Category Archives: Football
It’s fair to say that we have seen a different Arsene Wenger this season. While playing his usually breathtaking football with intricate passing and technique at its peak, Wenger has shown a different perspective this season with some games were he goes all out to defend a lead and win ugly – a trait not usually characterised with Arsenal. There was even a game when the Gunners tore a script from the Stoke booklet to score three goals against the Potters through set pieces.
I’ve also been surprised to know that Wenger has learned a lot from his mistakes in the past and he has passed on that mentality to his players. There have been countless seasons when Wenger was faced with the dilemma of a domestic Cup fixture just before a European knockout clash and he’d inexplicably choose to ‘rest’ some his first team lads with half an eye on the European encounter.
The Gunners failed to top what proved to be a tough group and their rewards for that was a double date with arguably the best team in the world. With the Bayern clash around the corner, Wenger picked a strong team in the FA Cup fifth round clash with Liverpool and his team were victorious on the day, giving themselves a measure of revenge for the spanking they had received from the same club a week earlier. They went on to lose to Bayern in a game marred by Mesut Ozil’s missed spot kick and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card.
Last weekend, the Gunners had a classic case of deja vu as they faced another Merseyside opponent in the FA Cup before the daunting second leg against Bayern. Wenger was spot on with his selection, and even better with his substitutions during the game as the Gunners booked a semifinal berth against Wigan at Wembley.
With the FA Cup done and dusted till April at least, Arsene Wenger and his hordes are going to the Allianz Arena to play a Bayern Munich side in a rich vein of form and they are firing on all cylinders in the Bundesliga, creating records on the go. The Gunners have already been written off by journos, pundits and nay sayers. ‘A two nil loss at home against a side like Bayern is a step too far’, they say.
But I love these sort of odds. Nothing to lose and nothing to play for but pride.
Funnily enough, the Gunners were in the same exact situation last season after losing 3-1 at home to ‘almighty’ Bayern. How did they respond? A spirited away performance that saw the German juggernauts resort to time wasting to save their bacons as the Gunners ran the show in Munich. Unfortunately, the 2-0 victory wasn’t enough for qualification but that win was a catalyst in the Gunners surge for a fourth place finish as they went on to claim eight victories in 10 games.
Some people say that ‘lightning can’t strike twice’ but football footballers should look at the underdogs, Wigan Athletic, that beat the overwhelming favorites, Manchester City, in the same competition. I can bet that Zeus sent the same thunderbolt twice.
I’m not taking anything from Bayern – they have been awesome this season and the prospect of playing them sends chills down the spines of the opposition players. But at the end of the day, it still boils down to what happens after 90 minutes.
To team news, Lukasz Fabianski is about to play back to back games for quite some time with Szczesny’s suspension in the first leg. There will be an alteration in the defense after the devastating news that Kieran Gibbs won’t be available for this clash. I don’t want to fathom the prospect of playing Nacho Monreal to face the red-hot Arjen Robben so I’m hopeful that Wenger would deploy the Verminator on that position while Mertesielny continues in the heart of the defense.
In midfield, Mikel Arteta has served his suspension and he will be available for selection alongside the Flanimal. This game would be an interesting one for Mesut Ozil and he would want to kill the ghosts that haunted him against Bayern a fortnight ago. In attack, I expect Santi Cazorla and the Ox to maraud the flanks but the major change would be the return of Olivier Giroud to his rightful place ahead of Yaya Sanogo.
I trust my club and I believe this is gonna be one hell of a game. However, I take solace in the mere fact that my team has performed admirably in some European grounds like San Siro, Santiago Bernabeu, Signal Iduna Park and most recently, the feared Allianz Arena.
Let’s just hope that it would be one of those European Nights.
After the Gunners ran riot past Everton to be the first team to book a semifinal place, the onus was on the remaining six teams to show that they were worthy of a semifinal place.
It began with a lower division affair as Sheffield United scored the goals against Charlton Athletic that was enough to send them to a fairytale semifinal place. If their chairman and manager were told at the start of the season that they’d be in the FA Cup semifinal, i’m sure that they might have taken such news with a pinch of salt. As we’ve reached the business end of the competition, the Blades are a game away from what would be a Utopian final.
Elsewhere, two Premier League sides in the forms of Hull City and recent Capital One Cup finalists, Sunderland. The Black Cats led Manchester City after just 10 minutes and if the referee somehow managed to blow the final whistle at that point in time, Sunderland would have booked a Europa League place. However, it was not to be as goals from Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas won the trophy for the Citizens.
Yesterday, Sunderland put up a shocking performance as Hull ran them ragged to book a semifinal clash against Sheffield United.
The final quarterfinal match was a repeat of last season’s final as Manchester City were overwhelming favorites to crush Wigan Athletic. The Latics scored a late goal in Wembley to win the competition at the oilers expense and it cost Roberto Mancini his job. With Manchester City already having the Capital One Cup in the bag, many had tipped them to win a domestic Cup double.
As the game hit center stage, Arsenal fans were concerned to know that they were going to play the winners of this clash and given their recent 6-3 spanking in the hands of Manchester City, it wasn’t a prospect many of them were looking forward to.
To everyone’s amazement and the sheer delight of Arsenal fans worldwide, Jordi Gomez converted the spot kick that handed Wigan the lead. A good day got even better when James Perch scored Wigan’s second and my elation knew no bounds. Manchester City got back into the game with a goal from Nasri and it was nail-biting stuff towards the end of the game but Wigan held on!
So there you have it – Hull vs. Sheffield and Arsenal vs. Wigan. Only four teams left in football’s oldest cup competition and Arsenal, yes, Arsenal stands a great chance of ending the trophy drought with two more victories. Wigan has shown their mettle as well as garnering a reputation as ‘giant killers’ but Arsene Wenger of all people would know what winning the FA Cup would do to his team.
In rather simpler terms, the FA Cup is now Arsenal’s to loose.
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.