Friday, January 24, 2014

Fever Pitch Redux Part 2

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 too 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)

Fever Pitch Redux 4

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 Arsenal vs. Marseille Champions League Match Day 2:45PM EST 

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Play continues in the "Group of Death" with Arsenal hosting Marseille and Napoli traveling to Dortmund. A Napoli victory and an Arsenal win would seal passage on to the next round of the tournament for both clubs.
With local TV totally ignoring the Arsenal match for crappy Chelsea, a visit to The Blind Pig was most definitely on the menu.

Arsenal were in command from the opening minute until the last. In fact, Jack Wilshere literally scored within the first minute of play and Marseille never looked like a threat. Arsenal had 67% of the possession and passed the ball around with ease throughout most of the match. Even when Mesut Ozil missed a penalty late in the first half, there was never any doubt that Arsenal would get the victory.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Wilshere added a second in the 65th minute and that was that. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Napoli lost to Dortmund so even with 12 points and sitting atop their group, the Gunners have not yet qualified for the next round of the tournament. It will all come down to Match Day 6 when Arsenal travel to Naples and Dortmund head to Marseille. if Arsenal get at least a draw in Italy, they will win the group regardless of the other match. Even if they lose in Naples, they can still progress. As long as Arsenal lose by less than three goals they will move on.
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
To show how unjust the group stages can be, Chelsea lost both legs of their matches with Basel, yet they have secured their place in the next round. After defeating Dormund in Germany and Napoli at home, it would be a crime if Arsenal didn't make it through to the next round.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Saturday, November 30, 2013 Arsenal at Cardiff City 10AM EST

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
No matter what happens this weekend, Arsenal are guaranteed to head in to December at the top of the table. That being said, Cardiff are coming off of a positive result against Manchester United having scored an equalizer in stoppage time. Although new to the EPL, Arsenal will definitely not take Cardiff City lightly.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
What a game. It was an amazing and memorable homecoming for former Cardiff City youth player Aaron Ramsey. He scored two incredible goals and showed total class by not celebrating in front of the Cardiff crowd. His skill and maturity were both impressive and the long term faith that Arsene Wenger showed in Ramsey, when others were ridiculing the player, is truly paying off.

Past overzealous and disrespectful goal celebrations such as those orchestrated by Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie were made to look even more pathetic when compared to the restraint shown by Ramsey.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mesut Ozil was the provider for a first half header from Ramsey as well as that all important second goal scored by Mathieu Flamini. Walcott then played provider for Ramsey's second in stoppage time.

The Cardiff fans showed their own respect towards their former player with the crowd applauding their native son.

Special props need to be sent out to the often maligned and greatly improved Wojciech Szczesny who saved Arsenal with some great goalkeeping.

Adding to the great Arsenal result was Liverpool's surprise loss away to Hull and Spuds and Manure's 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane. Chel$ki, Citeh and Everton were winners and kept pace with the Gunners.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Wednesday,  December 4, 2013 2:45PM EST Arsenal vs. Hull

As Christmas approaches the fixture schedule begins to get crowded. This week's midweek matches are proof of that. Hull pulled off an impressive victory last time out versus Liverpool so Arsenal will not be taking the EPL newbies lightly. Arsene Wenger made five changes to Arsenal's starting 11 and the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Niklas Bendtner to lead the Arsenal line. A lot of folks on Twitter were not too please by this and were questioning Wenger's decision. I personally think it was a good idea to rest some of the core players and give squad members such as Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal a run out. Plus, with the likes of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere on the bench, Wenger had the A team ready to come on if needed. With six matches coming up before the end of the month, Wenger is doing the right thing.

Arsenal impressed once again. After all the mocking of Bendtner, it was great to see the maligned player score within the first two minutes. Jenkinson sent in a perfect cross and Bendtner headed home.

Arsenal dominated the play and were relentlessly passing the ball around the Hull players. The only negative, was that with all their possession the Gunners were unable to add to their early lead. Regardless, there was never any feeling that Arsenal were going to "bottle" this match.

The second half began the way the first half did and this time it was Mesut Ozil from Aaron Ramsey within two minutes of the restart. From there, Arsenal pretty much passed the ball around until the final whistle was blown. The 2-0 scoreline flattered Hull. Arsenal had 67% of the possession, 20 shots to Hull's 7 and 11 corners to just one for Hull.

Adding to the excitement of the day was the results from Old Trafford where David Moyes' old team, Everton, came in and beat his new team, Manchester United 0-1. It's nice to see Arsenal receiving plaudits while Manchester United are the subject of all the crisis talk. It's about time things turned around.

Sunday, December 8, 2013 11AM EST Arsenal vs. Everton

Arsenal head in to this game with a great opportunity to put some distance between themselves and a number of clubs behind them. With Man United and Chelsea both suffering defeats and Man City drawing with Southampton, the opportunity is there for the taking.

Everton secured a historic win in midweek as they won at Old Trafford for the first time in 21 years. The club are in good form and have lost just one match so far this season. It'll be a tough game, but one that Arsenal should win.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Arsenal Dispose of Spurs in Dominating Fashion While Theo Walcott Earned His Place as an Arsenal Legend

Saturday, January 4, 2013 12:15PM Arsenal vs. Tottenham FA Cup Third Round

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

As always seems to be the case with Arsenal, whenever there's a tournament draw they are almost certain to get the most difficult matches. That was the case yet again when the draw was made for the FA Cup Third Round. While other top clubs drew minnows such as  Bristol City or Rochdale, Arsenal got stuck with yet another meeting with the Spuds. On the positive side, the game will be played at the Emirates.

Two weeks ago the media was declaring a crisis at White Hart Lane as Spuds weren't scoring goals, were dropping points and eventually dropped the much maligned AVB.

Since then, Spuds have picked up ten points in four matches and  most recently defeated Manure at Old Trafford. Now the fickle media are declaring that this is a tough time to have to face Tottenham (??????)
As Theo Walcott said in an interview, "I think it’s going to be a bad time for them to play us as well".
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Yes, it seems the media have conveniently ignored the fact that Arsenal have also picked up ten points in their past four matches, sit atop the EPL table, (8 points above the North London pretenders) and have a far superior goal differential. In fact, Tottenham currently have a -1 goal differential which does not bode well for a team aiming to win titles. Additionally, when the two clubs met back in September, it was Arsenal that came away with the points.

Wow, that was one of the best Arsenal performances of the season. It was right up there with the team's performance against Napoli earlier this season. Arsenal bossed the game from start to finish and put on a defensive performance unlike one we've seen from this curren t Arsenal team. Every time a Spuds player was on the ball, there was an Arsenal player winning the ball back, blocking a pass or simply just causing havoc.

Lots of fans on Twitter were voicing their concern pre-match when they saw that Vermaelen, Monreal, Gnabry and Fabianski were starting over some of the regular first team members. Each of these guys did very well...especially Gnabry who set up the first goal and showed great pace and decision making.

The first goal came in the 31st minute as Gnabry made a great run and then layed the ball of to Santi Cazorla who fired home the shot. His celebration and the noise from the crowd were incredible.

Arsenal could have scored several more times but went in to the half up 1-0. Of course a one goal lead can make the fans nervous wrecks, but there was something in the swagger of the Arsenal players that made me confident that they would not concede and would add to their tally.

Then it happened. In the 62nd minute Tomas Rosicky (who was everywhere) caught Spuds defender Danny Rose napping, nicked the ball and was off to the races. His finish was terrific and he lifted the ball over the head of the Spuds keeper. Rosicky celebrated and the crowd went nuts.

Perhaps the highlight of the game occurred not during play, but when Theo Walcott was stretchered off in the last minutes of the match. While being pelted with coins and other items, Walcott smiled and held up his fingers to show the Tottenham fans the score 2-0 to the Arsenal.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Arsenal and the Festive Holiday Period

Arsenal picked up 10 of 12 available points during the "Festive Holiday Period" and remain atop the EPL table. Here's a recap of the matches.

Monday, December 23, 2013 3PM EST Arsenal vs. Chelsea

For the first time in weeks, Arsenal head in to a match not in first place. Due to their late match, Liverpool and Man City had the opportunity to jump Arsenal (at least for the time being). Hopefully, Arsenal will do the job over the Ego and his underachieving Chelsea team. This match is important for so many reasons, but the main ones are:
  • Arsenal need to bounce back from their loss at Napoli and their 3-6 beating at the hands of  Man City. A strong performance will once again answer the critics.
  • A win gives Arsenal sole possession of first place again.
  • Arsenal need to beat the "big" teams if they are to seriously mount a title challenge. City were crazy good last weekend, but we were not at our sharpest on defense. As for the loss at Manchester United, I truly believe Arsenal beat themselves in that one mentally. It's time for Arsenal to make that statement.
  • Wenger needs to beat Mourinho and keep that blowhard egotistical snob in his place.

Well that game was a complete let down all around. The weather conditions in London were abysmal with torrential rain and high winds. The reports were that the game would have been cancelled if the visiting team was from anywhere outside of the capital. Unfortunately the game went on and both teams struggled to pass the ball and play  a fluid game. Arsenal had over 60% of the possession but Bore-INHO parked the Chelsea bus and played the game not to lose. The 0-0 score was the inevitable outcome of a rather crap game all around.

It must be pointed out, however, that Mike Dean must have been on the Chelsea payroll for this match. John Obi Mikel should have seen red for a rash tackle on Mikel Arteta in the first half and a penalty was not awarded to Arsenal on what looked like a trip on Theo Walcott in the box.

The one point keeps Arsenal tied for top spot in the table, however, they now trail Liverpool on goal differential. Plus, the race has tightened with the Mercenaries 1 point behind and the Sheikh's squad and Everton each 2 points behind.

Before even getting to the Boxing Day match, this video of the Arsenal players putting their own spin on the 12 Days of Christmas is a must watch:

Arsenal travel to West Ham for Boxing Day and while Arsenal are expected to win, no team can ever be taken for granted. A win would put Arsenal back in first place pending the outcome of the late day match between Man City and Liverpool.

This match was reminiscent of the type of wins that Arsenal produced last season. In other words, they caused their fans to sweat and grow aggravated before they turned it on and put the match to bed. Arsenal controlled the game in the first half but were unable to get on the score sheet. They went in to the break 0-0.

Soon after the restart, Carlton Cole cleaned up on a deflection off of a Szczesny save to put West Ham up 1-0. There was still plenty of time for Arsenal to come back and that they did.

Lukas Podolski provided the spark that led Arsenal to victory. First Theo Walcott scored the 68th minute. Then Podolski, in his first match back from injury, provided a cross that Theo Walcott headed home to take the lead. Podolski then put the match to bed with a super strike in the 79th minute.

The only real negative from the match was that Aaron Ramsey had to be taken off with a thigh injury. The extent of his injury is not yet known but he is expected to miss the remaining holiday fixtures.

With Liverpool losing at Man City, Arsenal are back in first place. The gap is tight, however, with the top 6 clubs separated by just six points.

December 29, 2013 8:30AM EST Arsenal at Newcastle

A win at Newcastle will guarantee Arsenal remain top of the table to close out 2013. Newcastle have been in good form, so this could be a tough match. Ramsey is out injured and Ozil is being rested. Regardless, Arsenal are putting out a strong starting 11 and three points is the goal.

This was an old school Arsenal match reminiscent of the Tony Adams era 1 nil to the Arsenal days. Indeed the final score was 1 nil to the Arsenal, but it was the grit and determination to grind out a win that made it impressive.

Newcastle have been in great form and a trip to St. James' Park is always difficult...but especially tough when you are playing your third match in six days. Arsenal had the bulk of the possession in the first half but neither side was able to get a breakthrough goal.

Olivier Giroud gave the Gunners the lead in the 65th minute and then Arsenal dug in and defended like a team determined to get the points and maintain their lead atop the table. It was a rare defensive based display from an Arsenal side that usually serves up a ton of offense. It might not have been pretty, but Arsenal held on and picked up the points.

An interesting statistic that Arsenal and the club's supporters should be proud of is that Arsenal are also top of the table for points scored during the 2013 calendar year. Let's just hope that form continues and leads to trophies.

January 1, 2014 10AM EST Arsenal vs. Cardiff City

Arsenal finished 2013 at the top and a win over Cardiff will guarantee that they begin 2014 in the same position. A visit from struggling Cardiff should be a welcome sight for Arsenal fans looking to see a Gunners' victory at the Emirates.

This one reminded me of the match I attended last year when Arsenal hosted QPR. Arsenal dominated play and held an inferior opponent from staging any type of real attack. Unfortunately, the home team was unable to convert any of their chances. Luckily this one ended in a similar fashion to that QPR match where Arsenal fans bit their nails throughout the game, only to leave happy due to a late goal.

Once again the match was played in terrible conditions with a steady downpour drenching everyone. Arsenal have a number of players out injured including (Ozil, Ramsey, Gibbs, Giroud and the Ox) so
Podolski was given the opportunity to start up front and Cazorla took over the creative role in midfield.

The first half ended 0-0. Arsenal had a number of chances and what looked like a penalty claim by Jack Wilshere after being tripped in the box, was not given.

The second half continued in pretty much the same way. Per Mertesacker missed two consecutive golden opportunities to bury the ball in to the back of the net on free headers, while Walcott came close but hit the side netting. With Podolski unable to make much of an impact, he was replaced by Niklas Bendtner in the 64th minute.

As the clock wound down and the score remained 0-0 after 85 minutes, it was beginning to look as if a draw was on the cards. Anything less than a win would leave Arsenal behind Man City and in second place.

Then it happened. In the 88th minute and with time running out, the much maligned Bendtner was in the right place at the right time. With Arsenal upping the pressure, Nacho Monreal sent in a cross and Bacary Sagna headed the ball. Sagna's shot was saved by Cardiff's keeper David Marshall, but Bendtner was there to slam the rebound in to the back of the net and send the players, fans and manager in to celebration. Unfortunatelly, Bendtner twisted his ankle and had to leave the game.

Walcott added an impressive goal off of a clever pass from Jack Wilshere in extra time and the match ended 2-0 to the Arsenal.

The title contenders all won today, however, Judas' Manchester United suffered another humiliating defeat at Old Trafford. This time, the woeful Spuds took all the point with a 1-2 victory over the fading champions. Some of the tweets were quite entertaining.