Category Archives: V.Vikas

Striking at the heart of it!

My mind’s is picturing Arsene as Calvin right now! Do you seriously believe that we need reinforcements? Sorry Arsene, but we do. And it is not due to the scheduling of African Cup of Nations. We just do not have any strikers. Presence and absence of Chamakh would hardly make a difference right now. And I doubt if Arsene even knows whether Park Chu Young is still in the country. But there is one thing similar between Park Chu Young and me- Our chances of convincing Arsene that we can play as a striker for Arsenal. As long as you are going to fail an exam, it does not matter what the margin is. To be honest, I would be gobsmacked if we do not buy a striker. I know geniuses are eceentrically flawed in their beliefs. The more you harp them about any shortcomings, the more they go into their preconceived notions. Ask a United fan about the need for a central midfielder since 1532 BC that Fergie chooses to ignore. Or Arsene telling us that Silvestre is Maldini in disguise. Or my boss telling me to improve the quality of my work. Yet Arsene, I plead to thee- The strikers you signed are not good enough. Let us accept it and rectify it. We still have time to address it. Signing Henry is a stopgap arrangement at best.

Till such wisdom dawns upon us and we are stuck with status quo, whom do we play with in the centre forward position for the next week. RVP has been given a rightful rest and somebody has to step up to the plate. As ridiculous as it sounds, I would give the chance to Theo. YES, THEO! There is no point in playing Chamakh or Park Chu Young. They do not seem to be part of the solution. So let us try something else. For whatever we all may say about Theo, he was a proper striker when he joined us. I have not seen people beat goalkeepers at their near post so consistently as Theo when his head is right. Yes, he looks gloriously out of confidence, right now. But Leeds is as good an opportunity you can get to get your confidence back. Lest we forget, this kid looked the deal as a striker in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea. The move could achieve one of two things

  • Theo scores, gets his confidence back and actually may look like a back up striker in the future.
  • Theo does not score, realizes he is asking for an extra zero during contract negotiations, asks his agent to shut his tramp and sign that bloody contract on the table.

I am a blue tinted optimist, but i see both Theo staying and eventually emerging as a good striker for Arsenal. The time is here, the time is now! Throw the gauntlet to Theo! Can you do the business in this period as a striker? It is better than giving the umpteenth chance to Chamakh, see him conspicuously absent in the pitch, hope he remains the same with Morocco hastening their exit and comes back miraculously playing like Crouch (I seriously cannot even dream that Chamakh can play at a level beyond Crouch!). Oh, and amongst all this milieu, we are also praying that Van Persie is fit through this period. Some interesting stats on the latter- Van Persie has played the maximum number of minutes amongst all Arsenal players in 2011 (Courtesy- Arsenal website). Van Persie (with the notable exceptionn of St. Diaby) has been injured for the maximum number of minutes amongst all players since he has signed for us (Courtesy- My educated guess). So do the math on the latter happening for yourself! Till then, good luck, ye Gunners!

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Dortmund KO’d, who’s next?

Firstly, I am beginning to like a team in Germany. In the first leg against Dortmund, they showcased to us a wonderful stadium, immersed in yellow, filled with vociferous fans chanting away. Their fans did not disappoint at the Emirates, as well, creating a wonderful atmosphere. BVB has an exciting team, with a solid defence and a team that can match toe to toe with any club in Europe on their day in attack. Jurgen Klopp looks to me like a coach to look out for. Arsene is talking short term about two years of his contract being left. Jurgen Klopp looks like a young manager who runs a tight budget and knows to manage a team of kids. You run the Math and tell me what I am thinking! A quick comment on three players that caught my eye in this BVB side. Kagawa, Hummels and Goetze. I won’t be surprised to see them plying their trade in one of the top leagues soon. Hope we do get our hands on Goetze, though! Once Theo moves to the centre, he looks to me to the perfect right winger to play at that position.

But firstly, it is a time to showcase immense pride. Qualifying out of this group looked a task when the draw was made. But qualifying top of the group with a game to spare shows the kind of recovery that this team has shown. I can hardly pick on any performance yesterday. While the mainstream lazy media would again talk of Van Persie, it would be foolish to ignore the contribution the rest of the team is making. RVP is putting his chances away and has been phenomenal. But the team is giving him the chance to score authentic striker’s goals. I would be worried if Van Persie is beating three defenders and going on solo runs to score all his goals. But, thankfully, such a need has not arisen. The team has created chances and offered to him on a platter. If by that definition, Arsenal is a one man team, I think I know of at least two more “one-man” teams called Real Madrid and Barcelona. The other reason that this one man team chant has increased amongst lazy journalists is that there has been equally strong contributions from the majority of the team in this mini-run that we are in. All players are standing up and giving an 8/10 performance. Last few years, most games would have some players at 9/10 and some at 5/10. This year, I do not see any passengers in the team. Everyone is contributing in their own way. Ramsey regularly puts in a through ball that opens up a defence or makes a telling late run. Song has been ever present as the shield. Walcott and Gervinho have added a dimension with their directness. Arteta has given solidity to the midfield that has long been missed. Koscielny and Vermaelen have been immense. Santos and Mertesacker (barring the crazy blip against Norwich) have been growing with every game. Szczesny and Van Persie have not been that bad, as well, have they?

From what I see of the Champions League tables, this is how it looks like the teams that would qualify.

Group toppers

Runner ups



Inter Milan



Man U

Real Madrid







AC Milan



Amidst all the vicarious joy, my fellow Gooners have enjoyed in the misfortunes of the other English teams, it does affect us a little bit. From this above table, AC Milan and Napoli look like the teams to avoid when the draw is made. If United and Chelsea had done their job properly, a probability of landing this unfavourable draw was 28% (2 teams to avoid out of 7 possible opponents). But United and Chelsea threaten to potentially finish second, which would mean the probability of a bad draw increases to 40% (2 teams out of 5 possible opponents). Not good at all. I hear you Arsenal fans cry out if they qualify third then we would be back to our 28%. I guess so. But United would surely qualify and City would surely go out. Chelsea is a 50-50. We drew Barcelona last year and gave them a proper run for their money till a referee got irked with us for daring to compete with Barca. So bring on the draw, and we are ready for the lot!

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Times of Arsenal

Over the years, with the tumultuous spirals of being an Arsenal fan, I have gone through the various phases of success of one’s club. And there seems to be a very easy way to measure the success of your club. The time when fans of rival clubs absolutely despise you is the time when you are doing really well. The feeling has been a little old now, like a remainder of a drunken night out during college. You would be going through numerous brawls and arguments feeling quite charged up, ending up with a headache. But when you look back, you yearn with nostalgia for those times. Times, when people would come up to you and tell, that your lot never deserved to win that title, about how XYZ is a pure cheat and despite the zillions of goals he scores, he is despicable. The feeling was last enjoyed through the year in 2003 perhaps, with a spillover in 2004. 2005 had minor traces, before the feeling has seemed extinct, now for the last six years.

The next phase that I have experienced is when the rival fans start pitying you. They lament on the current rivals that they vie for the title with. Those were the days when United and Arsenal would fight for the title. What games, man! You never have the adrenalin in the title fights now. This would be the beginning of the realization that the opponent teams do not consider you anywhere in the zip code of a title shot. We continue to live in disbelief, convincing ourselves.  We narrowly missed it this year. All we are missing is one striker and a goalkeeper and a… My favourite one of all of them, possibly most heard from my mouth, “We ran out of luck at crucial times, but we will be back soon.. ”  I have exhausted myself with these words till 2010 on numerous occasions. And I genuinely would believe in them. I would oft use them in situations like when Ade missed an open goal, Ade scored a great goal against us, Eboue overcooked a cross, Clichy caught oversleeping, Almunia being fit etc. But, the truth always is that the luck had evened out for all the teams in the season. For every fit Almunia, a rival would have a fit Carrick. For every Clichy, there were the Rio moments. For every Ade miss, there was a period of sulking Drogba!

And then comes 2011. February to be precise. From February, it has felt that a giant kick, once and for all, has decided to wipe us of any false ambitions/ expectations, that as Arsenal fans, we felt entitled to. We have stooped to such a level that the rival fans do not pull our legs anymore. They do not even pity us anymore. We have become just the free garlic bread of the Premier league pizza. Everybody knows it’s there but nobody ordered the pizza to have garlic bread. It feels ok, since it’s free. Nobody acknowledges our existence as even a spent force. We have stooped to such lows that the only clinging thread we hang on to, as Arsenal fans, is our sense of humor. We are laughing at ourselves and the shambles that we are currently in. Every aspect of this season, from the transfers to this Tottenham game has been a joke. And the joke has been on us! Come on Arsenal, stop this nonsense! Give me back my glory days. I long to be hated by United and Chelsea fans again. I long to be told yet again, how the team is full of despicable people. I long to rewind time back by a decade, Arsenal. I long to walk back to the times of Arsenal!

Article written by V. Vikas


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A Nou day has come!

I have to admit, when I get up this morning, I was not very upbeat of our chances. I had been a little downbeat since the loss at Wembley. The referees for our Sunderland game did not really help the cause either. Even Dirk Kuyt, with probably the only hattrick that he would ever score could not lift my spirits. But, Pep really pepped it up for me today. Pep, best known for his through balls and creating a team that has redefined attacking football was trying something that he had never tried before. Mind games. I think that was probably, the greatest show of respect towards Arsenal in a long time. When I read about Pep likening Jack to the players in Barca reserve team or about how we might bring in Theo in a jet in the last minute like Van Persie, I felt vibes from Barcelona that I have not felt before. Barca have always talked before matches with an artistic superiority, dashed with a brash of arrogance, a right they have deservedly earned over the past few years with their results and performance. But, they are not singing the tune after the first leg anymore.

Part of the change in tune could also be down to the fact that they are going to play with Abidal and Busquets in the centre of their defense. This could be our trump card. Get at them. Get the away goal. So their defense looks like this then- Valdes, Maxwell, Abidal, Busquets and Dani Alves. No wonder Van Persie took the extra effort to come to the game. People, including Lee Dixon, have been writing about how we may miss Song. But, Song had a very ordinary game at Emirates, yet, we defended well. We defended will, since we defended like a unit. Sagna is a welcome return to the defense.

The only cause of concern for me is who partners Cesc and Jack in the centre of the park.  It’s not because I think we may miss Song, but Denilson and Diaby are not reliable at all. No one knows ever which Diaby may turn up. Denilson is too limited to be a Brazilian, too limited to be an Arsenal player. I would still go with Diaby, because I see an upside. But we need to have more than our fingers crossed. Nasri and Arshavin should start in the flanks, with Chamakh upfront. I am just a bit tempted to put Bendtner in the starting eleven in the place of Arshavin, since the latter is not reliable defensively and does not really last ninety minutes.

Barcelona, on the attacking front look threatening as usual. But, we have done it before. We can do it again. Villa and Messi combine intricate play with a directness that gives Barcelona a razor edge. Having said that, if I ever fancied an Arsenal defense in the last five years to keep a clean sheet, this was it. Szescesny looked really dominating in the home leg. Koscielny and Djourou had excellent games as well. Sagna, in the place of Eboue has only improved our defense. I sincerely hope Clichy has one of his better days.

The key to this game seems to me to exploit the weak Barcelona defense with our high tempo game. It rattled them last time we played them. They do not like the opposition dictating the tempo of the game. And that’s what we should exactly do. I really think Jack, Samir and Chamakh would step up today. Against Sunderland, Samir was getting back to his form of the first half of the season. I saw a similar spark in the cameo that Chamakh played when he came on. He has a fantastic Champions League record. What better a place to underscore it? And what do I say about Jack. If the reserves of Barca have another Jack, I say, go and poach him. Jack got the Pep talk today. I think he will respond. Come on, ye Gooners!

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Fortnight defining Arsenal’s season starts right now

The two next weeks are as crucial in the season as there has been yet. We play a midweek fixture with the Bullies of Britannia, which would help us close down the gap to Manchester United before they play a tough round of fixtures including Chelsea and Liverpool. In the meanwhile, we have a date with the other set of bullies in Wembley. By the end of the fortnight, we have a small matter of a visit to the Nou Camp. Whew!

Personally, with Arsenal this season, I fear us dropping points more against teams like Wigan and West Brom than against teams that would stir up some nostalgic passion. Other notable examples- Leyton, Leeds and Huddersfield. It’s almost as if they don’t motivate themselves for those fixtures. Stoke and Birmingham, thankfully, stir up, or should stir up a lot of passion, a lot of anger and hurt. When the mental focus is there, our team is right up there with the very best. I hope to see that today. I guess I would see it today.

Stoke would play a very familiar team of 11 players and 5 towels. There isn’t much point in talking the way they would line up, so I won’t. I think Van Persie is not actually injured, but knowing his fragility and importance to our side, Arsene may have decided to rest him out. Kosser may be getting a well deserved break, as well and Squillaci, not so deserving a recall. We really need our fighters out there. So despite the ebullience of our little Russian, I would play Nasri and Theo out wide, with Cesc, Jack and Song in the middle. Chamakh would replace Van Persie upfront. He seems to me more suited to this kind of fixture, and hopefully, he gets amongst the goals again.

It is important for us to be able to look at the table at the end of the day today and say, “Hey, there’s just a point in it now and Man U have to come to the Emirates, Anfield and Stamford Bridge. Manchester United has one of their worst away records this season. Just three victories.” But for that, we have to win today and wrap up the Carling Cup, to throw the gauntlet on Manchester United. If they win all their away games and take the title, fair play to them. But, we need to do our job. And that for today is to give Tony Pulis’ men a proper spanking. I am a hopeless romantic, especially when it comes to football. When the Stoke game got called off, somewhere deep in me, I hoped that Ramsey would play against Stoke and put on a MoM performance. His arrival is just a little late for that. Our players have a lot to be motivated today- Close the gap, go in the right frame of mind and prove to the world that football is a better game than rugby any day.

As I wind up this article, I remembered what Pulis told before the December game. Arsenal are a dirtier team than Stoke. (Pause for laughter). It would really be good if we get in the faces of Stoke today with our new found pressing game. Give Pulis a proper footballing lesson, and get in their faces by pressing them high up the pitch. That would be awesome. A two goal victory tonight would suit us just fine. Come on, ye Gooners!

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Barcing at the crossroads

Whew! What a game for me to finally start writing again! Playing Barcelona at home would be the highlight of the season, a game which goes a long way to define fan’s opinions on players. Heroes would be made today and so would villains. Shirt sales for the year get defined on games like this. For a change, we have a full squad to choose from for a huge game of the season. For a change, we are going in with form to play the game. For a change, we are going with a goalkeeper who does not dive twenty seconds after the ball has passed him. For a change, we would be starting with the best defensive pairing of the season. Believe it or not, for a change, Van Persie would also be playing from the start. (I was dreading the worst in that Wolves game, Thank God!).

If I have to honestly assess our chances, I thought, I would compare the respective teams from the same fixture last year to what we have today. Szescesny with one hand tied to the back is better than Almunia. Gallas and Vermaelen vis-à-vis Djourou and Koscielny is a close call. But, Gallas lasted only half a game that night and we played Song in the backline for half the game. Clichy has put his error prone season of last year behind him. A fit Fabregas in form this year is better than the one that was playing in the end of year last season, with injuries. Nasri and Walcott are much better this season. Bendtner is no match to Van Persie. Diaby, on his day, is probably one of the best midfielders in Europe, but not as dependable as Wilshere. Barcelona is almost unchanged, but for the clinical David Villa instead of Ibrahimovic. The former is a lethal striker and could hurt us, but the aerial threat of Barcelona is considerably reduced. Iniesta would be a valuable addition to Barcelona this time around, but Puyol, despite his age, is a big miss. Overall, probably both teams are stronger this time around. But due to the huge difference between the bench strength of Arsenal and that of Barcelona, the gulf was much wider. The difference is narrower, even though Barcelona is still stronger, with the full squad available for selection. In the midst of all this, here is something for you all to chew. We drew the game two all yesterday. And the second fact is an even more amazing one. In the golden age of Guardiola, Barcelona has not won an away match in the knock out stages of the Champions League.

I have always felt that we have a much better chance in a two-legged affair if we play our first game at home. We are a confidence team and a good result in the first leg would always jettison us to greater things in the away leg. We can get at them today and get a result. I know it’s a big ask, but I would really love a clean sheet today. The Champions League in recent times has become all about the important away goal. A clean sheet today should put us in a strong position. A victory with a clean sheet is an icing on the cake. But the priority has to be clear.

I think Arsene is going to spring a surprise today. He is going to play on the counter attack, with the pace of Walcott, Van Persie and Arshavin. I might be day dreaming, but in the second half against Wolves, it felt as if Arsene was giving that strategy a go. And, lo and behold, we scored a goal on the counter. The only worry I have is the suspension of Sagna. But, come on Eboue, let us spread your brotherhood into the heart of Catalunha! Come on, ye Gooners!

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Which team to Ipswich?

The headline may have been apt prior to the Jekyll Hyde performance against Leeds on Saturday as a rejoinder on who would start and who would be rested. But, after our failed attempt at trying to shoot ourselves in the foot, it may be worth asking which attitude of Arsenal would turn up? I hope the right one does, since winning the Carling Cup is a minimal necessity for the team to progress.

Apart from Djourou and the increasingly assuring presence of Szescesny, I struggle for positives. Cesc and Theo had good cameos, granted. Gibbs looked clean and not injured. But the rest were quite close to shocking. The fans chose to boo Arshavin, but they could have easily picked any of the remaining targets. When Arsene signed Squillaci, we thought, here is an experienced centre back that would put the fear of the devil in the opposition. He got the first part right but is exercising his ‘powers’ on his club fans. I am getting that familiar Senderos feeling, if I see Squillaci, in the starting lineup. Hopefully, we would get away with a couple of blunders today. Denilson and Bendtner gave expected performances. Chamakh and Rosicky look to have lost their early season confidence. Song seemed disinterested to play in some third round game of some oldest cup competition in the world. To be honest, I am struggling, as I write, to sum up the performance of each player. I just don’t remember seeing them enough on the ball.

Coming to the semi final, Ipswich would be up for it. This is the first match for the new manager in charge, thus, a very good chance, the players are going to try that bit extra, to try and make an impression. I hope there is some revenge on the minds for the FA Cup exit we suffered in the hands of Paul Jewell, during his heady times at Wigan. I honestly can’t figure the Arsenal starting lineup for this one. Szescesny should continue in goal. Djourou needs to be wrapped in cotton wool, which leaves Koscielny to start. But, if my memory serves right, apart from Djourou, there is no other fit centre back. Ignasi Miguel for debut, anyone? Good chance, I guess. Unless, there is a new signing overnight. Eboue and Gibbs should continue. In the midfield, it looks to me like it could be Wilshere, Denilson and Rosicky.  I hope they are flanked by JET and Vela, but my guess is as good as yours. Bendtner might be given one more chance to take the game by the scruff of the neck and be allowed to play upfront. Ramsey and Eastmond could have some say on the team that I mentioned, but looks unlikely.

I hope we stuff Ipswich since we are playing away. It would relax us for the return leg and would allow us the comfort of being able to rest first teamers again. And play Squillaci as well. Come on, ye Gooners!

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