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Arsenal 3 Partizan Belgrade 1

Arsenal survived a minor scare to reach the last 16 of the Champions League for the 11th successive season with victory against Partizan Belgrade at The Emirates. Arsene Wenger knew that three points would assure them of qualification for the knockout phase and they ultimately ran out comfortable winners, although for a spell in the second half against the Serbians, there was the fear that Arsenal’s proud record might end.

Arsenal’s win was not enough to give them top spot in Group H, and they now face the prospect of running into the real elite of European football when the draw is made on 17 December. Robin van Persie, Arsenal captain on his first Champions League appearance of the season, put them ahead on the half-hour from the spot after he was fouled by Marko Jovanovic. But Theo Walcott’s introduction as substitute injected some firepower into Arsenal and some life into subdued supporters inside The Emirates as he made a decisive contribution. He restored Arsenal’s lead with a fine volley after 73 minutes, and another moment of class from Samir Nasri wrapped things up as he scored with a fine low finish four minutes later.

Arsenal suffered a blow with an early injury to defender Kieran Gibbs, while Bacary Sagna was shown a red card in the closing stages for a foul on Aleksandar Lazevski.

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Arsenal 2 Fulham 1

I gotta admit; this was a very exciting attacking game for long periods and I certainly enjoyed it. Full credit to Fulham players who took the game to Arsenal and never let up during the 90 minutes of football.

But it was Samir Nasri who stole the show, the spotlights, the whole she-bang with two goals. The Frenchman lashed the hosts into an early lead after dancing inside two defenders before the Gunners wasted a host of chances to extend their lead. A clash of heads affecting Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny let Diomansy Kamara slot a slick but contested equaliser.

But Nasri decided the match late on after jinking past a posse of defenders to slip the ball home from an angle. It was a beautiful goal, a highlight reel event, gorgeous to behold and a joy to every Gunners fan. When the ball went that far, I thought the chance was lost, as must most of the onlookers thought. But someone forgot to tell Nasri. He turned and shot the ball past the goalie and a lunging defender.

Thanks to French international Nasri, who now has 11 goals from midfield this season, Arsenal have moved to the top of the Premier League – one point clear of Manchester United – as they put rare back-to-back home defeats behind them, albeit in nervous fashion.

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Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 2

After some really bad performances and defeats, Arsenal has seemingly come back to good form in their 4-2 away win at Aston Villa today. Andrey Arshavin cut in from the left to fire in a shot and Samir Nasri volleyed home to put the Gunners 2-0 up. Ciaran Clark gave Villa hope with an 18-yard strike but Marouane Chamakh’s poked shot for the visitors appeared to have put Arsenal safe.

But Clark nodded in to set up a tense finale before Jack Wilshere’s late header won it for the visitors. At that point it looked as if Arsenal were in for another devastating result, meaning a draw or even worse. But Wilshere’s injury-time goal came as a relief to Arsenal as they avoided being on the wrong end of another rearguard action. The Gunners, who lost to Braga in midweek, let a two-goal advantage slip last Saturday when they lost 3-2 to Tottenham and, after securing another two-goal lead at Villa, they looked unconvincing as they almost threw it away again.

The win meant that for about 2 hours Arsenal went to the top of the table but Manchester United won 7-1 against poor Blackburn and took the pole position back.

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Arsenal 2 Tottenham 3

Terrible result for Arsenal against their most hated rivals ever. It’s the kind of stupid throwing away of a game that Wenger’s men should have put behind them ages ago and they could if Arsene would buy more sensibly. Buy more established players, buy better defencemen and buy a better goalkeeper! God damn it!

Tottenham staged a stunning comeback to win at Arsenal for the first time in 17 years and wreck the Gunners’ hopes of going top of the Premier League. Arsenal were on course to leapfrog Chelsea, if only briefly, as they cruised into a two-goal lead at the interval courtesy of goals from Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh. Spurs, after being comprehensively outplayed, then embarked on an unlikely revival that not only saw them wipe out Arsenal’s comfortable advantage but go on to take all three points.

Gareth Bale started the recovery with a fine finish five minutes after the break, before Rafael van der Vaart levelled from the spot after Cesc Fabregas inexplicably handled his free-kick. And with only five minutes left Younes Kaboul reduced the vast majority of The Emirates gallery to silence when he headed Van der Vaart’s free-kick low past Lukasz Fabianski.

We should have gone to the top of the table, even if it would have been only for a short while, but instead we lose to Spurs. No wonder Arsene Wenger threw his water bottle down in frustration and disgust. If I was there, I would have thrown the bottle too!

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Arsenal 2 Everton FC 1

Arsenal survived a late fightback to win a lively battle at Everton. Bakari Sagna poked in Andrei Arshavin’s cross for Arsenal’s opener before goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski’s head denied Louis Saha a nodded equaliser. Cesc Fabregas doubled the lead after the break from Marouane Chamakh’s pass as Fabianksi saved well from Jermaine Beckford, Steven Pienaar and Saha. The Toffees set up a frantic finale when Saha nodded back for Tim Cahill to rifle in but the Gunners held on.

Chamakh was ineffective in this match, a little energetic only in patches, while defender Sebastien Squillaci looked shaky and struggling throughout the match. Samir Nasri was his usual fast paced self and was a thorn in Everton’s side. I would have liked to have seen Robin Van Persie introduced into the match past the 60th minute or so but it wasn’t to be. Overall, it wasn’t the best of form for Arsenal and it seemed like they just did enough to win the match. Arsenal sit in second place, 3 points behind Chelsea with 26 points.

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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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