Friday, December 30, 2011

The Return of the King

This morning when I pored over my Twitter timeline, bleary-eyed, I couldn't believe what I read. I had a feeling that this could happen but the reality of it was still surprising. For the past week there has been tremendous uproar over the possible return of the King of Highbury, to once again rule the hearts of his fans at the Emirates. So Titi's apparent approval to the loan deal was a happy shock. In fact it's the best New Year gift a Gooner could ask for. Esteemed bloggers and journalists have analyzed the pros and cons of Henry's return to the Arsenal first team, with most of them accepting his return with a rider, an extra signing. But Henry's loan deal in itself reflects the intent of Le Boss to sign any extra striker in January transfer window. I think he is reluctant to pit his wits mid-season against the cunning agents who like to milk the most of a situation and drive up the price of their employer. So when Arsene must have observed his current charges affinity towards the ever like-able Titi, he would warmed to the idea of offering the Gooner legend a short-term loan deal.

But the signoff on any kind of deal had to be done by Thierry. We could theorize that Henry wouldn't want to attach a badly assorted addendum to the glorious 8 years of his previous Arsenal career. But as Titi said himself that when it comes to Arsenal his heart speaks first. He could see that Arsenal's form is sagging and he could make significant contribution towards the success of the team. As we have seen before that Sol and Jens didn't disappoint on their return, so we would not be mad to expect some thing substantial out of Titi. I hope the final terms of the loan deal are agreed so that we can once again see our most successful player in the red and white jersey we love. We welcome back Titi, it's The Return of the King.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

He scores when he wants, gift from Robin on Arsenal's 125th anniversary

A long Friday night of drunken revelries and a subsequent all-nighter set a red-eyed stage for me before the Arsenal's 125th anniversary celebration game against Everton. A cat nap right before the KO was not a good idea as I was left at the mercy of online Gooners to provide me a working stream (damn you ESPNStar). And with the help of the ever resourceful Gooner community, I was able to find a lovely streaming link in time to catch the players coming out of the tunnel. The Emirates looked beautiful and had a festive touch to it. Gooners present in the stadium were chanting at the peak of their voices and it did raise some goosebumps. The Arsenal team was as strong as we could have fielded with Djourou playing on the right, allowing Koscielny to partner BFG in the center. Vermaelen marshaled the left flank and did a wonderful job. He never let Shameless Coleman to deliver a single cross. Last year's Arsenal team needed players who would always give their 100 percent on the pitch, irrespective of the position they play in and Vermaelen is such a player. He stuck to the task and didn't allow any opening from the left. Although some of his back passes were dodgy but Koscielny managed to tidy them up every time. When Sagna comes back, I would  love to see the four of our best defensive players operating in front of our goal. Even with Djourou's nervous play, our defense looked formidable.

Everton played with only Louis Saha up front and defended deep. They packed their midfield but left the flanks weaker which allowed Gervinho and Theo to make constant attacks during the game. There were many missed opportunities in the first half, some which could even be labelled as stupid mistakes. Gervinho needs to work on his shooting skill which has let him down in last many matches. In 1-on-1 situation he always look short of ideas and such callousness in front of the goal could be costly at the business end of the season. Right now is the time to improve on this aspect of our game. When Robin seemed to be having an off day, it was the duty of our other offensive players to step up their game. Theo had other ideas though. It appears that he relishes his role of a provider so much that he's ready to give up entirely on shooting. He should realize that if he wants to emulate Henry, he will have to shoot when in 1-on-1 situations. We wasted many simple chances in the first half and I began to worry if it would bite us back in the arse. But gladly, the first half finished without a goal.

In the second half Everton looked more assured and even started to fancy their chances against an Arsenal side which couldn't score. Ramsey looked off the mark again with his overhit through balls. With Arteta settling in well along side Song, I believe Ramsey could be in direct competition with Jack after his return. The player who has massively impressed me this season is Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong. He has become an integral part of our defense as well as our attack. Along with Arteta, he's the most hard-working player on the pitch, huffing and puffing from box to box. His over the defender pass for Robin's goal was a thing of beauty. And what can you say about the strike which followed from the left of the maestro, Robin van Persie. It was majestic, sublime and a strike from a genius. It reminded us of Robin's full blooded long range volley against Charlton Athletic. But last evening's strike had more nous, more artistic touch to it, it was like music. The goal was a perfect gift to the club on it's 125th anniversary from one of it's greatest players. The game will be remembered for the goal, the goal when Robin struck the most beautiful of volleys from his left foot.

We have come of age as a squad and our first team is among the best in the continent. When this team faced the challenge of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, they came out on top. The next major challenge will be provided by the trip away to Manchester City on the next Sunday. After their recent exit from Champions League, Manchester City will have their mind set on winning the maiden Premier League title. Currently the only team who can throw a spanner in their works is Arsenal. If we can come back with a point from the game next Sunday, it will be the continuation of The Arsenal's 125th anniversary celebrations.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

This is the new Arsenal: we're back on track

The curse of Wigan away has been broken. The series of 4 games without victory has stopped. On a very wet day, when the going was tough, our team came up with the goods and emerged with a brilliant result. We have now taken 19 points from the last 21 available, the two being dropped against Fulham at home. We started the game with our strongest line-up and as expected Roberto Martinez packed Wigan's midfield. The first 15 minutes saw the Latics' pressing hard for the ball. Their 'smash and grab' game produced a great chance which was wasted by Jordi Gomez. But as their initial enthusiasm diminished, Arsenal found it's footing and started to dominate the proceedings. Arteta was the key figure in the midfield as Ramsey was given the licence to make forward runs. He stretched the play with his accurate passing and bossed the midfield. It appears that Mikel has finally found his rhythm and has developed a good understanding with the team. His confidence must have received a further boost when Al Habsi was not able to spot his long range strike which gave Arsenal the first goal of the game. Due to Theo and Gervinho's pace, Wigan was forced to defend deep which provided ample space for Arteta to run into and tee up for the long range shot. The first goal also calmed Arsenal's nerves if any. The team only grew in confidence and immediately struck again with the second goal via Vermaelen from a corner. It was a perfect delivery from Robin for Vermaelen who did well to beat his markers for the header. One could argue that his goal was a result of bad defending from Wigan but then every goal from a set piece is like that. When the talk of Arsenal being a one man team was rife, the first two goals was the perfect way to silence the critics, something which this Arsenal team is becoming very good at.

Arsenal continued their dominance when the game resumed. Gervinho who was average in the first half finally found some luck when he scored on a rebound. He was disappointing in the first half with his positioning and passing and looked set to continue his recent dismal form. But he was once again saved the criticism when he found the ball in his path after Robin's shot was parried by Al Habsi. He scoffed at the ball but then it was impossible to not score from couple of yards out. Gervinho's game has been visibly on the down after a spirited start to the Premier League campaign. He doesn't have to look far for inspiration as his teammate Theo has gradually set himself on the path of becoming a legendary wide player. Theo's work ethic, his positional sense, his passing and crosses have improved remarkably. He now has a matured air about him and oozes confidence. He has become Robin to Robin's Batman. They have formed a deadly strike partnership and were once again at it for Arsenal's fourth goal. Theo could have scored the goal himself but he rather set it up for Robin who actually did quite well to score from the wobbly pass. Robin's racing towards Alan Shearer's record of maximum league goals in a calendar year and we just need to see by how many is the record improved.

At the back, Mertesacker and Vermaelen looked comfortable and confident in their approach. Our BFG has settled well to the life in Premier League and barring his goof up at Carrow Road, his defensive performance in the last few games has been top class. Similarly Verminator has found back his form after making a return from a long injury layoff. He likes to go forward and as the season progresses, we will see many more goals from him. The left back department still remains a concern. Santos could be amazing going forward but his foremost duty is as a defender. He seems to be working on getting his position right but he's too slow to turn. He frequently gets caught flat-footed and even an average winger could give him a run for his money. Song has adjusted his game well to cover for Santos whenever he goes forward. But Song's move to the back four creates a hole in the midfield which is not filled fast enough by the backtracking Santos. Until now, we haven't been in trouble because of this specific handicap but a quality opposition will surely take advantage of the situation.

Overall it was a great performance from our boys on a very wet afternoon. We're not able to impose ourselves from the beginning but gradually we tightened our stranglehold over the Wigan side. Let's hope we can continue our juggernaut and keep climbing up the league table.