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Analysis of Arsenal’s Offloaded Deadwood this Summer

Andrey Arshavin in action for Zenit St Petersburg in 2000

The prodigal soon returns home

Many Arsenal fans won’t be happy with how the transfer market has panned out so far but one thing is certain – the Arsenal hierarchy has been very busy offloading their deadwood that offered little or no contribution to the team’s cause last season.

In the course of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal had some players that worked their skins off and producing the goods on a weekly basis, even if it wasn’t enough to end the club’s everlasting trophy drought.

In goal, Wojciech Szczesny had the lion’s share of game time but Lukasz Fabianski had a rare stint at goal that was highly productive. The defense was manned by Per Mertesacker on a regular basis but while Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen struggled for fitness and form, the performances of Laurent Koscielny, Carl Jenkinson and of course, the intense battle between Kieran GIbbs and Nacho Monreal were worth commending.

The midfield had an interesting outlook with injuries robbing the club off the services of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby but while Mikel Arteta was a standout performer all season long, Rosicky’s rennaisance and Aaron Ramsey’s late season flourish were heartwarming to say the least. Santi Cazorla however, was in a realm of his own.

In attack, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud had to combine to fill van Persie’s scoring boots (there was still some space in the boots though). While the likes of Gervinho and the Ox failed to impress, Theo Walcott’s goalscoring form was a vast improvement in more ways than one.

At the end of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal would look back at the season with shame bearing in mind that they were outsed from two winnable cup domestic cup competitions by lower opposition that would’ve been defeated any other day. Even if they could take some solace with the Champions League exit in the hands of the eventual winners, the Premier League campaign turned out to be another topsy-turvy adventure that just saw the Gunners sniff at the final Champions League spot on the last day of the season.

After accessing the squad, Arsene Wenger and his negotiating chums got busy and many of these players have new employers. Here’s an overview of Arsenal’s offloaded deadwood this summer.

Vito Mannone to Sunderland

In 13 appearances for Arsenal last season, Vito Mannone managed two clean sheets against Stoke and Liverpool. He deputized when Szczesny suffered an ankle injury and on the Pole’s return to full fitness, Mannone was sent back to the bench and never managed to get his footing till the season ended.

He has had his fair share of heroics like the Fulham game a few seasons ago where he put up a 5-star performance but in my honest opinion, he has never convinced me and probaly many fans out there that he actually has what it takes to command a starting berth in an ambitious club like Arsenal.

With Simon Mignolet departing Sunderland for greener pastures in Anfield, Paolo di Canio’s punt for his compatriot, Mannone, is a highly welcome move and he would thrive in a club like Sunderland where he won’t be under any pressure to deliver but when I remember di Canio’s antics last season, I believe that Mannone would have to really step up.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: With Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski clearly ahead of Mannone in the pecking order, selling Mannone to Sunderland has a very good move

Andre Santos to Flamengo

When Andre Santos joined the club in 2011 along with a plethora of “panic signings” Arsenal made after that humiliating defeat in the hands of Manchester United, he looked a decent buy as he offered what Arsenal had lacked in the days of Gael Clichy – an attacking outlet on the left flank. His goals against Olympiakos, Chelsea and West Brom came in vital moments and he enjoyed a good first season by his standards.

Last season, things had gone awry for the Brazilian and his performances on the pitch have been nothing short of appalling. His poor positional awareness and dismal defending has cost his team times without number with his performances in the games against Schalke (home), Manchester United (away), Liverpool (home) and Brighton (away) bringing him to the bad books of Arsenal fans.

Then of course, there was the halftime shirt swap with Robin van Persie that prompted the fans for ask for his head on a shiny plate.

After another bad showing against Liverpool, the manager went to the transfer window when Gibbs suffered an injury, clearly indicating that he had no further plans in his team. He was shipped to Gremio but the club didn’t have the financial capabilities to seal a permanent deal and after grumbling on his return to London, he reached an agreement with Arsenal to terminate his contract.

Andre Santos is currently basking in the Brazilian Sun and I must say, he won’t be missed.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: With Kieran Gibbs injured on the tail end of the January transfer window, Arsenal didn’t think twice before swooping for Nacho Monreal. That speaks a lot in volumes.

Sebastien Squillaci to SC Bastia

For those that don’t know, Sebastien Squillaci is the real Man of Steel.

The French bloke 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.

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. To the delight of Arsenal fans worldwide, the Man of Steel’s contract expired and Arsenal wasted no time is rolling the red carpet in front of the main gate of the Emirates.

At least, there’s a Daily Planet in the island of Corsica so Squillaci will be doing two jobs – playing for SC Bastia while wearing the Superman outfit inside his jersey. When there will be trouble in the town, Squillaci will leave the pitch and save the day, because when he’s on the pitch, he’s as good as someone that’s off it because he’s a short one as we call it in Nigeria.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Despite his VAST EXPERIENCE!!!!, he’s behind Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Miquel and even Johan Djourou’s spirit that’s in the club while his body plays in Hamburg. If he signed a new deal, there would have been a riot in London Colney.

Denilson Pereira Neves to Sao Paulo

Denilson was the part of the Brazil Under-20 side that won the South American Championships and was labeled as the next best thing in Brazil so he snapped up for £3.4m from Sao Paulo in 2006.

With World Cup winner Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Song and Lassana Diarra all in the squad, Denilson had to settle for Carling Cup starts but as the years went by, Denilson found himself available for first team action and he took his chance in the 2008/09 season because he was the Gunner with the highest amount of appearances that season (over 50 games or so).

Jack Wilshere’s emergence in the 2010/11 season limited the Brazilian to Cup matches and substitute appearances in the League but Denilson was a shadow of the player that was quite impressive a few seasons ago. After Arsenal played Fulham at the end of that campaign, the Brazilian told the World that he’s a frustrated figure at the club and he’s going to leave.

Arsenal negotiated a loan move for the bloke to his native Brazil and after a spell with Sao Paulo, they failed to match the Gunner’s evaluation for the player and another loan move came into fruition. With the Brazilian outfit failing to meet Arsenal’s demands again, the player took things to his hands and like Andre Santos, his contract was terminated.

Now he’s back with Sao Paulo after joining as a free agent, wily old sly foxes, the lot of them.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Instead of trying to fight for his place with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, this Brazilian brought out a white flag and chickened out. Good riddance.

Andrey Arshavin to Zenit St. Petersburg

After an extremely disappointing campaign, Arshavin’s time with Arsenal is up as the club chose not to renew his contract. He was reduced to spending a lot of time in the dugout and when he came on, he looked rather uninterested.

He was pretty impressive in the Capital One Cup last season and his only significant Premier League moments include his late cross into the box that led to the goal against Queens Park Rangers and the penalty he won for his team against Fulham.

In what became his final appearance for the club, Arsene Wenger summoned him with 15 minutes left to play when the Gunners visited Stamford Bridge. With the Gunners trailing, they needed inspiration from anywhere but when the ball came to Arshavin’s path, he was found wanting.

Some say that he was played out of position, others said that his attitude was lackadaisical. I say that he’s a technically proficient player that began his career in the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Arshavin’s movement was excellent and after what we’d seen from him at Anfield and the boost he gave our season after his signing, there was no doubt in my mind we’d signed a really talented footballer but talent only gets you so far. We paid a big transfer fee and big wages, and we got nothing close to value for money.  - Arseblog

****

Johan Djourou and Francis Coquelin may be technically regarded as “deadwood” as well, but they are currently on loan and still have contracts with Arsenal so I decided not to add them on this list.

As for Marouane Chamakh, Park Ju-Young and the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, their cases are in Mount Olympus.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Attackers’ Performances in the 2012/13 Season

Both players hit double figures and had great campaigns

Last season, Arsenal notched up to a century of goals with 72 goals scored in the Premier League, 13 in the Champions League, 14 in the Capital One Cup and six goals in the FA Cup.

Despite this somewhat impressive goal count, it’s disheartening to know that they were hard to come by when the Gunners played against their rivals at the top as well as some key fixtures in the course of the season, with the games against Bayern (first leg) Blackburn and Bradford coming to mind.

If the Gunners had managed to dispatch the League Two outfit, they would’ve geared themselves up for a two-legged semifinal berth against Aston Villa, and if they were successful against the Midlands outfit, a potential final against Chelsea or Swansea would have beckoned. Had the Gunners went one step forward in this season’s Capital One Cup final, the trophy bells would have been ringing.

The FA Cup offered a different proposition as the Gunners crashed out following an appalling performance against Blackburn. Had Arsene Wenger’s side won the team they successfully slammed seven goals at home last season, a sixth round clash against Millwall would have been on the cards before a semifinal clash against eventual winners, Wigan. If Arsenal beat all the aforementioned teams on the road to Wembley, a potential final clash against Chelsea or Manchester City would have followed.

So much for wishful thinking.

This is the final installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already published my ratings on the performances of the goalkeepersdefenders and midfielders but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s goal getters.

Feel free to share your comments.

Andrey Arshavin: 11 Apps, One Goal, Five Assists

…The first goal on the night was from a Cesc Fabregas pass after some good work by Samir Nasri, he worked the second himself after some poor Liverpool defending, his hat-trick was gifted to him on a platter thanks to more atrocious defending from Liverpool and his fourth came from a brilliant counter attack that was started by Walcott.

That night, the Russian magician was simply four-midable and the Gunners were disappointed to know that he couldn’t be part of their impressive Champions League campaign because he was cup-tied from his involvement with his previous and only club, Zenit St. Petersburg.

After scoring six goals and supplying nine assists in just 15 games for Arsenal, Arshavin came second in Arsenal’s 2009 Player of the Season Poll despite coming in the second half of the campaign. Arsene Wenger, his teammates and most importantly, the fans waited anxiously to see what he could accomplish in a full season with the club… enigma106

Four years on and this is only a distant memory.

After an extremely disappointing campaign, Arshavin’s time with Arsenal is up as the club chose not to renew his contract. He was reduced to spending a lot of time in the dugout and when he came on, he looked rather uninterested.

He was pretty impressive in the Capital One Cup last season and his only significant Premier League moments include his late cross into the box that led to the goal against Queens Park Rangers and the penalty he won for his team against Fulham.

In what became his final appearance for the club, Arsene Wenger summoned him with 15 minutes left to play when the Gunners visited Stamford Bridge. With the Gunners trailing, they needed inspiration from anywhere but when the ball came to Arshavin’s path, he was found wanting.

Some say that he was played out of position, others said that his attitude was lackadaisical. I say that he’s a technically proficient player that began his career in the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.

Rating: 1/10

Gervinho: 26 Apps, Seven Goals, Five Assists

Gervinho will always be remembered for his penalty miss against Zambia in the 2012 African Cup of Nations. He returned to North London like a player haunted with his own demons and he couldn’t exorcise them for the remainder of the campaign.

After a decent preseason that was epitomized with a wonder goal against FC Cologne, Arsenal’s toothless nature in front of goal afforded the Ivorian a chance to start as a center forward.

He repaid his manager’s faith almost immediately with a well-taken brace against Southampton. The goals kept ramping up for Gervinho with Montpellier, Chelsea and Olympiakos on the receiving end of some Ivorian magic.

Shortly afterwards, a horrible run of form followed with Gervinho putting up appalling performances on a weekly basis. Then this happened…

Miss of the season

After that shocking miss against Bradford, Gervinho spent a lot of time on the bench and was given another chance to redeem himself when Wenger played him in the FA Cup tie against Blackburn with half an eye on the Bayern Munich fixture. Gervinho missed another glaring chance in that game as well, which Arsenal rued.

When we all thought his season was done, Gervinho came off the bench to score the match winner against Swansea before a Man of the Match performance against Reading where he scored a goal and created two assists. He continued his good form creating a goal for Tomas Rosicky against West Brom then he went on free fall again with another putrid performance against Norwich.

When Gervinho stated that he wants to remain at Arsenal and fight for his place, I can bet that a faction of the Arsenal faithful gnashed their teeth in anguish – including me. -_________-

Rating: 5/10

Marouane Chamakh: Three Apps, Two Goals, One Assist

There was a certain Moroccan sensation that played his entire career in Girondins de Bordeaux before switching to the Red half of North London. He started with a few goals during the preseason before forcing Pepe Reina to score an own goal on the opening day of last season in Anfield.

He scored his first goal on his home debut against recently relegated Blackpool before joining the party when Arsenal thrashed Bolton by 4-1 in September. He also scored on his Champions League debut in the 6-0 spanking of eventual Europa League finalists SC Braga and continued his personal scoring record in the competition that extended from his Bordeaux days.

He scored in his Arsenal’s second Champions League tie against Partizan before scoring the match winner against Birmingham City in mid-October. He scored again in Arsenal’s third Champions League game against Shakhtar and it seemed as if he was destined to score in every game of the Champions League as long as he played.

The goals dried up a bit but he found some form again in November scoring a brace against Wolves before scoring Tottenham and Aston Villa. Marouane Chamakh’s toe poke in Villa Park was his 10th goal in just 21 appearances averaging a goal every two games then Robin van Persie came along and Chamakh found himself relegated to the bench and featured in lowly Cup ties.

After going through 19 games two seasons ago and scoring only one goal, Chamakh was understandably frozen out last season because he had become a liability to the team rather than an asset.

Chamakh’s first appearance last season was rather perplexing, as he managed to score two goals from outside the box – a feat I don’t think he had ever achieved for the club. He featured for the Gunners in the dead-rubber fixture against Olympiakos in Athens and he was a rather peripheral figure, no different from his performance against Bradford.

Arsenal took a rather bold step to part ways with Denilson, I really hope they follow suit with Chamakh.

Rating: 1/10

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 33 Apps, Two Goals, Three Assists

It’s fair to say that the Ox suffered the well-renowned “second season syndrome” as he clearly failed to live up to the hype surrounding him in his first campaign in the Premier League.

The idea of Oxlade-Chamberlain expressing himself on a football pitch is something that has petrified many opposition defences since his arrival to the Premier League two seasons ago. The 19-year-old’s pace and ability to find a pass has already transformed him into an Arsenal regular and, should he continue his fine progression up the Gunners ranks, Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a starter in the England XI come next summer.

Last season, the Ox failed to assert himself and his chances diminished with Theo Walcott’s growing importance to the team. There was even a point when he was further down the pecking order behind Gervinho.

Despite his shortcomings, the Ox showed some glimpses of his undoubtedly quality and his wonder strike against Coventry City was a friendly reminder of what he was made of. He also scored a goal in that 7-3 thumping of Newcastle and his most important contribution last season was his neat cutback to Giroud the 3-1 win over Norwich.

Just went a draw seemed on the cards, the Ox popped up with an improvised flash of brilliance and whether it was a Giroud goal or Seb Bassong own goal, the ball entered the net thanks to the Ox.

The Ox is an unearthed talent and he’s one for the future.

Rating: 6/10

Lukas Podolski: 42 Apps, 16 Goals, 11 Assists

Lukas Podolski is a renowned center forward but his versatility ensures that he can be deployed in other attacking positions, as he can play in the hole behind the striker as well as the left wing position, where he has played for throughout his time at Arsenal with the exception of his debut against Sunderland, where he put up a disappointing show.

From then onwards, the manager deployed him on the left hand side and he bonded with that position, putting up stellar performances  as well as forging a telepathic understanding with Kieran Gibbs. However, there’s something that’s more certain than death, taxes and England losing on penalties – Lukas Podolski being substituted.

In all my years as a football fan, I’ve never seen a player more substituted than Podolski. Ever.

Arsenal’s Freddie Ljungberg had the unwanted record of being the most substituted player (21 times) in a season but Podolski made it look like child’s play. Whether he was downright unfit or carrying an injury as most cynics, it didn’t change the fact that it was a good debut season for the German.

The German machine scored all kinds of goals this season. Several placed efforts, headers, a lob against Wigan, a free kick against Southampton, a piledriver against West Ham and of course, this…

Rating: 8/10

Olivier Giroud: 47 Apps, 17 Goals, 12 Assists

I can vividly remember when a published an article on 10 things you need to know about Giroud, after he had completed his move from Montpellier in June 2012. 12 months on, let’s see if he ticked all the boxes in that article.

  • He’s a massive threat in the air – He proved this all season long supporting the team from set pieces defensively as well as scoring some goals with his head (Liverpool and Fulham)
  • He’s a classic target man – Holding up play, flick-ons, bringing others to the game, through balls and aerial duels were part and parcel of Giroud’s game last season.
  • He’s not injury prone - Out of 38 available Premier League games, Giroud missed three through a red card. He was an ever-present figure this season and his 47 appearances throughout the campaign is a testament of that.
  • He has his fair share of silverware – *coughs profusely* He won that in Montpellier :D
  • He’s close friends with Koscielny – You don’t need any soothsayer to tell you that
  • He’s highly rated by Wenger – The boss spoke about him in volumes and hopes for more next season.
  • He’s on Twitter – You can follow him @_OlivierGiroud_
  • He fits into Arsenal’s style of play – Check!
  • He offers Arsenal options in attack – Every fan saw how the attack crumbled following Giroud’s red card against Fulham.
  • He worked his way to the top – Grenoble – Istres – Tours – Montpellier – Arsenal…do the math.

Despite checking all these boxes and adding 17 goals to his name, Giroud struggled for form this season in patches and his record against the top four sides was quite disappointing. I don’t even want to start with the glaring misses.

He could do with some competition though.

Rating: 8/10

Theo Walcott: 43 Apps, 21 Goals, 17 Assists

I would describe Theo Walcott as fine wine – getting better with each passing season.

Arsenal’s top goalscorer, Theo Walcott, will look back to this season with a keen sense of pride. With Robin van Persie departing for greener pastures, Arsenal needed some players to step their games up and in all fairness, Walcott fell into that category.

The entertaining, enthralling and epic encounter between Reading and Arsenal in the Capital One cup would go down as one of the most pulsating matches in English football history but Walcott placed his mark on that fixture, scoring a stunning hat-trick. There was the brace against Coventry and a consistent run of goals in the course of the season, but when Walcott was deployed as a center forward against Newcastle in December, he rewarded his manager with another scintillating hat-trick.

Some may label the forward as a one-trick pony but Walcott’s efficiency in front of goal has been very clinical and the nature of his goals last season is a testament of these claims.

He opened his goalscoring account in the rout against Southampton before scoring a Thierry Henry-esque goal as well as another in the Coventry romp. He scored a decisive goal in the away victory over West Ham and followed it up with a scintillating hat-trick against Reading. The goals kept piling up as he opened the scoring against Schalke, got in on the act in the North London Derby and opened the scoring against Everton. There was still time for another goal against Reading before another hat-trick against Newcastle.

His hot streak continued against Chelsea, West Ham, Brighton and Liverpool then his goalscoring well dried up as he failed to record a single goal in February and March. At the tail end of April, he scored Manchester United before hitting the 20-goal mark against Queens Park Rangers. His final goal against Wigan contributed to their relegation.

However, Walcott struggled a bit when he was deployed as a center forward at Giroud’s expense last winter. His height was clearly an issue as he offered no threat from the air and wasn’t able to bring his teammate’s into the game with nice flicks and linkup moves.

The issue of his contract was also a very big thorn in Arsenal’s flesh but I’m glad he signed da ting.

This has been a great campaign for Walcott and I certainly hopes his builds on it because he’s one of the central figures at the club right about now.

Rating: 9/10

This is where the curtain closes on these series. I hope you enjoyed reading the articles as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Happy Birthday Wilson Dike!!!

Sayonara.

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Arshavin Ready to Retire From Football: Reviewing What Went Wrong

A lasting memory

Memories of Arsenal visiting Anfield are somewhat sweeter than Arsenal’s visits to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and some other Premier League grounds.

This season, Arsenal’s trip to Anfield will be fondly remembered for Abou Diaby resurgence as he put up one of his finest performances in Arsenal colors. This game also marked the introductions of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla to the Premier League in grand style. Last season, a late Robin van Persie goal from another trademark Alex Song pass saw the Gunners grab all three points from Kenny Dalglish’s side.

There have so many memorable outings in Anfield for both sets of fans. Liverpool fans will never forget Neil Mellor’s last-gasp long range drive that condemned Arsenal to defeat or Peter Crouch’s stunning hat-trick against the Gunners. They also won’t be quick to forget the enthralling 2007/08 Champions League quarterfinals where they scored two late goals from a Steven Gerrard penalty and a Ryan Babel strike that canceled out Theo Walcott’s individual moment of brilliance that saw him run the length of the pitch before teeing up Emmanuel Adebayor for a tap in.

Despite all these great outings at Anfield, none (with the exception of Michael Thomas’ moment of glory in the 1989/90 campaign) can be compared to that night in Spring 2009, when Arsenal visited a Liverpool side battling hard with Manchester United for Premier League honors.

Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun scored braces for their team, but the star of the night was undoubtedly Arsenal’s red-hot new signing, Andrey Arshavin.

The first goal on the night was from a Cesc Fabregas pass after some good work by Samir Nasri, he worked the second himself after some poor Liverpool defending, his hat-trick was gifted to him on a platter thanks to more atrocious defending from Liverpool and his fourth came from a brilliant counter attack that was started by Walcott.

That night, the Russian magician was simply four-midable and the Gunners were disappointed to know that he couldn’t be part of their impressive Champions League campaign because he was cup-tied from his involvement with his previous and only club, Zenit St. Petersburg.

After scoring six goals and supplying nine assists in just 15 games for Arsenal, Arshavin came second in Arsenal’s 2009 Player of the Season Poll despite coming in the second half of the campaign. Arsene Wenger, his teammates and most importantly, the fans waited anxiously to see what he could accomplish in a full season with the club.

In his first full season with the club (2009/10 season), Arshavin was tipped for great things and he made a huge statement with his 30-yard screamer against Manchester United in Old Trafford. An unfortunate Diaby own goal and a Wayne Rooney penalty resigned the Gunners to defeat but the Russian’s struggles began when Robin van Persie suffered a terrible ankle injury in a meaningless friendly against Italy.

RvP’s deputy, who is also referred to as the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, was nursing an injury as well, so Arsene Wenger attempted a failed experiment by drafting Arshavin to the center forward position. It was believed that the Russian had a foot injury as well, but he played through pain for the good of the team.

While in his newly-found center forward role, Arshavin was easily picked on by “bigger” defenders and he obviously offered no threat whatsoever in the air, but he managed to score vital goals against Stoke, Bolton and Liverpool (in Anfield again) before suffering an injury in Arsenal’s 2-2 first leg encounter with Barcelona at the Emirates. Lionel Messi ran riot in the second leg by scoring all four goals in the 4-1 thumping of the Gunners in Camp Nou.

In the end, it was a somewhat productive season for Arshavin, as he scored 12 goals and laid on seven assists in 39 appearances.

The 2010/11 campaign saw Samir Nasri go into full bloom but Arshavin’s place came under threat with Theo Walcott knocking on the door, and as the season progressed the Russian went on a downward spiral as he eventually lost his place to the English speedster. Despite falling out of favor with the manager, the 2010/11 campaign was Arshavin’s best in Arsenal colors as he managed to score 10 goals and supply 17 assists despite some appalling displays as the season progressed.

At the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Arshavin held a meeting with his manager to review his future with the club. Wenger indicated that he would not be considered a first-team regular but was welcome to stay and fight for his place. He took up the invitation but found first-team appearances hard to come by.

As his chances at Arsenal further diminished, his place in the Russian National team was under threat, it became glaring that he needed to play regular football to improve his chances of playing for his country in the forthcoming European Championships. His previous employers, Zenit, came with an escape route and he grabbed it with open arms.

In his return to Zenit, Arshavin scored three goals and supplied four assists before earning a place in the Russian team that was paired with Czech Republic, Greece and co-hosts, Poland. Russia was knocked out thanks to the cruel head-to-head rule but Arshavin sparked up some controversy when he harshly declared that he didn’t care how the fans felt in the wake of Russia’s elimination.

He apologized afterwards but it turned out to be the last straw and the diminutive Russian was stripped off his captaincy and hasn’t featured for Russia since then, leaving him with 17 goals for his nation in 75 appearances.

This season, Arshavin has become a peripheral figure at Arsenal and he’s bracing himself up to search for a new club, as his contract is set to expire this summer and Arsenal has clearly shown that they have no plans of renewing it. To make things worse, Arshavin allegedly dumped his wife (the mother of his three children) for a British model.

With his contract expiring this summer as well as the absence of viable alternatives, Arshavin is ready to retire from football at the age of 32.

While the highest point of his Arsenal career will undoubtedly be his four-goal haul against Liverpool in April 2009, I can’t think of any lower point in his career than that moment when Arsenal fans went berserk when Arsene Wenger brought him on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in January 2012 against Manchester United.

If he had any ounce of confidence left in him, that must have dealt a heavy blow in its own special way.

In 143 games for Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin scored 31 goals and created 42 assists for his teammates in four seasons with the club.

There was a period when he was regarded as one of the brightest stars in world football but Arshavin’s career is so dark that it’s currently heading into oblivion.

When he leaves this summer, I’ll always remember that technically proficient, blushed cheeked and hobbit-like owl that began his career in the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.

Arsene Wenger should take part of the blame for consistently playing Arshavin out of position on the left wing, as he was renowned for playing in the hole behind the stirker. Then again, which sane manager would fathom the idea of benching Cesc Fabregas in the heart of the midfield, when the football resolves around him.

Sayonara.

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My Thoughts on Flamini and Latest Updates from Euro 2012

Mathieu Flamini - AC Milan v US Citta di Palermo - TIM Cup

The grass is not greener on the other side

We’ve witnessed another team book a semifinal berth in the European Championships, joining Portugal in their bid usurp Spain as the new champions of Europe. Joachim Loew tweaked his attack and I guess it worked a treat.

Philip Lahm marked his 90th cap with a swerving shot that went past the shaky Greek goalie in goal. Greece shot a shock equalizer from that bloke that’s a carbon copy of the paintings of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

On a night were clones were getting a shot in the spotlight, Milan Baros’ surrogate, Sami Khedira smashed in a beautiful technical finish to put the Germans back on the driving seat.

The old hag and loyal German stalwart, Miroslav Klose, headed in Germany’s third on the night, which also took his tally to four goals behind the legendary Gerd Muller.

Klose almost scored his second goal of the night but his shot was parried by the Greek goalie. Marco Reus pounced on the rebound to finish aplomb.

Dimitris Salpingidis got a consolation goal from 12 yards out for the modern-day Spartans to make the scoreline more respectable.

Lukas Podolski watched from the dugout as his fellow German machines decimated their Greek counterparts and tore them to shreds. Podolski has already talked up his manager and he has stated that he’s relishing the prospect of working under Le Boss:

“He has been a very successful coach both in Europe and around the world. He speaks several languages, and German in particular, which is very helpful. We have spoken to each other on the telephone a few times, which was very good and also made my decision even easier.”

Arsene Wenger also had a few nice words to say about his new protegee, commending him for reaching a century of appearances for his nation at 27. That’s really a remarkable achievement.

Still sticking with the Euros, Andrey Arshavin had caused a slight uprising in his nation after some comments didn’t show any bit of professionalism. Russian football figureheads like FIFA’s vice president, Vyacheslav Koloskov, and Zenit St. Petersburg’s president, Valery Golubev, went haywire in their responses to Arshavin’s quotes.

As expected, Russia’s captain cooked his words and ate them, as he issued a befitting apology to his nation:

“The result has disappointed us and of course all our fans. We understand that. As team captain, on behalf of all our players and myself personally, I would like to apologize for our performance and the result that we had.”

Arshavin has always been an eccentric character but his form for Russia in the European Championships was brilliant. Like ‘Yemi Jr., I would like Arshavin to remain at Arsenal but it seems as if he’s better suited in his homeland with his fellow cold-blooded, Vodka drinking lot.

Moving on to other Arsenal news, Robin van Persie will join the rest of the Gunner Army in their pre-season tour in the Far East. Van Persie’s participation in the tour of Malaysia, China and Hong Kong was originally in doubt because his nation was tipped for great things in the Euros, but we all know how that egotistical lot fared.

Arsene Wenger also declared that the Olivier Giroud move is 90% complete and the Ox is set to sign a bumper contract that would see his wages tripled. There was also some talk of Alisher Usmanov trying to increase his stake with the club.

The most interesting news of the day belonged to an ex-Gunner, Mathieu Flamini, my favorite Flanimal.

After leaving Arsenal for the greens in 2008, the Flaminal has seen that the grass is certainly not greener on the other side as AC Milan has released the player after spending four seasons in San Siro.

Flamini joined Arsenal in 2004 and he was eased into the first team by Arsene Wenger. In the 2005/06 season, Flamini showcased his versatility when he contributed to the team’s cause as a left back for a large chunk of the season due to long-term injuries to Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy.

The Flanimal got his breakthrough in the 2007/08 campaign when Gilberto was “fatigued” from the 2007 Copa America with Brazil. He forged an extremely telepathic understanding with Cesc Fabregas and his dominant performances in midfield liberated Fabregas, which allowed him to score many goals and create many more assists.

If a soothsayer told me that Flamini’s last game for Arsenal would be in that painful UEFA Champions League quarterfinal 4-2 loss to Liverpool in March 2008, I would have given out a few fits of laughter.

Those nightmares of Flamini leaving became a reality but the end of a finish line became the start of a new one. The end of the Flamini era coincided with the start of the Alex Song Dynasty and we can only hope that the Cameroonian gem will be at Arsenal for years to come.

However, Flamini is now a free agent and many Gooners are having mixed emotions on his potential free transfer to Arsenal, just in case Wenger wants to do a Campbell or Lehmann on him.

Before sharing my thoughts on Flamini, I strongly recommend every Gooner to take a peek on @qed_14‘s article giving reasons why Arsenal should take Flamini back.

Would I love to have him back? Absolutely!

You know, I’ve been reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws Of Power recently; amazing book I tell you.

One thing I’ve learned is that when someone wronged you in the past and you forgive them, they will be more loyal than a friend because they have more to prove.

If he comes back, he knows he’ll have to do a lot to get the fans back on his side. Plus he’s a decent squad player, much better than the returning Denilson.

He does not need time to adapt to a new league, he’s done it here before. He also knows the team inside out, our strengths and failings. His experience could help.

Add this to the fact that he’s very versatile, he could cover for Bacary Sagna. I’d pick him over Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin anytime. He can equally play at left back and he’ll come cheap.

I see no reason why we should not have him back.

These words were culled from that great article by @qed_14.

You don’t stab the Arsenal in the back and expect to get a second chance but Mathieu Flamini deserves a second chance in my opinion.

For starters, he’s 28 years old and he can offer the Gunners four to five more years of his rugged tenacity. He began his career at the club slowly but he was integrated into the team, endearing himself with the fans in the 2007/08 campaign.

Let’s remember that Flamini was part of that magnificent quartet that almost secured the Premier League title for Arsenal in that campaign.

While he was the midfield enforcer, Tomas Rosicky and Aliaksandr Hleb provided wit, guile, creativity and flair from the flanks. Fabregas was at the tip of the midfield and he earned himself a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year.

Flamini’s work rate is second to none and he’s also a good tackler of the ball. Alex Song supplied 15 assists last season and was very impressive in Arsenal’s final match of the season, against West Brom. He enjoyed a free role as Francis Coquelin sat deep.

Bringing in Flamini will liberate Song, allowing him to build on his attacking prowess.

Despite being Arsenal’s chief midfield enforcer, Song had more assists than Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky put together last season.

The box-to-box role is currently manned by the dependable Mikel Arteta (or Jack Wilshere, if fit), but having Flamini in the squad will allow Arsene Wenger to rotate his team efficiently, especially in games when two holding midfielders are needed.

Alex Song tends to drift away at times and like Arteta, Flamini has the positional discipline to keep the balance of the midfield while Song is out of position.

He single-handedly marshalled the middle of the park in the 2007/08 campaign, without the help of Fabregas, Rosicky and Hleb, who were always further advanced up the pitch doing their jobs.

His versatility cannot be questioned as well. Flamini is a natural defensive midfielder that has played as a left back for Arsenal and he also had a stint as a right back in his AC Milan days. With Bacary Sagna still nursing his leg fracture and not expected to come back till Autumn, Flamini will be an ideal back up.

As my friend, @qed_14, rightly said, I’ll take the Flamster over Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin any day, any time.

I’ve shared my thoughts on Mathieu Flamini.

Feel free to share yours as well.

Sayonara.

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Arshavin Stirs Up Controversy and the Pantsgate Saga Continues

Display: Nicklas Bendtner pulled up his shirt to reveal Paddy Power pants

Paddy Power…the worst judge since Pontius..

In a somewhat frantic pace, the European Championships has shifted into second gear.

The group stages reached its climax when Wily Ol’ Woy Hodgson’s England took on co-hosts, Ukraine, while Laurent Blanc’s France hoped to continue their impressive international unbeaten record against the group’s whooping boys, Sweden.

France fielded a very strong side and I decided to go on a scouting mission to watch the highly-rated and sought-after Yann M’Vila. From an Arsenal persepective, Laurent Koscielny watched from the dugout yet again, but the stench of Arsenal remained on the pitch with the likes of Gael Clichy, $amir Na$ri and Seb Larsson strutting their stuff.

France had the lion’s share of possession but the Swedes had the better goalscoring chances. Early on, Zlatan Ibrahimovic lofted a through ball over the top that made Phillippe Mexes fall on his back side. Ola Toivonen did well to go round Hugo Lloris but the post came to France’s rescue.

Chances were far-fetched in the first half but Sweden’s skipper and chief conjurer, Zlatan Ibracadabra, sent his homeland and the rest of the football world into raptures with a goal that proved why he needs to be used as the S.I. unit for measuring technique in football.

France pushed on for an equalizer and Arsenal’s newbie, Olivier Giroud, came on in Yann M’Vila’s stead. He almost made an instant impact as he glanced his header wide with his first touch of the game.

It was no different from Nicklas Bendtner’s effort against Tottenham a few years ago, but the only difference was that the world’s best striker scored with his effort while Giroud didn’t.

France’s willingness to push on to level the contest left gaping holes at the back, which allowed Sweden to hit them on the break. A cross from Christian Wilhelmsson was fired goalwards by some bloke that has the same amount of hair with Howard Webb. His effort cannoned off the cross bar but Sebastian Larsson was on hand to slam home the rebound to put the game beyond Les Bleus.

Elsewhere, Steven Gerrard showed off some amazing skill to waltz past his marker before drilling a trademark cross into the heart of Ukraine’s danger area. The goalie, Andriy Pyatov, made a mess of what seemed like a routing save, allowing the ball across the goalmouth, leaving Shrek no choice but to convert the ball from less than a yard out.

There was some much hype surrounding Shrek’s return to the England starting line-up and it was nice to see the lad mark the occasion with a goal, as well as showing off his hair of course.

Out of the eight European nations that have been sent packing, four Gunners have also been present in those squads.

It’s fair to say that Wojciech Szczesny had a premature tournament, Robin van Persie endured a disappointing campaign, Andrey Arshavin was one of the bright sparks in the Russian team that was stunned by the cruel head to head rule while Nicklas Bendtner and his fellow Vikings went down fighting.

Judging from Bendtner’s performances in Euro 2012, he had a great tournament by his standards and he must have attracted a few predators out there, as SL Benfica have reignited their interest in the rangy forward.

Apart from his two well-taken headed goals against Portugal, Bendtner grabbed a place in the back pages for his Paddy Power publicity stunt that earned him a €100,000 fine, as well as a one-match ban, much to the dismay of the bewildered forward.

The folks at UEFA charged him with improper conduct, as he was found guilty of breaking the European governing body’s strict rules against unapproved sponsor advertising on kits.

In response to the feedback received on Twitter in support for Bendtner, Paddy Power has agreed to pay the barmy fine:

“We pride ourselves on listening to our customers and what we heard loud and clear yesterday was that Nicklas Bendtner should not suffer as a result of UEFA’s double standards.

We don’t believe that Nicklas should be penalised for nothing more serious than wearing his lucky underpants which, in fairness, was only a bit of fun.”

The company also sent out a warning to other footballers wearing their “lucky pants” to keep them concealed in order not to incur the wrath of the UEFA Pants Police. It’s really unfortunate to know that UEFA has given cheaper sanctions to teams involved in real offenses like racism.

Arseblog News in conjunction with Paddy Power of course, launched a competition with five pairs of Bendtner underpants up for grabs. All you have to do is to answer the question below:

Nicklas Bendtner is: a) The Greatest Astronaut That Ever Lived b) The Greatest Horsewhisperer That Ever Lived c) The Greatest Striker That Ever Lived or d) All of the above (which are to the side rather than above but you get what we mean).

Visit the site to answer the question and you could stand a chance of winning a pair of Bendtner underpants.

Moving on to more relevant news, Andrey Arshavin’s stint as the captain of Russia might be under jeopardy after openly stating that the elimination from Euro 2012 is not the players’ concern:

“The fact that we have not met your expectations is not our problem, It’s your problem. When I’m sitting in (Federal House) State Duma, I’ll be held accountable before you. 

We lost because we did not score and the Greeks did. These conversations will not change the result of the game.”

This certainly hasn’t gone down well in Russia, and former Russia Football Union Leader, who’s now FIFA’s Vice President, Vyacheslav Koloskov, has been the most vocal, declaring that Arshavin is “unfit” to be Russia’s captain after such comments.

Koloskov stated that Arshavin has never been in the same shoes as those who, at their own expense, travel long distances to support the team.

From a neutral perspective, those comments weren’t necessary from Russian football’s No. 1 citizen and we might probably expect an apology from him in the near future.

Enjoy the day’s break from Euro 2012.

The quarterfinals begin in earnest tomorrow.

Sayonara.

You can follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

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