’t be curlers or headers, and from the rapturous celebrations of the crowd, they certainly didn’t care.

Arsenal 3 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur - Match Report | Arsenal.com

Fans celebrating the Jesus’ goal (via Arsenal.com)

Jesus had the chance to put the game beyond doubt when he connected with an Oleksandr Zinchenko cross, but his header was far off the mark. He also suffered an injury as he landed awkwardly, but thankfully he shrugged it off. Arsenal’s chances of winning the game received a timely boost when Tottenham’s Emerson Royal received his marching orders for a nasty tackle on Gabriel Martinelli. It didn’t look malicious on first viewing but the VAR replays showed how high the Brazilian defender’s boot was, so the sending off was well deserved.

It was quite ironic, as Martinelli, free off the shackles of Emerson Royal, played a part in the goal that put the game beyond doubt.

Arsenal vs Tottenham: Premier League result and report as Gunners dominate Spurs in north London derby at the Emriates stadium | The Independent

The left winger drifted into the opposition area and was robbed off the ball by Granit Xhaka that wasted no time in smashing in a surface-to-goal piledriver past Lloris to make it 3-1. That goal was the final nail in the Tottenham coffin, tearing up their unbeaten run and solidifying Arsenal’s status as the top team in the land this week, irrespective of what happens in the Manchester Derby today.

Arteta waxed lyrical for his players following the game and touched on the atmosphere the fans have created this season. There is a very special connection between the fans and the players this campaign, and it has spurred the lads on to put amazing performances week in, week out. 

This win puts Arsenal on 21 points, four clear of Manchester City, and we the “neutrals” are hoping that the Manager of the Month for September, Erik Ten Hag, will show up with his boys and do the business at the Etihad. Any result beyond a Manchester City win will be good for world peace.

Next up is Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League on Thursday and these hardworking lads can get a breather before the visit of Liverpool next week Sunday. More on that as the week progresses but at this point in time, it is safe to say that…

North London is Red, so is the Premier League.

Sayonara.

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