Tuesday, 8 May 2012

"SOMETIMES BY LOSING A BATTLE, YOU FIND A NEW WAY TO WIN THE WAR"



"SOMETIMES BY LOSING A BATTLE, YOU FIND A NEW WAY TO WIN THE WAR"


Whoever supports Arsenal FC can only know the feeling of optimism, hope, ecstasy and belief (as Arsene Wenger likes to emphasis regularly). However, these emotions come to close, usually towards the February/March part of the season, fixture list overload and injuries taking a toll on our vulnerable team, with the manager and captain's at a loss to explain the slow decline. Someone once said that you learn from your mistakes, but time and time again Arsenal seem to succumb to the same morale derailing moments that define the season. 

Since our 7-year barren run in terms of trophies started, there have been certain moments that define our season. These moments have not only disturbed the team spirit, but they have dismantled the style of play - leaving Arsene in a bit of a muddle. Where does it start from really?

2006. Arsenal were leading 1-0 in the Champions League final against Barcelona, Jens Lehmann's early sending off was irrelevant until late on, when the ever frustrating Manuel Almunia managed to concede two simple goals and end Arsenal's hopes of becoming European champions. This moment of conceding the second goal foreshadowed everything that was to come. Dismay, anti-climax and defensive naivety.
2007. When the Gunners let go of Thierry Henry in the summer preceding this season fans and critics alike wrote of Arsenal of having any hope of success. But the outcome was different, the newly built young side playing football that had never been produced since the Invincible side. However, this was to end in tears yet again. Arsene Wenger had kept faith in a side that had beaten Spurs along the way to a Carling Cup final against Chelsea. After a drama filled game including a near death experience for John Terry, a first goal for Theo Walcott and an annual Didier Drogba winner against the Gunners, a fight broke out - showing that Arsenal's Young Guns still needed time to mature.

2008. Arsenal were four points in front of Manchester United at the top of the table. Great football, great spirit and great support - things were never better. Out of all the moments that have blightened Arsenal, this one lives long in the memory for me and most likely the majority of other Arsenal fans. Eduardo da Silva was running off with the ball early on, until Martin Taylor, the Birmingham City player, broke the in-form strikers leg. The reaction from players said it all and despite Theo Walcott's two goal attempt at getting the Gunners back into the tainted game, Gael Clichy gave away a penalty - a teary William Gallas producing a sight that haunts me even now.

2009. Another moment against Chelsea and another moment that haunts me forever. We were in the Champions League semi final as well as the FA Cup final, a potentially memorable season loomed for the Gunners. However, despite another Theo Walcott opening goal in the FA Cup semi final against Chelsea, Didier Drogba proved the stumbling block again, rounding an AWOL Lukasz Fabianski and celebrating in the Drogba way - top off waving it around and running round in ecstasy. Just once I want to see an Arsenal player do the same.


2010. Despite the season starting off fantastic, myself watching the opening 6-1 win against Everton in an Irish bar in Zurich, Switzerland, the inevitable seemed to happen. This years moment came late, us having a pop at trying to win the title until a battering at the hands of Lionel Messi took us out the Champions League and Tottenham's Danny Rose producing a "world class" (Although I think it was a FLUKE - cheers Almunia) goal. This was the moment that changed everything, our confidence slipping, causing us to drop points against Wigan and Man City, thus succumbing us to a third place finish.


2011. The 2010/2011 season saw Arsene Wenger proclaiming to the media that, "I personally believe we can go in every competition to the end." He could have been right. However, when Arsenal's heroics of getting to the final of the Carling Cup against Birmingham at Wembley to win their first trophy in 6 years, things couldn't have gone worse. After Nicola Zigic's first goal and Robin van Persie's equaliser, which led him to coming off injured, Obafemi Martins struck late in a horror mix up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny. Another bad mistake, another trigger for a barren season.




2012. There was not a standard moment this year that made everyone sit up and think. After the huge defeat at Manchester United, foreshadowing has never played a bigger part - Arsenal getting back into the top four only to have Champions League football not guarenteed with the last game to play on Sunday. Despite being in the driving seat, the usual defensive errors have crept in - and while not trying to bring it up again, the 8-2 loss stays firm in the memory.


 It's all gone wrong in previous years. But hopefully, next year, we can move on and make sure that the errors don't strike again. Who knows?
"SOMETIMES BY LOSING A BATTLE, YOU FIND A NEW WAY TO WIN THE WAR"


ARSENAL FC - BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN

Sunday, 29 April 2012

THE START OF SOMETHING NEW - WHO WILL BE #2

THE START OF SOMETHING NEW - WHO WILL BE #2


When Arsenal were struggling at the start of the season, the "WENGER OUT" brigade had all their guns blazing, ready to pounce at every opportunity. Along with this notion, Pat Rice had some criticism, many saying that his time at Arsenal was up, after a successful tenure at the club. Despite rumours that he was going to step down from his post last summer, Pat took on the challenge at one last shot at being Wenger's number 2. But as this barren season comes to a close, it looks as though Arsenal Football Club are ready to move on and bring a new assistant to the club. Could this man be someone to motivate the team alongside Arsene? Or could they subsequently be groomed into the managerial job once Arsene hangs up his... Belief? Here are the three men who are tooted to be in the frame for the job:


STEVE BOULD


An ex-player and youth team coach, Steve Bould knows the club better than almost anyone. Having brought through some of our successful young players, Jack Wilshere to name one, he could be exactly the man Arsene needs in order to further develop the Arsenal side. When I look and hear Steve Bould, I see a hunger for the game and he has the element of fear, which Pat Rice doesn't have. This could be key in motivating the players when they are down and giving that extra kick when morale is at a low in a season. The press have got him down as a strong favourite, will he get the job?


GoonerTab Verdict - 8/10 chance
  

JENS LEHMANN

"Mad Jens" is a cult hero around the Emirates and was always a personality who was going to get far, even after his playing days. With a lot to say and a good understand of the club after coming back for a second stint, who's to say that one of Arsene's trusted number 1's can't become one of Arsene's trusted number 2's! 
Lehmann is currently working at Arsenal, learning the trade in regards to his coaching badges. Arsene may just be tempted to give Jens his big break and first shot at the big time, giving Arsenal fans a sense of confidence and himself a chance at the main job itself.


GoonerTab Verdict - 6/10 chance


TONY ADAMS


"Captain Fantastic" "Legend" There are too many ways to describe Tony Adams, who was one of Arsenal's best ever defenders. Going into management with Portsmouth was not his best ever move, eventually being sacked after a bad start at the club. Despite this blow, his assistance to Harry Redknapp was sharp and this may give him the edge in terms of the job. Arsenal fans love him, Arsene Wenger will surely be happy to see an old face of glory around him. His defensive knowledge would be a useful asset, helping give the team that extra push and eventually having a chance at becoming the full time boss.




GoonerTab Verdict - 7/10 chance


ARSENAL FC - BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN

Friday, 27 April 2012

Carlos Vela - Lost in translation

CARLOS VELA - LOST IN TRANSLATION



Once a player who looked like he could conquer the world, Carlos Vela's slow decline is something that puzzles not only me, but others around me and most likely the Arsenal contingent. Carlos "the chip" Vela caught my eye in a Carling Cup match against Sheffield United, scoring a hat-trick and producing one of the most fantastic chipped goals I have ever seen. The buzz around him was fantastic, people hailing him as a natural forward who could scare defenders to the extent of Lionel Messi! But the decline was somewhat inevitable.

In a time where Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, Eduardo and Theo Walcott were all vying for places to lead the line, Carlos Vela waited in the wings for his chance at the big time. Appearances limited from the bench, Carlos managed to score 6 goals in his first season, with performances that gave evidence to suggest that he could be the missing ingredient in an Arsenal line-up that could give them the spark in order to succeed.



The following season showed a decline in performances, his game time being limited in order to accommodate for more experienced players in the team. With the occasional goal and another barren season for the club, Carlos moved to West Brom in 2011 in order to gain more Premier League experience, with the intention of giving him that edge to come back the next season and show the world exactly what the skilful young Mexican forward could do.

However, these hopes were not fulfilled, Arsenal announcing that he would be going on loan to Real Sociedad for the 2011/2012 season. I was puzzled - how could a bright young spark who was now scoring goals in the Premier League for fun decided to go on loan to a middle of the table club in Spain? My questions were never answered directly, but the English press is informative enough to give me an idea of what has happened.


"Wenger is the one who must make the most important decision," he said.
"If he tells me I have to leave then I will look at my options. If he says I will stay then I will fight him.
"My intention is not to return to Arsenal.
"I don't know if I'm going to stay here at Sociedad. I don't know what will happen in my life next year.
"My registration belongs to Arsenal and I can't tell them to give me away as a gift to Sociedad because I'm happy here. They will want something back after all those years."

It seems like Carlos in one interview has summed up everything that is wrong with Arsenal at the moment. The fact that he would show such disrespect to a manager who had courted him for years, paying wages, praising him and believing in him shows lack of class from the boy. But what happened? Was the man management so bad that he felt that there was no hope for him, at an Arsenal side missing striking options in depth? Is homesickness such a factor that he believes staying in Spain will keep him at least a little closer to home? Or is there something deeper?
One thing is for certain; Carlos Vela has been lost in translation.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Will he stay or will he go?

ROBIN VAN PERSIE - THE MAN, THE LEGEND - WILL HE STAY OR WILL HE GO?


ROBIN VAN PERSIE - THE MAN, THE LEGEND - WILL HE STAY OR WILL HE GO?


As Robin van Persie strikes the ball with the outside of his foot against Bolton, he became another on the select list of players to score 100 goals for Arsenal football club. For most fans, this was almost a relief - the player who succumbed to injury so regularly during the majority of his stint at the club was completing a fantastic year, almost beating Alan Shearer's Premier League record for most goals in the league in a calendar year. As he wheeled away to celebrate, his top assister Theo Walcott trailing slightly behind, goosebumps crawled over my and the majority of fans in the crowd's body, as the passionate and motivated captain produced another encapsulating moment. This goal foreshadowed what was to come during the rest of the season, 27 league goals to show and a PFA player of the year award, as well as Football Writers Award, rewards the man, who has somewhat dragged the whole of the Arsenal team to priceless points at times this year. But, as Arsenal fans have experienced in the past, consistent performances attract attention and attention = trouble. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus to name a few all enter the frame to put in a bid, for a player whose contract runs out in just over 12 months time. It seems as though the curse is striking again - Arsenal have not won a trophy for 7 consecutive years, some fans becoming extremely frustrated in Arsene Wenger's stubbornness to change things and his consistently bad timing when it comes to signing players and trying to gel them together. It brings me to the three factors which may or may not be crucial in convincing the Premier League's top scorer in signing a new contract and in hope, winning a title in the coming years.


LOYALTY. Some say that loyalty is key in the van Persie saga. He has been made captain, Arsene Wenger kept faith in him during his many absentees, while players such as Carlos Vela have been frozen out to accommodate him in his new found star position. 

SIGNINGS. Despite Wenger struggling to attract star names and an unwillingness to spend over the odds for what the club needs, it seems as though from last summer he may have changed his ways. Lukas Podolski almost certainly on the way (replacement or partner??) and Yann M'vila reportedly on the verge of signing a pre-contract, the future could be bright for Arsenal and show van Persie that the club still has serious ambitions for the coming years.

AMBITION. One FA cup in his career at Arsenal is hardly the pinnacle of van Persie career, but consistent Champions League appearances and being a permanent fixture on the team sheet is sure to play an impact on his mind during the contract talks. Wenger is adamant that he will not let Robin go, but can he do enough to convince him - or risk losing a legend forever. 

My verdict? Robin van Persie will stay. We have shown intent for the future and have shown a foundation of a team that can challenge anyone in the world. If we can sign players, edit some tactics and rally together for next season, Arsenal can achieve anything. If he signs a new contract? Wenger will be nodding his head with delight once more.



ARSENAL FC - BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN

Friday, 13 April 2012

The curious case of Manuel Almunia

THE CURIOUS CASE OF MANUEL ALMUNIA


The 2007/2008 season was starting, with the legend that was Jens Lehmann was starting as undisputed number 1 for the Gunners yet again. A fantastic shot-stopper, commanding presence and strong personality, there would be no chance of another goalkeeper to take his place. After 2 games, "Mad Jens" had made errors that had ended in goals conceded and Manuel Almunia came into the team. Arsenal fans were aware that their previous experience of Almunia had resulted in him conceding late twice to lose the Gunners the chance of winning a coveted Champions League title for the first time. Almunia came in strong, becoming a fan favourite especially after a fantastic spot-kick save against Sp***' Robbie Keane. With Almunia on form, the team looked like they could challenge for the title, until that horrendous leg break suffered by Eduardo, which triggered off a series of events that no one could have predicted.

The 2008/2009 season brought more luck for Manuel, starring in goal in a season that gave us a penalty shootout win against Roma in the Champions League. His performance against Manchester United in the semi-finals was world class as well, getting rave reviews and even a consideration to play for the England national team! However, injury struck for him later on in the season, Lukas Fabianski filling in for the Spaniard, conceding an infamous (for me being at the ground) goal against Drogba in the semi-finals of the FA Cup against Chelsea.

The next couple of years saw inconsistent performances from Manuel, despite another one night wonder against Barcelona, resulting in Fabianski taking over, while Almunia "had an injury" according to Wenger. There was a sense of Deja vĂ¹ in the Arsenal camp, Fabianski getting the "world class" tag and producing clean sheets for fun. Again, injury struck, with Wojciech Szczesny getting his chance at Old Trafford in the 2010/2011 season.

While all of this was happening, Almunia was no where to be seen.
NO PICTURES
NO INTERVIEWS
NO INJURY NEWS
Wenger has frozen out Almunia and despite the odd appearance last year after Szczesny's brief injury at Barcelona, he has been unseen by Arsenal fans, despite the occasional bench appearance during Fabianski's recovery.

When his name was read on the big screen, fans murmured, distant memories of the difficult times that Almunia has given them coming back. But we forget, this man was a hero, a legend, an undisputed number 1. I now jokingly boo his name and use him in multiple jokes in regards to football. He should be sold in the summer, as his contract comes to an end, Szczesny is in the mood for celebration.


ARSENAL FC - BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN

Thursday, 12 April 2012

THE "CHEEKY" PENALTY
By Robin van Persie


ARSENAL FC - BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN

Arsenal vs Wolves Match Review

ARSENAL VS WOLVES - MY THOUGHTS

Arsenal headed to Wolverhampton yesterday for a fierce battle to try and all but cement Champions League football next year. Goals from Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Yossi Benayoun sealed the 3 points and a sharp performance gives nothing but joy to the Arsenal fans.

GOAL 1:



A confident, yet risky penalty from Robin van Persie showed how world class our captain is and how important it is to keep him at the club.




GOAL 2:


A really sharp move by the two inform strikers van Persie and Theo Walcott, a trademark Walcott finish effectively ending the game as a contest.



GOAL 3:


Yossi Benayoun's resurgence has been immense, with another impressive goal from the Israeli international giving Wenger a case to "sign him up'



PLAYER RATINGS:

Szczesny - 9/10 - Another superb performance by the undisputed first choice goalkeeper, a world class save capping off a quiet night for the Polish international

Sagna - 8/10 - Solid again, looking sharp down the wing and having a nice rest towards the end. Good work out for Bac.

Vermaelen - 8/10 - His timing is incredible! He knows exactly whats going to happen, his aerial play getting better by the week.

Djourou - 7/10 - A great game by Djourou, filling in for Kosielny being a hard task, but managing perhaps a gave saving challenge when Wolves were on the break.

Santos - 8/10 - Bombing up and down that wing with flair, Andre gives us something different at left back sometimes and had a consistent performance.

Ramsey - 7/10 - Looking like a dangerous player, Ramsey was unable to finish (yet again) tonight and some of his passing was appalling. Still put in a good shift.

Arteta - 7/10 - Quiet night for the Spaniard but he still looked sharp and happy to retain possession for the team.

Song - 8/10 - Strong in the tackle and showed his attacking strength again, assisting Yossi's goal to finish off the game.

Benayoun - 9/10 - He looks like a real gem at the moment, his experience driving the team forward. Strong performance with a goal to cap it off.

Walcott - 9/10 (MAN OF THE MATCH) - Theo had another great performance tonight, winning us the penalty, scoring a phenomenal team goal and showing how dangerous he can be. THEO! THEO!

van Persie - 8/10 - A very cheeky penalty and a performance where his touch and quick feet came into practise, Robin oozes world class all around him - "he (still) scores when he wants"

ARSENAL FC - BY FAR THE GREATEST TEAM, THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN