Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dortmund See Double Dutch

Arsenal faced German champions Borussia Dortmund this evening at the Emirates with the chance to secure passage through to the knockout stages of the Champions League; all we needed was a win. Unfortunately I worked late tonight and ended up missing the entire first half. Luckily it didn't matter one bit as I got home just in time to see van Persie head us into the lead and then score again just before the end to wrap up the win, 2-1 to the Arsenal (Dortmund got a late consolation thanks to some sloppy defending).

I'd only been watching for less than 5 minutes when the first goal was scored. Man of the match and fan favourite Alex Song picked the ball up near the half way line and went on a scintillating run, teasing and twisting the Dortmund defenders inside out. After skilfully making his way past his last opponents, Song chipped a delightful ball into the box where the prolific Robin van Persie was waiting to dispatch a powerful header down low into the ground. The ball was headed with such force and so low to the ground that the Dortmund goalie couldn't keep it out despite his best efforts: 1-0 the Arsenal and it gave the entire team the boost they needed. Momentum favoured the Gunners then and we looked more and more dangerous as Dortmund were forced to push harder and harder for an equaliser. The game was still in the balance until, with only 5 minutes left, Arteta's corner wasn't dealt with by the Dortmund defence and van Persie was perfectly positioned to sweep home his and Arsenal's second goal of the game. Game over (well, let's forget about that crap Dortmund consolation) and three points in the bag. Group winners and progress to the knockout stages ensured, exactly what we needed.

With tonight's win Arsenal are the first English team to make it through to the next round of the Champions League, with a game to spare as well. With the other English clubs struggling this year, (Chelsea lost tonight to Bayer Leverkusen, Man City fell to Napoli and United limped through to a draw with Benfica) it only makes tonight's achievement even more impressive. After our well-documented struggles early on in the season, Arsene and van Persie have really righted what once looked like a sinking ship. Our progress in Europe is just another part of this mini resurrection we're currently enjoying. The squad are certainly firing on all cylinders, especially our Dutch captain, and with the form in the team are in right now, we look unbeatable. Here's hoping the good times keep coming, all the way to the end of the season!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Cleaning Out The Canaries

Real football resumed at Carrow Road this afternoon after another predictably boring international break; Arsenal didn't lose a step since their last game at home to West Brom way back on the 5th November, coming out on top against Norwich with a 2-1 win and yet another brace from our irrepressible captain. Van Persie added to his tally of 2011 Premier League goals and is up to 31 now, joining the elite company of Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer as the only players to score 30 or more in a calendar year. The guy is untouchable at the moment and is easily the most in-form and deadly striker in world football, certainly the Premier League. It's not just our star man on form but the team are responding as well. Today's victory chalks up another win and 3 more crucial points in what's turning out to be one of the closest races for 4th place in league history. I'd obviously like us to push for higher than 4th but the way the season is going and how good the top teams are playing, 4th place will probably be quite an accomplishment come the end of the campaign. 

Anyway, one step at a time and all that, but obviously every win helps and team morale probably hasn't been higher this year. Here's hoping we ride this momentum into Wednesday's game against Borussia Dortmund; beat them and we secure our place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, the highest priority right now. Wenger ought to name a full strength team and I'll be very disappointed if he doesn't. Only time will tell...

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Gunners Keep On Rolling

Arsenal's comprehensive 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday makes it four consecutive Premier League wins on the trot. The boys from N5 are really on a roll at the moment, banishing the early season memories. After that horrible start we've really turned things around and the whole squad are on top form right now, especially the man up front leading the attack, captain Robin van Persie. The flying Dutchman scored one goal and created two more this weekend - everything is clicking for the guy and the squad feed off this. Van Persie is having the season of his life and his goals are up to double digit numbers already. Naturally this is incredible news but every Arsenal fan out there, though enjoying our recent success, is also petrified of van Persie picking up an injury because be honest, who else have we got? Chamakh, as much as I want the guy to do well at the club, just looks lost out there every time he takes the field. Park Chu-Young? After a well taken goal against Bolton in the Carling Cup he stumbled around against Marseille in the Champions League, looking extremely rough and not quite ready for the big stage. Both players need match time to build confidence, but neither look close to filling van Persie's enormous shoes should the unimaginable happen and he get hurt. Past experience shows he will eventually - let's just hope he can stay healthy for all the important moments because we need him desperately. 

But lets not dwell on the future we have no control over and can't possibly foresee. Instead let's celebrate the comeback of Thomas Vermaelen, certainly one of our best players and don't we just look a lot better with him back in the side? With the Verminator running the show in defence alongside the excellent Koscielny and the physically imposing Mertesacker, our defence are starting to tighten up and the entire team look more confident. Vermaelen is of course a huge factor in our recent run of wins and his performance on Saturday was typical of the effect he can have. Solid at the back and ridiculously dangerous in attack you can't not love the guy. We really missed his leadership last year and especially his beautifully taken goals; he really does strike the ball like a centre forward and his goal against West Brom was a perfect example. Every Arsenal fan must pray that both he and van Persie can put their history of injury woes behind them and continue their fine form for a long, long time. If we can keep our best guys fit, which we haven't managed to do in years, then this team has the ability to win things. I still feel we lack depth to challenge for the title but an F.A Cup or a Carling Cup is never out of reach and if everything slotted into place perfectly then maybe even the Champions League (I'll keep dreaming about that one...).

Thanks for reading.