Everton vs Arsenal, Goodison Park, Premier League
Kickoff – 20:00 GMT (01:30 IST), 21st March 2012
Another fine day to all you Gooners out there. Something very unexpected happened yesterday.
A few days earlier, ESPN-Star Sports India, had put up the schedule for Wednesday night (i.e the wee hours of Thursday morning), for the telecast of the English Premier League games. There were 4 games to be telecasted, which were Manchester City vs Chelsea, Everton vs Arsenal, QPR vs Liverpool and Sp*rs vs Stoke. And, the schedule put up was Manchester City vs Chelsea, live at 1-25 on ESPN, and Sp*rs vs Stoke, live on Star Sports. Well, that did it.
This is not the first occasion, where Arsenal games have been snubbed by the network. This sparked an outrage, and a petition was started by the Bangalore Gunners group, to troll ESPN-Star’s Facebook page, and also a petition was started on twitter, which attracted nearly 700 signatures. Finally, last night ESS bowed down to Arsenal Power, and decided to telecast the Arsenal game. This is of course fantastic news, and shows how Arsenal can unite us all. 😀
Speaking of uniting, the unfortunate incident involving young Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba has united the entire world of football. Messages have poured in from all over the world in support of the player. I read an interesting article in Angry of Islington, which I think is a must read. Here the author, has expressed his honest view on the incident.
Muamba, of course learned his trade at the Arsenal academy, and he has got lot of support from his parent club. Arsene Wenger spoke how Muamba has a ‘special bond’ with Arsenal.
He is a loved guy,Because we have a young team, many of them grew up with Fabrice. There is a strong link when you fight together in the youth teams because it creates a special bond. The players were quite low yesterday and two days ago but today it is a bit better because we have good news about him.Everybody has a bit of relief today but let’s not maybe go too quickly overboard and think he is completely out of it. You trust the quality of the care he has, you trust the quality of his mental strength and his desire to fight any restrictions. But we are as well a bit cautious as long as we do not really officially know that he is out of danger and that he is completely alright.I have not personally been in contact with him but through Bolton we have been in contact. His very close friends have gone to hospital and you want to respect that it is not overcrowded there. At the start we know how it is, many people go, and after a while you need a bit more support.
Latest news is that Muamba is fine, and reacting well to the treatment. He also had brief interactions with his family and Bolton manager Owen Coyle. Liam Brady, who worked with Muamba, earlier in 2007, had this to say.
Like everyone else I was completely shocked. I was in Barcelona with our Under-14 team and I was watching the Tottenham v Bolton game on TV. I was completely horrified by what happened and we are hoping and willing him to pull through.Fabrice was always a happy boy at Arsenal, a well-mannered boy. He seemed to really appreciate the opportunity he had and was fully intent on giving his best. He has been like that ever since he was 12.He comes to visit us, he calls in when he can. Fabrice remembers where he came from and he’s a smashing young man. He’s determined to make the best of his career and let’s hope that determination helps him pull through the situation he is in.
I can speak on behalf of all Arsenal fans in India, and we wish Muamba a speedy recovery.
Moving on, news emerged earlier in the week that Park Chu-Young’s military career has been postponed by 10 years. Now, if you are confused, let me tell you what it is. South Korean rules state that all fit and healthy males should joing the armed forces, when they turn 28. You need a special permit from the government, if you wish not to pursue a military career. Now, whether he stays on at Arsenal or not is a completely different issue. He was signed by Wenger from under the noses of Lille, and has rarely featured since. He scored his solitary goal against Bolton in the League Cup, and has rarely featured since. Even when Arsenal were leading 10 man Blackburn 5-1 after around 65 minutes, Wenger decided to keep van Persie on the field, instead of giving Park a run. Many would expect the South Korean to leave for greener pastures at the end of the season. Staying with Park, the player’s agent revealed that it was the result of talks between Monaco, Park’s former club and Arsenal, that resulted in Park’s freedom. The permission was granted back in August, but was kept under wraps.
I asked the Military Manpower Administration in early August last year to grant me an extension of overseas stay permit. The permit was granted on Aug. 29,In 2009, the Monaco royal household agency granted Park an unprecedented 10-year residence permit in recognition of his outstanding activities there. We found out through a legal counsel last July that it’s possible to delay military service based on a long-term overseas residence permit.Additional negotiations about his transfer fee between Arsenal and AS Monaco only concluded recently, and AS Monaco asked us to make it public after the negotiations came to an end.
Park’s transfer still seems strange. Why was he signed by the manager, if he hasn’t been given the chances. Anyways, we will come to know during the summer.
Moving on, Kieran Gibbs spoke about how the pressing game has allowed Arsenal to win more games, recently. It is a tactic greatly employed at Barcelona, where they unsettle the opponents, as soon as they lose possession.
There are a lot of players putting a lot of effort in, especially off the ball, and that is great to see,When we put pressure on teams high up the pitch and early on in the game, it is difficult for them to play and we can control the game a lot easier.We are enjoying doing that at the minute and we have to enjoy defending as well. It’s alright just having the ball, we know what we can do to create chances and score goals. That [the defensive side] is the big improvement we have made over the last few weeks.In previous seasons you wouldn’t have thought we would have the strength to come back but now we don’t really think about the score, we just keep playing,It helps when you have the best striker in the world at the moment in your team. The team is showing great character at the minute and we need to keep that going.
Gibbs also spoke about how players returning from injuries, and the fact that Arsenal have only the Premier League to concentrate on, will help keep their players fresher, and will assist them in the run-in.
It is a relief to have a break until the next game and it was important for us to get that because we have played quite a lot recently in a short space of time,“We should have players coming back from injury now so we should be getting some fresh legs looking to go for the rest of the season strongly.Football changes so much. We’ve seen over the last few seasons that anything can happen now and it is important for us to cement our place [in the top four] and keep winning. I saw Everton against Tottenham and they would have obviously been on a high after that. They are a good side and what the manager [David Moyes] has done with that squad is quite amazing. We know it will be a difficult game but we have the momentum and at the moment we are on a good run so we want to continue that.
Another player who has massively impressed this season is Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain. He was a massive presence in the second leg against AC Milan. He spoke about how he keeps calm, and doesn’t get nervous, and that the Milan game was a dream.
I’ve played so many games of football now and even though it is at a higher level, at the end of the day football is football. You are just playing with better players,As soon as you feel comfortable and confident you just carry on as normal. I felt comfortable in the Manchester United game because I thought we came out in the second half and played really well.Playing in a team like Arsenal helps massively having all of these players around you giving you advice. When they are playing well, you feel comfortable and it helps you to play well too.I can learn from all of them. I look at Theo, Gervinho and Robin as the three main attacking players and more recently I have been watching Tomas Rosicky because he’s been outstanding,Robin has taken most of the headlines and rightfully so with all of his fantastic goals but quietly I think Tomas has been playing absolutely amazing.I started my career as a central midfielder and the way that he gets the ball in midfield, turns and runs at people just makes things happen.We have had some really good wins [lately], away at Anfield, at home to Tottenham and Newcastle, and AC Milan too even though we didn’t qualify. It drives you on to want more of that success.
It was a dream yes, but it was also a bit nerve-wracking because I haven’t played there since Under-18s football I think,It is where I have grown up though so it was nice to go back there.I think my Dad was more excited about me playing in that game than any other because he thinks I am going to drift into central midfield more as I grow older. It was nice to play there, I just knew I had to work hard and do other bits of my game. Sometimes when you play on the wing a lot you forget other parts that you have to do in the middle.
It is a different work rate as well. When you are playing on the wing you sprint a lot, recover and then sprint again, whereas when you are playing in midfield it is non-stop. Maybe it is slower running but it is here, there and everywhere.So it was different, a big shock to me but obviously playing against Milan with their players was a really good experience and one I won’t forget.
Meanwhile, Robin van Persie has asked Arsenal to keep playing at the same level, and churn out results, for the rest of the campaign.
If you look at the last couple of weeks, we showed we have a lot of character in our side,After the two defeats to Milan and Sunderland, everyone was like ‘this is going to be a tough couple of weeks’ because we had games against Spurs, Liverpool, Milan and an international week and then Newcastle. Yet we won every game, so we showed lots of character. We can be proud of that.Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. That is very hard and only the best of the best teams have that in them. Look at Barcelona for example. They have a special team there, they are playing most games – 9 out of 10 – really well and working hard. We need to have a run like that for months and even win the ugly games. We showed signs that we can do it because against Liverpool we didn’t play well but still nicked it. Sometimes it is necessary to win those games. We came from behind in the past four games and ended up winning the game. That shows we can do it, not only once or twice or three times, but lots of times. So why not show it 20 times or whenever it is needed?It is very hard [to be consistent], especially in a league like England,In my opinion, if you look in a technical way, a physical way, the pace, the quickness of the game, all that stuff together, the Premier League is the hardest. I see lots of games from Italy and Spain, but overall it is the hardest league. It is tough to play the way we all want. We need to be consistent and get a win over the line, like at Liverpool. We did it now, and we can enjoy it, but we need to show it again [at Everton] and it may even be a harder game. But we have to give it our maximum and see where it ends.
Some Wenger talk, then. Le Prof spoke highly about his signing from Everton, Mikel Arteta, who according to some reports, will get a huge applause from the Goodison faithful.
He always gives you a certain level of quality.He is always 100 per cent focused and committed and that is what you want from a real professional. He brings the best out of other players.I believe he is a winner and a fighter as well. I think he possesses both aspects of the game of a real midfielder – that means he can defend and he can attack. That is what we looked for.
Wenger also had praise for Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder, has found it hard a few times this season, but he is all of 21.
It is basically his first full season and he has done extremely well,He can learn from the experience of players like Arteta, Song and Rosicky. That is something vital when you want to develop players.We lost Diaby as well and people forget that he played a big part in many games last year. I believe that the players who came in did a good job.
Le Prof also spoke about the run-in, saying it was different from previous seasons, where Arsenal were still in contention for silverware. Also, unlike previous seasons, the team seems to have found a spirit and a fight, to go on and keep pushing.
It is different from last year because we had a lot of negative experiences then,We were in four different competitions and we were knocked out in three in the space of two weeks, and you are only human beings. On top of that some results were really going against us, when you think about the last minute [equaliser] against Liverpool at home, you think about Tottenham when we were ahead. These two results killed the hope we had to play for the championship and from then on we felt, subconsciously, too secure that we were in the top four anyway. Once you don’t go for the championship anymore it’s different. This season it’s completely different, we were completely out of the top four, we have come into it on a good run and now of course it is taking advantage of that momentum.We are on a positive momentum and last year we were on a negative momentum. That changes it completely. On top of that we have experience. There again, it is how much are you ready to give? How much commitment can you give in every game? How focused can we be?
And, finally, Wenger spoke about how he doeesn’t believe in the element of luck.
Every time we were behind, we showed outstanding spirit,It is not fantastic for your emotions but overall when it finishes well you accept that you suffer. If that is the price we have to pay we are ready, but you just want to continue with the same attitude because I don’t believe in luck too much on that side of the game. If you come back it is because you fight and if you fight you have a chance to come back. So let’s fight first.
Team news, then. Arsenal will welcome back Andre Santos, from his long layoff. However, Gibbs is expected to hold on to his place in the starting lineup. Arsenal haven’t lost since the defence was a staple Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, in the Premier League. It is a good sign that the defence is showing signs of improvement. Abou Diaby played for the reserves against Liverpool, and was at the receiving end of a tackle, which means he has suffered another setback, but news is that he will be back soon. Francis Coquelin is still weeks away from return, while Jack Wilshere is as good as ruled out to feature this season. Sebastien Squillaci has returned to first team training. Thomas Vermaelen picked up a strain in his calf, but he is set to start.
Everton, on the other hand, have injury concerns of their own, with Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson all out injured.
Arsenal can expect a tough encounter at the Goodison, and have to be alert at all times, to get a win out of the Toffees. The Merseyside club, who have been consistently finishing in the top 10 under Moyes, have already beaten the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham this season. However, they have already played 2 games in the last 8 days, including a 3-0 loss to neighbours and rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, and a 1-1 draw with Sunderland in the FA Cup. Arsenal on the other hand, are in fine nick, picking up 5 wins in the league, which includes the 7-1 thumping of Blackburn, the 5-2 mauling of Sp*rs, and 2-1 wins over Sunderland, Liverpool and Newcastle. Everton play a similar formation to Arsenal 4-5-1, and can be dangerous on the counter. If they do get an early goal, you can expect them to shut shop and absorb attacks.
As is evident, Everton have some quality crossers, in Baines, Drenthe and Piennar. Arsenal will have to narrow down Everton’s play. On the counter even the pacy Osman can cause problems to the Arsenal defence. At the back, they have a steady defence, and a goalkeeper who is as good as any on his day. Arsenal will have to make full use of every opportunity they get.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
Jai Arsenal 🙂