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Lukas Podolski: Thoughts on His Current Predicament at the Club

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Poldi made his comeback against West Ham

As far back as March 2012, after some speculation on whether or not he was going to join the Gunners, the club had agreed personal terms and Arsenal had finally agreed a deal to sign the forward in the summer of 2012. He finally arrived that summer and he became one of the highest earners at the club.

In a pre-season fixture against his former employers, FC Cologne, Podolski was on fire, bagging a brace as he gave the German fans a glimpse of what they had missed. He arrived at the club fresh from Germany’s Euro 2012 campaign and big things were expected from Arsenal’s new signing along with the two high-profile recruits, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.

His debut as a center forward against Sunderland wasn’t that impressive but he found a new lease of life when he was deployed on the left flank and his first Arsenal goal came in the 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield. He netted a perfect free kick in his next game against Southampton and he continued his goalscoring run in the narrow Champions League win over Giroud’s former team, Montpellier.

After the goals had dried up a bit, he scored in the 3-1 victory against Olympiakos then he went on a goalscoring blitz in November, netting against Fulham, Tottenham and that incredible volley against Montpellier at the Emirates. He got on the scoring act again in the maulings of Reading and Newcastle then he came off the bench to blast in an equalizer in the FA Cup third round fixture against Swansea.

He blasted in a thunderbolt in the demolition of West Ham and he scored a deflected free kick that proved to be the match winner against Stoke City. When his previous club, Bayern Munich, came to the Emirates, Podolski’s scored Arsenal’s only goal of the game in the disappointing loss. A late strike against Norwich followed then while deputizing for Giroud after his sending off against Fulham, Podolski bagged a brace against Wigan that played a role in sending them to the bowels of Championship football.

With a total of 16 goals and 11 assists, it’s fair to say that Podolski had a fantastic debut campaign at Arsenal. There were a couple of injury worries along the line, but he played through the pain barrier in some games.

This season, Podolski opened his goalscoring account with a well-taken brace against Fulham in August but he suffered a nasty hamstring injury in Arsenal’s next game against Fenerbahce in the Champions League qualifiers. According to the Daily Mail, he was diagnosed to be ruled out for 10 weeks, but he spent the best part of four to five months out before making his comeback against West Ham.

Blow: Lukas Podolski has been ruled out of action for up to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury

When things seemed really bleak for the Gunners against West Ham, Arsene Wenger summoned the services of Podolski after a long time out and he responded with a goal and an assist which endeared him back to the hearts of the Emirates faithful.

He didn’t feature in the next game against Newcastle with Wenger opting to ease him into game time slowly but with Giroud suffering an ankle injury in the narrow win against Newcastle, Wenger drafted Podolski as a center forward against Cardiff and he struggled badly. Nicklas Bendtner came in his stead and scored a late goal before Theo Walcott sealed the points.

With Giroud and Bendtner out injured, everybody expected Podolski to get the nod as a center forward in the North London Derby but Wenger fielded Walcott in that position ahead of Podolski and he did pretty well before suffering that season-ending injury.

Giroud returned to full fitness and Wenger didn’t hesitate in playing him in his favored center forward role but there was still no space for Podolski in the starting lineup. Santi Cazorla struggled on the left wing and even had a hand in Aston Villa’s goal but when Tomas Rosicky wasn’t deemed fit enough to continue, Arsene Wenger opted to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Podolski, and this time it didn’t go down well with the German.

While the Ox readied himself up to grace the pitch, you could see Podolski’s glaring frustration as he shook his head and zipped up his jacket to show his disgust, as he probably had hoped to get some games under his belt. Shortly after the game, he expressed his support for the Ox through Twitter.

Like Thomas Vermaelen, game time has been hard to come by for Podolski with Olivier Giroud’s fitness and form in attack and a plethora of options in the left hand side of the attacking trio. Podolski’s chances further diminished with the emergence of Serge Gnabry and it must have really hurt seeing the Ox play after just returning from injury while the German has been fully fit for well over a month. In fairness to Wenger, the Ox played through the middle to add steel to the midfield, a position not suited for a player like Podolski.

With half an eye on the World Cup this summer, Podolski needs to get a run of games to prove his worth to the club and the watchful eyes of Joachim Low. The German is further down the pecking order on the left hand side with Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus and Schalke’s Julian Draxler vying for that position.

The games against Fulham and Coventry offers Podolski an opportunity to get some game time and I hope he grabs that chance with both arms. I don’t see him starting in the crucial away fixture at Southampton but he has to remember that competition for first-team places brings out the best in players, which is ultimately for the good of the team.

Kieran Gibbs or Nacho Monreal

The Kieran Gibbs – Nacho Monreal battle has been a major highlight of both players careers at the club and from the games they have played, you can see how much improvement they’ve made. When Gibbs replaced Monreal in the Aston Villa game, you could see that there was no difference in the balance of play and like Monreal, Gibbs also made some forays forward to support the attack.

I really like Podolski and I hope he gets some game time soon. Even Wenger has acknowledged that he’s the club’s best finisher, but he needs to give the German some games to back his claims.

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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Finally…Some Silverbear and Podolski’s Take on Arsenal

Wow! A trophy

As Gunnerblog stated, yesterday was a “strange day” as the club won a trophy and Gervinho scored a goal.

In Gervinho’s first campaign with the club, he scored four goals and supplied eight assists to his teammates. He didn’t start his Arsenal career on a bright note after that infamous brawl with Joey Barton but he was an instrumental figure in both qualifying legs against Udinese.

He opened his goalscoring account in that mysterious 4-3 defeat to Blackburn before playing a key role in the victory against Stoke. He scored his third and fourth goals against Wigan and Wolves but he left London for the shores of Africa in January to represent the tournament favorites, Ivory Coast.

After killing a bird in the sky with his penalty against Zambia, Gervinho returned back to the club like a figure that saw Freddy Krueger in his dreams, without his claws though. He suffered a dip in his confidence levels and lost his starting berth to Yossi Benayoun and the Ox. However, Gervinho capped a scintillating performance against Southampton with a goal worthy of a second look.

A detailed match report of the Southampton and Anderlecht games are found on the club’s website. Arsenal beat Anderlecht by a lone goal courtesy of an exquisite Henri Lansbury finish and the second fixture against Southampton was a stalemate that was decided by penalty shoot-out.

The team that played Anderlecht was captained by Kieran Gibbs who was part of a back line that was manned by Daniel Boateng, Ignasi Miquel and Carl Jenkinson. Nico Yennaris, Craig Eastmond, Henri Lansbury, Thomas Eisfeld and Sanchez Watt formed a formidable midfield force while Marouane Chamakh spearheaded the attack.

I’d learned that Chamakh fluffed a good chance in the game but I wasn’t surprised as well. Lansbury goal came from a brilliant Jenkinson cross.

The squad that played against Southampton had a more experienced outlook per se, with Vito Mannone being the custodian between the sticks for the Gunners. Captain for the day, Johan Djourou was at the heart of Arsenal’s defense with Kyle Bartley. Andre Santos and Jernade Meade provided with from the flanks. In midfield, Eastmond and Lansbury retained their places but they were joined by Kyle Ebecillo, Chuks Aneke and Francis Coquelin. Gervinho was the center forward.

After 45 minutes of football, Kyle Ebecillo lost the decisive penalty but Arsenal had done enough to win a nice shiny cuddly bear in honor of Markus Liebherr.

Elsewhere, dead jokes are emanating that Johan Djourou has “lifted a trophy” before van Persie. The club is expecting its captain to take part in the pre-season tour to the Far East to take on Malaysia XI, Manchester City and Kitchee in the tail end of this month.

His future remains in doubt but new signing, Lukas Podolski, has stated that he’ll like to play alongside the Dutchman:

“All I can say is Van Persie had an amazing record last season and hopefully there is a way he can stay with Arsenal,” 

“It would be great to play with him, but obviously this is not in my control.”

Podolski had some sweet words to say about his new manager as well, talking about his impressive Champions League qualification record and his high reputation in Germany. The striker also spoke about Wenger’s passion for attacking football, flamboyancy, as well as his principles.

Podolski also shared his views on the club’s ambition, buttressing a point that most football fans expect the title run-in to be between the two Manchester giants, but he believes that Arsenal have the quality to surprise in the upcoming campaign.

“Arsenal have a quality squad and they should not aim to finish behind the rest or just settle for top four. Champions League football is the minimum requirement at Arsenal, but we should aim higher,

“For me, we have as good a chance as anyone in the Premier League. The key will be to start well and, unlike Manchester City or United, there will not be as much pressure on us.”

It’s good to see players with this much hunger to succeed unlike other players that settle for places on the bench with their fat salaries in their accounts.

There’s a great feeling of optimism among the Arsenal faithful for this forthcoming season and I hope we won’t say what we’ve been saying in the past seven seasons…

Next season will be better”

Sayonara.

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Milestone for Podolski and Football’s Harsh Reality

Hitting the 100 cap mark tonight for Germany!

Despite showcasing one of the most exciting football displays in Euro 2012, Russia has been ousted from the competition courtesy of the harsh head to head rule that has made all the work done by the Red Army equate to zero.

The Russians tore Czech Republic apart in their curtain raiser and were equally impressive against the host nation, Poland. In the final set of fixtures in Group A, the Russians needed to see out Greece but a decisive effort from Georgios Karagounis put them to the sword and cost them a place in the quarterfinals.

It’s also fair to say that the Greeks got their sweet revenge on a nation that defeated them in the last group fixture of Euro 2004. Greece’s fairytale adventure after the group phase started with a quarterfinal victory over France before seeing out a very strong Czech Republic side (a side that had won every game prior to the semis) in the semis. They wrote their names in the history books after defeating Portugal in the finals.

Their Euro 2004 victory was more or less touted as the biggest upset in football history and the nation’s FIFA ranking sky-rocketed to 14th place after the tournament.

Otto Renhagel was labelled as a legend in the shores of Greece but his side plummeted into mediocrity in subsequent years. They put up a poor showing in the 2005 Confederations Cup crashing out of the Group stages, and this was followed up with failure to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Two years later (Euro 2008), Greece made history for all the wrong reasons, being the first defending champions not to earn a single point in the next European Championships. They had a 1994 deja vu in the 2010 FIFA World Cup as Argentina and Nigeria were paired with them again in the Group stages but they failed to go beyond the first round.

Poland on the other hand, aren’t the greatest of footballing nations, but they played their own brand of good football that was unfortunately not good enough for them to go beyond the group stages. Their household names like Robert Lewandowski and Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski came to the party but Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny put himself in the spotlight after his dismissal in their first game.

Wojciech Szczesny has seen his career soar into great heights in such little time but Poland’s exit from the tournament should give the lad some time to reflect on himself ahead of the forthcoming season. Szczesny must give himself a pat on the back for his performances last season because it earned him a starting place in Poland’s national team ahead of Artur Boruc, Tomasz Kuszczak and his teammate, Lukasz Fabianski.

Despite being one of the players to watch out for in the tournament, the goalie endured a torrid start to his European Championship adventure, which inadvertently cost him his place to Przemyslaw Tyton.

The act that cost Szczesny his place

However, Szczesny is no stranger in that act of “displacement”, as he rightly displaced Lukasz Fabianski to make the No. 1 jersey his own. Fabianski has voiced his frustration at playing second fiddle to his compatriot and has stated that he wants to leave the club.

A few weeks back, my pals at Memoirs of a Gooner published a post on Szczesny tagged “Just how good is Arsenal’s No. 1” and they unveiled some interesting stats on the goalie. Trust me, it’s worth a read.

However, we should get it into the back of our minds that Szczesny is still on a steep learning curve and he can only get better with time. His confidence levels are at par with that of Nicklas Bendtner but he has a cool head and he certainly won’t show off his Paddy Power pants if he saves a penalty in the 90th minute from Lionel Messi.

Still sticking with the harsh realities of Euro 2012, Andrey Arshavin will certainly be at crossroads and he’ll have all the time in the world to ponder on his future as his Russian side was stunned by Greece yesterday night.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of the little Russian magician and I’ll like him to remain at the Emirates to the time being. Arshavin is a ‘senior’ player of immense quality and his assists for his teammates in the Euros showed what he’s capable of. On the other side of the scale, Arshavin is a very lethargic player with a lackadaisical attitude on the pitch, making him unbearable to watch at times.

I’m pretty sure that Arsene Wenger has plans for him, but the ball firmly remains in his court. Irrespective of what the future holds for Arshavin, I and my Gooners out there will be forever thankful for his performance against Liverpool in April 2009.

He was simply four-midable.

Tonight’s games are going to be mouthwatering to say the least. The German Machines are more or less assured of qualification after producing efficient performances to see out the threat of Portugal and the Netherlands, who lock horns together with the sole aim being to seal qualification to the quarterfinals.

Joachim Low might be tempted to field a second-tier side against Denmark but Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski could be in line to make his 100th appearance for the German National team. Podolski made his debut as far back as 2004 (aged 19) in a friendly against Hungary, making him the first second-division player since 1975 to break into the national team.

Prior to the Euro 2012, Podolski had featured in four major tournaments for Germany (Euro 2004, 2006 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup) and he has managed to score 43 goals for his national team, averaging a goal every two games for Germany.

It’s fair to say that he hasn’t ignited an expectant Arsenal fan base watching him closely but he has been superb on the left hand side in my opinion, providing adequate support to Phillip Lahm in Germany’s tactically astute 4-2-3-1 setup.

I hope Podolski savors the occasion and caps it up with a goal, changing his tally to 44 goals in a century of appearances.

That’s today’s lot.

Sayonara.

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