We Are Back Again!

Mesut, Pires and Mustafi in training yesterday.

Happy new year everyone! It’s my first post this year. It’s been an eventful but somewhat unfortunate December for Arsenal. We played 6 games across all competition which saw us produce all manner of performances: from perfect and clinical  (against West ham and at Basel) to poor and abysmal (Everton and Man city). Won 4 and lost 2. On paper it looked somewhat of a good return, but considering we lost 6 points in a very tight looking table, it was a big lose of momentum.

January met us with a hard fought 2 nil win at home to Palace (Not forgetting Giroud’s spectacular scorpion kick goal), then a near disastrous 3 all at Bournemouth, which would have been a demoralizing factor for the team, but the boys put the heat on the Cherries during the last 20 minutes to salvage a draw. A trip to Preston North End lived up to its hype with all the cup drama at play. Here we are today with a tricky trip to Wales to face Swansea. 3pm (GMT)

Cohen Bramall, 20, signs for Arsenal.

In other news, Arsène potentially unearthed a gem from non league division, Cohen Bramall. His story is that of hope and hard work. I wish him all the best and hope he will keep his head on his shoulders and work his way into that first team. Toral was recalled from his loan spell at Granada because they would not give him game time. He was subsequently sent out again on loan to Rangers in the Scottish premier league. I wish him all the best as I have high regards for him. Dan Crowley also left for Holland in the Dutch  Eredivisie for Go Ahead Eagles. Another bright prospect that needs game time. 

Giroud, Koscielny and Coquelin all signed long term contracts with the club a few days ago. Papers claimed Alexis Sanchez is the more likely person  to sign a contract extension between him and Özil. The later came out the other day to rebuff Thierry Henry’s remarks about him, saying that his influence for joining Arsenal was Arsène and would want assurance about the future of the manager. It makes real sense then if that is truly the situation. So what Arsenal need to do is give Arsène a longer contract and the two contract rebels (Özil and Sanchez) would sign on the dotted lines. He returns today to the squad to face Swansea after missing 2 weeks due to some “mystery illness”.

“The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have.”

                       -Mesut Özil

Suddenly things have almost fallen in place. The team is building up good momentum again, there are no much injuries, the contract situation of most of the senior players are resolved or being resolved; suddenly we are back in business! We need to win big today to keep the pressure on the top four and go on a winning run again..it’s about time! Let’s hope for better days. Let’s hope that 2017 becomes that year we break the jinx of not lifting the EPL title. I see the potentials this team has got. It’s our year! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner

Let’s Make It A Clean Sweep.

Arsène Wenger’s 200th UCL Match at Basel.

It’s been a very memorable six days for Arsène and his boys both domestic and in Europe. Even a little blip in EFL a few days before couldn’t overshadow the brilliance of these past days. Firstly, they DISMANTLED West Ham United on their backyard, thrashing them 5-1 to consolidate position at second place on the EPL table. On Tuesday night they did the remarkable again by reducing Basel to dust inside their beautiful stadium in Switzerland, so much more that Basel’s fans applauded the Arsenal team for a very entertaining game of football.

This week went from good to better when PSG who were the overwhelming favourite to finish as group leaders, relinquished the top spot to Arsenal after managing a draw with Ludogoret in Parc de France. That result ensured that Arsenal will not meet a first placed team at the knock out round. Here is the catch; it also ensures that we play the defining second leg of the tie at the Emirates Stadium. This is something Arsenal have not done for the past seven years in Europe. Talking of Europe, Arsène was in charge of his 200th Champions league game as a manager on the night. That is a massive achievement for me. WIN: 99, DRAW: 44, LOSE: 57. There is only one Arsène Wenger!

What more can we say about our good fortune this past few days? We recorded 2 sets of hat-tricks from 2 different players in the space of few days. First Alexis’ at the Olympic stadium against the hammers and Lucas Perez’s hattrick at Basel. We also played with a pace and zip I will say was reminiscent of our 2nd half form of the 2014/2015 season. We were direct and never allowed the opposition time to relax on the ball, with lots of goals. This form will hand us the PL crown if we can continue with the same energy level and concentration. 

Next up is a home game against the Potters who are fairly on form at the moment in the premier league. 15.00 GMT. It’s a game we can win comfortably with the kind of momentum we have built up in these past days. The news that Bellerin, Per and Giroud are back in training should serve as a motivation for the rest of the squad. Can we have a clean sweep of 3/3 in seven days? We won’t have much time till we find out. All I can say now is that it looks so. This is to a great game for the boys against Stoke city tomorrow. Let’s keep the pressure on the league leaders. I know they will crack. This is our season!! COYG!

-Fair Play Gooner

Arsenal Dispatched Basel To Top Group A.

FT Basel 1-4 Arsenal. Talk about getting the job done! Arsenal piped PSG to top the group! Lucas rounded off a good day’s work with a deserved hat-trick. Iwobi scored the 4th goal but was not so convincing. He really has had a mountain to climb if he must reclaim his starting place in the Arsenal team as Oxlade Chamberlain raised the bar quite high with his performance at West ham. Talk about competition; me trying to hold down my place and you trying to beat me to it, me using every opportunity I get for a run in to raise the bar, you trying harder to knock me off my perch. It’s really healthy people. 

I am all for topping the group, but the job doesn’t stop there. Ludogoret did us a huge favour by holding PSG to a draw in Paris last night. That actually says a lot about them. People thought they were a walk over after Arsenal breezed past them twice in this group stage. They are not. Ludogoret play a very positive brand of football: quick, attacking and inventive. Now holding PSG to a 2-2 draw in Paris has raised their profile in Europe while guaranteeing them a place in Europa league knock out round.

“I thought Ludugorets were a good side – they made a great result that helps us top the group, which was what we wanted…”

-Wenger

As I said earlier, the work is hardly done because our potential opponents in the knock out round make for a curious reading;

  • Bayern Munich, Arsenal’s conquerors in 2013 and 2014
  • One of Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid
  • Benfica
  • Bayer Leverkusen
  • One of Porto or FC Copenhagen
  • One of Juventus, Seville or Lyon

Looking at that potential draw, it won’t be a walk in the park for us-even though we finished top, hence the battle has just began. It might be of consolation to mention that the last time we went unbeaten in the group stage of the champions leaguleague, we went all the way to the final. 

“It is difficult to know but you feel a bit less guilty if you have a bad draw [after finishing] first rather than second – we have done our job and let’s see what happens…”   -Wenger

Now we can focus on the EPL until February when the knockout stage of the champions league will return. One thing is certain, we shall play the decisive second leg of the knockout stage at home. Took a long time coming but we are there now people! 

To a glorious European adventure this year! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner