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Pro and Cons of Gervinho’s Move to AS Roma

A debut he will never forget

In his youthful days at the ASEC Abidjan academy, his Brazilian youth coach derived a nickname from one of his most talented footballers, Gervais Yao Kouassi, and the name “Gervinho” came into fruition.

The winger got his big break in Beveren of Belgium before Le Mans snapped him up for a meager sum of £575,000. Two seasons, 59 games and nine league goals after, LOSC Lille Metropole came knocking on Le Mans’ door and he was sold for £5.75m. He dazzled the Lille faithful in his first season with 13 league goals in 32 appearances and went even better in his second season with 15 goals in 35 appearances which inspired Lille to a French League and Cup double.

This performances didn’t go unnoticed and in the summer of 2011 amid the Samir Nasri transfer speculation, Arsenal delved into the market to purchase Gervinho for £11m. Despite offering the fans a sense of renewed optimism with his arrival, Gervinho didn’t have the best of debuts as a bust-up with that brawler, Joey Barton, earned him an early bath. While he was instrumental in Arsenal’s two-legged Champions League playoff win over Udinese, Gervinho served a three-match ban that saw his team lose to Liverpool as well as a horrendous mauling in the hands of Manchester United.

From that moment on, it’s fair to say that Gervinho has had a hot and cold career at the Emirates. There have been game where he wowed the crowd and there were others where the fans wanted his big forehead on a friggin’ plate,

In 63 matches for Arsenal over the course of two seasons, Gervinho scored 11 goals for the club with four scored in his debut campaign and seven more scored last season. After enduring a somewhat disappointing campaign that saw him feature sparingly for the Gunners, the Ivorian winger as successfully negotiated a deal with AS Roma, which also gave him a chance to have a reunion with his former boss, Rudi Garcia.

This has brought some mixed reactions among the Arsenal faithful with many fans and without further ado, here are the pros and cons of Gervinho’s move to AS Roma.

Pros

Gervinho’s Lack of Ideas in the Final Third

His fleet-footed nature, decent amount of pace, good dribbling skills and unpredictable style of play made Gervinho a rather difficult player to come up against but he had one major flaw – Gervinho’s decision making in the final third was very appalling to say the least. There were times when so many promising attacks were built from Gervinho’s wing only to end up as another dose of frustration from the Arsenal faithful.

With Gervinho going to AS Roma, we have one less inconsistent player to worry about.

Unavailability Due to African Cup of Nations

In Gervinho’s two seasons with Arsenal, his nation, Ivory Coast, an African superpower, always qualified for the continent’s premier tournament and he always departed in the winter to join the likes of the Toure brothers, Salomon Kalou, Cheick Tiote and the scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba.

In the 2012 AFCON, Ivory Coast had an amazing run of games that saw them go to the final of the tournament without conceding any goal only for Gervinho to dissipate their hopes of their first African title since 1992 when he blasted his penalty kick wide, allowing underdogs Zambia to win the tournament.

On his return to Arsenal, Gervinho looked like a player fighting his own personal demons and his performances were very poor to say the least.

Last season, Gervinho departed again for another AFCON but Ivory Coast were ousted by eventual winners, Nigeria.

Leaving a club at the midway point of a season for a compulsory international tournament is a bitter pill to swallow and Arsenal went as far as bringing club legend, Thierry Henry, on loan as cover for Gervinho.

With Gervinho gone, Arsenal won’t have any worries about any of its personnel departing at the midway point to represent his nation in a tourney.

Increase’s Arsenal’s Chances of Signing a New Winger

Like Gervinho, Arsenal has other players that ply their trades in the wing positions. Theo Walcott is predominantly the alpha-dog in the right wing position but form and fitness played a role in Lukas Podolski losing his left wing slot to Santi Cazorla, that moved to the flanks to accommodate either Jack Wilshere or Tomas Rosicky. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also provided some cover in this position as well as central midfield.

With Gervinho gone, Arsenal would be very light on the wing positions (as he was talented enough to play in both wings and even as a make-shift center forward) but his departure can pave the way for the Gunners to sign a new winger. There’s so much buzz surrounding Luis Suarez at the moment and he will be ideal for the Gunners because he can play as a winger or a center forward.

Cons

He Provided Adequate Cover

When Gervinho was at Arsenal, he was a regular starter on the left wing in the 2011/12 campaign. With the 2012 AFCON ongoing, he had to travel to Gabon with his nation but on his return, he lost his place to Thierry Henry, Yossi Benayoun and the Ox. He still managed to notch up 37 appearances with four goals to his name.

Last season, the arrival of Lukas Podolski further diminished his chances, and there was also a point when Santi Cazorla became Arsenal’s left winger on the tail end of the campaign. However, Gervinho was readily available and there was a period he got a run-out on the right wing when Walcott suffered an injury.

With Gervinho gone, if Arsenal doesn’t sign a better replacement, there will be problems as you would not expect the present lot at the wings to stay fit throughout the entire campaign. There will be games were they would need to be rested.

He Contributed to Arsenal’s Attack

Following a rather uninspiring debut against Newcastle, Gervinho came to the party when he provided an assist for Robin van Persie in the qualifying fixture against Udinese. He opened his goalscoring account in that mysterious 4-3 loss to Blackburn where the Gunners managed to score five goals (two own goals as well) but still ended up losing the game. His second goal and arguably his best performance in his debut season came against Stoke where he scored the first and supplied two assists for RVP.

After scoring two more goals against Wigan and Wolves, he departed for the 2012 AFCON and his goal count dried faster than the wells in the Kalahari Desert.

At the start of last season with Olivier Giroud firing blanks, Arsene Wenger deployed Gervinho as a make-shift center forward and that faith was swiftly repaid with the Ivorian attacker scoring five goals in quick succession against Montpellier, Chelsea, Olympiakos and a brace against Southampton. This run of goals made Gervinho Arsenal’s top scorer at that point in time.

Then of course, there was the match clincher against Swansea, the 5-star performance against Reading and that lovely assist to Tomas Rosicky against West Brom.

Despite his overwhelming inconsistencies, there were games when Gervinho contributed to Arsenal’s attack but those chances were few and far between.

Conclusion

With Gervinho joining the club for £11m in the summer of 2011, he seemed to be a good signing at the start of his Arsenal career but that penalty miss for his nation in the winter of 2012 shattered his confidence to bits and this really affected his performances, causing his manager to take a drastic step by removing him from the starting XI.

Things got even worse in his second season and those confidence issues surfaced yet again with more appalling performances in the games he played. I’m very sure that Arsenal fans would never forget his legendary miss against Bradford in the Capital One Cup last season.

With AS Roma paying £7m for his services, Arsenal were more than willing to cut their losses with the winger and he’s about to embark on a new adventure with his former boss in the capital of Italy.

Goodbye Gervinho, you won’t be missed.

Sayonara.

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5 Players that Need to Step their Game Up in the 2013/14 season

He really messed up last season

I certainly cannot look back at the entire 2012/13 season with pride because it turned out to be another classic case of what might have been…a familiar story with anyone concerned with Arsenal Football Club.

In the last 10 Premier League games, Arsenal recorded an impressive eight wins and two draws, which would be regarded as a title-chasing form but unfortunately, it was just enough to usurp fierce rivals, Tottenham, to fourth place. Manchester United with a certain Robin van Persie in its ranks ran away with the Premier League title while Manchester City and Chelsea chased the leading pack with European football guaranteed.

While Manchester City fans faced the unfathomable heartbreak of losing to Wigan in a cup final (…been there, done that), Chelsea ended their campaign as well as Rafa Benitez’s tumultuous stay with the Europa League title, which ensured that they picked up some silverware, a term not associated with the red half of North London in recent seasons.

The Gunners didn’t fare any better in the domestic cup competitions as well, with embarrassing losses to Bradford City in the Capital One Cup and Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. In the Champions League, the Gunners matched a putrid home performance with a spirited away encounter against the eventual winners, Bayern Munich.

At the end of the 2012/13 campaign, the new signings proved their worth in gold as Santi Cazorla emerged to be one of the buys of the season, endearing himself into Arsenal hearts with his outstanding displays all season long. Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski also proved to be great additions to the team as their goals and assists helped Arsenal’s cause as the season progressed.

The performances of Theo Walcott didn’t go unnoticed and he signed a new deal to keep him in the club, as well as the young British core that contributed in more ways than one. It would take a watchful Arsenal fan to know that unsung heroes like Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny worked their skins off for the team over the course of the season.

Other notable highlights of the campaign included the goalkeeping shuffles, the intense battle between Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, the deadwood loaned out and of course, the unfortunate injury to the glass-boned Abou Diaby.

Some players like Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on five Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up for the forthcoming season or face the axe.

Here’s my take on the infamous five.

Wojciech Szczesny

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected the big Pole. Despite his young age and inexperience, Arsene Wenger was more than willing to stick to his young Pole, because he had shown his glimpses of quality in the past and he could only get better with raw experience on the field.

He began the campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a gaffe against Southampton. He swiftly returned to action after his injuries and even featured in cup matches, as Wenger certainly wasn’t convinced about Vito Mannone.

This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.

Wenger acted swiftly by dropping him for a returning Lukasz Fabianski but an unfortunate rib injury to the elder Pole handed Szczesny another chance in the team. He put up more decent performances in his return but Szczesny has to remember that there will be no room for error in the 2013/14 campaign.

Arsenal has been heavily linked with a move for Brazilian shot stopper, Julio Cesar, but nothing concrete has come to fruition. Szczesny needs to step up this season to convince everyone that he’s still the right man for the job, because Arsenal can afford able replacements.

Thomas Vermaelen

In one word, last season was an aberration for Thomas Vermaelen.

With Robin van Persie departing for greener pastures, the mantle of the captaincy was handed over to the Belgian Verminator and it probably turned out to be a burden as his performances proved.

The Verm always wanted to get “involved” to aid his team, only to end up shooting everyone on the foot with a rifle. His clumsiness was a major highlight last season as he kept on committing needless fouls as well as a penalty against Montpellier that ended up inflicting damage to his team.

Then there was the inch-perfect assist to van Persie in Old Trafford as well as that penalty miss that doomed Arsenal to defeat against Bradford.

More appalling performances particularly against Liverpool (home) and Manchester City (home) followed but the last straw was undoubtedly his atrocious outing against Tottenham (away). Wenger axed him from the squad from that moment on and he could only manage a game against Norwich (home) because Mertesacker was suspended.

He was linked with a move away but the Belgian pledged to stay and fight for his place. The manager has also backed him up, stating that he’s to remain as club captain for the forthcoming season.

In Vermaelen’s absence, Arsenal conceded only five goals in 10 Premier League games and two were conceded from open play. The Verm has to step up if he’s to break the impregnable Mertecielny combination.

Bacary Sagna

A true model of consistency in the yesteryear, replaced by a sloppy player after returning from two horrific leg injuries. Despite the affinity Arsenal fans have towards Bacary Sagna, his performances on his return from injury weren’t good enough, especially coming from a player that has maintained such high standards in previous campaigns.

Young Carl Jenkinson deputized admirably in Sagna’s absence,but many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. He was a colossus in Arsenal’s away victory over Sunderland when he deputized as a make-shift center back but his outing against Newcastle (home), Chelsea (away) and Southampton (away) were terribly appalling.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, Sagna self destructed at home to Manchester United by gifting a wayward pass to van Persie before scything him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot.

This summer he has been linked with a move back to his native France but if he decides to stay with Arsenal, he needs to step his game up, because Arsenal has been linked with moves for Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek and Freiburg’s Sebastian Jung. Let’s not forget that there’s a certain Carl Jenkinson waiting to get take advantage too.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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.

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 undoubted 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.

Arsenal’s reliance on Theo Walcott on the right may become a burden and there may be times when the Ox will be called upon to deliver. He has to show that he has what it takes.

Gervinho

Anytime I think of Gervinho’s horrendous miss against Bradford, I tend to wonder where it went all wrong.

If Arsenal had managed to win the lowly League Two outfit, a semifinal berth against a struggling Aston Villa would have beckoned and if they had secured a win against the Villans, the Gunners would have been in Wembley against Chelsea or Swansea.

If and only if…classic Arsenal cliche.

But here we are with Gervais Yao Kouassi, the fleet-footed and scintillating dribbling that offers nothing on the final third, except you’re a Southampton (home), Montpellier (away), Chelsea (home), Olympiakos (home), Swansea (away) and Reading (home). Despite his numerous shortcomings as a player, Gervinho still managed seven goals and supplied five assists last season.

He’s certainly got going to be a regular unless injuries to first team players or other factors come into play, but Gervinho has to really step up his game when he comes up as an impact sub.

This is a player that scored 36 goals in two seasons with LOSC Lille Metropole, that’s the Gervinho we all need.

****

I just hope that these Gunners will do well to kill their personal demons and play very well in the upcoming season because Arsene Wenger’s future might just be in their hands.

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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Giroud’s Appeal Fails: Reviewing Arsenal’s Alternative Attacking Options

Giroud appeal rejected

With a Robin van Persie-inspired performance handing Manchester United their 20th league title, their arch-rivals, Manchester City, will have to settle for second place and will be odds on to do some business this summer with their petro-greens. While the city of Manchester can brag about having the best two teams in the land, the city of London is currently in an intense battle as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are fighting hard for the remaining coveted Champions League spots.

While Chelsea and Tottenham have grueling fixtures as well the game in hand against each other, Arsenal has four more fixtures against the champions, Manchester United, relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers and Wigan as well as a Newcastle side not still assured of their Premier League status. While a draw against Manchester United seems like the most possible outcome, the Gunners will be assured of a place in next season’s Champions League if they can record consecutive wins over QPR, Wigan and Newcastle, as either Chelsea or Tottenham will have to drop points when they play against each other.

However, the Gunners will go into the next three games without the services of Olivier Giroud, that has seen the appeal from his club rejected following his dismissal in Craven Cottage. The FA has released an official statement on this subject matter,

Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud has had his claim for wrongful dismissal rejected.

“Giroud was dismissed for serious foul play during his side’s game against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday 20 April 2013.

“The player’s three-match suspension will therefore commence with immediate effect.”

In his debut campaign at Arsenal, the French forward has enjoyed a somewhat decent season that saw him score in purple patches as well as going through spells of goal droughts. Despite the fact that Giroud is Arsenal’s second highest goalscorer behind Theo Walcott (who’s also on a drought) with 17 goals, many Arsenal fans won’t be quick to forget his glaring misses as the campaign progressed – the blatant miss in his debut against Sunderland, that spurned chance in the dying moments against Chelsea at home and more recently, the sitter against Everton last week.

With Giroud out of the side for three games before a potential return in the final game of the campaign against Newcastle, Arsene Wenger will have to assign another player with the task of coming up with the goods while Monsieur Giroud gets some rest. Prior to his red card against Fulham, Giroud had notched up 46 appearances for the club and he could do with a breather to recharge his batteries, even if it’s forced by suspension.

Without further ado, here are the likeliest of attacking alternatives that could be selected by Arsene Wenger for the games against Manchester United, QPR and Wigan in Giroud’s absence.

Gervinho

The Ivorian forward has endured a topsy-turvy campaign this season. Despite having a debut that was tainted by the antics of Joey Barton, Gervinho was in good form before representing his nation in the 2012 African Cup of Nations but after missing the crucial penalty that his nation lose the finals to Zambia, Gervinho returned to Arsenal like a player that was possessed with a ghost.

With a good summer’s break to cool off, Gervinho shocked everyone in the start of the campaign with some inspired performances that saw him score a brace against Southampton and it was followed with goals against Montpellier, Chelsea and Olympiakos making the Ivorian Arsenal’s leading goalscorer at that point in time.

As the months progressed, Gervinho’s form dwindled and his performances in the cup games against Bradford and Blackburn were marred with glaring misses that proved costly as Arsenal were ousted from both competitions. This brought Gervinho into the bad books of the fans and probably his manager as he featured sparingly.

In a strange twist of fate, an injury suffered to Theo Walcott during the last international break paved the way for Gervinho to get a run-out and he grabbed the chance with both hands as he was instrumental in Arsenal’s victories over Reading and West Brom. Just when we thought that Gervinho was finding some form, he was back to his frustrating best against Norwich as he hasn’t returned to the first-team setup.

On his day, Gervinho is a force to be reckoned with as he’s a fleet-footed player with good dribbling skills and some flamboyancy but for some strange reason, his technique is questionable and he generally runs out of ideas in the final third. With Arsenal looking for a forward to come up with the goods, Gervinho wouldn’t be a likely option.

Possibility of replacing Giroud: Low

Theo Walcott

Arsenal’s leading 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 falls 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 this season is a testament of these claims. 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.

Notwithstanding, Walcott’s blistering pace remains a potent force and Arsenal can use it to their advantage, especially against slow defenses like that of QPR and Wigan.

Possibility of replacing Giroud: High

Lukas Podolski

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.

The German is currently ranked in third place in Arsenal’s scoring charts, as he has managed to score 14 goals and lay on a couple of assists in his maiden season in England. While he may not produce performances that would make you drool week in week out, Podolski’s efficiency, work ethic and consistency (and injuries, of course) have been the major highlights of his fledgling Arsenal career.

The German has struggled with niggling injuries in the course of the season and has been on the fringes as well but when he’s summoned from the bench, he has gone on to make some telling contributions to the overall play like his equalizer against Swansea in the FA Cup third round or his match clincher against Norwich last week.

With Giroud out through suspension, Arsene Wenger has tipped Podolski to spearhead the team’s attack, and I can bet my smart money that the German would lead the line in these upcoming fixtures against Manchester United, QPR and Wigan.

Possibility of replacing Giroud: Very High

Andrey Arshavin

Just kidding… :D

Conclusion

This season has shown that there are players within the team that can deputize for the first-team regulars and still put on a great shift.

In goal, Lukasz Fabianski replaced the under-performing Wojciech Szczesny and made some commanding displays in goal before injury thwarted his progress yet again. In defense, Carl Jenkinson has been immense when Bacary Sagna is out injured and with Laurent Koscielny’s solid performances in tandem with Per Mertesacker, it has been hard for the captain to command his place back in the starting lineup.

Irrespective of who Arsene Wenger selects as his center forward, Arsenal would be expect to get maximum points in their remaining fixtures for the remainder of the season. With Giroud serving  his match ban, Arsene Wenger will need to act fast.

The question remains – will he go for the trickery of Gervinho, the raw pace of Walcott or the efficiency of Podolski.

Sayonara.

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Gervais Yao “Pires”?, Latest Injury Updates and Transfer Speculation

With the next Premier League fixture just around the corner, I’m supposed to be filled up with excitement in anticipation of Arsenal grabbing their first maximum points of the campaign…but when I realize that Arsene Wenger and his Red Army are going to the Britannia to play that rugby lot, my optimism isn’t as high as it ought to be.

Our record is a bit shabby in that part of England and we have our fair share of history with that lot – Gael Clichy scoring his first goal for the club, Robin van Persie’s shameful red card, the 2010 FA Cup defeat, Johan Djourou’s putrid performance that led to all three Stoke goals in the 2010/11 campaign and of course, the Shawcrossation of Aaron Ramsey.

My fondest memory of the Britannia still remains watching my team overcome the mental frailty of Ramsey’s double leg fracture to give the fans a second half to remember. Nicklas Bendtner’s header was inch perfect, Cesc Fabregas’ penalty was as cool as they come and the way the team celebrated Thomas Vermaelen’s match clincher exhumed passion in every sense of the word.

I’ll give a befitting preview for the Stoke game in tomorrow’s post.

Moving on to today’s bit, it seems as if there’s going to be a shiny light at the end of Arsenal’s dark injury tunnel as three Gunners are coming close to their optimal venues – two are sure-fire favorites to be fully fit while caution has been thrown to the wind on the third Gunner.

When Arsenal thumped Lukas Podolski’s previous employers in the Rhein-Energie Stadion, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered an ankle injury that also kept him out of an England call-up. After undergoing some therapy from the world’s best medical team (you know I’m kidding, right?), the Ox has been deemed fit to make an appearance against those goons from Stoke-on-Trent.

It’s good to have the Ox back as Theo Walcott put up a shite-like performance against Sunderland, forcing Wenger to resort to the Russian pygmy, Andrey Arshavin, who was average at his best. In a game where Arsenal needed that injection of attacking verve to support the outstanding Santi Cazorla, Arshavin preferred to be sloppy with the ball while putting up his usual lackadaisical and lethargic attitude.

A few weeks ago, Arshavin was proud to announce that he was going to be a father for his third child. If only he showed the same enthusiasm and desire on the pitch in relation to what he does on bed with Mrs. Owl. Just kidding.

The Ox will give Arsenal some wit from the bench and he’s odds on to make a substitute appearance when the chips are down.

Laurent Koscielny is another player that has been on the sidelines recently but the Big F*ckin’ Giant, Per Mertesacker, did well in the Premier League curtain raiser against Sunderland. It’s a bit painful to know that the Stoke game will come too soon for Kos the Boss but he’ll be fit to face Liverpool in Anfield.

Koscielny’s aerial ability would have come in handy against a direct side like Stoke, but Arsenal will have to make do with their current backline. In his time as one of the lynchpins of the famous back four, Steve Bould had a very good frame that allowed him to jump like a kangaroo alongside Mr. Arsenal, Tony Adams, when defending set pieces. I hope that he has shared a tip or two to the team.

Finally, there’s more good news on Jack Wilshere as he continues to train hard in his rehab centre in his bid to gain full fitness. He was scheduled to return in October, but reports are emerging that Jackie boy is exceeding expectations and a comeback is closer than we think.

In my honest opinion, Wilshere should be allowed to build his fitness progressively because we need him for the long-term. If he’s to be fully fit and we look at the calendar to see the month of December, so be it. Wilshere was a general in the midfield when he donned the Red and White but we need to throw caution to the wind with this bloke.

The last time I checked, the depth of this current squad is more than enough to make up for Wilshere’s loss, and plans are still in place to get a new midfielder on loan, even though I wonder why it’s taking all eternity.

Moving over to transfer speculation, I’ll pick up where I left off with that midfielder on loan that Arsenal has been chasing since the days Olusegun Obasanjo was still Nigeria’s president.

Unless you’re living in a cave with no access to internet, Colored TV and civilization, you should know that Arsenal has publicly declared its intention to secure a loan deal for Real Madrid’s deep-lying playmaker, Nuri Sahin.

It was believed that the saga was to be over this week with Arsenal unveiling the handsome lad on Monday, but both negotiating parties hit a snag, as Arsenal wanted to add a clause that would see them purchase the midfielder permanently, but Madrid gave us the middle finger.

With this “development”, Sahin’s agent, Reza Fazeli, placed his client on the transfer radar yet again, and his client was attracted some interest from Arsenal’s rivals, Liverpool. Liverpool had initially withdrawn their interest in signing Sahin because, they like other Arsenal fans, had believed that it was a done deal with the Gunners.

Other rumor mongers are also publishing that Tottenham has half an eye on the Turk but are monitoring proceedings as he can be touted as a replacement for Luka Modric, who’s Madrid-bound.

Mourinho has given Sahin his blessing to set the Premier League alight with Arsenal being his potential destination but the Real Madrid hierarchy has no plans to let their 23-year-old starlet leave Santiago Bernabeu after a potentially successful one year loan spell in his proposed new club.

I like every Arsenal fan out there remains bamboozled and perplexed in Arsenal’s approach for Nuri Sahin. For heaven’s sake, sign this bloke on loan and give him a chance to dictate the tempo of our midfield alongside Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla. When he sees how valuable he can become in the Red half of North London, we can inject him with a lethal dose of the “van Nasregas” formula, which will prompt him to tell the press that a little boy inside him has been screaming, “Arsenal, Arsenal” all year long.

I’m sure you get the drift.

The media Vultures have published a piece linking Spain’s El Homesickla, Jesus Navas, to Arsenal. Navas’ eyes are no different from that of a vampire and like his fellow vamps out there, Navas loves his coffin which is buried in some cave in Seville.

There a lot of sunlight in London and his skin will burn to shreds, so he can like to remain in Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Thanks but no thanks.

In my opinion, that bloke is friggin overrated and I can bet that he wouldn’t thrive in a league as physical as the Premier League, except he wants to pull a Eden Hazard on us. What a signing he has been thus far, all £34m of it.

On potential departures, I’d heard gist about Celta Vigo gunning for Park Chu-Young and Zenit re-igniting their interest in signing Arshavin.

In one word – HALLELUYAH!!!

To wrap things all up, last season’s import from Ligue 1, Gervinho, has stated that he wants to emulate the great and dreamy Le Bob, Robert Pires, and he aims to perform better than Arsene Wenger’s third best French acquisition of all time, after Le Igwe and Monsieur V.

While wearing the famous Number 7 jersey once donned by the great Liam Brady, Pires was the lynchpin of the left wing and he forged a great telepathy with Ca$hley Cuntly Cole. After amassing 284 appearances for the Gunners, Pires had 84 goals to show for it, as well as many fond memories he filled Arsenal hearts with.

The lanky stature, the unpredictable style of play no different from David Ginola, the dreamy looks, vampire fangs, the wavy locks of hair and of course, the standout beard that never seemed to grow beyond that line in his jaw.

Pires also used his amazing football ability to help his club win trophies and his goal against Southampton in the 2003 FA Cup final can never be forgotten, as it was the goal that handed Arsenal the trophy, after a disappointing Premier League campaign that saw the Gunners resign the title to Manchester United under acrimonious circumstances.

Pires has also been in the news lately, as he shared a word or two about Arsenal’s new boy, Santi Cazorla,

“Santi called me when the offer from the club arrived and I told him it was the perfect club for him. The way the team plays will suit him perfectly and he is the kind of player Arsene loves too.</em<

He is a very exciting player, very gifted technically with both feet. He has an impressive creative touch and he can play in the centre or on the wings.

His vision and the quality of his passing is brilliant but he can also take people on. Despite still being quite young, he has big experience with the Spanish national team and has also played in the Champions League.

Finally, he has a very good mentality and is a real team player. He will need a bit of time to settle but I’m convinced he will adapt very quickly and will be a great signing for Arsenal.”

Unlike Pires that managed to notch up eight goals in 51 games (first season), Gervinho managed four goals in 34 games, which wasn’t really a bad return, considering the fact that he went to Africa in the middle of the season to represent his country.

His form really dipped after that tournament and one can look no further than his penalty miss against Zambia that made his team lose a title they were heavy favorites to win.

Gervinho was very impressive against Sunderland and he had 10 successful dribbles from 20 attempts. The last player to equal that feat in the Premier League was Cristiano Ronaldo in his mesmerizing Manure days.

It’s always good to set targets and goals for yourself and Robert Pires will offer Gervinho the perfect platform to build up his game.

Gervinho is nowhere near Pires when he was at his prime but I feel that his dribbling ability was a close match to the Frenchman’s own and he’s way faster. However, his output on the final third is on the wrong end of a scale, if it’s weighed with Pires’ output.

We have a full season ahead of us and I’m hoping to see what the tricky Ivorian magician has in store for Arsenal this season.

I certainly wouldn’t mind his 18-goal outlay that helped LOSC Lille Metropole win the Ligue 1.

The quote of the day goes to @eromzy:

“Chelsea sign Moses. That’s funny because Man United have Judas, Arsenal want Jesus and Liverpool are stuck with Adam”

You don’t need any soothsayer to tell you who Judas Iscariot is. This time, he betrayed us with 235,000 pieces of silver per week. :D

In my bid to serve my esteemed readers better, I’m proud to announce that the Gooner Daily  App for BlackBerry has been launched and you can find it in AppWorld.

This was an initiative marshalled by  VOE Solutions with the great  Obitwyce the genius at the forefront of the application.

It offers a brilliant interface to read my posts for BlackBerry users and plans are ongoing to create Gooner Daily Apps for iPad, Android and Windows phones.

A podcast is also on the cards.

One more thing – it’s free :D

That’s today’s bit.

Sayonara

You can download the Gooner Daily  BlackBerry App to receive notifications on your Smart Phone when a post is published.

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