Tag Archives: madrid

Aubameyang – Stick or Twist?

With absolutely zero football taking place right now, our minds have a little more room for thought.

Instead of your brain juggling your teams impending fixtures, injury worries, potential changes in your fantasy team and league placements all residing in a cortex of your grey matter, there is now more room to ponder other things……

Erm…

In the absence of that leather ball bobbling around on that lush carpet we call The Emirates pitch, we have been privy to the usual mix of player rumour – especially circulating around our star striker and perennial goal machine – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabon man is in contention to win the Golden Boot again after securing it last season. What puts that into perspective is that Auba has done this while for at least half of our season, the Good Ship Arsenal has plotted a course for mid-table ignominy.

Our number 14 has acted as a one-man lifeboat, keeping our precious cargo and personnel above the plunging depths. He has continued to terrify goalkeepers no matter what mess has been going on behind him. He has performed wonders – and we have recognised this.

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Our club has been attempting to lasso the striker into extending his stay with Arsenal as his contract winds down. Currently in his peak years, Auba is now approaching what will be the biggest decision of his footballing career.

Of course, the media have taken it upon themselves to write the alphabetical equivalent of smoke and mirrors surrounding Auba’s future at the club – and one story has certainly captured everyone’s currently free imagination.

The rumour surrounds Real Madrid, their unwanted striker Luka Jovic – and a large wad of money.

That’s right, the transfer rumour is that those at the Bernabeu want to lure Auba to La Liga, and will tempt Arsenal with a cash plus Jovic bid.

The question is – would you take it?

Everyone knows that the hardest thing to buy in football is goals. With Auba putting up more than his fair share of goals for the team, selling him and his numbers would almost certainly weaken our team.

We currently have Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah to make up the goals – but Lacazette aside, neither of the young strikers have proved week in, week out that they can make the difference in front of goal. How efficient will they be?

Lacazette has also changed his role somewhat since arriving at Arsenal. He still prowls centrally, but he is dropping deeper as his part in attacks is intrinsic to our moves. That has affected his goal return almost as much as poor form this season.

Then there is the Luka Jovic part of the equation. Jovic was a sensation in the Bundesliga – a competition far more similar to the rigours of the Premier League than La Liga ever has been. Rotation and reported poor discipline has seen Jovic play an ever-increasingly remote part of things at Madrid, but does his pedigree convert to success in the Premier League?

In short, can he be the man that replaces the certainty of Auba’s goals?

Maybe not, but throw in £50m and the search becomes a little easier.

There are other variables to take into consideration. Auba’s age means he has two, maybe three years maximum that we will have the PREMIUM version of the striker. Make no mistake, as he hits 33, 34, he will still bang in the goals, but he won’t be AS prolific, he won’t be able to beat as many defenders with his pace as he runs into the box, he won’t be AS lethal as the man we have now.

So, do we stick or twist?

Can we improve the team more with the money and Jovic?

Or do we stay where we are, potentially risk losing what is a huge asset on a free, but still feed off his goals while he does stay?

What a conundrum.

Good thing we have time to mull it over…

What Is A Legend Anyway?

I have an infatuation with words.

 

There is always a better word to describe things. Much like the late Robin Williams describes in the film, ‘The Dead Poets Society,’ why use the word ‘tired’ when you can use ‘fatigued.’ Why use ‘happy’ when you have the word ‘overjoyed.’

 

The beauty of the English language is that we have so many to choose from, picking the right one is an art form of sorts.

 

The ruination of the word ‘legend’ though, is something that is blighting everyone’s lexicon – and everyone is guilty of it.

 

Now, you can use the word ‘legend’ to describe a friend who volunteers to make the cheese on toast for everyone. Or the guy on your night out who is the designated driver. It’s been devalued to a huge extent.

 

So, what constitutes a legend?

 

I had this very discussion while attending our recent Arsenal Legends versus Real Madrid Legends game at The Emirates.

 

There was a generous helping of bona fide Gunners players who had achieved glory with our side.

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Bobbi Pires, Ray Parlour, Nigel Winterburn, Jens Lehmann, Gilberto. These men had won big trophies with our side, and also had amassed plenty of appearances in a Gunners shirt.

 

Then there were players who had won titles with Arsenal, but their name was not as familiar as the above. David Hillier, Perry Groves, Jeremie Aliadiere. They had played their part in campaigns, they had made their mark and the title medals in their possession are proof enough that they should be held in high regard.

 

Some would say – and have via social media – that some of the players who lined up against Real Madrid on this game that raised funds for The Arsenal Foundation, didn’t warrant a place.

 

The legend status comes in varied forms though.

 

Tomas Rosicky won very little in his time as a Gunner, but he is held in high regard by the Gooner faithful. He stayed when all and sundry were jumping ship, and if it weren’t for injury, his career at Arsenal would have been very different.

 

David Hillier is a youth product of the club, and played a huge part in the title winning side of 90/91, which was his breakthrough season.

 

There are inevitably players who are the first we recall when harking back to halcyon times, but every single player who was on the pitch for the Legends fixture came back for the love of the club, and to raise vital money for a worthwhile charity.

 

It was great to see them all pit their wits against Real, who had the likes of Raul, Morientes, Campo and Butragueno. There was precious little goalmouth action, but the chance to see our heroes again is always one we should relish.

 

They are all players who have donned the jersey and gave their all, and now have returned to give more for a good cause.

 

To be called a legend is a high honour, even in these times of varying impact of the word, but each one heartily deserve it.

Arsenal Legends Vs Real Madrid Legends Match

Last year, amidst the apathy that surrounded our team and their lackadaisical efforts on the pitch – FA Cup aside that is – the club did do something that was truly special.

We assembled our legends – from different generations – to take on an AC Milan Glorie side that contained some of the biggest names of seasons past. Now, we’re doing it again, as we call up our luminaries to take on the best of Real Madrid’s recent past.

Legends from the Spanish and English game, putting on a footballing spectacle at The Emirates.

It’s enough to start salivating over, and the details that are spilling out from both clubs surrounding this festival of football and fandom spread out over 90 minutes only serves as a teasing appetiser.

We first take on Real Madrid’s outfit of legends at the Santiago Bernabeu in June, with a second match due to take place at The Emirates on Saturday 8 September. The matches were announced in Madrid and Robert Pires, one of our finest, was in Spain’s capital to help herald the news.

What really makes this exciting news is last years installment of Legends goodness. We took on AC Milan Glorie, and some of our most beloved former players were on show, as well as some glittering players from Milan’s yesteryear.

It was a smorgasbord of fan-heaven, and names that are forever etched in football;s annals took to our home ground’s pitch to strut their stuff. The match didn’t disappoint, and we were privy to a Nwankwo Kanu hat-trick, but the cherry on the Arsenal cake was our last goal, scored by our very own Bobbi, ably assisted by Freddie Ljungberg – we love you, because you’ve got no hair…

So, if that unforgettable game is anything to go by, this delicious prospect of a match against Real’s finest from the past is one to keep tabs on – but who can we expect to see take to the pitch and entertain us once again?

Bobbi Pires is one name that is sure to get us Gooners interested, and there are a few other of his fellow Invincible’s expected to take part. Freddie Ljungberg, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Gilberto Silva and Ray Parlour are all set to wear the famous jersey once again.

We also had David Seaman in goal at the ripe age of 52, Emmanuel Petit in midfield as well as cameos from Super Swede Anders Limpar, some parts of the best defence our shores have ever seen with the appearance of Nigel Winterburn – who also recreated the famous Paolo Di Canio ref push with the man himself – and AC Milan had Marcel Desailly, Alesandro Costacurta and Cafu to rely on. Our players won the game 4-2, and enthralled us all in the process.

They’ll need every bit of their famous talents in order to gain a favourable result against Real’s pool of icons.

There have been a few names mentioned that will be wearing the white of Madrid. Raul Gonzalez, Xabi Alonso and Roberto Carlos are just three names that will line up against our men in red and white – and there’s better news than that.

Both games are being played to gather funds for each clubs’ respective Foundations, with the first game going to Real Madrid’s charity efforts, and the second game at our home ground will go to the Arsenal Foundation. Last years game vs AC Milan Glorie raised over £1m, so there are high hopes for this upcoming tussle.

Tickets for Platinum and Gold Members go on sale from 3 April. Silver and Junior Gunners can purchase tickets from 16 April and Red Members from 18 April.

I don’t normally disclose ticket details, but this is for a great cause, and above all else – missing out on one last chance to see our heroes take to the pitch is something that we should all really endeavour to see.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal Europa Lge Semi 2nd Leg

So, our season hinges on this match. Our 2nd leg of our Europa League Semi-Final versus Atletico Madrid is the biggest game of our season, and we’ve got an almighty task ahead of us.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal in the 2nd leg of the Europa League Semi Final.

The Spanish side have settled into their new home – the Wanda Metropolitana – and their defensive record is up there with the best in the business. They have conceded only four goals at home all season in La Liga – a stat that has been bandied around by everyone attempting to paint a picture of how difficult it will be for us to progress to the final.

A first european final since 2006, and a much needed salve on a campaign that has barely even flattered to deceive. Our Premier League hopes were never really lifted, and with just three games left in the season, we face a fight with Burnley for the ignominy of 6th spot.

Hardly form to strike fear into Atletico and their firebrand manager Diego Simeone – but if it weren’t for a foolish mistake at the back, we would have won the first leg. We played with verve and on the front foot, and the fact we are all so disappointed with a 1-1 draw shows that we really turned up and perhaps deserved a little more.

Still, a defensive lapse has been a symptom of our team thus far, and those brain-farts really need to be reined in if we are to harbour any hopes of reaching the Europa League final in Lyon.

In terms of our team, yet again Arsene Wenger opted to rest his Europa League team for our Premier League efforts, well, the majority of them. The lineup that lost to Manchester United on Sunday will be vastly different to who lines up against Atleti tonight, so Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal will come into our defence, and Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck will most likely be included.

That means the impressive showings of Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will likely be on the bench, although if any of them are to be included, then AMN is the likelier of the two to get the nod. Granit Xhaka needs defensive cover and while Aaron Ramsey offers much, when it comes to offering a guardian behind Xhaka, that is not exactly his strong point.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one who should make the cut after playing and scoring in the weekend, and the Armenian’s guile will be sorely needed to pierce a formidable Madrid defence.

Diego Godin is the lynchpin of Simeone’s side, but it won’t be the Uruguayan who poses the threat. Antione Griezmann has already showed his ability to score despite living off breadcrumbs for the majority of a game. Diego Costa is also fit and ready to go, and the double act will score goals if we switch off – which means that’s bad news for us.

Saul Niguez is another who can change the game, so we’ll have our hands full. We need to keep it tight at the back, and also score.

What is required is perhaps our best display in quite some years. Think our 5-1 at the San Siro. Our win at the Bernabeu. Our 2-1 win over Barca.

Trouble is, those results happened some time ago. It’s time to make some more memories.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitraryan, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 1-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Atletico Madrid Europa Lge Semi Preview

Arsene Wenger placed this season’s emphasis on the Europa League well before he declared his intention to leave at the end of the season.

And now it is the only chance we have of silverware that is available, and it’s also the only chance we’ve got left to give Wenger a fitting au revoir.

We line up against Atletico Madrid in this Semi-Final first leg at The Emirates with a severe defensive problem. It isn’t through injury though, it’s simply that we can’t keep a clean sheet.

Arsenal Vs Atletico Madrid in the Europa League Semi-Finals

In a tie where away goals are worth their weight in gold, this means that Diego Simeone’s side will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Shkodran Mustafi and co – and maybe just putting one foot into the final in the process.

Our defence at least has no injury woes to deal with, so Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal should be the four that lines up to face Diego Costa, Griezmann and the rest of Atleti. Petr Cech is still injured and David Ospina will most likely take the gloves should Cech fail to prove his fitness.

Arsene Wenger named the side most likely to play Atletico against West Ham, in order to gain fluency and battle-readiness. So that would mean starts for Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, but there are a few variables that might shift the side.

Firstly, there is the injury to Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian could well be out for a few weeks and this means that Granit Xhaka will have no defensive cover compared to when he partners Elneny, so the Swiss midfielder will have to be at his very best to combat the runs of Saul Niguez.

Then there is Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere. Both missed the hammering of the Hammers in the weekend – Ozil through illness and Jack via a knock – and with Mkhitaryan still not fit – it means that if Ozil is still not recovered, we could have a playmaker shortage. If Jack can’t prove his fitness, then our midfield could be short too.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles proved that he is an able stand-in when he came on to replace the injured Elneny, and the youngster could well get the nod to give our side that much-needed cover at the back. Wenger will know a single away goal could rule out any dreams of a final shot, so he could keep it tight and pack the midfield.

Atletico were going to be bereft of Diego Costa, but the former Chelsea man has miraculously recovered to take his place back in the side. Juan is definitely out though so at least if we spread the play to the flanks we could get some joy.

This game could be decided in the first leg. If we have one of our games where we concentrate on our attack and our press – you know the games where we pull a result out of the bag and get a win when we’re very much expected to lose – then we could take a very favourable scoreline into the tie at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

If we concede though, we could crumble.

There is at least an air of excitement in the fanbase though, with a last four Euro tie being somewhat of a novelty of late. Let’s hope we can continue our adventure and pull one of our famous results out of the bag.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Iwobi, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

​CL Final Shows Gulf In Class

Posted on Goonersphere.

A Champions League Final is not normally a hive of frenetic action, sandwiched by thrilling passages of play.



No, European club football’s crowning glory is usually poster child for tedium and anti-football. Y’know the types of games I’m referring to – just picture a game involving a Jose Mourinho team in an important fixture and you’ll get the idea.



It is completely understandable though. Since the European Cup transformed itself in the early 90’s, the current format has gone from strength to strength and is now the pinnacle of all achievements for any club on the continent.



So for a team to play ultra-cautiously in fear of losing is just another effect of the Champions League gravity ensuring everything in its orbit is affected.


The latest Final though, in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, was markedly and pleasantly different.



















Both finalists – eventual winners Real Madrid and beaten finalist Juventus – went at each other with vigorous enthusiasm, and the first half especially was a joy to watch. The ebb and flow of the game was akin to a tennis match, but don’t for one moment think that the defensive arts were maligned. With each attack, the defence for both teams were the craggy rocks which the marauding waves crashed upon.


Juventus’s almost mythical defence of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini were eventually found wanting in the face of the Real forward line, but Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos also had a tough time tracking the movement of Paolo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.


All parameters of skill in football were crammed into the ninety or so minutes, and what became increasingly apparent as the minutes whizzed by was that Arsenal – and the Premier League – are miles behind the level on show.


The Premier League’s biggest strength – it’s physicality and fizzing speed – is also its biggest flaw. It means that the technical ability that Real and Juventus possess and dole out on the pitch can slice through the crash and bang that PL sides bring to the table.


We have players in every PL team that can play in this manner. Some clubs have more than others, but the bottom line is that it isn’t just the Champions League finalists that have climbed above our best sides.


Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Monaco, Barcelona. These teams, if drawn against one of the big PL sides, could slice us to ribbons on demand. Of course, Dortmund have seen better days, and PSG haven’t been at their best, but five English sides making the Last 8 in the last SIX seasons pretty much underlines it.


There are matches when English teams can raise their game and occasions when their play is breathtaking. At their best, they can stand shoulder to shoulder with these Euro giants.


The problem is though, is that they are standing on tiptoes, and this can’t be maintained for long.


We have some of the best coaches. We have the most money. We have the platform to grow and become giants, like we once were. 


There are other factors. A lack of a winter break leaves English teams with less capacity than their Euro brethren, and the frenetic nature of our League means stamina becomes an issue.


These are not the main reason though, and that is why this summer will be a big one for the big boys of the Premier League. 


These clubs are now the richest on the continent, and despite this, they still don’t possess the best talent that money can buy. Suarez, Neymar, Dybala, Higuain, Bale, Ronaldo, Reus, Douglas Costa, Lewandowski. These men are at the very top, and none play in England.


Hell, Real Madrid couldn’t even fit James Rodriguez onto their bench!


We have Ozil, Sanchez, Hazard, Aguero, Pogba, Koscielny, Kane. These players can hold their head high amongst these esteemed names, but on the whole, we have a huge amount of catching up to do.


On the pitch, and off of it, we will see a big change. This summer will be the start, as silly money gets chucked around so City, United, Chelsea and hopefully Arsenal, attempt to claw back their shortcomings.


The CL Final may just serve as a wake up call for the Premier League big clubs. 

The Champions League – What Makes a Euro Giant?

When you think of the football clubs that would be the equivalent of a footballing superpower, there are certain clubs that spring to mind.

For good reason too. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich are the three that are top of the tree when musing upon which club has the most clout, the most illustrious history and crucially – the biggest haul of silverware.

This years European Cup has now separated the wheat from the proverbial chaff, and the rollcall for the knockout stages has the same familiar faces of previous years. The aforementioned trio of Euro behemoths will be taking part as they always do, but they won’t have everything their own way.

There are a host of clubs with liberal sprinklings of stars within their team that can hurt the conglomerate that is Real, Bayern and Barca. The odds for the potential winners of this years Cup is interesting reading, and shows that in terms of stature, the chasing pack are catching up.

What exactly sees a successful club transform into a giant? To start, the respective number of European trophies would be top of the list. Any club that can boast of European honours can show that they not only earned the right to play in Europe by beating their domestic rivals, but they also overcame the cream of the continent. So what club has the most European honours?

No surprise to see Real Madrid and Barcelona in the top 3 of the list, with 19 and 14 respectively, but Bayern Munich have amassed 10 and are 7th on the list. Above them are teams such as Ajax, AC Milan and Liverpool – teams who have failed to maintain a constant presence in Europe’s premier competition.

Do former glories count as much as the present? If so, then Liverpool would be able to claim some part of the dominion that Real, Barca and co currently hold. Ditto AC Milan, who in the 90’s – and were a pretty big deal in the noughties – alone held Europe within their tight grasp. 

These clubs though, have faltered on the domestic front. Liverpool especially have been unable to jump over the first hurdle to ensure their membership for the ‘Giant Club’ is not revoked. The Merseysiders, Milan and Manchester United more recently, have not been able to make a dent in their home countries league. Liverpool have not won a title since 1990, can they really claim to be part of the European heavyweight scene?

Some part of the equation is financial heft. Like it or not, Chelsea and Manchester City have muscled their way into the scene and now compete on a near equal footing to the Barca’s and Bayern’s of this collective. They regularly lift silverware on the domestic front and now have European delights firmly within their reticule. Do they now qualify as a giant even though their previous decades were far from glorious?

Other variables should warrant a mention too. A global fanbase generates interest around the world and more importantly, it ups the amount of income a club gets. If this is included, then Arsenal, United, Real and Barca can renew their membership cards to the Giant Club. 

The only clubs that can really tick the boxes on all of these comprising factors is the first three clubs I mentioned. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have trophies in their past, present and more than likely, their future. They contend every year at the top, they have more than enough pulling power in terms of fiscal amount and they can look upon their trophy cabinet with a smile and an empty can of polish.

This season will be no different, as will the next. If a club truly wants to elevate their standing, they need a glittering history, a well stocked trophy cabinet, a revenue stream that allows the club to duke it out in the transfer market, and a regular presence in the Champions League.

Which club will make that leap this season? The Champions League is wide open, but rest assured if any team has genuine aspirations, then they will surely have to beat one of the big three.