When Arsene Wenger and his Gunners booked a flight to Athens to play Olympiakos Pireaus in Spyros Louis, the gooners expected a simple run-out that had little or no consequence on the final standings, as Arsenal’s resounding win over Borussia Dortmund was good enough to seal top spot in Group F.
Arsenal played against Olympiakos in a similar situation on the 9th of December, 2009, but Arsene Wenger did well to rest his big guns and hand a chance to the younger ones coming up. Lukasz Fabianski was between the sticks, and he had a defense composed of Kerrea Gilbert, debutant Kyle Bartley, the calamitous captain of the night Mikael Silvestre and the Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise.
The midfield had upcoming stars like Aaron Ramsey and Fran Merida with Alex Song doing the dirty work in front of the back four. Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela completed the front three as Arsenal went down valiantly courtesy of a goal from a bloke named Leonardo.
Questions were raised when Thomas Vermaelen led the Gunners out last Tuesday. The fans felt that he was amongst the players that deserved a night out, but the Belgian was involved in the first Arsenal casualty of the game following a clash with his own goalkeeper.
In another situation, it might have been the other way round, with Fabianski still in action while the Verm could have been out with a head injury or worse.
Olympiakos wanted the game more than Arsenal, so it was expected that they’ll be involved in some crunching tackles. But the moment of despair came when Andre Santos got injured and was stretched off. He played a bit, but he clearly struggled and was replaced by a player that was meant to start in his stead, Ignasi Miquel.
After the game, Santos told everyone that he was going to be out for just three weeks:
“I twisted my ankle in a silly move, The doctor thinks I’ll be out for three weeks.”
I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but the Brazilian was gravely wrong. It has been confirmed that he’ll be out for the best part of three months, as he’s to undergo surgery to repair the ligaments in his right ankle.
This news comes at a very bad time for Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman is already without Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal fielded four recognized center backs against Everton, and despite being solid at the back, they offered little or no threat upfront.
Thomas Vermaelen did superbly well to keep Seamus Coleman locked in a cage, and he supported Gervinho on a few occasions. But Johan Djourou didn’t offer any help to Theo Walcott, even though it wasn’t really needed, as the pacey winger tore Leighton Baines to shreds.
The January transfer window is around the corner, and the likelihood of Arsenal buying a new full back is slim to none. Vermaelen is adept playing as a full back, but his presence will be sorely missed in the heart of the Arsenal defense.
Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh was heralded as a great bargain by Arsene Wenger last season following his free transfer from Girondins Bordeaux; he scored 10 times in his first 21 appearances. With Robin van Persie nursing an ankle injury and Nicklas Bendtner recuperating from his groin surgery, Chamakh played a lot of games in the first half of the season. But with the return to fitness of the captain, the striker has been in the fringes of Arsenal.
Unlike Bendtner, Chamakh has been the silent type that would say a good thing or two while hoping for Wenger to give him another shot. But it seems as if frustration is creeping in, as the Moroccan has told everyone that he cannot stay in the fringes forever.
However, his agent, Pierre Ferlot, has hinted that he won’t be rejoining Bordeaux. He says that his client’s short-term priority is to do well with his country in the upcoming African Cup of Nations before finishing the season at Arsenal. He also said that there’ll be an important decision to make in the summer, and I’m pretty sure we all know what that means.
Sticking with transfer tidbits, Wenger has ruled out a January move for Lyon’s French playmaker and his long-term admirer, Yoann Gourcuff.
There are also speculations that the Gunners are planning a £15-million bid for Valencia’s in-form striker Roberto Soldado as the perfect backup for RVP, while Marseille has ruled out a sale for their hobbit, Mathieu Valbuena.
As a proud Nigerian, I’ve supported Arsenal Football Club since the days when Merlin was the Chief Wizard of Camelot. And I’ve been faithful to the club by getting my fair share of merchandise as well as watching every single game, from playing the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona et al., to friendlies against clubs with scary names by Szombathelyi Haladas.
It gives me utmost joy to write that the club is planning a preseason tour to my own backyard in July 2012. And it will be a massive event in the country because Nigeria boasts one of the largest Arsenal fan bases in Africa.
The club has also canceled the annual Emirates Cup because of the 2012 London Olympics.
@cesc4official: Good luck to Goodluck Jonathan. Nigerian new president.
If I got 10 pounds from the amount of re-tweets and replies he got from the Nigerians on Twitter, I would have been able to match the bid Barcelona made for him.
I'm sure that the Gunners will get a great reception from the Nigerian gooners.