Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Eliminated But Proud


Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0 tonight at the Allianz Arena but it wasn't enough to overcome the 1-3 first leg result and have exited the Champions League. Arsenal needed three clear goals to go through to the quarter finals, a ridiculously tough task against a Bayern side who are having one of the best seasons in their history as well as Arsenal being without some key players like Wilshere, Podolski, Sagna and Szczesny. A goal from Giroud three minutes in got the ball rolling but it took until the 85th minute for Arsenal to score again, from a Koscielny header. The third goal never came and the Gunners exited the competition in the first round yet again.

Despite going out of the Champions League there are plenty of positives to take away from tonight's game. I'll make this quick, so let's run through some of the things I liked this evening:

Fabianski

When I heard Wenger had decided to "rest" Szczesny for tonight's game I was surprised to say the least. Goalkeepers hardly have the hardest job on the pitch stamina-wise so it's not like Szczesny needed the rest on a physical level. But Fabianski came in, his first game of this 2012/13 season, and put in possibly his finest performance in an Arsenal shirt. He was solid for the entire 90 minutes and dealt with everything Bayern threw at him. The Pole was constantly peppered with long range shots by Bayern and he kept it all out. Fabianski looked composed and marshalled the back four effectively too. Yesterday I would have told you his Arsenal career was clearly over. But now? Should we give him another look? Based on tonight's game I think he's earned another chance with us. He looked like a totally different goalkeeper to the Fabianski of old.

The defensive effort

I realise that Bayern had plenty of attempts on goal but I felt overall the entire team defended very well on the whole. The midfield bought into the gameplan tonight and really chipped in with helping out the back four. Considering what we've witnessed the majority of the time this season I thought the defence were outstanding tonight. The only criticism I have is we could have cleared our lines better and were a bit sloppy giving the ball back to Bayern after we'd just won it from them. But I thought the back four of Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs were brilliant. They deserve a lot of praise in blunting that Bayern squad's attack. Coming away from the Allianz with a clean sheet is a feat not accomplished by most teams. I think now is the time Wenger needs to seriously consider leaving Vermaelen out of the first XI for a bit. Koscielny was head and shoulders better than Vermaelen has been all year and I'm sorry, captain or no captain, but the Belgian has not been up to scratch this season. Just give Arteta the armband for the rest of the campaign and let Vermaelen earn his place back in the side. It's such a shame because I adored him not so long ago but he's been so inconsistent since he was handed the captaincy. I think Koscielny and Mertesacker are the way forward from now on, until Thomas can get some form back.


Rosicky

With the news that our midfield engine Jack Wilshere will miss at least three weeks with an ankle problem, I have to admit my head dropped a bit. He's been so incredible since his return from injury that I struggled to see us winning much without Jack in the side, driving the team forward. But the door has opened now for Rosicky to get meaningful minutes and play in his favourite position, to show us what he can do when healthy. The Czech midfielder came back into the team around this time last year and provided that extra spark to push us home at the end of last season. Based on tonight's performance it looks like he's trying to repeat that effort. He didn't do anything too notable tonight but I loved his effort out there. He repeatedly harried the Bayern defenders when they had the ball, chasing them down and pressuring constantly. It kept the German side from settling and I appreciated his hard work for the team. Hopefully Rosicky can build on this performance and steer the team to victory over the next couple of months.

So all in all it's incredibly sad and disappointing to exit the Champions League again but I think every Gooner out there can feel proud with the team and the effort they gave tonight. It wasn't enough overall but a 2-0 win away in Munich is nothing to frown about and should be celebrated.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Nacho Better Than Nothing


In my Liverpool match review yesterday I said towards the end that I hoped Wenger would dip into the transfer market for a new left back and thankfully that's exactly what he did. Spanish international Nacho Monreal has agreed to join the club from Malaga on a long term contract for what's believed to be around £10 million. The deal is practically done, Arsenal are just waiting for the formal registration process to be completed.

I can't honestly say I know anything about Monreal apart from the fact he's 26 and has seven caps for the world and European champions. Everything I've read about him is positive so it sounds like he should fit in nicely with Arsenal, plus he's got his old teammate Santi Cazorla already here to guide him. With Gibbs picking up that thigh injury on Wednesday night it left Santos as our only senior left back. That mere thought is enough to terrify every Arsenal fan and Wenger must have seen it too. Hopefully this Monreal deal can be completed today but it'll be highly unlikely he'll play tomorrow against Stoke, so I expect we'll be forced to watch Santos one more time. I honestly think that with the signing of Monreal it spells the end for Santos at the club. He's a likeable chap but his flaws are too visible to ignore and I think Arsene really needs to offload him in the summer.

Overall I'd have liked Wenger to be more active this January but since I expected nothing at all, the signing of Monreal came as a nice surprise. I bought tickets for Arsenal - Aston Villa last week so I'm looking forward to seeing him in the flesh on the 23rd February. Hopefully he can fit in well and add a bit of solidity to our weak back-line.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

A Point Earned Is Two Points Dropped


Arsenal battled back from two goals down last night at The Emirates to draw 2-2 with Liverpool in a game that was end to end and could have gone either way. Both teams had numerous chances to finish the other off and claim all three points but a draw was all they could muster.

This was a game I felt Arsenal had to win. Arsene Wenger has been 100% correct lately when he's said we cannot afford to drop any more points from now on and I personally feel last night's game was a missed opportunity. With Everton and Spurs above us and Liverpool and Swansea not far behind, we really need to win every game left on the schedule. No disrespect to Liverpool, who have a superstar in Luis Suarez (even if he is a little twat), but I believe Arsenal should have the quality to beat this current Liverpool team.

However in typical Arsenal fashion they decided to let Liverpool score before they decided they'd like to participate in this match. A harmless pass by Suarez wasn't dealt with by Sagna because the French defender slipped on his arse, allowing Glen Johnson to collect the ball and drive into the box. The moment Sagna fell I could tell we were about to go 1-0 down because I don't know what it is, but I always feel like other teams punish us for these stupid little mistakes every single time. Johnson swung the ball across goal to Daniel Sturridge and yet again we fans are gifted the sight of another defensive mistake. As Johnson's ball is put in, Vermaelen has all day to get a leg on it and clear the ball. Instead he air kicks it and the ball passes right under him and straight to Sturridge. The Englishman's decent attempt was well saved by Szczesny but the rebound was only flicked away by Ramsey (who I don't really blame because the ball ricocheted into his path and he didn't seem to know it hit him). Jordan Henderson then played the ball to Suarez whose first time shot deflected in and Liverpool were 1-0 up within 5 minutes. Sloppy, horrible defending that just makes you want to cry.

At least we didn't have to wait long for Arsenal to show some fight. Immediately after giving away the first goal Walcott nearly equalised. A beautiful pass from Wilshere was brought under control superbly by Walcott (an excellent first touch) who forced an instinctive save from Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. But not long after that chance, Arsenal decided to make life difficult for themselves again. Liverpool pushed forward on the counter and a brilliant Suarez pass put Sturridge in on goal but his effort went just wide of Szczensy's goal. If allowing that glorious chance wasn't enough, our Polish keeper decided to offer Strurridge one more chance. From the goal kick Szczesny played it short to Mertesacker who was immediately put under pressure by Suarez. Understandably the German defender played the ball back to his goalkeeper but Szczesny had Sturridge coming after him. So instead of Szczesny putting his foot through it and getting ball away from danger by any means necessary, what does he decide to do? He tries a ridiculous back heel turn in an attempt to fool Sturridge, who was having none of it and if the striker got one more toe to the ball it would have easily found itself in the back of the Arsenal net. It was a complete joke and I cannot believe, at 1-0 down, Szczesny had the audacity to attempt such a stupid move. I really like our Polish stopper but he has that side to him, that showboating arrogance that I really don't like. You have one job to do as a goalkeeper, to minimise the risk of the ball going past you and when he tries stupid stunts like that it just makes me despair. The team has a bad enough defensive reputation as it is so we don't need any more sloppy mistakes.


Arsenal pushed for an equaliser in the first half but it didn't come, despite Giroud and Walcott both having good chances. Liverpool could have gone 2-0 up from a corner (which came from a careless Mertesacker mistake) as a Daniel Agger header was cleared off the line by Podolski. Szczesny came out for the ball and got nowhere near it, allowing Agger a free header on target. Things got worse for the home side when Gibbs had to come off with an injured thigh after 32 minutes (he'll be out for 3 weeks) and Andre Santos had to come on in his place. If there was ever a substitution that inspired less confidence amongst the Arsenal faithful, this was it (although a Squillaci sighting might run it close). To cap off an embarrassing defensive first half we almost let Jordan Henderson score. Yeah I know, Jordan Henderson! With only a couple of minutes to go before half time Stewart Downing took the ball into our half and fed the ball in behind our defenders (Mertesacker caught ball watching again, completely failing to see Henderson running in behind him) into the path of Henderson. Szczesny rushed out to intercept but wasn't fast enough, stranded now on the edge of his box trying to make himself opposing to Henderson. The Liverpool midfielder paused, watched our keeper finally scramble back to goal and then tried to chip Szczesny. Luckily the ball landed safely on top of the Arsenal goal and not in the back of the net. By now Liverpool should have been well in the lead and we'd almost let Henderson score against us. Things couldn't get much worse.

Well of course they could, and would, because Henderson actually DID score against us. The Englishman picked up the ball just outside our penalty area and went right at Mertesacker, passing him by with ease. Santos came to help but he was typically too late and the wrong side of goal. Henderson's first shot was weak and blocked by a flying Aaron Ramsey but unfortunately the ball deflected back to Henderson. By this time Szczesny had already prepared himself to save the initial shot so was down and out of position to stop Henderson's second attempt, which he duly tapped into an uncontested net. It's a sign of how bad this defence has become when we make bloody Jordan Henderson look like Lionel Messi. 2-0 down at home and heads certainly dropped.

Of course, only this bizarre and backwards Arsenal team could play better 0-2 down than 2-0 up. Within minutes of looking like Liverpool had wrapped this one up Arsenal came to life and played their best football of the night. Podolski narrowly missed with a long range shot before the Gunners finally got back in the game. A free kick was beautifully swung in from the right flank by Wilshere and Giroud was there to head home past a helpless Reina. It ignited the crowd and the team had their tails up now. Three minutes later and Arsenal were level and had turned the game around. Santi Cazorla played a perfect pass into Giroud who had his back to goal. The French striker cushioned an instant pass to an unmarked Walcott who smashed it first time from a tight angle to equalise. The ball was hit so perfectly and so fast that Reina didn't even have time to get down for the save, he was just left stranded and stood alone. It really was a beautiful hit from the in-form Walcott and just an example of what he's capable of. From 0-2 down to 2-2 in under four minutes, only this Arsenal team would make fans suffer and celebrate in such fashion.

Unfortunately that's as far as Arsenal could go. Despite their persistence the home side could not find the winning goal. Walcott narrowly missed with his left foot not long after his equalising goal and an Arsenal counter attack with ten minutes left almost brought a winner. Giroud got in on the act too, with three decent opportunities in the last ten minutes but it wasn't to be. Naturally Arsenal still had time left to torture their fans a bit more. With one minute left in injury time Santos played a stupid ball into a dangerous area around the centre circle. To be fair to the Brazilian it was partly Vermaelen's fault that Liverpool stole Santos's pass so easily; our captain took his eye off the ball at the worst possible time and I don't think he even knew Santos had attempted a pass to him. Nevertheless Santos should never be putting the ball into a dangerous area like that and Liverpool were quickly away and looking for a late winner. Suarez got the ball out on the left flank and drove into the box and it was only thanks to a great Szczesny save down low that the score remained 2-2.

I had mixed feelings after the final whistle and I still do this morning. I'm pleased that Arsenal can show resilience to come back from two goals down and fight their way back into the game but at the same time I'm pissed off we still get ourselves into these situations. It's all well and good saying how great our spirit is to come back but I'd prefer if we could play like we did when we were 0-2 down right from the beginning. It was an amazing sight to behold. The minute after Henderson put Liverpool up by two, Arsenal played with such pace and force you had to wonder why it took so long for them to play with such eagerness.


It's reassuring to see our attackers are in form and scoring important goals but the defensive problems only seem to be getting worse. With the news that Gibbs will be out for at least three weeks, I can't bear to watch Santos at left back against Bayern Munich in just over two weeks time. I don't like to single out individuals but he is not nearly good enough to be successful at this level. Brighton made him look like an amateur and I couldn't believe how slow and unfit he was in the final minutes last night. He'd only been on the pitch for 60 minutes, it wasn't like he'd struggled through the entire 90. I am praying Wenger springs a late deal today before the transfer deadline shuts to bring in a new left back, but I can almost guarantee the boss will never do that. We'll see eh?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Jack Of Hearts


It nearly took all night but Arsenal finally dispatched Swansea yesterday, beating them 1-0 in the 3rd round replay of the FA Cup, setting up a 4th round matchup against Brighton on the 26th January. The man responsible for Arsenal's victory is the young Englishman Jack Wilshere, whose drive and effort shone throughout the entire match and was finally rewarded in the 86th minute with a blistering shot that Swansea keeper Michel Vorm had no chance of stopping. 

The Gunners really should have held on to their 2-1 lead at Swansea on the 6th January but it wasn't to be, as a Danny Graham goal in the final minutes tied the game and forced last night's unwanted replay. Arsene Wenger knows the squad is tired enough as it is and an FA Cup replay was the last thing he would have wanted during this busy fixture period. However I'm sure he was grateful that the team were at least still in the competition and had another chance to progress. That being said, last night's game was possibly the most important of this season to date; a loss would have seen us exit the FA Cup and almost certainly put to bed any thoughts of this Gunners side winning any silverware this season (Champions League excluded... but come on...)

I felt the manager picked probably the strongest side he could field at the moment but, as we have seen far too often recently, the team never really got going in the first half. For much of the opening 45 minutes Swansea kept control of the possession and were unlucky not to take the lead from a header hitting the bar, courtesy of ex-Arsenal man Kyle Bartley. At least that seemed to wake Arsenal up a bit as they started to play a lot better towards the end of the first half. In fact I'm sure the players were probably disappointed to hear the half time whistle, as the home side were beginning to finally take hold of the game.

Thankfully Arsenal carried that momentum and energy into the second half and really put this Swansea City team to the sword. The Gunners had chance after chance and it started to look like we'd never score and the game would go into extra-time. Twice Arsenal had the ball cleared off the Swansea goal-line and the pressure kept mounting, with Vorm making save after save. Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all had efforts blocked by the Dutch keeper. Swansea looked quite content to soak up the pressure and hold on for extra-time, maybe fancying their chances at a penalty shoot-out.


But it wasn't to be. With less than 5 minutes to go and the home crowd growing more frustrated and anxious as the seconds ticked by, they were rewarded with as good a goal as you are likely to see. Kieran Gibbs drove the ball into Swansea's half and played it to Santi Cazorla, whose expert pass found the feet of Giroud just outside the penalty area. The French striker played a cute first-time ball off the outside of his boot into the path of Wilshere, who smashed it on the half-volley and straight into the back of the net. It was a real peach of a goal, a shot that flashed past Vorm so quickly it could have burst through the goalkeeper's net. Arsenal's pressure was finally rewarded and there were no repeats of Swansea's late heroics in the first game on the 6th January. This time Arsenal held on for the clean sheet and the win, guaranteeing us a trip to Brighton in the 4th round.

Arsenal owe this win to just one man in particular, the heart of our midfield, Jack Wilshere. For me, he played his finest game in an Arsenal shirt since that memorable night against Barcelona a couple of years ago. He was everywhere last night, literally dragging this jaded and tired Arsenal side into attacking Swansea's stubborn defence. The Englishman wouldn't give in and his zig-zagging runs at the opposition were a sight to behold; this small bulldog terrier-like player fending off defenders as he consistently tried to create goal scoring chances for his team-mates. Finally he'd had enough of their wastefulness and took it upon himself to break the deadlock. His goal would be the envy of most strikers in the Premier League, a really fine hit. Last night definitely proved young Jack is worthy of wearing that number 10 shirt. It is obvious for all to see the immense pride he has in possessing the iconic number and he has certainly earned it. 

Let's hope there are many more Wilshere goals to come in Arsenal's future. I'm a big fan of that celebration he does, the knee slider with the badge-thump. I feel that for once we have a player who really means it when he says he loves the club. Long may that continue, I think he'd make a fine captain one day.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Podolski Stunner Dispatches Montpellier


Arsenal have secured their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the 13th successive year thanks to their 2-0 win over Montpellier at the Emirates last night. With Schalke beating Olympiakos 1-0, Arsenal have guaranteed their participation in the knockout stage with a game to spare. They can travel to Greece on the 4th December safe in the knowledge that progress has already been assured.

This was a game Arsenal should have won as the reigning French champions have had a difficult season so far. The first half was a rather forgettable affair with neither side troubling the other's goalkeeper. In the 10th minute Koscielny saw his powerful header cannon off the crossbar, narrowly missing out on giving the home side the lead. Podolski had a couple of half chances that were snatched at, both falling wide of the target. Arsenal just couldn't get into their rhythm, with misplaced passes occurring more often than we fans are used to.

Thankfully Arsenal came out all guns blazing in the second half and quickly took the lead. 3 minutes into the second half, some good work by Podolski and Vermaelen down the left flank saw the captain swing a cross into the box which found the head of Giroud, who knocked it down into the path of Wilshere. The young Englishman finished with a lovely flick off the outside of his left boot to score his first goal in nearly two years and give Arsenal the lead. You could see the goal meant a lot to Jack, the little scamp celebrating with his tongue out, pounding the badge on his chest. He was loving it.


It wasn't long before Arsenal scored again and effectively put the game to bed. Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his first start in quite some time, robbed the ball in midfield and used his pace to drive at goal. He laid if off to Podolski just outside the penalty box, where the German striker played a delightful one-two with Giroud, whose lobbed ball over the defence fell beautifully to Podolski who laced an unstoppable shot past the helpless Montpellier keeper to make it 2-0. You won't see many goals better than that. Podolski absolutely destroyed the ball, making contact right on the sweet spot. It was a magnificent finish that took the remaining fight out of the French side.

And that was pretty much that. Giroud narrowly missed out on scoring against his old club, Geoffrey Jourdren making a good save, and Cazorla tested the keeper with a volley, although he sliced it a bit which took a lot of the power out of it. Deep into injury time Montpellier's Emanuel Herrera narrowly missed the target with a long range shot that Szczesny's dive would have probably stopped. A minute later the final whistle was blown and the game was over, 3 points and progress into the next round secured.

Overall it was a good team performance and the type of win we needed to build on the victory at the weekend against Spurs. There were a couple of moments in the first half where our defence looked typically suspect, carved open on a Montpellier counter-attack in the 12th minute for example, but they tightened things up in the second half. I felt Vermaelen looked much better than he has done recently, a bit more like the Vermaelen of old. Koscielny, apart from one blunder on the edge of our own box in the first half, combined well with Mertesacker in the centre of defence and Sagna was his usual reliable self at right back. One of the things that impresses me most about the Frenchman is his ability to control the ball so well when his heels are practically on the sideline; he does exceptionally well to keep possession with such limited space. In attack I felt Giroud had a great game despite not scoring. His control and first touch are brilliant for a big man and his cushioned header to set up Wilshere's goal was perfect, exactly how he should be utilised in attack. Use that height and strength to our advantage. His assist for Podolski's goal was sublime too.

So now we can travel to Olympiakos in a couple of weeks with the pressure off and use that game to maybe blood one or two youngsters in the competition. I don't think we should field a team with too little experience, we still want to win and top the group after all. But the Olympiakos game provides a perfect opportunity to start players like Arshavin, Ramsey and Gervinho, maybe even Chamakh or give Walcott a chance to shine up front in that centre forward position he so covets. Whichever team Wenger decides to choose, fans can relax a little bit. Well, as much as Arsenal fans can relax these days...

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's Time We Talked


I have seriously been neglecting this blog. Escape to N5 has not been given the attention it deserves. We just beat Liverpool on Sunday and if you look back about 3 or 4 posts, you'll see my match report from the same game last season. A lot has happened since that match way back in March and it's pathetic I have not been able to blog and comment on any games since.

I just don't have the time or energy to spend my free time away from work here on the blog. Having said that, I don't want to give up. I enjoy writing little pieces here and there about Arsenal. I just struggle to see the point in writing match reports a day late when the game will have already been written about by countless others immediately after the final whistle. Yet I don't intend to pack it in just yet and I feel I can still contribute some meaningful pieces here at Escape to N5.

So a lot has happened since my last post, when Robin van Persie dropped the bombshell that he wasn't going to sign a new contract. Our former captain has since joined Manchester United and carried on his fine form from last season, scoring a hat trick at Southampton in a 3-2 come-from-behind win for United (despite missing a penalty). I was sad to see him go, he'd been my favourite player for the past 5 years or so and was a joy to watch. It's a real shame he moved to one of our rivals because now all the great memories from his time at the club have been somewhat tarnished for me.

Theo Walcott nearly left the club recently after failing to come to terms on a new contract with the club. I think it was a good decision by Arsenal not to sell him and continue negotiations. We all know Theo hasn't really set the world alight during his time in North London but he's still young and has gotten better every season. I think it'd be unwise to give up on him just yet, plus he's an easy guy to support - what you see is what you get and I admire clean-cut players like Walcott. Alex Song also departed for pastures anew, joining Barcelona in a transfer that seemed to come out of nowhere. At a club already full to the brim with talented midfielders, Barca's acquisition of Song seems puzzling. I liked Song a great deal, especially over the last 2 years, but I think Wenger made the right decision to sell him if Alex was unhappy. If Diaby can stay fit and continue to play like he has recently, I don't think we'll miss Song's impact much at all.


On the positive side, the signing of Santi Cazorla from financially-plagued Malaga has been a masterstroke by Wenger. The dynamic Spanish midfielder has slotted into the side with ease and looks supremely confident in the playmaker role. Cazorla was the kind of player we lacked last year after we lost Fabregas so it's a joy to watch a player of Santi's quality pulling strings in midfield. He's a real talent.

Let us also pay attention to our solid start to the season. Despite scoring no goals in our first 2 games against Sunderland and Stoke, every fan must be impressed with the new stability evident in the defence. Three games and three clean sheets, two of them without our number one goalkeeper. The partnership of Vermaelen and Mertesacker in the centre has rarely been troubled thus far in the campaign and the entire back four has looked impressive. Gibbs is continuing his development as a top left-back and Jenkinson has filled in admirably at right-back in Sagna's absence. In fact the game against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday was his best performance yet. Mannone has performed well since Szczesny went down injured and I feel a lot more confident in him than I ever have previously. It looks like the young Italian's loan spell at Hull last season did him wonders. I think it's clear to every Arsenal fan that Steve Bould's influence since taking over as the assistant manager is having an effect on the defence. The team look a lot more confident in defending as a unit and hopefully Bould's presence can continue to have the desired effect.

On a personal note I'm getting ready to purchase my new home shirt in the next week or so. Most years I just get the shirt without a player's name on it but this year I feel like spending that little bit more. The only problem I'm having is deciding on which player should grace my new shirt. Here's where I'm at:

Lukas Podolski 85%
Santi Cazorla 10%
Mikel Arteta 5%


I've admired Podolski for a long time and his signing this summer was easily the one I was most excited for. Once he got given the number 9 I was convinced, as the number 9 is one of my favourite numbers. Yet some doubt has crept in, despite Podolski scoring his first goal for the club at Liverpool on Sunday. My decision to delay choosing the German has nothing to do with his play, of which I've been very impressed with since he joined. It's the superb start to his Arsenal career by Cazorla that has me questioning whether or not I should choose the Spaniard for my new shirt. Another Spanish midfielder is in contention as well. After the mad deadline day we experienced last season, it was the signing of Arteta that excited me the most and I felt he had a very good first season at the club, his match winning goal against Man City being a highlight. His solid and reliable presence in midfield is the reason he makes the list, plus I like the number 8 (thank you Mr Wright and Mr Ljungberg). Once I buy and receive the shirt I'll post some pic's on here.

That'll do for today. I felt the international break gave me a chance to catch up so I hope you've enjoyed my little re-cap. Like I said previously, I don't know how often I'll be writing on the blog but I'll try to make more of an effort from now on.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Robin Refuses Contract Bombshell



And so we bid farewell to yet another captain. We're beginning to make a nasty habit of it at Arsenal. 

Today our talismanic striker Robin van Persie released a statement that declared he would not be signing a new contract with the club and thus ending his time with us. He stated that after meeting with Wenger and Gazidis, the two groups disagreed with how the club should move forward. It's not officially confirmed that he's leaving us right away - he still has a year left on his contract. But seriously, what human-being is going to stick around at his job for 1 more year, full in the knowledge that he's going to be leaving afterwards, and for free as well? Robin understands that this statement ends his time at the club because there's no way he's playing for us this year - the fans would crucify him every game; no one would support a player we all know is leaving. Plus Arsenal would be mad to let him walk for free next year; they'll look to offload him for the highest possible price this summer instead.

I've been a huge fan of van Persie's right from the beginning. It was that last minute curler against Southampton in the 04/05 season that did it for me. I thought, "this guy is really something, what a left foot." Unfortunately injuries and inconsistency slowed his progress but every time he played you could tell he had something special. His mastery over the ball is second to none - he can control it in ways few can and he places it wherever he wants. This past season we witnessed what a fully-fit and healthy van Persie can really do over an entire season. Gifted the captaincy at the beginning of the year, the Dutchman revelled in it and went on to record a remarkable year, scoring goals at will on his way to picking up Player of the Season awards across the board. His 2011/12 campaign was one of the greatest in Arsenal's history and puts him right up there with the greats - very few Arsenal strikers have recorded 30+ goals in a single season (37 in 48 appearances).


Which is exactly why it's so sad it has to end like this. After the disaster of last summer when we lost our best two midfielders in Fabregas and Nasri, the club will want to avoid a repeat of that nightmare. Van Persie will be sold to the highest bidder and probably as soon as possible. I'm just praying he doesn't join one of our Premiership rivals, ESPECIALLY Man City. If he moves to Barca or Juventus I wouldn't be quite so upset, but if I have to endure him scoring for fun on Match of the Day every weekend I might cry a bit.

Looking on the bright side, I suppose we can take heart that at least the club prepared for van Persie's departure. The signings of Podolski and Giroud look extremely clever now. The pressure will be on them  to perform and deliver the goods - every Arsenal fan in the world will be praying they can.

I really didn't think he'd leave. I thought he was different. "He's not like the rest of them, he loves the club for real" I said. If nothing else, van Persie's statement today has taught me a lesson in naivety and that football has changed immeasurably since I was a kid. Loyalty means nothing to footballers anymore and money talks, like it always does. And why shouldn't it? Van Persie doesn't owe us anything, not really. If you were offered  a new job that doubled your wages and promised bonuses (trophies), you'd do exactly the same. It's just a shame we've lost that romantic aspect of football, where players truly played for the name on the front of the shirt and not the one on the back. But what else do we really expect nowadays? Ultimately van Persie's departure shouldn't be of any surprise. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

Hey, maybe Wenger will call an emergency meeting and all will be resolved before the weekend. Van Persie said it himself: "As soon as Mr. Gazidis is back from his 2-week holiday in America further meetings will follow and I will update you if and when there are more developments." Maybe they'll talk it out everyting will be ok? Soon we'll see photos of RVP shaking hands with the boss, announcing he's signed a contract that'll see him finish out his career with us. I can dream can't I? In all seriousness this is surely the end of RVP at Arsenal, and it's a real shame.

At least he went out with a bang.

Thanks for reading