Arsenal trounce Manchester City

by Satish Sekar at Wembley Stadium © Satish Sekar (August 10th 2014)

The Trophy Habit

CIMG9000

After almost a decade without a trophy Arsène Wenger has delivered two in less than three months. Arsenal beat Steve Bruceʼs Hull City last May to set up this afternoonʼs clash against Manuel Pellegriniʼs Manchester City. Olivier Giroud scored the last a pick of Arsenalʼs three goals – sumptuous 25 yard dipping and swerving effort that gave former Málaga shot-stopper Willy Caballero no chance.

Santi Cazorla opened the scoring after 21 minutes. With less than five minutes of the first half remaining Aaron Ramsey got the second. Yaya Sanogo provided the assists for both goals. He ploughed through Cityʼs defence before poking it through to Cazorla in the area. Caballero should have done better, but a lacklustre Manchester City side posed few threats.

CIMG9027

Sanogo could have grabbed one for himself with just under half an hour played, but failed to capitalise on the chance created by Cazorla by dragging his shot wide. Wojiech Szcizęsny was a virtual spectator in the first half as new signing Mathieu Debuchy blocked Samir Nasriʼs effort. Predictably, the former Arsenal midfielderʼs every touch was loudly jeered by Arsenalʼs fans.

Cruise Control

Both managers rang in the changes at half time. Olivier Giroud replaced Sanogo. It proved an inspired substitution. Jesús Navas González cross seven minutes into the second half gave Montenegrin international Stevan Jovetić – the only City player to impress – an opportunity to halve the deficit. His header from close range hit the post to Szczęsnyʼs right and he blasted the rebound high and wide.

Less than five minutes later Aleksandar Kolarov put Jovetić through. Jovetićʼs fierce 25 yard effort was well saved by Szczęsny. Just past the hour mark Giroud made the match safe with a stunning slightly deflected effort. Jack Wilshere on the right wing threaded it through to the French international striker from the right wing.

Polish international keeper Szczęsny ensured that Arsenal kept a clean sheet. However, he required treatment twice after collisions in and out of the area – the latter with substitute Scott Sinclair being the more serious.

Missing

Although Pellegriniʼs side was far from full strength, there could be no excuse for such a poor display. Captain Vincent Kompany and World Cup finalists Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Sergio Agüero were notable absentees. Álvaro Negredo is out injured, but Arsenal were below full strength too.

CIMG9023

World Cup winners Mesut Özil, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Laurent Koscielny were absent and Colombian World Cup star David Ospina wasnʼt on the bench either. Theo Walcott has yet to recover fully from injury too.

The £15m sale of Belgian defender Thomas Vermaellen to Barçelona is yet another example of Wengerʼs transfer acumen. After almost a decade of trophyless slumber Wenger has awakened expectations at the Emirates Stadium once more and is confident that major trophies will follow. Despite the defeat and nature of it Pellegrini remained confident that Manchester City would retain their title.

Advertisements

Cometh the Hour?

 

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 12th 2014)

Wilderness Years Begin

Germanyʼs recent record in major finals is – well – unGerman. Renowned for ruthless efficiency they could be relied on to always be in the mix for major trophies, but the last time Germany lifted a trophy was in 1996. Remember who the successful coach was – a certain Berti Vogts. Argentinaʼs record is even worse. Their last appearance in the final was a losing effort in 1990 – an awful final. 

He inherited Franz Beckenbauerʼs World Cup winning team in 1990 and led then to defeat to Denmark in 1992. He left after eight years in charge after falling in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1994 and again in 1998 to Bulgaria and Croatia respectively.

Erich Ribeck led der Mannschaft (the national team) to a shameful exit in Euro2000 – bottom of their qualifying group. Rudi Völler managed one place better in Euro2004. Latvia finished below them, but two years earlier Völler led Germany to defeat in the final to Brasil. Luiz Felipe Scolari was Brasilʼs manager then.

Overdue

After the failure at Euro2004 Jürgen Klinsmann replaced Völler. Germany reached the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup on home soil as Klinsmann blooded a young team and left the team to his assistant Joachim Löw, but despite the studious approach of Löw trophies continued to elude der Mannschaft. Löwʼs team matched Klinsmannʼs achievement finishing third. On both occasions Germany lost to the eventual winners.

Spainʼs rise to dominance began in 2008 in Austria. The late Luis Aragonés Suárez ushered in six years of unparalleled success by beating Germany 1-0 in the final. They knocked Löwʼs charges out in the semi-final in Durban in South Africaʼs World Cup. And in the Ukraine and Poland, Spain retained their European title, beating Italy 4-0 in the final. Germany had been beaten 2-1 by Italy in the semi-final.

Opportunity Knocks

Spainʼs defence of their world title was one of the worst ever. Sated by their three titles Spain returned home at the first opportunity. Germany continued growing into the competition with every passing match, culminating in a humiliating mauling of hosts Brasil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte – the worst thrashing ever in the semi-final of a World Cup.

The previous worst was 84 years ago in the inaugural World Cup when eventual winners Uruguay beat Yugoslavia 6-1 and the USA lost 6-1 to Argentina. Austria lost 6-1 to West Germany in 1954 as well. It had three times and at least one of them had a very good reason for losing so badly – they played a large portion of the match effectively with eight players. One of the wounded was the goal-keeper.

The USA never had a chance. The rules permitted no substitutions and Argentina had taken no prisoners on their way through to Belo Horizonte. Their goal-keeper was injured after 4 minutes. Another player played on injured and a third played with a broken leg until half time. This was before substitutions were allowed.

Best Chance

Surely Germany will never have a better chance to end almost two decades of trophylessness. They topped their group – one of the most difficult, dismantling Portugal, drawing with Ghana and just beating the USA before Algeria gave them a fright, but fell just short. They deservedly beat France and completely humiliated Brasil.

Nobody can say Germany has not reached the final on merit. They have reached finals and semi-finals, but ultimately this tournament will be viewed a failure if they fail to match Italyʼs achievement and win the World Cup for the fourth time. Germany have done well; theyʼve got close before. Is it Germanyʼs time to win the World Cup?

Arsenalʼs Lukas Podolski thinks so. “Of course”, he said before Arsenal ended their own trophy drought. “Of course we want to win the World Cup, but other teams want that as well and it was not easy. The pressure is big because we would say Germany are the favourites – the people in Germany, the newspapers say we already win the World Cup, but itʼs not easy”.

 

Trophy Droughts

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 16th 2014)

The Long Wait

Nine years of hurt for Arsène Wenger and his Arsenal side could end at Wembley tomorrow evening, or Steve Bruce’s Hull could claim their first ever FA Cup. Having secured Champion’s League football again Arsenal have the chance of a trophy that has eluded them for almost a decade. They start Saturday’s FA Cup Final as favourites. Steve Bruce’s Hull side return to Wembley for a second chance of atrophy, having lost the Carling Cup to eventual Premier League champions Manchester City.

Both sides are guaranteed European football, which will please Hull’s Egyptian winger Ahmed Elmohamady. “Fantastic for the team, for the club – second time this year we are at Wembley”, Elmohamady said, looking forward to the FA Cup final. “It will be a huge game against Arsenal and I think they are all thinking about Europe as well. You know this game is a massive chance for us to play in Europe next year”. He relishes the tag of underdog too.

Ahmed Elmohamady 1

He’s hoping for some consolation. Once again the Pharaohs missed out qualifying for the World Cup. “Yeah we’re all disappointed we didn’t go to the World Cup you know, but things happen like this”, Elmohamady said. “It’s a good chance to make the year – for it to be a good year for me, for the club, for the players, for everyone in Hull to play in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal – fantastic”.

But he insists that the Pharaohs are ready to become the dominant force in African football after American manager Bob Bradley failed to break the World Cup hoo-doo. “Well, you know we have a new manager – an Egyptian manager – a fantastic manager [Shawky Gharib]”, he says. “We played a friendly game against Bosnia and we did fantastic and we win this game, so we’ll have a good chance to go to Morocco and give the championship again to Egypt”.

Importance

Lukas Podolski was in no doubt that the league was Arsenal’s priority. “2005 was the last one, so of course the pressure is there … and you have the chance to win this cup and you know we are now in the final and of course we want to have the Cup now and have the FA Cup, but the important thing is the league”, Podolski said. “Of course every trophy will help us. The seasons have pressure when you don’t win nothing. The newspapers speak about it, the fans get nervous, but we have the chance this year to win the FA Cup so maybe it helps the club, us and the boss to win the Cup, but the other thing is the important thing is to get fourth place back, because when you don’t play in the Champions League it’s a disaster”.

Arsenal have accomplished that goal. Now they can concentrate on tomorrow’s final and the chance to end almost a decade of pain. “It’s important”, Podolski says of the final. “When you are now in the final and we want the title”.

But Curtis Davies has other ideas. “I grew up a [Manchester] United fan watching the gaffer [Steve Bruce], so the ’94 one was massive”, Davies said. “I remember that obviously cos it was for the double. ’96 as well when [Eric] Cantona scored that goal and Liverpool in the white suits as well and ’95 was a memory as well, because United lost that and I said to the gaffer as well that he was on the ground trying to stop the ball when they scored and he didn’t managed to do it”.

Davies regrets the loss of the FA Cup’s aura. It used to be a special event. “You just have to say FA Cup was special at the end of the season – well it used to be; it was an iconic day”, he says. “Everyone stops for the whole day for the FA Cup. I think maybe a little bit of the edge was taken away from it once it was moved to before the last game of the season and things like that, but this year I’m hoping that everyone switches on and watches the game because we’re hoping to make it a good occasion”.

He hopes that Arsenal being the favourites will work in Hull’s favour. “I think that’s if Arsenal have any nervous energy”, Davies said. “I said that Arsenal not having won anything for nine years is going to play on them and in the final they’ll have that edginess about them. I’m hoping the players actually turn up and have that nervous energy, because it’s all good the fans being nervous, but if the players turn up and they’re playing flowing football, it’s going to be tough to beat an Arsenal side”.