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Diaby Returns: Is There Still Hope for him at Arsenal?

 

Abou Diaby

After almost a year out, he’s back!

Truth be told, injuries have become part and parcel of the modern game.

The competitive nature of football has led to teams battling each other for the ultimate goal of gaining victory and like every battle, there are casualties. In a club as technically proficient like Arsenal, they are players that are always on the line of fire due to their style of play while there are others that are just unlucky.

Abou Diaby arrived from AJ Auxerre in the 2006 winter transfer window and his lanky stature made the media label him as the next Monsieur Vieira. He wore the No. 2 jersey last worn by the great Lee Dixon and he made 12 league appearances before suffering a horrific ankle fracture following a horrendous challenge from Sunderland’s Dan Smith.

He missed Arsenal’s Champions League final against Barcelona as well as the 2006 European Under-21 Championships with France U-21s. Diaby went through a series of surgeries to fix up the ankle and he was sidelined for an entire pregnancy period. After recuperating and rehabilitating from that career-threatening injury, Diaby notched up a handful of appearances in 2007 before suffering another injury in the tail end of the year with Mathieu Flamini while representing France.

A year after that, Diaby suffered a thigh injury despite scoring in Arsenal’s ill-fated Champions League quarterfinal exit in the hands of Liverpool in March 2008. The injury escalated to a critical level forcing Diaby to miss out on Euro 2008.

Between 2009 and 2012, Diaby suffered a hip injurycalf injuryknee ligament damageankle injury, another ankle surgery and a thigh strain. There was even a period in his career when he traveled to the Middle East and the United States in his bid to save his career but Diaby made a long-awaited comeback against Liverpool in Anfield last season only to leave the pitch after 26 minutes. Just when we taught that things couldn’t get any worse for Diaby, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament on his left knee and the club announced that he was going to be sidelined for eight to nine months

scar_diaby

See the scars on his knee

After a lengthy recuperation period, Diaby is back to full fitness and he even managed to get 45 minutes under his belt in the Arsenal U-21′s recent defeat against Chelsea U-21s. According to the match report on the official site, Diaby even had a chance to mark his return by a goal but the Chelsea goalie denied him his moment of glory.

Diaby has managed to amass 178 appearances for the club in nine seasons, which means that he averages just 19 games or so a season since he joined the club in January 2006. Diaby is undoubtedly a talented player but his injury woes has made him to become a liability at the club, rather than an asset. With a physique that is Patrick Vieira-esque in nature, the Frenchman combines his technical ability with good dribbling skills but he’s never around to showcase that talent.

Diaby’s cause wouldn’t be helped by the fact that the Gunners have so many options in midfield and with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere manning the box to box role with authority, it would even be difficult for Diaby to get a shot in the holding role, as monsieurs Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini currently man those positions. He even has the threat of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to contend with.

 

Diaby was the Man of the Match when Arsenal beat Liverpool in Anfield last season

Diaby is one of our best midfielders, but he gets injured so often and it has also been proven in the past that Wenger has a soft spot for him. Anytime he’s fit, he somehow finds his way into the first team at the expense of someone else. Take his last return for example, Wenger played Diaby almost instantly and that was around the time the WC qualifiers was heavy and he got used almost every game for 90 minutes. 

Diaby has had so many injury setbacks and we as fans can only hope that is injury woes are now fully behind him. However, his contract expires next summer and I really don’t see the club renewing his deal.

It’s good to have Abou Diaby back.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Moyes’ Dismissal and What the Future Holds for Wenger

As we all know, football can be a cruel and and unforgiving sport.

When Sir Alex Ferguson won the 2012/13 Premier League title, he must he felt within himself that he had gotten the very best from the players at his disposal before making his shocking announcement about his imminent retirement. He addressed everyone connected with the club to “get behind the new man” and when the time came, Everton’s stalwart, David Moyes, was announced as the manager to take the club forward.

While Moyes was still getting a hang of things at his new club, Sunderland parted ways, rather acrimoniously, with the volatile and charismatic Paolo di Canio, making him the first managerial dismissal of the season. After working hard to bring Crystal Palace up through the lottery of the Championship playoff final, Ian Holloway and the Eagles parted ways via mutual consent. December turned out to be a hot month for firing managers as Martin Jol, Steve Clarke, AVB and Malky Mackay received the axe.

AVB looking clueless as always during his time in England

When Michael Laudrup surprisingly lost his job in February, Fulham were at it again as Rene Meulensteen was sacked after just 13 games with his new team. Norwich finally terminated Chris Hughton’s employment after a run of fruitless results and many bookies believed that it was going to be the final sacking of the season, till the summer at least.

Little did we know that the hierarchy of Manchester United had something up their sleeves and inevitably, David Moyes, lost his job after 10 months in charge. The Red Devils are set to have their lowest points tally in Premier League history as well as not qualifying for the Champions League in some 18 years or so, and as expected, the naming ceremony has begun for his potential replacement.

News of Moyes sack was strangely followed with Manchester United fans celebrating wildly in various social networking platforms, even to the extent where a fan baked a cake in honor of his manager losing his job.

Former Red Devil, Gary Neville, has openly criticized the sacking of David Moyes and while I’m certainly no Man U fan, I feel that he should have been given more time to turn things around at the club. It’s true that his players struggled for form but axing him with three games to go wasn’t worth the trouble. At least, he’s walking away with £10 million.

As for his replacements, Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp has a £5m to £10m buy-out clause while Pep Guardiola’s release fee is close to £16m allegedly but reduces as the end of his contract approaches. Media favorite, Louis Van Gaal’s clause is allegedly £2m unless he is sacked after the World Cup. Wasting £10m in relieving the services of Moyes is no where as detrimental as the impact of not featuring in EUrope’s elite football competition next season, as it’s clearly obvious that Manchester United fans would brace themselves up for some Thursday night football.

Bringing it home to “more familiar surroundings”, Arsene Wenger’s 18-year stint with the club seems to be reaching its climax and no one knows the decision the manager is going to take this summer and while we fans are hoping for the best, we are also preparing for the worst.

Arsene Wenger could win the FA Cup and bow out like Sir Alex Ferguson, then probably recommend someone that he feels would be in the best position to the take the club forward. Many fans are also hoping for him to sign the new deal and spend this summer so that he can reap the fruits of his labor.

Many have bemoaned the lack of trophies, failure to sign quality players, rigid tactics and his stubbornness could be good enough reasons for the club to decide not to retain his services but the board still has the final say, and we all know that the Arsenal hierarchy remain supportive of the manager.

The loss of David Moyes is rather unfortunate, but that’s football.

These sort of stuff are part and parcel of the game.

Sayonara.

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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

image

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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