(picture credit: www.arsenal.com )
The official website has unveiled Arsenal’s new kit for the upcoming 2012/2013 Premier League season. More picture on the official page are available here.
It may look like a black strip running across the collar line and sleeves but it’s actually dark blue.
At first look, I’m not really impressed with the new shirt (i.e. same boring collar and plain overall design) but will reserve my proper judgment when I do see the actual kit being displayed in the store. The kit retains the classic Arsenal white sleeves and red body, so the inclusion of the navy blue sleeve portion sandwiching another white middle portion is hardly an aberration, though. I’d have preferred the red and dark blue portions of the sleeves fused together rather than allowing that bit of white in the middle. I’d like to see what the away kit looks like. So far, I’ve got the 2000/2001 season home kit and the famous Highbury blackcurrant kit which is one of the best in recent seasons and should be interested to acquire an Arsenal away kit for once.
3rd place – Champions League spot
Now, the Arsenal had gotten out of jail last weekend with their abysmal 3-3 draw with Norwich City thanks to very favourable results from the Spuds-Aston Villa game and Newcastle losing at home to Manchester City.
I’d expected the Spuds to capitalize on the Gunners’ slip-up by reclaiming 3rd spot but Aston Villa did a huge favour for their North London rivals. It’s not very healthy for a club like the Arsenal to rely on the results of other teams to secure its own future but this season had been unpredictable for those seeking the 3rd place to guarantee an automatic Champions League spot.
Having said that, it’s also not quite right to assume that the three teams (four, if you count dark horses Chelski) fighting for the coveted prize is always entitled to humble their opponents. All of the relegation-threatened clubs have their own obvious reasons for battling hard and to assume that they would allow their opponents to steamroll over them is to miss the point completely.
So, the only thing for the Arsenal to do is to win their remaining fixture against West Bromwich Albion. The 4th place occupier at the end of the season would have to sweat until after 19 May 2012 to know their fate. Either way, if the Chavs win the CL, such news won’t be greeted with enthusiasm by their London rivals – they would be the first capital club to win Europe’s biggest prize if they are to do so, having warmed up nicely with an FA Cup win over Liverpool.
Then there was also the observation that the Arsenal had failed to gained maximum points in their last four fixtures with the noticeable absence of Mikel Arteta in the team. Again, the team’s over-reliance on the performance of two key men – Robin van Persie and Mikel Arteta had been blatant. I wouldn’t say that Arteta is the complete midfielder and he was sometimes found wanting in covering the back four (as was the match against QPR which the Arsenal lost 2-1) but his ability to fuse the midfield together is a trait missing in the team right now. Rosický is seldom interested in helping out in defence and Aaron Ramsey is, well, not helping his cause at all by his pathetic performance against Norwich City. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced the flailing Ramsey, the game seemed alive and van Persie fashioned two goals from the added space available to him. It could have been Chamakh’s presence as well as the team appeared to be playing a 4-4-2 formation, but the Ox was certainly investing much more in the contest than the Welshman.
I’m not very optimistic about the team’s chances in the final game against WBA, however. The West Midlands club had always been a thorn in Arsenal’s side – Peter Odemwingie’s pace and craft was able to unlock the flimsy Arsenal defence at the Emirates in 2010. The Arsenal secured a comfortable 3-0 win against WBA earlier this season and that came without the presence of the Nigerian winger whom I feel could pose more than a danger to the team. The days when Thierry Henry and Co could sweep aside the Brum 4-0 are long gone.
Former Arsenal player, Paul Merson was also impressed with WBA’s Shane Long in their match against Bolton Wanderers in a 2-2 draw and that should give some idea to Wenger as to how his team should counter this threat.
Of all the teams fighting for 3rd spot, the Spuds appear to be in the most favourable position again, entertaining Fulham at home. Newcastle take on Everton away and appear to be out of the running but don’t discount anything yet. Even the Chavs could claim third spot if the Arsenal, Spuds and Newcastle screw up their respective matches and the Blues win all of their available games but that is rather tall order indeed.
It’s now down the wire – like the 2005/2006 season. In that season, the Arsenal escaped with another favourable result but under controversial circumstances. I’d hate to see the Gunners screwing up again, so spare us the heart attack and just win the bloody game.
I’m not one to enjoy speculating but after this game, you could probably see Robin van Persie agreeing to stay at the club with Champions League football securely in place. With exciting talent, Lukas Podolski gracing the pitch at the Emirates Stadium in the 2012/2013 season, it’s hard for RvP to resist another long stay at the club. Is Wenger finally able to come to his senses and spend the money that is necessary to reap success after this great escape? Time will only tell.
Other European teams that I support-
Valencia won 1-0 against Villareal over the weekend to cement third place in the Spanish League and confirmed their Champions League football next season with fourth-placed Malaga unable to catch ‘Los Ches’ even if the team loses to Real Sociedad this coming weekend. It proved to be another dull and colorless season for Valencia as they ended up trophyless again for another season. In fact the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona had left the chasing pack in the dust, such is the clear disparity between 2nd and 3rd places (which is also apparent in the English Premier League). At time of writing, Valencia trails Barcelona by a massive 29 points. Not sure whether to read too deep into such statistics but this also means that the La Liga is in danger of becoming another Scottish Premier League of the past decade or so. Note that with Glasgow Rangers facing potential administration, the only giant is now Celtic and even then, the other Scottish clubs have been slowly chipping away at the superiority once enjoyed by the rivaling Glaswegian clubs.
In Holland, PSV Eindhoven won their last game against Excelsior Rotterdam 3-1 to secure five wins in a row but ultimately proved to be in vain as Feyenoord edged SC Heerenveen 3-2 to claim the Champions League qualification spot afforded to Dutch clubs. Finishing third for a third consecutive time in a row, this season’s Eredivisie standings saw the top three powerhouses in Dutch football claim all three top spots as well – Ajax winning the Dutch championships and Feyenoord finishing second and entering into the Champions League third round qualifying stage. For PSV, their financial restructuring had allowed the club to purchase influential players like Kevin Strootman, Dries Mertens, Georginio Wijnaldum and also Slovenian striker Tim Matavž but the Boeren were aiming for Champions League football and its lucrative prize money from TV rights and definitely not the Europa League. To say that I now begin to fear for PSV again is an understatement especially that the club may be persuaded to move on Ola Toivonen or Erik Pieters or even any other star players of the team. This never-ending process of rebuilding is obviously detrimental to the club. Of course, I’m not saying that PSV would definitely qualify for the Champions League had they finished in 2nd spot in the Eredivisie but by the time the qualification matches do commence, they would have been able to acquire the right players to do the job or sell off some of them who wants to move on to greener pastures. As for their seasonal report, PSV had played in rather fickle form throughout – I’ve watched some of their Eredivisie and Europa League games on Malaysian television and wasn’t impressed. There is plenty of rebuilding to do at PSV, but not with Phillip Cocu at the helm – Dick Advocaat had verbally agreed a deal to manage the team for one season after his Russian tenure ends.
Over in Germany, Bayer Leverkusen placed 5th and missed out on Champions League football for next season. Sami Hyypiä took over from Robin Dutt on 1 April 2012 and presided over 4 wins and 2 draws until the end of the season which was not a bad way to end a rather lacklustre campaign. Leverkusen also had a season to forget in a hurry: losing 10-2 on aggregate in the Champions League 1st knockout stage to FC Barcelona which alludes to another similar 10-2 aggregate trashing which Olympique Lyonnais handed to another German club, Werder Bremen in 2005. Robin Dutt was even seen to be congratulating Pep Guardiola already when Bayer scored a very late consolation goal.