lastminutegoals.com

July 4, 2012

Watching live football always has that curious edge of nervous expectancy. Never knowing what will come next draws us back time and again. When events turn against us, we say that it was inevitable, we could see it coming, but when the footballing gods deem it is an Arsenal fan’s moment in the sunshine, nothing quite beats the thrill of an Arsenal goal in the final minutes of a game.

Sometimes even snatching a last minute draw from the jaws of defeat can turn a journey home or an extra drink in the pub from having a funereal air, to being one of relative jubilation. However, the goals which turn 1 point into 3 can produce such a surge of endorphins that the feeling lasts for days. The ultimate last minute winners have even bigger prizes dangling from their goal celebrations. Cups and championships won in the last seconds of a game can produce after effects which last a lifetime.

Here are a selection of ‘last minute’ goals for your enjoyment.

Thierry Henry v Sunderland 2012

We were at Lingfield racecourse for my nephew’s stag do and were suitably miffed when news came through of Mclean’s goal in the 70th minute. We were hopeful again when Rambo scored off both posts to equalise and ecstatic as Thierry rose like a kung fu master to stab the ball home in injury time…….

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Thomas Vermaelen v Newcastle 2012

The poetic justice of this goal being scored near the end of the time added on for Tim Krul’s persistent time-wasting makes this my favourite last minute goal of recent times……..

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27453474@N02/6977506871/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Kanu 1999 v Chelsea at the bridge.

Two nil down with 15 minutes to go, Nwankwo wrote his name into the Arsenal legends book with a hat trick to die for, including one of the best goals you’ll ever see. Take it away Martin Tyler….

Thierry Henry v Man U 2007

To my mind this goal was the first big moment to happen at the Emirates. A goal of such simple beauty and Ferguson’s reaction to it at the end of this makes me laugh every time I see it….

Ray Kennedy v spuds 1971

50,000 in the ground, 50,000 left outside, Shite Hart Lane was red and white for the night in May 1971. My old man and older bro tried to take my younger brother and me to the Lane that night. We only got to the end of the Paxton Road before they decided it was too dangerous for us to continue. This would definitely be my older brother’s main Arsenal regret, as it was such a terrible disappointment to miss the first time we won the League at the sh*thole. At least it wasn’t the last…….

Alan Sunderland v Man U FA cup final 1979

I can remember sinking to my knees on the Wembley terraces after Manyoo’s spawny equaliser only to stand up just in time to witness one of the those ‘hair standing up on the back of your neck’ moments never to be forgotten for the rest of my life……

Micky Thomas v Liverpool 1989

DidIt’s non-Edith Piaf post yesterday summed up one man’s wish to have seen this moment in the flesh. Presumably this would be most Gunners’ favourite last-minute, spine-tingling goal because there was so much riding on it………..

What’s your favourite last-minute Arsenal goal and why?

Written by chas


What’s Your Highlight of the Season?

May 17, 2012

Having watched a video of some spuds struggling to find a highlight to their ‘best ever team’ season, I started to ponder which were the highlights of my Arsenal season. As I went back through the games, I realised that, even though this was a big dipper of a ride, with lurching troughs and exultant peaks, there were so many truly memorable moments this season I could have chosen.

5-3 at the Bridge
A game with so many highlights, but the king of the chavs munching turf for our 4th goal sticks out for me. This clip doesn’t show the goal perfectly but I love Cashley in the foreground and the Gooner faithful in the background.

Best away fans
When Dortmund came to town their fans really put on a show. The North Bank upper tier always used to bounce on big nights. This was the first time I’d felt the upper tier at the Grove bouncing. What a phenomenal atmosphere and a great footballing occasion.

Biggest away victory plus Sir Chez sings
It was my third away trip to the pie-eaters in three seasons. We’d seen two successive comebacks by the opposition in the previous two trips. Four goals, two in each half, a clean sheet, “He scores when he wants” for the first time and Szcz leading “We’re by far the greatest team” at the end of the game. What more could you want?

Arsenal’s goal of the season?
The sublime technique of Mr van Persie unlocked the door of the Everton bus and provided the perfect present on our 125th birthday

Benny’s winner at Villa
After coming on as sub with less than 10 minutes to go, Yossi snatched a crucial 2 points for the Gunners with his stooping header.

The Return of the King
Thierry returned home in January and produced two moments of such magical timing, they left our hearts aglow. First was the exquisite Henryesque ‘open up the body’ finish on his comeback against Leeds in the FA Cup.

The second was his athletic winner from an Arshavin cross at the Stadium of Light which provided another crucial 2 points and started a run of 4 league matches where we came from behind.

Mashing the spuds
Quite simply this was one of the top 5 games I have ever been lucky enough to witness. Two nil down to the N17 pondlife, the knuckle-draggers tempted fate singing, “Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” and “Your season’s over”. Five glorious red and white goals later they weren’t singing anything with most of them half way up the Seven Sisters Road before the final whistle. The turning point of the season without a doubt.  Enjoy.

A Krul joke
Thomas Vermaelen’s winner deep into injury time caused by Tim Krul’s persistent time-wasting was the perfect answer from the footballing gods to petty gamesmanship. Another exquisite capture of 2 vital points right at the death.  “Cam on Theo, do summink Theo”

The cleanest strike of a football you could ever see
When Mikel’s boot connected with the back of the football against Villa, the red and white angels carried it with speeding wings past Shay Given. This was my favourite goal of the season.

Arsenal do the Poznan
Arteta again gave us a season highlight with his late strike to dispose of the Oilers at the Grove.

The new Home of Football has seemed more like home this season than at any time since the move from Highbury. Even the Upper Tier were doing the Poznan. Great moments like this help to cement the stadium in the hearts of the supporters. Joyous stuff.

I’m sure we’ve all had moments of great joy and excitement during this season that will live long in our memories. These are some of mine without even mentioning another glorious last day St. Totteringham’s. What’re yours?

Written by chas


Tutto L’Amore che Ho: Forza Arsenal

February 15, 2012

What an exciting and challenging game we can anticipate tonight. A return to the scene of the European recognition  of Fabregas’s genius (sorry GM!). That night is etched in the memory alongside so many other astonishing and unexpected Arsenal victories – win this and we may get a repeat of the TH inspired win in the Bernabeu!

Having won our group we could have drawn an easier opponent because let us be clear, this is not going to be easy. Milan are a much better and younger side than the one vanquished by our heroes in 2008; they are top of Serie A. Unfortunately, their injury crisis  (13 players out in their recent win at Udinese) is rapidly improving, Nesta, Pato, Flamini, Prince-Boateng and Van Bommel return to the squad. Style of play? Allegri has said this of AC Milan’s approach “You can’t always dine on lobster and caviar, sometimes you have to have a ham sandwich”.  Cantona-esque!

I would like to concentrate on just two of Milan’s pantheon of superstars, Ibrahimovic and Van Bommel.

Van Bommel is one hard Dutchman. I remember a Highbury night watching him kick lumps out of our lads when playing for PSV (2004 1-0). He was without doubt the dirtiest player I had seen and it was a miracle he stayed on the pitch. After that night I followed his career with interest because I felt he would be a fine replacement for PV4. Sadly, he moved to Barca where he won a CL winners medal and later moved  on to become the first non-German captain of Bayern Munich. At 32 he moved to Milan and has been an integral part of Max Allegri’s squad.  70 Dutch caps, a league winner in 4 countries, WC finalist, CL winner – one could say he has had a successful career.  Should he play tonight I hope Aaron is wearing extra shin and ankle protection!

Zlatan Ibrahimovich is one of the world’s great players. A man who has never received the respect he deserves from the British press. Scorer of some of the most spectacular goals ever scored (check out Youtube) the Swede has a phenomenal record – at the moment, Ibra is on a run of 8 successive League title wins in 3 countries with 5 different clubs! I think it would be prudent to have a little wager on AC winning the Scudetto this season. During his time at Barca he was the world’s highest paid footballer on €28m a year. Barca paid €70m for him and sold him 18 months later for €24m – which makes the Torres deal look sweet.

“you’ll never play for Arsenal”

In 2001 Mr Wenger tried to sign Zlatan from Malmo but he chose Ajax for a then record Swedish transfer fee. It beggers the question  – who would have been sacrificed for him? Not Henry, so it must have been Wiltord who was going to be shipped out. Ibra has attitude and may have clashed with Thierry but what a forward line that would have been.

My Team:

The loss of BFG is a major disappointment; he is made for games like tonight against a clever but not particularly pacy forward line. Fortunately, we have super replacements and TV is finally back in his natural position. It is ages since we have seen Gibbs get a run of games but he is a super player and a full International, he will not be embarrassed. I would start Arshavin ahead of the Ox, his experience and precision of passing will be important in what is likely to be a tight game.  Expect a big game from Ramsey.

Inventor from Milan: Step forward Enrico Forlanini (if he were still alive). Born in 1847 he developed the world’s first helicopter (powered by steam!) and went on to pioneer the hydrofoil. Milan City Airport is dedicated to Forlanini.

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

Thierry Henry has scored in his final FA Cup game, his final PL  home game, his final PL away game and tonight ……  you would bet against it.  Thierry, whatever happens tonight and in the future, You are The Man.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Our Bench Is Rubbish! Sunderland Report & Player Ratings

February 12, 2012

There was a point yesterday – just before Sunderland scored their freak goal – when I was thinking: we need to change this game from the bench, but who can we bring on? We have no quality on the bench!

Silly me.

All it took was one Ramsey pot shot, one sublime cross from Arshavin and one trademark Henry finish to prove that Arsène Wenger still knows what he’s doing.

All three had come on as substitutes and they undoubtedly secured the three points for us.

This was a very important win against an obdurate and well organised Sunderland who were the form team in the Premier League going into this fixture.

The performance was even better when you take into account the state of the pitch. It looked as if the Riders of Rohan had just charged over it (perhaps on their way to Stoke to find some Orcs).

We started with arguably our strongest available 11 (I say arguably because it’s a toss-up between Rosicky and Ramsey for the third midfield role) and right from the off we set a pattern that changed little throughout the game: we controlled the ball, Sunderland largely conceded the middle of the park and drew back to just outside their penalty area, we passed and probed but struggled to find a way through, Sunderland relied on occasional breaks and set pieces.

No doubt some will damn the team for our inability to conjure a way through the massed Black Cat ranks. Perhaps we missed a bit of Fabregas magic – expelliamus parkbussimus – but I prefer to credit the Sunderland defending.

They gave no space at all to Prince Robin, nor to our two wide men, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Every time any of those three got the ball there were at least two men on them.

Chances were few and far between, although Theo did manage to get away from his markers on one occasion and fire a low shot across goal, but it went past the far post.

Despite the lack of goal scoring opportunities our defence was looking solid (even from set pieces), while Song and Arteta were doing a great job of providing an extra shield in midfield and Tomas Rosicky was as busy as he was against Blackburn last weekend.

The one big scare was when Mertesacker slipped in the box while dealing with a speculative through ball.

For most players the ball would have bounced over their head and out for a goal kick, but for the BFG it arrived at chest height, so naturally he chested it down. But, as he did so, he caught his foot in one of the horse divots and stumbled.

The ball bounced up and onto his arm. It was certainly not deliberate and certainly not ‘hand to ball’ but you do see them given – particularly when the penalty would favour the home team. Full credit to the referee, Neil Swarbrick, for not being swayed by the Mackem hysteria.

By half time it was pretty obvious that this was going to be a tight affair and that one goal might nick it.

The second half started much the same as the first. Sunderland had a couple of decent low shots from around the edge of our area. Szczensy did well to save both (one down to his left, then a more difficult one down to his right that hit a mole hill just in front of him).

It was a credit to the lad that he was sharp and focused when called into action, having had little to do up to that point.

Up front we were still probing with all the effectiveness of a blind gynaecologist. Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain were becoming even more peripheral than they had been in the first half, and, on 66 minutes, Arsene decided to make a change, bringing off Oxo for Thierry Henry.

Within four minutes we were behind. A rare Sunderland attack was tidied up down our right flank with Sagna shepherding the ball back to Mertesacker, who was running towards his own goal and had the simple task of rolling the ball back to Szczesny or across the park to the unmarked Koscielny.

Unfortunately the BFG injured his ankle as he turned and went down as if shot.

McClean, for Sunderland, showed brightness to keep on running past the fallen German before shooting low across Szczensy into the far corner of the net. I have seen comments questioning whether Chezzer might have done better, but the shot was hit very hard and from close range. Not his fault.

However, it was a freak goal and I was cursing our terrible luck. From a completely innocuous situation, suddenly, we’re a goal down. I really do think it’s time Arsene started going to church.

Given how tight the Sunderland defence was, I was doubtful as to whether we could rescue a point, let alone all three.

Ramsey came on for Mertesacker (let’s wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery), with Song dropping back into the centre of defence. And it didn’t take long for young Aaron to make a mark. Just three minutes after the re-start Arteta had a shot from outside the area blocked, the ball cannoned to Ramsey and his low first time shot went in off both posts. Ramsey has his critics, but he never hides and never stops taking shots at goal. It was always only a matter of time before his luck turned for the better.

So, one-all with 15 minutes to go. Would we sit back or push on for all three?

This is Arsenal – of course we would push on for all three. Arshavin came on for Walcott on 86 and immediately looked more dangerous than had either Theo or Oxo (perhaps because the Mackems were tiring after there exertions all afternoon and following their extra time FA cup win on Wednesday night).

As the clock passed the 90 minute mark, our pocket Russian found himself on our left wing with two Sunderland defenders in front of him. He jinked one way then the other, then dinked in a beautiful cross with his right boot. Jinky-dinky loveliness.

And who was there to meet it in the six yard box? Cometh the hour, cometh the legend.

Thierry Henry, who up til that point had had very little influence in the game, ghosted between the Sunderland centre backs to volley the ball past Mignolet in the Black Cats goal.

You can take away the speed, you can take away the stamina, you can take away some of the strength, but you can’t take away the class. A striker’s goal from a born winner. The celebrations among the Arsenal players were a joy to watch. Henry clearly means a lot to these lads, and they to him.

We never looked in trouble after that and at the end it was three points well earned and well deserved.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: Not too much to do but made two very good saves in the second half. 7.5

Sagna: Great to have him back. Unflappable and unbeatable at the back, and contributed a lot going forward. 8.5

Koscielny: He got caught in possession a couple of times but was generally the strong, reliable defender we have come to know and love. 7.5

Mertesacker: Was having a superb game until his unfortunate injury. We need him back quickly because, in my opinion at least, our strongest pairing at the back will be the BFG with one of Koscielny and Vermaelen. 8.5

Vermaelen: Didn’t put a foot wrong but is not able to support the attack as well as an orthodox left back would. 8

Arteta: Another fine game, controlling the ball from deep, covering our defence and instigating forward moves. He is our metronome. 8

Song: A real warrior’s performance from Alex. He misplaced a few through balls when looking for defence-splitters, but after his success against Blackburn last week you can’t blame him for trying. And his all round work breaking up Sunderland moves and powering us forward was exemplary. Can’t be blamed at all for Sunderland’s goal (sorry Peaches). 8.5

Rosicky: Finding some form at last. Was very combative, if a little wasteful with his passing at times. 7

Oxlade-Chamberlain: It’s not going to be a fairy tale every week at this stage of his career.  Had a couple of decent runs but was effectively marked out of the game. 6

Walcott: He saw more of the ball than Oxo but did little with it. Games like this, with banked lines of defenders sitting deep, are not the forum for him to shine. 6

Robin van Persie: Didn’t get much of a look-in. One second half header could have been dangerous but looped straight into Mignolet’s arms. Nevertheless, the fact that he had two or three players marking him at all times undoubtedly helped other players to find space at times. 7

Subs

Henry: Did nothing for 25 minutes then scored the winning goal. I’m making him man of the match partly for sentimental reasons and partly because he made the most valuable single contribution on the day. 9 MoTM

Ramsey: A brilliant cameo from Aaron. He was everywhere in his 22 minutes and scored the goal that brought us back into the game. The many critics will, in time, have enough egg on their face to make an omelet the size of Wales. 8

Arshavin: Little Andrei looked energetic and direct when he came on and provided a beautiful cross for Thierry’s winner. Perhaps he has reached rock bottom (in the Man Utd game) and is coming out the other side. I really hope so. 8

RockyLives


Invincibles versus VanPersibles: How Many of Today’s Team Would Get in the 2004 Vintage?

January 18, 2012

First off, I accept that this is a pretty unfair comparison.

To rank any Arsenal team from any era against the most feted group of Gunners ever to have worn the sacred cannon is clearly destined to be a mismatch.

It’s a bit like comparing Dan Brown with Charles Dickens, or Boyzone with the Beatles.

But I have noticed a few comments recently (including yesterday from Chary) alleging that, for several years now, we have been replacing good players with new players of slightly lower quality, and then replacing those ones with slightly lower quality again and so on. A kind of downward inflation.

We may not now be in the worst of times, but it made me wonder how far we have fallen since the greatest of times. How close would any of the current first team get to starting in the Arsenal eleven of 2003/4?

I am taking as our current First XI (with everyone fit):

.

Our first choice first team from 2003/4 was:

So let’s do the Head-to-Head.

Szczesny or Lehmann

No contest. Mad he may have been, but Jens Lehmann was the best ‘keeper in the Premiership that season. Szczesny will turn into a great player, but he is still learning his trade and, inevitably, makes costly mistakes. Lehmann.

Sagna or Lauren

Tough call this one. Sagna has been one of our most consistent players of recent years. Ralph was equally consistent during the unbeaten season.  They are both no-nonsense, uncomplicated defenders capable of focusing fully for the whole game. I’m going to shade this one Sagna’s way because he is a bit more dynamic getting forward. Sagna.

Koscielny or Toure

If Koscielny keeps progressing it may not be too long before he can eclipse Kolo Toure. But for now, Kolo’s athleticism, speed and strength win the day. Toure.

Vermaelen or Campbell

Again very close, but Campbell was the rock upon which our Invincibles defence was built. A double wardrobe with a Ferrari engine, Campbell must have been a nightmare to play against. Campbell.

Santos or Cole

Santos may become an Arsenal great, but right now this is a no-contest. The greedy Chav wins hands down. Cole.

Song or Gilberto

Alex Song is a more gifted all-round footballer, but for protecting the defence against all comers it has to be the Invincible Invisible Wall. He wasn’t spectacular, but, boy, did he know his job. Gilberto.

Vieira or Wilshere

Bad luck Jack. Against most midfielders who have played for Arsenal you might have won this one, but I’m afraid no-one can displace the unmatchable Paddy V. Vieira.

Arteta or Pires

OK, OK… this is where the exercise breaks down a bit because a 4-3-3 is different from a 4-4-2. Let’s just say that, good though Arteta is (and his absence on Sunday helped reinforce his importance), it has to be Le Bob. Pires.

Walcott or Ljungberg

Freddie was never the most gifted of players, but his intelligence made him one of the most effective wide men in the business, always arriving in the box at the right moment and choosing the right option. Sadly, when it comes to footballing intelligence and taking the right option, Theo does not rate so highly. Ljungberg.

Van Persie or Bergkamp

Two Dutch Masters. Bergkamp played ‘in the hole’ – a position in which Robin would also possibly thrive. But even after his goal scoring exploits of the last year, RvP cannot displace the greatest player ever to have pulled on the famous red and white. Bergkamp.

Gervinho or Henry

Close call, this one. OK, just kidding. Henry.

So there we have it. From our current first team only Sagna, by my reckoning, would have a chance of being a starter in our Invincible eleven (and even that is a close call).

What does this tell us?

That the years of being a bit boracic because of the stadium build have led to us downgrading the quality of our players, as Chary and others suggest?

That we are currently an unambitious club unwilling to spend on world class players the like of which we had in 2003/4?

That football has changed so much since 2004 (when it was really a toss up between us and Manchester Utd for the title each year) that we will never again be able to achieve such dominance because of the arrival of the sugar daddy clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City?

Or that, back in 2004, we were just incredibly, freakishly lucky to have several of the best players in the world all playing together, supported by ruthlessly professional team mates and a winning ethic that enabled us to steamroller all opposition?

Have we fallen so far because of self-inflicted mistakes, or is it just the swings and roundabouts of football, in which success is difficult to achieve and sometimes difficult to understand, while failure is an ever-present possibility (just look at Liverpool and the Spuds) for which everyone claims to know the reason and whom to blame?

What do you think?

RockyLives


Seven days on and still reliving the return of King Henry

January 17, 2012

We’re a bit in the doldrums here at Arsenal Arsenal. At the moment we’re still numb from the defeat on Sunday and finding it hard to be upbeat and forward thinking. Our twin posts today are in celebration of the return of Thierry Henry. Hopefully our bloggers will come out from behind the sofa and remember the positives of this season so far, but don’t let that stop you commenting on where we go from here.

Written by Total Arsenal

On Monday 9th January 2012, we, the Gooners, witnessed a truly special moment. The return of King Henry to the Home of Football was not just a joyous occasion, it was also magical; even a near-spiritual, transcendental experience for all those present at The Emirates and, to a lesser extent, to those who watched the game in pubs or at home. What made it all the more special was Henry’s response to the occasion: he, himself, wanted this return so much, but just like us had not believed it possible anymore. From an unknown player he had grown into a legend at Arsenal, to then become an ex-player and transform in a fan for life. This fan was given the unique opportunity to play for the club he had fallen in love with. For TH14/12 this meant the world.

On these rare moments, when a pivotal part of the glorious Arsenal past is brought back into the future, and we are being allowed – against all expectations – to experience it once again in its full intensity, we all know we are witnessing/taking part in something truly special.

The scene was set beautifully for Thierry. Arsenal were struggling to break down a stubborn Leeds to such an extent that the return of Henry was not just a luxury Arsene could afford itself – no, it had become a necessity. We needed a shot in the arm, a spark to lift the place and that is exactly what he gave us that night.

What followed next will be remembered by every Gooner for decades to come. Thierry’s goal was a good goal, but by itself not a great goal. What made it a great goal is totally down to its historical value. It was a trademark Henry goal, showing us all again how important it is for a player to move in the right positions, and what it means for a striker to make a great first touch in the box. He basically took on the ball in such a way that he used his right foot like a hockey stick: at the same time as he touched the ball with his foot he allowed his body to move ever so slightly away from the ball, in order to line himself up perfectly for a deadly second touch. He sat himself up with the best possible angle to place his diagonal shot, low and precise, past the keeper and in the corner of the goal.

At that moment in time I literally pinched myself, thinking this is too bizarre to be true, that I must be dreaming. I had never expected to see one of my three greatest Arsenal heroes back playing real football for us. To see him score such a quintessential TH14 goal, the only goal on a dull night, was simply magical.

When something truly special happens, people will express themselves in heartfelt superlatives. To prove just that, here are some of the comments from fellow AA’ers:

Peaches: Thierry ……. ahhhh Thierry, he just loves playing for Arsenal and we just love having him back. How fantastic for those youngsters to play and train alongside him for the next few weeks. Almost too good to be true and I was there.’…. ‘We can discuss formations and players good and bad points for eternity but tonight one man and his song and our song raised the roof at The Emirates and made thousands of gooners very happy. He’s really special our Thierry Henry, be in no doubt ………

MickyDidIt89: ‘We [Micky and his son] watched the game. First half…dull, but the conversation kept coming. “Just imagine Dad, 0-0, maybe 1-1 and Thierry comes on to score the winner”. Later I put him to bed, kissed him goodnight and turned off the light. As I closed the door I heard a whisper: “Dad….can’t wait to tell my friends at school tomorrow that I saw Thierry come on and score the winner for The Arsenal”.
Best part for me? Not TH, not the win but being with my Son the moment he experienced his first real piece of Arsenal Magic.’

Chas: ‘I’ve never seen excitement like that in an Emirates upper tier crowd. People on their feet singing and dancing, it really was the second coming……A bizarre night at the football, as if it was scripted, yet pulsing with an expectant excitement.’

VCC: ‘Needless to say we had a ball last night down our local, high fives all round after The King scored.’

Big Raddy: ‘Does it get better than that moment? To be treasured forever.’

SharkeySure: ‘A living eulogy !!!!!’

TMHT: ‘Thierry and Arsenal is like a fairytale. Wonderful stuff.’

FGG: ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven!’

Seven days on from that fantastic evening, our feet have been put firmly back on the ground again. However tough the next few months MIGHT be though, nobody will be able to take that great night, in which we witnessed the temporary return of the King, away from us. A night we will remember for decades to come – a modern day fairytale.

Written by Illybongani

On Monday night the Emirates stadium witnessed the rebirth of one of football’s all-time greats – Thierry Henry. Almost 5 years since he left for greener grass in Spain the mercurial goal machine returned home to visit his family after travelling round a bit to see the world.

When the loan deal was first mooted a few eyebrows were raised; was it just Arsène being tight and not bothering to put is short arms in his long pockets again? Was it just a sentimental grab for a handful of straw that would only sully a reputation cast in bronze on the plaza outside the stadium? Or was it another shrewd piece of business by the Professor to fill in gaps left by Chamakh and Gervinho who have gone off to the African Nations Cup?

Well we found out on Monday night didn’t we? If he doesn’t score another goal in his 6-week home visit then it will all have been worth it. Someone needs to get on Wikipedia and update that scoring record.

Thierry coming home was like having sex with your ex-wife…you know it used to be good, she knew what turned you on and almost always delivered – but after a long break, she’s put on a few pounds and has a few wrinkles. But, heh, maybe she’s learned some new tricks since the break up! Well she managed to give me a semi on Monday!

Well it wasn’t a new trick, it was the same old stuff that he delivered year after year. Clinical with passion. But this time it felt so much more special. But yet it showed just how far backwards we have gone since he left. The poor performance of the rest of the team against an even poorer Leeds left a sour taste in the mouth.

Isn’t it time we divorced Chamakh and Arshavin on the grounds of diminished ability? And maybe it’s time to end the trial separation of Thierry and us? We forgive you darling – now come home where you belong.



Holding Out for a Hero. Will Thierry start? Match preview

January 15, 2012

A real 3 pointer today, what with Spurs and Liverpool dropping points at home.

We all know that Swansea are a very difficult side to beat at the Liberty Stadium, in fact only MU have won there this season. The Swans have conceded just 4 goals at home  (compared to AFC’s 6)  and have drawn half their home games (5/10) Spurs gained a very squeaky point a couple of weeks ago and Swansea will go into the game full of confidence.

Beating Swansea at THOF was our first victory of the season, it was back when we were awful , only a first half Arshavin goal securing the points. It is testament to Swansea that we should consider this fixture as “tough” –  who would have thought so when Swansea were promoted? Most AFC pundits would be happy to leave Wales with a point, but if we are to push for an automatic CL place we must have higher ambitions.

 

Remember how to do this Andrei?

Our lack of full backs has disrupted the team of recent weeks and any manager worth his salt will target our flanks; 26% of Swansea passes go out to the right wing and in Scott Sinclair and Routledge they  have players who can cause us problems, though it could be worse – they could use the left flank 🙂 Dare we go into the game with Miquel and JD as our full backs or would we be better served by playing Squillaci in the centre and moving Koscielny to the left?

Midfield is where today’s game will be won, Song is a hugely important and should he regain his form we will have the platform to win. Apart from the super pass to TH on Monday (still feeling the elation?) Song has not been playing up his very high standards, his passing haas been shaky and he doesn’t seem to know what his exact role is in midfield – is he a link player, a DM or an attacking midfielder? Fluidity amongst ARS is all well and good but sometimes it doesn’t gel.

Henry, Benayoun or Ashavin to replace Gervinho? I would select Arshavin who really tried hard on Monday and bring on TH after 70 mins. Can you remember the last time Meerkat played a full game?

Interesting stats: We have conceded in all bar 2 of our last 17 away games. We have had 9 shots cleared off the line – the highest in the PL. Only 14% of our goals have been scored from set pieces – the lowest in the PL.

My Team:

We have a very strong bench (apart from GK).  Benayoun, The Ox, Henry, Rosicky, Squillaci or Yennaris.

Inventor from Swansea?  Sir William Grove. Not only a High Court Judge but also the inventor of the fuel cell which is still used today in space rockets. Sir William is one of The 100 Welsh Heroes. Of course, Swansea is better known for giving birth to stars of the Arts including, amongst a wealth of others, Dylan Thomas, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Richard Burton and the great Bonnie Tyler.

“Come on you Swans!”

Can the return of Thierry fire up the team? Today will be a test as Swansea are on a fine run of form and we are not. Toothless sans RvP we have to find more goals from midfield. A tingling in my fingers is telling me Ramsey will score today on his return to his homeland.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy

 


Arsenal 1 – 0 Leeds: Genius Never Gets Old

January 10, 2012

It’s not a trick of the eye, it’s not a fancy photoshop job. That is indeed Thierry Henry in an Arsenal shirt, an Arsenal shirt of 2012, wheeling away to celebrate a goal.

And not just any goal, but an Henry goal. Song played in a brilliant through ball that split the two covering defenders, Henry took one touch to control the ball, and himself, and then he curled right into the corner of the net away from the keeper’s despairing dive. This was a goal that was a blast from the past – the good old times when it would be Bergkamp or Bobby Pires or Freddie playing the ball into Henry. It brought a joy to the Emirates that we’ve not seen in some time.

More importantly, it also brought us into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup where we play Aston Villa.

Leeds came with one objective last night: shut up shop and try to get a return leg at Elland Road to bring in some much needed funds. In the first half we had 63% possession, but created little in the way of real chances. Arshavin, Ramsey and Arteta all had half-chances but none that really caused panic in their defence.

I must give a word to the three mentioned above. Despite his wayward shots and odd bad decision, Arshavin put in as much effort last night as he has done in a long time in an Arsenal shirt. He kept going until the last minute, and it was pathetic he got the yellow card (although deserved) when he was the one kicked and dragged all night. Ramsey and Arteta also put in a massive shift in midfield, both are neat players who aren’t afraid to get stuck in. Wenger’s choice of Captain was spot on – Arteta is a calming influence in there, and with Jack due back soon from injury we’ve a nice midfield forming.

As for our younger players, Chamberlain had a decent game. He is a willing lad, always game to run and try the odd trick to get around his man, he’s not afraid of a shot either. What I liked about him last night was how he would spot a man free on the other wing and switch play with a good pass. Ramsey did the same on occasion. It was a great shame Coquelin went off injured, he has played well of late and was proving he was deserving of his run in the first team, hopefully his injury isn’t serious. Yennaris had a decent game with he came on for Coquelin, didn’t do anything rash and wasn’t afraid to get on the ball.

As for Ignasi Miquel – can someone make sure we wash all that Barcelona DNA bullshit out of him so when he becomes a top defender he’ll stay at the mighty Arsenal and not whinge to “go home. ” Here is your home Ignasi! He is only 19?! Is he?! Composure or what? (Although I know it is Leeds and they didn’t threaten much but this is based over his few games this season). (PPS He also has lovely hair).

At the back Kos and Squidgy did what was needed, which wasn’t much. Szczesny also did well to stay alert and make a good save right at the death – however, he needs to remember that sometimes it is okay for the keeper to just boot it into the stands. His fancy dan stuff out on the sideline that gave the ball to a Leeds player could be more costly against a better side.

Aside from that, Chamakh started well for ten minutes and then did little. I’m not sure if its him not trying or us not playing to his strong suit (whipping balls into the box for him to attack) but at the moment I’d rather see Park getting the spot on the bench and having a shot – with Chamakh off to Africa he should have his chance now, or will Henry take it?

And so we are back to where we began – with Henry. The headlines are all going to be about him tomorrow and why not? Look how much the goal meant to Henry, meant to Wenger, meant to everyone at the Emirates, to Arsenal fans worldwide, to non-Arsenal fans worldwide.

You see, genius doesn’t get old. No matter who a man plays for, you have to appreciate when they are good, when they are great. There was just this more than horrible belief that Henry’s career would be overshadowed by that handball against Ireland because that was the last “big thing” Henry did. Until last night. Last night’s goal was so simple to Henry, it brought back all those other 226 goals with waves of emotion.

THIS IS HENRY! This is the Henry that must be remembered. Twitter was absolutely mental last night with people proclaiming the “Return of the King” and it wasn’t just Arsenal fans. All the Arsenal players were buzzing, players from other clubs, commentators, celebs, nobodies, everybodies – think what you may of Henry’s return but isn’t the buzz that moment created reason enough to smile and be happy?

That handball against Ireland will be put into the annals of history and everyone will be talking of 9th Jan 2012 and where were you for the second coming of the king?

Me? I was at home in my room in Ireland going mental, thanking Henry for the one birthday present I wanted more than most (ask Peaches), and while you are reading this I will be at work, wearing an Arsenal shirt from the Unbeaten season with “Henry 14” on the back and telling any Irish person that wants to argue otherwise that 78 minutes into last night’s match is Thierry Henry, Son of Arsenal and one of the finest players the world has ever seen.

With 12 minutes remaining, Henry scores his 12th goal against Leeds in 12 appearances wearing number 12 on his Arsenal shirt in 2012

Tell me it wasn’t meant to be?!

Written by IrishGunner


Redemption Song; Match Preview

January 9, 2012

This will be a grown up post.

BR has had many years of intensive therapy following which has been able to overcome most of his childhood resentments. If he can come to terms with personal issues then surely it is possible to find it in his heart to cease a lifelong hatred of a Leeds team which went out of existence 40 years ago?

For year upon year Dirty Leeds were my most hated team – even more than the N17 Miscreants (who let us be honest deserve sympathy not disdain).  Today BR will make peace with the nemesis of his youth – – – –  Leeds, you are exculpated

The Leeds team who gave us such a scare last season at the Emirates were not even born when that little swine Johnny Giles was kicking lumps out of George Armstrong. They came to entertain and entertain they did, forcing a 1-1 draw and  it was only  a fine away performance that took us through (3-1) to the next round.  Let us not forget that the year earlier Leeds had won at OT. They can upset any of the big sides and an Arsenal team sans RvP will have to be on their mettle to win tonight.

Of course, the opposition is secondary tonight. The roar when the homecoming hero comes off the bench will be heard by our Canadian correspondents, our Californian friends and our Aussie mates. We all wish we could join in the fun. Can he perform? Of course he can.

A little older, a little facial hair but still alarmingly attractive

On Saturday we had a fine discussion about tonight’s game which encompassed much of what I would have written today. I would especially like to thank Deano for giving the Leeds perspective in a non-aggressive way. His insights (reproduced in the paragraph below) into the Leeds team are far more informed than mine could ever be.

Ross Mc Cormack on his day can be a real handfull and certainly knows where the net is. Luciano Bechio is a big strong lad more in the fashion of a typical English CF, not Argentinian type, but he has a good first touch and can hold the ball up well and bring players in, heads the ball well also but has been far from his best of late. Aidy white is a young FB with loads of pace and bags of potential and works the overlap well when not on the back foot. CB’s could be a problem as most are injured and we only have 2 fit. Tom Lees is a big lad who watches the ball well and has good potential but very inexperienced as yet. Darren O Dea is on loan from Celtic and is steady but not exceptional.

Johny Howson our Captain and CM star is a very good box to box player but is out injured which is a loss. Adam Clayton on his day is a very good young midfielder from Man City who can strike from distance and has a good touch, again a little out of sorts of late. Ramon Nunez is a very skillfull Honduran international who got player of the tournament at the Copa America. Still getting used to English game but with the ball at his feet is a good lad. Andros Townsend on loan from Spurs at the mo seems a good young winger with pace and I am sure He will be up for it if picked. Somma, Snoddgrass, Kisnorbo, and some others are all injured so maybe Mikael Forssell could get a game and you know all about him I am sure.

In short, Deano said that Leeds were capable of beating anyone but were suffering from injuries to important players (sound familiar!). Managed by Simon Grayson, they suffer from the Bates effect  i.e a megalomaniac who has unrealistic expectations and is interested purely in profit thereby selling all the best players and signing ex-“names.” (Gradel sold to St Etienne/ Forsell signed). He almost bankrupted Chelsea who unfortunately were saved by the Russian.

As our team, I expect AW to put out as strong a side as possible. We have only 4 games in January so burn-out is not an issue .

My Team:

Not sure whether Chamakh will be with Morocco , if he is the Park would play centrally. Park, Ryo and The Ox all played 90 mins for the reserves on Weds loss to Sunderland which may be an indicator they will start tonight. Your guess is as good as mine!

It is fitting to find a fan who was around during those Dirty Leeds days, a man who despite being a true Rock God maintained his Goonerdom whilst touring the world, who when I saw him play a gig at The Lyceum came on stage wearing a red and white scarf. The man in question is Robert Nesta Marley. A man who knew all about forgiveness and redemption. Mr Marley lived in Islington for some time and being a football nut often went to Highbury; unusually his timing was off as he started going in 1972 – the season after the Double

Bob. St. Thomas’s Rd. 1973

My name is Big Raddy and I am an Arsenalholic..


Hooray for Henry?

January 8, 2012

Written by Double98

Is everyone delighted with the return of the King?…

I am not so sure. Maybe it is the Gooner DNA in me that requires that I suffer even in triumph, I must temper joy with regret but I just can’t forget how we parted…

Do you remember?

I was sitting in a pub having drinks when at about 8 in the evening, Sky Sports News started breaking the news despite the loud music and merriment all around me, I had to read the yellow marquee banner announcement – He had joined Barcelona for £16.8 Million.

Boom.

The last to know and of course I had to find out from somebody else.

Except, that’s not quite right, I mean it’s not like it wasn’t obvious. It’s not like every football journalist, commentator and blogger hadn’t announced it as a done deal. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming either, in all the little ways, I mean he ponced around for his last 6 months and wouldn’t perform for me because of some vague, possibly feigned injuries, he pouted and gesticulated at every pass that made him run. He looked at the grass instead of in my eye. He specifically wouldn’t come out and say directly that he was staying.

I found text messages on his phone.

Or maybe it was in the national press.

They were from Xavi and Iniesta. They were pornographic and talked about how they’d make him come. To Barca.

Barca people were flying in every day to try and get Arsène to open his door. Arsène was inside, hiding behind the couch. His fingers plugged his ears and his Arsenal Centurions dvd was playing on full volume.

But then he saw it was actually his protégé that stood outside. The “quite-decent” winger he had plucked from an old Italian lady who didn’t know what to do with him. He had taken him from a bit part role with Juventus and had groomed and crafted him into the most audacious and brilliant goal scoring machine that had ever cast a shadow over English football. That’s who was now knocking on his door.

His message was brutal, the delivery was kind.

“I am bigger than Arsenal” he said, “I need a club that matches my ambition.”

He had manufactured a move to Barseholeona. It was bargain basement. The money he left us with would have barely bought a Darren Bent and a new set of footballs.

When I read that scrolling banner on sky sports news, I felt like Coleen Rooney at an old folk’s home, cast aside and unable to compete for man I love.

Oh sure, he said all the right things, the things you want to believe but never want to hear. He said how he was an Arsenal Fan, A Gooner, and he always would be. There was always a place for us in his heart. One day he would come back and we would be together forever.

It wasn’t me it was him.

I moved on, after a while and in a fashion. First there was the Spanish boy. He talked about love and loyalty. He whispered ambition in my ear and for a short period everything clicked. He showed me moves that would make a matador blush. He even had his own television special, you know. But he was too young and didn’t know the power of the words he used. Then his phone would get the occasional text message that he wouldn’t comment on and before you knew it Xavi and Iniesta where taking dirty things in his ear.

So he left, but he was no king.

Suddenly I found myself drawn to a sickly limping chap that had been sent to us from Holland for long term rehabilitation. To be blunt, he looked great but kept having breakdowns. He spent a lot of time convalescing and getting better from his glass shins and chocolate leg syndrome.

I nursed him back to health. Tweet by tweet, song by song, prayer by prayer and he repaid me with solidity and consistency.

And goals.

He hasn’t heard from Xavi or Iniesta yet. His DNA is pure chocolate so maybe we are safe.

And now. . . . . . . . . . . . .

And now he’s back from outer space, he just walked right in with that strange beard upon his face.

Talking some New York Bull.

I don’t know what he expects; I mean I should ignore him. After all I am happy with Robin, he treats me well and I am not sure how it will be to have them both under the same roof for 2 months.

Maybe I should be strong and let him know in no uncertain terms that he can’t just walk in the door as if nothing happened.

But then again the heart does sing a little at the prospect.

Thierry Henry. Home.