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August 7, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/07/2012

Honestly, I’ve taken my eye off most things Arsenal in the last week and a half with the London 2012 Olympic Games meaning I’ve been trying to understand the rules of judo and have been getting massively over-excited about track cycling and handball. I’ve watched some of the Olympic football tournament, but have been so engrossed in the other sport that the men’s football has generally felt like a needless sideshow. The women’s football tournament however was a superb advert for fans to follow the female game more, with Team GB beating Brazil.

I’ve partly not been bothering myself with Arsenal news because the Olympic Games don’t come to a nearby city very often. The wave of Olympic excitement in and around London has been brilliant, with sport bringing people together and making people proud to be British. Also, there has been a severe lack of media coverage of football ahead of the new season, which is probably a good thing as it’s stopped me fretting and starting to worry about Arsenal too far in advance of the season. We go through enough emotions during the season so avoiding some of them in pre-season should be welcomed.

The major Arsenal interest was in the women’s football tournament. The Team GB 18 player squad featured six Arsenal players, all of whom featured in their impressive 1-0 victory over favourites Brazil in front of a record UK crowd for a women’s match in this country at Wembley. Arsenal have been flag bearers on the pitch for women’s football for many years, however despite the success of the team, the women’s game has struggled for coverage and popularity.

July 29, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/29/2012

A new season, a new kit, a different pre-season venue to play in, but the seemingly the same old problems for Arsenal. In the second match of the pre-season Asia Tour, we played well against Manchester City, however couldn’t convert chances and were punished for some slack defending on the break. It’s important to remember that it was only a friendly; however it’s never good to lose to a rival like Manchester City, especially when the loss came in a similar fashion to many of the ones we’ve suffered in recent seasons.

The squad for the Asia Tour is still missing a large number of first team players because of injury and fitness after Euro 2012, however we still fielded quite a strong team against Manchester City. Being honest, I didn’t rate our chances of winning the game as very high. We didn’t start with a regular striker, and had the inexperienced Kyle Bartley at centre back. Seeing a City team sheet including Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure was a concern, and their clinical counter attacking proved to be the difference.

The 2-0 score-line didn’t do the match justice, but rarely does a result reflect the overall flow of a football match. Hopefully we can get these matches out of our system before the season starts; where we dominate, but don’t turn that pressure into goals.

July 5, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/05/2012

Let's be honest, deep down we all feared that Robin van Persie wouldn't sign a new contract. As Arsenal fans, we've seen these situations all too many times in the last few seasons. If Robin had decided to go quietly, we'd have accepted it and understood his desire to leave. He'd have gone with the respect of the fans for giving everything for Arsenal, and would have been remembered as a great player for the club. Yes, it would have been massively disappointing for fans, but we'd have lived with it.

Then there was this. Robin van Persie's statement on his official website was damning of the club, and horribly misjudged. I'll be surprised if van Persie wrote it himself, because I'm struggling to believe that he would be so blunt about the club when financially we don't have to sell him, when he's still club captain and when the statement wasn't expected by the club.

Most Arsenal fans have been through the mire enough times in the last few summers to not take van Persie's side of the story and not have sympathy for him. I can understand some fans siding with him about the different directions of the club, but ultimately Arsene Wenger is never going to spend the same amount of money as clubs like Manchester City. He never has done, never will do, and wouldn't want to compromise Arsenal's financial position. Wenger's stand point on this shouldn't have been news to Robin van Persie. He's been at the club eight years, and were it not for Wenger's policy, Robin wouldn't have been given the chances he had as a youngster, wouldn't have been backed despite his injury problems, and wouldn't have become the striker he is today.

Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/05/2012

Finishing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. In my first blog post of the day following yesterday’s events surrounding our captain, it’s time to rate the strikers.

9. Ju-Young Park

One on those rushed through the checkout during Arsene Wenger’s trolley dash at the end of the summer transfer window, Ju-Young Park hasn’t really made his mark on Arsenal Football Club. The Korean captain was cheap, and did score an excellent goal against Bolton in the Carling Cup, but he just wasn’t given the chance to prove himself for the first team. That was partly down to the form and fitness of Robin van Persie, but also because I don’t think Wenger trusted him to lead the line. Undoubtedly a strange signing.

July 3, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/03/2012

Continuing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. Moving up the pitch, it’s time to look at the midfielders.

2. Abou Diaby

The international man of mystery was only seen in fleeting glances during last season. His campaign was summed up by his cameo against Liverpool at Anfield. He came on in the second half, looked rusty in some of his runs forward but still showed he has some real talent on the ball, but then he tweaked a muscle and went off again. I can understand the argument for cutting our losses on Diaby and getting him off the wage bill because of his injury record, but we’ve seen with van Persie and Rosicky, that patience can eventually lead to a player flourishing at Arsenal. I think Diaby can still become an important part of our midfield, we just need him to stay fit for a prolonged period of time.

June 20, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/20/2012

Continuing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. Having analysed the goalkeepers, it’s time to look at defenders.

3. Bacary Sagna

The French full back had a season that was affected by two leg breaks, but when he was available, we were reminded how important he is to the team. Sagna doesn’t do the spectacular things, he does the important solid work. He loses marks in his end of season rating for missing a large slice of the season through injury, and for his crossing still being indifferent, however looking around the league, I can’t think of another right back I’d like in the squad.

June 2, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/02/2012

Now that I’ve completed my own exams this summer, it’s time for me to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. I’ll go through the squad over the next couple of weeks, and will start at the last line of defence; the goalkeepers.

1. Manuel Almunia

There really isn’t much to say about the Spaniard given he didn’t play a single minute for the Arsenal first team in 2011/12. He’s now been released and is without a club. It’s felt like he hasn’t been an Arsenal player this season, and he did spend a short loan spell at West Ham but returned quickly after they decided that Robert Green was better. The way Almunia was side-lined could seem a little harsh as he’s always come across as one of the nice guys in football, however ultimately he was too error prone. The two matches against West Brom in 2010/11 effectively ended his Arsenal career, but because of a lack of suitors, and injuries to Fabianski and Mannone, he hung around at the club last season and was on the bench a few times, however never made it onto the pitch. I hope his career doesn’t meander into nothingness; however I fear it might, which would be a shame.

Season Rating: 0/10

May 14, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/14/2012

Arsenal added the motto ‘Forward’ to the bottom of the club’s crest for the 125th anniversary season, and for a large slice of the season, that was looking like an embarrassing move. It seemed like we were a club in decline, and one that was definitely moving backwards. No-one could have envisaged that we’d end the season with a higher points total than the previous campaign, and finish a place higher.

It might only be a small step, but we have gone forward as a team and as a club this season. Whilst we should be rightly pleased at how we recovered from the dreadful start, this achievement shouldn’t be looked at as the be all and end all for this group of players. It needs to be the start of something.

We’ve stumbled over the line, but finishing third not only puts us back in the Champions League group stage, it gives us more clout when negotiating new contracts for certain members of the current squad, and helps us in the transfer market to attract players. One of the reasons for the ill-advised trolley dash at the end of last summer was that we weren’t able to guarantee potential signings that they’d be playing in Europe’s top competition because of the Champions League qualifier with Udinese. We won’t have that problem this summer.

May 7, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/07/2012

At 2.45pm on Saturday, it looked like we were going to be in desperate need of Tottenham suffering another lasagne induced bout of food poisoning, as in 2006. However at 4pm on Sunday, things weren’t looking quite as desperate. However given Arsenal’s remarkable ability to throw away our good work this season, we should probably start planning in the kitchen just to make sure we secure third place.

If Arsenal fail to finish in the top three, it will be our own fault. We’ve had the chances to secure that position, but have so far contrived to blow every one of them. To have one final chance is unexpected, but it must be utilised. On the basis of the season we do deserve to be where we are, you’re not third by accident after 37 games, because whilst we’ve had our failings, so have our closest challengers. The team should learn from the numerous mistakes we made against Norwich and give everything to take advantage of our final chance, as failure to do so could still result in Europa League football.

Our recent run is concerning ahead of the final game because we haven’t won for four matches now. After our win against Wolves, we’ve lost to Wigan, and drawn with Chelsea, Stoke and Norwich. A win in any of those games, and we’d virtually be safe in third place. It’s amazing that our fate is still in our hands, but the form ahead of a must-win match doesn’t fill me with confidence. At least in the draws with Chelsea and Stoke, we generally defended well. That wasn’t the case against Norwich.

April 29, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/29/2012

After the great comeback this season, Arsenal are stumbling towards the finish line as the need to secure third place in the league has become greater. Chelsea's unexpected success in Barcelona means we have to take the possibility of them winning the Champions League seriously. The thought of Chelsea being the first London team to win the Champions League isn't a good one, but to have them also put us in the Europa League by taking the fourth spot in next year's tournament, would be close to unbearable.

There's two ways to look at the Stoke match. It's easy to say that we dropped two points against a team that haven't had a brilliant season. However, on the positive side, it was a point gained at a stadium where we've had little success in recent seasons. With Newcastle's defeat, it's a shame we couldn't extend our points lead in third, but we still have third place in our hands. Beat Norwich City and West Brom, and we come third. Simple.

However this is Arsenal, it's unlikely to be simple. We can still optimistic about the two games though, as there were plenty of positives to take from the Stoke draw. We've been quick to go into our shell at the Britannia before, but we saw an Arsenal team on Saturday that were willing to face up to the more direct Stoke tactics, and then play our own attacking game.

David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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