Arsenal’s Busy Transfer Window

Arsenal Have Spent Big in 2014 But How Effective Will the New Signings Be?

Arsenal have had a busy summer of signings in 2014 and by their standards exceptionally busy. There is no doubt that new boys Alexis Sánchez, Callum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy will prove long term positive additions to the squad.

They have all started really well, in the hand full of the games that they have played so far for the Gunners. Callum Chambers shows maturity and ability way beyond his 19 years and has already covered at right back and in the centre of the defence.

The great loss of Bacary Sagna to Manchester City, in what was no doubt a tapping up operation, was soon filled with the signing of Mathieu Debuchy, the man who has replaced him as first choice right back in the French national team. From what we have seen so far, this would have to be considered an upgrade. Debuchy defends better and is more dogged all around the pitch.

Alexis Sánchez has shown a huge range of skills and a willingness to fight back hard whenever the ball is lost. Add to that the two vital goals he has scored already and I am sure that he will become an Arsenal legend in the coming years.

Arsenal wouldn’t be Arsenal without a last minute signing in the dying seconds of the transfer window. For once they have picked up a player from one of their main rivals, to reverse a long running trend.

Danny Welbeck, the only Mancunian in the United squad, may not be the most popular signing with Arsenal fans, but he is young and no doubt has ability. Arsene Wenger has a huge reputation for developing young talent, so there is every chance that this could be another positive signing.

Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina was brought in to replace Łukasz Fabiański, who moved to Swansea, after his contract expired at the end of last season. Ospina had a great World Cup and was named man of the match when Columbia played Argentina. He will no doubt prove worthy competition for the number one spot, once he is declared fit.

We should also talk about Joel Campbell, who has finally joined Arsenal after being out on loan for three years, since he signed for them in 2011. At 22 Campbell already has 40 national caps for Costa Rica and had a great World Cup, scoring a goal in open play and a penalty, progressing to the quarter final round.

I think all Arsenal fans would love to see Campbell get more game time, but so far Wenger has only allowed him 16 minutes in the Premier League and 5 minutes in the Charity Shield.

So all in all some very positive feelings about the signings that have been made, but what concerns most Arsenal fans is the failure to strengthen in the areas that have been a problem for some time, that is defensive midfield and the central defence.

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen was released from his sentence on the bench. Vermaelen has been a great servant to the club, even after he was overtaken in the pecking order by Koscielny and Mertesacker and he had the good courtesy to move overseas and not to one of Arsenal’s local rivals, despite the fact that Manchester United were knocking on the door.

Arsene Wenger said that Vermaelen would be replaced should he be sold and that was after Callum Chambers was signed, but that has not happened. Add to that the departures of Carl Jenkinson on loan and Ignasi Miquel to Norwich and Arsenal are left with only eight defenders in the squad to cover the four back positions. Knowing Arsenal’s record for injuries and bookings this will definitely leave them short sooner or later.

In midfield Ryo Miyachie has been released on loan, but as he has had very little game time since he was signed, that will have no effect on the squad. But the lack of a quality defensive midfielder in front of the undermanned back four will do.

Mathieu Flamini has done well in that area since he was picked up last season on a free transfer, but he does get booked too often and spends a little too much time unavailable.

Mikel Arteta has been forced into that role for some time and it is not really his forte. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Arteta has been one of Arsenal’s best signings in recent years. He is consistent and reliable, but he is not really a great defender.

Arsenal have been linked all summer with Germany’s Sami Khedira and William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon, amongst others. But neither of those transfers took place, with both players remaining with their European sides.

This could be Arsenal’s Achilles heel in their bid for their first Premier League title in 10 years. With a magnificent midfield and plenty of options up front, a leaky defence is likely to be their undoing. They could well pick up another cup this year, but I am afraid that the Premier League or European Champions League both look unlikely.

Arsenal Trophy Drought is Over

Arsenal 2014 FA Cup Final Winners

Arsenal broke their nine year trophy drought with a victory over Hull City in the FA Cup.

Arsenal‘s bid for the cup could not have started off worse, conceding two goals in the first 8 minutes of the match. But over the course of the game Arsenal‘s superior skills and squad took their toll onHull, who only just managed to avoid relegation from the Premier League last week.

The Gunners were denied four penalty appeals, that many referees would have given and Hull were lucky to escape with only three yellow cards for their robust challenges.

Santi Cazorla‘s marvelous free kick put Arsenal back in the competition. Laurent Koscielnyprovided the equaliser and who else but Aaron Ramsey would seal the victory, combining in a superb interchange with Olivier Giroud.

Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time winner ensured Arsenal ended their nine-year wait for a trophy by coming from two goals behind to beat Hull City in a dramatic FA Cup final at Wembley.
The Gunners started as firm favourites but were stunned as goals from James Chester and Curtis Davies gave Hull a flying start inside the first 10 minutes.

Santi Cazorla’s superb free-kick put Arsenal back in contention before half-time and Laurent Koscielny scrambled in the equaliser after 71 minutes.

And as Arsenal looked the stronger, superior team in extra time, Ramsey, whose absence through injury hit them so hard in the latter part of the season, completed the comeback with an instinctive strike with 11 minutes of the extra period left.

Arsenal were left bewildered as Hull delivered two heavy blows inside the first eight minutes to stun the Gunners and their expectant supporters.

Hull deserve great credit for a set-piece move that caught Arsenal by surprise as Stephen Quinn found Tom Huddlestone unmarked on the edge of the area. His shot was going off target but Chester was alert enough to redirect it past the wrong-footed Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

It got better for Hull – and considerably worse for Arsenal – five minutes later when Alex Bruce’s header came back off the post and Davies was perfectly placed to beat Fabianski with an angled finish.

There was a mood of utter disbelief among Arsenal’s players and fans, in sharp contrast to the other end of Wembley, where Hull’s fans were in dreamland.

And as Arsenal struggled to recover some semblance of composure, it required a vital goal-line clearance from Kieran Gibbs to divert away another header from Bruce.

Arsenal needed to find hope from somewhere and it came after 17 minutes when Cazorla curled a brilliant free-kick beyond the outstretched hand of Hull keeper Allan McGregor.

Hull were now being tested by Arsenal but they held firm and Wenger was forced into a change after an hour when Yaya Sanogo replaced Lukas Podolski.

The pressure was building and the equaliser came with 19 minutes left, coming from a corner which Hull disputed bitterly after Sanogo appeared to turn the ball out at the near post.

Hull, however, switched off at the corner and when Bacary Sagna’s header deflected off Olivier Giroud, Koscielny was first to react to turn the finish past McGregor from six yards.

Bruce sent on Sone Aluko for Quinn in an attempt to galvanise his side but it was all Arsenal as Hull hung on desperately.

Gibbs was guilty of wasting a glorious chance when he was set up by Sanogo, taking his time before shooting wildly over from eight yards. McGregor then did well to save from Giroud as the striker finally threatened.

Sanogo’s unpredictable presence had made an impact and he was inches away from winning it for Arsenal in the closing moments of normal time with a shot from the edge of the area.

Hull looked physically spent as extra time started and came close again five minutes after the restart when Giroud rose to meet Aaron Ramsey’s cross but headed against the bar.

Arsenal were really exerting their authority and it was no surprise when Ramsey finally broke Hull’s resistance after 108 minutes with a smart first-time finish inside the area from Giroud’s clever, instinctive back-heel.

There was one final scare when Fabianski’s ill-judged dash from goal saw Aluko’s finish roll closely past the goal line to safety – but seconds later the years of hurt were over for Arsenal and Wenger.

Arsenal will hopefully pick up another quality striker in the summer and keep their key players fit for longer periods next season. If they can, surely more silverware will be on the way.

Unfortunately it looks almost certain that Arsenal will also have to replace their reliable right back Bacary Sagna, who seems to have opted to take the thirty pieces of silver offered by Manchester City.

Man City should be struggling to pay Sagna, as they were fined £49m (£32m of which is suspended) and can only name a 21-man Champions League squad next season, after breaking UEFA financial fair play rules. They can only spend £49m on players this summer, plus any transfer fees they receive and their wage bill for 2014-15 must stay the same as this season.

City‘s response pretty much said “Your fines and restrictions won’t effect us�? so obviously UEFAneed to come down harder.

With the English domestic season over we now have the all Spanish, all Madrid, Champions Leaguefinal to look forward to next Saturday, 24th May. Which will feature Atletico Madrid, who claimed La Liga title today with a draw at Barcelona.

Following that we have the World Cup Finals in Brazil, commencing Thursday 12th June, assuming the stadiums are finished. If they are that will be a great spectacle I am sure.

So fear not the football goes on.

Premier League 2014 How it All Ended

Who Finished Where and Why

Season 2013/14 saw the closest battle for the Premier League title in some time. All of the clubs that finished in the top four held the lead at some point and looked favourite to win it. Although Arsenalwere never favoured by the pundits or even many of their fans, despite the fact that they led the table for 128 days or 48% of the season.

Manchester City once again proved that it is all about the club with the biggest wallet. Their huge multimillion dollar squad proved to be the undoing of Liverpool’s strongest bid in years and even Chelski’s big spending Russian oligarch.

It would be wrong to dismiss the contribution of City’s new manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who came in during the close season knowing that failure would inevitably mean being shown the door. Despite that, he was able to motivate the players, impose his tactics and manage the egos of his multi millionaire squad.

Despite my objection to sports teams becoming the playthings of billionaires, who can not think of anything better to spend their money on, you have to admire the skills of the players City have gathered, the goal scoring of Agüero and Dzeko and the all around ability of Yaya Touré. But I have to stop short of praising the Arsenal defectors.

No doubt City will be the team to beat next season, after another big dip into the transfer pool during the summer.

Liverpool came the closest they have to a title since the inception of the Premier League and many thought that they had it sewn up with a few games to go. Especially the heavily Liverpool biased pundits. But a loss to Chelsea, who parked the bus at Anfield and picked up two goals on the break, followed by a 3-3 draw with revitalised Crystal Palace, left them out of touch with Man City.

Despite their second place finish, Liverpool’s Brendon Rodgers was named Manager of the Year. Maybe this reflects the meagre player pool he had, compared to Pellegrini’s.

Grudgingly I have to acknowledge the great goals of Luis Suarez, 31 of them, after he started the season late, following his ban for biting hanging over from last season. However, I still can not really warm to the player because of his propensity to dive at the slightest contact or even without any and I have not forgiven him for the biting and racist outburst.

The Special One returned to Chelsea, along with his petulance, arrogance and tendency to be banned from the touchline for regaling match officials. He won nothing, but came close in both the Premier League and European Champions League. Will that be enough for Chelsea’s Obergruppenführer? Or will Jose Mourinho be taken out and shot at dawn, like so many before him (metaphorically speaking)?

Arsenal spent almost half the season at the top of the Premiership, but ended up battling to qualify for European football next season, only a few short weeks ago.

The fans, players and management will be disappointed with their fourth place finish. But they look favourite to win the FA Cup with their current run of seven consecutive victories and opponents Hullnot having won any of their last five matches and finishing only four points above the drop zone. Couple this with the return of midfield stars Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere and an Arsenal loss will be as shocking as… well Man City’s loss to Wigan last year.

There is no doubt the decimation of Arsenal’s magnificent midfield, due to injuries, was a huge contributor to them not picking up the title this year. The proliferation of injuries to Arsenal players over the last few years really is something that bears major investigation.

Is it because they tend pick small players who struggle with the physicality of the game, or is it something to do with the training techniques? Maybe the boys should spend more time in the gym and build a little bulk to protect themselves.

As a dyed in the wool, life long Arsenal supporter, I have got to mention the penchant for Arsenal‘fans’ on the web to knock the players and management of the club. The success of the late nineties and early noughties seems to have attracted a lot of glory chasers to the club. They look at sides like Chelsea and Manchester City and believe that all of the answers come from opening a cheque book and the suitable players will be there for you.

But Arsenal is run as a business and I fully agree with Arsene Wenger’s belief that UEFA should punish clubs that break its financial fair play (FFP) rules by excluding them from European football. But I would go even further and say the same should apply for domestic competitions. Maybe a ban would leave the competition a little empty, but how about a handicap? Let them start several points behind, depending on how much they have overspent by.

Finally on the subject of Arsenal and the deriding fans, I have to defend our centre forward, who has scored 22 goals and provided 8 assists, two of them arguably the best goals of the season. Yet he still comes in for so much criticism from Arsenal ‘fans’. He obviously suffered when the midfield was decimated, but he puts in the work all over the pitch and is probably the best centre forward in the Premier League at holding up the ball.

Yes Arsenal need another centre forward to back him up and rotate with him and a prolific goal scorer would be wonderful. But they don’t grow on trees and are difficult to pick up when they do become available. Besides the fact that they are not always successful when you get them. Look at the ridiculous amount of money Chelsea spent on Fernando Torres and Liverpool on Andy Carroll, where did it get them?

Added to this Olivier Giroud has played 36 games this season, which is immensely valuable, especially when you consider how much time other players have spent on the side lines, including the man he replaced Meneer Van Persie.

Everton deserve plaudits for their season. I have always seen them as an honest club and they replaced an honest manager in David Moyes with another and possibly even more talented one in Roberto Martinez. No doubt Everton will be vying for Champions League football again next season.

And finally I have to say a few words about the failures of Tottenham and Manchester United. No self respecting Arsenal fan could not take pleasure in seeing what befell them this season. Tottenham spent £100 million in the transfer market and finished with a goal difference that was barely positive and fewer points than last season. They sacked their manager and you can not help feeling that they would be doing much better had they stuck with Harry Redknapp.

Everyone must take a little pleasure in seeing the mighty befallen and Manchester United fell right out of the top part of the table. I feel for David Moyes, as I said, he was a good manager at Everton. Sadly this is probably only a temporary interruption of service and United have the funds and the structure to put themselves back in the picture next season.

Premier League Approaches the Sharp End

Analysis of the Title Hopefuls and Relegation Threatened.

Recent results seem to be firming Liverpool’s grip on their first ever Premier League title. Main challengers Chelsea and Manchester City have dropped points and Liverpool are now 5 points clear of Chelsea and 6 points clear of City, although City have a game in hand.

Arsenal are a point in front of Everton in the race for the final Champions League spot for next season, after Everton’s home loss to the much improved Crystal Palace.

Arsenal came back from a recent poor run of results with wins over West Ham and Hull, scoring three goals in each of those matches, both included a brace from Lukas Podolski. More good news included a return to the starting line up of Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey, with Ramsey picking up a goal and two assists against Hull.

Liverpool have been on an eleven game winning run and if they continue that they can not be overtaken at the top of the table. They face the test of second placed Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday, followed by Crystal Palace away, which is no easy game on their current form and finishing at home to Newcastle, where the opposite is probably true.

Chelsea’s best chance of securing another Premiership title is to beat Liverpool, in what could be considered a six point game, then beat relegation threatened Norwich and Cardiff City. Having been beaten by bottom placed Sunderland on Saturday, none of those look like easy options. If they can achieve a 100% record in their remaining games they would still require either Palace or Newcastleto do them a favour against Liverpool.

Chelsea also have the little matter of two matches against Atlético Madrid in the European Champions League to deal with, tonight and next Wednesday.

Manchester City recovered last night with a 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion, after their loss to Liverpool and draw with SunderlandCity have one extra Premier League game than their rivals in the run in, facing Crystal Palace and Everton away before finishing with two home games against Aston Villa and West Ham. The first two fixtures could easily prove stumbling blocks and even if City win all four, they still need Liverpool to drop six points in three games.

At the other end of the table the relegation strugglers have turned on the desperation and picked up valuable points. None more so than Sunderland, having beaten Chelsea and drew 2-2 with Man City.

Fulham picked up three points against Aston Villa and Norwich, but then lost 3-1 to Tottenham at the weekend. Fulham’s final games are against Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace, none of which are going to be easy.

Cardiff improved their chances of staying up with a win against Southampton and a draw against Stoke. They face fellow strugglers Sunderland next, followed by Newcastle and Chelsea. I would say things are not looking good.

Norwich and West Brom are far from safe. Norwich put in a great second half performance against Liverpool at the weekend, but still lost 3-2 Their fourth loss on the trot. They need a massive turnaround against Man Utd. Chelsea and Arsenal, which looks unlikely.

West Brom picked up points in their previous four matches before losing to Man City. They face West Ham, Arsenal, Sunderland and Stoke in their final matches, all of which could go either way.

So it really does look like Liverpool to claim the title this year, with any three of the bottom five going down to the Championship.

Arsenal Take Revenge on Liverpool in the FA Cup

Arsenal Progress to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup.

Arsenal took revenge on Liverpool for the 5-1 drubbing they suffered at Anfield last week by knocking them out of the FA Cup.

Arsenal‘s season hit a low point last Saturday when they were given a football lesson at Anfield with Liverpool piling on 4 goals in the first 20 minutes. Chelsea overtook them at the top of the table and Arsenal were unable to take advantage of Chelsea‘s subsequent draw at West Bromwich Albion, when they faced Manchester United at home in mid week.

Although Arsenal kept a clean sheet, which was huge improvement on the weekend’s result, they were unable to score themselves either.

Jose Mourinho embarrassed himself during the week by referring to Arsene Wenger as a specialist in failure, then failing to qualify for the next round of the FA Cup himself, going down 2-0 at Manchester City.

So one week later Arsenal face the same opponent that inflicted the huge embarrassment on them. Having already played two games this week and facing Bayern Munich in the Champions Leagueon Wednesday, many wondered what sort of side Arsene Wenger would pick. But this season the Arsenal squad is strong and most of the second string options do not mean much of a dip in quality.

Szczesny was replaced in goal by Fabianski. Fullbacks Sagna and Gibbs were replaced by Jenkinson and Monreal respectively. Flamini was back from his suspension and Yaya Sanogo was given his first start at Centre Forward. All of these players gave a good account of themselves. On the bench were the big guns Wilshere, Giroud and Cazorla, should they be needed.

Arsenal pressed early but Liverpool came back quickly with Sturridge failing to convert two chances before Arsenal scored. But Fabianski should be given credit in both instances.

Arsenal took the lead in the 16th minute through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a Yaya Sanogoshot was blocked by Steven GerrardThe Ox pounced on the rebound and converted.

Early in the second half Chamberlain was back, this time creating the perfect cross for Lukas Podolski to power past the Liverpool keeper.

Liverpool applied plenty of pressure from then on, but the Arsenal defence and Fabianskiespecially, was solid. That was until a clumsy challenge from the goal scorer, Podolski, on the Liverpool captain, Gerrard, saw Liverpool awarded a penalty. Fabianski had no chance as Gerrard powered the ball right in the far corner of the goal.

At 2-1 things were on a knife edge. Wenger brought on Cazorla, then Gibbs to sure things up. Sanogo was replaced by Giroud in the 88th minute and received a resounding reception from the Arsenal fans.

Fabianski rounded off his game by missing a clearance from a Liverpool corner and punching Agger in the head, as he headed wide. It was Fabianski‘s only real mistake of the game and I believe that he should be the Arsenal man of the match.

Arsenal will host Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday and have drawn Everton at home in the next round of the FA Cup, while Liverpool have only league fixtures to look forward to.

A Day of Tough Decisions in British Sport

English Football and Cricket Come Down Hard

Well it has certainly been a day of tough decisions in British sport. In the Premier League, Swanseasacked their manager Michael Laudrup and Andy Carroll’s ridiculous sending off against Swanseaon Saturday, was upheld on appeal by the Football Association.

In CricketKevin Pietersen has been told he will no longer be required for International duty by the ECB.

Swansea came down hard on their manager Michael Laudrup and fired him after Saturday’s defeat to West Ham. It was their sixth defeat in eight Premier League games, which leaves them only two points off the relegation places.

Laudrup led Swansea to their first major trophy, winning the League Cup last year and qualifying for the Europa League, where they beat Valencia early in the competition. With that and a successful Premier League campaign last season, it seems very harsh to dismiss the manger now and it is hard to see how putting the current captain in his place is likely to produce better results.

Andy Carroll‘s sending off, while playing for West Ham against Swansea, on Saturday was totally unjustifed. He swung out an arm in frustration during a full body challenge by Chico Flores and caught him a glancing blow across the top of the head. It did not look like he was trying to hit anyone, he was just really frustrated. But Flores clutched his nose and writhed around on the ground, making the absolute most drama he could of the altercation.

Carroll was shown the red card and dismissed. Neither he, the West Ham players nor the commentators, where I was watching, could believe it. But the FA saw fit to uphold the referee’s decision. This is really a case of backing their man, no matter how bad a decision he makes.

In some ways Kevin Pietersen’s fall from grace comes as no surprise. He has often been labelled a disruptive character in the England dressing room and has clashed with players and coaches in the past. He stepped down from the England captaincy after only 5 months, when he had conflict with Peter Moores, the coach at the time. He also retired from international limited overs cricket in 2012, only to reverse that decision two months later.

But Pietersen is England’s all time leading run scorer in all forms of cricket, amassing 8,181 Test runs, 4,440 One Day International runs and 1,176 T20 runs. He was even England’s highest scorer on their disastrous recent tour of Australia, where they managed only one win in 5 Tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20s.

But that devastating tour seems to be at the root of a clean sweep by the ECB, with technical director, Andy Flower, standing down only days earlier.

All Change at the Top of The Premier League

Arsenal Slip to Second Place After Mid Week Fixtures

Arsenal lost their lead at the top of the Premier League following their draw at Southampton. Their one point lead over Manchester City was eradicated on Wednesday when City crushed Tottenhamfor the second time this season, this time at White Hart Lane.

Chelsea also played on Wednesday, but were unable to capitalise on Arsenal‘s dropped points, only managing a 0-0 draw with cellar dwellers West Ham.

Arsenal apparently arrived late at the Southampton ground after being caught in traffic on Tuesday and it seemed like most of the team were not mentally prepared for the game. They played probably their worst half of football this season and were lucky to go in at half time only one goal down.

They came out with renewed enthusiasm in the second half and Olivier Giroud got on the end of a Bacary Sagna cross / shot to even the scoreline in the 48th minute. Only two minutes later, the in form, Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal the lead with a superb shot with the outside of his left foot.

But this was not to be Arsenal‘s night and Southampton evened the score again only two minutes later through Lallana, who put away Rodriguez‘s cut back.

Ozil and Monreal both missed chances to put Arsenal back in front while Rodrigez was denied by Szczesney.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, going into a crammed fixture list in February where they meet Liverpool and Manchester UnitedFlamini was sent off for a two footed tackle and will receive a three match ban.

Man City took advantage of the Arsenal slip up in a big way, beating Tottenham 5-1 at their own ground. Having already lost 5-0 to Liverpool at home and 6-0 to Man City at their ground, it is hard to believe Tottenham are hanging onto to 5th place in the league with a negative goal difference.

Liverpool beat cross town rivals Everton 4-0 on Tuesday to stay in 4th place and still in touch with the leading three.

Arsenal play Crystal Palace on Sunday and should pick up all three points, unless they play two halves of football like the first at Southampton on Tuesday.

Manchester City play Chelsea on Monday and it is hard to see anything but a City victory based on their recent home form.

Arsenal Are Back

Arsenal Defeat Premier League Champions Man City

After their worst start to a top flight season in 32 years, some disappointing performances against the leading sides and an absolute nightmare against Southampton to kick off the New Year, Arsenal are back. The north London side put in a fantastic all around performance to defeat Manchester City, the current Premier League champions and Chelsea’s biggest challengers for this year’s title.

City had been on a 12-game unbeaten league run, before going down 2-0 to the Gunners.

Despite a horrendous run of injuries, Arsenal fielded a side that provided the best defensive performance in recent memory… while both first choice full backs were sidelined.

That run of injuries may have led to a revelation. Francis Coquelin was recalled early from his loan period at Charlton Athletic in December and has subsequently shored up the defensive midfield role, that Arsenal have struggled with for so long. The whole defensive unit has looked more assured in the last three games.

Santi Cazorla has also taken full advantage of Mesut Özil’s long absence, to lay claim to the central midfield role behind the striker, picking up a string of man of the match awards and goals to go with them. In Mikel Arteta’s absence, he has become the first choice penalty taker and scoring a few of them has added to his confidence.

Couple this with the return from injury of Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs and the aforementioned Mesut Özil and things are definitely looking up for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Here’s the BBC’s slightly northern biased match report, but we are unashamedly Arsenal biased, so together it balances out.

Santi Cazorla scored a goal and created another as Arsenal ended Manchester City’s 12-match unbeaten league run and damaged their title hopes.

Spain playmaker Cazorla converted a first-half penalty after Vincent Kompany fouled Nacho Monreal.

Arsenal added a second after the break when Cazorla’s free-kick picked out Olivier Giroud and the France striker headed in from close range.

The result left City five points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

City and Arsenal played out a thrilling 2-2 draw when they met at Emirates Stadium in September but this contest was not as free-flowing as that encounter.

Beforehand the focus had been the influence of Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero for Arsenal and City respectively.

Aguero had only returned from a month out with a knee ligament injury as a substitute in City’s 1-1 draw with Everton a week ago, and the Argentina international was relatively subdued by his standards.

Chile forward Sanchez, who has scored 12 goals for Arsene Wenger’s side this season, was well shackled by the City defence.
Instead it was Cazorla, 30, who was the game’s outstanding attacking player and it was fitting that he was to have such an influential role with both goals.

The pressure was on City to beat the Gunners after leaders Chelsea beat Swansea 5-0 in such imperious fashion at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

But without Yaya Toure, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, they lacked a player to orchestrate and dictate the game in midfield.

Arsenal went close when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain escaped down the right flank and picked out Giroud but his header was deflected wide by Kompany.

The chance served notice of Arsenal’s intent to hit City on the counter-attack and shortly afterwards they won a penalty.
Monreal played a one-two with Giroud and the Spain left-back went down after his run was blocked by Kompany, who looked rusty in his first match since 13 December having recovered from a hamstring injury.

Cazorla sent the spot-kick low to Joe Hart’s left and even though the City goalkeeper dived the correct way he was unable to get a hand on it.

Arsenal packed men behind the ball in the remainder of the first half, which stifled City’s creativity with Aguero frequently outnumbered and rarely having the chance to run at players.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini replaced James Milner with Stevan Jovetic at half-time and his side had more impetus immediately after the interval with two up front.

An angled shot from Jesus Navas was beaten away by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, and the Spain winger teased a cross into the box on the hour mark but Laurent Koscielny made a crucial interception.

Despite City’s pressure, it was Wenger’s side who scored next when Cazorla lifted a free-kick into the penalty area and Giroud escaped his marker and took advantage of a disorganised City defence to head past Hart.

I really believe that this match could be a turning point for Arsenal. They know what they need to do against the wealthier sides and players like Cazorla and Coquelin are coming into their own. I would expect a finish no lower than third in the Premier League and a good run in both the FA Cup and European Champions League to follow, if they can maintain this form.

Arsenal’s Second String Do It In Style

Podolski and Ramsey Both Pick Up a Brace in Win Over Galatasaray

With Arsenal already qualified for the final sixteen of the European Champions LeagueArsène Wenger chose to field a side mainly made up of second string players and those returning from injury against Galatasaray, in their final Group D match.

The boys made the most of their opportunity with Lukas Podolski scoring with a spectacular strike inside three minutes of the start. Aaron Ramsey slotted in a second, just eight minutes later, but his outstanding strike in the 29th minute, from over 30 yards out, stunned everyone in the ground.

Ramsey believes that it is his best ever goal and former Middlesbrough striker Jan Aage Fjortoftseems to agree, commenting on Twitter “Ramsey! What a goal, the best thing from Wales since, since….Catherine Zeta-Jones

Wesley Schneider pulled back a consolation for Galatasaray in the second half, from a free kick that should never have been, being awarded after the ball struck Mertesacker on the arm when he could not get out of the way.

Despite a much quieter second half for Arsenal, when more youngsters were introduced, Podolskirounded off the scoring with a roll in from the final kick of the game, to finish with a convincing 1-4 scoreline.

Arsenal welcomed back first choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny and right back Mathieu Debuchy, but the ailing left backs Monreal and Gibbs were rested and 19 year Héctor Bellerín was moved across the field.

First team regulars Ramsey, Flamini and Oxlade-Chamberlain retained their places, but up front Joel Campbell, Yaya Sanogoand Lukas Podolski were given opportunities to demonstrate their claims for more regular selection.

Podolski made the most of his opportunity with his early goal, hitting the woodwork and drawing a good save from Bolat, the Galatasaray keeper. Together with Bellerin he dominated the left side of the field in the first half.

Arsenal‘s bench had an average age of just 18 and Stefan O’Connor, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Gedion Zelalem were all given plenty of on field time, with Maitland-Niles and Zelalem starting the second half in place of Ramsey and Flamini.

Ramsey‘s absence in the second half did mean less dominance for Arsenal, but three nil up is a good time to blood young players.

The Wenger haters were out in force at the weekend, after a poor performance in the 3-2 defeat to Stoke, with some suggesting that Arsenal‘s late goals and previous wins against Southampton and West Brom were made pointless by the result.

Goals and wins are never pointless in football, they are the whole object of the game. Ramsey‘s goal against Stoke helps him play himself back into form (three goals in the last two games) and all points count in the table.

Some clowns even stated on Twitter that Arsène Wenger is a mediocre coach because he did not win the European Champions League with The Invincibles. Three Premier League wins, five FA Cups and fifteen consecutive years in the top 16 of Europe puts him way above the middle, by any measurement.

Despite Galatasaray providing scant resistance, there were many, many positives to be drawn from this game for Arsenal. The return of Mathieu DebuchyPodolski and Ramsey‘s form and another excellent showing from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well the experience gained by the youngsters, amongst them.

Arsenal finish their group second on goal difference to Borussia Dortmund and now wait to see which of the mighty European powerhouse sides they are drawn against in the next round.

Scroll down to add your views of the game.

Wenger Out? So What Sort of Football Club Do You Want?

Why Arsenal is a Real Football Club

This week Arsenal qualified for the knock out rounds of the European Champions League for the 15th consecutive year, by beating top German side Borussia Dortmund 2-0. Three days later, at the very next match, some Arsenal fans unfurled a banner asking for the resignation of their manager, by far the longest serving in the Premier League.

In recent seasons the tirade of abuse directed at the manager and some of the most loyal and reliable players has been non-stop, by some of the people who call themselves Arsenal supporters. So it raises the questions what sort of club do they want and is Arsenal really the club for them?

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Arsenal has been one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the top flight of English football since the 1930′s. With an exceptional run of trophy gathering in the early days of Arsene Wenger‘s reign as club manager. But in recent years success has been limited, with a complete major trophy drought of nine years ending in May, when they lifted the FA Cup.

While certain sections have been calling for the head of the manager and any player who has failed to perform miracles, there have been some very solid reasons for that lack of success.

During that period Arsenal have built what is arguably the best modern stadium in the country and financed it themselves. Meanwhile other clubs, who were previously known only for their scant success in major competitions, have acquired billionaire owners, with apparently bottomless pockets and win at any cost attitudes.

Chelsea and Manchester City have spent untold millions of pounds on players and had a revolving door policy for managers and coaches, in their efforts to secure the top honours. No transfer fee or salary demand was too high and no manager was secure unless a major trophy was acquired… and in Chelsea‘s case even when they were.

Both of these clubs have become billionaire’s playthings. Men who have so much money that they can think of nothing better to do with it than buy themselves some football trophies.

They do not operate as profitable businesses, making huge trading losses year after year and have no player development structure to talk of, bringing in only ready made, mercenary players who have been nurtured at other clubs.

The same is true of their managers and coaches, who have been fired on a whim when the owners didn’t see instant gratification, or thought that there was someone else out there who could get it for them.

This rapid success policy seems very appealing to a large number of Arsenal fans, many of whom I suspect came on board during the heady days when Mr Wenger was picking up trophies when he wanted.

So before people call for the head of the coach, or bag the hugely talented squad that Arsenal now have, maybe they should reconsider if Arsenal is the right club for them.

Is instant gratification all you are looking for?

Do you believe that players should be recruited who score goals, even if they have no moral code or compass and frequently behave incredibly badly on and off the field, like Suarez, Balotelli and Tevez?

Is the prospect of regular trophies really worth selling your soul for?

If you can answer yes to those questions, then I suggest that your move you allegiance west to Chelski, or, like so many other Londoners, pick yourself up a Manchester team.