Gooner of the Year #4; Samir Nasri

Nasri picks his post

He started the season in the best fashion possible: he scored a goal in his very first game. It wasn’t a spectacular goal, not the kind he scored against Man U, but it was a goal and a goal in his debut. And given the fact that he was brought in to replace the Catalonian Dreaming Hleb who, in fact, never even took a shot at goal in the three years that he was at Arsenal (all 10 of Hleb’s goals were actually missed passes or deflections*) a goal in his debut was about as good a haul as any could hope for.

He followed that debut goal with a goal in the Champions League against minnows FC Twente, then one against Everton, and just as Arsenal supporters were starting to wonder if he could keep up the goal scoring pace, he scored a brace against Man U. It was a moment of majesty and led many to early speculation that Nasri would be player of the year, that he was the next Pires, and so on.

The first goal was a speculative shot, for sure, but the second was a goal of pure beauty. Watch it again here, it could be Arsenal goal of the season.

Unfortunately, that brace would be the moment of the season for Samir as after that his form slipped a bit. It could have been the demands of the Premier League, the fact that he was required to play more defense than at Marseilles, defenders figuring out his moves, or some left over effects of his battle with meningitis, it was clear that his form had dropped off a bit at the end of the season.

Still, he managed 43 appearances in all competitions all the while putting in wherever the boss asked — defensive midfield, attacking midfield, off the striker, on the left, on the right, floating… hell, let’s try him at right back! And jaded or not, 43 appearances will just make him stronger next year, and bodes well for his strength and stamina.

Personally, my second favorite moment of the season was when Arsenal hosted Coca Cola side Newcastle. The game was over with Arsenal sitting at 3-0 when Newcastle brought in recently paroled Joey Barton, who’s very first action was a two footed tackle on Samir Nasri. This attempt to end the Frenchman’s career was greeted with jeers by the crowd but Nasri just shook off the challenge, got up, waited until Barton was running away from him, and kicked him in the Achilles. Cheap shot, sure, but a cheap shot well deserved.

Nasri bedded in well in his first season and is certainly one for the future.

Anfield ’89, Anfield ’09

You can tell by the blitz of articles coming out of the dot com that the end of this season was always going to have a huge media campaign reminiscing over that magic moment back in the eighties.  There are all kinds of videos and interviews and remembrances from all kinds of participants (fans to refs) and if you haven’t gotten your fill of Anfield ’89 then by all means, go and indulge in the past.

However, if you’re looking forward to the future, you might want to skip that and go on over to Setanta (or your favorite ‘feed’) and watch the second leg of the FA Youth Cup. Gunnerblog has a companion piece about the night, you should read it.

Diego off Arsenal’s list

At £22m I doubt Diego was ever going to be an Arsenal player, but that didn’t stop the press speculation last season. Anyway, he’s now a Juve player and goes the way of Ricardo Quaresma as yet another player that Arsenal supporters begged Wenger to buy who went somewhere else to fail miserably.

For me, the important thing about this story is that Diego represents the first big signing of silly season. It’s on now.

Oh, and you can start speculating about which Newcastle player Arsenal will not sign, they are having a fire sale. I think Obafemi Martins will be linked non-stop until he signs for Manchester City, and I think Arsenal supporters will be begging for Bassong non-stop until he signs for some place in France.

See you all tomorrow!

*not true

Gooner of the Year #5; Bacary Sagna

Heaven, I'm in Heaven, And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak; And I seem to find the happiness I seek; When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek.

The polls are closed, you all have had your say, and you have voted for Bacary Sagna in 5th place of the 2008/2009 Gooners of the Year.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit surprised. I fully expected to get up and write a totally different article but there was a push late yesterday and Sagna came in 5th. I’ll also be honest and admit that I didn’t vote for Sagna, because, well, because I overlooked him.

I guess it’s easy to overlook the guy on the edge of the park, who puts in a solid performance, week in and week out. The flashiest thing about him is his beaded hair, but that’s ok, because all teams need solidity more than flash and Sagna plays that part.

The story is familiar: Wenger picked Sagna up after an injury plagued season at Auxerre for a mere £6m, then displaced Eboue who was our starting right back and plopped Sagna right into the fire of the Premier League. Sagna quickly made the spot his own and put in a solid year — leaving many wondering what role Eboue should play.

Now, in his second season he played in 47 games in all competitions, second only to Denilson for the Iron Man award and as many of you mentioned, I just can’t remember him making a single mistake. That’s really unusual for a defender. Defenders slip up, and when they do it’s usually glaringly obvious. I only saw a couple of Man U games and I can tell you which of their defenders made mistakes in those games but for some reason I just can’t think of any mistakes that Sagna made. Surely he put a foot wrong somewhere!

Though they get accolades for scoring goals or putting in assists, defenders earn their keep through solid play and if there was any single player who won the moniker of “solid” this season it was Bacary Sagna. Congrats son!

Sing us a song, Mr. Brown.

Phil Brown’s Hull City escaped relegation by dint of being the 4th worst team in the Premier League. On the day, all any of these horrible teams needed to do was secure a draw and they could ensure Premier League play for another season and they were all so universally piss-poor that they couldn’t even do that. But incredibly, it was Hull City who showed how classy their club truly is by first storming the pitch and then having Mr. Brown take the microphone and lead the club in a song.  Get out the Champagne! You just finished 17th! By losing!

I can’t wait to face this pack of liars next year, I might even get tickets to the home game.

In a sense, it was the perfect result for me: I got to watch Hull lose and yet stay in the Premier League, so they could be beaten by Arsenal up to 4 times next year. I got to see Newcastle relegated, which, while I feel for their supporters, was no less than the team deserved given the squad they built.

Oh and Arsenal won 4-1 over Stoke.

Not bad.

Theo to play for England, the U-21s, the U-19s, and any other squad that needs a win.

Arsene Wenger is not a happy man. It looks like Theo Walcott could be chosen to play for both the England senior squad in the early summer qualifications and then in the U-21 squad in the late summer U-21 tournament.

I’ve made no secret of how I feel about the Internationals, but let me be clear about the U-21s: there is no reason for a player to play in both the England and the England U-21 team. First, that U-21 team is so pointless that the matches might as well be held behind closed doors — with friends of the players and scouts the only people who bother attending. Second, Theo has already been injured by England this season and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him pick up a knock in one or both tournaments. And finally, I realize that he’s 20 years old and thinks he can play in every game but he cannot and getting Theo back into this Arsenal team 100% healthy and ready to go at the start of the season should be a priority for both the England team and for Arsenal.

Of course, we know that the International managers couldn’t give two-fucks about club play, they’ve demonstrated that time and again.

Right, that’s it for today, I hope to see you back here tomorrow for GoY #4.

Stoke me a Clipper

And so it is that we come to the last day of the season and find ourselves hosting the club that most embodies all that went wrong with Arsenal this year.

It was a fiery match with Stoke, who will finish the season as the dirtiest team in the league, accused by Arsene Wenger of kicking Arsenal off the pitch. Which they certainly did, but it was set plays and not kicks that won that encounter. Rory Delap was in such fine form on that day and Arsenal so incapable of dealing with set plays that Delap nearly threw one straight into the net! So, yes, they kicked us, but that’s not what won.

It was also a game which saw baffling lineups from the boss, a petulant red card to Robin van Persie, a lazy game from Cesc and Adebayor, and injuries to Ade and Theo. In short, if was the type of disastrous outcome that at least one Gooner was quoted saying

Untill we aquire a world class goalkeeper two world class defenders and a world class midfielder we aint going anywhere. (sic)

It’s actually quite a spectacular rant and I know many people felt the same way after that match.

I think we’ve had some distance from that match and I think we’ve achieved quite a bit more than that one result might haved indicated. So, I’d be surprised if many Gooners still feel the same way. Even the boss sent Tony Pulis a note, not quite apologizing for calling Stoke cheats, but sort of forgiving them and by way of saying that he understands why they played the way they played. For most teams between 10th and 20th place, the name of the game is survival and they will do just about anything to ensure it.

Survival ensured. 4th place secured.

I doubt this will be a fiery match like the previous. 

But it’s the last match of the season and maybe Stoke will want to do the double over us, who knows?  Hell, who cares?

Evra is a loudmouthed pussy

I love that Evra is complaining to the press about Fabregas’ tackle on him. I think he should be happy that Flamini wasn’t still on the squad, he knew how to put in a tackle whenever a Man U player decided to publicly act like an ass.

Voting still ongoing

Remember, you only have until 11:45pm PST to vote for your Gooner of the Year! Get over there and DO IT.

P.S.

Yes I mailed this in, which is pretty much what I’m expecting from Arsenal today.