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Arsenal Trophy Drought is Over

May 18, 2014
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Arsenal 2014 FA Cup Final Winners

Arsenal broke their nine year trophy drought with a victory over Hull City in the FA Cup.

Arsenal FA Cup 2014

Arsenal‘s bid for the cup could not have started off worse, conceding two goals in the first 8 minutes of the match. But over the course of the game Arsenal‘s superior skills and squad took their toll on Hull, who only just managed to avoid relegation from the Premier League last week.

The Gunners were denied four penalty appeals, that many referees would have given and Hull were lucky to escape with only three yellow cards for their robust challenges.

Santi Cazorla‘s marvelous free kick put Arsenal back in the competition. Laurent Koscielny provided the equaliser and who else but Aaron Ramsey would seal the victory, combining in a superb interchange with Olivier Giroud.

The BBC described the Arsenal win

Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time winner ensured Arsenal ended their nine-year wait for a trophy by coming from two goals behind to beat Hull City in a dramatic FA Cup final at Wembley.
The Gunners started as firm favourites but were stunned as goals from James Chester and Curtis Davies gave Hull a flying start inside the first 10 minutes.

Santi Cazorla’s superb free-kick put Arsenal back in contention before half-time and Laurent Koscielny scrambled in the equaliser after 71 minutes.

And as Arsenal looked the stronger, superior team in extra time, Ramsey, whose absence through injury hit them so hard in the latter part of the season, completed the comeback with an instinctive strike with 11 minutes of the extra period left.

Arsenal were left bewildered as Hull delivered two heavy blows inside the first eight minutes to stun the Gunners and their expectant supporters.

Hull deserve great credit for a set-piece move that caught Arsenal by surprise as Stephen Quinn found Tom Huddlestone unmarked on the edge of the area. His shot was going off target but Chester was alert enough to redirect it past the wrong-footed Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

It got better for Hull – and considerably worse for Arsenal – five minutes later when Alex Bruce’s header came back off the post and Davies was perfectly placed to beat Fabianski with an angled finish.

There was a mood of utter disbelief among Arsenal’s players and fans, in sharp contrast to the other end of Wembley, where Hull’s fans were in dreamland.

Arsenal were overjoyed at the final whistle

Arsenal were overjoyed at the final whistle after finally capturing a trophy

And as Arsenal struggled to recover some semblance of composure, it required a vital goal-line clearance from Kieran Gibbs to divert away another header from Bruce.

Arsenal needed to find hope from somewhere and it came after 17 minutes when Cazorla curled a brilliant free-kick beyond the outstretched hand of Hull keeper Allan McGregor.

Hull were now being tested by Arsenal but they held firm and Wenger was forced into a change after an hour when Yaya Sanogo replaced Lukas Podolski.

The pressure was building and the equaliser came with 19 minutes left, coming from a corner which Hull disputed bitterly after Sanogo appeared to turn the ball out at the near post.

Hull, however, switched off at the corner and when Bacary Sagna’s header deflected off Olivier Giroud, Koscielny was first to react to turn the finish past McGregor from six yards.

Bruce sent on Sone Aluko for Quinn in an attempt to galvanise his side but it was all Arsenal as Hull hung on desperately.

Gibbs was guilty of wasting a glorious chance when he was set up by Sanogo, taking his time before shooting wildly over from eight yards. McGregor then did well to save from Giroud as the striker finally threatened.

Sanogo’s unpredictable presence had made an impact and he was inches away from winning it for Arsenal in the closing moments of normal time with a shot from the edge of the area.

Hull looked physically spent as extra time started and came close again five minutes after the restart when Giroud rose to meet Aaron Ramsey’s cross but headed against the bar.

Arsenal were really exerting their authority and it was no surprise when Ramsey finally broke Hull’s resistance after 108 minutes with a smart first-time finish inside the area from Giroud’s clever, instinctive back-heel.

There was one final scare when Fabianski’s ill-judged dash from goal saw Aluko’s finish roll closely past the goal line to safety – but seconds later the years of hurt were over for Arsenal and Wenger.

More at Arsenal fight back to win FA Cup

Arsenal will hopefully pick up another quality striker in the summer and keep their key players fit for longer periods next season. If they can, surely more silverware will be on the way.

Unfortunately it looks almost certain that Arsenal will also have to replace their reliable right back Bacary Sagna, who seems to have opted to take the thirty pieces of silver offered by Manchester City.

Man City should be struggling to pay Sagna, as they were fined £49m (£32m of which is suspended) and can only name a 21-man Champions League squad next season, after breaking UEFA financial fair play rules. They can only spend £49m on players this summer, plus any transfer fees they receive and their wage bill for 2014-15 must stay the same as this season.

City‘s response pretty much said “Your fines and restrictions won’t effect us” so obviously UEFA need to come down harder.

More at Manchester City fined and squad capped for FFP breach

With the English domestic season over we now have the all Spanish, all Madrid, Champions League final to look forward to next Saturday, 24th May. Which will feature Atletico Madrid, who claimed La Liga title today with a draw at Barcelona.

Following that we have the World Cup Finals in Brazil, commencing Thursday 12th June, assuming the stadiums are finished. If they are that will be a great spectacle I am sure.

So fear not the football goes on.

By Max Power
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Premier League 2014 How it All Ended

May 13, 2014
maxp

Who Finished Where and Why

Season 2013/14 saw the closest battle for the Premier League title in some time. All of the clubs that finished in the top four held the lead at some point and looked favourite to win it. Although Arsenal were never favoured by the pundits or even many of their fans, despite the fact that they led the table for 128 days or 48% of the season.

Manchester City once again proved that it is all about the club with the biggest wallet. Their huge multimillion dollar squad proved to be the undoing of Liverpool’s strongest bid in years and even Chelski’s big spending Russian oligarch.

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure – Manchester City

It would be wrong to dismiss the contribution of City’s new manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who came in during the close season knowing that failure would inevitably mean being shown the door. Despite that, he was able to motivate the players, impose his tactics and manage the egos of his multi millionaire squad.

Despite my objection to sports teams becoming the playthings of billionaires, who can not think of anything better to spend their money on, you have to admire the skills of the players City have gathered, the goal scoring of Agüero and Dzeko and the all around ability of Yaya Touré. But I have to stop short of praising the Arsenal defectors.

No doubt City will be the team to beat next season, after another big dip into the transfer pool during the summer.

Steven Gerrard - Liverpool

Steven Gerrard – Liverpool

Liverpool came the closest they have to a title since the inception of the Premier League and many thought that they had it sewn up with a few games to go. Especially the heavily Liverpool biased pundits. But a loss to Chelsea, who parked the bus at Anfield and picked up two goals on the break, followed by a 3-3 draw with revitalised Crystal Palace, left them out of touch with Man City.

Despite their second place finish, Liverpool’s Brendon Rodgers was named Manager of the Year. Maybe this reflects the meagre player pool he had, compared to Pellegrini’s.

Grudgingly I have to acknowledge the great goals of Luis Suarez, 31 of them, after he started the season late, following his ban for biting hanging over from last season. However, I still can not really warm to the player because of his propensity to dive at the slightest contact or even without any and I have not forgiven him for the biting and racist outburst.

Jose Mourinho Chelsea

The Pouty One. Jose Mourinho – Chelsea

The Special One returned to Chelsea, along with his petulance, arrogance and tendency to be banned from the touchline for regaling match officials. He won nothing, but came close in both the Premier League and European Champions League. Will that be enough for Chelsea’s Obergruppenführer? Or will Jose Mourinho be taken out and shot at dawn, like so many before him (metaphorically speaking)?

Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal

Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal

Arsenal spent almost half the season at the top of the Premiership, but ended up battling to qualify for European football next season, only a few short weeks ago.

The fans, players and management will be disappointed with their fourth place finish. But they look favourite to win the FA Cup with their current run of seven consecutive victories and opponents Hull not having won any of their last five matches and finishing only four points above the drop zone. Couple this with the return of midfield stars Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere and an Arsenal loss will be as shocking as… well Man City’s loss to Wigan last year.

There is no doubt the decimation of Arsenal’s magnificent midfield, due to injuries, was a huge contributor to them not picking up the title this year. The proliferation of injuries to Arsenal players over the last few years really is something that bears major investigation.

Is it because they tend pick small players who struggle with the physicality of the game, or is it something to do with the training techniques? Maybe the boys should spend more time in the gym and build a little bulk to protect themselves.

As a dyed in the wool, life long Arsenal supporter, I have got to mention the penchant for Arsenal ‘fans’ on the web to knock the players and management of the club. The success of the late nineties and early noughties seems to have attracted a lot of glory chasers to the club. They look at sides like Chelsea and Manchester City and believe that all of the answers come from opening a cheque book and the suitable players will be there for you.

But Arsenal is run as a business and I fully agree with Arsene Wenger’s belief that UEFA should punish clubs that break its financial fair play (FFP) rules by excluding them from European football. But I would go even further and say the same should apply for domestic competitions. Maybe a ban would leave the competition a little empty, but how about a handicap? Let them start several points behind, depending on how much they have overspent by.

Olivier Giroud Arsenal

Olivier Giroud Arsenal Centre Forward

Finally on the subject of Arsenal and the deriding fans, I have to defend our centre forward, who has scored 22 goals and provided 8 assists, two of them arguably the best goals of the season. Yet he still comes in for so much criticism from Arsenal ‘fans’. He obviously suffered when the midfield was decimated, but he puts in the work all over the pitch and is probably the best centre forward in the Premier League at holding up the ball.

Yes Arsenal need another centre forward to back him up and rotate with him and a prolific goal scorer would be wonderful. But they don’t grow on trees and are difficult to pick up when they do become available. Besides the fact that they are not always successful when you get them. Look at the ridiculous amount of money Chelsea spent on Fernando Torres and Liverpool on Andy Carroll, where did it get them?

Added to this Olivier Giroud has played 36 games this season, which is immensely valuable, especially when you consider how much time other players have spent on the side lines, including the man he replaced Meneer Van Persie.

Everton deserve plaudits for their season. I have always seen them as an honest club and they replaced an honest manager in David Moyes with another and possibly even more talented one in Roberto Martinez. No doubt Everton will be vying for Champions League football again next season.

And finally I have to say a few words about the failures of Tottenham and Manchester United. No self respecting Arsenal fan could not take pleasure in seeing what befell them this season. Tottenham spent £100 million in the transfer market and finished with a goal difference that was barely positive and fewer points than last season. They sacked their manager and you can not help feeling that they would be doing much better had they stuck with Harry Redknapp.

Everyone must take a little pleasure in seeing the mighty befallen and Manchester United fell right out of the top part of the table. I feel for David Moyes, as I said, he was a good manager at Everton. Sadly this is probably only a temporary interruption of service and United have the funds and the structure to put themselves back in the picture next season.

By Max Power
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Premier League Approaches the Sharp End

April 22, 2014
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Analysis of the Title Hopefuls and Relegation Threatened.

Recent results seem to be firming Liverpool’s grip on their first ever Premier League title. Main challengers Chelsea and Manchester City have dropped points and Liverpool are now 5 points clear of Chelsea and 6 points clear of City, although City have a game in hand.

Arsenal are a point in front of Everton in the race for the final Champions League spot for next season, after Everton’s home loss to the much improved Crystal Palace.

Lukas Podolski

Arsenal’s on Form Striker Lukas Podolski

Arsenal came back from a recent poor run of results with wins over West Ham and Hull, scoring three goals in each of those matches, both included a brace from Lukas Podolski. More good news included a return to the starting line up of Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey, with Ramsey picking up a goal and two assists against Hull.

Liverpool FC

Liverpool have been on an eleven game winning run and if they continue that they can not be overtaken at the top of the table. They face the test of second placed Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday, followed by Crystal Palace away, which is no easy game on their current form and finishing at home to Newcastle, where the opposite is probably true.

Chelsea FC

Chelsea’s best chance of securing another Premiership title is to beat Liverpool, in what could be considered a six point game, then beat relegation threatened Norwich and Cardiff City. Having been beaten by bottom placed Sunderland on Saturday, none of those look like easy options. If they can achieve a 100% record in their remaining games they would still require either Palace or Newcastle to do them a favour against Liverpool.

Chelsea also have the little matter of two matches against Atlético Madrid in the European Champions League to deal with, tonight and next Wednesday.

Man City FC

Manchester City recovered last night with a 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion, after their loss to Liverpool and draw with Sunderland. City have one extra Premier League game than their rivals in the run in, facing Crystal Palace and Everton away before finishing with two home games against Aston Villa and West Ham. The first two fixtures could easily prove stumbling blocks and even if City win all four, they still need Liverpool to drop six points in three games.

Sunderland FC

At the other end of the table the relegation strugglers have turned on the desperation and picked up valuable points. None more so than Sunderland, having beaten Chelsea and drew 2-2 with Man City.

Fulham FC

Fulham picked up three points against Aston Villa and Norwich, but then lost 3-1 to Tottenham at the weekend. Fulham’s final games are against Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace, none of which are going to be easy.

Cardiff City FC

Cardiff improved their chances of staying up with a win against Southampton and a draw against Stoke. They face fellow strugglers Sunderland next, followed by Newcastle and Chelsea. I would say things are not looking good.

Norwich City FC

Norwich and West Brom are far from safe. Norwich put in a great second half performance against Liverpool at the weekend, but still lost 3-2 Their fourth loss on the trot. They need a massive turnaround against Man Utd. Chelsea and Arsenal, which looks unlikely.

West Bromich Albion FC

West Brom picked up points in their previous four matches before losing to Man City. They face West Ham, Arsenal, Sunderland and Stoke in their final matches, all of which could go either way.

So it really does look like Liverpool to claim the title this year, with any three of the bottom five going down to the Championship.

By Max Power
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Arsenal Take Revenge on Liverpool in the FA Cup

February 17, 2014
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Arsenal Progress to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup.

Arsenal took revenge on Liverpool for the 5-1 drubbing they suffered at Anfield last week by knocking them out of the FA Cup.

Arsenal‘s season hit a low point last Saturday when they were given a football lesson at Anfield with Liverpool piling on 4 goals in the first 20 minutes. Chelsea overtook them at the top of the table and Arsenal were unable to take advantage of Chelsea‘s subsequent draw at West Bromwich Albion, when they faced Manchester United at home in mid week.

Although Arsenal kept a clean sheet, which was huge improvement on the weekend’s result, they were unable to score themselves either.

Jose Mourinho embarrassed himself during the week by referring to Arsene Wenger as a specialist in failure, then failing to qualify for the next round of the FA Cup himself, going down 2-0 at Manchester City.

Arsenal Goal Scorer and Creator Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Arsenal Goal Scorer and Creator Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

So one week later Arsenal face the same opponent that inflicted the huge embarrassment on them. Having already played two games this week and facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, many wondered what sort of side Arsene Wenger would pick. But this season the Arsenal squad is strong and most of the second string options do not mean much of a dip in quality.

Szczesny was replaced in goal by Fabianski. Fullbacks Sagna and Gibbs were replaced by Jenkinson and Monreal respectively. Flamini was back from his suspension and Yaya Sanogo was given his first start at Centre Forward. All of these players gave a good account of themselves. On the bench were the big guns Wilshere, Giroud and Cazorla, should they be needed.

Arsenal pressed early but Liverpool came back quickly with Sturridge failing to convert two chances before Arsenal scored. But Fabianski should be given credit in both instances.

Arsenal took the lead in the 16th minute through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a Yaya Sanogo shot was blocked by Steven Gerrard. The Ox pounced on the rebound and converted.

Early in the second half Chamberlain was back, this time creating the perfect cross for Lukas Podolski to power past the Liverpool keeper.

Lukas Podolski scored Arsenal's second

Lukas Podolski scored Arsenal’s second

Liverpool applied plenty of pressure from then on, but the Arsenal defence and Fabianski especially, was solid. That was until a clumsy challenge from the goal scorer, Podolski, on the Liverpool captain, Gerrard, saw Liverpool awarded a penalty. Fabianski had no chance as Gerrard powered the ball right in the far corner of the goal.

Lukasz Fabianski Arsenal man of the match

Lukasz Fabianski Arsenal man of the match

At 2-1 things were on a knife edge. Wenger brought on Cazorla, then Gibbs to sure things up. Sanogo was replaced by Giroud in the 88th minute and received a resounding reception from the Arsenal fans.

Fabianski rounded off his game by missing a clearance from a Liverpool corner and punching Agger in the head, as he headed wide. It was Fabianski‘s only real mistake of the game and I believe that he should be the Arsenal man of the match.

Arsenal will host Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday and have drawn Everton at home in the next round of the FA Cup, while Liverpool have only league fixtures to look forward to.

By Max Power
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A Day of Tough Decisions in British Sport

February 5, 2014
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English Football and Cricket Come Down Hard

Well it has certainly been a day of tough decisions in British sport. In the Premier League, Swansea sacked their manager Michael Laudrup and Andy Carroll’s ridiculous sending off against Swansea on Saturday, was upheld on appeal by the Football Association.

Tough Decisions in British Sport

In Cricket, Kevin Pietersen has been told he will no longer be required for International duty by the ECB.

Swansea came down hard on their manager Michael Laudrup and fired him after Saturday’s defeat to West Ham. It was their sixth defeat in eight Premier League games, which leaves them only two points off the relegation places.

Laudrup led Swansea to their first major trophy, winning the League Cup last year and qualifying for the Europa League, where they beat Valencia early in the competition. With that and a successful Premier League campaign last season, it seems very harsh to dismiss the manger now and it is hard to see how putting the current captain in his place is likely to produce better results.

Michael Laudrup

Michael Laudrup

Andy Carroll‘s sending off, while playing for West Ham against Swansea, on Saturday was totally unjustifed. He swung out an arm in frustration during a full body challenge by Chico Flores and caught him a glancing blow across the top of the head. It did not look like he was trying to hit anyone, he was just really frustrated. But Flores clutched his nose and writhed around on the ground, making the absolute most drama he could of the altercation.

Carroll was shown the red card and dismissed. Neither he, the West Ham players nor the commentators, where I was watching, could believe it. But the FA saw fit to uphold the referee’s decision. This is really a case of backing their man, no matter how bad a decision he makes.

Andy Carroll Sent Off

In some ways Kevin Pietersen’s fall from grace comes as no surprise. He has often been labelled a disruptive character in the England dressing room and has clashed with players and coaches in the past. He stepped down from the England captaincy after only 5 months, when he had conflict with Peter Moores, the coach at the time. He also retired from international limited overs cricket in 2012, only to reverse that decision two months later.

Kevin Pietersen

But Pietersen is England’s all time leading run scorer in all forms of cricket, amassing 8,181 Test runs, 4,440 One Day International runs and 1,176 T20 runs. He was even England’s highest scorer on their disastrous recent tour of Australia, where they managed only one win in 5 Tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20s.

But that devastating tour seems to be at the root of a clean sweep by the ECB, with technical director, Andy Flower, standing down only days earlier.

By Max Power
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All Change at the Top of The Premier League

January 30, 2014
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Arsenal Slip to Second Place After Mid Week Fixtures

Arsenal lost their lead at the top of the Premier League following their draw at Southampton. Their one point lead over Manchester City was eradicated on Wednesday when City crushed Tottenham for the second time this season, this time at White Hart Lane.

Chelsea also played on Wednesday, but were unable to capitalise on Arsenal‘s dropped points, only managing a 0-0 draw with cellar dwellers West Ham.

Arsenal apparently arrived late at the Southampton ground after being caught in traffic on Tuesday and it seemed like most of the team were not mentally prepared for the game. They played probably their worst half of football this season and were lucky to go in at half time only one goal down.

They came out with renewed enthusiasm in the second half and Olivier Giroud got on the end of a Bacary Sagna cross / shot to even the scoreline in the 48th minute. Only two minutes later, the in form, Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal the lead with a superb shot with the outside of his left foot.

Arsenal Celebrate After Santi Cazorla Goal

Arsenal Celebrate After Santi Cazorla Goal

But this was not to be Arsenal‘s night and Southampton evened the score again only two minutes later through Lallana, who put away Rodriguez‘s cut back.

Ozil and Monreal both missed chances to put Arsenal back in front while Rodrigez was denied by Szczesney.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, going into a crammed fixture list in February where they meet Liverpool and Manchester United, Flamini was sent off for a two footed tackle and will receive a three match ban.

Man City took advantage of the Arsenal slip up in a big way, beating Tottenham 5-1 at their own ground. Having already lost 5-0 to Liverpool at home and 6-0 to Man City at their ground, it is hard to believe Tottenham are hanging onto to 5th place in the league with a negative goal difference.

Man City Embarrass Tottenham again

Man City Embarrass Tottenham again

Liverpool beat cross town rivals Everton 4-0 on Tuesday to stay in 4th place and still in touch with the leading three.

Arsenal play Crystal Palace on Sunday and should pick up all three points, unless they play two halves of football like the first at Southampton on Tuesday.

Manchester City play Chelsea on Monday and it is hard to see anything but a City victory based on their recent home form.

By Max Power
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The 2013 Ashes – The Story So Far

December 31, 2013
maxp

The 2013 Ashes Series in Review

Well the 2013 Ashes has seen the Australians completely turn around the results of recent years. English players have been leaving these shores and retiring, while those that have stayed have been battered both physically and emotionally.

One man’s name has loomed large over proceedings, Mitchell Johnson is back in a big way, after a period out of favour with the selectors. This is much more than a return to form; the man is in career best form and sending down balls far too fast and accurate for the English batsmen to cope with.

Mitchell Johnson Surely The Man and The Mo of the 2013 Ashes Series

Mitchell Johnson Surely The Man and The Mo of the 2013 Ashes Series

The signs were there for all to see in the last Ashes series, which England won 3-0 but the Aussies were unlucky not to win at least two tests. The Aussie bowling attack was good in England and only the batting let them down. Now with the addition of Johnson and some decent batting performances from Clarke, Warner and especially Brad Haddin, (not to mention some handy runs from Johnson too) it would be a brave man who would bet against Australia taking the series 5-0 in Sydney.

While Johnson is the name on the lips of all Australian supporters, the one that English fans must be mentioning in hushed tones is that of their Captain, Alistair Cook. His form with the bat has been poor, by his own lofty standards, while his captaincy has left much to be desired. He has rarely set an attacking field, even in the brief periods when England has been on top in the series.

Admittedly his bowlers have not really given him the attacking power that they have in recent years. Graham Swann, rated as the best spinner around for some time, complained of a sore arm and retired after the 3rd test. The timing could not have been worse and reeked of submission.

Anderson has been far from the potent weapon that England have been able to rely on in the past.

The man Aussies love to hate, Stuart Broad, has been the best of a bad bunch, despite some harsh treatment from the local media and fans at the grounds. Add to that the battering he has received at the hands of Johnson and I believe he will walk the next time he is given the benefit of a ridiculous umpiring decision.

While Mitchell Johnson has been the talk of every town on the tour, he has been ably backed up by those men that toured England last year. Siddle, Harrison and Lyon have all taken their fair share of wickets and kept constant pressure on the English batsmen.

So will Sydney again be the story of the Mo? Or will the famously turning pitch be Lyon’s day in the sun? What will England do for spin? Monty Panesar replaced Swann in Melbourne, but Cook did not give him many overs, even favouring fresh faced Joe Root with the ball over Monty.

There is no doubt that Sydney will be worth watching. There are no dead rubbers in an Ashes series and we know that England are optimistic, as they still put on sun screen before they go out to bat. The on field sledging and spats are bound to continue and it will definitely be lively.

Does anyone want to bet against Mitchell Johnson being man of the series? Do that in a double with England winning the match and you may as well burn your money.

By Max Power
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Arsenal Make Room At The Top Of The Premier League.

October 21, 2013
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Victory over Norwich Takes Arsenal Two Points Clear

Arsenal took advantage of Liverpool’s earlier draw at Newcastle to go two points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday, with a great performance against a tenacious Norwich City.

The home fixture against the Canaries extended Arsenal’s unbeaten run to twelve games, with one of their best performances of the season so far.

Europe's number one goal assist man scores two goals against Norwich.

Europe’s number one goal assist man scores two goals against Norwich.

Arsenal dominated the opening 20 minutes and secured the lead, with potentially one of the goals of the season, in the 18th minute. Jack Willshire started and finished the move, which began on the edge of Arsenal’s 18 yard box and culminated with a spectacular finish involving Willshire, Giroud and Cazorla.

Shortly after the goal there was a head clash between Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Tettey. Flamini insisted on continuing, despite complaints from the medical staff. But moments later he withdrew suffering with double vision.

Flamini was replaced by Aaron Ramsey, who was being rested on the bench in preparation for Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Borussia Dortmund. The substitution saw a change in the flow of the game and Norwich entered a long period of ascendancy, lasting the remainder of the first half and early into the second.

But against the flow and against the normal formula for Arsenal goals, Olivier Giroud supplied a superb cross for Mesut Özil to head in, giving Arsenal a 2-0 lead and Arsenal fans in the stadium much needed relief.

Norwich however did not lie down, they continued to pressure and pulled one back through Jonny Howson, who hit Martin Olsson’s cross low into the corner of the Arsenal net.

In commentary Trevor Francis reported that he saw Arsene Wenger saying that he wanted to take off Özil, but he could not now, with only a one goal cushion.

The man that Wenger started off resting came to his rescue. Ramsey put Arsenal back in front with a goal equally as spectacular as Willshire’s first. But, where Willshire’s goal was a great team effort, this one was all down to Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey swayed and shimmied around the Norwich defence, leaving defenders lying on the floor and finished with a close range shot that gave goalkeeper Ruddy no chance.

For the final nail in Norwich’s coffin, Europe’s number one goal assist man, Mesut Özil, once again became the scorer, with who else but Aaron Ramsey providing the assist.

Final score 4-1 to the Arsenal.

On this sort of form Arsenal can beat anyone. They have undoubtedly the best midfield in the Premier League and more in reserve. Tomas Rosicky came off the bench to replace Cazorla, in his first game back from injury and Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski cannot be far off of a return.

Bring on Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

While Liverpool slipped back behind Arsenal, Chelsea stayed in pursuit with a 4-1 win over Cardiff. But manager Jose Mourinho was once again sent to the stands, for complaining too often and too loudly to the officials.

Manchester City also had a good win, 1-3 away at West Ham, but Manchester United dropped points, managing only a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton and continue to languish in an unfamiliar 8th position in the League.

By Max Power
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Arsenal Break Transfer Fee Record For Mesut Ozil

September 3, 2013
maxp

Germany and Real Madrid Star Joins The Gunners

Arsenal have broken their record transfer fee to bring German international Mesut Ozil to the Gunners from Real Madrid.

The German playmaker was the biggest signing on the final day of the (Northern) Summer transfer window, eclipsing news of Gareth Bale’s move to Real Madrid from Spurs, which was confirmed the day before.

Ozil is a Gunner

Mesut Ozil becomes Arsenal’s most expensive signing

The BBC reports

Arsenal have completed the £42.4m signing of Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil to break their club record by £27.4m.

Ozil, 24, has signed a five-year deal.

“I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League,” he said.

The Gunners have also signed Palermo goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, 27, but talks have broken down with Chelsea to sign striker Demba Ba, 28, on loan.

“It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsene Wenger,” Ozil told Arsenal.com.

“From our negotiations it is clear the club has huge ambition and I look forward to being part of an exciting future.”

Arsenal have failed in high-profile attempts to sign Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain, a former team-mate of Ozil at Real Madrid, this summer.

But they have now captured Ozil after Gareth Bale’s world-record £85.3m switch from Tottenham to Real triggered further deals on the final day of the transfer window.

The move easily surpasses the £15m they paid Zenit St Petersburg for Andrey Arshavin in 2009.

Arsenal manager Wenger said: “He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.

“I have said throughout the summer that we have been working hard to bring in top quality players to this football club.

“This has involved many many people across the club and I have always had the full support of the club in making decisions on the football side.”

Germany international Ozil joined Real from Werder Bremen three years ago for a fee believed to be about £12.4m and has played 155 times for the club.

Going into transfer deadline day, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had previously made only two signings – striker Yaya Sanogo, 20, and midfielder Mathieu Flamini, 29, arriving on free transfers.

But the signing of Ozil, who helped Real win La Liga in 2011-12 and was named in Uefa’s team of the tournament at Euro 2012, delivers a signal of intent to the Gunners’ Premier League rivals.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “This is an exciting day for all of us. We have signed a world-class player who is one of Europe’s brightest young talents.

“Mr Kroenke, our controlling owner, has always fully supported Arsene and the club in making significant investments to strengthen our squad and to bring in talented players who fit our style and ambitions.

“Like all of us, Mr Kroenke wants to see Arsenal winning titles and trophies and he has absolute faith and belief in our manager to achieve that. We will continue to work towards that goal and look forward to an exciting season.”

More at Mesut Ozil: Arsenal sign Real Madrid midfielder for £42.4m

There is no doubt that this is landmark capture for the club and probably gives Arsenal the strongest midfield in the Premiership, possibly the whole of Europe. Ozil provided a phenomenal amount of goal assists at Real Madrid and no doubt will bring that to Arsenal. But I can not help thinking that Arsene Wenger has failed to strengthen where it is most needed.

It’s great that he has brought in a new Goal Keeper. As good as Szczesny and Fabianski are at stopping shots, they are both prone to making poor decisions and mistakes that lead to goals. I know little about Emiliano Viviano, but hopefully the competition between the three will see Arsenal develop the reliable keeper that they require.

However, no one has been brought in to fill the vulnerable and under manned central defensive positions. We now have only three recognised players to cover the two positions and one of those, Vermaelen, is already unfit to play.

Admittedly Bacary Sagna has done well when he has covered that role and Carl Jenkinson has deputised for him at right back. But we can only hope that injuries and suspensions are kept to a minimum in that area, until the January window when Wenger can go shopping again.

Arsenal’s next match is away to Sunderland on Saturday 14th September. There is no Premier League football this weekend, due to international World Cup qualifying fixtures.

By Max Power
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Arsenal’s Pre-Season Form Disappears on Opening Day

August 20, 2013
maxp

Arsenal Lose to Villa and to Injuries.

Arsenal’s impressive pre-season form did not last long on the opening day of the Premier League. After taking an early lead through Olivier Giroud, who was fed a great ball by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, things went downhill very quickly.

Pre-season Arsenal had a successful tour of Asia, where they won every game and culminated with a win over Manchester City in Finland, the week before the season got underway. The more optimistic of us Arsenal fans saw this as a good sign for the coming season, despite the lack of spending, with only one new acquisition, Yaya Sanogo a 20 year old forward.

Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta could be out for up to 6 weeks

Fans have been crying out for Arsenal to clear out the deadwood and it was done wholesale in the off season, with 21 players either sold or loaned out. But this was where things started to go wrong. These players were released before adequate cover had been brought in. This took its toll immediately on the first day of the season. Arguably Arsenal’s most reliable mid-fielder, Mikel Arteta, was injured in training and faces up to 6 weeks out with a thigh injury. Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal both have back problems, leaving the side with no cover at left back or at the centre of the defence. Those holes were soon opened up in the Villa clash.

Kieran Gibbs was injured and Sagna was forced to cover the left back position, while Jenkinson took his place on the right. When Sagna was later injured himself he was replaced by Lukas Podolski, because he was the only remaining left sided player on the bench.

Arsenal were unable to capitalise on their early lead and had both good and bad fortune at the back. They were lucky not to concede two goals, when Szczesny ventured about 10 metres outside of his area and when Fabian Delph hit the inside of the post but the ball failed to cross the line. But luck did not hold out, Szczesny brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the area and managed to save the resulting penalty, but the rebound went straight back to Benteke who headed it into the net.

Aston Villa’s second penalty should never have been awarded. Koscielny slid in on Agbonlahor and cleared the ball, but the referee saw this as a foul, awarding the penalty and booking Koscielny. Minutes later Koscielny was booked again, this time without touching a Villa player. The second booking meant that he was sent off and Arsenal were reduced to 10 men, with no cover at centre back.

Arsenal went all out to try to claim back some points. Guzan made impressive saves from Rosicky and Cazorla. But all of this attack left gaps at the back. Eventually Andreas Weimann released Luna and he fired past Szczesny at the near post, to finish the game 3-1 in Aston Villa’s favour.

The Arsenal fans at the stadium were far from happy, chanting to Arsene Wenger “You don’t know what you’re doing” and “Spend some fracking money”. I’m not sure what fracking has to do with the money, maybe it’s an interest of Stan Kroenke.

Now I have long been a defender of Le Boss, when other fans have been calling for his head. But now he has me completely baffled. Why would you release all of your cover players unless you are sure that you have players to bring in and replace them?

Secondly the targets that they have gone after in the transfer market do not seem to cover the weaknesses in the squad. The positions which need strengthening and have done for several seasons now, are in the centre of defence, defensive midfield and goalkeeper. These are far more urgent requirements than for a striker.

Arsenal had four players who scored well over 10 goals each last season. Theo Walcott scored 21 mainly from the wing. Having the goals come from a variety of sources is an advantage that many supporters do not seem to appreciate.

I for one would hate to see Luis Suarez at Arsenal. Of course we would love his goals, but a player who spits, bites, dives and racially abuses other players is not my idea of an Arsenal man and I would far rather we got our goals elsewhere.

In the meantime the three sides that finished above Arsenal last season all got off to great starts again, despite all of them having a change in management. Man Utd beat Swansea 4-1 in Wales. Chelsea beat newcomers Hull 2-0 and Manchester City got off to a superb start with a 4-0 win over Newcastle. Ex Arsenal men Van Persie and Nasri both scored for the Manchester sides.

Arsenal’s next big challenge is on Wednesday night in Turkey, where they face Fenerbahce in the Champions League qualifying first leg. We wait to see what side Arsene Wenger will pick with Sagna and Oxlade-Chamberlain being added to the injury list.

By Max Power
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