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.

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