25 October 2013

Match Preview: Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, Selhurst Park, October 26, 7.45 am EST

Selhurst Park
(Photo Courtesy Patrick)
Match day 9 of the Premier League season sees Arsenal make the short journey south of the Thames to face manager-less Crystal Palace. Media and fan favorite Ian Holloway resigned his position after losing 1-4 at home to fellow Londoners Fulham on Monday. Holloway left after less than a year in charge, having led Palace to the Premier League via the playoffs. The usually exuberant and quotable manager claimed he felt "tired" and "exhausted" after a tough summer and a poor early start to life in the top division. During that tough summer, the Eagles lost star player Wilfried Zaha to Manchester United (though he was sold last January, he spent the remainder of last season on loan at Palace) and discovered that last season's top scorer Glenn Murray would be out injured until the New Year. They also made typical newly-promoted club signings, including spending £4.5million on Dwight Gayle, who not long ago was playing in the ninth-tier of English soccer, and did all Arsenal fans a favor by taking Marouane Chamakh away from the Emirates.

22 October 2013

Match Preview: Arsenal v. Borussia Dortmund, The Emirates, October 22 (2:45 PM ET)

Arsenal vs. Blackburn in the FA Cup
The Emirates Stadium via Ben Ward
There’s a weird dichotomy of feelings following winning the way Arsenal did on Saturday. There’s that elation and a need to want that feeling to last juxtaposed against an urgency to see the team play again as soon as possible. I’m not sure where I stand along these two lines. I do want to watch Match of the Day on repeat and the Ramsey skill gif that were part of that terrific result, but at the same time, I want to see more and I want to see them do it again against the next opponent. Unfortunately for me, it’s probably the former that I’m gonna have to go with since I will be working rather than enjoying the football. I’ll be the kid doing homework instead of going to the school dance.

It is a hell of a dance that I will be missing as Arsenal welcomes last year’s runners up, Borussia Dortmund, to the Emirates. Dortmund isn’t as strong as the side that romped Madrid on the way to the Champions League final, but that’s what happens when you have the heart beat of the team, Mario Gotze, pried away coolly by their much richer domestic rivals and European Champions, Bayern. That’s not to say the Germans don’t have any talent left, far from it.

08 October 2013

Daily Links: The Let's Fly Away Edition

Aaron Ramsey celebrates his goal
Ramsey: Player of the Month
(Photo courtesy Ronnie Macdonald)
After a hard-earned point against West Brom on Sunday, a large contingent of the squad will be jetting off around the world to join their countrymen as we look forward to another international break. The draw on Sunday sees Arsenal go in to the break still at the top of the pile, on goals scored from Liverpool. Chelsea and Southampton round out the top four after 7 games. Elsewhere in the Premier League, Manchester United had to come from behind to beat Sunderland (who, as of today, now have Gus Poyet in charge - their 6th manager in 5 years), Manchester City beat Everton 3-1 at home and Sp*rs were embarrassed by West Ham at Shite Hart Lane, Ravel Morrison scoring an early goal of the season contender.

The Club's strong September has seen Arsene Wenger and Aaron Ramsey win the manager and player awards for September. Ramsey scored 4 goals in 4 games to earn his first individual player award, while Wenger wins the managerial award for the 13th time. (Premier League)

05 October 2013

Match Preview: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal, The Hawthorns, October 6 (11 a.m. EST)

Ah, West Brom. Remember when you were one of those teams that we could afford to know nothing about? A Championship yo-yo team for most of the last few years, you were just part of the background noise for a while there, like Norwich or Darby County.
Mesut Özil looks hungrily at goal.
CC License: Ronnie MacDonald

Those days, however, are over. The last time you came back up, in 2010/2011, you came back up to stay.

The story of the Albion's last three seasons has been one of steadily solidifying mid-table success, and this year, the Baggies look to have taken another step forward.

We've already heard about West Brom's thirst for managerial blood - four bosses have gotten the sack in the last year and a half after defeats to the West Midlands club. Admittedly, these were mostly foregone conclusions anyway - particularly given that two of the victims were Chelsea managers, and Roman Abramovich fires managers like it's a bodily function - but it was tough not to hope for a new level of chaos at Manchester United after West Brom's convincing win at Old Trafford last weekend.

04 October 2013

The WAT: Wilshere looking pretty cool lately

All reputable sources who aren't pussies reported today that Arsenal midfielder and on-and-off wunderkind Jack Wilshere has been looking pret-ty fuckin' cool lately.
image courtesy: thesun.co.uk

"We can't quite put our fingers on it," said a club spokesman at a press conference, held earlier today. "But Jack, in spite of his nagging fitness issues, is looking cooler than ever. I mean, ask anyone. He's like from [critically acclaimed AMC drama] Mad Men, or something."

Olivier Giroud, Arsenal striker and Club Handsome Liaison, had this to say: "Wow, you know? For a while, when I first got here, I thought, 'Hey, big fish, small pond' as they say in English. We're an attractive team, I think, but lately ... lately Jack has been getting a lot of calls from modeling agencies, casting directors ... he just, euuuhh ... 'oozes' cool, I think. When Jack is around, women can't even see me."

Music video sex icon Lukas Podolski is also impressed with Wilshere's off-the-pitch form. "Jack has had his ups and downs on the pitch ever since his injury problems started ... but off the pitch? It's all ups, as far as I can tell. Sure, he's been a father for a little while. But recently ... I don't know. Recently, he finally seems like a man. I can't explain it."

One Club on Boylston was lucky enough to sit down with Jack Wilshere for a word on what the press are labeling his "Butterfly Phase":

"Well, y'know, I think there's a lot of things that come along with being a professional footballer and you just need to keep your head down and focus on what's important -- do you have a light? Thanks. Oh, man, that's smooth. Anyway, yeah, mate, I don't really know what everyone's on about. I'm the same ol' Jack I've always been, you can ask anyone. I guess I'm just a late bloomer."

Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, wished not to be interviewed, but made the following comment: "I do not know, euuuh, what is the new fascination with Jack, but he is a great player and we are mostly concerned with his performance on the pitch. But, of course, we are always concerned for his health and his recovery of form, so whatever keeps his confidence high is I think a good thing."

In other news, Arsenal head physio Colin Lewin has requested that all first-team players refrain from unhealthful activities like smoking, except for menthols, which "are probably fine."

03 October 2013

Daily Links: The Basking in the Glow edition

What a difference six weeks makes...

Arsène Wenger praises ‘outstanding’ Mesut Özil as Arsenal beat Napoli 2-0 telegraph.co.uk The Arsenal manager lavishes praise on his team, in particular record signing Mesut Özil, after the Gunners beat Rafa Benitez’s Napoli 2-0 in their Champions League
The new Bergkamp?
(Photo courtesy Hasegawa Takashi)
After 10 consecutive wins in all competitions, Arsenal are looking much better than they did in mid-August. The beginning of October finds the Club top of the Premier League and in charge of their Champions League group, and the plaudits are coming in from far and wide. In researching today's links, I found many recent articles, posted in the aftermath of the Napoli win, praising both Arsene Wenger and Mesut Özil. Things are looking good now, though with a tough November coming up, the Club will be looking to continue its form through October and hoping that key injured players will return soon. Until then, let's just bask in the glow, and enjoy the praise of journalists who were so eager to write us off at the start of the season.

Elsewhere, the rest of the Champions League teams played yesterday. Manchester United continued their poor form as they drew 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk (though that is a tough place to visit), and Manchester City once again experienced defeat in the CL as Bayern Munich took them apart at the Etihad stadium with a dominating 3-1 victory. Of the other big name teams, Real Madrid and Paris Saint Germain both had convincing home wins. There's some kind of soccer being played today, featuring Eastern European teams whose names I won't even attempt to spell and some team from deepest, darkest Middlesex.

01 October 2013

Daily Links: The Merchants of Naples Edition

th_5871.jpg © sscnapoli.it
Marek Hamsik, a key player for Napoli
(Photo courtesy Gilyo)
After another win on the road this weekend, Arsenal resume their Champions League campaign today, hosting Napoli at the Emirates. Rafa Benitez's side find themselves second in Serie A after 6 games, with new center foward, and former Arsenal target, Gonzalo Higuain contributing 3 goals in the league so far. Other players to look out for include on-loan goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Marek Hamsik, a player who always seems to be linked with a big move but still plays in Naples. A tenth consecutive win in all competitions would put Arsenal in the driving seat in Group F. In the other game in the group, Borussia Dortmund host Marseille, with both sides looking to pick up their first points of their respective campaigns.

Arsene Wenger celebrates 17 years in charge of the Club today, and the website's resident statistician has analysed the Boss' reign so far. (Arsenal.com)