Absolutely Pathetic!

This is possibly the worst performance I have seen from an Arsenal team in the last 10 years. As soon as I found out Fabregas was rested I knew we would be in big trouble, and it proved to be that Arsenal couldn’t create any chances.

Arsene under-estimated Sheffield United and we’ve lost the chance to close in on Chelski who drew earlier today against Fulham.

We played for about 7 minutes but after that we just didn’t even try!

There were many annoying things about today’s performance but the worst was probably on 59 minutes when Sheffield United keeper Paddy Kenny went off injured – and United didn’t have a substitute goalkeeper on the bench. Outfield player Phil Jagielka replaced Kenny in goal so with over 30 minutes remaining you’d expect Arsenal to test the keeper right?

The first shot on goal since the midfielder was put in goal (which was also miles wide) was on 89 minutes by Aliadiere!

Many Arsenal fans (me included) thought that we might have just turned the corner with away games but this performance showed yet again if the opposition want it more they can beat Arsenal.

I’m finding it hard to understand what happened this afternoon – results aren’t everything but when the players put in such a dire performance like which is void of any actual effort then you wonder why these players get paid so much.

Arsenal thought they could simply turn up, play football for 10 minutes and win the game.

Yes, we’ve got injuries but don’t forget that Sheffield United rested 6/7 of their first team players today for their relegation game against Boro next week.

Our squad should have easily coped with Sheffield United even with the injuries we’ve got.

But Arsenal forgot that you have to actually play an entire match and win it to earn 3 points – something Sheffield United didn’t forget.

Should Henry Do The Right Thing And Step Down?

Thierry Henry or Gilberto Silva?

As early on as watching us beat Manchester United at Old Trafford I had the feeling that Gilberto was the man to captain Arsenal Football Club and his performances against Chelski and other teams recently has just confirmed it.

Gilberto just gives more to the team as captain as opposed to King Henry.

The Brazilian has always been a big part of the first team squad but ever since he has worn the captain’s armband he has been nothing short of inspirational. Even against Watford he made a fantastic last-ditch tackle to save Arsenal going a goal down and then scored the opening goal 5 minutes later.

He takes responsibility for the team and every Gooner would have noticed that when players like Eboue, Senderos and Van Persie have got into scuffles and arguements with the other team Gilberto is the first one to step in and calm down the situation – just like a real captain.

Henry and Gilberto are totally different players and at the same time different people.

Thierry wears his heart on his sleeve but is more concerned being courteous to the opposition and would rather have a go at his own players than the other team.

Gilberto is a quieter, calmer influence on the team who gives everything on the pitch and leads by example. He is not the most vocal but encourages the team by showing them what he expects by his performance – similar to Vieira when he was captain.

Arsenal have lost 5 times this season to CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Fulham, West Ham United & Bolton Wanderers – and Henry was playing for 4 of those games.

Now people will obviously argue that Henry has captained Arsenal to numerous wins as well but under Gilberto’s captaincy Arsenal haven’t lost a game. Of course, Gilberto has only captained the team in a few games but it is clear that with Gibertlo leading the team Arsenal have something else about them – an extra edge and that extra desire.

Would we have beaten Manchester United with Henry as captain? Would we have scored that late goal against Wigan and would we have kept going to seal all 3 points against Watford? Would we have got a result against Chelski?

A lot has been made about Henry as captain over the last two seasons and that’s because it obviously isn’t working. Arsene gave Henry the captaincy to make him stay at the club he loved and Arsene won’t take it off him – so would Henry ever step down?

Maybe it’s time Henry didn’t have the burden of Arsenal Football Club on his shoulders and did what he does best which is winning matches with his exceptional skill and goalscoring ability. After all, the best player in the team doesn’t have to be captain do they?

Look at Ronaldinho at Barca, Ronaldo at United and Lampard at Chelski!

A 2006 Review: Looking Back Over The Year

A Year of Highs and Lows…

Well the year is coming to an end so I thought I’d post up my highlights over the last 12 months.

This year will mainly be remembered for Arsenal making the Champions League Final, securing 4th position in the Premiership, Thierry Henry committing his future to Arsenal and Cashley Cole moving to Russia – certainly a year of highs and lows.

Top 3 Highlights of 2006

The Champions League Run
Arsenal were simply fantastic in the Champions League, beating Europe’s elite to reach the final including Real Madrid and Juventus in Feb-March-April of 2006. Jen’s Lehmann had set a record in that he didn’t actually concede a single in the CL last season, but his sending off in the final put Arsenal in deep trouble. But Sol Campbell gave Arsenal hope with his 37th minute header and we did so well to hold on for 77 minutes – but eventually Barcelona managed to get through the tiring 10-man Arsenal team. Such a valiant performance really deserved better. There were many highlights in the run-in but the most memorable include Jen’s sensational save from Riquelme in the semi-final and Henry’s goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Finishing 4th in The Premiership
Losing Patrick Vieira in the summer of 2005 was a shock to the system as Arsenal lost their consistancy in the league. Some irregular results put Arsenal well out of the title race and even worse was that Spurs were favourites for 4th place, and Champions League qualification. April 22nd was the crunch tie with Spurs and it was eventful as ever when Robbie Keane slotted the ball into the net as Gilberto & Eboue lay injured in the centre of the pitch. Arsene squared up to Martin Jol and all hell broke loose. But Arsenal won their remaining 3 league games culminating in a memorable 4-2 in the last game at Highbury, with captain Henry scoring a hattrick. Even better, West Ham beat Spurs on the final day secure 4th spot and we all know why!

Thierry Henry Staying at Arsenal
After the Champions League Final Thierry Henry finally decided to stay at Arsenal and snub Barcelona. The speculation started way back in 2005 but after Arsenal’s performace in the final Henry saw enough potential for success with the current squad and added impetus to add more experience, with Rosicky, Gallas and Baptista joining us in the summer. The future’s bright, it’s red and white.

Top 3 Matches of 2006

1-0 Versus Real Madrid (Santiago Bernabeu, Feb 21st)
Nobody gave Arsenal a chance. Especially since we had recently lost against Bolton, Liverpool and West Ham – and Real Madrid had won their last 10 games in La Liga. But as usual when you write Arsenal off that’s when they really perform and we created a number of chances from the kick off. Reyes and Henry had big chances within the first 10 minutes and with Real under the cosh Arsenal controlled the game and created other chances before the break. But then a couple of minutes after the restart Cesc fed the ball to Henry on the half-way line. The captain then proceeded to beat Ronaldo, Meija, Guti and Sergio Ramos before placing the ball into the far corner past Casillas – giving Arsenal the win and a historic result at the Bernabeu.

2-0 Versus Juventus (Highbury, March 22nd)
The build up was all about Patrick Vieira, but it was Cesc who people were talking about after the game. The opening goal, on 40 minutes, was created after Bobby tackled Vieira just past the half-way line and then fed Henry who slipped the ball to Fabregas on the edge of the box. Cesc then slotted the ball through Emerson’s legs and gave Arsenal a much deserved lead. Then on 68 minutes, Hleb, Cesc and Henry combined well to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead and put one foot in the CL semi-final.

1-0 Versus Manchester United (Old Trafford, Sept 17th)
Wins at Old Trafford are always memorable and this one was no exception. Once again, everyone was writting us off before a ball had been kick but Arsenal controlled large periods of the match and Adebayors goal on 84 minutes was the least we deserved. Gilberto also missed a penalty in the first half but that didn’t stop Arsenal pushing on and winning the game – our first vital win of this season’s Premiership campaign.

Top 3 Arsenal Goals of 2006

There were some great goals this year but the following 3 were the ones that made me scream the loudest and go totally berserk. Thinking of these goals again still gives me goosebumps…

Sol Campbell versus Barcelona
He might have had an indifferent season but Sol played in the CL final after Senderos picked up an injury and made the perfect impact with his headed goal on 37 minutes, especially with the Gunners down to 10 men. Arsenal fought on bravely and Barcelona might have ended up winning the final in the end but that goal gave every Gooner hope that we might just win the biggest club competition in the world. And we were so close…

Emmanuel Adebayor versus Manchester United
With no Thierry Henry and seemingly no chance, Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford needing to win to keep their title chances alive. Arsenal played with no fear against a team who were in scintillating form and attacked throughout the match. Scholes cleared off the line from Adebayor’s header in the first half and won a penalty – but Gilberto’s effort was saved. But then with only 5 minutes remaining Cesc played in a well-measured through ball for Ade to coolly slot past Thomas Kuszczak for the opening goal and all 3 points! A great goal and such a vital win over the currently leaders of The Premiership.

Mathieu Flamini versus Chelsea
The game had so much tension it was almost unbearable. There was the Cashley fiasco before the match and the game itself was electric, with Arsenal having the best of the first half. Chelsea had the better of the second period, but with only 13 minutes remaining Hleb and Flamini combined to deadly effect and scored a goal that looked like giving Chelsea their first defeat at home since way back in 2004 when we beat them 2-1 thanks to Edu and Vieira. The goal itself came from no where which added to the exhilaration and Hleb’s skill in creating the chance against Cole in the build up was even better. Chelsea equalised with a scuffed tap in from Essien 5 minutes later but that couldn’t hide the fact that a team missing Henry, Gallas, Rosicky, Toure and Lauren (with only Gilberto & Lehmann as the experienced players) coped with a full-strength Chelsea squad – and could have stole all 3 points.

Top 3 Players of 2006

Kolo Toure
There is no doubt that Kolo has been simply immense for Arsenal over the year and has been our most consistent player. His pace, positioning, strength and above all his desire is what has kept us going and he is certainly an Arsenal captain of the future. He keeps putting in performance after performance and is a true leader in the pitch.

Cesc Fabregas
The kid is still only 19! Along with Kolo probably the most consistent Arsenal player over the last 12 months, and like his team-mate has played the majority of Arsenal’s games. His all round play is improving all the time and he keeps racking up man of the match performances throughout the seasons. It’s hard to imagine there’s more to come from this boy!

Jens Lehmann
Since being dropped for a few games a couple of seasons ago Jens has been in inspirational form, which resulted him being Germany’s first choice keeper in the World Cup. He has made some really excellent saves over the last year but certain highlights that stand out for me include THAT save from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, a penalty save from Steven Gerrard at Anfield in February which almost earnt us a point. But the moment of the year for Jens was his stop against Riquelme’s penalty in the semi-final of the CL. I have never cheered a save so much!

Thank you for reading and let me wish all you guys a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Lauren’s Comeback Postponed – For Now…

Well last night’s Carling Cup Quarter Final against Liverpool in the Carling Cup was called off last night because of the fog which was too thick to play in. Arsene and Rafa were furious, which isn’t surprising considering the congested fixture schedule for both clubs. Rafa said:

“The referee said that he could not see the different colours and that it would be difficult for the linesmen.

“But you could see both goals clearly from the centre-circle and the referee said no. I’m surprised because we felt we could play in those circumstances.

“The question now is that, if we draw against Arsenal in the FA Cup third round, when can we play the game? Maybe we need to play both cup ties in the same game!

“If the FA Cup game is a draw, then they will maybe have to move the League Cup semi-final to fit this game in.”

The most likely date for the re-arranged fixture would be the 9th or 10th of January which is also the date of the semi-finals so it’ll be interesting what mess both teams get into considering Arsenal and Liverpool are still in four competitions.

The main interest for Arsenal besides a place in the Semi Final’s of England’s premier cup competition was the potential return of Lauren, who has been out of action for just under 12 months.

Lauren has almost become the forgotten man but with such a young squad Arsenal will become a stronger team with him back and I’m looking forward to his comeback. The defence has been struggling with inexperience lately which has meant conceding silly goals but Lauren should sure up the defence.

Wenger has praised Lauren’s comeback to fitness, especially when it seemed like his footballing career might have been over:

“There was a question mark about [his future] I must honestly say. But his desire, his strength and the way he practiced and worked so hard during his rehabilitation was top, top class. But I am not surprised. I know him and I brought him here. Lauren is an exceptional human being. That is why he came back

“It is great to have such an experienced player and such a winner with us again. When you have him in the side then you always have a chance.”

It’s probably asking too much of the player to feature against Blackburn on Saturday but hopefully he’ll make an appearance before the new year against Watford or Sheffield United.

He did play just over an hour though in the Arsenal reserves against Pompy on Saturday so you never know – an Emirates introduction for Lauren could be on the cards this weekend. Albeit it be a substitutes appearance for the last 10 minutes.

So something to celebrate – but just don’t do it with flags.

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Arsenal’s Slim Title Hopes Dashed By Inexperience

We know that United and Chelsea are miles ahead of us this season but I like many Gooners still had that faint hope of maybe lifting the title come May. Call it blind faith but that’s what supporters are all about.

But unfortunately a poor result against Pompy at the weekend dashed even the most optimistic supporters hopes of success in the league this season.

The fact was that Arsenal were poor until Adebayor made his introduction 10 minutes into the second half but at this point Arsenal were 2-0 down and had a mountain to climb.

Why must we insist on giving teams the lead at home?

In the end Arsenal could have won it but it was clear that only playing well for 30 minutes is pushing your luck when you’re trying to win games.

And it was quite confusing seeing Aliadiere starting a game for us since he hasn’t even been on the bench recently. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t his last start for us in the league against Liverpool at Anfield in November 2003?

Anyway, Saturday saw Arsenal drop another 2 points and Liverpool even pipped us to 3rd place in the table. Arsenal usually have a poor Xmas period and can you see us winning our next few games?

The fact was Portsmouth had a striker crisis but they still managed to score 2 goals and get a draw against us. Yet again, an opposing keeper had a ‘great game’ at the Emirates and you have to ask yourself if these great performances by goalkeepers is just a co-incidence or simply poor finishing on our part.

Another question that has been raised is the rotation policy Wenger has employed over the last few weeks despite the fact that Arsenal have needed to win games to stop slipping down in the table. I know Henry and others are out but the key to consistency is to play your strongest side and win games. This rotation almost cost us against Wigan and cost us at the weekend against Pompy.

And why wasn’t Baptista even in the squad?

In other news, Cesc has basically told Cole to f*ck himself. Which in all fairness I couldn’t agree with more!

We travel to Liverpool to play in the Carling Cup on Tuesday which now seems to be a must-win game as it presents possibly the best chance of winning a trophy this season.