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10 players that need to step their game up in the 2011/12 season

The 2010/11 season was a season to forget in Arsenal Football Club. A season that promised so much ended in shambles and the panic button was pressed so hard that it sprang out of the remote control. The club won the 2011 Emirates Cup following a draw with 7-time Champions League winners AC Milan and a 3-2 victory over Celtic. At the start of the New Year, Arsenal was the only club that was still eligible to win every competition football as a port had to offer but disaster struck as the season progressed.

The Gunners had another clear shot of silverware on the 27th of February when they took on Birmingham in Wembley but the game will be remembered for the error that won Birmingham the game after a mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal was shown the exit door in the Champions League by Barcelona and Manchester United drove the nail in the club’s FA Cup coffin despite starting the tie with 7 recognized defenders. The Premier League offered the Gunners a chance to end the 6-year trophy drought as well as the 7-year Premier League drought.

The last Arsenal team that won the Premier League did it in grand style as they went to an entire season unbeaten so Wenger’s class of 2011 had it all to do when they were told that victories in their last nine games would have been enough to put their names in history. The last nine games that included: Blackburn (home), Blackpool (Away), Liverpool (Home), Tottenham (Away), Bolton (Away), Manchester United (Home), Stoke Rugby FC (Away), Aston Villa (Home) and Fulham (Away).

With Manchester United competing on three fronts (League, FA Cup and Champions League), Arsenal was expected to have the fresher legs and had the chance to rest because every game was played on Sunday but it wasn’t still enough for the Gunners as they decided to put up a dismal run of form that can be compared with the likes of Wigan, Sunderland and Wolves.

The run started with a bore draw at the Emirates against a Blackburn side that has a goalie that opens the floodgates anytime he plays against Arsenal. Mad Jens Lehmann came back from retirement to be the custodian between the sticks in the 3-1 win at Bloomfield Road against the relegated Blackpool so Arsenal was faced with the “week of destiny” with games coming up against Liverpool, Tottenham and Bolton. With Manchester United making steady progress at the summit of the table, there was no room for error but Farmer Emmanuel Eboue inspired an amazing comeback for Liverpool in the 101st minute after Arsenal had gone ahead in the 98th minute. The spoils were also shared in the North London Derby after an intense battle so Arsenal required a win against Bolton to stay in touch with the leaders.

After conceding a headed goal to loanee Danny Sturridge, Wojciech Szczesny spared Arsenal’s blushes by making a good penalty save before Robin van Persie brought Arsenal back into the game after a neat one-two with Francesc Fabregas. Nasri and Chamakh had the chances to kill the game off but it was Tamir Cohen’s header in the 90th minute that inflicted the final blow in Arsenal’s title aspirations.

The fact that Arsenal lost to a side that was pummeled 5-0 by Stoke Rugby FC wasn’t enough, the defeat also meant that Chelsea had usurped Arsenal to second place as the new challengers for the title and where really close but Manchester United’s character shone through when they needed it the most. I’m very certain if Manchester United or Chelsea were behind Arsenal with 3 points, the match would have ended in a draw or a win for Arsenal’s rivals because the squad’s mentality is very low.

The remaining fixtures were mere formalities so no eyebrows were raised when Manchester City leapfrogged Arsenal to take the final Champions League automatic slot. At the end of the Premier League campaign, Arsenal scored 72 goals and conceded 43 with a final league position of 4th place after amassing 68 points. Some players like Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on 10 Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up or face the axe.

Here’s my take on the infamous ten.

10. Manuel Almunia

After doing so well to render mad Jens Lehmann out of business, Manuel Almunia became a shadow of the blonde haired player that took the Premier League by storm and saved a million and one penalties at the Emirates. Anytime the name West Brom will be mentioned while he’s asleep, I’m pretty sure that he’ll scream and start having nightmares because West Brom was the club that sent Almunia’s Arsenal career into oblivion both home and away. Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone are clearly above the Spaniard and he has been heavily linked with a move to Spain or Turkey. I just hope that Arsenal can do its best to get at least £1m for the aging goalie.

9. Denilson Perreira Neves

Even though he has been packaged in a box and has been sent across the Atlantic to his previous employers, Denilson was a false clone of the player that featured in over 50 games for Arsenal in the 2008/09 season. It’s true that Wilshere’s emergence last season limited him to a meager appearances but Denilson was an absolute stinker in 90% of the games he played for Arsenal last season. So bad that he couldn’t even play well against the lowly sides Arsenal faced in the Cup competitions. He was the first player to wave the white flag shortly after the Fulham game and I’m pretty sure that he won’t wear the Red and White ever again.

8. Abou Vassiriki Diaby

In the summer of the 2008/09 season, Abou Diaby was the reason Samir Nasri suffered a broken leg in Austria but he probably got himself acquainted with a female physio working at Arsenal because he spent more times on the treatment table than on the pitch. His appearances were so low than 21 players in the 25-man squad list had more minutes than him. Diaby is a man that plays with a loose nut in his brain and he can be very frustrating to watch at times. So frustrating that a gooner threw his footwear at the television in a public viewing centre in my days at Owerri; a television that did not belong to him.

If Diaby continues in this mold, his Arsenal days will definitely be numbered and he has already started the season with a 10-week layoff thanks to the demons of injury.

7. Tomas Rosicky

“Little Mozart” as he is fondly called in some parts of the World suffered an injury that was more than enough to make him announce his retirement from the beautiful game but he has done really well to fight his ‘enemies’ to stay fit. However, his injury has taken its toll on his football and Rosicky was a fringe player that offered nothing to the club last season. He was afraid to go into any tackle and the goal he missed against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final was more than enough to shatter someone’s confidence. TR7 has been okay from the preseason games I’ve watched so far so he’ll have to step his game up because the attacking midfield position is suddenly up for grabs again with the imminent departure of Fabregas and Nasri.

6. Farmer Emmanuel Eboue

Farmer Emmanuel Eboue has had his moments at Arsenal football club. Starting from when he usurped Lauren to become Arsenal’s No. 1 right back to when he scored his first Arsenal goal against Hamburg in the 2006/07 season. From when he scored that belter in the same season against Reading in the Carling Cup till when we was promoted to the position of a right winger after the acquisition of Bacary Sagna. There were times where he turned into a diving specialist to win set pieces for Arsenal, there was also a game where he turned into a pantomime villain against Wigan and he was substituted despite coming on as a sub. Last season, Farmer Eboue was a major disappointment and he dug his own Arsenal grave when the Gunners hosted Liverpool on the 16th of April, 2011 after conceding that penalty thanks to a push on Lucas Leiva. Farmer Eboue has been linked with a move to Galatasaray and it seems as if he’s odds on to complete the move.

5. Sebastien Squillaci

The Squisha (as I prefer to call him) arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain and the “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a very in teaching the younger ones like Djourou and Koscielny but he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre. He even lived up to the Legendary No. 18 own goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut. To be frank, I don’t even want Squillaci to step up his game; I want him to enter the nearest train through the English Channel to play for any French outfit available. Seeing that guy wear the Red and White sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make.

4. Kieran Gibbs

Kieran Gibbs spent a long while out injured two seasons ago when he damaged his metatarsal in the Champions League match against Standard Liege but he wasn’t too impressive when he deputized for Clichy last season with his most glaring mistakes present in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final. His positioning was questionable and he offered no threat going forward but Clichy’s exit has given him the chance to shine this upcoming season so I hope that he’ll do well to grab the bull by the horns and balls.

3. Nicklas Bendtner

Bendtner scored nine goals for Arsenal last season but the bulk of his goals were scored against lowly sides in the Cup competitions because of his limited chances. He banged in a hattrick against Leyton Orient and he scored a peach of a goal when Arsenal played Ipswich in the Carling Cup semis but Bendtner has decided to call it quits in his fledgling Arsenal career because he feels that he’s good enough to start every game in an Arsenal side that has a Robin van Persie. Many clubs have placed their radars on Bendtner but he still remains an Arsenal player so he’ll have to step his game up if no team decides to buy him again because he has a contract to fulfill.

2. Marouane Chamakh

Last season, Arsenal’s new boy deputized for the injured rVp and B52 and he was in a hot streak with 10 goals in his first 21 appearances but the goals dried up faster than the wells in the Sahara, Kalahari and the Atacama deserts put together with one goal in his remaining matches for Arsenal. He hasn’t impressed yet this preseason but I truly hope that he’ll step his game up because we can’t bank on van Persie to stay fit for an entire season.

1. Andrei Arshavin

With 10 goals and 17 assists to his name last season, people will still ask,

“Why on Earth is Arshavin’s name doing in the same list with Manuel Almunia?”

But the truth is that Arshavin was quite disappointing even if he delivered. He was so disappointing that he lost his place in the starting lineup to Theo Walcott and he didn’t win it back till the season ended. With Nasri going out the way very soon, Arshavin will only have the threat of Gervinho to contend with even though Carlos Vela, Ryo Miyaichi and the Chambered Ox are somewhere in the mix.

I just hope that these Gunners will do well to kill their personal demons and play very well in the upcoming season because Arsene Wenger’s future might just be in their hands.

Going trophyless again after selling key players like Fabregas and Nasri will definitely backfire on Wenger.


Diaby out, transfer roundup and Emirates Cup preview

This is the first of many more Saturdays I’m going to spend in Lagos and it’s going to be graced with Arsenal football. This is that time of the year where the Gunners have a shot at the only piece of silverware that fails to enter the club’s cabinet because the Black Widow spider residing there doesn’t regard it as a trophy worth entering her home. Apologies for not publishing any post yesterday. I spent a lot of time sorting myself out before getting my ass to Genesis Deluxe Cinemas to watch the final installment of the Harry Potter series. In my high school days at King’s College, I read all 7 books but watching the movie end made me very sad because it was evident that there’ll be no more Harry Potter for years to come. It’s not like the X-Men series where you can create Origins or First Class out of the blue.

Moving over to Arsenal news, I’m about to write about something gooners have become accustomed to. Abou Vassiriki Diaby will miss the start of the new season because he has been sidelined for 10 weeks. Since his arrival in the winter of 2005, Abou Diaby has been a victim of many injuries with the most horrific being the broken ankle he suffered in the hands of Sunderland’s Dan Smith in May 2006. After spending many months out recuperating, Diaby has been a regular customer in Arsenal’s treatment room; so regular that 21 players in the 25-man list played more games than him last season.

I wish him all the best and a quick recovery but he’s one player that I can’t wait to see his contract expire. In as much as Wenger has mentioned that he has massive potential and can be likened to the great Vieira, Diaby isn’t really an Arsenal material. He has the technique, agility, strength and stamina to play for any team but his mental IQ is very low. He dwells on the ball too much and he puts his teammates under pressure. Let’s not forget the amazing own goal he scored in Old Trafford that condemned his team to defeat.

Diaby can thrive well in a club that lacks the ambition to win trophies and I’m hoping that he’ll be sold back home to France or a mid-table Premier League outfit someday. I’m still in the opinion that Diaby is in Arsenal because he’s French. Sir Alex Chewie, Mou-rhino, Pep Guardy the Bald, Carlo the Cannibal or Villas Boa Constrictor won’t have the patience to have a player like Diaby on their side. Despite all my taunts at the lanky Frenchman, Diaby still remains an Arsenal player so I’ll cut him some slack.

Moving over to the media Vultures section of today’s post, I’ll start with possible departures as always. It seems as if Arsenal will be resigned to losing Henri Lansbury because Norwich is gearing up a £1.5m permanent move for the youngster. I watched him play in the Carling Spoon third round and I was hugely impressed but I won’t shed a tear if he’s sold to a club where he’s guaranteed of first team football for the rest of his days. Henri is a fine player and a future starlet but there are many players in his playing position that have their ‘future starlet’ tag on their heads. I hope he achieves a cult hero status in Carrow Road.

Nicklas Bendtner has been the subject of discussion for media Vultures and gooners alike for many weeks but it seems as if everything will be laid to rest because there are reports emerging that he’ll be unveiled as a Sporting CP player very soon. After starting his career in FC Copenhagen before being shown the light by AW the Alchemist, Bendtner has decided to take a new step in another direction by forcing a move out of Arsenal with his father/agent at the thick of things spearheading every possible move.

Good luck to B52 as he’s ready to ply his trade in Portugal. At least he can rest assured that he’ll play European football every season and I’m sure that Platini will find a way to make Sporting CP play Arsenal.

Moving to arrivals, the media Vultures say that Arsenal would soon seal the deal for the signing that Matas. He has been linked heavily to Arsenal but he’s still wearing the White and Black of the Mestalla-based outfit. Signing a player like Mata would show Wenger’s positive intent to win silverware because Mata will be a quality addition to the squad. He’s the kind of player that rVp and El Capitan have been whining to Wenger about and I’m pretty sure that the gooners will drool with the prospect of his signing.

Arsenal will start their Emirates Cup adventure against Boca Juniors this evening and I’m sure that Juan Roman Riquelme will be under the spotlight for the reasons best known to the dementors of Azkaban. He was the player that missed that crucial penalty after Jose Mari fell like a sack of potatoes from a fictitious foul by Man City’s Clichy. The match review for the game will come up in tomorrow’s post.

That’s all for today but you can check out Will (@iamgooonerblog)‘s article on signing Cahill and Jagielka.

I was also very impressed with Yogi Warrior’s post on the early life of rVp. Trust me, its worth a read.


Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Mad Weekend over: Time to move on….

Sorry about the lateness of today’s post. I’ve been through a lot of stress today. I actually considered not writing a post tonight. It was like a war between me Bruce Banner and my blog Gooner Hulk. As always, when “provoked”, Bruce Banner gives way for the Hulk.

Arsenal capitulated from a comfortable winning position to end up with a draw. The main highlights that did not involve goals were Diaby’s red card and Djourou’s injury.

As expected, few of our players went to the media Vultures to talk about the game. AW the Alchemist, Andrei “Hotty” Arshavin, Wojciech “Szszsz” Szczesny and Bacary Sagna.

AW the Alchemist talked about the psychological and physical impact of the game. It’s not everyday you throw away a 4 goal lead in the Premier League. Newcastle also battered our players in that game.

Arshavin said that everybody is “sad”. He also said a lot of stuff but the bottom line is that he wanted the Arsenal to stand up and continue from where we stopped. After losing to the Red Hell Owners on the 13th of December, we went on a 7-game winning streak. Let’s not forget that it was this same set of players that achieved that feat.

Szszsz said that everyone was disappointed about the outing but the international break will serve as a good distraction.

I posted yesterday’s blog post with fire in my belly and anger as my driving force so I was very harsh on Abou Diaby.

Diaby is a professional footballer plying his trade with Arsenal FC. He’s a young player whose learning curve have been blighted by numerous injuries. In 2006, Sunderland’s Dan Smith dislocated his ankle with a horrible tackle. This kept him out for an entire pregnancy period. This season he has suffered horrific tackles from Chelsea’s Ghanian defensive midfield Carpenter and Bolton’s Paul Robinson.

It’s really disappointing to stay on the sidelines while you watch your teammates play on the pitch.

The tackle from that technically gifted brawler was very innocuous but Diaby’s reaction showed his “human nature” instead of his professionalism. With him serving a three match compounded with injuries to Denilson and Song, the squad has been stretched to the limit. Let’s just hope that our defensive midfielders are fit enough to play those Kryptonians known as the BarcAliens on the 16th of the month.

I thought that Johan “Injourou” Djourou suffered a shoulder injury because of the way he was holding his shoulder when he was about to be substituted. The latest diagnosis is that our best defender by a long mile will face a lengthy spell at the sidelines because he has suffered a knee injury.

This now means that Arsenal FC has only 2 fit center backs, Laurent Koscielny and the Squisha. Kos100%tackle has played a million and one games this season. I hope that he doesn’t self destruct and breakdown anytime soon because that is one player that has featured in all four competitions. It seems as if he’s not getting rest anytime soon.

Sebastien “Squisha” Squillaci joined us from Sevilla this season. He inherited the legendary number 18 jersey from his French counterparts. The only game that I can remember Squillaci being outstanding was the 1-1 draw with Sunderland. Song’s red card ensured that we remained on the backfoot throughout the game. The Squisha hasn’t blended well with Koscielny this season. It’s really disappointing because they are of the same nationality. Koscielny plays for Poland in my Football Manager ™ though.

The two center backs will have to get their groove on starting with the top 6 giant killers, Wolverhampton Wanderers or Wild Bingoz as Gooner Daily calls them. Wolves have defeated the Cashlings, Sunderland, Count Dalglish’s Vampires (they belonged to Count Hodgson then), Man City and the “invincible” wannabes Manchester United.

We have to exorcise any demons from the North and give them our cescy football.

In a weekend where Man Utd unbeaten run came to an abrupt end and where Chelsea’s £71.5m couldn’t buy a goal, Arsenal find themselves just four points off the pace with 13 games to go.

In other news, Arsenal Street Fighter Japanese character, Ryo “Gunner Ryu” Miyaichi made his debut for Feyernoord. I hope he scores all 10 goals when Feyenoord play the return leg against PSV. Their website was closed after that mauling.

A French newspaper is saying that Phil Dowd and our own TR7 were involved in a match fixing ring. They even say that Interpol is investigating the claims. You can find the news in the link below——

FYI: it’s in FRENCH so use “google translate”.

The tweet of the night goes to @Obitwyce

“@Obitwyce: Breaking EPL News! Chelsea heading to court, they are suing Liverpool for selling Torres for £50m without his user manual!!”

I’ve always believed that all Chelsea players are mechanically engineering and programmed.

Their fitness levels are inhuman.

Lemme give you a classic example of the “Lampard” program. I prefer to call him the Lampback of NotreStamford.


It’s a nice program though. The end result is usually 20 goals or so.

I strongly believe that they should implant a new shooting chip in Mikel’s brain.

Even defensive midfielder’s score a lot these days.

Can’t type again

Good Night