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2014 World Cup Commences

So, the greatest show on planet earth, watched by more humans (and some animals too) than any other event, started last night (for Indians) with a grand opening ceremony. Said opening ceremony lost a lot of glitter as it took place during the day time and would have looked a lot more spectacular had it been held in the later hours of the day. Nevertheless even as the anti-tournament protested continued their demonstrations the event took place in front of an appreciative stadium crowd as well as a huge global audience. And ofcourse that stupid, simplistic & corny song sung (and I use that term loosely) by Pitbull & 2 Stray Street dogs was performed with JLo looking like she was about to bare her chest to the entire world. I have no idea who the Brazilian bimbo with them was.

A while later the opening match took place with hosts Brazil taking on Croatia. A brace by Neymar cancelled an own goal by defender Marcelo as a resilient Croatian side attacked on the counter and troubled the Samba boys for a while. However it would still be Brazil’s day although the Japanese referee had dubious officiating that seemed to favour the host side. Oscar finished things up by poking home a third at the death.

So here’s hoping for a great tournament and some exciting matches.Ole!

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2002 World Cup In South Korea & Japan

I remember quite a few things about the 2002 World Cup, the first to be held on Asian soil. And fittingly Japan was one of the nations that co-hosted the tournament along with South Korea. Shock of the tournament was defending champions France losing in the opening match to Senegal. Yes….to Senegal! Even more shocking they were eliminated at the group stage itself as they drew their next game against Uruguay and then lost to Denmark with the dubious dishonour of being chucked out of the world cup without even scoring a single goal!

Argentina too failed to move past the group stage while Irish legend Roy Keane was sent home well before the tournament started after he had a public quarrel with manager Mick McCarthy. Germany thrashed Saudi Arabia 8-0 while Spain & Brazil impressed early on by winning all their 3 games in the group stages. The two co-hosts would qualify to the next stage bringing pride & joy to their respective fans. Senegal would be a big surprise of the tournament beating Sweden in the round of 16 to make it to the quarter-finals. Turkey was another, beating Japan in the round of 16 and then ending fellow surprise package Senagal’s run in the quaters. South Korea were the biggest surprise beating Italy 2-1 in sudden death extra time! They would go on to beat Spain but their impressive Cinderella run came to a halt when they were beaten 0-1 by Germany in the semi-finals. The Koreans finished 4th as the lost the 3rd place match to Turkey.

The final saw Brazil win 2-0 over Germany – a match I watched in Trivandrum with a cousin who had traveled with me while we were staying at another cousin’s house along with some of the latter’s friends. We had whiskey, porottas and lamb curry with goat brains and fried eggs! But what I most remember of this particular World cup was the going to Calicut early in the morning with another cousin and our uncle to attend yet another uncle’s housewarming. On the way we pass through Malappuram as well and the entire district had football & world cup decorations, hoardings & posters all over the streets as well as effigies of famous players! Flags of Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Spain were all over the place as well. The same thing could be seen in the city of Calicut as well. After lunch at my uncle’s house a huge gathering of older folks – men & women in their 60s & 70s watched the Brazil vs England quarterfinal match and they were very knowledgeable about the game & players as well. That was a huge & pleasant surprise for me and my cousin as we don’t get to see that in the rest of the state.

Also that same world cup, I was watching a lot of games at my uncle’s house – just 2 houses next to where I lived back then – and my grandmother would join us in the afternoon and evenings to sit with us as we watched some of the matches. She was on medication (as well as being unwell she had also just lost a son less than a year ago) and liked sitting with us. It was fun and we would joke with her just to keep  her in high spirits. That is a cherished memory that I am unlikely to ever forget.

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1998 World Cup In France

The 1998 world cup was another really memorable and enjoyable one for me. Perhaps no other world cup was an enjoyable and as exciting for me personally. I was 21, not yet 22, studying at NIIT and despite most of the matches ending late at night, like 1am-2am, I would watch all of them and get up at 5 am 4 days in a week to get to the 7 am class at NIIT. Me and the other guys would be in class, eyes red as hell and guzzling down loads of hot black coffee to stay awake while the ladies looked at us as if we were insane. Once the classroom and lab sessions were over (usually at around 11 am) we would spend the next 2 & a 1/2 hours discussing the matches that we had seen the previous night. At 1:30 pm we would leave for lunch and head back home.

I would sleep for awhile and in the late evenings read all the match reports and analysis of the matches played and rest up for that night’s matches. This was a fun time. I never discussed so much football in one place ever. There were so many good squads. Norway & Denmark represented Scandinavia with Sweden having failed to qualify and both teams entertained, especially Denmark with the final time that we would see the Laudrup brothers playing on a big stage together. Chile & Italy gave us a good match but Nigeria were the big surprises in the group stage, qualifying at the top of their group which included Paraguay – who also qualified – along with Spain & Bulgaria who didn’t! The Netherlands started slowly drawing 2 games and thrashing South Korea. By the way, this was also the first time that I saw my favourite utility player of all time Philip Cocu play. He was an unheralded hero playing defender, wing back, midfielder, winger & striker in different matches throughout the tournament.

Romania also showed some early flair finishing top of their group that also included England & Columbia, while Argentina looked the strongest during the group stage winning all 3 of their group stage matches in style. The big game in the round of 16 was ofcourse England vs Argentina and drama ensued. David Beckham was red carded for kicking at Diego Simone after being fouled by the Argentine in a fit of rage. Argentina went on to win the game via penalty shootout. In the quaterfinals Brazil vs Denmark and Argentina vs Netherlands were two exciting affairs and it was a shame that both Denmark & Argentina had to lose at that stage. Brazil would face off against the Netherlands in the semis and won via penalties. The other quarterfinals were between France & Italy with France winning in the shootout while a big surprise was up with the Cindrella team of the tournament with Croatia beating Germany 3-0. France would then beat Croatia and go onto beat Brazil 3-0 under the brilliance of Zinedine Zidane, give the French their first ever World Cup. Davor Suker won the golden boot with 6 goals and led Croatia to the 3rd place, beating Netherlands 2-1.

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1994 World Cup In The USA

1994 was a bad year for me personally and I was literally in tears lying on a bed in the bedroom downstairs at my old home while watching the games every day during the USA World Cup. Held in 9 cities over the country, the World Cup was a huge blur for me, even though I watch almost all the matches, uptill the semifinals when I finally cheered up. Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia qualified for the world cup finals for the first time. The qualification campaigns of both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were affected by political events. The nation of Czechoslovakia dissolved in 1992, and the team completed its qualifying group under the name Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (RCS), but failed to qualify the finals. Maradona ended his illustrious career in shame – in his 4th world cup Maradona was expelled from the tournament after he failed a drug test which uncovered ephedrine, a weight loss drug, in his blood.

But the biggest & saddest shock of this world cup – and I think it is the saddest ever – was the death of Columbian defender Andres Escobar. In the group stage match against the United States, he scored an own goal that eliminated his team. Escobar was shot to death outside a bar in a Medellín suburb only ten days later, apparently in retaliation for the own goal. As the insane idiot shot at him, he yelled “goal”,”goal” with every bullet shot! Such a tragic story. On the field Bulgaria proved to be a big surprise of the tournament; having never won a match at the world cup before, they reached the semifinals and finished 4th. Brazil won the tournament having beaten the Netherlands in the quaterfinals, Sweden in the semis and Italy in the final. In a tense final both Brazil & Italy faced off and failed to score a goal. After 120 minutes the game went to penalty shootouts and Roberto Baggio – till then Italy’s star – missed by shooting it over the crossbar, and Brazil were crowned champions for the fourth time, surpassing Italy’s 3 reigns. Sweden with mercurial star Tomas Brolin finished 3rd after beating Bulgaria 4-0.

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1990 World Cup In Italy

My first World Cup once back home in India was Italia 1990. I had just started my 9th standard (grade) in school and 2 weeks in the World Cup started. We even had to write an essay about the World Cup in English class! At age 14 I was able to get permission from my parents to stay up late and watch the late night matches even on school nights. And yes this was the first world cup that I watched most of till then.

My favourites were ofcourse Argentina and I was supporting and cheering for them until the very end. Italy was a strong favourite of many with Roberto Baggio in form. It was the most watched world cup till then but it was also one of the most defensive ones as well. Following the 1990 World Cup, the back-pass rule was introduced in 1992 to discourage time-wasting and overly defensive play, and wins were awarded three points in the group stage of the 1994 World Cup to encourage more attack-minded tactics and discourage the strategy of playing for a draw. Cameroon won a lot of hearts around the globe and Roger Milla, a 38-year-old forward who came out of international retirement to join the national squad at the last moment after a personal request from Cameroonian President Paul Biya, became an international star. Milla’s four goals and flamboyant goal celebrations made him one of the tournament’s biggest stars as well as taking Cameroon to the last eight. A strong English had Paul Gascoigne or Gazza as fans lovingly nicknamed him and finished 4th, losing to West Germany in the semis. Gazza won hearts for famously being reduced to tears in the semis as a yellow card meant he would miss the final if England made it through.

The West Germany–Netherlands clash was held in Milan, and both sides featured several notable players from the two Milanese clubs (interestingly, three from each side, both in clubs and in national teams: Germans Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann for Inter, Dutchmen Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard for AC Milan). After 22 minutes Rudi Völler and Frank Rijkaard were both dismissed after a goalmouth incident. As the players walked off the pitch together, Rijkaard spat at Völler. Argentina, who started badly, losing to Cameroon in the opening match, went to finish as losing finalists. With Maradona in the squad, the Argentines would also see two stars shine – goalie Sergio Goycochea who made many outstanding saves especially in the penalty shootout wins against Yugoslavia & Italy and Claudio Cannigia who dazzled with his dribbling skills. A totally impetuous & unnecessary handling of the ball earned Cannigia a second yellow card in the tournament which meant he would miss the finals. And that was probably the deciding factor in the final, which turned out to be the most cynical & lowest quality final ever.

Two Argentinians were sent out for fouls and a solitary penalty kick goal was the winner in a short tempered affair. With its third title (and three second-place finishes) West Germany – in its final tournament before national reunification – became the most successful World Cup nation, until Brazil won their fourth title in 1994. West German manager Franz Beckenbauer became the only man to both captain (in 1974) and manage a World Cup winning team, and only the second man (after Mário Zagallo of Brazil) to win the World Cup as a player and as team manager. Also of note was Salvatore Schillaci of Italy, who rose to fame by becoming the top scorer of the world cup with 6 goals. However it often looked like he himself was surprised when he scored and sank to obscurity in a couple of years. I remember watching the final with a cousin of mine, just a little while after the 1990 Wimbledon men’s final.

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1986 FIFA World Cup In Mexico

Ah Mexico 1986. For many football fans this was the most memorable World Cup ever, even for me. I was about to turn 10 when the tournament started and didn’t watch many live games. However us kids would watch some highlights and results every evening and discuss games and goals in school and later in the day with friends as we gathered in our building. The world went crazy for Argentina and a midfield maestro named Diego Armando Maradona, who was all over the news, newspapers and tv – I remember that Toyota in particular had ads with him as a brand ambassador that was shown so often on Kuwaiti tv.

Ofcourse Maradona went on to win hearts and plaudits for his magical dribbling and his talents but I will always remember him for the cheat of a goal he scored against England. England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out of his goal to punch the ball clear. However, Maradona, despite being 8 inches (20 cm) shorter than the 6-foot-1 (1.85 m) Shilton, reached it first with his outside left hand. The ball went into the net and stood as a goal as the refree did not see it, much to anger of  the English players & management. Appropriately called the ‘Hand of god’ goal, for what is god & religion if not man cheating, hoaxing & screwing his fellow man! Ofcourse, Maradona then went on to score “the goal of the century”, so called as it claimed to be the best individual goal of all time – and from a neutral point of view, all is forgiven. Argentina won that game and went on to bet West Germany in the finals and lift the trophy for the second time.

Gary Linekar of England would win the Golden Boot as the leading scorer of the World Cup with six goals. A talented Danish side with a young Michael Laudrup won their group, finishing above West Germany, but were thrashed by Spain in the round of 16. A surprise was Morocco who finished above England at the top of their group an made it to the round of 16 and another was Belgium who made it to the semis losing to Argentina. Michel Platini and France finished 3rd beating out Belgium. Documented in a popular film, I and my cousins relived Mexico 86 for a couple of summers afterwards. One last thing, back in Kuwait in 1986 a chewing gum company (can’t remember which one) had a project for football fans. You could buy a book from them in which all the competing nations were entered and empty slots kept for each squad member. For each pack of the chewing gum you bought, you would get a small pack of 5 stickers on which you’d have the profile photo of a player in the Wold Cup. So one pack of gum gave you 5 player stickers and you had to fill the entire book with all the players – for which the company would give you a large prize. I managed to finish a little over half by the end of the tournament but still have the book for a long time.

Great memories of a great world cup.

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1982 FIFA World Cup In Spain

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup due to start in Brazil in a little over 2 weeks time, I felt it was the right moment to take a look back at the world cups over the years that I have watched. This is not a review of the games & the tournament as a whole but just a personal view point from me especially because I wasn’t blogging from 1982-2002.

1982 – there’s not much that I remember about those years because I was a very lad of not yet 6 when that world cup was played. I don’t think I watched more than the final between Italy & West Germany and do not remember anything of it. I do remember my sister saying that after Kuwait’s (which is where I was born and where my family & I were living at the time) national side qualified for the World Cup in Spain (their first and only appearance in a wold cup tournament) there was a huge celebration all over the streets of the tiny nation. I remember her telling me that there were people all over the streets throwing confetti and shouting happy slogans and that the cars found it hard to get through traffic because of the crowds. Image if they have won!

And that’s about it from me on the 1982 finals. I was too young to watch and remember much of it because I was only 5 and besides at that age I don’t think I watched much football on tv either. Living in a small apartment building, my friends & I – although all football crazy fans – looked forward to getting a chance to play the game, not so much watch it. It was only by 1990 that I would watch a full world cup tournament. So for me, the big thing about the 1982 Espana World Cup is the fact that the nation where I was born & lived in for 11 years qualified, played 3 games (lost 2 and drew 1) and also had a controversial moment!

In the game between Kuwait and France, with France leading 3–1, France midfielder Alain Giresse scored a goal vehemently contested by the Kuwait team, who had stopped play after hearing a piercing whistle from the stands, which they thought had come from Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar. Play had not yet resumed when Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, brother of the Kuwaiti Emir and president of the Kuwaiti Football Association, rushed onto the pitch to remonstrate with the referee. Stupar countermanded his initial decision and disallowed the goal to the fury of the French. Maxime Bossis scored another valid goal a few minutes later and France won 4–1. Stupar lost his international refereeing credentials as a result of this incident, and Al-Sabah received a $10,000 fine.

And that wraps up 1982!

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Arsenal Win The 2013-14 FA Cup

Finally the 9 year drought is over. Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time winner ensured Arsenal ended their nine-year wait for a trophy as they came from two goals behind to beat Hull City in a dramatic FA Cup final at Wembley. The Gunners started as firm favourites but were stunned as goals from James Chester and Curtis Davies gave Hull a flying start inside the first eight minutes. At that point I almost switched off the game as I had given up hope for us and was moaning & cussing. The way those two goals were scored by Hull were reminiscent of the bad loses that Arsenal had this season away at Chelsea, Manchester City & Liverpool. Count Everton in as well. Was this the humiliating end to a season that saw Arsenal hold a lot of promise?

Short answer – NO! Santi Cazorla’s superb free-kick put Arsenal back in contention before half-time and Laurent Koscielny scrambled in the equaliser after 71 minutes. And as Arsenal looked the stronger, superior team in extra time, Ramsey, whose absence through injury hit them so hard in the latter part of the season, completed the comeback with an instinctive strike with 11 minutes of the extra period left. Arsenal survived anxious moments as Hull pressed forward in desperation – but referee Lee Probert’s final whistle signalled the end of the agonising 3,283-day wait for manager Arsene Wenger to taste success after they won the FA Cup against Manchester United on penalties in Cardiff in 2005.

For Wenger, this triumph will be received with a mixture of celebration and relief as he won the FA Cup for the fifth time in his career – and demonstrated that he can still bring silverware to a club that has gone through a long, barren spell after so much glory early in his reign. Even after securing a place in the Champions League for the 17th successive season, serious questions would have been asked of Wenger and his players had they failed to see off the challenge of underdogs Hull. Now, with the burden lifted from his shoulders, Wenger will believe this can be a new start for Arsenal after the fright of those opening minutes when it looked like a trophy might escape them again.

But this is the right time Wenger for you to retire. Great you won a trophy for us but you are also the reason why Arsenal have remained trophy-less in all this time. Your staunch refusal to buy star quality and build from within & buy cheaper but promising players have seen Manchester United (well, until this season), Manchester City, Chelsea and it looks like even Liverpool gallop past us in terms of pedigree and talent and we look like also-rans. Is that what we have in store if he continues on? Drastic changes are needed at the club to make the squad be capable enough to win the league & the Champions league. If Wenger stays I’m afraid that will not happen. I hope he doesn’t stay, bow out in style with a trophy. Let someone else take over.

But for now Arsenal fans will spend all summer watching the World Cup and content in the fact that the club are FA Cup winners again!

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Arsenal 2 Norwich City 0

Norwich City’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed as a stunning Aaron Ramsey strike spurred fourth-placed Arsenal to victory. The Canaries were all but down before kick-off, and Ramsey’s volley on the angle and Carl Jenkinson’s opportunistic strike sealed their fate. Earlier, Norwich keeper John Ruddy had to be alert to keep out Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Gunners keeper Lukasz Fabianski denied Jamar Loza and Robert Snodgrass. It was a sombre finish to a disastrous season for Norwich, who could only have survived if they had won and West Brom had lost to Stoke, coupled with a highly improbable 17-goal swing. There was good news for England fans the day before Roy Hodgson names his World Cup squad as Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere returned after a foot injury for the final 30 minutes, while knee injury victim Abou Diaby also came on for the Gunners in his first game in 14 months.

But it was Ramsey, also returning from injury, who shone for the visitors, rifling in a superb volley from Giroud’s delicate chip to the back post. It was the Welshman’s 17th goal of an injury-disrupted season, and fans will wonder if Arsenal’s title challenge, which looked promising until February, would have flourished had he not missed so much football. Arsenal went into the game with a Champions League spot already secured and with the prospect of a first trophy for nine years still to come in next week’s FA Cup final, and a strong Gunners side rarely had to rise above second gear at Carrow Road. After Ramsey’s opener, Jenkinson grabbed his first Arsenal goal, pouncing on Podolski’s deflected shot from Kieran Gibbs’s cross.

Now it’s onto the FA Cup final and hopefully our first trophy in a decade.

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Arsenal 1 West Bromwich Albion 0

24 hours before this game, Arsenal were guaranteed 4th place in the Barclay’s Premier League and a place in the Champions League for next season as Everton lost 2-3 to Manchester City. With the pressure off, the Gunners took to the field and welcomed West Brom with a 1-0 victory with Olivier Giroud scoring the lone goal. After Everton’s defeat by Manchester City on Saturday made the Gunners’ top-four spot secure, the France striker grabbed the only goal of the game, rising in front of marker Craig Dawson to convert Santi Cazorla’s corner. Relegation threatened West Brom rarely threatened but were confirmed safe after Norwich drew at Chelsea.

At Emirates Stadium, the visitors played like a side who seemed certain of safety, barely making Arsenal’s defence sweat on a warm day in north London. Arsenal were slightly more spritely. They were in relaxed mood after Saturday’s result ensured manager Arsene Wenger has led his team to a top-four finish in every season since he joined in 1996. Giroud’s early opening goal provided one of the few rousing moments during a sedate match. The France international has a brilliant knack of losing his marker when the ball is played from the wings, and on this occasion he beat Dawson to score his 22nd of the season. Arsenal went close once more, after the break, when German Lukas Podolski mis-hit a half-volley from 10 yards that bounced off the post and into the arms of Foster.

The Gunners, who deserved their victory, finish their league campaign at Norwich before an FA Cup final against Hull, as they aim to end a run of nine years without a trophy. Arsenal have 76 points with a goal difference of 25.

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Arsenal 3 Newcastle United 0

Arsenal are now poised to secure 4th position in the league which will mean a Champions League place for next season after a stroll in the park victory over Newcastle United. Following a low-key start, the Gunners went ahead when Laurent Koscielny prodded home Santi Cazorla’s free-kick. Mesut Ozil tapped in to double their lead before half-time. After the break, the German crossed for Olivier Giroud to head in the third and seal Newcastle’s sixth consecutive Premier League defeat. Arsenal are on the rise having responded to their defeat by Everton on 6 April by winning their next three games to climb four points ahead of the Toffees with two games remaining. The Gunners, who have spent more days on top of the table this season than any other side, offered a tantalising glimpse of what might have been had Ozil and Aaron Ramsey not been injured for such a crucial phase of the season.

The home crowd were just starting to voice their frustration at the Gunners’ lack of cutting edge when they took the lead from a set piece. Cazorla’s ball from deep was floated into a dangerous area over the Magpies’ back line and Koscielny shrugged off Moussa Sissoko to meet it on the bounce and poke past Tim Krul. The second goal arrived three minutes before the break when Giroud sprung the Newcastle offside trap to race on to a Mikel Arteta pass. Twice, his shots were blocked by Krul, but the loose ball rolled across goal to present Ozil – who may have been marginally offside – with a simple finish. The outstanding Ramsey played Ozil into space on the left and his cross was expertly headed home by Giroud at the near post. Lukas Podolski went close again when his side-footed shot fizzed past the upright before, at the other end, Paul Dummett’s effort flew horribly wide to sum up a miserable night for the Magpies.

With this win Arsenal have 73 points after 36 games played and can finish with 79 points in total if they win their last two games and it looks like 4th place is the highest we can finish. After the final 2 games we have the Cup final against Hull to look forward to.

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Arsenal 3 Hull City 0

In a preview of the FA Cup final Arsenal kept control of the destiny of the fourth and final Champions League spot as Lukas Podolski scored twice in an easy Premier League win at Hull. Arsenal stay a point clear of Everton – who beat Manchester United – but nearly conceded to a Shane Long effort. The Gunners took control as Santi Cazorla set up Aaron Ramsey to fire in and Podolski buried a half-volley. Podolski turned in a loose ball after the break and Hull never threatened to peg back their FA Cup final opponents. The two teams will meet again at Wembley on 17 May and Hull’s fans began the afternoon by reminding their opponents of their 100% record at the venue, having won the 2008 Championship play-off final, and the recent FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United.

The Tigers will have to perform a lot better if they are to stifle a rejuvenated Arsenal in next month’s encounter, though, and still have a faint threat of relegation hanging over them. Steve Bruce’s side are six points above the drop zone but have three away games – at Fulham, Aston Villa and Manchester United – before finishing their league campaign at home to Champions League-chasing Everton. Arsenal will hope to finish their own season by not only securing fourth spot but repeating this victory to clinch their first silverware in nine years. Achieving those aims might be enough to persuade manager Arsene Wenger to extend a contract that expires at the end of the season.

Played in blustery conditions which caused an early hold-up in play as advertising hoardings were blown across the pitch, and against opponents committed to pressing high and hard, this match had the potential to be a tough one for the Gunners. But apart from a couple of early opportunities for Hull, most notably when Long cleared the bar from a tight angle and Jake Livermore drilled against the post from distance, Arsenal looked secure. Arsenal sit at 4th after 35 games played and 70 points.

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Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1

It was so worth it to stay up till 12:15 and then wait till after 2am for the match to get over. Lukas Podolski struck twice as Arsenal came from behind to beat West Ham and move back above Everton in the race for a Champions League place. Matt Jarvis headed the Hammers in front as they threatened to extend Arsenal’s winless league run to five games. But Podolski levelled with a shot on the turn two minutes later for the impressive FA Cup finalists. Olivier Giroud’s classy finish and Podolski’s driven second sealed the win as Arsenal moved up to fourth. Fresh from sealing a place in the Cup final courtesy of their penalty shoot-out win over Wigan, the result was just what Arsene Wenger’s side needed to enhance their chance of qualifying for the Champions League for a 17th successive season.

With Everton playing against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, the Gunners could ill afford another slip-up following their recent poor league run. And they showed all the resilience – and quality – needed to stay the pace and hold off the determined challenge of Roberto Martinez’s in-form side. Podolski took his goal tally for the season into double figures, while Giroud’s crucial strike, early in the second half, was his 20th of the campaign. Arsenal, despite making five changes to their starting line-up, actually made a sluggish start to offer West Ham early encouragement. Antonio Nocerino’s persistence bursting in from the right-hand side created the chance and when the ball popped up in the six-yard box, Jarvis nodded in only his second league goal of the season.

Arsenal would have felt the pressure had they gone in behind at the break but they were quickly level as they found a way through a West Ham defence that had previously kept 13 clean sheets this season. Again Cazorla was the creator following a poor clearance from Stewart Downing and this time his pass was not wasted as Podolski swivelled to drill a left-foot shot across Adrian and into the bottom corner. The goal lifted the mood around the Emirates Stadium and 10 minutes into the second half Arsenal went ahead thanks to a touch of class from Giroud. The striker displayed a brilliant first touch from Thomas Vermaelen’s long ball back into the box following a corner and with his second drove the ball through the legs of Adrian from just inside the corner of the six-yard box. Arsenal’s pressure finally paid off 12 minutes from the end when substitute Aaron Ramsey headed down for Podolski to fire past Adrian and keep the Gunners firing on two fronts.

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Arsenal Make It To The FA Cup Finals

Struggling to assert themselves in the game despite creating a lot of chances, Arsenal scraped their way into the FA Cup final by beating holders Wigan on penalties to keep alive their hopes of ending a nine-year trophy drought. Jordi Gomez’s penalty put the Latics on course to reach another final, but Per Mertesacker’s late equaliser maintained Arsenal’s hopes of winning their first silverware since they claimed this trophy in 2005. The teams could not be separated by extra time and, when it went to penalties, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved Wigan’s first two spot-kicks, from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, to put Arsenal on the way to a meeting with either Hull City or Sheffield United.

Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom and Olivier Giroud were all on target for Arsenal – while James McArthur and Jean Beausejour scored for Wigan – leaving Santi Cazorla to send the Gunners fans wild with celebration and relief with the decisive penalty. Arsenal had the better of the chances before penalties, with Wigan keeper Scott Carson twice denying Yaya Sanogo, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting the woodwork in extra time. And this win will seem crucial for Arsenal because earlier in the day, Everton moved ahead by 2 points into 4th place, pushing Arsenal to 5th with just 5 games remaining in the league. Wenger stuck with his policy of replacing Wojciech Szczesny with Fabianski and playing Sanogo in attack, and the youngster almost made the crucial early breakthrough. McManaman was the central figure as Wigan went ahead after 63 minutes, referee Michael Oliver having an easy decision as Mertesacker dived in recklessly in the area. An injury to Monreal, which required his replacement by Kieran Gibbs, meant almost a four-minute delay before Gomez could take his kick, but he remained commendably cool to beat Fabianski with a perfect penalty.

Wenger needed to react but his decision to replace Lukas Podolski, rather than the struggling Sanogo, with Giroud was met with a loud chorus of jeering from the increasingly anxious Gunners fans. Arsenal, as they had to do, finally demonstrated a greater sense of urgency, and a frantic few seconds led to the equaliser after 82 minutes. Sagna had headed against the post and Carson had again saved superbly from Gibbs before Mertesacker arrived at the far post to score with a stooping header from Gibbs’s scuffed shot. The Gunners had gathered momentum and only the woodwork saved Wigan as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful shot rattled out off the angle of post and bar with Carson helpless. Then came penalties – and the shot at a trophy Arsenal have waited for since 2005. Next up is either Sheffield United or Hull City.

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Arsenal 0 Everton 3

You are witnessing the possible and highly delayed end of Arsene Wenger’s career at Arsenal. Or one can only hope! A listless, hopeless and uninspired Gunners side went to Goodison Park and were outplayed, outpaced and outwitted by a fast paced & attacking Everton side, who ran out with a deserved 3-0 win. Arsenal were lucky to have not conceded more and unlucky to not score one goal back. Everton took a step closer to fulfilling Roberto Martinez’s pre-season promise of Champions League football as they swept past Arsenal to move a point behind the fourth-placed Gunners.

Steven Naismith opening the scoring by tucking in a 14th-minute opener after Romelu Lukaku’s shot was saved. Belgium striker Lukaku then fired in his 14th goal of an impressive season after another fine sweeping move. Kevin Mirallas forced Mikel Arteta into an own goal after the hour mark to complete the scoring. With Everton having played one game fewer than Arsene Wenger’s side, a place in Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2005 is now in their own hands. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the bar late on for the Gunners in one of the few highlights for the London side, the other big one being that Aaron Ramsey made his long awaited return post an injury layoff as a substitute.

Arsenal have an easier looking remaining matches scheduled but with only 1 win in their last 6, other teams will relish a chance to beat the Gunners. More importantly, having led the league for many weeks this season and now struggling to stay 4th, is this what is needed for the board at Arsenal to finally make that call and say goodbye to Wenger? I really want him to be sacked or asked to leave. Say goodbye to the man who has reduced Arsenal to a laughing stock in 2014 with pathetic displays as the right players were not bought or traded for. Goodbye Wenger!

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Arsenal 0 Chelsea 6

We went to Manchester City and got thrashed, we went to Liverpool and got thrashed. Now at Chelsea and this could be the worst thrashing ever. 0-6 at Chelsea. Congrats on 1000 games Wenger. The way he has dragged the reputation of this club – we’re looking like has been jokers to the title and we had led for so many weeks!

So the Gunners went to league leaders Chelsea and were down 2-0 in 10 minutes and then the most controversially stupid refereeing mistake happens. Referee Andre Marriner appeared to send off the wrong player when he dismissed Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs. A penalty was awarded after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tipped Eden Hazard’s shot around a post with his hand but Gibbs was shown the red card. Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed to tell Marriner that he was the culprit but the original decision stood. Hazard converted the penalty to make it 3-0 before half-time. Left-back Gibbs seemed confused at receiving the red card, protesting his innocence, along with his team-mates, before leaving the field. Hazard’s shot was heading inches wide of goal before Oxlade-Chamberlain dived to his left to divert the ball with his fingertips. Marriner appeared to consult one of his assistants before awarding the penalty.

Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal turned out to be an occasion to forget for the Frenchman as his team were crushed by title rivals Chelsea. Wenger you’ve had 1000 games not get the fuck outta Arsenal. The decision makers at the club are a joke – ask him to step down at season’s end of fire his ass you bunch of twats! What the fuck, you idiots? Look at the joke he has made  of himself and the club. Spend money and buy top class players and don’t look like losers.

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