Sunday, January 1, 2012

Arsenal celebrates New Year's Eve with 3 points

It was our last game of 2011, the year where we have endured many heartbreaks with a few highs. But the lows were deeper than the highs were high. 2011 was a bittersweet year for us. We capitulated quite dramatically in the Carling Cup final, Cesc and Nasri left the club acrimoniously, our horrendous start to the season with an 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford are just few incidents which left a bad taste in our mouth in the year 2011. But it was not all doom and gloom in the poo-filled season. There were swift summer signings of experienced internationals: Per, Arteta, Benayoun and our new  Brazilian Santos to plug the holes created by the summer departures. The new guys have now settled well and have formed a good understanding. The team looks solid and oozes mental toughness which bodes well for the second half of the season in 2012.

The recovery after initial poor results was also made easy by Robin's form. He has now gone on to score 35 goals in 2011 which is the second best in an year after Shearer's record of 36 goals in 1996. On Tuesday, Wolves gave us a tough time at the Emirates so winning the game against QPR was very important. We started the game in a circumspect way, trying to find that killer pass. But that killer pass never came in the first half and QPR created better chances. Chesney made couple of crucial saves in the first half which kept us in the game. With the absence of fullbacks, our game was narrow and the wingers were almost anonymous in the first half.

When the game resumed, QPR again looked dangerous and keen on ruining our New Year party. They played with more vigour and were running at us in numbers. But against the run of play, from one of their corner, Ramsey laid a perfect pass for Theo and sent him clear. Theo was chased by a lone QPR defender and should have rounded the keeper or chipped the ball to score. Instead he chose to shoot wide. It was a terrible miss and it shows why Arsene doesn't play him as a central striker. The team looked frustrated and our problems were exacerbated when Vermaelen started limping. He was promptly replaced by Coquelin at left back. The substitution was in fact a blessing in disguise and had an immediate impact on the game. Coquelin was able to make forward moves, overlap with Arshavin and stretch the game. Ramsey also found more space in the midfield and our distribution improved considerably. We started to create more pressure on the QPR defence and it looked like the goal was coming.

Arshavin, who started in place of Gervinho, in a typical Arsenal move, passed the ball for Robin to latch on to. The pace on the ball was just enough, thanks to the hesitation showed by QPR defender, and Robin scored at the near post. It was a beautiful goal one which will help Arshavin to exorcise the ghost of his past performances. I hope he can find back his confidence and rhythm because when he's in the groove, he's ruthless (ask any Pool fan). Theo was subsequently replaced by Gervinho who wrecked havoc in QPR's half. There were few missed chances and if Gerv can improve his shooting skills, he could be the next Drogba of premier league or even better because he doesn't dive.

We held on to our one goal lead and leapfrogged Chelsea to finish 2011 sitting fourth in the table. The players would hardly be able to enjoy the victory as they will be on the pitch again on Monday at Craven Cottage. We were not ruthless as Arteta had urged our team to be but we never lost the belief in our ability. The determination of players to win the game was laudable. I'm sure the Gooners who were at the Emirates for the game must have partied all night. Hope 2012 brings better things for Arsenal and with the return of Thierry, it certainly looks to be the case. Wish you a Happy New Year. UTA.

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