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Lessons Learned from Arsenal’s Win Against West Ham

Arsenal’s winning streak against West Ham continued as the Gunners dug deep to score the goals that sent them to fourth place, albeit temporarily, pending Everton’s result against Crystal Palace tonight.

However, it was a true test on the Gunners fitness bearing in mind that a considerable chunk of the squad played an exhilarating 120 minutes in Wembley just three days earlier.

Without further ado, here are a few things I learned from yesterday’s game.

The Introduction of a Fresh Kim Kallstrom Paid Dividends

It might have taken him four months to make his first start for the club, but having a fresh face in the form of Kallstrom was a welcome move that was worth its weight in gold. Due to the injury constraints at the club, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini had played a lot of football in the middle of the park but the Frenchman’s suspension coupled with more fitness concerns for Aaron Ramsey paved the way for Kallstrom to make his mark on the pitch.

His passing was great and he worked in tandem with Arteta balancing the play. Having a player of his experience in the run-in would come in handy.

I hope he goes back to Spartak Moscow with a fat shiny FA Cup medal.

Lukas Podolski’s Left Foot is the Football Definition of Pure Evil

Podolski can be a very frustrating figure, especially when he’s not with the ball. However, he’s a natural predator in the opposition box and times without number, he has proved to the world that his left foot is as strong as Thor’s Hammer.

He showed off his clinical side with two well taken goals that left the keeper with no chance in Hell. It’s games like yesterday that makes Arsenal fans wonder why he doesn’t start regularly, but then again, you know how peripheral he becomes when Arsenal is having an off day.

Nonetheless, it was an efficient performance from the German Machine and I hope he scores more goals between now and May.

Aaron Ramsey’s Cameo Showed the Fans What they had Missed

It’s so ironic to know that Ramsey’s excellent form at the start of the season was halted abruptly when the Gunners took on West Ham. That day, Podolski came on for Ramsey and directly involved in the goals that handed the Gunners all three points.

Ramsey wasn’t deemed fit to start the game but he made a cameo in the second half and he capped a good display with a lovely assist for Podolski that was finished aplomb.

With the midfielder working his way to full fitness, Arsenal fans will be hopeful that he contributes to the team’s cause before the campaign reaches its climax.

Arsenal are Still the Kings of the London Derbies

This season, Arsenal has won seven of their nine derby matches in the Premier League this season – beating Crystal Palace, Fulham and Tottenham home and away and taking 22 points from a possible 27 in capital fixtures.

The only derby defeat suffered this season was that 6-0 drubbing in the hands of Chelsea. Arsenal have had the best record among London teams 12 times in the last 18 years.

More on this can be seen on the official site

Thoughts on the Arsenal’s FA Cup Adventure

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The great thing about supporting a football team is that despite having so many bad times, there’s always a little speck of light at the end of a very dark tunnel, as fans remain optimistic that the team they support would turn up with a better performance in the next game.

Despite the shocking display at Goodison Park last week Sunday, there has been a lot of tension at the club as many believe that it’s high time the club invests in a new manager. Then there was the Santi Cazorla interview where he spoke about the team’s lack of winning mentality as well as the club’s failures to address it’s depth issues last summer. There are five Premier League games to fight for as well as two potential FA Cup clashes, so the players have to rally themselves and fight for their lives in the club’s bid to end it’s long-standing trophy drought.

As for the issue of the depth of the squad, that remains in the hands of Arsene Wenger or maybe. that new young hotshot that would come in his place. With the club’s financial stability the envy of the football world, Arsenal can compete with their rivals to challenge for major honors but they have to sort a couple of things this summer. With the World Cup serving as a distraction, let’s hope that the club will invest early enough, instead of waiting till September 1, 2014 to make a couple of late signings.

Tomorrow, Arsenal has a date with destiny as the fabled ‘giant-killers’, Wigan Athletic, come to Wembley for a place in the final against either Sheffield United or Hull City. Arsenal’s run to the semis has seen them play three Premier League teams as well as a Championship side but it’s also worth noting that all these games have been played at home.

Tottenham were the first to visit the Emirates in January under the new management of Tim Sherwood and it took two goals from Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky to send the Gunners to the fourth round. A comfortable home clash against Coventry City followed and Lukas Podolski shined the brightest as the Gunners ran riot past their opponents.

Following the 5-1 drubbing in the hands of Liverpool at Anfield, the second game in the space of a week was a cautious affair but the Gunners had enough in the tank to ease past the title challengers and the quarterfinal clash against Everton turned out to be a routine affair as the Gunners gazumped Everton.

It’s also worth noting that the Gunners’ second-choice goalie, Lukasz Fabianski, has been the custodian between the sticks in all these encounters and the manager has confirmed that he’d play tomorrow, despite the fact that Fabianski has set his sights elsewhere after refusing to sign a new deal,

Let’s play on Saturday. You play football on your merit and your performance and he [Fabianski] has turned up with top-level performances until now in every single game. You could say that even after the game, he has done extremely well. He has been man of the match in the three games.

“When you are a professional you work until the last day of your contract. That’s for me being professional. All the rest has nothing to do with professionalism.”

At least we are sure of one player that would grace the starting line up in Wembley tomorrow.

It has been a great run thus far and with Manchester City taking out Chelsea before their shock loss to Wigan in the quarterfinals. If the Gunners were facing the Citizens with their current form, the fans would have been very pessimistic but fate has allowed the Gunners to have a real chance of winning silverware after nine long years.

A match preview of the Wigan game would be published tomorrow morning.

Sayonara.

UEFA Champions League: Bold Predictions for the UCL Semis

 

Just before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draws were made, I published an article on some bold predictions for the last eight and there’s nothing cooler than seeing your predictions work out. I had stated that;

  • Two Teams from the Same Nationality Would Lock Horns - Yup, there was a clash between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, two teams from the same nation. 
  • The Ibrahimovic – C. Ronaldo – Diego Costa Golazo Fest Would Continue - Cristiano Ronaldo got in on the scoring act but injuries plighted Zlatan and Diego Costa’s chances of getting on the score sheet.
  • Atletico Madrid Would Cruise to the Semifinals - The Red and White Dark Horses surprised everyone in the football world with a two-legged victory over juggernauts, Barcelona, but I wasn’t perturbed cuz’ I said so. 
  • A ‘Big’ Team Would be Dumped Out - If FC Barcelona is your definition of “big”, then you’re correct. :D
  • End of the Line for Manchester United - Of course, they never stood a chance with the defending champions.

The draws for the semifinals coming up soon and the road to Lisbon is getting closer with each passing game. Gooner Daily has decided to take a tentacle from Paul the Octopus to make a couple of predictions ahead of the next phase of Europe’s elite football competition.

Atletico’s Profligacy Will Cost Them a Place in the Finals

David Villa smashed three shots against the woodwork when he played his former employers

In the absence of a clinical forward like Diego Costa through injury, Atletico Madrid needed their next experienced forward, David Villa, to step up in his absence. David Villa had a good game by his standards but he left his shooting boots at home as he missed a hat-trick of chances that smashed the woodwork.

As the game progressed, Atletico found more loopholes in the Barcelona defense but their poor finishing coupled with Barca’s toothlessness in front of goal saw them book a place in the last four. Against vastly experienced sides like Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, Atletico’s naivety in front of goal could be exposed and they would be brushed aside.

Notwithstanding, they have been the team of the tournament thus far.

Jose Mourinho and his Goons Would Progress to the Finals

As we all know, Jose Mourinho is one hell of a charismatic character and while he can be a massive pain in the ass sometimes, you can’t take nothing away from his tactical acumen.

He had noticed how Eden Hazard had been struggling on the wings right from the kickoff but he took a bold step to replace him in a game of that magnitude with Andre Schurrle. David Moyes on the other hand, saw that Wayne Rooney was clearly struggling at the Allianz Arena but Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj came on for other players while Shrek remained on the pitch.

 

Super Sub

 

I’m not here to laud Mourinho for his tactics because PSG also had chances to kill the game off and they weren’t taken but Mourinho is a coach that knows how to adapt to different game plans and when his team gets drawn against either Bayern, Real Madrid or Atletico, Mourinho would have the edge.

As expected, he would probably park a large bus away then balance the scoreline at home. Bleeeeeeh

There Would be Penalty Shootouts in One of the Fixtures

At the semifinal stage, there would be some tactical battles on and off the pitch. Teams would take cautious approaches over the course of two legs and I’m confident that there would be a fixture that would be settled by the lottery of a penalty shootout.

Let’s just hope that Sergio Ramos won’t be available to shoot another ball that would be launched into orbit if Real Madrid turns out to be among the teams playing in the shootout.

Do you agree with these predictions? Feel free to share yours with your comments.

Sayonara

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Josip Drmic: Thoughts on Arsenal’s Transfer Target

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Should Wenger decide to stay at Arsenal and extend his contract that’s already on his table, this would be a pivotal summer transfer window for him. This summer could see Bacary Sagna joined by Nicklas Bendtner and Lukasz Fabianski, two players that are sure of leaving as their contracts expire this summer.

This ultimately means that should Wenger not decide to extend Emiliano Viviano’s stay, he will have to shop for a new goalkeeper. Sagna’s exit could see Carl Jenkinson rise to the upper echelons of first team football but with the likes of Seamus Coleman, Serge Aurier and Lukasz Piszszek available for the taking, Jenkinson’s wait for regular football might be extended.

However, Arsenal fans would be keen to see who the club brings to bolster it’s options in the central attacking position. After failed pursuits for Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez, Arsene Wenger laid his eggs on an Olivier Giroud basket and when the Frenchman was found wanting the Gunners could only look to a Dane whose heart is fixed elsewhere and a young French untried and untested lad with some ‘potential’. For a club of Arsenal’s calibre, that’s not good enough.

This is a club that has seen great strikers like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Nwankwo Kanu and Robin van Persie score goals with consummate ease. Now the club has a striker that blows hot and cold on the pitch and be has become a scapegoat for the fan’s frustrations off the pitch.

While the fans are eagerly anticipating a ‘big name’ this summer, the media vultures are reporting that Arsenal can sign this season’s Bundesliga sensation, Josip Drmic, for as low as €2.5 million if FC Nurnberg suffers the ignominy of relegation. Apparently, there’s a ‘clause’ in his contract that’s states that he can be available for that knockdown price if his club plummets into Bundesliga II mediocrity.

So the million dollar question is this : Who is Josip Drmic? :S

Drmic is a Swiss youngster that’s making waves in the German Bundesliga this season. As we all know, FC Bayern dominated the league this season and have set their sights on conquering Europe but while top dog, Mario Mandzukic, leads the scoring charts, Drmic is just behind the big Croat with 16 goals for struggling FC Nurnberg. For a player this young to get this large haul of goals in his debut campaign, a few eyebrows are bound to be raised.

Young, relatively unknown and technically astute. This guy has the ‘classic Wenger signing’ tag written all over him.

Josip Drmic, who began his professional career as a footballer at FC Zurich, made his league debut in 2010, having risen through the youth rank. He joined Nuremberg only last year, and has become one of the most prolific strikers in the Bundesliga in only his first season.

With the creativity at Arsenal’s disposal, a player like Drmic could benefit and his goalscoring haul this season has proven that he’s a good finisher, which would bolster Arsenal’s chances of scoring goals in games. The club can boast of Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott as it’s best finishers but both players can’t lead the line on their own.

Drmic’s off the ball movement will make him a thorn on the flesh of opposition defenders and he’s comfortable with both feet. He also has raw reserves of pace and for a player so young, his confidence and ability to play as a target man is exemplary. Which ultimately means that he could be a flicker and hold up player like Giroud but he also does his thing on the business end – clinical finishing.

To wet your appetites a bit, here are some clips of the lad’s exploits this season.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X3gpO8MUaeM

Whether Wenger takes the punt on the young lad remains to be seen, but if be does, I firmly believe that it would be a move worth its weight in gold.

Sayonara.

Everton Aftermath: Time for a New Manager?

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There’s still that bitter feeling in the mouths of everyone connected with Arsenal football club. Confidence on the players and manager has reached an all-time low and a faction of the fans are very sceptical about the team’s chances against the giant killers, Wigan.

When there was no pressure on the lads at the early part of the campaign, the Gunners were flourishing and they even carried the good form into the new year and as at February, the Gunners were two points clear at the top but with one win from their last six matches, the Gunners Champions League hopes are hanging on a thin thread.

Wenger has won 11 trophies during his time in North London, but none since the 2004-05 season, and the pressure is beginning to mount on the Frenchman. In the wake of the thrashing at the hands of Everton, Wenger’s press conference reflected the current state of things

Was there a lack of fight? You could say that. It is a massive worry to lose a game like that. We have to analyse it well and come back with a different attitude, with more personality and stronger challenges. We have to go back to basics. Everton are in a strong position now and it is right to say we have struggled in games like this and the one at Liverpool. I am absolutely 100 per cent determined to fight and make the top four, but it will be difficult.

A title challenge has turned into a Champions League scrap and the prospect of playing Europa League football next season is very scary indeed. Many fans have taken to social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook to voice their frustrations but ex-Gunner and legend, Ian Wright, has stated that he would like to see a manager like Roberto Martinez at the helm of affairs,

That’s the kind of manager that you want, a good young manager that has proven himself tactically, he knows what he’s doing. It’s got to be that kind of man, Roberto Martinez, he’s the perfect one. If someone was to ask me who I want, I’d say Roberto Martinez. That’s the kind of manager you’ve got to be looking at to take Arsenal forward.

Many fans are also riding on the Jurgen Klopp bandwagon, and many believe that he would be the best man for the job. I hope they know that like Wenger, Klopp has folded his arms while his best players like Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze left the club, while Robert Lewandowski is also on his way out of the club. #JustSaying

There’s also a ‘conspiracy theory‘ about Louis van Gaal and Jonker. It’s a brilliant read on One Nil Down Two Nil Up and it’s worth a read.

Many fans love Arsene Wenger and all the things he has achieved at the club, but some feel that maybe he has achieved all he can with the lads and winning the FA Cup would be the perfect platform to bring his reign to an end.

However, the ball still remains on his court as we all know that there’s a contract for him on the table.

Sayonara.

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