Posts Tagged Robin van Persie

During the Week: FIFA’s a Messi, Michu Messes Chelsea & Sahin’s Forever a Loan


For a fourth year running, the human incarnate of Zeus’ godfather Lionel El-Messius was honoured as the winner of the Ballon d’Or award for Player of the Year, much to everybody’s surprise *yawn* and not too few pundits’ dis(pleasure)/(gust).

Till he wins a World Cup or a Copa America at least, the latter set of football lovers/followers will not right away agree with those already resigned to referring to Messi as the GOAT over all others.

And indeed, 91 goals scored in a calendar year is no mean feat. Then again, all those goals managed to earn just a Copa Del Rey triumph while CR7, with his three scores and some of goals, won a league title; which is more prestigeous.

In the end however, both phenomenal, uber ultra-footballers each won a trophy with their respective clubs and if Ronaldo wanted a clear shot at the award, he should have done just a bit more than lead Portugal to a last four finish at the Euros.

Therefore, and bringing the matter to a closure (which will last till the next El-Clasico is played), congratulations to Messi for an unprecedented fourth Ballon d’Or triumph. Hope dinner later in the week with the Dolce & Gabbana designers went tastefully?

As for Ronaldo, being Messi’s escort at the awards has to be killing his nerves and white blood cells. Then Pep Guardiola had to rub it in and push the ignore button when CR7 came round to him? What’s “Aye ma ni’ka o…” in Spanish or Portuguese please?

FIFA
Not to be outshone by one person however, football’s world governing body, in all its exalted, overpampered bereaucratic and extravagantly nonplussed false sense of esteemed justification, named a World XI comprising players from two cities in one country.

So much for a ***WORLD*** team that it was devoid of talents such as Neymar who unfortunately lost with Brazil at the Olympic Games football final, Robin van Persie who scored many crucial and well executed goals for Arsenal and Manchester United and Andrea Pirlo who orchestrated an unbeaten title winning season for Juventus with sumptuous through passes and celestially graceful poise (yes, the tautology’s worth it).

Since we’re talking of a World XI, Chris Katongo could well have made that list having led Zambia to a historic, dramatic, memorable and highly emotional first African Cup of Nations triumph.

Yaya Toure could as well have made that list, leading Manchester City – along with Hart and the rest of the Kompany – to the English Premier League title and going so close with Cote D’Ivoire at the AFCON.

Manuel Neuer certainly deserved a spot too and Didier Drogba wouldn’t have been out of place though a host of strikers did much better than he did; he just happened to score crucial title winning goals.

In the end, squashing whatever faint hopes the likes of Edinson Cavani, Fernando Llorente, Mario Götze, Mario Gomez and Gianluigi Buffon among others may have had, five players each from Real Madrid and Barcelona were named in the World XI, with Radamel Falcao being (sort of) the exception… since he plays at Atletico Madrid. Ridiculous!

I’d put Falcao with van Persie upfront, dump CR7 and Messi in midfield either side of Pirlo and Yaya Toure with Kompany showing up at the back.

Would be quite a gesture to have Sergio Ramos earn a career ending red card by tackling FIFA, in its nonplussed entirety, the *censored* *censored* out of the beautiful game. Gosh!

Math Gone Wrong
Beauty at times can be a complication and football is a beautiful game, so beautiful that it makes values become distorted so that £2m becomes so much more valuable and benefitting than £50m ever could.

So was the tale of two Spaniards when Chelsea hosted Swansea in the first leg of a Capital One Cup semi-final match, with Miguel *can’t remember the rest of his native name but thankfully we all can simply call him… * Michu did damage as the Swans ran out 2-0 victors.

Fernando Torres on the contrary was, to be kind, lethargic and one knew from the 10 minutes Demba Ba got when he replaced El-Zero was the result would have been much more competitive.

And for Chelsea, Torres remains a loss they’ll have to live with as no club, logical and even most of the financially illogical ones, will bid even £13m (I reckon) for him and pay him an outrageous weekly wage. Not even on Football Manager.

At this rate, Michu would replace Torres in the Spanish national team and it has been widely reported the Armadas coach and winner of the Ballon d’Or coach of the year Vicente del Bosque will be at Goodison Park to watch the Spanish Swan come up against the Toffees.

So… that’s how Michu will get a cap with Spain ahead of Mikel Arteta… this is too emotional for me, let’s move on.

Transfers
Seems Arsenal got round to settling the contract issue with Theo Speedo, as well as Bacary Sagna so it’s looking like the Gunners won’t have to part with yet another key member of their team after the likes of Cesc Fabregas, van Persie, Samir Nasri and more.

Elsewhere in France’s Ligue Un, PSG’s Nene reportedly agreed terms with a Qatari club, ensuring one more payday for the 31 year old Brazilian who’s place has been taken by a younger Brazilian in Lucas Moura.

Moura made his debut last night as Ligue Un resumed from its winter break, but things didn’t go as planned with Les Parisiens managing a goalless draw at home to lowly Ajaccio, playing an entire half with 10 men after Thaigo Motta was sent off just before half time.

And another high profile transfer will see Wesley Sneijder earning well after Inter Milan shipped him off to Galatasaray for about £8.5m. Why Turkey for a player of Sneijder’s reportoire? Well it’s said that the income tax on players there is just 15%, compared to about 40% in most of the other top European leagues.

But if you asked Wesley himself why, be sure to get the ‘need to play regularly’ or ‘seeking a new challenge’ speech because ‘it is never about the money.

One player’s transfer that does seem not for the money is Nuri Sahin’s. It however is farcical how he has completed a circle back to Borussia Dortmund, the club he moved from to join Real Madrid which in turn loaned him to Liverpool only six months ago.

Dortmund is still a good team, perhaps even much better than when he left thanks to a host of players such as Götze, Robert Lewandowski, the exciting Marco Reus, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszcek (spell check) and Sven Bender.

Sahin, on a six month loan deal, should fit perfectly in to the current BVB set-up and even get right to the starting XI since Ivan Perisic has left the club. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover the form that made him one of Europe’s best passers of the ball.

And with that, it’s a wrap. It’s a week to the start of the African Cup of Nations, which promises to be exciting with the Ivorians ready to have another go at the trophy that keeps eluding them while Zambia won’t get the underdog treatment this time around.

Ghana comes into the tournament all pepped up, as always, while underdogs Nigeria will be out to make the last four a 14th time in their 17th appearance. And each time Nigeria makes the last four, they come away with at least the bronze medal.

Morocco and Algeria are other nations to look forward to though, without doubt, the footballers from the island of Cape Verde will get the most attention as they make their AFCON debut, even set to opening the tournament in a match against host South Africa.

Till then, there’s the rival’s match between Manchester United and Liverpool on Sunday, to be followed by Manchester City’s visit of the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal.

Hopefully the weekend lives up to its billing. Have a pleasant one.

P.S: Got the Sahin bit in the headline from a tweeter (I think is) known as “TheNarcisist_”.

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2011-12 Premier League: Pulsating End to Quite a Season


The neighbours have just got too loud and what frenetic manner to do so, making the Red Devils bel19ve they’d pipped them to the title at 93 minutes only for Edin Dzeko and Sergio Agüero to equalise right as Howard Webb blew for full time at the Stadium of Light and just as Manchester United was starting a ‘lap of honour’ respectively.

Manchester City, with those two strikes well into stoppage time, showed just why they deserved to be the champions, never failing in hope despite losing 2-1 at the time.

Yesterday, and later today when ‘noisy’ City parade the title through Manchester, saliva will morph to a choking stone down the throat of United fans who I’m sure would rather shut their door to the outside world for the day. Alotta folks will call in sick today over there, and that’s the ones that bother to call…

Meanwhile, Kieran Gibbs’ last ditch tackle in stoppage time proved crucial for my Arsenal, that huffed over the finish line in that lucrative third spot a point ahead of bitter neighbours Tottenham.

From the low ebb after ninety minutes at Old Trafford, the Gunners blazed from a point and a place above the relegation zone to third place, albeit with some mind numbing results along the way.

Liverpool provided us with most of those sort of results, ending a mediocre season with a lone goal loss at Swansea to finish in 8th place and ensuring Europe will be devoid of fallacies as Stewart Downing.

The Kop’s utterly disappointing season allowed for Everton to deservedly finish in 7th place and above their Merseyside neighbours for only the second time in the Premier League era.

The blue side of Merseyside should make the Europa League, as (I’m craving) the blue side of London do too. Chelsea finished 6th, have booked a Europa League place with their win at the FA Cup… but will want Champions League football by winning that competition.

Whatever made Jack Wilshere believe “every gooner will be a Chelsea fan (this) Saturday” needs to be expelled from his soul. No, we’d rather they be humbly satisfied with the Europa League place they have with the hope of having the Tiny Tots join them after losing their ensuing Champions League qualifying round affair early next season.

Relegation

Briefly, Bolton Wanderers had a sniff of surviving the relegation battle but Queens Park Rangers eventually survived instead, despite losing to Man. City with those goals.

Sad to see the Trotters go down, along with the abject Wolves and Blackburn Rovers, that needs to sort its administration out quickly or actually become what Portsmouth is now… a shadow.

Something Joey Barton may likely become as well. He subsequently has apologised to the team and its fans for his moment of shame in the second half when he had a thing against Argentines

And agreed, he’s an overly passionate footballer but Barton needs to control that otherwise his career will stay going downhill. Lord knows what drama would’ve unfolded had Balotelli found his way to him?

Highlights

I can imagine Alan Pardew with a sigh when he watches his former captain’s moment. Too bad Barton isn’t part of a Newcastle team that came close to clinching Champions League football but nonetheless, got a Europa League place by finishing at a very commendable 5th position.

That is largely thanks to Hatem Ben Arfa’s creativity behind, initially, Demba Ba who threatened to keep scoring but ended with 17 following a goal drought, and Papiss Demba Cisse who picked up from where the first Demba left off, scoring 13 goals since his move from Freiburg in January.

His goal in stoppage time at Stamford Bridge must surely get the nod for goal of the season. Followed by any of Peter Crouch’s volley against Man. City, Robin van Persie’s flying winner against Everton, Ben Arfa’s solo effort or Papiss Cisse’s second against Swansea.

There were lots of stunning goals this season, a season that became the Premier League’s highest scoring season ever as yesterday’s 32 goals meant 1,066 goals were scored in the just concluded season, to break last season’s record of 1,063.

More Records

At 2.81 goals per game, this season is the best as regards that, beating last season’s by .01. Van Persie also came one short of equalling the most goals scored in a 38 game season with his 30 goals.

The Dutchman also hit the woodwork the most times in the league, 10 times according to Opta Sports’ @OptaJoe.

It’s the second time in Premier League history that all three promoted sides maintained their Premier League status and kudos to Swansea and Norwich City for finishing on a high.

And champions Manchester City won 20 successive matches at home before that thrilling fightback against Sunderland at the end of March.

Squad of the Season

Goalkeepers
I’ll go with City’s Joe Hart, Swansea’s Michel Vorm and Tim Howard of Everton.

Defenders
Kyle Walker and Bacary Sagna get the right back slots. Leighton Baines and Gaël Clichy get the slots at left back. Vincent Kompany, Gary Cahill, Laurent Koscielny and Fabrizio Coloccini fill the centre back positions.

Midfield
I’m going for nine midfielders, comprising Yaya Toure, Juan Mata, Paul Scholes, Mikel Arteta, Gylfi Sigurðsson, John Mikel Obi, Scott Parker, Steven Pienaar and David Silva.

Forwards
These will be Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Agüero and… Nikica Jelavic… and Jermaine Defoe.

All said and done, I’ll have to find something worthwhile doing for about a dozen weekends when the EPL will be in hibernation. The Euros and Olympics will provide some consolation through that period.

For now, congratulations to Manchester City. The longstanding throne of the ‘Big Four’ is now a myth with their triumph coupled with the Sillywhites finishing fourth. Next season will be a new era in the Premier League and hopefully, new tidings for my Arsenal.

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Random Yarns: Transferred Prosperity…


Having such reservation on an adversary is understandable but it can be baffling when a person is not exactly in high spirits over the prosperity of their friend or colleague.

Few days ago while watching a movie on dear old 114, my little cousin came to me (busy scheming football manager tactics in the room) to ask what my reaction would be if my wife suddenly revealed to me that she has built a house?

Half conscious of even his presence let alone his question, I replied that I’d be happy and why not? I’m not a fan of being a tenant as I’m sure every other Nigerian is not too but that’s another little matter.

To my surprise, my cousin shakes his head at me and begins about why such a wife would embark on such capital grubbing project without putting the husband in the know. Besides, he continued, why should she be the one building the house?! (not his words in quote but basically what he said).

At this point I needed to tap the space bar and let the game allow me little time to access this. Did he have a problem with the woman of the house doing the ‘manly’ thing or was it just about her not letting him know about it till the house was built?

Right on cue like a striker’s foot on the end of a well dressed, defense shredding true pass ala Robin van Persie/Cesc Fàbregas, Wayne Rooney/Ryan Giggs… he said “why would she even build a house instead of using the money to help with upkeep”; and by upkeep, rent, food stuff and all.

Thankfully my cousin wasn’t being overly chauvinist though he wasn’t exactly being ambitious there. Besides, why couldn’t he see the issue as a case of transferred prosperity; my mind reversing the concept of transferred aggression.

Then again, the matter of egos arise though in my opinion there should be none of that between couples. In all this, I generally feel the couple should build the house together and leave such surprise packaging for a friend of the union.

In the event of one half of a marriage – husband or wife – coming up with such surprise package, that half should be prepared for whatever misgivings that may come from the other half.

As for the concept of transferred prosperity itself, it’s safe to say most of us have a knack of competition in-built otherwise there shouldn’t be a problem when a family member hits the jackpot on a lottery but that in-built nature would move one’s emotion to wishing it was himself/herself that got ALL that money instead of being hopeful of getting a small share from the big pot….

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EPL Players of the Season 2010/11


Javier Hernandez

Javier Hernandez

Javier Hernandez, the little pea in the big league

Snapped up from Chivas Guadalajara just before a commendable World Cup campaign in South Africa for Mexico, ‘Chicharito’ arrived Old Trafford, scored 13 goals in 21 league appearances and made such an impact at the Theatre of Dreams that Dimitar Berbatov’s long overdue return on goals for the money spent on him could not save him from losing his first team place to the diminutive Mexican.

Peter Osaze Odemwingie
Mostly condemned for moving to a club of Westbromwich-Albion’s stature by fans back in Nigeria and abused racially for leaving Lokomotiv Moscow by fans of the Russian club, Osaze went about his business and his sterling performances for the Baggies through the season; bagging 15 goals along the way, was more than enough to silence his critics and announce his talents to the English game. Being named PFA Player of the Month twice added good icing to his cake.

Robin van Persie
This Dutchman’s form for Arsenal, laden as always with time on the sidelines due to injury, deserved a trophy but just like his goal in the Carling Cup final against Birmingham City, it simply didn’t prove enough. Van Persie however should be proud of his individual performances this season having finished with 18 league goals this season; the first of those scored on New Year’s Day, equalling the record held by Cristiano Ronaldo and former teammate Thierry Henry for most goals scored between January and season’s end. He also shot his way to breaking Didier Drogba’s record of scoring in six consecutive away league matches by scoring in nine consecutive away league matches.

Luka Modric

Luka Modric

Luka Modric (Spurs' engine) would be the player in the background with both arms raised, with Van der Vaart (Spurs' sleek exterior) celebrating in the fore

Where Rafael van Der Vaart was the sleek outer design of the Tottenham Hotspur team, Croatian playmaker Modric was the engine under the hood that truly ran the show with space-opening passes, playing self and team out of trouble and providing the occasional assist. Modric indeed is the unsung star of Tottenham this season and you just feel a far less calamitous goalkeeper and more consistent forwards will see the top echelon of the Premier League be even more competitive.

Darren Bent

After leaving Sunderland in January the dearth in goal became obvious at the Stadium of Light, much to the benefit of Aston Villa where between the New Year and March he became top scorer of the Villans with 10 goals in 16 league appearances; including two in a memorable win at Arsenal at on the penultimate weekend of the season

Wayne Rooney
All he needs is a moment to show why every opposition defender is ever unsettled when Rooney appears on the starting sheet of Manchester United on any given weekend and weekday. Every season his game improves steady and his scoring touch has remained at a good level for a forward, his team play has improved tremendously and it’s when the team performs that managers are happy; individual performances come as added bonus really.

Leighton Baines

Leighton Baines

Leighton Baines played in all of Everton's league matches this season, scoring five while at it

Everton would be better off in the league had the club attained same level of consistency as Baines. His occasional goals and high return on assists only bettered by Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drogba (according to Opta Sports) along with assured performances week after week for all 38 league matches amazingly, deservedly earned him the club’s Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season as well as Goal of the Season.

Jack Wilshere
Bolton Wanderers had a request to have the teenage English midfielder back on loan at the Reebok Stadium rejected few days to the start of the season and it proved to an invaluable decision by Arsène Wenger as evident by a consistent return of stellar individual performances for Arsenal all through the 49 matches he played in all competitions; one that deserved a trophy as reward… one that eluded the team.

Gareth Bale
Most unfortunately for the Three Lions of England, Bale is Welsh. A fact that made his explosive form for Tottenham Hotspur one worthy of much praise and enough for him to win the PFA Player of the Year although… winning that accolade was perhaps a bit of a hasty decision from the Queens’ men.

Edwin van Der Sar

Edwin van der Sar

Edwin van der Sar saving Anelka's spot kick in the 2008 Champions League final

This here is a Dutchman that has tasted the highs (Ajax) and endured the lows (Juventus and at Fulham; no offence to the Cottagers) of football hence retiring on a high at Manchester United after a top quality season of performances in all competitions is just what van Der Sar derseves. Van Der Save earned that nickname with string of saves that belied his 41 years and hopefully the Red Devils won’t go through the conundrum of finding a replacement like it did after Peter Scheimichel retired.

Rafael Van Der Vaart

Rafael van Der Vaart

Rafael van Der Vaart applauding Spurs' fans after a match

Following in the individual steps of countrymen Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder… out of Real Madrid, van der Vaart added a bit more flair to the game of Tottenham Hotspur, culminated in his 13 goals in 28 league appearances for the Lilywhites and a commendable campaign for the club; one that saw Spurs reach the Champions League quarterfinals in its maiden appearance in the competition.

Ryan Giggs

Ageless Welshman has now won one less league trophies than Arsenal has in its history. If that does not hit you enough in the face, think of it this way; only three clubs in all of England has won more league titles than he has… and the picture should be settling in now. Even at the ripe age of 37 when it is goalkeepers that attain their peak, Giggs proved very instrumental in Manchester United’s title winning campaign with his experience coming in handy and the evidence of speed in him still that belies his age. This here is a Welshman that has got better with age.

And others worthy of making this list fall below:

Didier Drogba

Samir Nasri

Charlie Adam

Antonio Valencia

Dirk Kuyt

Nemanja Vidic

Brede Hangeland

Nani

Charles N’Zogbia

Carlos Tevez

Yaya Toure

Dimitar Berbatov

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An Imploding Cannon


I feel Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has become too engrossed in bringing out the best or making the most out of the talent(s) of the players at his disposal; most of whom he still regards as ‘youngsters’, as well as looking out for their interests first rather than the team’s that he now finds it quite difficult to win a trophy. The Frenchman; unfortunately for Arsenal, has allowed his emotions toward the Cannon badge side cloud his much better judgment.

For me, the 2010/11 season ranks as the highest level of impotence the Gunners have shown since its unenviable trophy-drought run began after that pyrrhic victory on penalties at the 2005 FA Cup final. Moreover, the north London side has only itself to blame for not winning at least one trophy this season having lost the League Cup final to rank outsiders Birmingham City; no thanks to a lack of communication between a French defender and his Polish goalkeeper, and then allowed a few results to be such as:

Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle United >>> the Toons won with perhaps one of two forays towards the Arsenal goal that day, blessed with a bit of eccentricity on the part of Lukasz Fabianski. Some misfortune for Arsenal at the Newcastle goal meant a sure three points failed to materialize for the Gunners at a time Newcastle was in poor form.

Arsenal 2-3 Westbromwich-Albion >>> With the Gunners in good form, the Baggies were no match for their hosts on paper and Arsenal duly obliged by resting a number of the regular starters. The visitors on their part duly took advantage by racing to a deserved 3-0 lead earned through some breathtaking football by them and it wasn’t till Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri were introduced that the score was made a bit less embarrassing. My failing ego as a Gooner fell a few notches that day though.

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur >>> It is like a stone forced down the throat losing to one’s fiercest rivals, worse still when the match is lost on home turf with a capacity crowd watching on and gravely worse so when such match is lost having ended the first half leading 2-0. The Lilywhites, much credit to them, picked up and took their game to a level the Gunners; by then too cozy to keep the rampaging second half Spurs at bay, couldn’t cope with thus seeing Spurs record a famous win at the Emirates. Another low blow to my Gooner ego.

Newcastle United 4-4 Arsenal >>> Took me five minutes to start typing this part… absolutely indescribably ludicrous result for Arsenal that couldn’t have asked for a better first half display that resulted into a 4-0 lead by half time. A lack of team discipline generally and individual discipline from Abou Diaby meant what shouldn’t have been… became. Thus allowing Newcastle United to prize four points from Arsenal this season. Champion material… not!

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool >>> Unfortunate injury to Jamie Carragher in a clash of heads with teammate Flanaghan meant eight minutes of added time was given at the Emirates with the game still goalless at 90 minutes. Dutchman Robin van Persie; whose impeccable form in 2011 came to nothing unfortunately, scored a 98th minute penalty and seemed to have earned three points that would have boosted Arsenal’s shot at overturning Manchester United’s lead in the title race. Alas, Arsenal conceded a penalty converted by another Dutchman Dirk Kuyt in the 102nd minute. Both teams did not deserve to lose in all fairness with Arsenal producing another attacking master class on the day and Liverpool doing likewise with their defensive display but when you take the lead after 98 minutes in a game of 90 minutes, you don’t just lose!

Tottenham Hotspur 3-3 Arsenal >>> Even though the two-goal lead began dissipating after just three minutes, it remains on record that Arsenal led 3-1 at some point at White Hart Lane and oh the joy Gooners were feeling right then. It was no doubt a great game of football for the purists but it was the fans of the Lilywhites that enjoyed the final outcome, a result that meant Arsenal missed out on being just four points behind league leaders Man. United and hence remain in firm contention for the league title with four matches left of the season then. Instead, it allowed Chelsea replace Arsenal in second place on goal difference, six points behind the Red Devils.

It was after this match at White Hart Lane that Arsenal’s window to realistically catch-up with United in the title race closed and yet again, Gooners are left with the cliché “we’ll see next season” being uttered… shut it!

Wenger needs to toughen up and be ‘axed’ to leave. It’d be a win-win situation as Arsenal needs to return to being a real football club and not an avenue for family gathering on the weekends and the occasional weekdays and Wenger could do with a break from football though I’m sure it’s far from his mind, hence a new atmosphere under which he can manage. He is a very good manager so getting another high profile, Champions League assuring job shouldn’t pose an obstacle as winning a trophy has been since 2005.

Arsenal needs a leader, Francesc Fàbregas is an exceptional talent and a world-class supplier of passes and team creativity but with so much at stake, it takes charisma and firm composure to lead a football club of Arsenal’s stature and Fàbregas is only just assuming these qualities as a player.

Finally, at least one more defender in the mould of Thomas Vermaelen would greatly shore up the backline and give a viable alternative in the event of Vermaelen missing virtually the whole season as he did this season.

©ð.òÁ

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Arsenal’s Week in Perspective


It’s been a good start from the north London club this season with 10 points from four league matches in second place in the Premier League, a good return in front of goal despite the spate of injuries in that department as well as a laudable stingy manner of the defence so far.

Arsenal’s next two matches however have the potential banana skin effect glossed on them especially the trip up north to face Sunderland on Saturday, but first, the visit of Sporting Braga of Portugal on Wednesday night as this season’s UEFA Champions League kicks off this week. The Gunners should be wary of complacency against Braga even though there is a sterling home record standing in the Gunners’ favour against teams from Portugal. Braga pushed FC Porto in its last league match, twice in the lead before losing 3-2 at the Dragao while the club – steadily gaining a reputation of being stubborn – was responsible for the knock out of Celtic in the second qualifying round before gaining the scalp of Sevilla in the final qualifying round.

But Arsenal should have enough quality to overcome Braga on Wednesday night. Marouane Chamakh is slowly seaming into the team and so far is making up for the absence of Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner to injury. Captain Cesc Fàbregas still turns in the assured performances, Tomas Rosicky has been in exceptional form, Samir Nasri is back early from injury, Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny have been okay in defence all to make injuries to the earlier mentioned along with Abou Diaby and Thomas Vermaelen just for the moment.

A win against Braga being a good bet, it will be a real test to see how Arsene Wenger’s lads can rally to keep up the pace in the league in a tricky trip to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland.

Sometimes, it’s not the team Arsenal is up against but the manager and Steve Bruce knows how to make visiting clubs have a rough, if not outrightly bad afternoon. The Black Cats may be terrible travellers but at home, the spirit suddenly takes possession and when that happens, even Arsenal find it difficult to play in their usual stride of sleek passing till they decide when it’s time to find the back of the net.

And that ‘just one more pass’ syndrome may well be Arsenal’s undoing at the Stadium of Light. As I’ve said in previous articles here, it is games as this against Sunderland that will really help in Arsenal’s quest to end the title drought suffered since ’05. A look at Tottenham Hotspur for example. The lilywhites ultimate achievement will be to have a better season than Arsenal, meaning beating their north London arch rivals whenever their paths cross while dropping points against clubs like Wigan and West Brom…clubs the three points should be an assured collect. Till Spurs overcome their inferiority complex, Arsenal will keep finishing better than Spurs…maybe for the League Cup.

My opinion, four points from the two games this week will just be acceptable from the Gunners but two wins will be more like it to keep proving their title credentials this season because you get the feeling “beautiful football” may soon become boring to the faithful…

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With Arsenal’s Injured Front, all Eyes on Chamakh?


Arsenal are no strangers to having its treatment table warmed by the injured ones and this time round, it crucially has the bulk of the forward men on it with Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner – out till November at worst – joined by Dutch man Robin van Persie till mid-October at least and painfully Theo Walcott till the end of September; painful seeing he was in good scoring form for Arsenal before the internationals from where he picked up the injury…not like he was in exceptional form for England, but that’s by the way.

These injuries give room for young Mexican forward Carlos Vela to stake his claim for a serious look-in when starting eleven names are being pondered on every other week by manager Arsene Wenger. I particularly have a bias for Vela and believe he’ll become quite an asset at the Emirates, with opportunities as this the sort of platform he must take full advantage of to get that look-in; as well as the ‘respected’ League Cup…and he’s getting old for that competition I dare say, knowing how the Arsenal ‘calendar’ ticks.

But the person that really must take full advantage of this window of injuries is Moroccan forward Marouane Chamakh. I mentioned having a bias for Vela…scrap that! I prayed, dreamed, day-dreamed and so much advocated for the signature of Chamakh so my happiness knew no bounds when he arrived – on a free as well, much pleasing to the Monsieur is my guess for that – on the back of a memorable personal season with Bordeaux. For Chamakh, it’s not a matter of gaining experience – several French league and cup wins as well as a quarter final finish in the Champions League last season is good enough vouch – but getting his feet firm for Arsenal and equally importantly his head which would be immense in improving the return of goals from set pieces; the Moroccan has a good head and the one against Blackpool proves so, quality of opponent notwithstanding.

That quest begins full frontal at home to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. We all know how the players like to stress the importance of the team winning more than individual performance…scrap that too! Chamakh will be looking to score a real goal this time round, captain Cesc Fàbregas has a mission I won’t bother boring about, Andrei Arshavin hasn’t impressed me this season, Manuel Almunia has some demons to shush, Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci…all ingredients adding up nicely to an Arsenal slowly desperate to end that frustrating drought of titles; the pains of being a Gooner!

Ah well, action they say speak louder than words and the lad in question has, probably, a relatively easy opponent to deal with seeing as they’ve overcome the man (Sam Alladyce) and his new club that formerly was a pain in the ‘bazongas’ of Arsenal in the past…good old ‘rugby tactics’ Bolton. Well no more!

You may contact this jolly fellow at:

E-mail ~> deleke.afolayan@yahoo.co.uk
Twitter ~> @d_oA

Cheers! And have a good Eid el Fitri celebration.

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