Showing posts with label Chuba Akpom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chuba Akpom. Show all posts

31 January 2016

So we've drawn Hull for the FA Cup fifth round, eh? Long may we be their Bayern...

Well, well, well. So we meet again. "Hello darkness, my old friend" and all that. The FA Cup's fifth round draw pits us once again against Hull City, they of the 0-2 up to 3-2 down in the 2014 final and the somewhat meeker 2-0 loss in the 2014-15 fourth round. At this rate, they'll be talking about us the way we talk about Bayern—if they aren't already. It's now three consecutive seasons in which we've faced off in the FA Cup, and, without making too much of it, the previous two have ended in glorious fashion for us. To face Hull in the fifth round hardly anoints Arsenal in any serious fashion, but it does augur well, I'll say that.

15 July 2015

Arsenal 4-0 Singapore Highlights

An Arsenal side that featured a handful of youth (Akpom, Iwobi, Martinez to start, and Zelalem, Toral, Willock, and Crowley subbing on) manhandled the Singapore XI in a 4-0 win, advancing to the final on Saturday against Everton. Akpom claimed a hat-trick and Wilshere chipped in, each man scoring once from the spot. It might be a bit early to anoint Akpom as the saviour. For now, rather than trying to draw any meaningful insights, sit back, relax, and enjoy the highlights...

19 March 2014

Barcelona 4-2 Arsenal: Don't let the scoreline fool you...

The U19s crashed out of the UEFA Youth League after a 4-2 loss to Barcelona, but the scoreline flatters the hosts a bit as Arsenal were down to ten men for much of the second half after keeper Deyan Iliev was sent off. However, the boys fought admirably, and it was only in the final minutes that Barcelona were able to take advantage, scoring twice in the game's final minutes to secure passage through to the semifinals.

However, despite the setback, there were positives aplenty as we look to the youth of today and size up their prospects as players for tomorrow. For as much as progress in the cup might have been nice, the spirit and skill on display offered exciting glimpses of what's to come.

26 September 2013

Arsenal 4-3 West Brom (pen); undeserved, but, well...

It wasn't pretty, but we managed to pull off the win, and that's really all that counts. I do regret that West Brom came so close only to come away with nothing, for the league cup offers clubs the rare opportunity to do something famous. It's similar to the movie Hoosiers, in which any club, no matter how small, has a chance to knock any club, no matter how large. We saw a dose of this last spring when Wigan knocked off Man City to claim the FA Cup. For the first sixty minutes and again for most of the rest of regulation and into overtime, West Brom simply outplayed Arsenal and arguably deserved the win more than we. That we came out with a win anyway proves only that outcome and effort are sometimes miles apart, for we were certainly not the better squad on the evening.

That said, there are few moral victories in sport, and so I doubt that there are many Baggies trudging home thinking, "well, at least we hung tough". To those who are, it's cold consolation, if any at all. I've been on the other side of such losses, and I'd almost prefer to have been roundly thrashed. Once Gnabry missed his spot-kick, I thought, "well, that's it." I can't imagine (and don't want to, either) what it must have felt like to be on the other end, thinking, "we're going to pull this off" only to see not one but two misses slam shut the door. To have come so close only to see victory slip through their fingers must be agonizing, and I hope it doesn't provide West Brom with too much motivation against us going forward.

Back to Arsenal. Back to Gnabry. For as much as we might bemoan the saved kick, let's be honest. Penalties are a lottery. The shooter picks one of three basic options: left, center, right. The keeper chooses from the same. Even if the keeper matches the shooter, there's placement, pace, timing. On the whole, Gnabry's shot was among the better-taken of the ten. He just had the bad luck of being the only one whose shot was saved. Here, then, is a quick review:
  1. Reid: 8/10—well-taken, top-right corner and out of reach despite Fabiański guessing right.
  2. Bendtner: 6/10—decent but only midway between the center of goal and the right post. Good thing Daniels guessed wrong.
  3. Rosenberg: 4/10—very nearly down the middle, almost saved by Fabiański who dove to his left but almost deflected anyway.
  4. Gnabry: 5/10—similar to Bendtner's but towards the left post. Daniels guessed correctly and parried.
  5. Morrison: 9/10—nearly perfect, top-left corner shot. The only element missing would be to have it glance in off the post.
  6. Olsson: 6/10—good shot, beating Daniels who guessed right. Extra point given for responding well to the pressure of the moment.
  7. Dawson: 1/10—plain and simple, you must make the keeper save, at a minimum. Putting it that far wide is inexcusable, especially given how a goal would have all but sealed the victory.
  8. Akpom: 5/10—again, another decent shot but only midway between the center and the post, benefitting more from the keeper guessing wrong than from the quality of the shot.
  9. Amalfitano: 1/10—as with Dawson, one must put it on-frame. Knowing that the squads were now level, it was all the more crucial to do so.
  10. Monreal: 6/10—similarly, the shot was midway between center and post and went in because the keeper guessed wrong.
That was enough to seal it. It may not be fair or just, but we advance and will host Chelsea in the next round, set for October 29 or 30. West Brom will nurse its wounds while we savor the win. I'd like to offer up a platitude along the lines of "that's the way the ball bounces", but it might be more-true to point out that we escaped by the skin of our teeth. On to a few other individual performances...

The Squad
Ah, to be Arsène Wenger. On one hand, you're lambasted for rotating Academy players in. On the other, you're lampooned for the injuries to first-team players. The critics can't have it both ways. If Arsène plays Giroud, Ramsey, or Özil, he'll be criticized for over-playing them. When he plays Gnabry, Akpom, or Miyaichi, he's criticized for throwing in the towel. Sure, there's a middle ground, a magical fairy-tale land in which every single signing works out exactly as planned (or in which a club can simply buy any available player), but that is, after all, a fantasy. Last season, we threw on a full-strength squad against Bradford and were humiliated. On this night, we threw on a squad of second-choices, the recently-injured, and the youth of today, and it worked out (barely). Whenever you throw together a bunch of players who are unfamiliar (and far from fitness—Nicklas Bendtner, I'm looking at you...), there's bound to be some disjointedness and sloppiness. We got through despite that. On to a few players...

Nicklas Bendtner
Look, the man hadn't played competitive football for club or country since May 2013. Between the width of his waist and the breadth of his beard, his aerodynamics were understandably off. For him to have played 120 minutes of football is therefore astounding. Well, "astounding" might be overstating it, but still. He delivered an assist on our only goal of the game, a well-weighted pass, and had a few chances that he might have delivered on had he been more in-form. His spot-kick may have been his first Arsenal goal since 2011, but it came at just the right time and with the appropriate amount of celebration.

Lukas Fabiański
Mr. Flappyhandski actually turned in a decent performance despite conceding the equalizer to Berahino. By the time the keeper has to make a save, I've always maintained, ten other guys have let him down in one way or another. To criticize Fabiański for failing to save a point-blank header misses the point. Where were our center-backs, each of whom towers over Berahino, on Berahino's header? Why didn't anyone close down on Shane Long to prevent his little chip? By the time the ball was in the net, a sequence of other failures preceded Fabiański's. Otherwise, on the whole, he acquitted himself tolerably well.

Thomas Vermaelen
While it may be too early to memorize and declare lines from Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain!", it was gratifying to see Vermaelen take to the field and perform as well as he did. According to, he led the team in interceptions, shots blocked, effective clearances, and passing accuracy. In the absence of a true, in-form defensive midfielder (Arteta working back from injury and Hayden being, well, 18), Vermaelen linked defense to offense quite well and looks to be regaining the form and confidence that had abandoned him a year ago. Should this hold true, a center-back rotation of Vermaelen, Koscielny, and Mertesacker could be formidable indeed.

Long story short, we may not have deserved this win, but we got it. There's a tricky visit to Liberty Stadium to face Swansea on Saturday, and we've continued a run that has seen us win 17 of our last 20 competitive matches (including eleven in a row on the road). We may have underestimated Swansea a bit last year, but we won't do so again this year. On top of that, this is a squad that wants to win and knows how, whether it's a squeaky bum like tonight or a 3-0 over Fener. In either case, we're on a nifty little run. Enjoy it while it lasts!

28 July 2013

Who needs Suarez or Higuain when we have Chuba Akpom?

I exaggerate a bit of course, but such is my despair at missing out on Higuain and my disdain for our pursuit of Suarez that I can't resist talking up this beast, this man-child, this seventeen-year old savant on whose slender but strong shoulders the future of Arsenal (and of the Three Lions) may rest. I don't think I exaggerate when I suggest that he might be one of the most exciting young prospects to come down the Arsenal pipeline in a while. His combination of size, speed, and touch on the ball are at times breath-taking.

His potential is so vast that, I'll freely admit, just typing him up gives me goose-bumps. Check this compilation from XavierGooner14 and tell me you've not become a true-believer. The lad seems to already bring a complete package to the field, and his progress through the ranks is remarkable. To wit: he made his debut with Arsenal's U18s at 15 and frequently leads the attack for our U21s and England's U19s. He's still only 17, by the way.

Before we engage in a breathless, fanboy run-down of his qualities, here's a quick listing of some of his achievements, offered in no particular order of importance:

  • four goals in three games on the Asia Tour, including a a late game-winner vs. Urawa Red diamond.
  • six goals in seven games for England's U19s.
  • five goals in thirteen games for Englansd's U17s.
  • ten goals in ten games for Arsenal's U21 Premier League Elite Group (including braces against Man U, Spurs, and Wolverhampton).
Simply put, he has a nose for goal, and a left foot, a right foot, and a head. Such is his growing reputation that he was brought up to sit on the bench for the second leg against Olympiakos in the Champions League group stage (by which point Arsenal had qualified for the round of 16) to give him a glimpse of the first-team in action (in all fairness, the "first team" did include Squillaci and Chamakh). Seeing his fellow Academy players Jernade Meade and Martin Angha see time on the pitch must have motivated Akpom to push his game to the next level; he went on to decimate the U21 Premier League Elite Group with those aforementioned 10 goals in 10 games. Without making any direct comparisons, that's 0.01 goals per minute, compared to Luis Suarez's 0.007 goals per minute in the Premier League. Put another way, Akpom is 1.5 times better than Suarez. I kid. Suffice it to say that the U21 Elite Group is not the Prem. On the other hand, Akpom has been immersed in the Arsenal Way since 'round about the age of six.

Let's set Suarez to the side for now and focus on the emerging, exquisite beauty that is Akpom. He is huge, standing 1.83m (6') and, again, at 17, might still have a growth spurt or two left in him. Whereas my previous post on Gedion Zelalem extolled his slight frame as a virtue (as it would encourage him to develop other skills), Akpom seems already well on his way to relying on virtues other than size to achieve. As you can see from the video, he doesn't merely shoulder his way past defenders, relying on brainless brawn to create (and convert) opportunities. Instead, he seems to bring an intuitive sense of position, balance, and timing to the game, such that he seems to know just where to be and when. These are qualities that are difficult to instill, but Akpom seems to have absorbed them already. While other players have resorted to size at the expense of developing actual touch or skill, Akpom has raised his game by looking to use his head as well as his size.

Still dubious? Check his deft bit of footwork in the video at the 46-second or again at the 1:24  or again at the 2:21 mark. It's hardly Ronaldinho, but it's quicker footwork than we've seen from a center-forward in a while. It might be a while before we see him appear in the Prem, but given what he's shown, it'll be sooner rather than later that we see him at the Emirates. It's far too soon to anointing anyone, but Akpom should certainly make a few cameos in the league cup, perhaps the FA Cup, and maybe even the Champions League group stage if possible.

Whichever way you slice it, consider how delicious it would be to see Akpom shouldering aside or speeding past Terry, Vidic, or Kompany to score—he's done it again and again against other defenders. He might be a few years away from featuring, and he may not be the saviour we're looking for in the short term, but, in these uncertain times, it is reassuring and, yes, inspiring to think of him terrorizing the Prem. Keep bringing it, Chuba, and we'll be chanting your name from here to kingdom-come.

Last but not least, the 2012-13 YAMA Awards for Best Arsenal bloggers, writers, and tweeters looks set to close soon--I hope you'll consider voting for Woolwich 1886 in the "Best New Arsenal Blog" category. Thanks!