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The reasons behind Arsenal’s great start

Posted by Daniel Stone on October 4, 2007

Last season Arsenal arguably played the most attractive football in the Premiership but were constantly let down by their finishing in front of goal. Other factors that influenced Arsenal finishing fourth last year include;

– Being bullied out of games when playing against physical teams (mainly when having to play away to the northern clubs).

– Went through an injury crisis, most notably with Gallas, Henry and Van Persie missing chunks of the season.

– Didn’t fully adapt to playing at the Emirates.

– Bottom line is they were not consistent enough.

This season there are a number of factors which have resulted in Arsenal topping the Premiership as well as their Champions League group. But if you have a look at Arsenal’s fixtures so far this season you will see why this has had a major influence on their top form. Football is all about confidence, and Arsenal are buzzing. Take strikers for instance, when on a high, a striker will try a shot from 25 yards and hit the back of the net whereas the same player on a low can’t hit a barn door (Shevchenko is a great example!). 

Before the season started Arsenal took part in the Emirates Cup in which they played against Paris St German and Inter de Milano, both of these games they won. This was a great booster for them as they had previously stuttered at the Emirates. 

These have been the games they have played in the Premiership so far this season: 

Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham

Blackburn 1 – 1 Arsenal

Arsenal 1 – 0 Manchester City

Arsenal 3 – 1 Portsmouth

Tottenham 1 – 3 Arsenal

Arsenal 5 – 0 Derby

West Ham 0 – 1 Arsenal 

What does this tell us? Arsenal have been quite lucky having played 4 of their first 6 games at home. They are now making the most of playing in a big stadium like the Emirates and by winning all their home games their confidence is high. This has resulted in them going to places like West Ham and Tottenham full of confidence and them winning games which last season they didn’t!  

As well as this, Henry’s departure has so far galvanised the Arsenal youngsters who are playing out of their skin, especially young Cesc who has been absolutely class. The latter having recently stated that Henry’s departure has helped the young Gunners who were intimidated by him. 

“Henry intimidated us. He is a great player but it was not easy to play alongside him. We were a bit inhibited – dependent on everything that he wanted to do. Everyone was saying that this year without Henry we would be nowhere. That has motivated everyone.”

The question is how long will Arsenal’s confidence be on an up – it takes just one game to send their confidence the opposition direction.

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Summary of September

Posted by Daniel Stone on October 2, 2007

adebyor.jpgI haven’t been able to write on the blog over the past month of September as I have been working on a different Project, which hasn’t been finished as of yet either! Therefore as I have been away for an entire month I think it’s a good idea for a summary of all the main things that occurred during the month of September:

Premiership

·         Thierry who?? Arsenal have started the season amazingly and notched up 6 successive victories in September which leaves them sitting prettily at the top of the Premiership and their Champions League group. Many pundits had said they would suffer the loss of Thierry Henry, however, his loss seems to have vindicated the Arsenal youngsters who have since stated that Henry had been a burden on their development (Cesc).

·         Manchester United have taken over the old old Arsenal (Tony Adams legacy), having won 1-0 six times in their last eight games. Boring Boring United! They are not firing on all cylinders as of yet but they are still in contention for the Premiership title.

·         To the contrary, Chelsea have successfully pressed the self-destruct button. Do you think Roman Abramovich has realised he made a mistake in sacking Jose Mourinho? Of course he doesn’t because this is just a game for him where he can spend his pocket money. The best decision Abramovich made was appointing Mourinho and the worst was sacking him. Yes Mourinho was sacked to the contrary ‘mutual consent’ malarkey coming out of Stamford Bridge and Mourinho himself.

·         Derby will be the first team to get relegated and might even be challenging Sunderland’s record as the worst Premiership team to get relegated.

La Liga

·         Real Madrid are somehow top of La Liga. I say somehow as they are not playing attractive football but winning. Take the last game against Getafe for instance, Getafe dominated the entire 90 minutes having 20 odd shots on goal but somehow Real came away with the 3 points. Their luck will soon run out so Schuster better get his troops into gear and playing this ‘attractive’ football we were promised!

·         The new galacticos, Barça, are relying heavily on the new Diego Armando Maradona. It’s amazing to see how similar Lionel Messi is to that great player Maradona was. Even Thierry has stated that if Messi keeps up this form he will go down as one of the best players of all time which goes to show just how well Messi has been performing this season. Thierry himself hasn’t performed as well as we have all become accustomed YET, oh yeah I forgot, he did score a hat-trick at the weekend, but prior to that he has struggled.

·         Sevilla are going through a rough patch, I don’t know if it has anything to do with the death of Antonio Puerta. My dear condolences are with his family and friends, his wife was eight months pregnant with his child. It truly is a very sad story. I really like the way Sevilla have played over the last two years and let’s hope they can get back to winning ways after 4 straight defeats, win another trophy and dedicate it to the magnificent Antonio Puerta.

Champions League

·         After the first round of games there were no really shocks apart from Fenerbahce beating Inter and Chelsea drawing with Rosenborg at home . The second batch of matches commence today, bring it on!

Posted in Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Derby County, La Liga, Manchester United, Premiership, Real Madrid, Sevilla | Leave a Comment »

Champions League draw

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 30, 2007

championsleague.jpgHere you have the Champions League draw. There isn’t really any group that will be classed as the Group of Death as the big teams seem to have been kept apart, for the time being!

Group A:Liverpool, Porto, Marseille, Besiktas

Liverpool and Porto should have absolutely no problem advancing to the next stage. Marseille, with Cisse, lost Frank Ribery in the summer and have had a very average start to the French League this season. Besiktas are bound to finish rock bottom.

Group B:Valencia, Chelsea, Schalke 04, Rosenborg

This group is similar to the previous one with the top two too powerful for the lower seeded teams. Chelsea knocked Valencia out of last season’s Champions League so the latter could be seeking revenge. Schalke 04 do not possess enough resources to trouble the big two. Rosenborg, no chance!

Group C:Real Madrid, Werder Bremen, Lazio, Olympiakos

Depending on the Real Madrid that turn up, this group could be quite open. Real Madrid had a very poor pre-season but have since started well in La Liga. However, Werder Bremen, Lazio and Olympiakos will be difficult to separate.

Group D:AC Milan, Benfica, Celtic, Shakhtar Donetsk

This group is probably the most competitive, taking away AC Milan. The holders shouldn’t have any problems progressing, although it will be very tight between Benfica (who have a new manager, Jose Camacho), Celtic (very hard to beat at Celtic Park) and Shakhtar (who have invested heavily on improving their squad).

Group E:Barcelona, Lyon, Stuttgart, Rangers

Last season I would have said this would be quite a difficult group for Barca but Lyon have started this season very slowly in contrast to previous years. Second place is up for grabs but I can’t see Rangers competing.

Group F:Manchester United, Roma, Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Kiev

The major talking point of this group is Roma visiting Old Trafford for the second season in succession and after being humiliated 7-1 at the Theatre of Dreams (or nightmares in their case). United will take Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani back to their previous team, Sporting Lisbon, so it will be interesting to see the reception they get. I can see any of the top 3 qualifying.

Group G:Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce

Inter Milan have had an irregular start to their campaign but they should be qualifying along with PSV. It will be interesting to see how Roberto Carlos’ Fenerbahce get along. Moscow can also be a daunting place to go in winter.

Group H:Arsenal, Sevilla/AEK Athens, Steau Bucharest, Slavia Prague

Assuming Sevilla go through (they do lead AEK Athens 2-0 after the first leg) this seems to be the weakest group of the lot. I will be amazed if Arsenal and Sevilla do not qualify from this group.  

Posted in Arsenal, Barcelona, Champions League, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia | Leave a Comment »

Controversial penalty, goalkeeping howlers and a shock!!

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 20, 2007

chelseapenalty.jpgThis past weekend was dubbed as the biggest of the season so far and my god it didn’t disappoint. These are the major talking points of the third week into the 2007/2008 Premiership season:

  • Everybody seems to be hounding Rob Styles (the referee that took charge of Liverpool – Chelsea yesterday) but I for one, as a neutral, thought penalty as soon as I saw the incident live on TV. Having seen the replay I now know it definitely wasn’t a penalty. As we know the referee doesn’t have the option of looking at the replay (YET) but considering his position on the pitch when the incident happened he should have made the right decision. However, being a referee in the top flight these days must be the hardest job on earth!! He has since been dropped for next weekend due to his frailties. The game finished 1 all and Chelsea will be the happier of the two with the outcome. Liverpool will be delighted Fernando Torres got on the score sheet on his home debut. Liverpool 1 – 1 Chelsea

  • Manchester City provided the shock of the weekend, somehow beating rivals Manchester United with a long range effort from Brazilian Geovanni. I say somehow due to the pressure Manchester City were under at times. In the end they managed to keep their third clean sheet in a row as well as pick up 9 points from 3 games, shooting to the top of the Premiership. Manchester United have a major game this weekend hosting Tottenham, another defeat could mean the end of their defence of their title. Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United 

  • Arsenal felt aggrieved with the final result against Blackburn considering they were leading for long spells of the match and the manner in which Blackburn equalised, a howler by Jens Lehmann. Blackburn could also point to the fact that Arsenal took the lead through Robin Van Persie via a mistake by Brad Friedel the Blackburn stopper. Arsene Wenger stated after the match that Blackburn were violent (it always is for Arsenal against the northern clubs) but as Mark Hughes rightly says it is just sour grapes from Wenger as Arsenal thought they would come away with the three points. Blackburn 1-1 Arsenal

  • At the other end of the table newcomers Birmingham and Derby find themselves in a spot of bother having only acquired 1 point from their first 3 games and most notably Bolton are in big trouble, having lost each of their first 3 games. With El Hadj Diouf and Nicolas Anelka wanting out before the transfer window closes, Bolton might well be faced with a relegation battle.

 Take note of this past weekend as not many will finish like this one, none of the supposed ‘big four’ picking up 3 points.

Posted in Arsenal, Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Chelsea, Derby County, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Premiership, Tottenham | Leave a Comment »

Premiership Champions – Chelsea??

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 16, 2007

premiershiptrophy.jpgThe long awaited Part 4 is here! Here you can see Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.

1st Position – Chelsea                          

If the rumors are to be believed, Arjen Robben will be playing for Real Madrid this season whereas Daniel Alves will become a Blue. I think this is a great move for Chelsea, not only is Robben very injury prone, Alves will give great balance to the side (being a right sided player). Florent Malouda will be Robben’s replacement, a very good one indeed. Against Birmingham City and Reading, Chelsea showed their power and quality. They were not as solid as usual but these games are an example of how Chelsea are made of champions, others wouldn’t have grinded out those 3 points. Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko have had a season to adapt to the Premiership so expect better performances this year.

Key Man: Didier Drogba 

2nd Position – Manchester United 

After an amazing season last year, United have made reinforcements spending big amounts. This season I think they will just fall short though as the signings (Nani and Anderson) seem to be more for the future rather than the present. I also think Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney are too similar as a strike force, both small and very technical. There may be times when United will need to hit a long ball to ease some pressure and so a target man will be needed. I think Owen Hargreaves is a great signing as a holding midfield player and if Cristiano Ronaldo can equal last season, we are in for a real treat. They will not be far off Chelsea.

Key Man: Cristiano Ronaldo 

3rd Position – Arsenal 

Arsenal, undoubtedly play the most attractive football in the Premiership. However, this alone does not win you trophies. Arsenal are begging for a prolific striker who can bury their numerous chances. Is Eduardo Da Silva the answer? Time will tell but I think this season will be too early for him. It will be interesting to see how Arsenal will cope without their ex captain Thierry Henry. If they can pick up points at places like Blackburn and Bolton (teams who have bullied them in previous seasons) they may have a chance of challenging for the title. If they keep this young team together they will be a real force in the forthcoming seasons.

Key Man: Robin Van Persie 

4th Position – Liverpool 

There is a lot of pressure on Rafa Benitez to bring the Premiership to Anfield, if at all possible, more so than previous seasons. Liverpool have spent big this season due to the new investors and so there is a real belief within the camp this is their year. However, with there being so many players at the club it is going to be difficult to keep them all happy. Reports suggest Crouch was already unsettled after the first game of the season. They also rely too much on Steven Gerrard. I think Fernando Torres will be a great signing but he will need a season to find his feet in the Premiership. Vronin and Ryan Babel are also good signings, the latter one for the future. 

Key Man: Steven Gerrard 

5th Position – Tottenham 

Another team that have spent big and are under great pressure to at the very least equal last seasons place and close the gap with the big four. Jose Mourinho has said they are in contention to battle for the title but I think that is out of the question. The signing of Darren Bent is very peculiar, considering they already have (and kept) a very similar player in Jermaine Defoe. I still cannot see them breaking into the Champions League. They still lack quality and desperately need a left winger.

Key Man: Dimitri Berbatov

Posted in Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Premiership, Tottenham | 2 Comments »

Reyes snapped up by ATLÉTICO Madrid

Posted by Daniel Stone on July 30, 2007

reyes.jpg Atlético Madrid have snatched José Antonio Reyes from under the noses of their arch rivals Real Madrid. It was an almost certainty that Reyes would be playing in the Real Madrid white strip for the up and coming season but Atlético had something else in mind. It hasn’t been officially confirmed yet but the deal is practically done. 

Real have missed out on Reyes due to their complete and utter arrogant behaviour. Reyes spent last season on loan at Real Madrid in a deal that saw Julio Baptista move in the opposite direction. The agreement was that if the deal was made permanent Real Madrid would have to pay Arsenal £2m. However, after a disappointing season in the Premiership, with few moments of brilliance (4 goals against Liverpool come to mind) Arsenal decided against making Baptista’s move permanent.  

On the other hand, Real Madrid were still keen on keeping Reyes but refused to pay the amount agreed when the player went on loan. Real offered no more than £4m, pretty insulting considering Arsenal had paid £10.5m only 3 years earlier. Atlético have since made a superior bid of £6m which Arsenal have accepted. The ironic thing is that last summer Atlético offered £8million for Reyes, which Wenger dismissed as an insult! 

What makes this even more bizarre is that Atlético and Real are arch rivals (as big as Liverpool and Man U, the Heinz saga comes to mind) and Reyes, excuse my language, doesn’t give two monkeys where he plays this season as long as he doesn’t have to go back to London. I never thought London was that bad!? Some kind of loyalty to Real considering he scored the two winning goals on the last day of the season which sent the Merengues (Real fans) into raptures delivering them their 30th La Liga title.  

There will be more in the near future on the Spanish football media and the subject of players being ‘tapped up’ by interested suitors. The latter the reason for Reyes’ price tag having dropped drastically.

Posted in Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, La Liga, Real Madrid | 2 Comments »

The Premiership says Bye Bye to Thierry Henry

Posted by Daniel Stone on July 19, 2007

henry.jpgAfter 8 seasons of extraordinary football for Arsenal Football Club, Thierry Henry decided it was time to say Adios. There are two things that come to mind with Thierry’s exit from the Premiership. Firstly, his reasons for leaving and secondly will The Gunners be able to cope without his presence? Today we shall be focusing on his motives for leaving. 

This is what Thierry Henry had to say on leaving Arsenal:(Make sure you read this in a French accent:-)

“Arsene has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately and understandably, he has said that at this moment he will not commit to the club past the expiration of his current deal, which finishes at the end of the coming season. I respect his decision and his honesty but I will be 31 at the end of next season and I cannot take the chance to be there without Arsene Wenger and David Dein.”

We all know that in the past Wenger has always left it to the last minute to sign a new contract and this is the first time I have ever come across a player blaming the exit of a Director to call it an end to his spell at the club. Does Thierry´s reason for leaving have anything to do with not David Dein but his son Darren Dein, who is one of Thierry Henry’s agents and close friends (Darren Dein was the best man at Thierry’s wedding)? Maybe. Talking about Thierry’s wedding, since his decision to go to Sunny Spain we have found out that Thierry is divorcing his British wife (model Claire Merry) and sources close to Thierry claim he was fed up with everything English and needed a change. Football is just like any other job (they just play football and earn loads of money) in which personal life can influence performance at work. Is this one of the reasons he left Arsenal? Maybe. It was a well known “secret” that Barcelona had been following Henry for about 2 years (or even longer) and had Barcelona not beaten Arsenal in the Champions League final (2006) I am pretty sure Henry would have made the move then. However, Thierry’s ego was hurt after that defeat and he decided to sign a new contract and go on to retire at Arsenal,

“At one point it crossed my mind to leave. I’ve never played in Spain and never will. This is my last contract. This is the best country to play football. It’s the passion I like. Here you can do your job in the right way – people here respect the players.”

Did he mention any of this in his farewell? Nope. From an Arsenal point of view it would have been a lot nicer had he given his real reasons and just said he needed a new challenge instead of giving us a load of gibberish about Arsene Wenger and David Dein leaving. 

Last season Henry was disappointing (and injured) but nobody can doubt that he is an Arsenal Legend, all time top scorer with 226 goals in 370 games and most consistent goal scorer Arsenal Football Club (aside from last season) have ever had in their ranks. Want a reminder of how good he actually was? Check out the video. The Premiership and most notably Arsenal have lost a great player!

Posted in Arsenal, Barcelona, La Liga, Premiership | Leave a Comment »