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Arsenal 3 Manchester City 0

Last night Arsenal took advantage of an early dismissal for their opponents and took charge of the game. Manchester City’s Dedryck Boyata fouled Marouane Chamakh when he was the last defender five minutes in  and was promptly shown the red card by the ref. Arsenal then went ahead as Samir Nasri exchanged passes with Andrey Arshavin and fired home, before Cesc Fabregas had a penalty saved by Joe Hart. In the second half Alex Song curled home to double the lead and substitute Nicklas Bendtner slotted in a third.

The result sees Arsene Wenger’s men leapfrog West Brom, Tottenham, City and Manchester United into second, five points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea. Arsenal were undoubtedly helped by Boyata’s fifth-minute dismissal but the manner in which they went on to dispatch a side who spent £100m on new signings last summer was to be admired. Their display gave credence to Wenger’s insistence that you do not necessarily need to spend heavily to succeed. And while City will be left to ponder their heaviest home defeat since losing 3-0 to Blackburn in January 2007, the Gunners can go away with renewed belief in their title chances.

Strangely former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who warmed up for the visit of his old club with a Europa League hat-trick against Lech Poznan in midweek, was relegated to the substitutes bench.

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Arsenal 5 Shakhtar Donetsk 1

Arsenal closed in on a place in the Champions League knockout phase with a crushing victory over Shakhtar Donetsk to move clear at the top of Group H. Alex Song bundled the hosts ahead after an error by keeper Andriy Pyatov before Samir Nasri drilled home a second. Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano was denied by Lukasz Fabianski before a fit-again Cesc Fabregas scored from the spot. Jack Wilshere clipped in and Marouane Chamakh poked a fifth, while ex-Arsenal striker Eduardo lashed a consolation.

Chamakh’s goal made him the first player to score in six consecutive Champions League matches, but the last word belonged to Eduardo – returning to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since his £6m move to Shakhtar last summer. The 27-year-old striker made a huge impression after joining the Gunners from Dinamo Zagreb in 2007, but his progress was stalled by a horrific leg injury suffered against Birmingham in 2008 and he never fully recaptured his early form. He received a huge ovation on arrival as a 63rd-minute substitute and after converting Jadson’s cross with a superb finish, the Croatian was again serenaded by an appreciative home crowd.

The result maintains Arsenal’s 100% start to the group and puts them on nine points, three clear of second-placed Shakhtar ahead of their meeting in Donetsk on 3 November.

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Arsenal 2 Bimingham 1

Arsenal came from behind to beat 2-1 Birmingham City and go second in the table but the victory was tarnished by a late red card for teenager Jack Wilshere. The visitors went ahead against the run of play when striker Nikola Zigic headed home Keith Fahey’s cross. Samir Nasri levelled from the spot after a foul on Marouane Chamakh before Chamakh rounded Ben Foster to put Arsenal ahead early in the second half. Wilshere, 18, was given his marching orders for an ugly lunge on Zigic.

The England midfielder’s studs were showing as he went over the ball and took out the Serbian striker’s standing leg. And ironically, the Gunners’ third red card of the season came after boss Arsene Wenger used his programme notes to call for managers and referees to get together in an attempt to clarify the rules over bad tackles. Wilshere’s indiscretion aside, it was an efficient comeback from Arsenal who, after defeats in their previous two games and with a trip to Manchester City looming next weekend, simply could not afford to drop points. And Wenger will be delighted to have seen Chamakh continue his impressive start to life in English football with two decisive moments.What will frustrate their fans is however the fact that Arsenal can run rings around their opponents, create breath-taking chances but fail at the final kick.

Arsenal also had a goal disallowed for offside. Stephen Carr was given a yellow card for an over-the-ball tackle on Chamakh and from the resulting free-kick, Sebastien Squillaci headed the ball into the net, only to be denied for a narrow offside.

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Arsenal 2 West Brom 3

Arsenal’s play has made Arsene Wenger very upset as indeed all of us fans are. West Bromich Albion were the better team on the day and beat us 3-2. Chris Brunt had a first-half penalty saved, but Peter Odemwingie later fired the opener from Jerome Thomas’s centre. Brunt fed Gonzalo Jara for the second, although Manuel Almunia should have saved his shot, and Thomas made it three after some dismal defending.

Samir Nasri scored a late double for Arsenal, but it provided little consolation for boss Arsene Wenger. It was West Brom’s second major scalp in the space of four days following Wednesday night’s Carling Cup victory over Manchester City, but that was a game contested by what effectively amounted to two reserve sides. Despite their sloppy play the Gunners remain in 2nd place with 11 points until the results of Manchester United’s game later tonight against Bolton later today.

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Arsenal 6 Sporting Braga 0

What a start to the new Champions League season! Arsenal bang in 6 goals past a hapless Braga side at the Emirates stadium.

The Gunners took seven minutes to go ahead, Cesc Fabregas scoring from the spot after a foul on Marouane Chamakh. Andrey Arshavin slammed in Fabregas’s sublime pass, before Jack Wilshere superbly set up Chamakh to drill home. Fabregas headed in to make it 4-0 and Carlos Vela dinked in a fifth before he stroked home another to wrap things up.

It was everything that Arsene Wenger holds dear about his side’s attacking style of play and he must have been delighted at the showing. Arsenal brought their usual magnetic passing game to the European curtain-raiser, but they seemed to raise their level a notch above the norm with some fabulous interchanges that saw Braga spend most of the evening chasing shadows. Wenger’s side are chasing an 11th successive place in the last 16 of the competition and in a group also containing Shakhtar Donetsk and Partizan Belgrade there is little to suggest they will fail to make it beyond the group stage.

The visitors found themselves trying to repel wave after wave of Arsenal attack and while Braga occasionally looked threatening on the break, both new defenders Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci dealt comfortably with whatever was thrown at them.

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Arsenal 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

Andrey Arshavin grabbed the winner for Arsenal as they showed the steel needed to overcome a committed Blackburn. Theo Walcott gave the Gunners the lead at Ewood Park, powering an angled shot past Paul Robinson after a slick move. But Mame Biram Diouf tapped in from an El-Hadji Diouf pass as Rovers impressively equalised. Arshavin threaded in the winner after a Cesc Fabregas effort was deflected into his path and the north Londoners held on to complete a hard-fought win.

After weathering the Rovers onslaught and earning the right to play, Wenger will be encouraged by the character his team showed to come out on top and enhance their title credentials. Robin van Persie became Arsenal’s first casualty as he was forced off with an ankle injury. Bu tAlmunia played the ball out and, six passes later, Walcott ran on to Van Persie’s measured ball and took a touch before sending in a shot at the far post.

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Who’s Marking Whom?

David meets Goliath seems to be the title that sparks from most people’s minds when they see this image. Tottenham Hotspur’s Peter Crouch (right) is marked at a corner by Anmar Jemal of BSC Young Boys in their Champions League playoff second leg match at White Hart Lane in London on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010.

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Sevilla Stopper Squillaci Almost A Gunner

Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Sevilla center back Sebastien Squillaci, according to the Guardian. The Gunners have agreed a £5m fee with the Spanish side, and the France international has made his way to London for a medical.

It was reported last week that Arsenal had made a bid for the 30-year-old, but in confirming the bid, Sevilla sporting director Ramon Rodriguez said the offer wasn’t good enough. However, it appears that Arsenal have made up the necessary ground to persuade Sevilla to part with Squillaci, who joined the club from Lyon in a £6m deal in the summer of 2008.

Arsenal splashed out £8.5m on another French center back this summer with the purchase of Laurent Koscielny from Lorient, but there was still a need to make additional defensive reinforcements after the club said goodbye to William Gallas, Sol Campbell, Mikael Silvestre, and Philippe Senderos this summer.

And after adding an up-and-comer in Koscielny, Arsene Wenger is set to add an experienced stopper in Squillaci, who was part of the Monaco side that made a run to the Champions League final in 2004 and participated in the Champions League in both seasons he spent with Lyon and last season with Sevilla. He’s now set to take part in the tournament with his fourth different team, as due his refusal to play in the first leg of Sevilla’s Champions League playoff tie against Portuguese side Braga, Squillaci will be available to be part of Arsenal‘s Champions League squad.

Squillaci also has 20 caps for France, and along with new teammates Gael Clichy, Abou Diaby, and Bacary Sagna, was part of France’s 2010 World Cup squad. Squillaci was an unused sub in France’s matches against Uruguay and Mexico, but he started and played the full 90 in the 2-1 loss to South Africa that marked France’s early exit from the tournament.

Update: Sevilla have confirmed they have accepted a £6.5million offer from Arsenal for defender Sebastien Squillaci. The Frenchman is currently en route to England for a medical on Monday with a view to signing for the Gunners ahead of next Tuesday’s transfer deadline.

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Arsenal 6 Blackpool 0

Theo Walcott registered the first hat-trick of his club career as Arsenal brought Blackpool back down to earth with a resounding win at the Emirates. Newly-promoted Blackpool, who won 4-0 at Wigan on the opening day, started well but Walcott slotted Arsenal ahead. Ian Evatt was sent off for a foul that appeared to be outside the area, Andrey Arshavin scoring the penalty, before Walcott drilled a third on 39 minutes. Abou Diaby clipped home, Walcott curled in and Marouane Chamakh headed a sixth.

Arsenal now their first victory of the season, after drawing their opener against Liverpool 1-1 and delighted manager Arsene Wenger. Blackpool did enjoy plenty of early possession and carved out the first meaningful attempt on goal when David Vaughan shot powerfully at Manuel Almunia. But Arsenal soon settled into a tidy rhythm and opened the scoring through Walcott’s side-footed finish on 12 minutes after a superb passing move between Arshavin, Chamakh and Tomas Rosicky. Arshavin, Chamakh and Walcott all went close before Rosicky put Chamakh through on goal and the Moroccan was brought down by last-man Evatt. Although the match began to resemble a training session late on, there was still time for Chamakh to nod in Van Persie’s corner for his first Arsenal goal and Blackpool substitute Brett Ormerod fire just over the bar.

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Manchester City’s Summer Shopping Sree

Shelling out tons of cash seems to be the way that Manchester City are going to gain silverware and possibly win the league. While they await the completion of the 25 mil pounds signing of 19 year old Italian striker Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan, it would bring the summer spree to a total of 107 million pounds.

City coach Roberto Mancini hopes he will be soon reunited with the Italy international of Ghanaian origin whom he had signed while in charge of Inter. Balotelli, who demands to be paid his desired wages of 3 mil pounds a year on a 5 year contract, has already had a farewell party for friends in a trendy cafe in Milan and joins his Inter teammates for a pre-season tour in the US.

Mancini has already signed Jerome Boateng, David Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov and paid 30 million pounds to Barcelona for Yaya Toure.

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Spain Won, Who Cares!

Howling mad awful, long & boring – that is how I would describe the 2010 football World Cup! Unable to get ESPN or any other S band channels on my extremely old Sony tv (really ancient guys) I was left with trying to watch the game online. My 256kbps speed connection can only do so much – I found a good site that offers live streaming of the match for free but it’s stop-start-flicker-start-stop-start-flicker after about every 7 or 8 seconds of proper viewing. Watching a dull game like this one on this type of online streaming gets on your nerves and almost put me off football entirely – almost!

I clicked off the streaming website after around 60 minutes, my brain having become numb and dulled out. I couldn’t bear to watch it anymore so I switched to watching one of the many downloaded episodes of Star Trek that I have, occasionally checking the score updates that the tweeple I follow were putting out on Twitter and also checking the news. It seems like the match would never end! After a 0-0 stalemate the match went to 30 minutes of extra-time. “Another 30 minutes” groaned football fans across the globe! Paul the octopus must have wanted to commit suicide and willing made into calamari!

So Spain won *yawn yawn* big deal and all that. I wish they hadn’t and I wish the Dutch had played a bit more better. But this World Cup has left me longing for the European League and the English league in particular. Can’t wait for it to start! I’ll try to buy a new big screen tv before that.

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Gio Wants To Go Out In Style

I only came to know at the start of the World Cup that veteran left back Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was the player chosen to captain the Netherlands side. Not only is Gio a player representing my favourite nation in football but he also once played for my favourite club side – Arsenal FC. At 35 years of age, Gio is winding down his professional playing career – on 12 May 2010, he announced that he will end his playing career after the World Cup in South Africa.

The Dutch player with Indonesian heritage started his career with RKC Waalwijk before moving to his hometown club Feynoord Rotterdam for 4 years. Post that he moved for a highly successful spell at Glasgow Rangers and then to an injury plagued time at Arsenal (he however won the League and two FA Cups with them) and then left to join Barcelona, winning two La Liga titles and the Champions League before moving back home to Feynoord and winning a second Dutch Cup with them.

Funnily enough for a player who scores ever so rarely his 6th goal for the Dutch national side came in the semi-finals of this tournament against Uruguay and what a cracker it was! Now he wants a fairy-tale ending, bowing out of his playing career by captaining his national side to a World Cup final win in his very last match. He’ll get the opportunity in a few short hours from now as his Dutch teammates and he face off against the mighty talented Spanish team. Will Gio get to fulfill a dream for most players? Let’s find out.

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Germany Beats Uruguay For 3rd Place

In an entertaining match good enough for the final, Germany edged out Uruguay 3-2 and secured the 3rd place for themselves. Sami Khedira scored in the 82nd minute to give Germany a 3-2 victory and third place for the second straight World Cup. But the Germans had to survive a final-second free kick by Uruguay star striker Diego Forlan from just outside the penalty area. It ricocheted off the crossbar, and the whistle sounded. Rain-soaked players shook hands and awaited a medals ceremony that was not nearly what they wanted. The Netherlands and Spain will play for the championship on Sunday in Johannesburg. Germany coach Joachim Loew, his voice still hoarse from the flu, said his team was going home “with a very good feeling.”

Khedira’s header after the Uruguay defence failed to clear a corner kick by Mesut Oezil ended Uruguay’s hopes of beating Germany for the first time in 82 years. Uruguay came from behind to lead 2-1 when Forlan brilliantly volleyed in Egidio Arevalo’s 51st-minute cross for his fifth goal of the tournament. Germany defender Marcell Jansen tied it five minutes later with a header after goalkeeper Fernando Muslera misjudged a cross. In the dying moments, on a rain soaked pitch, Uruguay had one more opportunity. But Forlan, who has been especially dangerous on free kicks, hit the bar.

Uruguay has beaten Germany only once in 10 matches, in 1928. Germany beat Uruguay in the third-place match in 1970, the last time Uruguay reached the semifinals.  In its last three World Cup tournaments, Germany was runner-up in 2002 and third in 2006 at home. Thomas Mueller opened the scoring for Germany in the 18th minute, also his fifth goal at the World Cup. Edinson Cavani equalized for Uruguay in the 28th when he slid a shot past goalkeeper Hans Joerg Butt. Miroslav Klose’s aching back prevented him from playing for Germany and he finished the tournament with four goals and 14 for his career. He is one goal shy of Brazilian forward Ronaldo’s World Cup record and, at 32, doesn’t expect to play in 2014 in Brazil. Loew was forced to make five changes to his team. Defender Philipp Lahm and forward Lukas Podolski were out with the flu. Backup striker Mario Gomez also has the flu.

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World Cup 2010 – Almost Done

We’ve got just two matches left to play in this 2010 edition of the greatest & biggest sports tournament in the world. The surprises were plenty, the heartbreaks galore and the final heroes are to be determined in the next two days. Favourites have died out and withered and some new fans were created. And here we are – almost a month ago from when the tournament kicked off.

The semi-finals were decided by a single goal each, a 3-2 win for Holland over Uruguay and a 1-0 win for Spain over Germany. Most people went for a German victory but Spain have proved to be silent and strong and beating them now is a heavy challenge. Uruguay were a delightful revelation in this tournament and I’m sure that some of their key players may find themselves being sought after by some of the bigger clubs in Europe (those who aren’t already signed). The Netherlands seems poised to write their own destiny and erase of heartbreaks and broken promises of the past; while this squad may not have been their most talented ever they sure seem to be the most united.

We have the little matter of finding out who the 3rd place winner is going to be – and that will be decided later on tonight when Germany face Uruguay. And then tomorrow the Netherlands will face off against Spain in the final and whichever side wins, it will be a first World Cup title for them. Two European sides facing off, which nation will stand alone in the end? Let’s find out.

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New Faces For Arsenal

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger may have been out at the World Cup in South Africa working as a pundit for French television, but Wenger has not wasted any time in strengthening his squad. Long-term target Marouane Chamakh, the Morocco striker, was signed on a free transfer before the tournament, and confirmation of the arrival of promising French centre-back Laurent Koscielny came yesterday in what is understood to be a £10million deal. Wenger, though, fully intends to bring in more defensive cover as well as possibly a new goalkeeper, while the matter of the future of captain Cesc Fabregas, who will face team-mate Robin van Persie in Sunday’s World Cup final, remains to be sorted one way or another.

Wenger also revealed his doubts over first choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia. The French manager revealed a decision on who was to be his number one next season would be made shortly. He has stated that a decision on the goalie position would be made once the World Cup was over. Juventus are open to offers for Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo, who has long been on Wenger’s radar, while Arsenal could also yet move for Joe Cole, the England midfielder now a free agent having left rivals Chelsea. However, with veterans William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre set to leave after the end of their contracts, and Sol Campbell considering his options, Arsenal are in more pressing need of at least one more body at the back. The Gunners have been linked with Bolton’s Gary Cahill as well as German international Serdar Tasci.

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It’s Down To The Last Four

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That’s a very strange looking line up for the 2010 World Cup semifinal. Infact at the beginning of the tournament I guess only Spain were a big favourite. However it was Spain who have looked the least impressive in reaching the last 4 stage, but they have been consistent with 1-0 wins in their last two matches against Portugal and Paraguay respectively. So except for their first match, a dismal 0-1 loss to Switzerland (who didn’t even make it past the group stage) Spain have been solid even if they haven’t made sparks fly as of yet. However every Spanish squad player and fan alike would prefer a cup win instead of flashy & impressive wins, if you ask them.

The biggest shock so far was the demolition of Argentina by a strong Germany. 4-0 victory? Highly unlikely you would have said just before the start of the match. Germany have thrashed in 8 goals in the last two matches to oust their old rivals England & Argentina and are looking very impressive. If Germany do win the cup, my vote for player of the tournament is going to Miroslav Klose – the way he has scored goals and come back after that red card against Serbia is awesome. And he is towards the end of his career at the age of 32 and probably playing in his last world cup.

Uruguay have surprised me as well an so far they have been excellent. They faced the Cinderella team of the tournament Ghana and beat them via the penalty shoot-out after a hard fought 1-1 draw. There’s only a few names from their squad that I am familiar with and their achievement is nothing short of wonderful. Can they go on and win the tournament? Unlikely but still it’s a great tournament for them. Which brings me to their semi-final opponent and my fav – Netherlands.

Despite  beating Brazil and having won each & every match they have played so far, I’m still not sure that the Dutch will win the cup. The reason is that their strikers aren’t banging in the goals and it’s left to the wingers to get them. Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie & Jan-Klaus Hunterlaar have only scored one goal each, while Wesley Snijder has 4. Arjen Robben has 1 but he is just back from injury. I’d like to see Van Persie & Kuyt getting into the box and scoring a few.

So which two teams will reach the final? Most people are predicting a Netherlands vs Germany final by the way things are going but I wouldn’t write off Spain yet. They are quite but might have saved the best for the last stages of the competition. And Uruguay will have nothing to prove and hence nothing to lose and everything to gain. All the best teams!

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Holland Send Brazil Packing

The Netherlands showed Brazil the exit door while beating the overhyped and overblown South Americans 2-1. Brazil also had a player sent off.

Robinho gave the Brazilians the lead on Felipe Melo’s brilliant low pass up the middle of the field that the striker put home with a low shot. Wesley Snijder was hugely instrumental, setting up the first and scoring the second. The Dutch levelled out of the blue in the 53rd minute after a rare mistake from Brazil’s usually impenetrable defence, as Felipe Melo headed Sneijder’s cross into his own goal.

Then Sneijder headed a winner as the Dutch, battling to their 13th successive World Cup win to maintain a perfect record in the qualifiers and finals, avenged a quarter-final defeat in 1994 and a semi-final defeat four years later. Brazil were not able to shutout the Dutch, who took charge in the second half and showed their desire. Brazil paid dearly in the 68th minute when Dirk Kuyt flicked on Arjen Robben’s corner at the near post and Sneijder headed into the net.

Shortly afterwards, Felipe Melo was sent off for stamping on Robben.

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Ready For The Quarter-Finals?

Well that was an eventful & interesting group stage & round of 16. England goes out in the pre-quarters, losing a controversial match 1-4 to Germany. The Asian challengers South Korea and Japan also bow out losing to Uruguay & Paraguay respectively. The US faced the lone African team left and lost; Ghana is the cinderella team of this World Cup.

So here are the quarter-final lineups and the two matches setup in the middle look very appetizing –  Netherlands vs Brazil and Germany vs Argentina. Everyone says that it’s the Argentines tournament to lose, they having been the most impressive side so far. For established nations they have Brazil, Germany & Holland in the offing but don’t count out the South American teams of Uruguay and Paraguay just yet. And can Ghana spring more surprises and proceed to the final and possible win the finals? Who will triumph in the end?

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