Saturday, August 17, 2013

Arsenal 2013-2014: The Lows, the Highs and the Trophy

Arsenal 2013-2014: The Lows, the Highs and the Trophy

Part 1 - August - October 2013

Friday, August 16th 2013

It is opening day eve and football fans are gearing up for the start of the 2013-2014 EPL season.

After the defection of Robin “Judas” Van Persie at the start of last season, 2012-2013 Arsenal had a rough campaign. There was plenty of fan dissent and there were many questioning the once unquestionable Arsene Wenger. In the end, Arsenal finished strong with 8 wins and 2 draws and celebrating St. Totteringham on the last day of the season while pipping Spuds for the last CL spot.

Everything was looking up heading in to the summer with Wenger stating that the club would be very active in the transfer window and had 70million pounds in the bank to use for this purpose.

The silly season has been just that…silly. Every hot target was bandied about Higuain, Jovetic, Rooney, Suarez, Gustavo, Fellaini…but none of them was  signed and Arsenal head in to the new season without the major additions that were spoken of and that fans were expecting. There’s still 2 plus weeks left until the transfer window closes, but time is ticking and the season begins tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as always seems to be the case, Arsenal have injuries to contend with:

Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta has a thigh injury and could miss the first six weeks of the season. Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal are out with back injuries and of course Abou Diaby is injured. (Does he collect a paycheck for being constantly injured?)

Opening Day turned out to be an opening nightmare. After a brilliant Giroud opener within the first ten minutes, the storm clouds appeared in the shape of crappy refereeing and some bad Arsenal play. Villa were awarded two penalties, one of which was very questionable and led to Koscielny being red carded. With the crowd booing and chanting "spend some fucking money" by the end of the 1-3 match it's obvious that the new campaign has gotten off to the worst start possible.

The result had me so pissed off that I have nothing to say and am imposing a media black out on Arsenal until I recover.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 2:45 EST Arsenal at Fernabahce

After opening the season with a soul crushing defeat and with Arsenal yet to dip in to the transfer market, the media and many of the fans are in panic mode. It seems as if the entire footballing world is against Arsenal and enjoying watching the team and its fans suffer. If I didn't know any better I would think that the object of the transfer window is to wait and see which players Arsenal are targeting and then steal those players before Arsenal have the chance to give them a contract.

Also of concern is the noise coming from pundits and supporters that Arsene Wenger is ruining the team and needs to go now.

With all this negativity swirling around, Arsenal headed in to the first leg of their Champions League qualifying match away to Fenerbahce in Istanbul. It seems the big topic of the day was what in what if Arsenal lose and don't qualify for the Champions League.

What a difference one game can make. The doom and gloom has been lifted just a bit and there is a sense of restored faith in Arsenal and the players. It's amazing what a 0-3 win can do for a team.

The first half in Istanbul saw Arsenal with the better of the play, but the half ended scoreless. The second half was a different story with Theo setting up Kieran Gibbs for the first goal, followed by a deserved goal for Man of the Match Aaron Ramsey. Giroud got on the score sheet when Arsenal were awarded a penalty after a Michal Kadlec foul on Walcott. The only negative was seeing Kos hauled off and sent to the hospital after getting kicked in the head by Pierre Webo.

I have been pretty negative about Szczesny but he made some tremendous saves to keep a clean sheet. A solid Arsenal win didn't stop some of the haters. Prior to the match, it was "Fenerbahce is going to be tough for Arsenal. After the match it was "It was a very poor Fenerbahce side". It seems with Arsenal the media will never give them credit for a job well done.

Barring a monumental collapse, Arsenal should finish the job next week when the return leg comes to London. Then, it'll be 16 straight years in the Champions League. Hopefully this fact will help Wenger and Arsenal secure the players the team needs to compete for trophies and silence the doubters.

Saturday, August 24, 2013 7:45AM EST Arsenal at Fulham

Despite the convincing midweek win in Istanbul, there was still a ton of negativity surrounding Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. The #WengerOut crowd, including that pompous idiot Piers Morgan, have been shouting from the mountain tops. Some Arsenal "fans" have even been rooting for the team to lose to prove their ridiculous point. The real fans are concerned, but a true fan remains loyal.

While Wenger keeps saying that he will be bringing in 2-3 players, the only new player that has come on board so far is the relatively unknown Ya Ya Sanogo.

It was under this cloud of negativity that Arsenal found themselves in when entering in to their second league match of the new season.

After all the moaning and hearing the word "crisis" thrown around all week, it seems that the real Arsenal showed up. In a pouring rainstorm Arsenal dominated play and within 15 minutes Olivier Giroud gave his team the lead. Lukas Podolski put Arsenal up 2-0 in the 41st minute with a powerful shot and then secured a brace with a class goal in the 68th minute. Darren Bent scored a consolation goal late in the match, but Arsenal won comfortably 1-3. It was a total team effort and every player on the pitch was sharp.
Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The mood heading in to the second leg of Arsenal's match versus Fenerbahce at the Emirates was quite different than it had been prior to the first leg. After defeating Fenerbahce by 3 on the road and then easily defeating Fulham at Craven Cottage, Arsenal fans were more upbeat and actually feeling confident.

The main topic among fans is still about the transfer window. With less than a week remaining, rumors are everywhere linking Arsenal with Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil, Angel DiMaria, Iker Casillas and Yohan Cabaye. This after the club had been linked with players as diverse as Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Gonzalo Higuain. The media comes up with new stories every day so until something actually does happen, it's all just speculation.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
So it's official. Arsenal are in the group stages of the Champions League for the 16th straight year. For all the moaning and abuse of Wenger and the club, Arsenal had no trouble casting Fenerbahce aside and getting the job done. There is concern, however, as Podolski limped off with what may be a hamstring injury and Ramsey came off in extra time in pain. Hopefully the injuries are not that bad as the North London Derby is this Sunday at the Emirates and Arsenal will need to be at full strength. The other concern of course, is the transfer window. Fans are still waiting desperately for Wenger to bring in some big name signings and reinforcements.

Thursday, August 29, 2013 11:30AM EST Champions League Draw

Having secured a place in the Champions League group round for the 16th straight season, fans were hoping that the draw would be good to Arsenal. Arsenal got a tough, but not impossible draw and the divide between the positive and negative Gooners was evident:

Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)

Sunday, September 1, 2013 11AM EST Arsenal vs. Tottenham

The North London Derby is always big, but coming this early in the season this one took on new significance. Tottenham have spent millions of dollars on new signings while Arsenal have yet to splash out the cash. The media has been celebrating Spurs and predicting their rise while bashing Arsenal and expecting the club to fall apart. Some of the Spurs fans were cocky heading in. Meanwhile some doubting Arsenal supporters were nervous while others showed their confidence:

After a thrillling 1-0 win for the home team, the Spurs faithful were a bit quieter while Arsenal fans celebrated. Despite spending millions, Tottenham didn't look overly threatening or special. Meanwhile Arsenal's regular lineup, played as a tight unit and defended their status as the ONLY team in North London.

On a side note, another great result from today was the 1-0 defeat of Manchester United and their newly minted manager David Moyes by Liverpool. RVP was kept off the score sheet and almost lost his cool. Karma is always a nice thing to see.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Monday, September 2, 2013 Deadline Day

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have been getting abused for weeks as the club has yet to spend cash in the transfer window. While Spuds were spending like drunken soldiers and other clubs were making moves, all Arsenal had to show heading in to deadline day were the free transfers for Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy was apparently trying to be cheeky and hold up the official sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in an effort to keep Arsenal from signing any players from Madrid. The vitriol was flowing on Twitter for the club and manager:

Arsene Wenger went from zero to hero with the biggest signing of the entire transfer window in the EPL. The capture of the world class midfielderr Mesut Ozil has proven to all the haters and even the #WengerOut brigade that Wenger is capable of signing top talent. In fact Ozil turned down a bigger offer from PSG after speaking with Wenger. Funny how all the #WengerOut folks have gone quiet. Great to see the story on Arsenal's website.

Saturday, September 14, 2013 10AM EST Arsenal at Sunderland

After a long two week International break which saw the arrival of Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil to Arsenal it was finally time to get back to football. Photos of Ozil training with the rest of the Arsenal first team circulated and Ozil announced himself as a Gunner during a pre-match press conference.

Despite having to have the indignity of playing his first ever EPL match in Sunderland, Ozil made his impact felt immediately. Within 11 minutes Ozil set up Giroud for an exquisite goal and a 1-0 Arsenal lead. Ozil set up a number of other chances and despite being ill, just back from International break and not yet knowing his teammates, he dominated the game.

Koscielny made another rash challenge which led to a Sunderland penalty kick at the start of the second half. Aaron Ramsey cleaned up the mess with two outstanding goals to give Arsenal the 1-3 victory.

It's early days, but three games after the media was declaring Arsenal's demise and crisis here's a look at the current EPL table:

From crisis to Top of the Table. Chelsea losing to Everton and Manchester City with an ugly scoreless draw at Stoke, weeks after a humiliating loss to newly promoted Cardiff added to the new found confidence of Arsenal and Arsenal fans. Add to that Manchester United only winning due to diving and phantom penalties and Arsenal's defeat of Spuds in the first North London Derby. A lot of the haters have gone quiet. It's looking good.

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Wed. September 18, 2013 2:45PM EST Arsenal at Marseille Champions League Match Day 1

Heading in to the opening match of the Champions League group stages all was calm in Arsenal land. Since Arsenal's opening day loss to Aston Villa, Arsenal have won six straight matches in all competitions.

Fans were feeling confident, but Arsenal's Group F is one of the tougher ones in the tournament. A good start against Marseille was needed with Napoli and Dortmund also in the group.

Arsenal looked lethargic in the first half and the passing was not as sharp as normal. For whatever reason, the Gunners were having trouble maintaining possession. On the good side, even with Arsenal's sub par first half performance, both teams ended the half without scoring.

At times the Arsenal defense was shaky, but thanks to a stand out performance from left back Kieran Gibbs, Marseille was held at bay. Gibbs then turned provider with a near perfect pass to Theo Walcott who brilliantly volleyed the ball in to the back of the net.

Arsenal were holding on to their lead, but pretty much secured the victory with an Aaron Ramsey goal again set up by Gibbs.

Marseille were awarded a rather dodgy penalty in the 90th minute. Ramsey got a foot to the ball and with little to no contact, Andre Ayew tumbled to the ground. Ayew scored but it was too little to late and Arsenal were off to a great start in the group round.

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

On a side note, it was funny to see that Chelsea, led by the self proclaimed "special one" lost their opening match at home to Basel. 

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Sunday, September 22, 2013 8:30AM EST Arsenal vs. Stoke

Things are looking good these days for Arsenal and the mood heading in to this match with the cavemen of Stoke is extremely positive. With Aaron Ramsey showing how good he can be, many Gooners were hoping that Ramsey would be able to have a bit of revenge at the expense of Ryan Shawcross and his cave mates. Despite the fact that Shawcross could have ended Ramsey's career with his horrific leg breaking tackle, Ramsey is still the object of hate from fans of the cavemen.

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Well what do you know, Ramsey opens the scoring for Arsenal and after a bit of a let up, the Gunners walk away with a 3-1 victory. Despite not playing at their best, Mesut Ozil was the provider of three assists from set pieces resulting in Ramsey's goal as well as headers from defenders Mertesacker and Sagna.

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
With Liverpool's loss to Southampton, Arsenal are now at the top of the EPL table ahead of Spuds on goal differential. As one Gooner on Twitter put it, even when Tottenham get off to a great start, they are still looking up at Arsenal.

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Most fans of the EPL were taking much delight in Manchester United's embarrassing loss at the hands of Manchester City. With Judas van Persie on the bench due to injury, all he could do was watch on as his team were made to look like crap.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Wednesday, September 25th Arsenal at West Brom 3PM EST League Cup

As he's done in past seasons, Arsene Wenger fielded a youthful team for the League Cup. Starts were given to Ryo Miyaichi, Serge Gnabry, Isaac Hayden and Thomas Eisfeld. Late substitutions included defender Hector Bellerin, midfielder Kris Olsson and striker Chuba Akpom.

Also, back from the wilderness was Nicklas Bendtner. Injuries to key players has allowed Bendtner to try and win a place back in the team.

With a young squad and a thin bench, fans were a bit more nervous than usual when facing West Brom.

I got to watch the first half on an illegal feed on my computer. The first 45 minutes were poor with both teams giving away the ball too often. The rest of the game I had to follow on my phone.

Eisfeld sent the keeper the wrong way in the 61st minute after a pass from Bendtner and Arsenal had the lead. That lasted ten minutes. Saido Berahino equalized on a header in the 71st minute.

The match remained 1-1 after extra time and the game went to penalties. Watching a penalty shoot out on television is hard enough; but following one on the Internet is beyond nerve wracking.

Gnabry's shot was saved and after James Morrison scored, West Brom had the lead 3-1. As fortune would have it, Craig Dawson and Morgan Amalfitano missed their attempts and Nacho Monreal finished off the tie giving the Gunners a 4-3 victory.

As always seems to be the case, Arsenal's reward for moving on is the most difficult opponent of the entire group. Chelsea will visit the Emirates in the fourth round.

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Saturday, September 28, 2013 12:30PM EST Arsenal at Swansea City

Arsenal head in to match 6 of the season at the top of the EPL table. While the campaign is still young, the feeling surrounding the club is very positive. Confidence is high, but Swansea City away is definitely not a fixture to be taken lightly. Swansea and Michu have given Arsenal problems in the past, so today's contest will be a big early season test for the Gunners.

Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images
In the end there was no need to worry. Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey scored within four minutes of each other in the second half.  Swansea got a late consolation goal but all three points went to Arsenal.

Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Meanwhile the pleasure of watching Man United stink up the joint continues.

Moyes worried by Man United slump as Scot admits squad lacks world-class players 

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 2:45EST Arsenal vs. Napoli Champions League Match Day 2

Arsenal head in to this home match riding high, but the doubters are out there and many calling this the "Grouop of Death" fear that Arsenal will be unable to defeat Napoli. The Emirates was rocking and Arsenal were facing a test to their early season form.

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Well Arsenal passed that test with flying colors. From start to finish it was total domination by the Gunners. Ozil scored his first Arsenal goal and set up Olivier Giroud's follow up goal all within the first 15 minutes. From there, Arsenal just controlled possession and kept Napoli from putting up any real threat. If one didn't know better, you would have thought that Napoli were pushovers. Arsenal made the Serie A challengers look very ordinary. The 2-0 victory had Arsenal fans, and even Arsenal detractors, singing the teams' praises.

 Arsenal dismantle Napoli with Mesut Ozil playing the engineer

Arsene Wenger hails 'outstanding' Mesut Ozil after Arsenal see off Napoli in the Champions League

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Sunday, October 6, 2013 11AM EST Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion

All of a sudden the pundits can't stop talking about Arsenal and how great they look. Amazing the difference six weeks of winning can do. Arsenal go in to this match looking for their 9th consecutive road win and are the in form team in the EPL. A win or a draw and Arsenal go back to the top of the league. Even the press are singing Arsenal's praises:

Arsenal column: The pieces have fallen into place, the timing is right.. Arsenal ARE genuine title contenders

A week after defeating ManU at Old Trafford, West Brom were brimming with confidence. They played a strong game and put Arsenal to the test throughout. They scored late in the first half and held that lead until the hour mark when Jack Wilshere's deflected shot found the back of the net. The game ended in a draw and sadly the Man of the Match was the ref who was shocking. It looked as if he thought he was refing a boxing match as he let every foul and near mugging go. The fact that this draw is so disappointing is a testament to how high the expectations have been raised by this Arsenal team. Let's remember back the past few seasons where this game would have been a loss. Arsenal are still Top of the League and to make it even better, the Spuds were embarrassed by West Ham at home. On to the international break and top of the table.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Saturday, October 18 2013 10AM EST Arsenal vs. Norwich City

After a long international break, which saw England qualify for next summer's World Cup and Mexico cheering for the USA, it's back to EPL action. Luckily all Arsenal players came back from national team duty in good shape and it's time for the team to press on and continue to hold the top spot in the table.

Giroud celebrates after scoring for France (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Before leaving for the break, the Premier League handed out their awards for the month of September and the winners were Aaron Ramsey for Player of the Month and Arsene Wenger for Manager of the month. It's now official....the "crisis" has been averted.

Other news out of Arsenal is the addition of Kieran Gibbs to Twitter:
Plus, believe it or not, Stan Kroenke was cheered at this week's shareholder's meeting

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Confidence is oozing out of every member of the Arsenal team as well as the fan base. The Emirates was rocking today as Arsenal easily dismantled Norwich  4-1. The only blemish on the match was that once again the Gunners were unable to keep a clean sheet.  The goals...they were all amazing. Wilshere opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Ozil scored his first league goal on a header in the 58th followed by an amazing Aaron Ramsey run through the Norwich defense which led to Ramsey's 9th goal of the season. Ozil got a second in the 88th as the result of some amazing team play.

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Another first was watching Ozil and the returning Santi Cazorla playing together in the same midfield. With Cazorla back and the fine form of Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta and Rosicky, the Arsenal midfield is one of the best in might even say Barcelona like. Thanks once again to Real Madrid for making one of the stupidest footballing decisions in years....or shall I say gracias!

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Looking down from the top of the table, there's one noticeable absentee from the top 4. The Fergie-less Manchester United had another mediocre display at Old Trafford and drew 1-1 with Southampton who are themselves in the top 4. Hopefully Robin van Persie is watching the renaissance under Wenger in North London and rethinking the rash decision the little boy inside of him made! Borussia Dortmund is next, onward and upward! Up the Arsenal.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

How's the little boy like 8th place? (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 2:45PM EST Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund Champions League Match Day 3

Going in to this match all is well in Arsenal land. Top of the table in the league and top of the table in Group F. It's too early to get carried away yet in the Champions League and today's match against last year's runners-up will be another test for this rejuvenated Arsenal squad.

Unfortunately Arsene Wenger didn't get the birthday present he wanted. Not sure what was going on, but Arsenal looked lethargic and slow. Arsenal were defeated 2-1. Maybe it's me. I was at this exact Match Day 3 game at the Emirates last October when Schalke defeated Arsenal 2-0. Those German fans know how to celebrate.
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Despite the defeat there were some positives. After going behind, Arsenal fought back and pulled even on a wild goal by Giroud. Love Wilshere, but he was way off his game today. Too many errant passes. He probably needs a rest. Once Cazorla was subbed in late in the match, Arsenal looked more likely to score. Unfortunately, Lewandoski scored on a great strike and despite a valiant effort, the game ended in defeat.

Saturday, October 26, 2013 7:45AM Arsenal at Crystal Palace

First match of the weekend and time to bounce back from the midweek Champions League loss to Dortmund. Crystal Palace are prime for a beating, without a manager and second from the bottom with just three points.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 3:45PM Arsenal vs. Chelsea Leauge Cup Round 4

It's that odd time of year where for one week, the UK and the East Coast of the USA are just four hours apart rather than five. Therefore, today's game is beginning one hour later than most of us are used to here in the states. Regardless, the fixtures are coming fast and furious and the upcoming matches, beginning with today's League Cup meeting with Chelsea, could define Arsenal's season.

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
An absolutely miserable night. It's clear that Chelsea's second team is way better than Arsenal's second team. Nicklas Bendtner and Ryo Miyaichi were given the chance to shine and both failed miserably. Despite the lack of goal penetration by Arsenal, they were hanging with Chelsea....that is until Carl Jenkinson gifted Chelsea a goal with an idiotic back pass in to the path of an oncoming Chelsea player.

Arsenal were better in the second half but it seemed as if they were playing bowling rather than football. Every attempt on goal resulted in the ball hitting a Chelsea player rather than anywhere near the net. Once Juan Mata scored late in the match it was game over. 

All the haters and negative fans are back on Twitter. These are some of the more rational ones. Next up is Liverpool this weekend....a must win.

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Arsenal 2013-2014: The Lows, the Highs and the Trophy - Part 2 - November - December 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment