Three goals in eight dramatic minutes grabbed all three points for Arsenal in this decisive fixture on Tuesday.
It was a frantic spell between the 63rd and 71st minute which swung the pendulum marginally Arsenal’s way in that long race for a top four spot ahead of Sunday’s final day of the campaign.
The outcome – which relegated Wigan – was emphatic in the end, but after Shaun Maloney’s brilliant free-kick had canceled out Podolski’s early opener just a minute before the break, there were more questions than answers for the Gunners during half-time.
To their credit, Wenger’s men along with their opponents returned for the second-half in full-blooded fashion as this contest became a wide open one. But Wigan suddenly surrendered the fight when Walcott bundled home a cross from Cazorla to make it 2-1 before the Spaniard set up Podolksi to coolly score a third five minutes later.
Then came the icing on the cake from Ramsey who chose today to score his first Premier League goal of the season by racing onto a through pass and whipping the ball beyond the goalkeeper.
A full-blooded tussle at the Emirates stadium ended all square as Arsenal had to settle for a point against fellow top-four challengers Everton.
The contest may have been full-blooded but it was hardly full of goal-scoring opportunities and in truth, the half-chances which came Arsenal’s way were spurned by leading striker Olivier Giroud.
It was a draw which favoured neither side’s ambitions to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Then again, it hardly did any damage to those hopes either.
Towards the end, and certainly for much of the second-half, Arsenal proved to be the side more eager for a win, but David Moyes’ organized men could have been defending a lead anyway had Pienaar not failed to snatch an early goal for the visitors.
When Robin van Persie announced he would not sign a new contract last summer, he cited that it was because he felt the club’s ambitions did not match his.
Sure enough, after the slide from title contenders to fourth place contenders and two cups exits in a week, who can really argue the Dutchman’s point that the Gunners do not possess a hunger for success?
To be fair if Van Persie was wrong and Arsenal really did have serious aspirations to be amongst the elite of European football, you would have witnessed more guts from the board (from chairman to Wenger) off the pitch in strengthening the squad and more guts from the players on the pitch in giving their utmost effort.
Arsenal spent most of Wednesday evening trying to score the perfect goal and after 86 minutes, Jack Wilshere managed to do just about that.
That goal came with more relief than pleasure because had this cup tie gone Swansea’s way in the end, it would have been brutally harsh on Arsenal.
The Gunners had only offered a tame bid for a spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup during the first half but even then Wenger’s men came to life during the latter stages of that first 45 minutes as the final kick of the half saw Vermaelen nearly score after a corner-kick fell onto his left foot.
Swansea’s shot-stopper Vorm who had denied that Vermaelen effort had more of the same to do in a second half which the hosts bossed and bossed but failed to find the breakthrough.
First, Walcott was sent clear at goal by Diaby but the aspiring striker fluffed his lines, dragging a shot just wide off the far bottom corner of the net.
Arsenal’s winning streak came to an end through an uninspired show at Southampton as the saints saw off a spiritless attacking effort from the Gunners in a 1-1 draw.
Indeed, the context of tonight’s match was more of two teams cancelling out each other for a draw rather than Southampton hanging on against Wenger’s men. Such was the open fashion in which Tuesday’s match was contested that it was the home side who took the lead through a Ramriez strike and could have had sights on a triumph if not for a fortuitous equalizer from Arsenal after Walcott’s free-kick was deflected home.
On the back of four wins in a row and that festive goal spree against Newcastle, Arsene Wenger could hardly change anything about his side and so the same line-up that started Saturday’s match was chosen today.
For the opening 10 minutes, Wenger’s men had the lion’s share of possession as Southampton’s goalkeeper went through a very nervy spell, spilling routine catches.
A clear-cut chance in front of goal was still scarce for the Gunners and so the saints grew into the game with the score still 0-0. And by the half-hour mark, both sides were exchanging punches at both ends. Someone had to take the lead at this point and it was the hosts who did. But only through a gift from Arsenal.
Podolski lost possession in danger zone, Sagna provided a woeful clearance and the ball fell back to Ramirez who thumped it past Szczesny. But if Arsenal had helped Southampton score there, then Adkins’ men returned the favour only seven minutes later as Theo Walcott’s ambitious free-kick was guided home by Guly do Prado on the stroke on half-time in the 41st minute.
The second-half featured a brighter Southampton challenge as the home crowd encouraged their players to chase a lifting win. On the back of Southampton’s attempts, Arsenal carved out half-chances and indeed, none of them paid off as Podolski was withdrawn for Giroud after just 58 minutes.
The Frenchman imposed himself on the hosts’ defence but once Santi Cazorla was also substituted for Aaron Ramsey, you sensed that the Gunners were running out of ideas. Gervinho, on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, did little to contribute, only going close with an indifferent effort which brushed the side-netting.
But apart from those scraps in front of goal, there were few highlights from this one. It was that sort of night. A flat one.
Santi Cazorla’s hat-trick spear-headed Arsenal to a 5-2 victory over Reading on Monday.
Wenger’s men produced such a storming first-half display that they went into the break with a healthy 3-0 lead after Podolski’s fine opener and a double from Cazorla. Somehow though, that lead was not nursed so healthily after the restart as Arsenal switched off following Cazorla’s third goal which made it 4-0. Complacency was creeping into the Gunners’ heads at that point and Reading capitalized by scoring twice in quick fashion as the game suddenly came to life.
Despite that nervy period, today really belonged to Arsenal and so all arguments were finally put to bed when Theo Walcott took his chance and scored Arsenal’s fifth with a classy finish. Substitute Olivier Giroud spurned a couple of chances to add more gloss to the scoreline late on but today was all about the positives.
The tone was set early as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, supporting Walcott and Podolski in attack, tested Reading goalkeeper Federici before Jobi McAnuff squandered a good chance for the Royals at the other end after the ball was pulled back across the face of the goal with Arsenal’s defence in danger.
But after 14 minutes, the Gunners’ efforts in attack paid off. Gibbs found Podolski with a cross and the German sublimely controlled the ball down and smashed it home. Walcott then failed to score after a one-on-one chance against the goalkeeper, but Arsenal’s second goal did arrive when Cazorla squeezed himself into the penalty box to produce a diving header onto Podolski’s cross. And not too long after, the Spaniard turned and guided the ball into the net from almost the same area which he scored his first after more slick work from Arsenal’s left flank.
Despite all the Arsenal pressure, Reading’s goalkeeper Federici was in hot form between the sticks as he denied a goal-bound Oxlade-Chamberlain header moments before half-time. But after the break, the shot-stopper could do nothing to prevent a superb Arsenal passing move which was rounded off by Cazorla slotting the ball home from another Podolski assist.
At 4-0 up, Wenger’s men were giving flicks and tricks while their fans sang praises in the stands so you sensed the hosts could not wait to shut them up for at least one moment. Indeed, Reading would be given the chance to do so twice and they did not turn it down. First, Gibbs’ pass to Wilshere at the heart of Arsenal’s territory was unsuccessful as the midfielder slipped, and Le Fondre beat Vermaelen’s last-ditch tackle to run past Szczesny and pull one back for the home side.
That seemed like a consolation goal only until Kebe took advantage of more slack Arsenal defending to score and give the Royals some hope of chasing a devastating comeback with about 20 minutes left.
But to be fair to Arsenal – who brought on Ramsey and Coquelin to beef up the defence – they matched Reading’s growing momentum and when a brilliant move from Cazorla found Theo Walcott, the aspiring striker was in ruthless mood as he shifted and directed the ball towards the bottom corner of net for the Gunners to finally claim a much deserved 5-2 victory.
Arsenal’s dramatic run in the league cup came to a dramatic end in a penalty shoot-out as Thomas Vermaelen missed the final spot-kick on Tuesday night.
The Belgian had played a vital role in all decisive moments – both the good and bad – tonight, but he fluffed his lines when it mattered the most.
Apart from the omission of Mikel Arteta, Arsene Wenger fielded his strongest first-team available and in the opening minutes, Vermaelen blatantly blocked his opponent to give away a cheap free-kick from which Bradford City took an emphatic 1-0 lead after the Gunners failed to clear their lines.
But Arsenal’s captain atoned for his mistakes in the dying 87th minute as he headed home an equalizer after Arsenal had knocked and knocked a solid Bradford door without finding an answer.
Momentum then belonged to Wenger’s men as they bossed extra-time. And indeed only a mixture of tame finishing, good defending and tough luck denied the visitors from a winner as Santi Cazorla in particular saw an effort well saved by the goalkeeper and another one met by the crossbar.
Into the penalty shoot-out, the Spaniard’s shooting found no success again as Arsenal’s first penalty-kick was saved. Bradford however, had netted all two of their opening kicks and when Marouane Chamakh stepped up to reduce the deficit, he too failed from 12 yards out.
The Bantams then missed their third kick but Jack Wilshere encouragingly scored for Arsenal to make it 2-1. And after the hosts netted their next spot-kick, Oxlade-Chamberlain calmly made it 3-2 ahead of the 5th and last round of penalties. Some hope restored for Arsenal, and indeed another miss from Bradford meant that Thomas Vermaelen had the opportunity to level the shoot-out and send it into sudden death.
But his shot which did beat the goalkeeper could only meet the post as Arsenal were ousted from the competition, losing 3-2 on penalties.
Arsenal won it just like they did last year as Mertesacker’s first ever goal for the club sparked a come back after Adebayor had followed up his opening goal with a sending off.
Against ten men, the Gunners had their tails up after equalizing and on the stroke of half-time, Podolski and Giroud made it 3-1. Cazorla then guided home another goal after the restart as the hosts looked to have completely killed matters off at 4-1 only for Gareth Bale to snatch one back for Tottenham.
That goal unsettled Arsenal’s nerves a bit at 4-2 but Walcott netted in the dying minutes to finish off a much need 5-2 victory over Arsenal’s north London neighbours.
Adebayor and Jermain Defoe were causing Arsenal’s defence all sorts of problems and moments after William Gallas had seen a strike ruled out for offside, Spurs were ahead. Mertesacker and Sagna both inexplicably stepped up to let Vertonghen’s long ball send Defoe clean through.
Mikel Arteta missed from the penalty spot with the last kick of an eventful 3-3 draw at the Emirates stadium on Saturday.
That squandered opportunity could have nicked the points for Arsenal but after 23 minutes, the Gunners did not seem like needing any last-gasp chance to win today.
Like they did on Tuesday at Schalke, Arsenal raced into a mesmerizing 2-0 lead in front of their own crowd and looked poised to ease the pressure mounting from their recent worrying form. First, Giroud managed to head Walcott’s out-swinging corner kick into the net and as Fulham crumbled at the back, Podolski sneaked in to double Arsenal’s lead.
But the Cottagers suddenly found their first corner-kick of the game and from that, Berbatov’s free header pulled a goal back for them. As expected, that goal unsettled the nerves of an Arsenal side struggling with belief and so it was not much of a surprise when Mannone was sorrily beaten with another header which came from Kacaniklic this time on the stroke of half-time.
It was 2-2 at the break and the open affair that the second-half produced would go along with the scoreline.
Both sides traded punches while Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain were introduced to help Arsenal’s fight. Then, with an attacking attempt from Fulham seemingly stopped, Arteta was caught dallying on the ball in his own area and the Spaniard fouled Brian Luiz in desperation only to give away a penalty-kick.
Berbatov stepped up and coolly made Arsenal pay as Martin Jol’s men took a 3-2 lead. But the Gunners’ response to that dismay was surprisingly swift and the fashion of their equalizer summed up the story.
Giroud was first sent through on goal, but his strike could only find the woodwork. The big frontman did not drop his head though. If anything, he raised it even more as Walcott won the ball back and returned it to the Frenchman to head it home.
3-3, but neither side settled for a draw. And then in the dying minutes of injury time, Arshavin’s attempted cross was adjudged to have been handled by a Fulham defender. Sadly, Arteta who had fluffed his lines all day, would do so one more time from the penalty spot as Schwarzer saved his lowly struck effort.
It was a squandering sort of day.
Arsenal succumbed to a very predictable defeat at Old Trafford as Wenger’s were humbled once again on Saturday.
It may be fair to argue that it was Arsenal who really humbled themselves, because their show against last season’s runners-up was that of a side so intimidated that they lost the game before it even began.
Indeed, the scoreline flattered the Gunners who were spared by some poor finishing from the hosts – including a missed penalty from Rooney which failed to give United a 2-0 advantage going into the break – after Van Persie had scored with his first touch of the game following Vermaelen’s disastrous error after just two minutes.
The Gunners returned from half-time with some fight but they failed to throw a solid punch and so Evra sealed the argument with a second for United. Jack Wilshere was then sent off for a second booking but Santi Cazorla snatched a fantastic consolation goal with the last kick of the game.
Arsenal’s night at the Madejski stadium on Tuesday will go down as one of the most incredible ones the club has ever been involved in.
Thankfully, the result – a 7-5 thriller – was in favour of the Gunners. But for much of the game, the odds were by no means in favour of Arsenal. Indeed, a woeful start had seen Wenger’s men manage to concede four unanswered goals to Reading as the home side raced to into a shocking and seemingly unassailable 4-0 lead through strikes from Jason Roberts and Leigertwood which were sandwiched by a Koscielny own-goal and then wrapped by a header from Hunt after 37 minutes. But Theo Walcott – sent through on goal by Arshavin – provided a cool finish and what appeared to be a consolation goal on the stroke of half-time to make it 4-1.
Consolation goal? Maybe not. Perhaps the start of a comeback if you are one brave Arsenal team. The visitors netted a second through substitute Giroud’s header from a corner after the break but Arsenal had to wait until the final minute of the 90 for Koscielny to head home a third from another corner.
Still, this looked to be an agonizingly close and unfinished comeback similar to the two-legged 4-3 affair with Milan last year because for much of injury time, the Gunners had huffed and puffed for an unlikely equalizer and failed to find a breakthrough. But with their final throw of the dice, Giroud set up Theo Walcott who battled his way through the heart of Reading’s defense to shoot and snatch an equalizer which seemed to have been cleared off the line but then smashed back into the net by Jenkinson anyway. 4-4 it was.
Arsenal had done to Reading what Newcastle did to them in 2011. But this was no Premier League outing and so by rules of the League cup, this game was not over.
Hilariously, Coquelin and Giroud had to retrieve their shirts thrown into the crowd during the full-time whistle as extra-time proceeded. For once, it was Wenger’s men who had their tails up from the momentum of leveling matters from 4-0 down. Reading’s back-line was tiring and so Arsenal capitalized when Chamakh exchanged passes with Giroud and then Arshavin before carving out some space outside the box to send a terrific low shot into the net. Unbelievably the Gunners were 5-4 ahead. Ignasi Miquel was then forced to end his participation in this thriller through an injury as he was stretched off the pitch.
Like Miquel, the home side looked to have surrendered the battle until the closing stages of extra time when Pavel Pogrebnyak beat the offside to head home an equalizer for Reading. At an intriguing 5-5, this was the end-to-end scene no one saw coming at the Madejski stadium as both sides went after a winning goal.
Arsenal broke on the left through Arshavin and the Russian dribbled all the way to send a low effort across the mouth of Reading’s goal. The ball was cleared into the path of Walcott and he smashed the Gunners into a 6-5 lead from point-blank range.
Reading had not been put to bed yet and indeed it was their desperate piling of firepower upfront which created a lot of room for Chamakh to do just that for Arsenal. The Moroccan striker won possession in the air, beating Reading’s last man at the back before chipping the ball over the goalkeeper to seal an astonishing 7-5 victory for the visitors.
That was the final say in a match which was easy to forget after 37 minutes, but will now be remembered for a long, long time.
Arsenal did just enough to get back to winning ways as a scrappy but precious goal from Mikel Arteta secured a difficult victory in the nick of time on Saturday.
Prior to that late goal, it had been a deja vu of the Schalke affair on Wednesday. Wenger’s men were once again uninspired in attack and their opponents’ ability to counter attack meant the two teams had canceled each other out up until the last ten minutes when QPR were reduced to ten men after a silly Mbia offense on Vermaelen.
The onus was now on Arsenal who had forced desperate saves from Julio Cesar while Cazorla had squandered a chance from no man’s land. But substitute Gervinho was withdrawn on the stretcher through injury and his replacement Andrey Arshavin had a vital contribution.
The Russian found Giroud with a cross and despite Cesar’s save from the Frenchman’s powerful header, QPR failed to clear their lines and so Arteta battled his way to place the ball home.
As the clock ticked in the late stages, the hosts looked to add some comfort to their lead as substitute Theo Walcott helped the chase for a second goal. A curling Cazorla effort was denied but Mark Hughes’ men also had a rattling fightback in them. Indeed, the Gunners had their backs against the wall as QPR’S ten men staged a tense finale, finding two unsuccessful one-on-one chances with Mannone.
Arsenal did hold their nerves for the final whistle and even though the performance was indifferent, there was a big difference in the numbers as Wenger’s men climbed all the way from 9th to 4th on the table. Also, with today’s clean-sheet, the Gunners boast the Premier League’s best defense in terms of goals conceded.
Arsenal dropped to a new low this season as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at home to Schalke in the Champions League today.
The loss was their first at home to a non-English side since 2003 and its effect may be even more derailing, The Gunners have now surrendered top spot in Group B and after back to back defeats to Norwich and now the German side, this may just be the crisis that critics once hinted after the departures of Alex Song and most notably Robin van Persie.
Arsenal had shown the toothless side of their attack on Saturday where Norwich were barely threatened and today’s story wasn’t any different. Indeed, the Gunners failed to manage a decent shot on target all game and so when the ball broke to Huntelaar with about 14 minutes left – via an error at the heart of Arsenal’s defense – the Dutchman smashed it home ruthlessly, knowing that it could be the goal that sinks the home side into the horror that their performance had deserved.
And so it proved, as in the midst of a late and desperate fightback from Wenger’s men, the German side responded with a swift counter-attack and netted a second goal. That was that, and another flat Arsenal effort received its just reward.
Arsenal resumed their inconsistency today with a terrible show which was punished by a solitary strike from Grant Holt in a sinking 1-0 defeat.
This team has received some rave reviews this season but with performances like today’s, their critics may never be calmed. The defeat leaves Wenger’s men now struggling at 9th on the table, and a massive ten points behind leaders Chelsea already.
The Gunners seemed to have grabbed control of the proceedings as a line-up unchanged from the one that won at West Ham passed the ball around with comfort. But as ever, it was their opponents who would teach them how to score.
A hopeful long-range shot from Tettey was spilled by Mannone and Grant Holt was faster than Mertesacker to react and guide the ball home. And Arsenal’s response to going behind was tame.
Indeed, the north Londoners were guilty of a very lethargic display in attack and which saw the hosts defend without any pressure. The closest Wenger’s men had come to scoring all day was a shot from Podolski which went just wide of the far post during the early moments of the match.
Strangely, the German was once again withdrawn after an hour for Oxlade-Chamberlain who was forced off with an injury. It was that sort of day for Arsenal. Nothing would go right for them, but then again, they had not created much either.
Laurent Koscielny thumped home a sumptuous late strike to snatch a point for Arsenal on Sunday as another tight affair with Manchester City ended all square.
Indeed, as much as Arsenal’s bright performance made a strong case of deserving all three points, today’s visit to Eastlands could have easily ended as empty-handed as last year’s – largely due to the sheer profligacy of Gervinho upfront. City’s game plan was always to absorb the early energy of Wenger’s men and catch them cold with a sucker-punch.
That seemed to have worked for 82 minutes as Lescott’s header, a few moments before half-time, had given the hosts a lead from a corner which was misjudged by Vito Mannone and the Arsenal defence.
Arsenal though, did find their own vital corner-kick after huffing and puffing for an equalizer. And when Cazorla’s delivery landed on Koscielny’s foot, the French defender – only in today to replace an ill Thomas Vermalen – smashed the ball past Joe Hart.
1-1, spoils shared, and the Gunners, now 5th on the table, remain ahead of today’s opponents through goal difference
Enjoy Koscielny’s goal below!
Lukas Podolski and Gervinho took their scoring form to France as the duo struck quick-fire goals after the Gunners had gone behind to clinch an uneasy 2-1 victory against Montpellier.
The match had barely lasted 10 minutes when Thomas Vermaelen’s clumsy challenge on Belhanda saw the hosts awarded a penalty-kick. And Belhanda picked himself up to guide home the ball from the spot.
Arsene Wenger, in the stands due to a touchline-ban from UEFA, witnessed his men come to life after that goal and their urgency paid off as a slick move, coupled with some sluggish defending from Montpellier saw Giroud find Podolski in no man’s land with a pass. And the German striker made no mistake in leveling matters at 1-1 with coolly struck goal.
Arsenal and their tails up at this point and any opportunity was towards netting another goal. And so they did. Gervinho managed to engineer a move which broke up and then saw the ball break to Jenkinson. The right-back then returned a low cross into the box to find the Ivorian who was lurking towards goal. And Gervinho lashed home the ball to make it 2-1 in what had been a lightening turnaround.
The Gunners who once had their tails up in the first half ironically had their tails between their legs after the restart as Montpellier went in search of an equalizer.
The hosts first hit the cross-bar with a chipped effort, and then squandered a chance which saw Mannone gracefully catch a poor effort struck straight at him from a striker who had beaten Mertesacker and the entire Arsenal defense.
Arsenal could have conceded another penalty-kick in the closing stages as Abou Diaby was let off the hook for a physical challenge on Montpellier’s man right in the box.
Wenger’s men did hold their nerve to complete a vital 2-1 victory at the home of the French champions to open their Champions League campaign. And the other affair in Group B saw Schalke similarly defeat Olympiakos 2-1 to join Arsenal at the top of the pile.
Arsenal outclassed Southampton to secure their first win at the Emirates stadium this season. And some win it was.
The Gunners bossed the affair all day and an own-goal forced by Gibbs’ strike handed the hosts an early lead. Lukas Podolski then doubled the advantage with a sumptuous free-kick midway through the half before another pair of goals, one from Gervinho and another own-goal assisted by the Ivorian saw the home side 4-0 up after just 38 minutes.
The concentration of an idle Szczesny was given a test late in the first-half and he did not impress at all as the goalkeeper failed to catch a cross which fell to a Southampton man to thump the ball home with ease.
The second-half saw Arsenal retain their order as a tap-in from Gervinho and a coolly struck Walcott effort gave the Gunners a resounding 6-1 victory.
The three points and massive goal advantage has seen Arsenal climb up to third on the table.
Arsenal’s scoreless start to the new campaign continued on Sunday as despite a decent endeavour at the Britannia Stadium, the Gunners had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Stoke City.
Today’s hosts have normally provided an unwanted welcome for Wenger’s men in this particular fixture and a point earned might not be a bad bargain, but at full-time, the slight regret written on the Arsenal manager’s face was because his side had taken a lion’s share of the chances today but like last week, had a mere point to show for it.
Arsene Wenger set out all his fire power for the full display today. All summer signings Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski took their place in the starting line-up as Theo Walcott was dropped to the bench.
Wenger’s men, somehow surprisingly, looked the more comfortable side from kick-off and had the Stoke defense on its toes. But it was actually the Potters who would place the ball in the net as a cross from the left was headed down by Peter Crouch and then finished by Jonathan Walters who appeared to be in an offside position. Thankfully, the effort was ruled out by the referee and Arsenal, despite carving out half-chances from Podolski and company, went into half-time still on level terms.
New season, but to be very pragmatic, it looks like the same old story.
Much of the possession, much of the chances but nothing to show for it. Santi Cazorla must have been the most frustrated man after the final whistle because the performance he delivered on his debut was worthy of making the headlines if Arsenal had managed to win.
But they didn’t, and so the ramblings will go on about how Arsenal are struggling without Van Persie, even though the truth is that this is a transition period and a slow start may be inevitable.
If you do chose to forget about the result and focus on performances, since it is ridiculously early anyway to start sketching the final picture, then early signs of Santi Cazorla promises that we may have finally replaced Fabregras.
And to be fair, he is actually more audacious than Cesc in terms of attacking football. He is not just about passing and finding that cutting-edge through ball. Cazorla can hit the ball pretty well too, and if not for a very fine save by Sunderand’s goalkeeper early in the first half, Arsenal’s new Spanish signing would have scored an absolute screamer on his debut. He is also completely two-footed. He can do the same exact thing he does with his left as he can with his right.
Arsenal saved the best for last as this pre-season was brought to an end with an impressive outing against Podolski’s former club Cologne.
It was indeed the German ace who stole the show with an exciting display on his debut in an Arsenal shirt. The Gunners won 4-0 through goals from Vermaelen and Gervinho which were sandwiched by a terrific brace from the man returning to his old ground, Lukas Podolski.
With the season’s opener against Sunderland now looming, Arsene Wenger wasted no time to test out his latest recruit Santi Cazorla as the Spanish midfielder started in midfield along with fellow new faces Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
Arsenal were in rampant mood from kick-off and Giroud’s dangerous effort from the left had to be parried away for a corner by the goalkeeper. Santi Cazorla then stepped up to deliver the set-piece and Thomas Vermaelen was right on the money to head the ball home from close range.
The Gunners sensed this could be a nice work-out and threatened the Cologne back-line before the home side buckled again under pressure as Oxlade-Chamberlain was fouled in the penalty box.
Podolski, who had announced his wish to score ahead of the match, stepped up and coolly converted the spot-kick to make it 2-0 in favour of the visitors.
Cologne finally came to life after that goal and went inches away from pulling a goal back as an effort which saw Mertesacker and Arsenal’s defense beaten went just wide off the bottom corner of the net.
But Arsenal continued their domination on the scoreboard and just before the break, Podolski netted a fantastic goal. He first found Kierran Gibbs on the left with a long ball before racing into the box to smash the left-back ‘s cut-back pass into the net. His second goal of the game and a tremendous way to end the first half.
The second-half saw a much-changed side enter the field for the Gunners and after Gervinho went on an astonishing solo run and netted Arsenal’s fourth goal, Podolski was withdrawn for Robin van Persie of all people.
The Dutchman interestingly took the captain’s armband from Vermaelen after being introduced but failed to really catch the eye with his display as he looks to improve his fitness following his short holidays after Euro 2012.
The scoreline was a bit harsh on Cologne who did hit the woodwork and had a few spells where they troubled the Gunners’ defense.
But today really belonged to the quality show from Wenger’s men.
Another dreadful home display saw Arsenal held to a 3-3 draw by Norwich City at the Emirates stadium. That result could prove very costly.
Yes, very costly because third place which Arsenal seemed so destined for in recent weeks after making a mesmerizing run to climb up the table, is now in danger of being gifted back to Tottenham or Newcastle who are both just two points adrift of the Gunners with as many games in hand.
Arsenal have chosen to it the hard way.
And if they had won today,Wenger’s would have done it the hard way after Norwich gave them a real run for their money. The visitors went behind to Benayoun’s terrific curler only 66 seconds after kick-off but Norwich responded and got their reward with an equalizer after 12 minutes courtesy of a half-blunder from Szczesny who failed to keep his grip on saved shot as the ball creeped into the net.
On 27 minutes, it was even more terrible scenes at the Emirates. Holt found a lot of space upfront and his shot at goal was deflected by Gibbs before the ball chipped over Arsenal’s on-rushing goalkeeper and into the net. Norwich were 2-1 ahead at half-time.
The hosts did show their expected fight back after the break, but in truth, Norwich’s equal efforts made it an even contest. But after Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chamakh were introduced midway through the second-half, Arsenal sparked the fire again as Van Persie pounced on a trademark long pass from Alex Song to level matters at 2-2. And with just ten minutes and injury time left, VanPersie capitalized on a mistake from Norwich’s defense to net his 3oth league goal of season and put Arsenal back ahead. But the Gunners’ own defensive woes gave Norwich the last laugh as Gibbs and Vermaelen went missing on the left side of defense to hand Morrison the chance to race past Koscielny and score a dramatic equalizer.
Arsenal’s miserable run
16 April – Arsenal 1 Wigan 2
21 April – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
28 April – Stoke 1 Arsenal 1
5 May – Arsenal 3 Norwich 3
Arsenal defeated Manchester City 1-0 through a fantastic strike from Mikel Arteta to derail the blues’ title hopes and retain their charge for a top four finish.
The Gunners – chasing a place back in the top three – raised their own game and created enough chances to have been well ahead by half-time, with Robin van Persie’s goalbound header striking team-mate Thomas Vermaelen.
After the woodwork twice again came to City’s rescue in the second half, the Gunners were not to be denied as, with three minutes left, Arteta strode forwards to smash a superb, 25-yard drive past Joe Hart into the bottom corner
City finished the match with 10 men when Balotelli, who should have been sent off for a studs-up challenge on Song in the first half which was missed by referee Martin Atkinson and his assistants, was shown a second yellow card for clattering into Bacary Sagna.
Arsenal saw their winning run ended in frustrating fashion as goals from Taarabt and Diakite came either side of Theo Walcott’s equalizer to deny Wenger’s men all the points on Saturday.
The hosts bossed the opening minutes and took the lead as their star man beat Vermaelen to hand QPR the lead. But Arsenal were back in it with their first meaningful chance of the match after 37 minutes as Theo Walcott first hit the post with a fine strike before rebounding his ricocheted effort into the net.
Arsenal now had a strong grip on the game and should have went on to win the match after the restart as Van Persie missed a one-on-one chance. And they were made to pay dearly when Vermaelen slipped at the back and allowed the teeing-up of Diakite who smashed the ball home.
The Gunners remain in third place, but with tough games on the way in weeks to come, there will be no room for awful displays like today’s.
That winning streak really did not mean anything to me. At this time of the season, only the results matter, and whether it comes emphatically or not, only the results and points matter.
But dropping only three points in their last eight games means the boys have to keep their head up. They have mounted a challenge which looked impossible at the start of February and with seven games to go, anything similar will be very beneficial to their Champions League hopes next season.
There was nothing beneficial about today though, and that’s why there is that frustrating feeling around because it was not just because Arsenal had lost and gotten zero points at Loftus Road (which IS a tough place to go by the way – ask Chelsea and Liverpool who both lost there), it is the manner in which they lost that was concerning.
A majority of the players seemed complacent, as if they were saying in their heads “we will always find a way out” even when the team went behind to Taarabt’s goal. There were a lot of lazy passes and slips, and even after Walcott scored you had to feel that Arsenal needed to up their tempo or anything could happen.
And anything did happen. Vermaelen – already culpable for the concession of QPR’s opener – showed some childishness by a earning a needless yellow card for a little ‘hand bags’ moment with a QPR man, and then followed that with an inexplicable slip at a vital place and a vital point of the game to allow Mark Hughes’ side the lead.
Quite disappointing too was Arsenal’s response to that goal. QPR were hardly threatened at the back and Gervinho, sent on for Ramsey (another below par show from him), failed to make any genuine impact. In fact, apart from scoring rarely or assisting, the Ivorian seems pretty useless to the run of play. He is too flimsy on the ball, and tries to dance on it too much. Apart from that, his ability to track back and help out at the back when we lose the ball is nothing essential.
Still, the Gunners do have their fate in their own hands at this point and there are two factors in their favour. The season is running out of games, and they are the pace setters not the chasing side in terms of the race for that third/fourth place.
Every point gained will be vital to keeping that advantage.
Arsenal continued their resurgent chase for a top three finish with a fine victory over Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Shay Given’s poor attempt to save Kierran Gibbs’ shot from a tight angle saw the ball squeeze into the net as Arsenal took an early lead. The Gunners continued to threaten the visitors and they looked very much in the mood when Alex Song set up Theo Walcott to score with a sublime finish to make it 2-0 after less than 30 minutes of action.
The second-half saw similar domination from the Gunners but Aston Villa looked dangers ouon the counter-attack and there were indeed a couple of ‘foot off the pedal’ occasions where Wenger’s men were lucky to escape the concession of a sucker-punch goal from Villa.
But it was always Arsenal’s day and Mikael Arteta made certain of that when he fired home a superb free-kick in injury time to seal a 3-0 win – Arsenal’s seventh on the bounce in the league.