The last time Everton played at the Emirates Stadium in December, they ran their hosts ragged and fully deserved a point after Gerard Deulofeu’s lovely strike cancelled out Mesut Ozil’s opener. With the Gunners knowing that all that stood between them and a place in Wembley was Roberto Martinez and his team, they had to put up a better showing than that horrid performance against Stoke.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the Gunners victory over Everton.
All Hands on Deck Should go to the FA Cup
For those that don’t know, Arsenal has booked a place in the semifinals of the competition they last won in 2005. That seems to be a very long time in football but seeing the Gunners book a semifinal berth is a prospect we need to relish and capitalise on. Currently, Manchester City seems to be the only other ‘big team’ left but there have been banana skins here and there, so the Gunners would have to be mindful about who they meet in the next round.
With the FA Cup serving as the most realistic chance of winning silverware, the Gunners have to put all hands on deck in this competition. At least, Wenger’s starting line up proves so.
Finally…a Goal for Ozil and a Great Performance too
Mesut Ozil has been on the end of some heavy criticism following his poor run of form and as expected from a guy that cost a fortune, many fans weren’t pleased with his recent outings. However, yesterday brought an upturn in his fortunes as he latched unto Santi Cazorla’s carefully threaded pass to side foot the ball home.
Ozil capped a great day at the office with a neat assist to Olivier Giroud late on. I hope he carries this form to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday and I have a bunch that he has a personal vendetta with Bayern Munich after he missed the penalty that took the wind off Arsenal’s sails.
A Tale of the Purple Patch Giroud – A Good Game Today and a Poor Game Tomorrow
With Wenger’s blatant refusal to sign a striker in January, he made his stance clear that he has his full blown faith in the current striking lot at his disposal, Olivier Giroud, the alpha-dog in attack and his deputies, Yahaya Sanogo and Nicklas Bendtner.
Sanogo got the nod ahead of Giroud and didn’t do half bad but Giroud arrived on the pitch to devastating effect, banging in a brace which put the game beyond doubt. However, that has been Giroud’s story this season, one game he’s an exciting player to watch, another game you might want to ask for his head on a plate.
With 10 games left to play in the League as well as Cup competitions around the corner, Arsenal will need all the goals they can get if they want to win a trophy. As the chief striker, Giroud is meant to lead that charge and I hope he can maintain some consistency in the run-in.
Arsene Wenger is regarded as the club’s most successful manager for more reasons than one. We all know that he’s involved in every facet of the club and has moulded the team from ‘boring boring Arsenal’ to one of the most entertaining sides in world football.
Even though the club is going through a trophy drought at the moment, there was a period in Arsene Wenger’s career with the club when he was synonymous with winning trophies. In 1998, Wenger won the League and Cup double after defeating Newcastle in the FA Cup final while ending Manchester United’s hold on the title. The Red Devils went on to win the league for three seasons in a row but the Wenger boys hit them hard again with a League and Cup double in 2002, which was made sweeter with the fact that Slyvian Wiltord’s goal at Old Trafford won the league for his club.
Robert Pires missed a considerable chunk of that campaign through injury but he scored the vital goal in the FA Cup final of 2003 against Southampton as the Gunners retained the FA Cup. After a tough and exhilarating final against Manchester United in 2005, Patrick Vieira scored the penalty that gave his team the trophy but unfortunately, that has been the club’s last piece of silverware.
Since then, there have been a couple of near misses that hurt anytime Arsenal fans remember them. There was the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2006, the Carling Cup final against Chelsea in 2007, the disappointing Premier League campaign of 2008 and most recently, the unfathomable Carling Cup defeat to Birmingham City in 2011.
Since winning the FA Cup in 2005, the Gunners have been very disappointing in subsequent campaigns as they lost away to Bolton and Blackburn shortly afterwards. In 2008, it was a massacre at Old Trafford as Manchester United ran riot and in 2009, Didier Drogba continued his impressive record against the club as the Gunners crashed out in Wembley.
2010 left the Gunners with a bitter taste in their mouths after they lost at the Britannia to Stoke and in 2011, Manchester United knocked the Gunners out again but the game will be remembered with the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson fielded seven defenders in his starting XI. In the past two seasons, a horrible pitch in the Stadium of Light and a putrid home performance against Blackburn saw the Gunners crash out of this illustrious competition.
This season has seen the Gunners defeat Spurs, Coventry and Liverpool to book a quarterfinal berth against Everton which takes place tomorrow but many Arsenal fans will be hoping that this might just be the season .
Without further ado, here are a couple of reasons why the Gunners have to take the FA Cup seriously.
Firstly, and most importantly, the FA Cup remains Arsenal’s most REALISTIC chance of winning silverware this season. With the Gunners facing a daunting prospect against Bayern Munich in Europe and the club’s shaky form in the Premier League, Wenger should put all hands on deck in the FA Cup. The competition has sprung a couple of surprises this season and I expect the same it progresses.
Another reason for the Gunners to take this competition seriously would be generating some momentum and restoring belief to the team that they can go all the way. A loss has a way of bringing in doubts in a team but these players need to pick themselves up from the Stoke debacle to respond against an impressive Everton side.
It’s going to be an exciting game and I can only hope that the Gunners progress to the semifinals to play at Wembley .
The last international break came upon us last night with national team managers having one final glimpse at a couple of players before they send their 23-man list for the soccer fiesta in Brazil this summer. Arsenal like every other renowned European club had its contingent representing their respective nations and this article is centered on the performances of the Gunners’ ambassadors in yesterday’s friendlies.
Poland 0 Scotland 1
The goalkeeping duo of Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski were called up for the home fixture against Scotland but like how things are at Arsenal, Fabianski watched from the bench as Szczesny played all 90 minutes for his nation.
The only goal of the game arrived when Celtic’s captain, Scott Brown, blasted a thunderous drive that gave Szczesny no chance in Hell. The victory has extended the unbeaten run for Gordon Strachan’s side to five games.
France 2 Netherlands 0
Didier Deschamps called Arsenal’s French Legionnaires in the forms of Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna. Kos the Boss would have partnered with Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane but a groin injury paved the way for Eliaquim Mangala to stake a claim for a first team berth.
Koscielny’s injury would make Arsenal fans sweat as his services are needed for the vital FA Cup quarterfinals clash with Everton this weekend.
From an Arsenal perspective, there was some interest in transfer target, Antoine Griezmann, that went on to have a great game. He tore the Oranje defense apart before latching a cross to Karim Benzema whose header was cleared off the line by Ron Vlaar.
Robin van Persie almost gave the visitors the lead with a half volley but Hugo Lloris came to his nations rescue. The match opener arrived when Blaise Matuidi sent a defense splitting pass to Benzema and the fleet-footed forward capitalised on the Dutch defense lacked of mobility to score his 19th goal for his country. Matuidi turned from provider to scorer when he responded superbly to Mathieu Valbuena’s cross to make it two goals to the good.
Germany 1 Chile 0
Joachim Loew deemed it fit to call up Arsenal’s German Machines, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil. Ozil has been on the spotlight for all the wrong reasons following his poor run of form in recent games but he showed his class as he created the match – winning assist for Mario Gotze after just 16 minutes.
The Arsenal playmaker, surrounded by three Chilean defenders, coolly turned in the penalty area before rolling the ball to Mario Gotze to grab the only goal in Stuttgart. Late on, Ozil was replaced by some bloke called Ginter.
Czech Republic 2 Norway 2
Tomas Rosicky celebrated his new contract with a lovely goal for his nation but his early strike was canceled out by Tarik Elyounoussi. West Brom’s Matej Vydra gave the Czechs the lead again but Norway’s Morten Gamst Pedersen levelled the contest for the visitors.
Anytime I think of Pedersen, that his epic dive for Blackburn at the Emirates comes to my mind. It was such a despicable yet hilarious moment in the game.
England 1 Denmark 0
Liverpool reaped the rewards of being a team in a rich vein of form as a considerable chunk of their squad started the home clash against Denmark. With the Three Lions losing their last two home games against Chile and Germany, all eyes were on England to see if they’d have a hat-trick of defeats so that the doomsday keyword warriors would have been in full force.
Unfortunately for Team Doomsday, Jack Wilshere started as the Three Lions dominated the game and finally got their rewards when Adam Lallana swing a cross that was headed home by Daniel Sturridge.
Spain 1 Italy 0
It was a day to remember as Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa made his debut for La Furia Roja against Italy for a Euro 2012 final rematch.
Spain opened their tally for the evening as Pedro latches onto a loose ball inside the box before thumping his effort into the bottom corner. Poor from Buffon, however, who got hands on it.
With Nacho Monreal out injured, Santi Cazorla was called up but he made his appearance with just five minutes to go when he replaced Pedro. Within moments of coming into the pitch, Silva created a chance for Cazorla but his shooting was erratic and that chance went begging.
With no more international football, it’s time to concentrate on the run-in for the title but it’s really sad to know about Koscielny and I really hope he gets fit sooner rather than later.
Despite all the doom and gloom that crept into the world of Arsenal after a disappointing loss to Stoke, some off the pitch proceedings have brought smiles back to the faces of Arsenal fans worldwide.
Unless you’re living under a rock with no access to Internet, colored TV or any social media platform, you must have heard that the Gunners have handed new long term contracts to two influential players, Tomas Rosicky and Per Mertesacker.
Shortly after both players put pen to paper, the club released this statement,
“We are delighted that Mertesacker and Rosicky have committed their futures to the Club. They are players of exceptional quality and experience, and have consistently proven themselves at the highest level. There is a great feeling of togetherness and belief in the group and this news will only help to strengthen this further.”
With the way things are going with the Bacary Sagna contract situation, the Arsenal hierarchy were mindful of avoiding another scenario of that nature, so it was paramount that they secured the long term futures of valuable assets such as this pair.
Tomas Rosicky has been at Arsenal longer than I can remember. Arsenal was smart enough to sign him just before the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the Gunners licked their lips as they watched Little Mozart decimate defenses in the soccer fiesta with his sleek style of play, wonderful passing range and one hell of a thunderbolt from his right foot.
It didn’t take him long to announce himself to the Emirates faithful with a surface to goal missile against Hamburg SV. Rosicky rose to prominence in the 2007/08 season when he was part of that midfield quartet that almost won the Premier League. A nasty knee injury robbed Arsenal off his services for the best part of 18 months and on his return to full fitness, he suffered a couple of niggling injuries here and there.
With his advancing years, Rosicky had a renaissance in the 2011/12 season where he replaced an Aaron Ramsey struggling for form, fitness and confidence. Rosicky played a similar role last season and he has endeared himself to the fans in more ways than one.
I and many other Arsenal fans out there (especially Austin Onono) will be happy to know that Rosicky will continue to grace the Emirates for a couple of more years. Some may say he’s 33, I know he’s ageless.
Per Mertesacker on the hand arrived as a “panic buy” following the 8-2 capitulation in the hands of Manchester United. The Big Friendly Giant is ridiculed for his lack of pace and agility but he made up for it with his intelligence, height, composure, coordination and ability to read the game superbly.
Alongside Laurent Koscielny, both players have forged a strong understanding and their joint attributes have made them impregnable and indispensable, even to the extent where the club captain can’t even command a first team berth.
Rosicky, 33, and Mertesacker, 29, have donned the captain’s armband for their nations on several occasions and even at club level from time to time. Having these leaders on the pitch for a long time would have a positive influence on the team, especially their advancing ages.
I wish both players all the best in their future endeavors with the club.
While Rosicky and Mertesacker would be basking in the euphoria of extending their futures with the club, the same cannot be said for Nicklas Bendtner that has suddenly found himself out of favor again.
As expected, the outspoken Dane was quick to voice his concerns,
I’m not going to stay at Arsenal – first team football is what I’m after.
The plan is for me to move on. I’m ready for a new challenge. I know of the conditions.
To keep my spot I need to play regularly. My self-esteem and my confidence as a footballer has not changed, but there are many who think all I do is party.
That I am completely indifferent to football, and it’s the wrong version of reality.
When I find my right club, I am sure that everything will be all right in itself, if there are no more injuries.”
The tale between Bendtner and Arsenal took a twist when Arsene Wenger offered him a chance to return to the team after he had declared that he wasn’t going to play for the club. With his Samurai looks, ponytail and the awkward looking beards, the fans saw a player that looked like a ‘new signing’ and he did pretty well against West Bromwich in the Capital One Cup.
After a couple of substitute appearances, Bendtner had a rear start against Hull City and scored a neat header from a Carl Jenkinson cross. Bendtner won a place in the hearts of the fans when he scored that vital late goal against Cardiff but injury hampered his chances of getting a consistent run of games.
Since his return to full fitness, he has seen his Giroud deputy role occupied by Yahaya Sanogo and after seeing the young lad get a rear start ahead of him in the FA Cup clash with Liverpool, Bendtner’s fears of losing his place we’re realised when Sanogo was favored ahead of him in the vital clash against Bayern Munich.
With the Gunners trailing against Stoke, Wenger had already thrown Mesut Ozil and the Ox into the fray, so his last throw of the dice was either Sanogo or Bendtner, and we all know who he brought on.
As my buddie, Bhydemi Brainz stated,
“Why give confidence to a player who would probably end up in another club this simmer when you can give confidence to someone who has a future with us?”
The nail has been driven into the coffin of Bendtner’s career with Arsenal and as a free agent, a player of his ‘talents’ would be used elsewhere. He’s a decent striker that could do well in another club that gives him regular game time but that club would not be Arsenal.
After my “sabbatical” leave thanks to some activities related to work, I’m back to doing what I love best. I love Arsenal to the extent I write about the club but I also have a job as a Process Engineer in an Oil and Gas compnay and when work calls, a brother has to answer.
In my absence, a lot hasn’t been missed as my club faltered yet again in the hands of Bayern Munich but they responded brilliantly against Sunderland at home. Vito Mannone has been getting all the plaudits for his good goalkeeping displays but Arsenal left no prisoners as they dispatched Sunderland in ruthless fashion.
Today, the Gunners take on a Stoke City side struggling for form in the Premier League and many Arsenal fans will be hopeful that their team grabs all three points to keep up the pressure on Chelsea. Stoke has been on a transition from playing pathetic football under Tony Pulis to actually playing some decent football with Mark Hughes in the helm of affairs. However, they are five points worse off were they where under the Orc and they’re just three points above relegation-threatened Sunderland.
Stoke’s form has been so appalling to the level that they have won just one of their last 10 games in the Premier League, which was a 2-1 win over this season’s surprise underachievers, Manchester United. The once reliable Asmir Begovic has let the floodgates open, conceding 26 goals in his last 14 games.
The Gunners have half an eye on Peter Crouch, a player that has scored them on seven occasions. The lanky forwards finest hour against the Gunners came when he donned the Liverpool jersey where he scored a “perfect” hat-trick
The Arsenal has to also be mindful of the fact that Stoke has conceded more fouls (360) and has picked up more cards (58 yellows and three reds) than any other team in the Premier League this season. The Britannia Stadium brings bad memories of Aaron Ramsey’s horrific leg fracture in the hands of Ryan Shawcross and funnily enough, that has been the only time the Gunners defeated Stoke in their home ground. There was the FA Cup exit of 2010, a Jonathan Walters-inspired victory in 2011, the boring 1-1 draw in 2012 and the goalless stalemate at the start of last season.
However, the Gunners can take some pride that they have the second best away record this season (amassed 26 points on their travels) and they also have the best record playing teams in the bottom half of the table with a record of 13 wins from a possible 15. In Mesut Ozil, the Gunners have one of the most creative forces in the top five European leagues as he has created 73 chances this season.
To injuries, Stoke’s January signing, Peter Odemwingie would face a late fitness test ahead of today’s home clash with Arsenal after he sustained a calf problem. Jon Walters has been ill and missed a couple of days of training this week due to illness but is expected to be available, and on-loan Manchester City striker John Guidetti is eligible once again after sitting out last weekend’s defeat at his parent club.
Robert Huth suffered a nasty knee injury in November and has been recuperating from knee surgery, successfully came through 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday but is not yet ready for a competitive return. On-loan Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi (knee) remains sidelined.
At Arsenal, Meanwhile, Mesut Özil will return after hip trouble and a two-day rest for Arsenal. With Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal doubtful, Arsene Wenger might be forced to deploy Mathieu Flamini as an auxiliary left back with Bacary Sagna playing alongside Per Mertesacker, if Laurent Koscielny doesn’t recover on time. Thomas Vermaelen has finally decided to be fit but I don’t see the manager rushing him into action.
My predicted lineup would look like this,
With the Gunners playing Everton in the FA Cup while Chelsea plays in the Premier League next week, victory is paramount.
Enjoy the game wherever you are. It’s good to be back.
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