Every Gooner looks forward to the summer because Arsenal has renewed its contract with Club Trophy-less for another season. Arsene Wenger was at the helm of affairs when he created an unstoppable force in the 2003/04 season called the Invincibles but its fair to say that his present lot can be tagged as The Invisibles.
The Invincibles had a Mad German between the sticks and the defence line was composed of a resilient, hard-working but cuntly left back, a strong and efficient right back and two centre backs that had the joint qualities of coordination, power, pace, aggression and composure.
The Invisibles on the other hand has a young commanding Pole that’s gradually making a name for himself with his stellar performances, a fit and consistent right back, an injury-ravaged left back and a centre back pairing that has the joint qualities of bravery, height, composure, technique and anticipation.
Opposition offences always got scared when they came up against the defence of the Invincibles but many teams relish the prospect of playing the defence of the Invisibles because they leak more goals than a faulty faucet. Most times, strikers don’t have to do much work because the defence of the Invisibles possesses a Self Destruct sequence they activate from time to time.
The quartet in the midfield of the Invincibles were players you could only see in your fantasies. The dreamy Robert Pires that had a level of technique that was second to none, the pacey and canny Freddie Ljungberg whose off the ball movement was a constant thorn in the flesh, the efficient Gilberto Silva that ran the show in the middle of the park and the inspirational leader Monsieur Patrick Vieira. Now the Gooners watch the upcoming Alex Song, the “vastly experienced” Mikel Arteta and the player that kills prominent figure heads anytime he scores, Aaron Ramsey.
The forward line of the Invincibles had a technical demigod in the form of Sir Reverend His Royal Highness Dennis Bergkamp and the goal scoring machine and a legend in every sense of the word, Thierry Henry. Robin van Persie can match the King in terms of his goal scoring exploits but he’s supported by Gervinho and Theo Walcott.
Following the 4-0 drubbing at Milan, the Gunners lost in the FA Cup 5th round to Sunderland and things have gone haywire as the fans have expressed their dissatisfaction following another campaign that promised so much but had nothing to offer in the end. Caught Offside reports that FC Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola has been touted as a summer replacement for Arsene Wenger and they may be forced to spend money this time.
“We will get criticism but I feel that it is a bit hard on the team. At the moment I get many lessons from many people who have managed zero clubs and zero games and zero European games.”
“We have played 15 years in the top four, which is a mark of our consistency.”
He has vowed that his team would fight on and he hopes that his team would respond well against Tottenham Hotspurs. The FA Cup quarter final draws have made and Martin O’ Neill’s Sunderland will visit Goodison Park to take on Everton.
Still sticking with the FA Cup, Arsenal’s loanee to Bolton Ryo Miyaichi scored his first goal in English football inside the first five minutes in Bolton’s 5th Round victory over Millwall. Miyaichi used his great pace to reach a through ball before making a superb first touch to move the ball away from the defender. He opened his body up and scored a goal reminiscent of Park Chu-Young’s curler against Bolton.
Owen Coyle ran out of superlatives for the Japanese youngster:
“He showed what a talent he is. There’s other stuff he can learn, but he’s brave and tough – he stood up to some of the treatment he got – and he always plays with a smile on his face, which I absolutely love.”
Coyle added that he had been keen on the player for some time, even though he has only made two substitute appearances for the Gunners’ first-team, and was thrilled when Wenger gave him permission to take him on loan. Miyaichi’s loan spell at Bolton would do wonders to his confidence and I hope he comes back strongly like Jack Wilshere.
The left wing is currently occupied by Gervinho while the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have had stints there. It’s also heart warming to know that Ryo Miyaichi would probably give them a run for their money next season.
A great team isn’t measured by how many times they get knocked down. They are measured by how strong they are when they get back up.
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The spectacle of the Carling Cup graced the Emirates again and a new look typical Carling Cup side was expected from the manager that had qualified for the quarterfinals in eight consecutive occasions since Carling took over the sponsorship rights from Worthington or Worth Nothing as my pal Tomasz calls it.
Arsene Wenger made a significant amount of changes on the starting berth as well as the reserves and it was no surprise when Lukasz Fabianski emerged as the custodian between the sticks in yesterday’s tie. 12 months ago, Wojciech Szczesny’s outburst won him a place in the squad to play Newcastle United while Fabianski was sitting pretty as Arsenal’s number one but that’s football for you.
With Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson out injured and Johan Djourou having the potential to pick up a mysterious strain or something close to it, Wenger handed a first senior appearance for youngster, Nico Yennaris. Andre Santos is the only recognized left full back and with Kieran Gibbs still relaxing at the club’s treatment table, Wenger gave Ignasi Miquel another chance to strut his stuff in the left back position this time.
Wenger decided to give the Arsenal fans a Carling Cup treat with his selection in the centre of the defense. He decided to pair up Arsenal’s worst defender by a far mile (Sebastien Squillaci) with its best defender and the leader of the pack, Thomas Vermaelen.
The midfield also had the perfect blend with the right mix of youth and experience with the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin providing solidity in the middle of the park while Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided wit from the flanks. Wenger finally decided to play Andrey Arshavin in the position he excelled as a player in Zenit St. Petersburg, the hole behind the striker while Arsenal’s soon-to-be soldier Park Chu-Young spearheaded the attack.
The bench was reminiscent of the bench Arsene Wenger took to Old Trafford with Vito Mannone being the only player that had started a match for Arsenal. I’m pretty sure that the average age of the remaining six players in the dugout didn’t exceed 18.
Bolton threatened from the start of the match when Andrey Arshavin fouled Geitar Steinsson. Gael Kakuta took the free kick but it was handled well by the Arsenal backline. Darren Pratley made a flick that brought out the best in Wojciech Szczesny in the 3-0 victory last month but he was on hand to fire a shot that was saved by Lukasz Fabianski after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lost possession in the midfield.
Park Chu-Young then fired a 25-yard drive that was saved by Bolton’s Alan Bogdan. The goalie had a horror outing when Bolton hosted Chelsea so he was out to impress Owen Coyle. Yossi Benayoun came close to opening the scoring but his effort just missed the right side of the goal.
Arsenal won a free kick on the edge of the area and Thomas Vermaelen fancied a chance so he drove the ball straight at goal thereby producing another good save from Bogdan. Park fired another tame effort late in the first half but Bogdan made another simple save.
At halftime, it was a goalless stalemate and both teams went into their dressing rooms to receive pep talks from the managers. It seemed as if Owen Coyle’s team talk worked a treat because Bolton began the second half with a bang. Arsenal reject Fabrice Muamba dispossessed Emmanuel Frimpong easily in the middle before driving forward and feeding in Pratley, who in turn teed up the midfielder with a return ball which was duly slammed into the roof of the net from six yards out.
The Arsenal defense was all over the place and were almost punished Gael Kakuta’s cross found Ivan Klasnic who could only nod the ball over the bar. This quick-fire attack from Bolton spurred on the hosts and the equalizer came from a player that has been under serious stick this season, Andrey Arshavin.
Arshavin made a jinking run to the box and it seemed as if he was going to pass the ball to a teammate so the Bolton defenders kept backing the little Russian and in a matter of split seconds, he was inside Bolton’s box drilling the ball past a hapless Bogdan that watched it sail past him.
That goal must have done a lot of wonders for Arshavin because it was his first goal since that gift of a goal he scored in September when Swansea visited the Emirates. The gooners were very ecstatic when Arshavin equalized but the goal that was scored was better with each passing replay.
Andrey Arshavin invited the Bolton defense to him leaving Park Chu-Young free on the edge of the area. A simply weighted pass followed but Park scored the type of a goal that the Arsenal fans witnessed week in week out from the great Thierry Henry. It was a first time sweetly curled effort that eased past Bogdan before hitting the back of the net.
The match was watched live in Korea Republic and the goal was already on YouTube seconds after Park curled in the sweet effort. One cannot underestimate the effort Asians put into watching football. I’ll never forget the Manchester United vs. Tottenham game where Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo locked horns against each other. It was estimated that the amount of Asians watching that game on big screens on the streets of Korea were large enough to actually fill up White Hart Lane that day.
Bolton pushed on for an equalizer and they brought out the best of Arsenal’s current number 2 goalie, Fabianski. Mark Davies went really close but his effort missed by a whisker. Francis Coquelin fouled the same player to concede a free kick in a decent position for Bolton. Gael Kakuta’s effort was destined for the back of the net but Fabianski popped up to make a top drawer save.
Chris Eagles replaced Kakuta and was involved in the action with a long-range piledriver that was saved yet again by the Pole guarding the poles. The barrage on Fabianski’s goal continued with Ivan Klasnic as well as Gary Cahill but there was no stopping Fabianski who was in inspired form to keep Bolton at bay.
Park almost netted a brace but his attempt went wide. Late on Ryo Miyaichi made a last-ditch intervention to block Cahill’s effort that would sent the game into extra time. The ref blew his whistle and Arsene Wenger continued his impressive record in the Carling Cup by making the quarterfinals yet again.
Arsenal last won the competition in 1993 but Wenger has come close twice by losing to Chelsea in the 2007 final before losing to Birmingham last season. Wenger had a few things to say at his press conference:
“The first half we had the chances. Second half they caught us and scored. From then on we were tested. The more experienced players took control of the game – Arshavin, Park and Benayoun. They turned things around. When we were 2-1 up with 20 minutes to go our legs had gone a bit. Some of these players had not played at this intensity before.”
He also made a comment about the injury returnee Thomas Vermaelen:
“Vermaelen will be a bit short for Saturday. It didn’t look too bad but he came off with a slight calf problem. I didn’t expect the game to have this kind of intensity. It was big pressure for a centre back.”
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have been doing okay in his absence so I have utmost confidence in both players when they play against the rejuvenated Fernando Torres. The Arsenal bad omen, Didier Drogba has been suspended so that’s a major plus if you ask me.
Wenger also had sweet words for Park, Miyaichi and the Chambered Ox.
Arsenal is back in business.
Next stop, the Stamford Blue London bridge.
I hope we’ll be able to sing that nursery rhyme after 90 minutes,
“London bridge is falling down, falling down…..”
Even if it was early days, yesterday’s match seemed like a relegation 6-pointer.
The home side had a very patchy form that started with a draw which was followed by two losses in a row. An unconvincing win was followed by a shock loss to the team that was at the foot of the table.
The away side wasn’t any better. They started impressively with a 4-0 spanking of the new boys in the block but they’ve been on the wrong end of four successive defeats.
Kieran Gibbs did well in the Carling Cup so he was selected ahead of Andre Santos. Walcott was also chosen against Arshavin in the fresh side that had a break on Tuesday.
Bolton was the first to draw first blood when a Chris Eagles cross was nodded into the dabger area by David Wheater. Pratley got on the end of the ball and produced an amazing save from Wojciech Szczesny. Eagles also threatened again with another ball to Martin Petrov but Per Mertesacker was on hand to avert the danger.
Arsenal turned on the style to attack Bolton and a free kick was won on the left hand side of Bolton’s area, an area that can also be called as van Persie’s territory. The Dutchman swung it in but it was easy pickings for Bolton’s stalwart Jussi Jaaskelainen. The man with the whistle Mark Clattenburg requested for the free kick to be taken again so Mikel Arteta gave the ball a little nudge and van Persie curled it to the top corner but it missed by a lick of paint.
The Elbow Man Kevin Davies had played 120 matches in a row for the Trotters but he was warming the bench yesterday. However, he was sent back into action when David N’ Gog seemed concussed from the head bashing he received from Laurent Koscielny minutes ago.
Davies almost found himself through on goal but his control let him down after receiving a good pass from Paul Robinson. Arsenal’s defense was found wanting yet again and the Gunner might have been punished had Davies put that ball under control.
Koscielny had one of those moments where he waltzed forward and he almost put Arsenal 1 up. He ran a considerable length of the pitch before feeding Theo Walcott but he remained forward. Walcott gave it to Gervinho before delivering a cross into the box to see an unmarked Koscielny. The Frenchman attempted a scissors kick but his effort went wide.
Walcott had some chances at the end of the half but that was it from an Arsenal perspective because Mr. Clattenburg signaled for halftime. Arsenal was encouraging but had no goals to show for it, a familiar story.
Arsenal went into a flyer at the start of the second half thanks to some decisive attacking play. Gervinho got the ball in midfield and made a run but he was tackled by some bloke but as Ramsey received the ball, Mr. Clattenburg waved play-on instead of stopping play for an infringement. Ramsey moved with the ball before setting up RVP on the edge of the box. He dallied a bit before creating a chance for himself to beat Jaaskelainen on his near post.
Gervinho had a lovely one-two with Alex Song but he couldn’t finish off the delightful move. Bolton’s woes were compounded when a Ramsey through pass was heading straight to Walcott but he was impeded by Wheater who happened to be Bolton’s last man leaving the ref no choice but to brandish a red.
Arteta almost increased Arsenal’s lead after some brilliant work from Gervinho and van Persie on the left hand side but the ball was intercepted for a corner kick. Jaaskelainen was in the thick of things for Bolton and he was called to action again when van Persie teed up Walcott for a shot that was duly saved by the goalie but he parried it straight to Arteta’s direction that smashed another ball goalwards but the Finn was on hand to belly his years and make another good stop.
At some point Bolton had a swift counter attack that almost leveled the tie but Szczesny’s concentration was in check when Eagles lashed in a low drive goalwards. In an instance, it was Arsenal that was on the other end of Bolton’s goal with a low effort form van Persie that was saved by the goalie.
There was also a little moment of madness when van Persie was in the midst of five Bolton players in an off the ball event but the intended brawl didn’t emanate as the ref and other players eased everything off.
Gervinho and Walcott were nuisances to Bolton’s defense and the English winger chipped a delightful ball that was headed home by van Persie but Jaaskelainen appeared from nowhere to make another wonder save. Arteta swung in the corner but it was headed away from the danger to the path of Koscielny who smashed it back to the goal but the goalie was in inspired form as he made another good save.
Arsenal was knocking at Bolton’s door for the second but Jaaskelainen stood at the front the door and attempted to swallow the key so Arsenal had to switch to its battering ram mode and there was nothing the Finn could do about that.
Ramsey sent another through ball to Walcott on the right hand side and the winger had acres of space to exploit. He raised his head up and found van Persie free so he sent a well weighted ball to Arsenal’s captain who made the slightest of touches to score Arsenal’s second goal. That was also his 100th for the club after six years of magnificent service.
Ramsey was having an amazing game in midfield and he was left to fire the trigger from long range and he did to produce another good save from Jaaskelainen. Song supplied the pass of the day to Walcott who had all the time in the world to finish the ball in any way that would have been pleasing to him.
Walcott had limitless options to score the goal but he chose the most awkward of them all, a quick low drive that was punched to safety by Jaaskelainen. Gervinho’s time on the pitch was up so Wenger opted for the little Russian pygmy called Andrei Arshavin. Arteta was also sacrificed for the injury returnee Tomas Rosicky.
Arsenal kept pushing for the match clincher but they became more wasteful. With the tie against Olympiakos in mind, the Centurion was substituted for Marouane Chamakh but he knew who was going to get the band this time.
Arsenal killed off the tie after some amazing work from Bacary Sagna. The full back ran at the defense before cutting the ball back into Bolton’s danger area. The ball missed out on Ramsey but Song was in hand to evade his marker before finishing aplomb.
In a very delightful afternoon for Arsene Wenger, the Gunners and the fans alike, despair became the order of the day when Walcott pulled up short after attempting to chase a ball from Chamakh. The winger had a great game but the demons of injuries came to dwell on him when he was having a good time.
At the end of the whistle, Arsenal was home and dry and had propelled five places up the log to be placed at 12th position. The weekend also had its fair share of records with van Persie entering the 100 club, Peter Crouch scoring in his sixth different club and Fernando Torres scoring in his second game in a row since the days Merlin was the chief wizard of Britain.
Szczesny (7.0) had an uneventful day at the office but came to action when he was called.
Sagna (7.0) supplied the assist for the final goal.
Gibbs (6.5) did okay on the left and played a big role in Eagles weak shot with his burst of pace.
Koscielny (7.0) showed off his attacking talents while doing a decent job at the back.
Mertesacker (6.5) had a good game by his standards.
Song (8.5) was amazing yet again and finished it off with a well taken goal.
Ramsey (8.0) was ubiquitous in midfield and always wanted the ball because he knew what to do with it.
Arteta (7.0) had another great outing for his new club.
Walcott (8.0) was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Bolton defense. Disappointed to see how his evening ended. 🙁
Gervinho (7.0) ran at the Bolton defense with real drive and intent.
Van Persie (9.0) scored a century of goals for his club, an amazing return for a truly amazing player.
Arshavin, Rosicky and Chamakh didn’t play long enough to get Gooner Daily ratings.
In a weekend were the Big Boys showed what they are made of, Stoke Rugby FC proved to the world why the Britannia Stadium has become a fortress with a well deserved 1-1 draw with the champions. Peter Crouch made history in that game while Luis Nani continued to show stats wise why he has been better than Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United.
As at yesterday in their Manure United careers, CR7 and Michael Jackson’s clone shared 19 goals each at the club but Yar’ Adua is better off with 33 assists while CR7 had 12.
The sun is shining again at the Emirates; Olympiakos comes up next before a trip to the rejuvenated old enemy Tottenham Hotspurs.
They also have a weapon that Arsenal used to destroy them back in the days, Emmanuel Greedybayor.