Arsenal’s winning streak against West Ham continued as the Gunners dug deep to score the goals that sent them to fourth place, albeit temporarily, pending Everton’s result against Crystal Palace tonight.
However, it was a true test on the Gunners fitness bearing in mind that a considerable chunk of the squad played an exhilarating 120 minutes in Wembley just three days earlier.
Without further ado, here are a few things I learned from yesterday’s game.
The Introduction of a Fresh Kim Kallstrom Paid Dividends
It might have taken him four months to make his first start for the club, but having a fresh face in the form of Kallstrom was a welcome move that was worth its weight in gold. Due to the injury constraints at the club, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini had played a lot of football in the middle of the park but the Frenchman’s suspension coupled with more fitness concerns for Aaron Ramsey paved the way for Kallstrom to make his mark on the pitch.
His passing was great and he worked in tandem with Arteta balancing the play. Having a player of his experience in the run-in would come in handy.
I hope he goes back to Spartak Moscow with a fat shiny FA Cup medal.
Lukas Podolski’s Left Foot is the Football Definition of Pure Evil
Podolski can be a very frustrating figure, especially when he’s not with the ball. However, he’s a natural predator in the opposition box and times without number, he has proved to the world that his left foot is as strong as Thor’s Hammer.
He showed off his clinical side with two well taken goals that left the keeper with no chance in Hell. It’s games like yesterday that makes Arsenal fans wonder why he doesn’t start regularly, but then again, you know how peripheral he becomes when Arsenal is having an off day.
Nonetheless, it was an efficient performance from the German Machine and I hope he scores more goals between now and May.
Aaron Ramsey’s Cameo Showed the Fans What they had Missed
It’s so ironic to know that Ramsey’s excellent form at the start of the season was halted abruptly when the Gunners took on West Ham. That day, Podolski came on for Ramsey and directly involved in the goals that handed the Gunners all three points.
Ramsey wasn’t deemed fit to start the game but he made a cameo in the second half and he capped a good display with a lovely assist for Podolski that was finished aplomb.
With the midfielder working his way to full fitness, Arsenal fans will be hopeful that he contributes to the team’s cause before the campaign reaches its climax.
Arsenal are Still the Kings of the London Derbies
This season, Arsenal has won seven of their nine derby matches in the Premier League this season – beating Crystal Palace, Fulham and Tottenham home and away and taking 22 points from a possible 27 in capital fixtures.
The only derby defeat suffered this season was that 6-0 drubbing in the hands of Chelsea. Arsenal have had the best record among London teams 12 times in the last 18 years.
More on this can be seen on the official site
Should Wenger decide to stay at Arsenal and extend his contract that’s already on his table, this would be a pivotal summer transfer window for him. This summer could see Bacary Sagna joined by Nicklas Bendtner and Lukasz Fabianski, two players that are sure of leaving as their contracts expire this summer.
This ultimately means that should Wenger not decide to extend Emiliano Viviano’s stay, he will have to shop for a new goalkeeper. Sagna’s exit could see Carl Jenkinson rise to the upper echelons of first team football but with the likes of Seamus Coleman, Serge Aurier and Lukasz Piszszek available for the taking, Jenkinson’s wait for regular football might be extended.
However, Arsenal fans would be keen to see who the club brings to bolster it’s options in the central attacking position. After failed pursuits for Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez, Arsene Wenger laid his eggs on an Olivier Giroud basket and when the Frenchman was found wanting the Gunners could only look to a Dane whose heart is fixed elsewhere and a young French untried and untested lad with some ‘potential’. For a club of Arsenal’s calibre, that’s not good enough.
This is a club that has seen great strikers like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Nwankwo Kanu and Robin van Persie score goals with consummate ease. Now the club has a striker that blows hot and cold on the pitch and be has become a scapegoat for the fan’s frustrations off the pitch.
While the fans are eagerly anticipating a ‘big name’ this summer, the media vultures are reporting that Arsenal can sign this season’s Bundesliga sensation, Josip Drmic, for as low as €2.5 million if FC Nurnberg suffers the ignominy of relegation. Apparently, there’s a ‘clause’ in his contract that’s states that he can be available for that knockdown price if his club plummets into Bundesliga II mediocrity.
So the million dollar question is this : Who is Josip Drmic? :S
Drmic is a Swiss youngster that’s making waves in the German Bundesliga this season. As we all know, FC Bayern dominated the league this season and have set their sights on conquering Europe but while top dog, Mario Mandzukic, leads the scoring charts, Drmic is just behind the big Croat with 16 goals for struggling FC Nurnberg. For a player this young to get this large haul of goals in his debut campaign, a few eyebrows are bound to be raised.
Young, relatively unknown and technically astute. This guy has the ‘classic Wenger signing’ tag written all over him.
Josip Drmic, who began his professional career as a footballer at FC Zurich, made his league debut in 2010, having risen through the youth rank. He joined Nuremberg only last year, and has become one of the most prolific strikers in the Bundesliga in only his first season.
With the creativity at Arsenal’s disposal, a player like Drmic could benefit and his goalscoring haul this season has proven that he’s a good finisher, which would bolster Arsenal’s chances of scoring goals in games. The club can boast of Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott as it’s best finishers but both players can’t lead the line on their own.
Drmic’s off the ball movement will make him a thorn on the flesh of opposition defenders and he’s comfortable with both feet. He also has raw reserves of pace and for a player so young, his confidence and ability to play as a target man is exemplary. Which ultimately means that he could be a flicker and hold up player like Giroud but he also does his thing on the business end – clinical finishing.
To wet your appetites a bit, here are some clips of the lad’s exploits this season.
Whether Wenger takes the punt on the young lad remains to be seen, but if be does, I firmly believe that it would be a move worth its weight in gold.
There’s still that bitter feeling in the mouths of everyone connected with Arsenal football club. Confidence on the players and manager has reached an all-time low and a faction of the fans are very sceptical about the team’s chances against the giant killers, Wigan.
When there was no pressure on the lads at the early part of the campaign, the Gunners were flourishing and they even carried the good form into the new year and as at February, the Gunners were two points clear at the top but with one win from their last six matches, the Gunners Champions League hopes are hanging on a thin thread.
Wenger has won 11 trophies during his time in North London, but none since the 2004-05 season, and the pressure is beginning to mount on the Frenchman. In the wake of the thrashing at the hands of Everton, Wenger’s press conference reflected the current state of things
Was there a lack of fight? You could say that. It is a massive worry to lose a game like that. We have to analyse it well and come back with a different attitude, with more personality and stronger challenges. We have to go back to basics. Everton are in a strong position now and it is right to say we have struggled in games like this and the one at Liverpool. I am absolutely 100 per cent determined to fight and make the top four, but it will be difficult.
A title challenge has turned into a Champions League scrap and the prospect of playing Europa League football next season is very scary indeed. Many fans have taken to social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook to voice their frustrations but ex-Gunner and legend, Ian Wright, has stated that he would like to see a manager like Roberto Martinez at the helm of affairs,
That’s the kind of manager that you want, a good young manager that has proven himself tactically, he knows what he’s doing. It’s got to be that kind of man, Roberto Martinez, he’s the perfect one. If someone was to ask me who I want, I’d say Roberto Martinez. That’s the kind of manager you’ve got to be looking at to take Arsenal forward.
Many fans are also riding on the Jurgen Klopp bandwagon, and many believe that he would be the best man for the job. I hope they know that like Wenger, Klopp has folded his arms while his best players like Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze left the club, while Robert Lewandowski is also on his way out of the club. #JustSaying
There’s also a ‘conspiracy theory‘ about Louis van Gaal and Jonker. It’s a brilliant read on One Nil Down Two Nil Up and it’s worth a read.
Many fans love Arsene Wenger and all the things he has achieved at the club, but some feel that maybe he has achieved all he can with the lads and winning the FA Cup would be the perfect platform to bring his reign to an end.
However, the ball still remains on his court as we all know that there’s a contract for him on the table.
The battle line for the final Champions League qualification spot was drawn and Goodison Park was the venue for a crucial clash between Everton and Arsenal. With the exception of Kieran Gibbs that was replaced by Nacho Monreal, Arsene Wenger opted for the same squad that earned a creditable draw against Manchester City.
The home side drew first blood when Leon Osman latched on to Leighton Baines pass and blasted a one-timed shot that sailed effortlessly over the bar. Arsenal responded with two poor shots from Lukas Podolski that was far off the mark. Osman got booked for a reckless challenge on Bacary Sagna but he picked up a knock and was replaced by Ross Barkley.
The match opener arrived when Baines tore Arsenal’s defence open with a peach of a pass to Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian’s shot was saved by Szczesny but Steven Naismith was on hand to fire in the rebound to send Goodison Park into raptures. Naismith almost made it two but Szczesny was alert to make a smart stop.
Sagna managed to get a good cross to Olivier Giroud but the Frenchman fired a tame shot wide. On the other end, Kevin Mirallas skipped past Santi Cazorla with consummate ease before blasting a shot that was saved by Szczesny.
A bad day for Arsenal got worse when Mirallas teed up Lukaku and he was allowed to run at the defense before smashing a shot past the hapless Szczesny to make it two. Podolski fired a shot on the bounce but Howard topped it over the bar.
Things got worse when Flamini miscontrolled a simple pass and tackled a player, leaving the ref no choice but to brandish his 10th yellow card of the season, which ultimately means that he’d miss the games against Wigan and West Ham.
Cazorla lofted a cross that hit James McCarthy on his arm but Arsenal’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears. Sagna closed down Mirallas in his box and the Belgian lost the ball and it fell kindly to Giroud that fired a shot straight at Howard for the goalie to make a simple save.
Sagna dallied on the ball further up the pitch and Mirallas teed up Naismith whose attempt was blocked by Szczesny but in his bid to block Mirallas from playing the ball into an empty net, Mikel Arteta scored an unfortunate own goal.
With the game done and dusted, Wenger summoned the Ox and a returning Aaron Ramsey for Podolski and Flamini. Shortly afterwards, Yaya Sanogo replaced the ineffetual Giroud.
Late on, Ramsey sent Sanogo through on goal but he was ruled off for offside.
Wenger was barraged with a lot of questions in regard to his team’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League and he wasn’t as confident as you’d expect but he stated that his lads would fight for it.
A title challenge has turned into a Champions League qualification scrap and as this point in time, Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are hanging on a thin thread.
What a shame.
If you told an Arsenal fan in November that a time would come this season when the team would be scraping for a fourth place finish, you would think that person is delusional. As we step into the business end of the season, the Gunners horrendous form in the league that has seen them take 13 points from a possible 30, coupled with Everton’s hot streak has seen the toffees close down on the Gunners for that last coveted Champions League slot.
Everton’s home record this season have been very impregnable with just one loss in all competitions but Everton have not tasted victory against the north London side since March 2007 and they were well-beaten at the Emirates Stadium four weeks ago, with Arsenal winning 4-1 in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Everton are four points behind Arsenal with a game in hand and, if Arsenal avoid defeat in this game, then they will finish fourth and they can go and concentrate on the FA Cup. Arsenal’s fixture list is ‘less challenging’ than Everton’s and a positive result will spur them on for that FA Cup semi-final encounter against Wigan.
I still think Arsenal will finish fourth because they have better fixtures than Everton, but this will be a hard game for them. They can’t afford to lose it and I think they will get a draw – but Everton will know that this is their chance.
The last three league meetings between the two sides have ended in draws. Arsenal have not lost to Everton in the league since May 2007 and they are unbeaten in their last six trips to Goodison Park.
Everton are without a win in their last 14 matches in all competitions against Arsenal
Everton have now won five consecutive Premier League games, their longest winning run since November 2002 and Romelu Lukaku has scored four times in his last six games, including Everton’s goal in their 4-1 FA Cup defeat against Arsenal on 8 March.
Arsenal have only taken 13 points from a possible 33 in their games against the current Premier League top seven this season and the Gunners have only won three of their last 10 Premier League games (W3, D4, L3).
However, the Gunners can take solace in the fact that only Manchester United (30) have earned more points away from home than Arsenal (29) this season.
To injuries, Everton will be without Darron Gibson (knee), Arouna Koné (knee), Bryan Oviedo (broken leg), Lacina Traoré (hamstring), Steven Pienaar (knee), Phil Jagielka (hamstring). Ross Barkley would face a fitness test for his calf injury.
For Arsenal, the regular suspects, Abou Diaby (knee), Theo Walcott (knee), Jack Wilshere (foot), Mesut Özil (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (calf), Serge Gnabry (knee) are out. Kieran Gibbs (ankle) is a doubt but Nacho Monreal is fit.
enjoy the game wherever you are.