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Thoughts on Johan Djourou’s Permanent Switch to Hamburg SV

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In his twilight years at Arsenal, Johan Djourou was attributed with many traits from a certain faction of the Arsenal faithful – bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, “deadwood”.

To the fans, he was nothing more than the ‘fourth choice’ defender behind Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen in the pecking order.

If you permit me to take you down memory lane, Djourou belonged to the class of those “young Guns” that were tipped for big things when he arrived at the club from Etiole Carouge in 2005 but he had one hell of a worrisome knee, weak ankles, bad thighs, you name it.

Like Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby, Djourou spent a considerable chunk of his Arsenal career in the treatment table and I’m sure that there would be a location in the club’s hospital with his name written boldly on it.

He made his debut appearance in the club’s final season at Highbury and he had a decent run-out in the inaugural campaign at the Emirates. This was followed closely by a loan spell in Birmingham City that turned out to be a success story.

With Kolo Toure shipped to the oilers of Manchester City following his fallout with William Gallas, Djourou was exposed to some more first-team action but he suffered a terrible knee injury which required a surgery, putting him on the sidelines for the best part of one year.

He returned to first team action in the 2010/11 season and his chances of cementing a place in the team were enhanced as Vermaelen suffered an Achilles tendon injury in a needless international game for Belgium. Alongside new recruit, Laurent Koscielny, Djourou forged a telepathic understanding as well as creating a catchy nickname, Djourcielny.

Djourou became a rock in Arsenal’s defence and he managed to stay fit until that ill-fated moment in February 2011 where he suffered a shoulder injury in the 4-4 capitulation in the hands of Newcastle after some shambolic defending and horrifying officiating from Phil Dowd.

The more games Sebastien Squillaci played alongside Koscielny, the more culpable Arsenal were in their defending and with Manuel Almunia reaching his nadir against West Bromwich, Djourou’s return was like a breath of fresh air. However, Djourou aggravated his shoulder injury following a clash with Bacary Sagna in the FA Cup loss to Manchester United and it was stated that he needed re-constructive surgery and he was going to be out for the season.

In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Djourou made a swift return after one month and he put up some shaky performances, particularly, in the 3-1 defeat to Stoke where he was more or less involved in Jon Walters’ hat-trick.

In the subsequent campaign, injuries to the regular fullbacks saw Djourou get a shot as a make-shift right back, but he was torn apart countless times, with the games against Blackburn (Ewood Park), Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United (Emirates) standing out. Djourou couldn’t even exhume confidence in some games he played as a center back with clumsy outings against Fulham (Craven Cottage) and AC Milan (San Siro) coming into the limelight.

A player that was somewhat indispensable in the 2010/11 season turned out to be a player bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, and of course, part of Arsenal’s “deadwood”.

Arsenal fans lost their patience and they wanted Djourou out because they feel that he was part of the deadwood ravaging the club’s wage bill without giving the required output and Ottmar Hitzfeld, his Swiss manager at that time, also joined the Djourou Out Brigade, citing that he needed more game time to secure his place in the Swiss national team

Djourou cracked at the pressure and revealed that he was open to offers:

“My situation at Arsenal is not easy, I’ve never played so little, and especially not in my own position.

Despite having a contract until 2015, he says, “If an interesting offer comes, I’ll look at it for sure.”

After an uneventful loan spell at Hannover 96, Djourou made a switch to Hamburg SV and after nothing up 20 or so first team appearances for the German outfit, they’ve decided to activate the buyout clause, which ultimately means that he’s switching permanently to the club.

Hamburg’s manager, Mirko Siomka, expressed his delight on securing the lad on a permanent basis,

“I am happy that he’s staying with us for the next few years as he’s a stabilising influence at the centre of our defence,”

While Bayern Munich have secured the Bundesliga title with so many games to spare, Hamburg are currently in a relegation dog fight at the foot of the table.

Djourou notched up 138 appearances for Arsenal and like many of his former teammates, he hasn’t gotten that bliss feeling of standing on a podium to celebrate a trophy. However, he has two Carling Cup runner-up medals and a Champions League runner-up medal.

With Djourou’s gone as well as Nicklas Bendtner’s imminent departure this summer, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott are now the longest serving players that the club as they joined in January 2006.

Here’s to Johan Djourou, a stalwart that has dedicated eight years of his life to the Red and White.

Sayonara.

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

A bedrock for next season?

Arsenal and defending – two words that don’t go in tandem with each other.

Arsene Wenger has built his football on free-flowing attacking football and times without number, his team has been caught out at the back and there are even times when the Gunners shoot themselves in the foot as they become plotters of their own downfall.

As expected, injuries, suspensions and decline of form took its toll on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard and Arsene Wenger managed to use almost all the defenders in the club’s payroll at some point in the season.

While the big guns featured regularly in the Premier League and the Champions League, the Capital One Cup served as a breeding ground for some young guns and fringe players, and the dead-rubber game against Olympiakos also saw deadwood like Sebastien Squillaci get a run-out as well.

While Per Mertesacker cemented his status as Arsene Wenger’s first choice defender, Thomas Vermaelen partnered the gentle giant by the mere fact that he was the skipper, because his form painted a different picture. When the manager realized how appalling his skipper had become, he made the bold move to axe the Belgian in place of a resurgent Laurent Koscielny.

While Wenger shuffled between his defensive trio of Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny, there was no room for Johan Djourou that was shipped out to Hannover 96 and the defender has reiterated his desire to remain in Germany. As for Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel, they are living on borrowed time.

In the fullback positions, Bacary Sagna’s second leg fracture last season paved the way for Carl Jenkinson to get some first-team action under his belt. On Sagna’s return, he was drafted into the team and failed to replicate that the form of the yesteryear. On the left, Kieran Gibbs was an automatic starter but his fitness was a thorn in his flesh allowing Andre Santos to put up his calamitous outings on a consistent basis.

With Andre Santos failing to impress and Gibbs suffering one of his trademark injuries, Wenger wasted no time in delving into the transfer window to acquire Nacho Monreal’s services.

This is the second installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already shared my views on the performances of the goalkeepers but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard.

Feel free to share your comments.

Thomas Vermaelen – 39 Apps, One Goal

With club captain, Robin van Persie, departing to join Manchester United, Arsene Wenger was forced with a decision to make regarding the man that was going to lead his team in the 2012/13 campaign. I was looking forward to a new era under the reins of a captain that signed a new deal without thinking twice, stating his love for Arsenal was his primary reason.

He has the aggression of Nemanja Vidic, leaped off the ground easily like a kangaroo, has a gung-ho attitude, good technique on the ball and offered a threat in the opposition’s goal.

The Verm was part of the Arsenal side that kept three clean sheets on the trot but an illness prevented him from playing in his team’s crucial visit to the Etihad Stadium, and his able replacement, Laurent Koscielny, scored the goal that earned Arsenal a share of the spoils. Koscielny and Per Mertesacker played very well that day but Wenger inexplicably chose to bench the “slow” German against Chelsea, as he was probably scared of the pace of the Blues’ attack.

Playing Vermaelen and Koscielny together was like a time-bomb and the captain was culpable for two schoolboy errors that led to both goals scored by Chelsea. They struggled again as a pair when Olympiakos visited the Emirates and despite the fact that the Verm was the weaker link of the two, Koscielny was sacrificed for Mertesacker when the Gunners visited Upton Park to play West Ham.

When Arsenal visited Old Trafford in a game marred by the escapades of Robin van Persie, it took only three minutes for the Red Devils to take the lead when Vermaelen handed RVP a nice assist on a platter. Fast forward to the Capital One Cup quarterfinal clash with Bradford City and despite scoring Arsenal’s late equalizer, Vermaelen missed the penalty that saw his team crash out of the competition.

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.

I must truly say that the Verminator has been a big disappointment in his first season as captain of Arsenal Football Club.

Rating – 4/10

Per Mertesacker – 44 Apps, Three Goals

After playing 27 games in his first season with Arsenal, Per Mertesacker’s season reached an abrupt end when Arsenal visited Sunderland in that pitch good enough to raise cattle. He recovered in time for Euro 2012 but he failed to make any appearance with Holger Badstuber and Matts Hummels playing every game for Germany in the tournament.

Mertesacker began the campaign alongside Thomas Vermaelen and they worked in tandem to get three clean sheets on the bounce at the start of the season. If you thought Mertesacker’s performance against Liverpool (away) was superb, his outing against Manchester City (away) was one of his best in Arsenal colors, as he made so many Per-fect Merte-ceptions in the course of the game.

He proved his worth to the squad when he wasn’t on the pitch as Arsenal struggled in his absence with Vermaelen and Koscielny failing to click with each other. When they played with each other, they lacked the calmness, coordination, composure and positional discipline the BFG had.

He also added goals to his game with three headers against Tottenham (twice) as well as the match winner in the crucial game against Fulham (away). This season, Mertesacker became a mainstay in the team and he has excelled admirably in his defensive duties.

He’s known for being a very clean defender but he got his hands dirty with his first red card in Arsenal colors. However, that game will be forever remembered for the innovative tackle he attempted with his back. It was a truly remarkable season for the big friendly giant and I hope he builds on it.

Rating – 9/10

Laurent Koscielny – 34 Apps, Four Goals

Laurent Koscielny was Arsenal’s best defender by a far mile last season and he had grown from strength to strength since that his horrendous error in Wembley against Birmingham City. After signing a long-term deal with the club, he didn’t begin the campaign well as an injury hindered his progress.

He marked his return to first-team action with a late equalizer against Manchester City (away), forging a formidable partnership with Mertesacker. His inspired performance at the Etihad coupled with Vermaelen’s return to the team saw the manager sacrifice Mertesacker in the home clash against Chelsea. Despite the fact that Vermaelen was at fault for the set pieces that led to the goals, Koscielny also had a hand in both goals as he failed to mark Fernando Torres probably for the first and the ball deflected off his shin into the net for the second.

This led to the Frenchman spending a lot of time in the dugout but he featured and scored a vital goal in that pulsating encounter against Reading (away) in the Capital One Cup. When he was recalled back into the first team following Vermaelen’s dip in form, he grabbed the bull by the horns and took his chance against Bayern Munich (away) with an outstanding performance capped by a headed goal late on.

Since then, Koscielny became an ever-present figure and he contributed immensely to Arsenal’s cause with that assist for his defensive partner, Per Mertesacker, against Fulham as well as a plethora of vital interceptions in defense. To crown a great season for the Frenchman, he scored the goal that secured Champions League football for his team for the season in a row.

Rating – 8/10

The goal that guaranteed Champions League football

Bacary Sagna – 30 Apps, No Goal

In recent times, Bacary Sagna has been marred by long-term injuries that has taken its toll on his career. Suffering two fractures on the same leg must have been a horrific experience but as we all know, football isn’t really a forgiving sport.

With Carl Jenkinson deputizing admirably in Sagna’s absence, many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. After a couple of Under-21 fixtures under his belt, Sagna made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), much to the delight of the Arsenal faithful.

Sagna’s continued run of games dented Jenkinson’s progress but unlike the young Englishman that swung crosses into the box with consummate ease, Sagna’s distribution was downright erratic with the ball ending up as a throw-in most times. Then came the torrid run of performances, as Sagna was consistently caught out against Chelsea (away), made Gabby Obertan look like Ronaldinho when Newcastle came to town and his poor clearance led to Gaston Ramirez’ goal when the Gunners visited St. Mary’s.

Amidst the horrible vein of form, Sagna got his moment of redemption when an injury to Koscielny forced Arsene Wenger to play him in an unorthodox center back role with Jenkinson drafted to the right. The fullback’s naivety played a role in him being sent off for two bookable offenses and with Aaron Ramsey becoming a make-shift right back, Sagna was a colossus in defense alongside Mertesacker.

As he continued to struggle with form, Sagna got on every Gooner’s bad books when he foolishly squandered possession to Robin van Persie before hacking him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot. This has been a season Sagna couldn’t wait to come to an end.

Rating – 4/10

Carl Jenkinson – 21 Apps, No Goal

Despite the fact that Carl Jenkinson hasn’t had as much game time as he would have wanted, this has certainly been one hell of a campaign for this young lad.

While Sagna nursed his leg injury, Jenkinson deputized in his stead, putting up committed performances that endeared him to the Arsenal faithful. His work rate was exemplary and he covered every blade of grass like his life depended on it.

His fairy tale campaign reached its zenith when he was called up by Wily Ol’ Woy Hodgson for his maiden international appearance and he featured in the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired performances in Sweden’s 4-2 win over England. I still can’t get over Ibrahimovic’s incredible 30-yard overhead bicycle kick goal, and it gets better with each passing replay.

Jenkinson also signed a long-term deal with the club but his performances against Swansea (home) and Sunderland (away) showed that even if youthful exuberance is the order of the day, there’s no substitute for experience.

What I can take from this season is that Arsene Wenger can rely on this young lad to put in a great shift when the need arises. With Jenko in our ranks, the future is very bright.

Rating – 7/10

Kieran Gibbs – 34 Apps, One Goal

For those that don’t know, this was the first season Kieran Gibbs had over 30 games for Arsenal in an entire campaign. He’s a player that has become synonymous with injuries and he showed that yet again this season, forcing his manager to delve into the transfer market when he nursed a thigh strain for six weeks.

Gibbs has been highly impressive this season and his output on the final third has drastically improved as well, with the Englishman having five assists to his name this season. For a considerable chunk of the campaign, Gibbs was a mainstay in the team but when he suffered a lengthy lay off, the manager signed an experienced Spanish left back, that has brought stiff competition between both players, which also brought about stellar performances from both players, for the good of the team.

Gibbs also scored a screamer against Swansea in the FA Cup and it looked like a goal worth winning a football match but Arsenal’s lax defending brought Swansea back into the contest. With Monreal bracing himself for his first full season in England, Gibbs will be in for a challenge and I’m sure he’s relishing it.

Rating – 7/10

Nacho Monreal – 11 Apps, One Goal

January 30, 2013.

Arsenal host Liverpool in a Premier League encounter of huge significance to both sides. The visitors open the scoring with a deflected shot from Luiz Suarez then Kieran Gibbs suffers an injury forcing the manager to make a tactical change. With the only defensive options on the bench being Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos, many Gooners (me included) rightly believed that the Frenchman would be summoned, thereby making Vermaelen play the left back.

The fourth official raises his board up and Andre Santos comes into the pitch much to the fury of some fans that haven’t forgiving him for his antics in Old Trafford. Within moments of his introduction, Jordan Henderson skips past him with ease and instead of trying to win the ball back he doesn’t even make a decent challenge. With a stroke of luck, Liverpool is two up.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott save the day but Wenger has seen enough from the atrocious Brazilian and he delves into the transfer market to buy Nacho Monreal. Just two days after his arrival, he makes his debut in a baptism of fire against Stoke (home). He was part of that defense that held the fort against Sunderland (away) but he couldn’t play against Bayern (home) because he was cup-tied.

After making the match-winning assist against Aston Villa (home), he becomes part of that defense that struggled badly against Tottenham. Following Arsenal’s Champions League exit, Monreal scores the first goal against Swansea the first of many goals Arsenal scored in its surge for fourth place.

With Gibbs returning to fitness, he and Monreal battled for the right to become Arsenal’s No. 1 left back and this competition brought the best in both players. While Monreal offers a keen sense of security and stability at the back, I feel he should improve in his distribution on the final third. The battle with Gibbs continues next season.

Rating – 7/10

Andre Santos – 12 Apps, No Goal

To be honest, Andre Santos is one of the most lovable characters in Arsenal.

His lovely smile, his hilarious tweets and nice attitude off the pitch. I still have fresh memories of all three goals he scored last season – the match winner against Olympiakos (home), the vital equalizer in that RVP-inspired win over Chelsea (away) and the equalizer before half time against West Brom (away) on the final day.

This season, things have 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.

His performance against Manchester United was so putrid yet he couldn’t even wait for the game to be over before requesting for RVP’s jersey, as that probably meant more to him than the game.

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.

In his touching goodbye message to the club and the fans, Andre Santos thanked everyone for their support and hopes to come back soon. For the good of everyone concerned with Arsenal, I hope that Gremio signs him on a permanent basis.

Rating – 2/10

Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou – Collective total of Six Apps

Ah! The deadwood.

Arsenal bought Sebastien Squillaci with the hope that would use his “experience” to guide the younger defenders in the team as well as putting up a good shift when the need arose. Squillaci was so poor that his only appearance this season coming up in a dead rubber fixture against Olympiakos. Thank Heavens his contract is expiring soon.

Rating – 0/10

Ignasi Miquel is a youngster tipped for great things but I still don’t know when he’s going to realize that potential. All he can boast of this season was a start against Coventry (home) in the Capital One Cup and a late substitute appearance against Sunderland (away) when the Gunners wanted to preserve their priceless 1-0 lead. Not good enough.

Rating – 2/10

Johan Djourou was Arsenal’s most consistent defender in the 2010/11 season. When he got injured in the tail end of that campaign, his team struggled which highlighted his importance to the side. Last season, he struggled in make-shift positions as a fullback and wasn’t even convincing enough when he played as a center back, earning an unwarranted red card against Fulham (away) that put his team under intense pressure.

This season, Djourou could only make two appearances in the Capital One Cup before he was shipped out to Germany. Shame.

Rating – 1/10

So there you have it, the second of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the midfield comes up next.

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

Sayonara.

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Johan Djourou: His Life, His Times and His Future

and he showed so much promise last season

Bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, “deadwood”.

These are the words uttered from a faction of the Arsenal faithful when describing the club’s current fourth choice defender, Johan Danon Djourou-Gbajere, or simply Johan Djourou, as he’s known in the shores of Britain.

The road in Djourou’s path didn’t lead to such a bad and rough avenue initially, as he was one of those “young Guns” that was tipped for great things in the yesteryear but he had one hell of a worrisome knee, weak ankles, bad thighs, you name it.

He made his debut appearance in the club’s final season at Highbury and he had a decent run-out in the inaugural campaign at the Emirates. This was followed closely by a loan spell in Birmingham City that turned out to be a success story.

He featured spariangly in subsequent campaigns but Kolo Toure’s exit to Manchester City paved the way Djourou yet again, that amassed a total haul of 29 appearances before sustaining a knee injury in April 2009, which required a surgery, putting him on the sidelines for the best part of one year.

After recuperating from the long lay-off, Thomas Vermaelen took his place in the treatment table with an Achilles tendon injury, and his breakthrough arrived. Alongside Laurent Koscielny, Djourou forged a telepathic understanding as well as creating a catchy nickname, Djourcielny.

He oozed confidence and consistency, giving Arsene Wenger a chance to give himself a pat in the back, declaring that he ‘kept the faith’. On February 2011, in a game against Newcastle in St. James Park, Djourou opened his Arsenal goalscoring account and suffered a shoulder injury. The right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre, Sebastien Squillaci, came in his stead and Arsenal’s defense capitulated in grand style.

Prior to his injury, Arsenal had surprisingly failed to lose any Premier League game Johan Djourou had played since 2008 or so, a record that shocked me and many Gooners out there. With Vermaelen still out for all eternity and Koscielny having the fitness levels of an Ox, Squillaci did his bit to hold the fort and Djourou made a comeback only to get injured again by Bacary Sagna in a FA Cup quarterfinal game against Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger declared that he was out for the entire campaign after a successful re-constructive surgery on the same shoulder that received a blow against Newcastle a month earlier. At that point in time, Djourou was a cult hero in his own realm, as the Gooners sent him goodwill messages and thanked him for his surprising yet positive input to the team’s cause that season.

In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Djourou made a swift return after one month in the extremely disappointing 1-1 draw against Liverpool, where Arsenal failed to hold the lead despite being ahead in the 97th minute. It wasn’t really surprising because the same Arsenal failed to hold onto a four-goal lead in the same season.

Djourou’s return came with the good, the bad and the ugly with his game against Stoke (3-1 loss) standing out as one he’ll want to forget quickly as he was more or less involved in all three goals conceded. However, the 2010-11 season was a great campaign by his standards and he earned a second place finish in the Most Improved Player section of my 2010/11 Season Awards.

This concluded season, Thomas Vermaelen returned to full fitness, Laurent Koscielny upped his game and Arsene Wenger bought ze Big F*ckin German machine, Per Mertesacker, thereby sending Johan Djourou down the pecking order.

Injuries to the regular fullbacks saw Djourou get a shot as a make-shift right back, but he was torn apart countless times, with the games against Blackburn (Ewood Park), Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United (Emirates) standing out. Djourou couldn’t even exhume confidence in some games he played as a center back with clumsy outings against Fulham (Craven Cottage) and AC Milan (San Siro) coming into the limelight.

A player that was somewhat indispensable in the 2010/11 season turned out to be a player bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, and of course, part of Arsenal’s “deadwood”.

Whispers of Jan Vertonghen’s imminent arrival would have given Djourou more nightmares but the Belgian star has opted for Tottenham rather than Arsenal, giving the Swiss center back a sigh of relief.

A few days ago, Switzerland coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, suggested that Johan Djourou should leave Arsenal if he wants to continue playing international football.

Many fans want Djourou out because they feel that he’s part of the deadwood ravaging the club’s wage bill without giving the required output and Hitzfeld has decided to join the Djourou Out Brigade.

It seems as if Djourou has decided to crack, because he has revealed that he’s open to offers:

“My situation at Arsenal is not easy, I’ve never played so little, and especially not in my own position.

Despite having a contract until 2015, he says, “If an interesting offer comes, I’ll look at it for sure.”

Djourou has already been linked with a move to Italian champions, Juventus, and many will be hopeful that the move materializes sooner than later.

Djourou has notched up 138 appearances for Arsenal and like many of his teammates, he hasn’t gotten that bliss feeling of standing on a podium to celebrate a trophy. However, he has two Carling Cup runner-up medals and a Champions League runner-up medal.

Whatever Johan Djourou’s future would bring, I can only wish him all the best because he’s at the stage of his career where he needs more games under his belt.

Unfortunately, Arsenal is not the club to offer him that.

Here’s to Johan Djourou, a stalwart that has dedicated eight years of his life to the Red and White.

Sayonara.

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A brief review on Arsenal’s ambassadors on international duty this weekend

I guess that I’ll have to start by apologizing for some of the content in my last post. I wrote that I was probably going to get some stick by putting Eduardo and Carlos Vela in a list that had Pascal Cygan, Denilson and Mikael Silvestre and boy, did I get some stick or what. Many gooners expected names like Francis Jeffers and Sebastien Squillaci to be in the list but as I wrote in that same post, the list is endless..

Moving on from that minor setback, this weekend turned out to be a boring affair because I was forced to watch some countries bore me to tears with 0-0 draws as well as a 1-0 England win in a game that I anticipated to have a boatload of goals at least. From a neutral point of view, it was an interesting match between two football heavyweights but Vicente del Bosque had to succumb to just his sixth loss as Spain’s manager which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

The most important fixtures from a European perspective where the European Championships playoffs that took place between eight teams with only four joining the remaining 12 that have already qualified. In other parts of the globe, Arsenal sent 16 ambassadors to represent their national teams and here’s a full list of the Gunners in action:

Aaron Ramsey

The Welsh captain led his fellow dragons as they breathed a baptism of fire past Norway in a resounding 4-1 victory. The world’s best left-footed Chimpanzee opened the deadlock before the fastest hobbit currently playing in Liverpool made it two. Wolves Sam Vokes completed the rout with a brace.

Laurent Koscielny

The Kosinator has been in inspired form this season and it was only a matter of time before he was going to be called up by Laurent Blanc. He finally made his first cap for France in their 1-0 victory over the United States. Fulham’s Clint Dempsey was ubiquitous on the pitch and Everton’s Tim Howard made an unbelievable save from Karim Benzema’s free kick. Marseille’s Loic Remy scored what proved to be the winner with a placed effort from an over the top pass.

Tomas Rosicky

Little Mozart captained his side to put one foot in the European Championships after a 2-0 win against surprise package Montenegro. Rosicky was voted as the Man of the Match as he pulled all the strings in the midfield.

Theo Walcott

The pacey winger played 45 minutes in England’s 1-0 victory over Spain. As expected, the Spaniards dominated possession but the Lampback of NotreDame bellied his years and came up with the goods again.

There was so much talk at the start of the season that the Lampback was past his prime but he has been impressive in the Premier League since AVB handed him another chance. He even got a goal and gave an assist when Chelsea played Arsenal but the pick of the bunch was the performance of Captain Van-tastic.

Gervinho

The fore-headed one was in action when the Elephants took on last summer’s World Cup hosts in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at Port Elizabeth but it ended in a 1-1 draw. Sibuniso Gaxa scored an embarrassing own goal to put Gervinho’s side ahead but a Katlego Mphela free kick leveled the contest.

I will never forget Mphela’s free kick against Spain in the 2010 Confederations Cup. It left me screaming so hard that my mum came out of her room to check if anything had happened to her beloved son. I would like you all to scream like me so I’ve decided to put the video of the goal in this post.

Andrey Arshavin

Russia’s football czar led his country to a 1-1 draw against Euro 2004 winners Greece. Roman Shirokov gave the visitors a quick lead in just two minutes but the experienced Kostas Katsouranis leveled the tie. Arshavin played all 90 minutes.

Robin van Persie and Johan Djourou

This lethal forward got injured for five months in a fixture against Italy last year so Arsene Wenger took out time to talk Bert van Marwijk about the striker’s availability in the friendly game against Switzerland. He played the entire match and shot blanks in a 0-0 draw but he was sent back home on a Red Ribbon as Holland is set to play Germany tomorrow without the Flying Dutchman.

Johan Djourou was on the other end of the pitch for 90 minutes and he was among the players that made sure that van Persie and the rest of the Dutch attack remained quiet throughout the game.

Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski

Both goalies were called up by Poland’s coach but Wojciech Szczesny got the nod when Poland took on Italy. Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini scored for Italy in the 2-0 win but Szczesny can be happy with his performance because he kept the Italians at bay several times.

Lukasz Fabianski will probably get the nod when Poland plays Hungary on Tuesday.

Thomas Vermaelen

The Verminator enjoyed some good time out at the dugout as Belgium defeated Romania by a 2-1 scoreline. The man-mountain Daniel van Buyten put the Belgians ahead and an own goal from Rasvan Cocis but Vermaelen’s side two up. Romanian veteran Daniel Niculae reduced the deficit for the visitors but it wasn’t enough as the game ended like that.

Vermaelen has followed the Belgium side that will play France in Paris and I’m pretty sure that Vermaelen will want to get him some French fries on the pitch on Tuesday.

Alex Song

Alex Song was in the starting lineup when Cameroon brushed Sudan aside in the LG Friendly Cup. The game ended at 3-1 in favor of Cameroon.

Per Mertesacker

Arsenal’s beanpole defender spent time on the bench like his defensive counterpart Thomas Vermaelen. However, it was a free scoring contest as Ukraine and Germany ended the game with three goals apiece.

Andriy Yarmolenko opened the scoring for the hosts and Yevgen Konoplyanka made it two. Bayern’s Toni Kroos pulled one back for the Germans but Serhiy Nazarenko brought Ukraine back to their comfort zone as the first half ended with a two-goal advantage for the Andriy Shevchenko captained side.

Joachim Loew probably went haywire in the dressing room as the Germans came back strongly in the second half. Bayer Leverkusen’s Simon Rolfes made it 3-2 before Bayern Munich’s Young Money singer turned footballer, Young Mueller Baby scored what proved to be the final goal of the fiesty encounter.

Park Chu-Young

Everybody expected Park Chu-Young to score again when Korea Republic visited United Arab Emirates and he duly delivered. Park has been a goal scoring machine for his nation this season and his goal against Bolton was a thing of beauty.

With the present form of van Persie, Park and Marouane Chamakh will have to be content with a place on the bench and they’ll have to strut their stuff when deployed in Cup matches.

As for the Under-21 level, youngsters like Francis Coquelin and Alex the Chambered Ox continued their fledgling careers.

We have one more week before we go back to civilization n the form of club football.

Till then,

Sayonara.

Lessons learnt from the Gunners on international duty

As one of the superpowers of European and world football, Arsenal is among the clubs that has a lot of players that are essential pieces of their jigsaw puzzle. Arsenal had a good number of ambassadors in last summer’s World Cup but Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner were the only Gunners that got on the score sheet.

Interlulls are always scheduled to come in between club fixtures and this one was no different. There are times you wish that the international break shouldn’t come by especially when you’re in great form while their other times when you want it to come soon enough.

Arsenal is currently going through a bad spell and the international break has provided Arsene Wenger with enough time to go back to his drawing board to cook up new tactics as well as to inject a new approach to his side because this present Arsenal squad is in dire need of change.

Change can come in form of a new formation such as the reliable 4-4-2 that almost propelled Arsenal to the Premier League title in the 2007/08 season before William Gallas’ antics coupled with those hopeless draws closed the curtain on Arsenal’s Premier League hopes. Tomas Rosicky and Aliaksandr Hleb provided wit on the flanks while Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini the Flanimal forged an extremely good understanding in the middle of the park.

Arsenal has wingers that can do with Rosicky and Hleb did back in the days but leaving Alex Song and any other creative midfielder like Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta or Yossi Benayoun would mean that Robin van Persie will play with a strike partner and I’m pretty sure that it would be welcomed by the Arsenal faithful.

Change can also come in form an injection of a defensive coach to the club’s current staff because it’s fair to say that there are many men in Arsenal that defend like toddlers. I was very impressed with the six-man defensive outlook Arsenal used in their box when defending corners when they played Newcastle in August but Wenger failed to stick with that tactic and his team has been duly punished.

A change in Arsenal’s fortunes is something that everyone has been praying for because the way the injuries, suspensions and ill-luck pile up can only be likened from the hands of Loki himself.

Arsenal sent some ambassadors to represent their nations last weekend as well as tonight while some will get the final piece of international action tomorrow before returning to London to play Sunderland on Saturday.

Park Chu-Young proved again that he could be a beast in front of goal and he’s one player that deserves a run out in the club. We also know that Park CY has told everyone that he has only two years to spend with Arsenal before representing the Korean Army and he says that he wants to end his stay in Europe with a flourish so employing the 4-4-2 tactic with him and RVP could bring devastating results for Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey has shown the world how he can lead by example and he has always been vocal about his high hopes for Wales. Gary Speed’s present side has some household names and the future is bright for that footballing nation with the likes of Ramsey and Bale the Chimp spearheading its football affairs.

Robin van Persie has shown the gooners that it’s not every time he represents Holland that he ends up with a mysterious injury. He also showed his adeptness on the right wing and his sleek and deft touches were vital for Holland but it wasn’t enough as their 100% record with shattered to bits by Sweden in Rasunda.

Laurent Koscielny’s continuous wait for his French debut should have sent a clear message to him that there’s still hope for the bloke to join Poland but the decision still rests with him. He really showed everyone last season that Arsene Wenger knows a bargain when he sees one. He still has a thing or two to learn though.

Johan Djourou missed out on his nation’s qualifier against Wales through suspension but it’s funny to see how he has gone back to the number four slot in Arsenal’s defense after showing so much promise last season. He had a stinker against Blackburn but I’m sure that he won’t dwell on it.

Per Mertesacker used his enormous height to great effect when Germany played Turkey but I was disappointed that it wasn’t exploited in White Hart Lane despite Wenger’s attempt to give him that Samba-esque role but I’ll point my finger at the remaining 10 teammates that were tasked with floating the ball up for him.

Arshavin wasn’t really a peripheral figure when Russia beat Slovakia but Arshavin is a player that really needs to step up for Arsenal because his place is seriously under threat. Gervinho has usurped him from a starting berth on the left wing and he also has the potential threat of Ryo Miyaichi to contend with.

Lukasz Fabianski showed signs of rustiness when Poland played Korea Republic but he’ll get another bite on the cherry when Poland play Belarus. It’s really interesting to know that Fabianski and Szczesny are fighting for a place in both club and country but I tend to wonder what happened to Artur Boruc because he was the next best thing after the great Jerzy Dudek.

Tomas Rosicky showed off the moves that made people call him the Little Mozart and I certainly hope that the trend will continue in Arsenal. Tomas used to command a first team shirt for Arsenal when he arrived from Dortmund but his hamstring injury paved the way for others and he has really struggled to get his place. It’s more shocking to know that he can’t still get a place even after Francesca and Samantha left the club.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Wenger a lot to think about following his brilliant hattrick but it’s also heartwarming to know that he can offer Arsenal some hope from the bench when the chips are down.

Marouane Chamakh scored for Morocco to seal their qualification to the African Cup of Nations after a four-year absence but he hasn’t been able to recapture the form of his first five months at Arsenal where he scored 10 goals in 21 appearances. I hope he gets his act right soon enough.

Gervinho was suspect for being very selfish in his recent Arsenal matches but he provided an assist for a former Gunner/junkie Kolo Toure. Yao Kouassi has been a big hit at Arsenal and I hope that Sunderland will be on the end of his trickery and hopefully goals.

Theo Walcott’s assist for Young showed how massively he has improved over the turn of the year. It’s really awkward to know that Fabio Hitler selected the One-Dimensional Lennon and the winger whose name is taller than him, Short Wright-Philips above Theo but England’s loss was Arsenal’s gain because it unleashed the beast within. Nasri also unleashed the post-World Cup beast and he’s presently earning the big greens at Etihad Stadium.

Finally, it’s refreshing to know that the Gunners are returning back to London unscathed and they’ll be ready to rediscover their form with a victory against Sunderland.

I forgot to add the world’s best striker’s name to the list. His goal against Portugal sent Morten Olson’s men to the Group Stages of the Euros while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are going to the play-offs but they could qualify from the Best Placed runners up category.

Ronaldo’s free kick was a thing of beauty but Ricardo Quaresma needs to be flogged though.

We know that he’s the king of the outside of the boot technique but I’m sure that God knew what he was doing when he gave us TWO FEET.

Sayonara.

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