Posted by hiphopmama on April 15, 2009
Arsenal 3-0 Villarreal (Agg: 4-1)
1-0 Walcott, 10′
2-0 Adebayor, 60′
3-0 Van Persie (pen), 69′
Porto 0-1 Manchester United (Agg: 2-3)
0-1 Ronaldo, 6′
Of the four teams through to the Champions League semifinals, you could say that two of them came off my wish list – the two London teams, to be exact. I couldn’t be happier at Liverpool going out, except if Manyoo had bombed out as well. Instead, the always well-coiffed Cristiano Ronaldo ensured his team a place in the final four with a superb strike from 40 yards that sailed past Helton and was enough to seal the deal. Porto presented a few dangers, but they were mostly manageable and nearly all from set pieces, which Man Utd defended decently enough.
Arsenal put on a much more impressive display against Villarreal. Walcott broke the deadlock early when some weak defending saw him through, and he chipped one beautifully over the Villarreal keeper. The Spaniards never looked particularly threatening, other than the first few minutes of the second half, but after that the Gunners kicked it into another gear. Adebayor atoned for some boneheaded play with a lovely finish on the counterattack off another Fabregas pass. They topped it off with a Van Persie penalty kick on what was admittedly a dubious call made by the referee’s assistant.
These two teams will face each other on April 29th, while Barcelona will face Chelsea the 28th, and once again we see the Premier League with three of the final four Champions League teams. Even with that numerical advantage, you have to give the edge at this point to the Spanish representative, Barcelona, who are once again on the rampage after a tiny hiccup in form in La Liga. Good luck to Chelsea in that one. As for Arsenal, they are the underdogs of the bunch, but I could see them pulling off an upset against the reigning champs, setting up a possible rematch with Barça. Just two more weeks to wait.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adebayor, arsenal, barcelona, champions league, chelsea, cristiano ronaldo, fabregas, liverpool, manchester united, porto, theo walcott, van persie, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 15, 2008
- 0-1 Gael Clichy (og), 70′
- 0-2 Gabriel Agbonlahor, 80′
How many times can we witness this same exact story line? A struggling Arsenal team pulls off a big win against a quality opponent, the youngsters throw in an impressive victory in Carling Cup play, and this renewed confidence and spirit is dashed with a horrible showing against a team they should beat. In this case, the opponent was one of some quality – Aston Villa were sitting at fifth in the table and had had a very good start to the season. They had, however, coming off disappointing losses to Newcastle and, last week, Middlesbrough in a game that, had it been won, would have moved them into a coveted top four position. Arsenal were, as always, using a depleted line-up, with Van Persie out due to suspension and Adebayor only just brought back on the bench after coming back from injury. They did have Sagna back as well as Gallas, both of whom had missed time recently.
None of that accounted for the result, though. For as good as they looked against Man Utd last week, they looked ragged and sloppy today. Villa was clearly the stronger of the two teams in the first half, despite missing a poorly taken penalty, which was saved by Almunia and kicked out by a charging Gallas. Ashley Young especially stormed forward in the early going, creating and receiving numerous opportunities and only being held off by some excellent goalkeeping by Almunia. Agbonlahor wasn’t much of a factor in the first half, but he made up for it in the second half, making piercing runs and killing Arsenal with his speed. He was partially responsible for the first goal, forcing Clichy to make the play that resulted in an own goal. Ten minutes later, he scored one for real, securing a long ball around Gallas and striking it past Almunia to secure three points.
Arsenal easily dominated possession, nearing 70%, but they were much less threatening than Villa and created fewer chances. Bendtner was essentially invisible playing up front by himself. Walcott gave his defenders some trouble but it never amounted to anything. Nasri wasn’t nearly as dangerous as he has been in recent weeks. And Fabregas continued his run of indifferent form. At one point in the second half, a long ball over the top that was mishandled by Bendtner practically screamed out for Adebayor, and sure enough, a few minutes later he was subbed in for Diaby. Vela was also brought on for Bendtner, and that two man combination seemed to work much better although to similar (no) effect. The biggest blow, aside from the loss itself, was losing Sagna to a serious looking injury in the build-up to the first goal. He had only recently come back from another injury, and Wenger said in his post-match press conference that he will miss a few weeks with this new ankle injury.
It’s almost impossible to figure out what to make of this Arsenal team. Two steps forward one step back would almost be a blessing at this point, as every victory – moral or actual – is countered with at least one disappointment. The team seems to need some moderately drastic shaking up – tinkering with the established formula just isn’t enough now. I can’t pretend to know as much as Wenger, but I would hope that picking someone up in the winter transfer window wouldn’t be ruled out. Then again, with Eduardo potentially returning in a few weeks and Rosicky making his return around the new year, they might get the equivalent of some new players without having to spend the money. Whatever the case, the current tack isn’t working, no matter how many isolated bright spots it produces. Beating Manchester United is all well and good, but it’s worthless if you can’t replicate that performance against teams like Fulham, Hull, and Stoke. Aston Villa is no pushover, but they should at least elicit a more inspired effort than what the Gunners gave today.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adebayor, agbonlahor, almunia, arsenal, arsene wenger, ashley young, aston villa, clichy, eduardo, epl, fabregas, rosicky, sagna, scores, theo walcott | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 5, 2008
Making a long couple weeks even longer, Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw with a Fenerbahce team they recently ran through, beating them 5-2 in their last Champions League match-up. The beginning of this most recent slide began with a 4-4 draw against North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, a match they should have won, being up 4-2 in the 88th minute. Some defensive lapses and their inability to just hold the ball and run out the clock – for a measly 5 minutes or so – cost them two points and a lot of pride. In a supposed bounce-back match against lowly Stoke City also produced a pitiful performance, with the Gunners beaten by two long throws by Rory Delap and evincing a significant lack of aerial presence at the back, as well as a lack of fighting spirit in such an important game.
With this as the backdrop, and with significant injuries – to Gallas, Eboue, Walcott, Adebayor – Arsenal lined up to compete for redemption at home at The Emirates. So much for the talk of regaining focus, of the renewed sense of team commitment. They couldn’t even manage a single goal against a notoriously porous Fenerbahce defense. You know, the same one that allowed Arsenal to score 5 goals in the away match of this fixture. They seemed to really miss the attacking play of Walcott and Adebayor, and consequently seemed content to launch long balls over the top of the defense in the hopes of catching them out. Maybe this works with a point man like Drogba or Fernando Torres up top. Aiming for Van Persie all alone on the front line? Not so much. And this from an Arsenal team that prides itself on beautiful build-up play, often failing to pull the trigger in search of that perfect goal.
I don’t know how to respond, nor how they will. It’s not exactly the kind of preparation you want going into a match against Man Utd on Saturday. They lucked out with Tottenham scoring a late goal to defeat Liverpool, keeping the gap between Arsenal and the leaders relatively reasonable, but they can’t count on that kind of luck to continue, especially when they’re failing to make any of their own. During November, in addition to Man Utd they will also face Aston Villa, Man City, and Chelsea, which could end up being better than you might expect. Maybe, after all the humiliation, they will actually psyche themselves up for these big games and get back on track, closing the point gap at the top of the table in the process. Maybe stringing together a good few games – and hopefully getting healthier in the starting XI – will set them up to make a serious run for the title and give the other three a run for their money. Then again, maybe they’ll continue to suck balls and fall out of the race altogether. With Van Persie facing suspension after his idiotic red card in the last League game, the latter seems more likely for now.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: arsenal, champions league, chelsea, epl, fenerbahce, liverpool, manchester united, scores, theo walcott, tottenham, van persie | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 2, 2008
things that make you go hmm...
- 1-0 Ricardo Fuller, 11′
- 2-0 Seyi George Olofinjana, 73′
- 2-1 Gael Clichy, 90′
Is this really how it’s gonna go down? Arsenal alternately tearing ’em down and stinking it up, with more of the latter of late? I don’t get it. I love Arsene Wenger and his style of play and philosophy and haircut…but I’m starting to think the EPL isn’t the place for it. I know he’s had incredible success and I absolutely love him, but if he can’t get these guys to lock down when necessary it’s all for nothing. Then again, with his track record, it also might just come down to the players, although you could still say that this is his team and he has hand-picked these guys. I know I missed watching the whole Unbeatables season thing, but every year I’ve watched since then has been the same thing: almost, so close, but not quite. Not that I have a clue what the solution is. Going in a different direction would be tantamount to heresy, and I wouldn’t really want to see it, at least not right now. I would have thought last year would be the “transitional” year with Henry’s departure, but everyone seemed to settle in quite nicely and be poised for a good run this season. And it’s not just lack of experience. The midfield is a little shaky there, to be sure, but the biggest problems have come from positions of considerable age and renown (El Capitan, anyone?).
Stupid Rory Delap and his damn long throws were our undoing today, creating both goals for Stoke and making Arsenal look as clueless as always defending (quasi-) set pieces – the first to Ricardo Fuller at the back post in the 11th, and the second by Olofinjana off the pass from Ryan Shawcross. Clichy scored a deflected goal at the very end but to no avail.
Wenger was true to his word in changing the line-up after the midweek Tottenham debacle. Toure was back in the starting eleven and back in the role of captain, while Van Persie, Walcott, and Nasri got the axe in favor of Song, Diaby, and Bendtner. He eventually relented enough to bring on both Van Persie and Walcott, but all he got in return was a Van Persie red card and a Walcott injury.
It’s so bad that even the Liverpool loss to Spurs doesn’t dampen it. Well, maybe just a little.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: arsenal, arsene wenger, clichy, epl, kolo toure, olofinjana, ricardo fuller, scores, stoke, theo walcott, van persie | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 21, 2008
Sunderland 2 – 0 Middlesbrough
- Sunderland started the game dismally, but after Stewart Downing sent a penalty kick over the cross bar, Sunderland were re-energized and Chopra scored both goals in the last ten minutes to give them the win.
West Ham 3 – 1 Newcastle
- West Ham’s new manager Gianfranco Zola got a win with two goals and an assist from David Di Michele. Owen scored Newcastle’s goal, but it wasn’t nearly enough. The Magpies continue to look awful.
Blackburn 1 – 0 Fulham
- This hard-nosed battle wasn’t won until the 84th minute. Carlos Villanueva sent in a nice cross from the left side which Roque Santa Cruz headed down into dangerous territory, and Matt Derbyshire knocked it home. Blackburn manager Ince looked good for bringing in both Villanueva and Derbyshire as subs late in the game.
Liverpool 0 – 0 Stoke City
- Steven Gerrard struck one in off a direct kick from the left side, but the goal was disallowed for an apparent “off side” call. Kuyt was near the goal line, but the call was dubious, even according to the Stoke manager after the game. Liverpool kept the pressure on, but they just couldn’t pull the trigger, especially Torres. It was a disappointing draw that let Arsenal slip by them into first place.
Bolton 1 – 3 Arsenal
- Arsenal played pretty impressively in this one, especially in the first half. They had myriad chances to score early goals, but Bolton grabbed the lead first on a header by Kevin Davies off a corner kick in the 14th minute. It was weak defending on the set piece, but Arsenal immediately turned around and put them under pressure. They saw a couple go off the woodwork, but eventually (three minutes later) Eboue put one in from the left side off a pass from Bendtner. It was Eboue’s first Premier League goal, and he played aggressively the rest of the way, looking to duplicate it. Bendtner then scored one himself off some nice, Arsenal style build-up play. Bolton upped the pressure in the second half, but Almunia especially played well, taking balls decisively and making some nice saves, and Arsenal added a third goal by Denilson which was set up by a blazing run by Theo Walcott. I suppose they could have played some stouter defense in the second half, but all around it was a good win for Arsenal, and it put them back at the top of the table. The low point of the match was a harsh foul (which only earned a yellow card) by Kevin Davies which sent Clichy out of the game with a bad-looking leg injury. (Update: Clichy suffered only bruising to his shin, with no fracture. Whew.)
Posted in soccer, Uncategorized | Tagged: almunia, arsenal, bendtner, blackburn, bolton, carlos villanueva, clichy, david di michele, denilson, dirk kuyt, eboue, epl, fernando torres, fulham, gianfranco zola, kevin davies, liverpool, matt derbyshire, michael chopra, michael owen, middlesbrough, newcastle, roque santa cruz, steven gerrard, stewart downing, stoke city, sunderland, theo walcott, west ham | Leave a Comment »