MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 3-1 EVERTON

Ten-man Arsenal have failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the last 20 seasons, despite defeating Everton 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on the final day of the season.

An early Héctor Bellerín goal set the North Londoners on their way to achieving their goals for the afternoon, but an early red card for Laurent Koscielny threatened to scupper their early momentum.

Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey either side of Romelu Lukaku’s second-half penalty gave Arsenal a 3-1 victory, but a win for Liverpool at Anfield against Middlesbrough meant the Gunners would finish 5th.

Mesut Özil was on hand to create the first goal, latching on to a loose ball inside the box and squaring a pass from the byline that was initially missed by Danny Welbeck but tapped in by Héctor Bellerín in the 7th minute.

Arsenal’s hopes of claiming a result would complicate itself soon after, however, as Laurent Koscielny’s reckless lunge on Enner Valencia reduced Arsenal down to 10 men as early as the 15th minute.

Everton looked to make immediate use of their numerical advantage, as Romelu Lukaku was set up for a right-footed shot inside the box that was fizzed wide and out of danger.

Koscielny’s red did little to kill off Arsenal’s early enthusiasm, as Welbeck reacted quickest to a deflected Alexis Sanchez shot to set the latter up for a simple close-range-finish in the 27th minute.

Petr Čech starred at the other end, as a looped header from Lukaku was tipped over the bar in the 42nd minute.

Lukaku had another chance to inflict damage on the brink of half-time, but, via a Gabriel Paulista deflection, the Belgian’s shot was dragged wide to keep Arsenal’s sheet clean for the time being.

Joel Robles claimed two saves from Arsenal’s attack and, as Liverpool doubled their lead versus Middlesbrough to block the Gunners’ top four entry, the problems continued to mount for Arsène Wenger with Gabriel’s injury.

Michael Oliver snubbed calls for a second yellow card for Ashley Williams, with the referee doing little to endear himself to the Emirates faithful when signalling for an Everton penalty from Rob Holding’s handball soon after.

Lukaku would be the man trusted to convert the spot-kick in the 58th minute and did so without mistake to claim his 25th league goal of the season.

Morgan Schneiderlin was next to he let off the hook with what appeared to be a clear second bookable offence for the Toffees midfielder in the 64th minute, as the tensions grew between the two sides.

Özil had the chance to restore Arsenal’s two-goal-advantage courtesy of a threaded Ramsey pass, but it was Robles again in the 74th minute who made himself big enough to keep the German’s effort out.

Alex Iwobi had his sights firmly set on the third goal for the North Londoners when waltzing into the box before Robles took advantage of a poor finish from the young midfielder.

Come the 91st minute, Ramsey would kill the game off as he received Özil’s pass on the edge of the box to curl an effort up and over Robles to find the top corner.

3-1 would be how it’d end, as Arsenal gear up for one final encounter against Chelsea in the FA Cup final next Saturday.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (8); Gabriel Paulista (6), Laurent Koscielny (5), Rob Holding (6); Héctor Bellerín (8), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (8), Danny Welbeck (5), Alexis Sanchez (6)

Subs: Francis Coquelin (6), Per Mertesacker (6), Alex Iwobi (6)

BLOG: THE OX: THE SHIFT

There is only one thing more powerful than the human mind, a changed mind. The battle for advancement locks horns with adversity, creating a catalyst for change. The mind of the Ox, the mind of an individual cascading head first into the front-line of this battle with no reinforcements, the mind of a 23-year-old who took on the demons plaguing him with mediocrity and obliterated them with no remorse. The result? Not only an Ox by name, but an Ox by nature.

Let’s rewind back to 2016, a painful year it must be said, apologies for bringing such a year up, how about lets forget the events that unravelled at home and abroad, that’s not the focus of attention anyhow. What was brewing in the midst of global hostility was a Englishman, 23 years of age, working in the shadows of London Colney, fighting off the inadequacy threatening to continually infiltrate his playing career. Bursts of excellency gave slimmers of hope in preceding seasons, inside the explosive Gunners 15 was a fuse attempting to ignite itself, and the Ox finally provided it with the spark it needed. November 19th 2016, the aura of inevitably circulating around the cauldron of Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger throws Chamberlain into the front-line, well, to be precise, the back-line, replacing Carl Jenkinson with 6 minutes remaining. The ball graces its presence at the feet of the Ox, a minute is left on the clock, electricity pulsates through the veins of the enigmatic fullback, steaming past Manchester Utd youngster Marcus Rashford, his right foot crisply wraps around the ball, penetrating the air as it lasers towards the head of Frenchman Olivier Giroud, who meets cross with decisiveness, powering home past a helpless David De Gea.

There was an anger in the Ox, a frustration. Signals of resentment, he deserved to be on that pitch, he deserved to mesmerise the 75000 onlooking fans, that was his right, and he was hell-bent on exercising it. 6 weeks dragged on, the Ox was thrown back into the shadows again, where he’d worked in hope of opportunity, a place that was beginning to torment him.

Image result for chamberlain man utd

After battling the shadows, the Ox was robbed of the continuation of opportunity he warranted.

Corner an Ox, and the Ox will come out fighting. January 28, 2017, the day corners of the Gunners faithful stood up and began to question, began to contemplate, is this the Oxlade-Chamberlain we’ve been waiting for? A masterclass, pure and simple, Leonardo Da Vinci with a football, resentment and the canvas of St Mary’s, he created a masterpiece. 88 touches, 62 passes, 91% passing accuracy, 3 chances created, 2 tackles, 2 interceptions fail to do justice to the perfection of the performance. It was this day, 28th January 2017, that a resurgence was ignited.

In the midst of a faltering Arsenal side in the following months, Chamberlain would be forgiven for not being able to emulate such magnificence, in-spite of his best efforts, his attempts were futile in preventing a catastrophic 2 month period that all but condemned the Gunners to another season of incompetence. Then, as though a blessing from the heavens, an angel blessed the legendary Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger with an idea. The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. 3 at the back, who’d have thought? The Ox looked on in confusion, fear perhaps, where was he to fit into such a diverse system? The answer, he was to ruthlessly rob the spot of RWB from young Spaniard Hector Bellerin and make the position his own. The robust physique, explosive speed, and continually improving technique and dynamism of the 23-year-old has provided the Gunner’s fans a solace in a season of great sorrow. A great artist can create a picture in his mind, and put it on the canvas. The gifted artist can have isolation between continuation of their project, and resume the status quo. 155 days after his luxurious delivery to Olivier Giroud at Old Trafford, Arsenal are faltering, after taking a deeply cut wound from the boot of Sergio Aguero, the Gunner’s need a savour, a magician, capable of replicating his tricks. The Ox. 155 days after producing his excellence, does so again, Arsenal level, Arsenal win. Oxlade-Chamberlain, the catalyst.

Whatever may come of the resurgence of the Ox, whatever may come of the resulting offers he is given with a year left on his contract, it is hope that will guide us to the possibility of having the 23-year-old in a Gunner’s shirt next season. In the mean time, allow the Englishman to serve as a reminder. A reminder that, as Sun Tzu said, ”Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”, and by winning in the shadows, come Saturday 27th May, the Ox will be ready to go to war.

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-0 SUNDERLAND

Arsenal have ensured the race for a top four finish will run until the final day of the season after claiming a 2-0 victory over relegated Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners are back to being within a point of 4th placed Liverpool, courtesy of a brace from Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile also being three points behind 3rd placed Manchester City before this weekend’s fixture.

Nothing but a win would suffice beforehand for the North Londoners, who started right on cue through an Alexis shot that had found its way past Jordan Pickford in the 8th minute, but the early goal would soon be chalked off following a deflection from Olivier Giroud’s arm.

Giroud then found himself in half a yard of space inside the box moments later before the on-rushing Pickford did just enough to deter the Frenchman’s shot from finding the back of the net.

The ex-Montpellier striker was left claiming a penalty in the 22nd minute when a firm grapple from Lamine Koné inside the box impeded him from reaching Mesut Özil’s cross, with the referee ignoring such calls for an Arsenal spot-kick.

A measured pass from Didier N’Dong led Jermain Defoe into the channels, with the Englishman afforded enough time to fire a low shot at goal on his weaker foot before being denied by Petr Cech in the 38th minute.

Héctor Bellerín then teared away through the right flank with danger in the 43rd minute following a threaded pass by Özil, but the Spaniard could only find the side-netting when opting to surprise the keeper with a shot from a tight angle.

Özil was at the heart of it all again with a lofted cut-back for Aaron Ramsey to volley at goal, forcing a save out of Pickford.

The Gunners would go close once more from the subsequent corner, but Rob Holding could get little behind his free header that fell directly into the goalkeeper’s grasp.

Arsenal returned to the second half with a fright, as Nacho Monreal’s loose pass to back to Cech caused the goalkeeper to guide the ball out with an outstretched hand and concede an indirect free-kick inside the box, later dealt with by Granit Xhaka’s headed clearance.

Giroud neared Arsenal’s anticipated opener with a glancing header from Rob Holding’s cross, but the striker’s effort would go on to skip past the far post in the 65th minute.

Alexis was next in line to find himself in a heading position, getting his execution all wrong, but Danny Welbeck would offer Pickford a sterner test with a low drive from the edge of the box, forcing the keeper to parry the effort wide.

Through a searching pass from Granit Xhaka, Arsenal would finally manage to pick-lock Sunderland’s deep-block defence, as a deft touch from Özil from the left set Alexis for an easy tap in.

A couple of efforts from Xhaka and Alex Iwobi set the Gunners closer to a second, but it was Alexis who delivered again when required in the 81st minute. A deep cross from Shkodran Mustafi was hooked out of the air brilliantly by Giroud and into Alexis’ path, leaving the Chilean to finish from close range and double Arsenal’s lead.

Mustafi was unlucky not to have claimed Arsenal’s third of the night, seeing his headed effort tipped onto the bar by the ever-impressive Pickford in the 85th minute before the referee’s final whistle concluded a 2-0 victory for Arsène Wenger’s men.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Nacho Monreal (5); Héctor Bellerín (6), Aaron Ramsey (6), Granit Xhaka (7), Kieran Gibbs (4); Mesut Özil (8), Olivier Giroud (6), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Alex Iwobi (6), Theo Walcott (5)

MATCH REPORT: STOKE CITY 1-4 ARSENAL

Arsenal have moved to within a point of 4th-placed Liverpool in the race for top four with a 4-1 against Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium.

The Gunners had failed to win away to the Potters in the last five seasons, but two first-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil set Arsène Wenger’s men on their way to a much-needed victory.

A controversial Peter Crouch goal promised a frantic end to the encounter, but Arsenal’s third through Sanchez would take the fizzle out of an end-to-end game before Giroud closed off the win late on.

It was the London outfit who had started best, as Nacho Monreal neared the opener with a header at the back-post before hitting the frame of the goal in the 17th minute.

Alexis Sanchez tried his luck past the half-hour mark, picking up a spare ball deep into Stoke’s half and driving at the Stoke defence before firing a shot into the side-netting.

Arsenal would find the back of the net minutes before the interval, as Bellerín breezed towards the byline and squared a cross for Giroud to tap in Arsenal’s first goal of the evening in the 43rd minute.

The Gunners reasserted their dominance in the second period and took full advantage of Özil’s calculated run in behind Stoke’s defence in the 55th minute, spotted by Sanchez, before the German playmaker was able to dink the ball over Butland to make it 2-0.

Arsenal’s second was almost cancelled out just three minutes later, however, as Arnautovic’s cross was headed back across goal by Mame Biram Diouf from close range, with Čech beaten in sight of the Senegalese striker’s effort.

The Potters would eventually pull a goal back, with Arnautovic again at the centre of the move, but the goal would be turned in by an unnoticed handball from Peter Crouch at the near-post.

But Alexis would later be on hand to decimate the hosts’ hopes of a comeback, firing low from the edge of the box and finding the back of the net courtesy of a minor Ryan Shawcross deflection in the 74th minute, making it 3-1.

Late substitute Aaron Ramsey would come close to adding to the Gunners’ three goals, pulling a save out of Butland upon his entrance into the game, but the Welshman would go on to assist Giroud shortly after with a low cross, subsequently bundled in on the slide by the Arsenal number 12.

Geoff Cameron threatened late on for Stoke with a volley saved by Čech, but 4-1 to the North Londoners would be how it’d end.

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Laurent Koscielny (7); Héctor Bellerín (8), Granit Xhaka (8), Francis Coquelin (7), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (8), Olivier Giroud (7), Alexis Sanchez (8)

Subs: Aaron Ramsey (6), Theo Walcott (5), Danny Welbeck (5)

MATCH REPORT: SOUTHAMPTON 0-2 ARSENAL

Arsenal have renewed hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League with a 2-0 win against Southampton at the St. Mary’s Stadium, as the Gunners climb back up to 5th place.

Two second half goals from Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud set the North Londoners up for victory down on the south coast, bringing Arsenal to within three points of Manchester City, currently on 69, meanwhile also holding a game in hand in comparison to 3rd-placed Liverpool.

In an encounter dominated by the increased pressure orbiting around the two French managers on either side, a cagey start saw Arsenal register their first half-chance as late as the 14th minute, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain roamed inside from the right flank to set Aaron Ramsey from a sizeable distance prior to a tame shot wide.

Southampton accentuated their dominance in the following exchanges of the game with a lofted pass by Ryan Bertrand into Dusan Tadic, who saw his touch inside the box intercepted by Shkodran Mustafi before Petr Čech was called into action to deny Manolo Gabbiadini’s shot.

Nathan Redmond took the final risk of the half with a shot from range that would’ve found the top corner in the 42nd minute, had is not been for another good save by Čech.

Alexis Sanchez did soothe the frustrations in the second half, courtesy of a first-time assist from Mesut Özil and a crucial shoulder-drop by the Chilean that took two defenders out of his way, as a low drive in the 60th minute beat Forster and took Arsenal a goal up.

Granit Xhaka forced the Southampton shot-stopper into action with a strike from range in the 66th minute, whereas the Saints neared the equaliser at the other end through James Ward-Prowse, who headed his effort over when found deep in the Arsenal box with a cross.

Second-half substitute Olivier Giroud was on hand to kill the game off in the 83rd minute, however, acting as the recipient of Ramsey’s header across goal at the back-post to nod the ball in himself inside the six-yard-box.

Sofiane Boufal could’ve sprung life back into Southampton just three minutes later following Xhaka’s loss of possession, but the Moroccan underwhelmed with an effort against the side-netting, as Arsenal ran away with all three points.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (6), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Nacho Monreal (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Kieran Gibbs (5); Mesut Özil (6), Danny Welbeck (6), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Héctor Bellerín (6), Olivier Giroud (6), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED

Arsenal have kept their top four aspirations alive after defeating Europa League hopefuls Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

Two second half goals in quick succession from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck set the victory up for Arsène Wenger’s men, taking the North Londoners above 6th-placed Man United and within three points of 4th-placed Manchester City.

Wenger placed his trust in Welbeck to reignite the club’s top four bid, but it was the opposition’s forward line who had the first taste of a goal scoring opportunity, as Wayne Rooney found Anthony Martial beyond Arsenal’s backline before the Frenchman’s toe poke was denied by Petr Čech in the 4th minute.

Alexis Sanchez replied for the hosts by playing Aaron Ramsey in on goal, who was later denied by a strong David De Gea palm from a shot across goal in the 8th minute.

On the half-hour mark, renewed pressure from Arsenal kept them in control of proceedings, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looking to make their dominance count with a shot from range that was parried away by the United keeper.

Miscommunication at the other end, however, almost gifted the visitors the lead, as Rooney looked to capitalise on a loose pass from Rob Holding but, ultimately, failed to overcome Čech from close range.

Into the second period, Granit Xhaka trusted his ability to strike the ball from distance, cashing in on a wicked deflection off Ander Herrera that beat De Gea on its way in for Arsenal’s first goal in the 53rd minute.

In no time, the Gunners fired back with a second, as Danny Welbeck utilised the space afforded to him by his former teammates to head in Chamberlain’s cross and double the hosts’ lead just three minutes later.

Rooney tried his luck from a free-kick just past the hour-mark, with Čech doing a good job of safeguarding his goal upon United’s response to going two goals down.

The United captain had a couple more measured attempts from distance, each floating past the goal, as the Red Devils grew restless in the face of defeat.

A couple of goals would separate the two sides at the final whistle, with Wenger claiming his first ever league win over José Mourinho to bring Man United’s 25-game unbeaten run to an end.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Granit Xhaka (7), Kieran Gibbs (5); Mesut Özil (6), Danny Welbeck (6), Alexis Sanchez (6)

Subs: Héctor Bellerín (5), Olivier Giroud (4), Francis Coquelin (5)