Saturday 31 March 2012


Kos returns to the starting lineup.

Hello again to everyone! I am back where I belong, and ready to byte away on the blogosphere.

We play against QPR today, at Loftus road. If we win, it'll be our eighth consecutive in the league, and according to Arsene, that is where he has placed his current focus on. With the gap between Manc and Arsenal not looking as big, thanks to Arsenal's current form, there are bound to be expectations.
But Arsene says,
We will try to give our best. What we can hope for is to be third. We can be fourth, we can be fifth, we can be sixth - we want to be as high as possible and that depends on our consistency now.
That is understood, and he just wants to keep his team's feet on the ground and not lose any focus from goal and add unwanted pressure on the team. Further he says,
We are in a position that nobody expected us to be in and we want to strengthen that position from now on. That depends on our performances. I see us fighting like mad on Saturday to win the game. That's all I see, I don't see further. We are focused on QPR, believe me. We know that is always a tricky game for everybody and that is what is important to us. After that we focus on the next one and our capability to finish the season in a strong way depends on just how much we focus on every game.
Yes its true that, back in September, no one would have believed that Arsenal would be in the third place, given the recent results and the depth and supposedly "under-quality" squad. But the team has faced all criticism that they could get, taken all the failures that came and have reached the spot where we are now.

The match is being played as I write, and speaking about the team, we have just one change, Ramsey starts in place of Gervinho. Kos has returned to the starting lineup after having a fitness test. Ox again starts on the bench.

Our London rivals, Chelsea play against Villa at an away match. Not that I care if anyone loses, but it is more important that we keep our consistency and not depend on others to lose matches so that we could move ahead on the table.

Keeping it short again, getting back to the match.
Go Gunners!!

Friday 30 March 2012


I apologise for suddenly vanishing from the blog scene. I have been facing some network problems. Also, due to some health issues, couldn't dust down my computer. However, things are looking better now, I am able to to put on my slippers in the right feet(actually one in the right and other one goes left, see, getting better!).

Since we have a game tomorrow, I will be talking about more on that tomorrow. For now, let me catch up on the world, it's almost as if  I am "Like A New Signing"!

Sunday 25 March 2012

Not just an one man team

Gibbs, Walcott, Arteta, all get on the score sheet.

Apologies for yesterday's missed post. Some problem with the stupid network, just didn't allow me to get through. But there's plenty on the agenda today, some positives and maybe some negatives.

Once upon a time, in the summer of 2011, the pessimist folks had written off the Gunners as just a feeder team, a training centre and probably just a long forgotten legacy. People had made predictions that the team was destined to be nothing more than a mid-table team and probably after 5 matches into the season, had declared the team as relegation material. Just 6-7 months later in the season, and here the Gunners are, not in the relegation bottom 3 but the league top three.

Our two London rivals, Rottenham in 4th and Chelsea in 5th, are 3 and 8 points, respectively, lagging behind us. We still have 8 matches to go in the season, and the strangest things have happened this season, but Arsenal are keeping their feet firmly on the ground. Out of these three, Chelsea have the tightest schedule, given that they are still in the Champions League. If they proceed ahead of the quarter finals, I guess it will be a test of their physical and mental strength. On the other hand, Rottenham have played out what seemed to be the toughest fixtures in the last 10 matches and gaining just one point out of games against Manc and Chelsea.

Arsenal have yet to play Chelsea and Manc this season and, for me, these are the matches that might just decide the finishing positions of these three teams. Maybe this is too far fetched or wishful thinking, however, Manc drew their away match against Stoke last night, and almost lost it, but that leaves them just 12 points ahead of us. They sit at the top ahead on goal difference but Manu have a game in hand. I know 12 points is a pretty decent margin, but who knows, we came were 10 points off Rottenham and now we are 3 ahead of them. It's a possibility, but our focus remains on our current position and as I said in the past, it's only ours to lose.

Coming back to last evening's game. We had just played Everton 3 days back, and that must have drained the players of some juice, but to deliver that kind of performance against Villa was amazing. It's what I call total football and total dominance. Our attacking play was almost accurate. Walcott, for me, gave in a man of the match performance. After taking so much criticism, he has grown in leaps and bounds. Maybe, the team has a new psychologist or it just might be that the are eating good, but whatever it is has added something to Walcott's brains that can keep up with his feet.

At the other wing, Gervinho contributed to both the attack and defense equally. Initially, I thought, Gibbs found it a bit, just a bit, tough to handle Albrighton's pace, but later on Gervinho kept tracking him down and matched him for speed. Not only Gervinho, but Walcott was good in defense too. Gibbs was pretty decent too, both in attack and defense, and his opening goal just showed the multi-dimensional nature of this Arsenal attack. When you look at Arsenal's right flank, it just looks impenetrable with Sagna and Walcott in it. They work around each other beautifully. The link up play between Rosicky and wither of the flanks is just a delight to watch.

Song has been a rock infront of the back four this season. Not only has he been solid defensively and with his interceptions, but his vision has been pin-point with almost 10 assists this season. It's almost as if we would want to forget Cesc in a hurry! When you look at the pass to Walcott which created the second goal, it is just a treat to the eye and I don't think there is a defensive midfielder in the league who can get that many assists.
Arsene says, praising both Walcott for the goal and Song for the pass,
Theo had a very good performance and scored a great goal. You have to give him credit for that. But I would like to give credit to the pass from Song, because it is not the first time he has done that. You do not see many defensive midfielders do that. If you look at the assists that he has made this season, you will see that his numbers are top in Europe.
RVP missed out again on the scoring, but he was not invisible in the game, he, alongwith Rosicky, were the key players in linking up between the midfield and the attack. Though I love to see him score, it's good to see that Arsenal can also gt goals from other parts of the pitch.

Did you see the last minute Arteta strike from the free kick? What am I saying, of course you did! To beat the quality of Shay Given from that kind of distance, he must have put some power through it. The ball finished in the corner and that shows you the precision. Shay Given made an amazing save to a first half strike from Arteta, from outside the box. He also saved one from Rosicky, but the free kick was just to good to be stopped. Later Arsene said,
I prefer it when he takes free-kicks with his laces because he has short feet. Usually the guys who have good insight have bigger, longer feet, and when a guy has short feet like that they are very talented at hitting the ball with their laces. The ball floats a little bit when they take it and I think he is more built to hit the free-kicks like that.
That might be too technical for me, but it's good to know that he knows his players really well and maybe those weren't panic buys after all.

About the negative, Arsene had almost played Kos, until he decided to pull him out of the team during warm up. He said that Kos had some problem with his knee and couldn't move after the warm up. Djourou replaced Kos, and did pretty alright except for an elbow in the nose from Emile Heskey that almost prompted another defensive replacement!

So that's 21 out of 21 now, and we have every reason to believe that we can keep our position, even if we have a couple of tough game. Seeing the way this team has shaped up in the last month, I strongly feel that we will keep our place.

Go Gunners!

EPL countdown: 8 to go!

Friday 23 March 2012

Looking "Forward".

It's strange that we didn't have a match for 10 days and here we are still basking in our third spot take over, and already it's time for the next game. Just in the space of two days, we play against Aston Villa at home. There are sure to be some tired legs in our side, but the spirits would be on a high. It's obvious that some Arsenal critics will credit our win against Everton to being a whim or plain luck, but we have had all the bad luck in the past and it's time that the fortunes turn around. Anyways, I absolutely don't think that the Everton win was down to luck, in fact, we were unfortunate to not get the penalty and some other crucial decisions. But lets not crib about that, we have our critics to talk about such stuff.

Arsene's decision to rest Ox might have been criticised if the Wednesday night game had gone the other way. But now that we have won it, I guess it was a very good decision, and he might be starting against Villa. Maybe Benayoun will get in the starting line up too. He was played against Liverpool without effect, but he might be useful against a smaller opposition, no offense to Villa. Don't forget, it was him who got off the bench to score the winner in the dying minutes, in the the reverse fixture. Gervinho has been getting off the bench in recent matches, but I think he still hasn't got over his penalty miss in the ACN finals. I can understand that, why don't you ask Szczesny and Kos if they have gotten over last years Carling cup final, and then maybe we can blame Gervinho.

What we need right now is a confident team, and we might see most of the side from Everton's game. There were no major injuries from that game. You just want to be sure that there are no pulls, or cramps or tears after playing 2 matches in 4 days. Last thing we need in such a crucial period is an injury. But then again, we also have had all the bad luck with our injuries too. Still, our central defense is a bit slim and looking beyond Kos and TV, you are staring at Djourou and Squillaci. Santos feels quite sorry for his team's defensive injuries these season, he says,
Both Kieran and I were injured at the time. When you can see that the team needs you but there’s nothing you can do about it, well it gives you a sour taste.
It was the first surgery for him, and they can be a bit tough to take sometimes,
It was very hard. When I found that I would need an operation it was very hard news to take. I was in the changing room when they told me and I cried.
But the good news is that he is back to full fitness now and ready to play whenever called upon. I won't be holding my head in my hands if I knew that we don't have Santos in our line-up but another regular left back, but it is always good to know that we have a fitter full back available, if needed. With all our full back problems this season, it is welcome to have two fit full backs waiting in the ranks.

It's a bit early to talk about probable line-ups for Arsenal or Villa, but whatever team they choose, it sure will be an interesting affair. Aston Villa, though a bit blunt after the departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing in the summer, they still have some decent players in their ranks. Their defensive record is not too bad too, with a world class goal keeper in the form of Shay Given. The most notable point is that Aston Villa have the highest number of draws for a Premier League side this season, i.e., 12. We almost drew the last time we faced them, only for a last gasp winner by Benayoun. But we are looking at a completely different Arsenal side now. I don't see too many goals in this match, with Villa's decent defense and our improved collective resilience.

Sagna says,
The Villa game is massive. Tottenham are just one point behind us, but we were 12 points behind them in February. We are here now and we deserve to be here, but we have to give even more. We can't think about 'what if?' - we just have to give our best and look after our team, not concentrate on the others.
Harry said yesterday that, and I guess most of the Rottens are saying this, that they don't worry about Arsenal leaping over them in the table, but you know that they most be shivering in their tights now that even Chelsea are hot on their tail. What more can you expect from a team who are relying on the Gunners' failures for them to get back to the third spot. But that's that, we still have nine more to play, and the competition is hotter than ever. If only the top two were a bit closer, this race would have gone to the wire. You can only imagine what the next season will show us! With some additions in the summer, there's every chance that this Arsenal team will go for everything in the next season.

Arsene said at the press conference,
We will not be a lot on the market, quantity-wise I mean. Quality-wise, certainly. But the maximum number of the squad is 25. We have many players out on loan and we will take a gamble if we find top, top quality of course.
We still have Jack, who has not played this whole season. Ryo is hot at Bolton, and he will comeback next season with some valuable PL experience next season. I know fans are not too crazy about Diaby, however, I remember when he was bought by Arsenal. A lot of top sides were after him, Chelsea mostly, but we secured him. And for all the comparisons to Paddy, he hasn't proved to be quite the hit with his injuries plaguing him. But I still have a feeling that he has still a lot to give to this Arsenal team.

Anyways, back tomorrow for team news and starting line up predictions. TGIF!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Vermilicious strike puts Arsenal to third!

Verminator strikes early!
5 league goals this season, better than some strikers :P

Ahhh bliss!! I didn't think that the third spot would come to us earlier than expected. Apart from a RVP goal, I think we pretty much got everything we desired from last night's game(s). Three points, a clean sheet, competitors dropping points! It feels good that finally everything is falling in place, the right place, for Arsenal.

It was a tense affair at Goodison Park, and it always is, but so have been some of our recent matches. I wonder if David Moyes could get his hand on a pot full of cash to spend on new players, Everton would have been on a completely different level. They gave us a fair chase, and for a few dubious decisions, we had better control over the game.

In stark contrast to the reverse fixture, where we scored the winner in the dying seconds of the match, here we scored in the waking minutes of the match. We started where we left off against Newcastle, Verminator scoring the winner there and last night too. It was strange, when 4 fully grown Evertonians could not stop a leaping TV! But such has been the fire and desire in this team lately, its ironic that this fire feels refreshing.

We kept the pressure from the beginning, and had some decent chances. Ramsey missed a chance that an injured Diaby wouldn't miss. But stayed close to Everton and we were hanging by the one goal lead. They got stronger and were successful in keeping the ball better. That is when they started creating chances, and one such fell to Drenthe, which he shot past Szczesny in the far corner, only to be ruled out by the offside flag. Replays clearly showed that he was onside and it was a legitimate goal, but fortune favored the brave. I think last night's match might have established a record or something for most number of offsides in a match. Arsenal kept a very tight backline, and more often than not frustrated Jelavic and Drenthe by keeping them offside.

I guess the second half made things even when a penalty, for Drenthe's foul on Rosicky, was ruled out and there was no more guilt. Everton continued to build chances in the second half, but with no luck. Though they had most of the position, Szczesny had very little to do. The credit goes to some terrific defending and amazing team work by players who covered for their mates when they were out of position. I don't think I have seen such fantastic team movement, maybe except for Barcelona, who are on a different level altogether.

Kos and TV were as good as any defensive partnership, and Kos applauded his team's effort defensively,
It is not just the four defenders, it is all the team. Robin van Persie put in a lot of effort to help us too so all of the team defend and we attack together too. We have to take that into the next game.
I think we saw a different RVP in the match, who didn't score but got the cross through a corner for the goal, he was always in support of his team mate's. That was the perfect role played by a number 10 and that's how he should be. Walcott, though starting on the wings, got a bit more central. Still he had a quite match and was generally called for defensive duties to support Sagna, who has been a rock in the defense after returning from his injury. Gibbs, had a decent match and handled his flank quite well to defend along with the regular contributions he made to the attack.

We must have gotten a bit used to close matches, but maybe the team needs to convert the chances that they are creating and obviously the creativity has increased in the past month. But as we start the countdown towards the end of the season, we need to focus more. Our decisions in the final third need to be pin point, we need to be more lethal and unforgiving when converting the created chances.

Fortunately, our competitors for the 3rd and 4th spot, both dropped points. Rottenham, I was guessing maybe they would drop against Chelsea, but it came much earlier when they drew with Stoke. If it wasn't for a late strike, they might have lost all three points. Chelsea opened the scoring, but conceded two towards the end of the game. So that gives us a 6 point advantage over Chelsea and 1 point advantage over Rottenham, with a better goal difference. Arsene has still ordered his team to focus on each game,
We want to keep going. We must keep our humility and focus and fight for each other. That is what we had to do here.
The third spot is now ours to lose, but I have a feeling that, this time, we won't let ourselves down.

Here's what 'arry had to say,
It's all to play for. We can still finish above Arsenal. There's a long way to go yet: there's everything to play for."Arsenal won't win every game, will they? I want to finish third still.
Sure Harry, we'll see! I don't think St. Totteringham's Day is too far now!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Everton vs Arsenal: Three more, we score!

Life is like that, unpredictable, unknown. All you can do is prepare, for the things you can predict and still it doesn't fail to amaze you. I have learned that the hard way, in the last couple of days and maybe, so has Fabrice Muamba. But there is a world of difference in what you know and still ignore, and what you can't avoid.

Wenger has been raving, since the start of the season, about the quality of this team and not until long ago, did we see that, that was actually true. We have reaped the benefits of having a fitter team and regular players playing in regular positions. No one could have predicted the injuries that happened and it was plain luck, or the lack of it. Maybe we don't have "super-quality", as Wenger likes to call it, barring a few, what we have is some very good players who play their best football at Arsenal.

Last year this time, we were going through a terrible collapse after the Carling cup loss, winning only 3 from the last 14, which saw us lose ground in the title race. Maybe that has served as a boost for players this time, and is responsible for our current winning streak.
Arsene says,
This season, it's completely different. We were completely out of the top four, we have come into it on a good run and now of course it is taking advantage of that momentum.
Arsenal still have some tough fixtures left this season. But so do Rottenham and Chelsea. Out of the three, probably Chelsea have the toughest run of fixtures and they are also involved in the Champions League. They have come back well in the last couple of games, proceeding ahead in the Champions League and FA Cup, after the departure of AVB. Rottenham have still Bolton to play, since that match was suspended due to Muamba's injury. I hope all the players play in their right mind and are able to get over that incident.

Arsenal still have ManC and Chelsea to play out of the last 10 games. Both of them are home fixtures, and our recent home form has been outstanding. We have made comebacks in four of the last five games, after going a goal behind. But the team's desire to get us out of that mess has been greater and a reason for our success. Some might say that Arsenal have been lucky to win those games, but if you have seen the games closely you will know how much the team has fought.
Arsene says,
Every time we were behind, we showed outstanding spirit. It is not fantastic for your emotions but overall when it finishes well you accept that you suffer. If that is the price we have to pay we are ready, but you just want to continue with the same attitude because I don't believe in luck too much on that side of the game. If you come back it is because you fight and if you fight you have a chance to come back. So let's fight first.
And it's true, as I said in the beginning, life is unpredictable, all we can do is fight.

The team for tonight's game against Everton is a bit  tricky to predict. But first, the news, TV had some problem with the calf after the last game, but he looks fine. Even Diaby is fit, but Arsene says that he'll play for the Reserves against Liverpool, maybe for an hour. Andre Santos is match fit and available for selection, as he was against Newcastle. I guess, Gibbs will keep his place, Arsene wouldn't want to deviate too much from his winning combination. Other than those, Squillaci is back in training, yes yes with Arsenal. Coquelin might be back soon, but still some weeks from training.

All signs are positive for Jack, but Arsene is reluctant to name a date of his return. I don't know he is training or not, his scans have been positive. Some news suggest that he might return till April. Iam sure Arsene wouldn't want to risk Jack in any way, unless absolutely needed. However, it'll be interesting to see how eager Jack is, to get back on the pitch, given that the Euros are around the corner.

Goodison Park has always been a tough place to go to. The fans are very passionate about their club and have always stuck with the team. The noise inside is immense, and it'll be the first time Arteta will be returning to his former club's home ground. Maybe their will be a roaring applause for their former hero, maybe not, it waits to be seen. Everton are on a good run too, being beaten only once in the last 11 matches. Arsenal will have to look out for the cross field passes for which Everton are famous for. They have a very good left back in Leighton Baines, and Sagna should be kept busy or the vice-versa. I think both are equally efficient defensively and lethal in attack. Baines might still have Walcott to contain.

Players to watch out for Arsenal are  Royston Drenthe, the loanee from Real Madrid, Fellaini, and I know Tim Cahill has not been at his best off late, but he is still a threat in the air. Chelsea will be playing away against ManC, and it will be interesting to see the result of that match. Whatever it is, the momentum should not be lost, there is very little room for squirming, and the focus has to be on the third spot now.

My starting XI for today:
Sagna - Kos - TV -Gibbs
       Rosicky - Arteta
   Walcott -  RVP - Ox

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Media Shame!!! + #Fabrice, get well soon mate!

Wake up media!

Doesn't feel good to be cut off from writing, but the circumstances demanded so. Have had a rough couple of days physically and striving really hard to get back to normal. Feeling a bit breathless, I think my lungs responded late to the shocking late winner last week. But feeling a bit back to normal now. It wasn't as bad as this, but I got out alright. My prayers with Fabrice Muamba for a healthy recovery!

I haven't been updated much about any news in the last couple of days, and now that I have returned, it doesn't look too different, apart from a boring ManU vs Wolves EPL match and some FA cup matches. Liverpool and  Chelsea both made it to the FA cup semis, and it would be interesting to see those. For a change, Torres scored in the quarter final against Leicester, well not exactly the opposition you want to brag about scoring against, but I think he'll take a goal even against Stamford Chess Group under-15 team. If that, I think Chamakh should get a game too, just to see if the global curse on these strikers has been lifted or not. Or maybe, just wishful thinking.

I have come across articles stating 5,10,15 reasons for RVP to leave Arsenal. Firstly let me make this clear, I think one reason is enough for any player to leave the club, that is, if a player wants to leave, he leaves. Don't give that crap about making more money, or winning more trophies and ambition impotency. Firstly, I agree RVP should get a pay rise. But just because some money bags at Manc or Manu are getting paid over the hill, doesn't mean that RVP is under paid. Yes he is one of the league's best, agreed, doesn't mean you can hold that ransom for more money. Don't forget, RVP was taken by Arsenal at a time when even his manager at Feyenoord was a bit worried about his attitude. Even many of the top clubs didn't want to sign him for that. Arsenal took him, they have seen him through injuries, and not just once, for every season he has been here before 2011-12. I will happily give RVP the salary he wants, if it fits in the financial fair play. "The name on the front is always important than the name on the back"

Let's look at how the other teams have fared with spending the whole Fort Knox on players.
Manchester City:
-Recorded a total expenditure of £1billion last year and more than half of that in loss.
-Toure, Adebayor,, Aguero, Silva, Kompany etc. getting paid £200K+
-Still trying to spend on getting players on board.
-Half of the players unhappy with lack of play time, some of them refuse to play in matches, so ego problems.
-No major players lost to other clubs in transfers.

Manchester United:
-Spent £20m on Ashley Young
-Spent £20m on De Gea
-Spent £15m on Phil Jones
-Still had to bring a player out of retirement
-No players lost in transfers.
-Lack of playing time for a £30m striker, a joint top scorer last season.

-None of the clubs are in contention for a top trophy other than EPL, still both struggling there too.

-Out from group stages of Champions League
-Out of Europa league too, after bragging about the finals.
-Scrapping wins here and there.

- Lost 5 top players(including Fabregas & Nasri), in summer transfers.
- Bought 9 players equivalent to the price of Sergio Aguero
- Arteta has scored more goals than Ashley Young or Samir Nasri in the league.
- Went from 17th league spot after 5 games, to 4th spot (and potentially3rd) after 28 games.
- Almost made the most famous comeback in Champions League history.
- RVP, top striker in the league and third in place to win the Golden shoe.

People have been talking about lack of ambitions, and lack of spending. But they forget that Arsenal spent £13m on a top talent in The Ox. He has scored 2 league goals in 9 matches. Nasri has 3 in 21 and Ashley Young has 4 in 18. Don't forget he is just 18!. There is difference between spending blindly and spending sensibly. If you talk about ambition, anyone who saw the Rottenham, Newcastle, Milan matches, would have to think otherwise.

Last time I said that there was a not a single article in criticism of these "Spend big and low returns" clubs. At least a mention about the way these two clubs shamefully crashed out of a competition which is only second elite in Europe. But no, they come up with criticism for Arsenal who have the best record in the past two months, whose manager has won the "Manager of the month" last Month and who is the "Manager of the Decade"!

It's nothing but pitiful from the media. Hopefully they can get out of their swivel chairs in the basement of their office and put out their necks high enough and remove their horse blinders, just to take notice. Please don't be the frog in the well!

Saturday 17 March 2012

Tipping scales..

It is a drag this Saturday with Arsenal not playing this weekend and Wednesday doesn't seem to come soon enough. I have been racking the net since morning, and I guess with all the success Arsenal are enjoying recently, the media has something less to criticise about.

Surprisingly, their no news about the media's pets, ManU&C, no words of criticism, you would think that at least there would be words of consolation for those two clubs. I guess Evra had a guilty feeling and he admitted his team's ineptness to compete in Europe this season. Thankfully that guy got something right!

We still have some positive vibes coming out from the team. Wenger has revealed that pressing is the key to Arsenal's recent success. Keeping possession and passing is Arsenal's style of play, and they need to win back the ball to keep that momentum. That was thing which was majorly missing from Arsenal's season, and with the resurgence of Rosicky, Arsenal's pressing and possession football looks more free flowing.

Milan and Rottenham were spectators to the pressing game recently. Surprisingly, after some analysis, it's been said that Arsenal did not necessarily get through more work, but more effective work. Efficiency has been another keys, in many others, for those performances.
Arsene says,
No they are not covering more ground, but it is not only about distances, it is about doing it together. It is the timing of doing it together that is vital, because you can run even more if you don't do it together. I believe we put the effort in from the first to the last minute. We don't look at the result, we just want to win.

At the start of the season it was difficult to understand where exactly will the creativity be coming from after Fabregas and Nasri left. Ramsey was still learning the trade, Jack looked to be out for long term and Rosicky, Arshavin had simply lost their touch. Ramsey got a bit overplayed, with Rosicky not getting much game time and Diaby was still being a  subject for medical research.

Even the fans have added to these performances, the singing, the cheering and the chants, that is what home teams thrive on. If you have looked at the recent matches at Emirates, the atmosphere has been awesome. As Arsene said, the players are giving the fans right vibes. But it had to come from the players first. The fans have been very loyal to their club and they just weren't getting enough in return. Lot of people have left, just complaining about the fans. Hopefully, they can realise that it is a two way deal. The fans have always been and always will be behind their club, the team just has to show that they worthy of that, which is what they have done and the fans are responding to it.
Gibbs says,
You can see how much it means to the fans and we need to continue that now to keep the atmosphere going. When the Emirates is like that, other teams can't play because it is too difficult. We feel like we have a lot more power when the atmosphere is kicking like that.
 There were some "out of the way" rumor about Alessandro Del Piero being watched by Arsenal. I don't know how much truth there is to that news. Unless, Arsenal scouts are holidaying in Italy, There doesn't seem any base to the fact that Arsenal might be interested in a 37 year old, and no offense to Del Piero. He still looks fit and still has some of his magic touch, but he simply doesn't fit in Arsenal's transfer policy.

The Podolski rumors keep appearing every now and then. After everyone, player, agent and club, having agreed on personal and social terms upon this deal, now everyone is denying that any deal is in place. Last week it was suggested that maybe Podolski had also undergone a medical with Arsenal. But he has denied of any medical having been done, anywhere in the world. Just has been a huge merry-go-round for the media.

J.Y.Park, an Arsenal player, has been relieved from the pressure of having to joining a mandatory military service for his country after two years from joining Arsenal. Initially, that was the understanding, however, South Korea's Military Manpower Administration announced the former Lille player would not have to join up with the force until 2022 because he had a 10-year residency visa from Monaco. But the trickiest part is, will he still get regular chances, after having played 2 reserve games already this month and scoring in both of them, maybe that's a knock on the door??

Don't count the chickens!

I want to draw your attention to some statements/claims made by some people this season and how true they hold as we move towards the end of the season.

Statement/Claim I (Manu manager on spending money to build a team): We are building a team to beat Barcelona and we want to be the best in Europe.
Reality: Manu couldn't even pass the Champions League group stages, after having beaten comprehensively by Basel. Now they are even out of Europa, after a worse defeat against Athletic Bilbao!

Statement/Claim II (Evra talks about chances in the Europa League): Europa will be a two horse race, between City and United.
Reality: Both horses out of the race.

Statement/Claim III (Vincent Kompany on Europa League finals):A ManC vs Manu Europa final would be bigger than the Champions League final.
Reality: What a pity! You need to actually get through to the finals for that to happen.

Moral: Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

Teams have grown over-confident of themselves, under estimating opponents. Just because you are a Champions League team, doesn't automatically make you the best team in Europa League, remember you are CL drop outs! Hope the reality has shaken them and opened their eyes to the world around.

Normally, I wouldn't have delved in to other teams misery, but Arsenal have been criticised so many times in the past for their methods and policies that there was a need for a reality check. Maybe EPL is the best league in Europe, maybe even the world, but when it comes to playing football, I think Spanish and Italian teams do it beautifully. We have been called as a "training club",  "a group of kids", by a lot of people and I remember Evra saying this during the last season. I am sure he would have realised last night that his adulthood is not going to win him any matches, after suffering a torrid time from Athletic B.'s wingers.Anyways, the results say it all and both Manchester teams are only after one thing now, that is the EPL title.

Back to Arsenal, there have been a lot of positive aura surrounding the club right now and people are talking about the new found belief at Arsenal. The fans have been getting behind their team a lot and the support after the recent displays has been roaring, I have never heard the Emirates being so loud!
Arsene says,
When the fans feel that the vibes are right they stand behind the team and support the team. With the recent history of the team having been more positive, the fans have more reason to believe that they can support the team and that they will win the game. But the dynamic always has to come from the team.
I am glad the team has responded well to criticism, and there is only so much you can handle. The team needed to have that belief in themselves about their ability, and that's the biggest achievement for them. It was not so long back when some low-lives had ruled Arsenal out of a Champions League spot for next year, and here they are ready to snatch the third spot from another over confident bunch of people.

Chelsea were the only English team to show some progress in Europe, after qualifying for the quarter finals. The draws were announced and Madrid have a fairly easier target against APOEL while Barca drew against A.C. Milan in the quarters. While Chelsea have a tricky opponent in Benfica, the Bavarians will play against Marseille. It feels a bit odd with Chelsea being the only English team to proceed out of the last 16.

But now, Arsenal can concentrate solely on the Premier League, which will give time for the players to rest after every match. Arsene has cautioned against taking opponents lightly and focus on what is important, which is carrying the momentum in to further games.
He says,
Sometimes there are games that you think will be difficult but they are slightly easier than expected, and sometimes the easy game is harder than expected. You don't make any plans. The only thing we know is what is needed from us: to be at our best no matter what people say about the situation.

If you look at the matches we have lost this season, many of those would have been expected to be won by us quite easily, but still we lost those. Although, it looks a completely different team now. It looks more ruthless and unforgiving.
Perry Groves, a former Gunner, says,
The resilience is back after the disappointing results against AC Milan [in the first leg] and Sunderland. They are playing the Arsenal way and they have that bit of belief.
Suddenly all these positive statements are coming out of every corner, and it's refreshing to hear some good stuff about this great club. Surely the players are aware of this adulation and the history that surrounds this club. Hope they continue what they are doing and bring back the golden days to the Emirates.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Smiles and Frowns.

A laugh is a smile that bursts.
 Here I am still trying to get off work, trying to shed some of the load off my back and still people around are piling upon. Perfect time to get to writing and get my Arsenal cells thinking. Although nothing much is happening around(I have reloaded the whole of the internet at least 50 times today), there are some news here and there.

Calling news as "news" doesn't make it any newer. Second match against the Magpies this season and either of the teams players is not happy about the other teams players. Last time it was Gervinho who bear the brunt of Joey Barton's theatricals and bullish behavior, obviously that left behind a sour taste in the whole of the Arsenal camp. You would think that after having a player like Barton in their team, Newcastle should be normal to that kind of behavior, yet RVP's cracking laughter on Tim Krul, according to Jonas Gutierrez, were not the characteristics a human would display! But wasting time adjusting the ball for a goal kick is the mark of a sportsman eh? Shouldn't that be covered in "Goalkeeping for Dummies"?
Gutierrez says,
I don't care about the football, I'm talking about the person. When you have people who do that, it's not right.
Well, we care about the football, because that is what the fans are there to watch. No one would pay to watch Tim Krul pick up the ball, 1 Mississippi... 2 Mississippi...3 Mississippi...think over where to place it, 1 Mississippi... 2 Mississippi...3 Mississippi. It's not a freaking dolphin show! I guess he must be bit frustrated with himself, having run around Sagna, without the ball all night.

Mikel Arteta has expressed his excitement of returning back to Goodison Park, this time to play against the team where he spent six and a half years.
He says,
I really can’t wait to go there, and I hope I’ll get a good reception because I gave Everton everything I had in my time there and I love the club. Everyone there was great to me and, even though I left, hopefully people understood. There’s no reason for any of us to be unhappy with each other.
He's right, there should be no reason for the Everton fans to be crossed with him. Obviously they would have been sad to see one of their top players leave, but at least it's not for more money. He left for a greater challenge, for Champions League football and playing amongst Europe's elite. Unlike some players, who just say that they are leaving for success but the smell of money beats the smell of success, he has done quite well for Arsenal. There is hardly any difference in the wages he was getting at Everton and his wages at Arsenal. Some players who left Arsenal for stuffing their pockets, learned the hard way that, maybe, they are not quite the talent they assess themselves to be for demanding such wages.

There was some team news this evening and Arsene Wenger has revealed that Santos is fit after playing 60 minutes for the Reserves team. Diaby too might play for them next week, and he needs some game time to regain confidence and fitness and the first team cannot afford to test those things at such a crucial time. Wilshere is said to be recovering quite well and there was scan done which showed some positive signs, but AW did not mention a date for his return. Even Coquelin will be back to fitness in couple of weeks. But the biggest blow is that Per will definitely be out for the season and that leaves us a bit thinner on the defensive front. However, it's good to see that after a tough schedule of games, we have come out without any injuries and we have players returning back, which gives us some options on the bench.

The Reserves vs West Brom game was played last night and the Reserves won it 3-0 with goals from Park, Gnabry and Aneke. Park scored his second goal for the Reserves and maybe he will be knocking on the door now, but I wouldn't bet on Arsene putting him in the starting XI straightaway. What's stopped Arsene from giving him regular playing time is a puzzler. Maybe, it is RVP's amazing form this season, but clearly things are not falling in place for the South Korean international. Chamakh played for 69 minutes and came off without scoring a goal, although he did provide an assist to Aneke for the third goal.

As we move towards the weekend, there is an odd feeling about Arsenal not playing any games, but a welcome rest will do some good.

Season countdown:10 to go

Much needed rest.

Just the start of the week Arsenal wanted and a much needed rest of 10 days staring at them. We don't play this weekend due to Everton's FA cup match against Sunderland, which means there are sure to be some tired Everton players after the match. Still they will be fired up against us, with their fantastic run ending last night in the Merseyside derby, where Gerrard scored all 3 for Liverpool.

Rosicky spoke yesterday about the importance of keeping the focus, lest they want to lost ground in the league now. He has been instrumental in the past month and his return to form couldn't have come at a better time. We are definitely a bit short in the squad and he has given us that added edge in the midfield.

Another player who has looked better in the past 2-3 games is Walcott. Maybe it is the competition from Ox or maybe he was just paying his dues, but Arsenal will definitely appreciate the contribution. Arsene stressed that he is just 22 and people forget that he is still young. Although he has got a lot of opportunities and Arsene has kept his undeterred belief in him.

Walcott has spoken about his admiration for RVP, after having provided several assists to him this season.
He says,
Everything is going his way and that is great to see. The most important thing is that he is injury free and it is great to see him when he is not injured at all. When I was on the treatment bed alongside him it was such a shame to see so much talent wasted. He has made up for lost time, I am sure of that, and it is massive. Without a doubt he has to be player of the year.
I agree completely, no other player at Arsenal, or for that matter, in the league, has looked as brilliant as RVP and if asked, I would definitely want him to be the player of the year. It was a shame that he was not nominated in the Ballon d'Or, after a fantastic run in 2011. For me he is right up there with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. You just keep on wondering what would have been of him had he not been troubled with so many injuries in the past.

Even though injuries are a part of the modern day football, they seem to favor Arsenal players more. It has been a horrible season for Arsenal injury wise. The results in January tell you the tale of how much Arsenal missed their regular full backs, and having all four of them out the game for a considerable time is just plain unlucky.  But now, after all of them have recovered, things are looking positive again. Santos will feature tonight in a reserves game, as will Chamakh and Park.

It is important to keep these players match fit since anymore injuries to anyone, and especially RVP, is going to be very tough. Though we have 2 international strikers other than RVP, one of them a captain for his national team, Arsene simply doesn't have enough confidence in them to offer them a string of regular match time.

Speaking of strikers, there is again a lot of speculation surrounding a deal having been agreed with Podolski. Although, both Arsenal and Podolski denied any talks between them, the rumors just don't seem to fade. The media, going one step further, claim that the deal might be completed this month. For me, any deal that is going to happen, now or in the future, is going to affect us only in the next season. So I suggest we better keep off them and focus on the current situation and enjoy our race to the third spot.

Walcott has warned Rottenham to look out for Arsenal, who are breathing down their necks. The points gap is just 1 now and we are level on goal difference with them too. Both teams have some crucial games still to be played in the season ahead. The team that is able to keep their focus and mental strength, will triumph. The Champions league spots are still up for grabs and the deciding factor is going to be the desire of wanting to be in that position and the dream of playing European football.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

RvP+Verminator, Captain Fantastic & Vice-captain Ballistic!

Some crazy game this football.It might just be the next thing after daily soaps to portray all kinds of emotions. We have been through hell this season, and the blazing form in the past five matches has seen us rise to the fourth spot and knocking on door for third spot. First time in the Premier League history that a team has four consecutive wins coming from behind. It's not the win alone, but the manner with which they have been achieved.Of course, when you hit rock-bottom, there's only one place you can go, and that is up.

We started the game with our regular passing game, but Newcastle looked comfortable too and apart from a close chance missed by RVP(yes, he's human too), there weren't any breathtaking moments. Newcastle got the lead on the half hour mark from a neat finish by Ben Arfa. It was TV who lost the ball cheaply and then Kieran Gibbs over committed himself defending against Ben Arfa, who came inside and slotted the ball, beating Szczesny at the near post. Though no keeper likes to be beaten at the near post, there was little Szczesny could do. Maybe he was blinded for a minute because of Gibbs, but credit to Ben Arfa for the finish.

If this match had been played by our dispirited side, in January, it would have been very difficult to get back into the game and the opposition could have easily rolled over us. But it has been a refreshing last month, the players have shown great spirit and tenacity to not let such situations drown them. Amazingly, after giving away the goal, even before I could say, "Oh no, not again!", RVP equalized at the other end. Rosicky laid a neat pass wide towards Walcott, who hit a low cross to RVP. RVP, as you would expect took one touch to disorient Williamson and another calm touch to get away from him and he equalised for Arsenal. If you think the two touches were brilliant, the goal was just phenomenal. The composure and balance in that finish was simply exquisite, no wonder it was RVP who got the goal.

Walcott and Rosicky were brilliant throughout the game. It was a testimony to Arsene's persistent belief in both of them. Rosicky has been scorching the pitch since the last five games and deservedly earned his contract extension. Walcott on the other end was just to hot to handle for, firstly Santon, and later on after he got subbed, Perch. Both of them just couldn't come in terms with his movement and the runs he made behind them. Almost every time he got the ball, it looked like it could end up in the goal. He must have given at least half a dozen crosses in the penalty area and it was surprise that RVP missed a couple of them and Rosicky one.

Ox was virtually non-existent in the first half but came around in the second. His shot on the volley, outside the box, after controlling the ball brilliantly on his chest, missed the goal by inches. It was glimpse of the talent that he possesses and all that is to come in the future. Arteta controlled the midfield nicely and played alongside Song very well.
Arsene praised his team for their "never-say-die" attitude,
Certainly the fact we have done it before helped us. Even when we were 1-0 down we just kept going and we feel now at the moment in the team we just have that complete and total commitment to do as well as we can and give absolutely everything.
We kept pushing Newcastle behind, and looked likely to score the second winner. Our first half ended with the scores leveled at 1-1. In the second half, we picked up where we left off. Most of our attacks came from the wings, either from the full backs or the wingers. Maybe that is why Newcastle couldn't put a string of attacks together. They tried to catch us on the break, but they were intercepted in most of their plays. Rosicky showed offered that extra creativity while attacking, and was equally tight while defending and winning back the possession. While assessing his own performance, he said,
I am very happy. I wanted to continue here and I am enjoying it very much so I am glad that I am staying. I am trying my best and enjoying the run of games that I am playing. Sometimes in the past it has been difficult when you play once in two weeks, sometimes it is not easy. You can see now that I have the rhythm of the games and that is what I needed. As you can see I think I am contributing well and I want to continue like that.
Arsenal got into the tricky period where it could have gone either way, but we kept up the tempo and offered very little to Newcastle. Krul tried to push the minutes, by prolonging his goal kicks, free kicks etc.
RVP tried to get him moving a couple of times and Webb had to interfere. But Arsenal were not ready to look at the things that were going against them. They were given 5 minutes of injury time to win 3 points, which was largely due to Newcastle's time wasting tactics.

The first four minutes saw 2 chances being defended by Newcastle. In the last minute of stoppage time, we got off on the break and RVP led the counter attack. Song took over and let RVP go forward. He passed the ball wide to Walcott, who made no mistake with the cross, but just when it looked to have missed everyone, including the keeper, TV had ran the length of the pitch and offered that extra body in Newcastle's penalty area and got the equaliser. He showed great commitment in making that run, especially, after a toiling 94 minutes. 10 goals from 50 odd games is a very good record for a defender!

Once again it was a last gasp winner from Arsenal and though my lungs don't appreciate such tense moments, I very well do. Strangely, this time there was a feeling that there was winner coming, with the assault that Arsenal launched on Newcastle in injury time. The celebration just showed how much Arsenal desired this. RVP and his international team mate, Krul, had a go at each other after the goal. Though the reason for that was not known, both of them got an yellow for their behavior.

The recent displays have shown burning desire in this team, that was missing in our poor run during January. But with our fullbacks out injured during that period, it was tough to get through the month. With Arsenal returning to almost full strength, things are looking very positive. I am glad that the team kept their momentum going and hope that they'll continue to fight in every game. We cannot afford any more slip up's in the season. Rosicky has warned his team against complacency,
If we take our foot off the gas then we will pay for it. Newcastle are a good side who are tough to play against, nobody will give you anything for free so we had to fight hard. It is what we are doing and I am enjoying playing in this side very much.
We have a good 10 days rest before we play our next game against Everton. The rest will definitely help in recharging the team and preparing for another spirited performance.

Monday 12 March 2012

Gunners take on Magpies.

It was good long weekend and it gave enough time to recharge those batteries for what lays ahead. Though the beaches help you get your mind off anything, I simply couldn't miss this weekend's action and praying for some specific results. It was more or less adding on to my peaceful time, but all comes down to tonight.

Rottenham dropped points again, and apparently we kick started their downfall couple of weeks ago. They have not been able to get three whole points off a match since we beat them. Actually, they have been unable to conjure even a single point since then. That leaves a potential gap of one point between them and us. That is why a win today will certainly make us contenders for the third spot, not that we weren't already, however our position last month will tell you how far we have made it.

Chelsea had a close win over Stoke, so they too are knocking on the door for the fourth spot, and we definitely cannot abandon that position.Any result in favor of Newcastle will only get them closer to the fourth place. Although we might be the team with the best current form, however, Newcastle have surprised a lot of teams this season and have been pretty consistent.

Newcastle's defense is going to be tough to get through with Coloccini in very good form. A lot of teams have employed negative tactics against Arsenal this season, preferring to defend in their box and catch us on the counter attack. Many of them have been successful and it wont be a surprise if Newcastle do the same. But the defense isn't the only thing to look out, they have a pretty decent midfield and last year's 4-4 would not have been forgotten in a hurry. Not to mention the double barrel of Demba Ba, who has proven to be a wonderful bit of deal for Newcastle being one of the top scorers in the league, and, Cisse, who was bought in the winter window, has settled quite well and scored a couple of goals. TV and Kos will be kept busy by those two.

It is good to see that all of our full backs have returned back from injury. Andre Santos will be available tonight if required and so will be Ramsey and Arteta. Our midfield looked a bit light weight without these two and others were on the brink of exhaustion against Milan. But Wenger would love to keep the momentum going and he has called for more consistency at home. Our last 3 matches at home have seen us score 15 goals and 3 against us. Wenger says,
We can play at a pace that, at the moment, maybe nobody else can sustain. When we are on our roles that is good for the morale of the team. If you look at the times we have reversed games; Villa, Tottenham, Liverpool, Sunderland and now Milan, you would say there is something special in there.
It might sound like bragging and good banter, but it's the truth and also good to see him bragging about his team's recent successes, and why not, if he takes the blame for his team's failures and defends them, he has every right to brag about the success.

The display against Milan would have given the team a renewed confidence and the belief that there is certainly something in this team. We still have some players who have not scored or performed as much as is expected out of them. Gervinho is one of them and he certainly learned his lesson against Newcastle on the opening day of the league. Arsene says,
At Newcastle, he had a bad response to provocation from Barton. He was shocked because he felt he didn't do a lot. But I think he learned his lesson in the first game and it's better than learning after 20 games. It's better to know what you are facing in a new league. If you want to play abroad and work abroad then you have to adapt to the local culture.
We won't be seeing any of Barton tonight after his switch to QPR. So, I am hoping that it'll be a fair game where football could be played peacefully.

It was great to see Ox play in the midfield against Milan and perform like a pro. It was shame he had to limp off because of an injury. Although there is no news about the seriousness of the injury, Wenger has warned against exhausting him and says that he must be used wisely.
He says,
His feet are on the ground but we have to manage him in a responsible way as well. The problem when you have a talented player like that is that everybody wants him to play every single game. If you do that then he will be injured.
Maybe he is being a bit over cautious, but you can't blame Wenger after his recent bad luck with young players getting injured. I am sure Wenger knows how to handle him, and use him when needed. He has the whole future ahead of him, and who better than Wenger to shape that.

The official site reported this morning that Rosicky has signed a new deal. His contract was about to expire in the summer and the signing could not have come at a better time. He has been in fabulous form in the past month and restored that creativity in Arsenal's midfield.
He said,
The manager, my team-mates, the staff and the supporters - everyone plays their part in making this a great Club, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. I believe we have a really talented group of players and, together with the manager, the future looks bright. It's always been my goal to win trophies here at Arsenal, and I will fight hard to achieve my dreams here.
It's nice to see a player feel so much for the club and wanting to achieve success here itself. A refreshing change from players who have left the club for so-called success.

Three points will keep Rottenham on their toes, and Chelsea just out of the top four and put some more gap between Newcastle and us. Let's hope we keep the consistency at home and continue to score those home goals!
Go Gunners!

Thursday 8 March 2012

Peace and quiet!

Happy Holi to everyone! Feels quite peaceful after an amazing 2-3 weeks of great football and total success. We still have time before we start talking and speculating about the next game, the team have had enough of running around, it's time to relax those muscles and build up on that stamina again. While they are at it, I am going to enjoy a peaceful long weekend at the beach too!! Nothing on my mind, not work just plain bliss.

Just the usual rounds of news this morning. A.C. Milan are still trying to get their tail out from between their legs and Arsenal are still bragging about the win and the almost the famous comeback in Champions League history. As far as rumors are concerned, the Podolski one has increased a bit in size and now they are alleging that may be even Cologne have agreed upon a deal with Arsenal. Will just have to wait until summer to find out if it's true, won't we?

Other than, there are also rumors about Mancini revealing openly that he wants RVP to play for him next season, but, who doesn't want him. Right from Al Wasl and all that, to Real Madrid and Barcelona. Who wouldn't want the kind of striker who can score goals almost whenever you want him too? His record has been outstanding for the past one year, he is only the third Arsenal player in the last 40 years to score 25 league goals in a single season!

We don't play this weekend but late on Monday, so we'll have some news about the possible team that will play against Newcastle. Till then I am just going to chill and have a fun time, I suggest you do too!
Happy Women's Day to all the ladies, enjoy!

Keep it peaceful!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Miracles DO happen!

30+ ?? Naah..

Who said miracles don't happen? It was a miracle that A.C. Milan proceeded to the quarter finals, after Arsenal stampeded them in the first half to go 3-0 up. Most of us would have resigned to losing the stop in the last 8, but it was not so impossible after 45 minutes into the game. We just needed a goal to level with Milan, but it was so close.

The reaction of the team and the way they rose to the occasion deserved more than just a win. Having played just 3 days before in what was a very tiring game at Liverpool, it was a massive effort in the first half, but the team overcame that. It has been a very tough two weeks for the players physically and mentally and they have shown enormous mental strength to not let that shadow their spirits. Arsene demanded for a spirited display and the team gave just that.

We needed an early goal to spark things quickly and Kos gave us that just 7 minutes into the game. The players did not show any mercy and walked all over Milan.Their midfield looked a bit light weight and we did pretty well in winning the ball back again each time we lost it. The difference between our past performances and last night's was that, each time we got the ball, we looked to attack. There was seldom any pass that went sideways and most of that was due to some sparkling display's by Rosicky and Ox. Rosicky has looked great since his past couple of performances and has regained that magic touch after his goal against Rottenham. Every time he got the ball, it looked as if it might end up in the back of the net. Who says players beyond their 30's are past their peak!?
Ibrahimovic's post match interview says it all, he reveals,
It's a relief that we're through to the next round. Every time they attacked you started thinking: 'what if they score a fourth goal?'. We won't take anything with us from this game. We just have to learn from our mistakes.
And it's true, they never looked comfortable in the first half. RVP's penalty and the third goal must have definitely made them shiver in their pants. The credit goes to Ox for his brilliant run into the penalty box when the two defenders stop him in his tracks and fouled. He was brilliant throughout the first half and already looks a player heading for the legends list. Pity that he got injured in the second half and had to be substituted. He looked a bit tired and just couldn't give his 100 percent. RVP thumped the penalty into the top corner and not a keeper in the world could have stopped that.

At the end of the first half, the score stood at Arsenal leading 3-0 and there was every reason to believe that we could make it to 4-0 or probably 5-0 too. We started the second half with the same swagger but the Milan players looked a bit organised and tough to break through. The Gunners also got tired, it must have been a pretty exhausting, playing the last few games in a tight schedule. Apart from some chances there wasn't much spark. One such moment was when Gervinho had the ball in the penalty box, he took the opportunity to shoot only for Abbiati to parry the ball at RVP's left foot. He was just a few feet away from goal and had very little time to react and still tried to chip the ball over the keeper. Unfortunately, Abbiati raised his arms in an attempt to make a save and was lucky to stop it from going in. Nobody could believe that RVP didn't score, such has been his form off late that everyone expects anything flying off his foot should land at the back of the net.

After that, we just couldn't recreate the magic, we were losing the ball a bit more than the first half and the exhaustion began to show. Chamakh was substituted to replace Ox and later Park was called on in place of Gervinho, who looked a bit out of touch throughout the game. Besides a couple of runs forward and the shot in the penalty box, he was mostly absent. Our defense did pretty well to keep the Milan attackers away from the goal. They got some pretty good opportunities towards the end of the game but we defended well and kept us in the game till the last moment.

If you would have asked any Arsenal fan before the game, if they'll take a win, they would have happily taken it. But it was disappointing, even after a win, not to go through to the quarter finals. That kind of performance definitely deserved much more, but their was immense pride to be taken from the game. They might regret for not getting an away goal in Milan, but it was lesson learned.
Rosicky said,
I am proud of my team-mates because what we produced today was great football, but it's sad because obviously we are out of the competition. We can go out with our heads held high but we blew it in Milan.
But the performance has given the team new hopes and confidence that they can still do better in the premier league and qualify for the Champions League next season. They will know their capabilities much better and with it will just give belief that they can fight till the end of the season. Last year it was a very forgettable defeat in the Carling cup final that made them lose that confidence and they just collapsed. Last night's match, along with the recent performances, might just do the opposite of that.
Afterwards, Sagna said,
We are fourth now and we have a bit of an advance on Chelsea. We want to put Arsenal back in the Champions League and we are only four points behind Tottenham now. We know we can do it and now we have to win the next game against Newcastle, which is as important as the one against Milan. If we want to qualify for the Champions League we cannot let it go now.
TV reiterated what Sagna said,
It's really important because Arsenal is a team that belongs in the Champions League. We will try to achieve that in the next games and get into the top four. At the moment, after the way we played in the first half against Milan, I am really confident. It's hard to be consistent in top-level football. The team that is the most consistent will win prizes, I believe in that. But we have to be confident that we have the quality in the team and that is what we showed against Milan.
The role of Rosicky is going to be very important in the season ahead and what a time to have discovered his lost form. It was good to see players other than RVP getting on the score sheet, though I would have loved to see him score a couple more yesterday. But there won't be any regrets after this performance. If anything, the fire will be burning more fiercely and I am sure that the team is raring to take on the next opposition. Whatever, fear our reservedness they might have looks certainly gone. Let's hope for a brighter end to this season because God knows that they deserve it!

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Do miracles happen?

Arsenal vs A.C. Milan - Emirates Stadium - 7th Feb 2012, 0115hrs IST

We won't try to get into statistics of how AC Milan have squandered their first leg lead and let themselves down in the second leg. Although, it might serve as a good tonic to relax your nerves and give you that extra hope, it's not a good idea to lay your hopes on those kind of numbers. The fact that almost everyone from our team is talking about wanting to win tonight's game is good enough.

Our squad condition puts us in an uncomfortable position due to the injuries we face. Arteta has been ruled out and needs rest to play on Monday against Newcastle. Rosicky is still doubtful because of a groin strain, and Benayoun is not keeping well, which is a refreshing change from our regular injuries. Add to that, even Gibbs has a groin and calf problem. Worse comes to worst, we might not see, Rosicky or Gibbs, either of them on the pitch. Which means that our formation will have to change and that means including attackers, because I don't see any more midfield cover that we have. We still have Song playing as defensive cover but we will be missing the lynchpin in the midfield.

Wenger has accepted that he might need to shuffle his formation, and experiment with the formation. Given the task on our hands, it might not be a bad idea playing four attackers upfront including, RVP, Walcott, Gervinho and Ox. It will be interesting to see Walcott play behind RVP, but I am not sure if he can spray passes in front of him, he might act more like a second striker. With Gervinho and Ox, we certainly have the width, but the thing is that the defensive cover, in shape of Song, NEEDS to be steady. I won't complain if he repeats the kind of assist he produced against Liverpool, but his main job will remain protecting his defense and linking between them and the attack.

It might not be an ideal scenario but the timing is right. We are having a great run, and who knows what we might achieve with the right attitude. It has been long time since I have seen Wenger so excited and charged up to win the game. Just a month back we were looking to win the fourth place trophy and here we are talking about 5-0 and the third spot and so on. Maybe that's what couple of good games and a "Manager of the month" trophy can do to you.
Arsene says,

It is not an argument for us. We want to have a real go tomorrow, we want to make it possible. I would not be very credible to tell you we want to score five goals and then leave Robin van Persie out.
Wenger said that he might even try to use six strikers if needed. Frankly, I don't see them playing all at one time, but you never no, if the need is absolutely there, why not? But at least a win here would add to our already boosted confidence. The thing is that, even Milan are on a good run especially Ibrahimovic after his hat-trick in the Serie A. If you remember the first leg, he didn't exactly play as the lone striker, which means our defense will have to keep an eye on him. I don't think there is any need for them to play high up, considering we will be having lot of attacking options.

Arsene reminded of the times when this has been done before, he says,
Sometimes when you made a big score, the difficulty is always psychological problems. When you have made a big difference you think you just need to turn up and make sure you defend well. And the other team has nothing to lose so they just go for it.
The point is that, we have not much to lose. Of course, we will miss out on a quarter final berth, but then look at the positives. We could concentrate more on our league games and about the third spot, so that we ensure Champions League for next season. We have seen this team, more precisely RVP, do unbelievable things this season, and no one can blame them for believing that we could go through. A win would be the minimum requirement, but we need to make sure that even if we don't go through, the manner of the win should do our confidence enough good. If anything, the criticism has only brought the team closer and if our main players react positively, it will definitely reflect on others.

My prediction and formation for the team would be..
Sagna - Kos - TV - Gibbs
   Walcott - Rosicky
Ox - RVP - Gervinho

There we go, nothing to lose, everything to gain. Maybe I am too optimistic, but a goal each from our front five would do just fine!

-Ryo wins Bolton's footballer of the month.

Monday 5 March 2012

Time to stand up.

Good times!
 Just one more day to go before we entertain Milan at home. Before that, we have some good news and some bad, but we are used to the bad getting worse so no surprises there.  Let's start with the bad first, you are the judge if it is bad or worse. Not so surprisingly, we have some injuries, having played meaningless international friendlies and league games within a gap of three days so it's understandable. Gibbs and Benayoun, both are injured, but it still remains to be seen if they are fit enough to play tomorrow. Diaby, after making his annual appearance, is back to his hamstring problems, again, it remains to be seen if he will be fit for Milan. Arteta was injured against Liverpool, but survived the onslaught by Henderson and it is not as bad as it looked on the pitch when he was stretchered off.
He says,
It must have looked very serious to everyone as I left the pitch on a stretcher, but I'm pleased to say that I'm fine now and hope to be back on the pitch very soon.
And I really hope that he is back for the Champions League, without him, the midfield just looks to light-weight.

The good news is that, Chelsea dropped points against West Brom and we are three points clear from them now. Apart from that, Rottenham also lost their home game to Manu and the points gap is reduced to four points and we can start aiming for the third spot now. Funny, just two weeks back they thought that they are running the title race and here they are 13 points from Manc. Well it takes more than half a season of good run to win the league, doesn't it? Maybe it was over confidence or maybe the oppositions played better, I know we did, but the fact remains that the title is a far fetched dream now and they'll want to hold on to their third spot. There is an interesting article that might some up "there" season in a sentence.

We clearly have the momentum and after our last five games, we must back ourselves to get to the third position. Chelsea are on our tails but after AVB got sacked after their last night's defeat, it just looks a bit more difficult. Arsene had mentioned a couple of weeks before that the bad luck is like a forest fire, today you might be in it but it no one knows when it'll change direction and catch someone else. Let's hope that it doesn't come back to us.

There have been heaps of praises for Szczesny and deservedly so, from AW. His performance against Liverpool was top class and that was exactly what was needed to prepare for the Milan game. He won't forget in a hurry the blunders against them in the first leg, but this performance will go a long way in doing his confidence some good. Arsene says,
I believe in him, that's why he plays. He is young, talented and gave a good performance. The target is to give another good performance on Tuesday because we need it again.
Deducing from the above statement, does it imply that the players who don't play regularly is because he doesn't trust them? Let's not go too deep into it, we are hard at a luxury to bench players just because they are not performing well. The fact that our best option to replace Arteta on Saturday was Diaby, who has been out of the game for considerable time, shows the state of our decimated squad.

Arsene has insisted that he'll not rest players for the Champions League, or rather, it's not an option to rest players. Yes they have been through a trying period and it is tough to manage a schedule with the size of our squad. But it is also important not to give up on your chances. If there is a chance for success, we have to go for it. Again, our task cannot be explained in more simpler terms, we have to score five unanswered goals and if that has to happen we cannot afford to rest RVP. We have had some goals from other parts of the pitch in recent games, but if we have to get any closer to that 5 goal target, RVP has to get going.
Arsene says,
It is not an argument for us. We want to have a real go tomorrow, we want to make it possible. I would not be very credible to tell you we want to score five goals and then leave Robin van Persie out. We will not accept going out of the Champions League because we want to stay in. We will give it our best shot tomorrow.
We have had a very tough season till now, but the resilience and the confidence with which this team has rose to the challenge is commendable, throwing away any of this would just be a pity for the team. People have criticised and added to Arsenal's agony, they have complained about lack of signings, about quality of signings, about Arsene's decisions about his inability to make important decisions any more, but the fact remains that we have come a long way, from being a team at 17th position in the table who got beaten 2-0 by Liverpool, to 4th position having beaten Liverpool 1-2, at Anfield, and still going. Before going for Wenger's neck, you might want to think about what he has achieved this season when the odds were against us and this proves his achievement with the team.

We will have a clear picture about the squad that will feature tomorrow night, so  I won't get into that right now. One thing is true, there is not a bad thing now, that can surprise the team and we cannot get of. I am sure, good times are here.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Rottenham, Liverpool out; Milan next?

RVP celebrates the winner by kissing Song's studs.

We wanted three points and that's exactly what we got, nothing more nothing less! I said yesterday that I don't care how we get it, if it's an injury time goal or the ball pin-balls it's way into the net. One thing that RVP cleared yesterday, he scores when he wants. Surprisingly, I didn't see a hint of him being low on fitness when he got those two goals.

We started off a bit slow and continued that pace throughout the match. Liverpool continued to climb on our backs and we allowed them too much time on the ball. They had a flurry of shots throughout the game and would have scored if it wasn't for Szczesny. The penalty early on was a bit unlucky to have gone against us. The referee was in no position to make that decision and even he got help from his assistant, it was a bit touch and go. Suarez proved he is ready to take the dive for his team when they want. Clearly the Arsenal players were crossed with the referee and had a huge protest turned down. But justice raised it's beautiful head and Szczesny made an amazing double save from the penalty taken by Kuyt.

Liverpool were clearly determined to score and looked like they had more desire to win the game than Arsenal. Arsenal on the other hand were without juice, and understandably, having played international matches just 2 days ago. Finally they were rewarded although off a Kos own goal, but they were on top. That was a rare mistake from Kos, having been brilliant throughout the season and he couldn't find a place to hide his face after that. But he left that behind and defended well after that.

Arsenal equalised just 8 minutes later from a brilliant pin-point cross from Sagna, which was finished in the net by none other than RVP. He did pretty well to keep out Carragher and get in front of him. It looked like we would repeat last weeks heroics after the equaliser, but the spark just wasn't there. There were some sporadic plays which may or may not have ended up as goals. Benayoun and Walcott looked out of place for most of the game. They were struggling to have the ball at their feet and thus resulted in the reduced supply to RVP.

Into the second half, it still looked the same but the fight continued and none of the teams were looking to give up. Liverpool clearly had the majority of the chances but couldn't convert, they were either too unlucky to miss or came across the Pole and the pole. Szczesny looked as if he could have done without the defenders too! The game mostly continued in the mid-field and just when we were looking to have some control over the game, Arteta looked to have been elbowed by a blind Henderson. To be fair, it was more of a coming together than foul play, but Arteta had to be stretchered off the pitch. Diaby replaced him and his first touch on the ball was a weak shot off his left foot. His absence from the game was evident, but still he carried on alright without looking too much out of place.

Diaby got substituted after having complains of some injury, and was replaced by Ox. Benayoun was replaced by Gervinho but Arsenal just couldn't find that end product to finish the game and neither could Liverpool. Ox brought some spark to Arsenal's attack. Just when the game looked to be heading towards a boring draw, Song, once again, came out with an amazing lobbed pass which landed straight at RVP's left foot and he side footed the volley at the near post into the net. He just doesn't look like he could miss anything and Reina's frustrated expression just showed that it was a very tight angle. He just couldn't believe that it could have gone in from that kind of angle. RVP might remember that expression quite well having stumped Valdes last year in a similar fashion. Many have compared this goal to the one against Everton, which featured the same set of players.

I don't think that any Arsenal fan or even the team, will complaint about the manner in which we won the game, it was still three points. After Chelsea lost their away game against West Brom last night, Arsenal kept their fourth place in the table, and ahead by three points now. Now it's just 4 points away from Rottenham who play hosts to Manu tonight, if they slip there we have a very good chance of getting to third. The Arsenal players might not have a lot left in their legs after the international matches but the tenacity was there to see and that was what won us the game. Maybe it's enough for us to carry into our next game, against Milan. Arsene seems very positive going into that, he says,
We will give absolutely everything to win. We know the statistics are against us, but you can realise the impossible when you don't know it is impossible. Let's ignore that and just go for it.
That's a tough statement to unwind, though we can understand what he means. I have said it before too, the first leg is over but we have yet to play the second leg and that too at home, where we have been smashing in the last few matches. Like Arsene says, by all means, we are not out of Europe yet. If we go with that belief, who knows, we might be able to see beyond that, if not we can move past it. We moved past the first leg and the FA cup exit after that and came back pretty well. The only problem is that the players won't be getting too much rest since the match is just 3 days later, but if we want to be playing in Europe, then that is the kind of schedule we have to face. We are going through a testing period, oppositions wise, and done quite well till now. Let's carry that momentum further.

I just wanted to mention Song somewhere and didn't want to cramp him up in between anything. You have to give the guy a lot of credit, we have had some very crucial goals and he has supplied for most of them. He seems to have that ability to see and make a pass at the right moment. Maybe he doesn't look like a creative guy, but he has some vision, definitely and yesterday's assist to RVP was a perfect example of that. RVP showed his appreciation quite well by kissing Song's studs. RVP may have hit 2 very important goals but he couldn't have done without the supply, and to give that kind of performance when Song had just returned a day before from international duty is just marvelous.

Let's bask in the glory of our successes, and even though RVP was modest enough to accept that we didn't deserve to win after that kind of performance, but I think we have had our share of bad luck and have lost many games when we did not deserve to lose, so I call it justice well done!
To the Gunners!