Posts Tagged Soccer

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.

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Arsenal, Chelsea Ease to Champions League Wins


Lot’s of criticism has come in light of the quality of clubs that now find themselves getting swept aside in a stroll by their more established counterparts following Wednesday’s round of Match Day One fixtures in the UEFA Champions League.

In Group E, AS Roma held its own until a barrage of unrelenting pressure from Bayern Munich earned the Germans a well deserved 2-0 win thanks to goals in the closing ten minutes from youngster Thomas Müller – with an exquisite finish with the outside of his right – and veteran Miroslav Klose. The Bavarians now lead the group ahead of CFR Cluj that held on for a 2-1 win over visiting FC Basle in Romania.

In Group F, a first half brace from Nicholas Anelka helped Chelsea on its way to a 4-1 win at MSK Zilina with Ghana midfielder Michael Essien opening the scoring for the Blues early on while Daniel Sturridge got the visitors fourth three minutes into the second half. The group’s other match saw Spartak Moscow leave France with all three points in a lone goal win over Olympique Marseille thanks to an own goal nine minutes from time; those three points could prove quite crucial for Spartak at the climax of the group stage.

Group G saw 2-0 wins for favourites Real Madrid and AC Milan over Ajax and Auxerre respectively. At the Bernabeu, Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain was in form for los Merengues as he sealed the win for Real 20 minutes from the end after his first half opener was credited as an own goal. At the San Siro meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked himself from a missed penalty over the weekend with a brace for the Rossoneri to down the French debutantes.

And finally from Group H, where Arsenal barely needed the second gear in the 6-0 thrashing of Sporting Braga with captain Cesc Fàbregas the star of the night with two goals and two assists. Andrei Arshavin got a goal and two assists, Marouane Chamakh scored his first with the foot and third for Arsenal in competitive football and substitute Carlos Vela got a brace, including a well executed chip over Braga ‘keeper Felipe. Arsenal lead ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk that pipped Partizan Belgrade by the lone goal.

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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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Ahead of the Champions League Draw


So who do you reckon will face whoever in the UEFA Champions League group stage, with the hour for the draws drawing ever so close now.

Pot One has last year’s finalists Inter Milan and Bayern Munich along with English trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, Spanish champions Barcelona, AC Milan and Olympique Lyon that I feel will make quite an impact again this coming season following their capture of talented midfielder Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux.

Pot Two is highlighted by Real Madrid; no thanks to losing out in the first knock round to Lyon last season, the sixth straight time los Merengues have bade bye to the competition so early, AS Roma, Werder Bremen and Olympique Marseille. A lot of eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur in Pot Three that also has Scottish champions Rangers and Ajax Amsterdam while Pot Four has got among others, FC Copenhagen, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Auxerre, Spartak Moscow and MSK Zilina (no offence, who?).

Also watch out for the likes of Portugal’s Sporting Braga in Pot Three after knocking out Sevilla in the final qualifying round as well as a certain Bursaspor from Turkey…whatever happened to Fernabahçe and the likes?

My guts tell me Real Madrid would probably get their nemesis Lyon and I’m counting on Raul making a return to the Bernabeu as well in Schalke colours. The Red Devils could also draw Rangers, just to play up the Scot link with Sir Alex and Tottenham should get ready for one of Barcelona, Inter Milan or AC Milan, I’d prefer Barça!

But hey, it’s just my guts! The real draw will be known from 17:00 BST and the group stage will kick off from September 14 and 15…now the season’s completely started!

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Sebastien Squillaci Set for Arsenal Medical


Just a day after Arsene Wenger made known his intention of adding at least one signing before the close of the transfer window, news is filtering in that 30 year old Sevilla defender Sebastien Squillaci is set to have his medical at Arsenal ahead of a move to north London.

Squillaci was part of the embarrassing France team at the World Cup back in June though he was helpless to the implode that took place and only played the final game when the damage had been done. At Sevilla, he was a constant starter for the Andalucians except in last season that saw him play just over a dozen games due to injury.

Will Squillaci, who only cloaked three decades just over a week ago, be a good signing for Arsenal? Is that the end of Wenger’s foray in the transfer market or should we expect one more? Speaking of new arrivals, why was Wenger’s second bid for Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer the same as the first? Clerical error?! And what do you make of Arsenal’s other new boys so far, Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny?

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With a Long Way Ahead Still…Arsenal, Calm Down!


In my “Premier League Preview – The Challengers” post here http://wp.me/puIC6-34, I talked about the competitiveness of last season’s Premier League that among other things, saw one of the fabled ‘Big Four’ – Liverpool – finish in seventh place behind Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in ascending order. Liverpool’s poor finish coupled with the near alarming number of losses recorded by the other three – Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal – could also be traced to surprise defeats to teams these four would normally chalk all three points off such as Wigan Athletic, Birmingham City and a few others.

Two rounds into this season however, I like to think it’s safe to say three of the Big Four have taken good note of the value of getting the three points where it is expected of them and getting those points with authority. Champions Chelsea scored just over a hundred last term and don’t look like slowing down up front having scored a dozen goals in two games already without giving one away; half of the goals coming a few hours earlier at Wigan’s JJB where the Blues as well as the other Three struggled last term. Arsenal, following a typical lion’s-share-of-possession-comes-to-nothing draw against Liverpool, as should be expected brought Ian Halloway’s new boys Blackpool right down to the football field reality from the cloud nine highs of a four-nil win over Wigan (that’s ten conceded for the Latics…relegation candidature as stated in the note referred earlier). A major talking point was Theo Walcott’s performance which was enjoyable to all watching (Fabio Capello though fancied Wolves trip to Goodison Park instead) and the team performance was all the more impressive more so that Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie played the final half hour with scores at 5-0. What Arsenal fans should however truly note from this good win is that five goals came after Blackpool were reduced to ten men, Andrei Arshavin chose the weaker opposition to perform against when a semblance of same was really expected and much needed in the Liverpool encounter and finally, it was Blackpool. Had it been Everton like it happened in last season’s opening day, I then would’ve rated it a top draw win but alas…it’s just what should be expected of a club of Arsenal’s stature. If Arsenal can perform like this against similar opposition and pick the vital points where expected (against the likes of Wolverhampton, West Brom, West Ham, Birmingham Sunderland and Stoke) as well as against the stubborn ones such as Villa, Bolton and Blackburn Rovers that the Gunners visit next week, it will stamp firmly Arsenal’s title credentials. That then allows for games against rivals (the other Three, free spending Man. City and Tottenham, especially the latter two) to be real contest where a win would truly make Arsene Wenger’s talented lads mature and make the step to returning Arsenal to winning trophies in May and not August as they’re becoming accustomed to!

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Random Thoughts


Roses – thus goes d popular saying,”life isn’t a bed of roses”.I disagree!Life IS a bed of roses but since people mostly buy plastic versions of roses,we tend to forget d beautiful flower actually has unfriendly thorns jutting from its stem.

Easter – With Good Friday marked,Jesus is fighting down in hell following his crucifixion @ Golgotha.Does that give room for unhindered sinning?

Rights – I find it incredulous when d issue of “Women’s Rights” is raised…not to say women aren’t equals,but such ‘activism’ tends to confirm d weaker sex tag placed on women!

Movies – Avatar was a normal story shot in pretty above-normal manner.Meaning,I don’t c what d fuss is all about,save for d graphics.Looking forward to Iron Man 2 though.

Love – d rule is simple!Don’t settle with someone for d sake of having a partner.don’t go about searching for d person when u can be d right person for someone already!

Music – Dr. Dre’s still working on Detox!If it ever sees light of day,he better make that album one worth being a classic even in d next century.

Soccer – Manchester United versus Chelsea,what’s it gonna be?I’d prefer a draw or at worst,a Chelsea win!As for d Champions League,d 2nd leg between Barcelona and Arsenal is so evenly poised,another classic looks in d offing!

Stephen King – Now,that’s one crazy fellow!That’s why he’s so good!

Grammy – what’s with R. Kelly & Wyclef Jean always being shunned for awards…? R especially!?!

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