Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Arssenal 2014-2015 - December

December 2, 2014 Arsenal vs. Southampton 2:45PM EST

Now that it's December, the "festive period" will be kicking in and the fixtures will be coming fast and furious. Having played at West Brom on Saturday, Arsenal will now host Southampton at The Emirates.

Southampton have been one of the surprise teams of the season thus far. After losing their coach and a good number of first team players, most pundits chose Southampton as one of the teams that would battle for relegation this season. While that still may happen, they have gotten off to a great start and currently sit third in the table on 26 points. This must be taken with a grain of salt as a look at their opponents thus far, it's obvious that the early schedule has been kind to Southampton.

As for Arsenal, after a string of disappointments (Chelsea, Anderlecht and ManU), the Gunners have had two solid performances in a row (Dortmund and West Brom). It is imperative that Arsenal build on this momentum and continue to gain points and move up the league table.

Once again Arsenal dominated possession and had more than 3 times as many shots on goal than Southampton...and once again it looked as if Arsenal would have nothing to show for it as it looked as if the match would end in a goalless draw.

Southampton keeper Fraser Forster was the star and single handily kept his team in the match with some great saves. When it looked like all hope was gone Alexis Sanchez met an Aaron Ramsey cross in the 89th minute and the three points went to Arsenal.

Saturday, December 6, 2014 10AM EST Arsenal at Stoke

Before getting ready to watch Arsenal's visit with the cavemen of Stoke, Chelsea visited Newcastle in the early match. With pundits already declaring that Chelsea could go the entire season undefeated, Arsenal fans were rooting for Newcastle not just because Mourinho is an egotistical windbag, but because we sure don't want another club (especially Chelsea) to top Arsenal's Invincibles.

So it was great to watch Chelsea lose 2-0 and hear Mourinho blame the Newcastle ball boys for his team's defeat. Yes, another ungracious act from the Not So Special One.

So after witnessing Chelsea lose, it was time for Arsenal fans to turn towards the match in Stoke. Despite the fact that Tony Pulis along with Rory Delap and his towel are no longer at the club, Stoke remain a hated club and a bogey team for Arsenal. They do still have several cavemen such as Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross and of course the Stoke fans still hate Aaron Ramsey and boo his every touch of the ball. Of course that makes sense...boo the guy who almost had his career ended by one of your players as his leg was shattered in to pieces.

Here's hoping the recent momentum that Arsenal have picked up will continue.

Well forget about the momentum. This was a shambles from beginning to end. When that string bean which is Peter Crouch scored after just 19 seconds, it was obvious that it was going to be another one of those days.

The half ended with Stoke up 3-0 and Arsenal looking like school boys playing against men...well actually cavemen. In fact there was one moment in the match where Charlie Adam took Alexis Sanchez and performed a wrestling move on him which involved trying to twist the Chileans head off of his shoulders.

Arsenal did pull two back in the second half, but they were little more than consolation goals. Of course no visit to Stoke would be complete without a red card and Calum Chambers was the player that saw red for a second bookable offense in the 78th minute.

Of course this horrendous display led to an onslaught of Gooner vitriol on Twitter and other social media platforms.

December 9, 2014 Arsenal at Galatasary 2:45PM Champions League Group Stages Match Day 6

The mood going in to this match is foul to say the least.  Fans are fighting among themselves while debating whether it was right that a group of Arsenal supporters booed Arsene Wenger and the team as they boarded a train following their shambolic performance at Stoke over the weekend.

While Arsenal have already qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League, there is still a remote chance that they can top their group. This would require a Dortmund defeat at home to Anderlecht and of course an Arsenal victory in Istanbul.

Even if we still end up second in the group, a win and a strong performance would go a long way to calm the tension currently circling Arsenal.

Not sure what got in to the team, but the first half was a masterclass on how to take hold of a match and not let go. With Wenger leaving a lot of the regulars back in London bit players such as Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell got rare starts. Also promising was the return of defenderr Mathieu Debuchy after being out injured since the beginning of the season.

Within three minutes Arsenal were on the board with a fantastic Lukas Podolski blast. He is definitely one of the best finishers of goals on this Arsenal team. Ramsey gave Arsenal a 2 goal in the 11th minute and scored one of the best goals of his career in the 29th for a 3 goal cushion. It came from 35 yards out as Ramsey's left foot met the ball perfectly and drove it in to the back of the net.

The second half was less dominating, but was interesting as youngsters Stefan O'Connor and Gedion Zelalem got a taste of Champions League football.

A perfect Wesley Sneijder free kick gave Galatasary a consolation goal and Lukas Podolski put the finishing touches on the match with a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time.

With Borussia Dortmund and Anderlecht drawing 1-1, it means that both Arsenal and Dortmund finished with 13 points. Unfortunately, Dortmund's goal differential gives them top spot and yet again Arsenal finish second in the group. Of course the 3-3 draw with Anderlecht in Match Day 4 is being brought up as part of the reason that Arsenal did not top the group. Regardless, Arsenal now move on and could meet Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, Atletico Madrid, Monaco or Porto in the next round. Of course we're all crossing our fingers for Monaco or Porto.

Saturday, December 13, 2014 12:30PM Arsenal vs. Newcastle

The #WengerOut contingent have been making their voices heard and despite the fact that they are a minority of fans, the media is taking the bait and creating a situation where EVERY Arsenal fan wants the manager gone. That is about as far from the truth as possible. Yes, fans have been disappointed this season and over the past several years, but disappointment does not equate to hurling abuse and hate towards a man that has put in 18 years of his life to the club.

The situation got a lot of coverage this week as a small group of knuckleheads were filmed booing Wenger as the team boarded a train following the team's horrible performance at Stoke. That action alone is disgraceful, but the media taking the bait and claiming that ALL fans want Wenger out and feel hatred towards the manager is pure speculation and embellishment. As a former journalism major, it appears the days of objectivity and dedication to the truth above all else are totally gone. These days it's all about making up a story where there is none.

Okay off of the soapbox. Last week's misery against the cavemen is history. An impressive midweek trip to Istanbul has helped and here's to hoping that a home match where the players are donating their day's wages to the Arsenal Foundation will keep the mood bright.

Wow. Giroud was a beast, Cazorla celebrated his 30th birthday in style, Sanchez was amazing as always and Bellerin and Debuchy did very well in make shift roles.

A perfect Sanchez cross was met by a perfect Giroud header to give Arsenal an early start for a change in the 15th minute.

Danny Welbeck scored Arsenal's second three minutes later but Lee Mason saw an imaginary foul and ruled no goal. Regardless Arsenal pushed on and continued to dominate the match despite the half ending 1-0.

Cazorla gave himself and the fans a birthday present in the 54th minute when he scored a beauty from a difficult angle. Giroud scored another impressive goal four minutes later to give Arsenal a 3-0 lead. When Newcastle got one back in the 63rd from a free kick, commentators referred to Arsenal's blown 3 goal lead versus Anderlecht and the dreaded 4-0 lead versus Newcastle several years back that ended 4-4.

There was to be no blown lead today as Welbeck was tripped in the box in the 88th minute and Cazorla put away the penalty with a "cheeky" chip (the moment it was taken I knew the word cheeky would be used...and it was).

On Wednesday it was Podolski and Ramsey with a brace each. Today is was Giroud and Cazorla.

It was a great match and a great result ended with the REAL fans singing "there's only one Arsene Wenger". While all the haters on Twitter and in the media took that to mean that all Arsenal fans are fickle, they seem to have missed the point behind the singing. Yes it showed support for the manager, but for the real fans that support the team on bad days as well as the good, it was making a point to the #WengerOut bridgade that they do not represent the majority of Arsenal fans.

Sunday, December 21, 2014 11AM EST Arsenal at Liverpool

REVENGE is at the top of every Arsenal fan's mind as we return to Anfield for the first time since a humiliating 5-1 defeat. Back in February, Liverpool put on a clinic in the first 20 minutes of the match and thoroughly embarrassed Arsenal. I watched this match with friends in a pub in Richmond and it was torture. The only saving grace was the fact that I was unable to secure a ticket for the match and didn't travel to Liverpool to witness this beating.

On paper, Arsenal should win this one easily. Liverpool are having a terrible season without Suarez and the injured Sturridge. The new players that Liverpool brought in don't appear to be up for it and the fact that Alexis Sanchez spurned Liverpool for Arsenal adds to the misery around Anfield. This is the perfect opportunity for revenge. 

First the good news...there was no repeat of last season's 5-1 embarrassment. Now the bad news....Arsenal were terrible. In what can only be described as un-Arsenal like, Liverpool dominated the possession (64% to 36%) and had 27 shots on goal to Arsenal's 7. It's usually the other way around for Arsenal, but as we've seen all too often with this team, domination doesn't necessarily result in a victory. Therefore the statistics are no the most troubling aspect of this match.

Instead, Arsenal's inability to close out a match was the team's downfall yet again. With Liverpool down to 10 men and just two minutes of the nine minutes of stoppage time remaining, our defense let us down once again. Martin Skrtel was given room to head home from a corner as Per Mertesacker ducked and our ability to capitulate a lead was again on display. What could have been an ugly 1-2 victory and three needed points, ended in a draw. While a point at Anfield would normally be a good thing....the way this match ended, the draw felt like a loss.

Friday, December 26, 2014 12:30PM EST Arsenal vs. QPR

Christmas is over and now it's time for Boxing Day football. Arsenal are home to struggling QPR so this should be a no brainer win and an opportunity to build on goal differential. This is the perfect match to get Arsenal three points and start moving up the league table.

Tomas Rosicky is back from injury and gets a well deserved start alongside Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal's midfield.

This match started off brilliantly. Arsenal dominated possession and passed the ball at will. QPR were trapped in their own half and were barely able to string together 2-3 passes. 

Within ten minutes it was obvious that Armand Traore was the worst player on the pitch and he foolishly fouled Alexis Sanchez inside the box for a penalty to Arsenal. With Arteta out injured, it would seem that this was where Santi Cazorla would step up to take the penalty. Instead Sanchez took the ball and went to the line. Sanchez has practically carried the team on his back so it really didn't seem a problem. Unfortunately, the brilliant Sanchez actually did something poorly...his kick was right at Robert Green who had no trouble saving Sanchez' effort.

Even after the miss it was all Arsenal and it didn't seem that it would come back to haunt the Gunners. Sanchez made amends for his miss in the 37th minute. Cazorla passed to Gibbs who made a perfect cross which the vertically challenged jumped to meet with his head and sent a perfect shot in to the back of the net.  

Despite Arsenal's total domination, the scored was just 1-0 at the half. Even still, I was completely confident of an Arsenal win. That was until the 53rd minute.

As Olivier Giroud chaed after a ball in the QPR box, Nedum Onuoha pushed him in to the path of the keeper. Giroud jumped up incensed and before he had time to think about what he was doing, had headbutted the QPR player. Adding to the drama was Onuoha's bad acting job as he fell to the ground as if he had been punched by Muhammed Ali. Of course Giroud saw red and Arsenal were forced to play the last 37 minutes down a man.

Regardless, Arsenal continued to control the game and Sanchez fed a pass to Rosicky who scored Arsenal's second in the 65th minute. Confidence was restored.

Unfortunately, Arsenal love to torture their fans and when Martin Atkinson signaled for a questionable penalty against Mathieu Debuchy Arsenal were forced to hold on to a 2-1 lead for the final ten minutes.

In the end it was a win, but it didn't have to be this difficult.

Sunday, December 28, 2014 10AM EST Arsenal at West Ham

Heading in to the last match of 2014 Arsenal sit 6th in the table and surprisingly are behind West Ham in 4th and Southampton in 5th. With Arsenal playing West Ham today and Southampton on New Year's Day, this is an opportunity that Arsenal must take if they are to truly get their season back on track.

With Southampton facing Chelsea, an Arsenal victory over West Ham could see the Gunners move up to fourth in the table. From there, the next target will be Man United who somehow sit in third despite their shambolic start to the season. It's all there for the taking for Arsenal. 

Arsenal close out the year with a win and despite a nervy last half hour, it was a rather good overall team performance. As usual Alexis Sanchez ran the show and his partner in crime, Santi Cazorla was in great form as well. Though diminutive in size, these two are beasts on the ball. After their football careers are over they should open up a dancing school called Santi & Sanchez.

Arsenal started slow and when an Alex Song long range effort flew past Szczesny early in the first half that familiar pit in the stomach feeling started to return. Luckily, the goal was disallowed for off side and things improved for Arsenal after that.

Santi Cazorla was fouled in the box in the 41st minute and Arsenal were awarded a penalty. There was no question this time who would take the PK as Cazorla went to the line. He sent the keeper the wrong way and Arsenal went ahead.

Three minutes later it was two for Arsenal as the Ox put in a great cross which Danny Welbeck met for the score. 

Arsenal had plenty of opportunities in the second half, but West Ham's keeper Adrian was at the top of his game. 

West Ham got one back in the 54th minute which set up a nervous last 36 minutes. Despite the slim lead, Arsenal never really looked to be in trouble and continued to press for a third goal. Although it didn't come, the team's defense held strong and the three points went to Arsenal. With all the teams above Arsenal losing points on the day, it was a good day for the Gunners.