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Well that was unexpected!

The 3rd round of the FA Cup was fairly routine, in which most of the big teams sailed through, and very little fairy dust sprinkled over for the back pages. The 4th round draw looked straight-forward on paper, but suddenly, the FA Cup has roared back into life!

The stand out result, and probably one of the biggest upsets of all, in the history of the FA Cup, was the 2nd half capitulation of Premier League leaders Chelsea. After going 2-0 up against League 1 Bradford City, a rout looked to be incoming. But a goal from John Stead just before half time did make things slightly interesting. No one would have foreseen what the second half was to have in store, 3 goals from Bradford without response stunned Stamford Bridge, even the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas were thrown on to save the tie. Bradford made a memorable run to the League Cup final a few years ago, taking out Arsenal on route. But beating the current league leaders, away from home, from 2-0 down will surely go down in Bradford City lore!

That was not the only major shock of the day, as Bradford scored their 4th goal at Chelsea, virtually at the same time, Middlesbrough were scoring their second goal, and dumping the Premier League champions out of the competition.  Middlesbrough currently languishing in mid-table in the Championship would not have been given a chance away at the Champions of England. But following their defeat to Arsenal last week, its now 2 losses in a row at the Etihad for Pellegrini.  The void of Yaya Toure looks to be getting more serious as time goes by.  Take nothing away from Middlesbrough, who deserved their win, and spurned several other chances to add further misery to City.

The tone for the day was set up in the early game of the day. Swansea were at Championship Blackburn. Two reds cards for the Swans saw them collapse to a 3-1 defeat at Ewood Park, having had to play most of the match with 10 men. High flying Southampton were given a shock after losing 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace, after taking the lead twice. Tottenham also managed to lose at home, a last minute winner for Leicester taking them through at the expense of Spurs.

Manchester United have been taken to a replay after failing to score past a resilient Cambridge side, and Liverpool will be taken the distance with another 90 minutes at Bolton. With Arsenal still yet to play, it could be a dark weekend for the big boys of the Premier League!

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Arsenal Finally Deliver

6-3 was the result last season at the Etihad between City and Arsenal. A foolish Arsenal side were ruthlessly taken apart by Yaya Toure & Co. in the start of a sequence of away day collapses at their major rivals.  Manchester itself has not been kind to the Gunners. Their last 7 visits in the league to the city had resulted in 6 defeats and 1 draw (including the infamous 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford). The big game mentality of Arsenal was once again under the spotlight this Sunday, and many were expecting another familiar tale of ‘Same old Arsenal’.

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1 point from 21……..

Though what we got was a major surprise, not just to Arsenal fans, but to most neutral fans as well! Taking a note from the Jose Mourinho game plan, Arsenal played with extreme discipline, reducing City to very little clear cut chances, and stealing two goals on set pieces. This was a performance that many thought Arsenal could not pull off, especially under the guidance of Arsene Wenger. Last season, the North London squad were regularly exposed, getting hit on the counter time after time, and generally falling apart before the half time bell! Manchester City may have been missing their star man , Yaya Toure away on International Duty in Africa. But the returning Sergio Aguero, and the magical David Silva were always going to pose a serious threat if left unattended. It seems that the penny has finally dropped, the game was billed as Alexis v Aguero, but it was a collective team performance by Arsenal that stood put. Man for man, every squad player in the 11 played their part.

Alexis Sanchez has been the saviour for Arsenal this season, but it was the other maestro, Santi Cazorla that stole the show. making runs and dribbles the Chilean has been associated with. Monreal, much maligned by his own fans, had an excellent game, winning the penalty, and putting in a real shift. Young Bellarin on the opposite side did not look overawed by the occasion either. The entire defence played as a unit, reducing the champions to having little look at taking the lead. There was no breaking runs from midfield, no wide gaps left to counter in. With the pace of Alexis and Chamberlain up top, Arsenal could afford to give up possession and play on the counter. As Arsenal went in at half time with a deserved lead, surely City would pile on the pressure, Arsenal could not surely last the 90 minutes with a clean sheet?

That was the case for the opening 10 minutes of so, City came out firing, but the goal just would not come, and on 70 minutes, a cheap free kick given away by Jovetic lead to the cherry on the cake. Its usually Arsenal going to sleep on set pieces, but  this time, it was the Champions not paying attention. Some slack marking lead to Giroud heading home the second. if he had not got there, the onrushing Koscielny would have surely put it away. Even with 20 minutes left, Arsenal fans never breathe easy, a quick response from City could have seen a typical Arsenal collapse. City tried to pull it back, as Chelsea appeared to pull out a possible 5 point lead over them before the FA Cup break. It never came, Arsenal had only 35% possession, the lowest since stats were collected some 10 years ago! Francis Coquelin, playing for Charlton a few months ago put in an excellent shielding performance,providing protection to that back 4, and making sure Silva never got away.

So Arsenal finally get that much valued ‘W’ at a Top 4 club, this has shown that Arsenal can play with a Plan B, when taking on a superior team head on would not be the wisest of options. But this cannot be a one off, the club must make this a regular occurrence if they are to be taken seriously any time soon. White Hart Lane and Old Trafford still remain, if they take 6 points from those 2, a change in tide may be closer than we may have thought.

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The Asian Cup 2015

Many Premier League fans will be aware of the African Cup of Nations,taking place later this month. Though another tournament has slipped under the radar for most people, the Asian Cup, which has just kicked off in Australia. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tournament is of course no where near as successful as the European Championships (UEFA) or the Copa América (CONMEBOL), but let take an opportunity to have a look at the little known Asian party.

This marks the 16th edition of the tournament, to be held across 5 cities in Australia. The last one being held in 2011, which was won by Japan. Japan are also historically the most successful nation in the tournament, winning the competition on 4 occasions. Iran and Saudi Arabia have won it 3 times, with South Korea on 2 wins. One of the most memorable moments for the competition (and probably sport in general!) would have been the 2007 edition held across 4 nations in South East Asia, Iraq, managed to shock everyone with a magical run to the final, with their captain Younis Mahmoud netting the winner.

Looking forward to Australia, the favourites for this would probably be from a pick of 4. The home nation Australia, will see this as a great chance for them to take the crown, in only their second appearance in the tournament. Having only entered the AFC in 2007, they were runners up last time against Japan, having come so close, they will want to go one step further. Including the likes of Tim Cahill and Miles Jedinak, and the passionate roar of the home fans, they could go all the way!

Japan and South Korea with 6 titles between them, always have a strong show at the Asian Cup, and they will not be far from the final regardless of their final finish, Ki Sung-Yueng of Swansea captains South Korea, Lee Chung-Yong (who many will recall from his time at Bolton) will feature, and Son Heung-Min of Leverkusen, who has attracted many with his performances in the German league. Japan will look to the likes of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa to power them to title number 5.

Iran are the highest ranked team in the tournament, and preformed valiantly at the last world cup. Although they didn’t win a game, they drew to Nigeria, and almost forced giants Argentina to a famous draw, before an injury time winner from Messi broke their hearts, it was a game in which Iran in fact spurned several chances to take the lead. Iran have the most recognisable manager, Carlos Queiroz, of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Portugal fame. Their last win was in 1976.

Among the others involved, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq,UEA and Palestine represent the Middle East with a strong contingent. Palestine making their debut in the tournament, with the tragic situation occurring in Palestine  during the last year, they will want to bring some joy to their people, like Iraq did in 2007. North Korea, China and Uzbekistan make up the rest of the numbers.

The final will be held in Sydney on the 31st of January, to crown the next Champion of Asia, and hopefully, it will increase its profile tot he rest of the watching world!

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No Fairy Tales for the FA Cup

The 3rd Round of the FA Cup is much hyped by many in sport as one of the great weekends (in this case, 5 day weekend!) in the English sporting calender. The magical moments in which a lower league team can take on the giants and win! As nice as that would have been for the romantics, it was a pretty straight forward weekend, with barely as major scalps of note.

Non League were represented well, but non managed to overcome their respective hurdles. Blyth Spartans were on course for a huge upset at the half time interval against Birmingham City of the Championship. A quick fire double before the break taking the underdogs in front. It didn’t last long, as Birmingham City took control, 3 goal in the opening 15 minutes turning the game on its head. Gateshead were dismantled clinically by West Brom, a thumping 7-0 win, with Berahino netting 4 for himself. Southport, probably had the harshest result. Almost taking Derby County to a replay. Only an injury time penalty rescued the Championship side from any embarrassment. Stoke were given a close shave, after recovering from a goal down late on to limp past Wrexham. Alan Pardew’s first goal for new club Crystal Palace got off to an easy start, with a comfortable 4-0 win away to Dover. No real shock was produced throughout the weekend of games. AFC WImbledon had one of the ties of the round, with a home game against Liverpool. Though they managed to bring themselves back into the game at 1-1. a Gerrard free kick proved to be enough to see the Red through.

Most of the Premier League clubs managed to avoid an early elimination from the competition. All the top dogs got by. Holders Arsenal held off Hull in their Cup Final rematch. Manchester United and City are into the 4th round. Chelsea and Liverpool also find themselves with a spot in the 4th round draw. The only Premier League sides to get eliminated were Newcastle (vs Leicester City), and QPR. The West London team were frankly abysmal, losing 3-0 to League 1 side Sheffield United at home. Which was probably the biggest shock of the week.

There were no major upsets, or noticeable eliminations in this round of fixtures. Not the best of results for the broadcasters, who where have loved a huge result after a week of hype. The big boys have been kept apart in the draw for the 4th round as well, so we may be looking at a familiar weekend of games next time around too!

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Premier League : Mid Year Review (Part 2!)

After looking over the top half, here’s a quick run-down through the bottom half of the table at the half way point!

Stoke – 11th

7 wins, 8 losses, it’s the kind of form many would expect from Stoke. Who have been safe in mid table for a number of years.  Though they have changed their style of play since the days of Tony Pulis, the overall position of the team has not changed much. The acquisition of Bojan from Barcelona has typified the ‘new’ Stoke. Big wins against City and Arsenal have seen them achieve some promising results. Though they still seem to suffer from not being able to hype themselves up for the ‘lesser’ games.

Everton – 12th

Disappointing. That sums up Everton’s season so far, after pushing Arsenal so close last season, with a new brand of powerful, attacking football. The team has simply failed to find the same form. Lukaku was signed after a bright season on loan from Chelsea for huge money, and the likes of Gareth Barry sealed a long term deal after his successful loan spell. The team have already lost 8 games, and have a negative goal difference, an world away from their stunning start last year. Any more losses, and it could be the end for Martinez.

Aston Villa – 13th

After an initial bright start, it quickly went sour for Villa. A shocking 6 game losing streak, including a 5 game run without scoring a single goal. The Midlands club found themselves loitering near the relegation zone for some time. Although they had arrested that poor run with a goalless draw to West Ham. The team has only managed 2 wins in all of November and December. Which has left them rooted in 13th. They will have to find their winning ways soon if they want a top half finish.

Sunderland – 14th

It was the Great Escape for the Black Cats last season, managing to beat the trap door with a surging finish to last season. Drawing games seen to be their biggest problem, already recording 11. Its not a defeat, but they will want to turn more of those draws into wins, if they want to avoid last seasons drama. A late winner against rivals Newcastle has so far been the highlight of a moderate season so far.

QPR – 15th

Jekyll & Hyde could be used to describe the season so far for QPR. All 5 of their wins have come at Loftus Road, and the team look capable of surviving this season. It’s a different case away from home. Having lost every single away game they have played. If it wasn’t for the heroics of star striker Charlie Austin, the Hoops could have found themselves in the bottom 3 this Christmas. Their abysmal away record must improve in 2015. It is vital that they hold onto Austin during the January transfer window.

WBA – 16th

Alan Irvine became the second manager to get the sack this season, not many would have thought only 2 managers would have lost their jobs by 2015 in the harsh world of the Premier League. The position of 16th pretty much represents what kind of season they are having, and what many usually expect from WBA. Just doing enough to keep they toes away from the bottom 3. 7 losses from their last 9 games has proven to be the last straw. Tony Pulis has since been appointed to change their trajectory in the new year.

Hull – 17th

Hull stumbled over the line last season, ending up 16th. Only their magic run to the FA Cup final masked their somewhat average form in the league at the time. This season, only 1 win in their last 12 games has seen them end up right on the edge. Although they had a Europa League position for losing the FA Cup final, they were knocked out early in qualifying, so not much of that can be attributed to their sub-par performances. Relegation is a real threat to the Tigers, unless they get a move on!

Crystal Palace – 18th

The Eagles were rejuvenated last season, under the leadership of Tony Pulis, but his departure just days from the start of the season laid the poor foundations for their season. In came Neil Warnock, but gone was the strong, resolute palace from last season. Only 3 wins all season has seen them drop into the trap door. The team is in limbo right now, Warnock has been sacked, and it is not yet known who will replace him. A lot will depend on the new man coming in.

Burnley – 19th

Many fans would have said Burnley would find themselves at the bottom come 2015. The smallest team in the league, with the smallest budget. It was a horrid start to the season, not winning a match until November. But back to back wins saw the team put together a 4 game undefeated streak, which has helped the team grow in confidence and stature. Manager Sean Dyche getting paid back for his belief in his team. The team may indeed go down come May, but an enthralling comeback at Man City from 2 goals down will give the fans much to believe in!

Leicester City – 20th

The Foxes have the unwanted honour of being bottom of the pile as we enter 2015. It all started well enough, taking points off Everton and Arsenal. Capped off by the game of the season so far, the 5-3 victory against Manchester United. Thought the honeymoon period was over soon. Since the United game, they went on an appealing run of 11 defeats and 2 draws. Only managing to finally win a game in the last match of the season against Hull City. Unless results improve, manager Nigel Pearson will be shown the door, and the Foxes back in the Championship.

 

2014 in review!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Premier League : Mid Year Review (Part 1)

As 2014 comes to an end, 19 matches have been played so far, which marks the half way point of the season. This makes it a great opportunity to assess how all 20 teams have done so far this season.

Chelsea – 1st (A+)

Top of the class, only one defeat all season. It has been an excellent season so far for Jose Mourinho, his summer blockbuster signings in Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have fired on all cylinders, with the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Matic and Courtois all playing their part. Only City look like stopping them to another title. Rightfully on top right now.

Man City – 2nd (B-)

City will be satisfied to be within striking distance of the leaders, but they had an underwhelming start to the season by their standards, losing 2 games by October. But a brilliant 7 game winning streak has taken them right back into contention. Though their over-reliance on the injury prone, but brilliant Sergio Aguero has been well demonstrated. Injuries have led to the likes of Milner being played up front. With Yaya Toure off for the African Cup of Nations, Man City will have to step up if they are to take that title away from Stamford Bridge.

Manchester United – 3rd (B)

The Van Gaal era did not get off to the best of starts. An opening day defeat, followed by 2 draws, and that stunning defeat at Leicester, where they contrived to lose a 3-1 lead in the second half to lose 5-3. Finding themselves down in 12th. But since then, the team have clicked well, and a run of 7 wins has taken them 3rd.  Including big wins against rivals Arsenal and Liverpool. The title will be a long shot, but fans will be happy just to be in a top 4 spot.

Southampton – 4th (A)

After a miserable summer, almost losing half their starting 11 to rival teams, it seemed like Southampton would be favourites to make the drop down to the Championship. But Ronald Koeman made some great signings in the likes of Tadic and Pelle. A blistering start to the season had many sceptics saying it wouldn’t last, but to their credit, with the new year around the corner, the team still finds itself in the top 4, even if its only by goal difference.

 Arsenal – 5th (D+)

Its been a stuttering season for the Gunners, after a summer of good transfers, and not losing any key players for once, it would have seemed a title challenge would be ominous after running close last season. But injuries and poor performances have left the Arsenal floundering at times. 4 defeats already, and several defensive implosions have left question marks over the team, only the sensational Alexis Sanchez has saved Arsenal further any blushes. Much improvement will be required over the second half of the season.

West Ham United – 6th (B+)

For the Hammers, its been a season of change. After the difficulties of last season, the teams dynamic has changed hugely. With the addition of the likes of Enner Valencia,  Alex Song & Diafra Sakho, the team has been able to play a more attacking fluid game, rather than the long ball tactics they were associated with for the last few years. They find themselves well placed in the top 6, and will want to move into 2015 with the same form, and maybe even secure a top 8 finish.

Tottenham Hotspurs – 7th (C)

Their home form has been surprisingly poor, Tottenham are usually on good form at White Hart Lane, but the home fans have already seen 4 defeats, whereas the defeats to City and Chelsea were expected. Christian Erikson has been the shining light, saving Spurs on several occasions already this season, especially with winners against Swansea, Hull and Leicester. With only 2 points separating them from the Top 4 positions, the team still have a chance if they can string together a run of results.

Liverpool FC – 8th (D-)

The sale of Luis Suarez was expected to impact the performance of Liverpool, but with a host of new faces coming in, it was hoped Liverpool could kick on from last seasons near miss. The team has already lost more games this season, than the entire of last season. They have also been knocked out of the Champions League after fighting so hard to get back into it. The title is a long, long shot, Top 4 is still a reasonable target, but they are leaving themselves with very little margin for mistake.

Swansea City – 9th (C)

9th is where most would expect a team like Swansea, a mid table team in mid table. The Swans though have been among the top 8 throughout the season, Gary Monk still doing a decent job. They also crashed the welcome party, winning at Old Trafford in Van Gaal’s first game. A huge win against Arsenal, coming from a goal down was also another great result for them. Not much has been expected of the team, they should be safe from the relegation scrap. They will aim for a lucrative Europa League position come May.

Newcastle United FC – 10th (C+)

Its been a tumultuous season so far for Alan Pardew,  a horrible start left them with 4 points from the first 7 games, not recording a single win. The pressure from the fans on the manager and the team was immense. It soon turned around, with an amazing 5 game winning run, including a stunning victory against Chelsea, who had at the time, been undefeated in the league so far.  Since then, results have dropped back to the early season form. New signing Ayoze Perez though, may prove to be the bargain of the season. A mid table finish will be the target, but who knows what will happen, as it appears the manager may soon be departing.

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Going Nowhere Fast…

When Arsenal travelled to Anfield last season, the Gunners were top of the league, and Liverpool were building up some great momentum in their title charge. Just a few months down the road, both teams are already pretty much out of the title race before we’ve had a chance to welcome in 2015! This game summed up the kind of season both teams are having, Liverpool not taking their chances and weak at the back. Arsenal with their questionable big game mentality and shocking defence.

Liverpool were simply sensational in this fixture last season, blowing away the league leaders in a blistering opening 20 minutes, going 4-0 up. The Reds have found themselves foundering in mid table after a disappointing opening half to the season. Already recording 7 defeats this season. To put that in perspective, they only lost 6 games in the whole of last season. Although they lost prize asset Luis Suarez, they got a good deal, but the money that was reinvested in the squad has failed to make any real improvement. Although a near £100m was spent, without the injured Daniel Sturridge, they seem to not have found a viable replacement. The Arsenal game once again showed their lack of cutting edge. Just as in their last game against Manchester United, although dominating the shots on goal, their return was minimal. 27 shots were made on the Arsenal goal, and only a last minute set piece rescued a deserved point. The team still remains well in terms of movement & possession, but without the clinical Suarez or Strurridge up front, they remain all show, no bite. Mario Balotelli has so far proved to be ineffective, Borini has been frozen out, and Lambert has just not made the cut .The leaking defence is also another area of great concern, last season, the sensational attack covered up the big holes in their defence. But this year, with the attack misfiring, the defence has received much more negative exposure.

Arsenal on the other hand are in a slightly better position, but that will not give them much to be cheerful about, lingering in 6th, behind the likes of West Ham and Southampton would not have been the ideal position for Arsenal fans going into Christmas. Injuries as usual have already decimated their season, and the game at Anfield once again poured scolding water over their suspect defence. Calum Chambers has been played far more than expected at such a young age, and Debuchy, who has just returned from a long injury spell, has been forced into centre back. Per Mertesacker has been underwhelming all season, the constant changing of defensive partners may not help, but some recent preferences have been horribly frail. The late Liverpool equaliser was a film roll of comical errors, considering they had a man advantage. If this team are to get any where near the Top 4, the defence has to be dramatically improved over January. Arsenal only managed 3 shots on goal, although they did score from 2 of those, the team never once looked to be on top of things. Alexis Sanchez looks to be running on fumes, Chamberlain was clearly rushed back from injury to play, Welbeck looked utterly anonymous. Unless the injuries dry up, and some huge investment is made soon, they may find themselves in the abyss with Liverpool come May.

With January coming up, it already looks like it will simply be a race for 4th for these two, and with United looking like they have finally got themselves back on their feet, it may come down to a fight between the 2 for that last slot.

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Thierry Henry; Scorer of Sublime Goals

Thierry Henry enthralled many Gunners fans during his peak in the early 2000s for the red half of North London, as an Arsenal fan myself, he will always be synonymous with the Wenger glory days at Highbury along with the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira. Most fans are aware of some of his most famous goals, the sublime volley against Manchester United, THAT run versus Tottenham Hotspurs, and the wonderful solo efforts against Real Madrid & Liverpool. But it was the sheer array of goals that he scored that even got fans of rival teams standing up to applaud. With the new of his retirement from the game, here is a look at some of the variety of efforts he put away with relative ease.

The Pirouette

Games against Chelsea were always a big deal, and this FA Cup tie in 2003 ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw. But it was Henry’s goal to put Arsenal in front on the stroke of half time that stood out. After breaking the offside trap and being put clean through on goal. Henry decided to nonchalantly spin around the ball, rather then simply go for goal, totally confusing the onrushing Cudicini, and roll the ball into the empty net. It still stands out to me now, as I cant recall many goals since scored in this casual manner.

The Backheel

During the 2003/2004 seasons, Highbury was a fortress, and many teams would suffer convincing defeats. A routine 4-0 win at home to Charlton in 2004 had one particular gem from Henry. Receiving the ball on the edge of the 6 yard box, with his back to goal. and the close attention of the Charlton defender, the straight-forward option would have been to pass the ball to a better placed team mate, but Henry has the audacity to hit a backheel shot into the opposite corner of the goal. No one in opposition defence saw it coming, and I doubt nor did any of the fans watching.

The Piledriver

While the previous two goals above were about the delicate touches, this goal was pure power. Picking up the ball in the usual left hand side, the Frenchman strode towards the edge of the penalty box before launching an unstoppable thunderbolt into the top corner. Shots hit like that, just don’t get saved, and the celebration that followed just showed what he thought of his goal.

The Finesse 

Preseason friendlies don’t usually get much coverage, and not many fans outside their own clubs preseason will really be aware of what other teams may get up to. During Arsenal’s 2005 summer build up, Henry scored probably one of best goals no one has seen! Though the opposition in S.C Weiz (of Austria) were not the most challenging, it still cant take away from the sheer beauty of this strike.  In 3 simple touches, controlling the high pass from the back, flicking it over defender, and finishing with the most delicate of volleys.

The Clutch Shot

One of Henry’s great abilities was to deliver when it mattered the most, taking the one chance that comes your way. To borrow a term from NBA, being a ‘clutch’ player. One fine example of this was in the closing weeks 2005/06 season, Arsenal found themselves in a huge tussle with North London rivals for that 4th European spot. Finding themselves a goal down with 10 minutes to go, the Gunners needed a goal to put them back in the hunt for Europe. With the pressure on from the nervous home fans, Henry delivered. After some neat play on the wing for Adebayor, Henry made a smart run. Picking up the pass in one touch, then finishing with precision instantly with the second touch. A big goal in the context of their season!

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Gunners Relieved, Deja Vu for Chelsea & CIty

The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League was bound to throw up some tantalising ties, and it did not disappoint. With the English clubs having mixed  bag of fortunes on their fate.

Arsenal will be sighing with relief after avoiding one of the European heavyweights. After finishing 2nd in their group, the 3-0 capitulation against Anderlecht looked like it would be very costly, a possible draw with Bayern Munich for a third consecutive season was very much on the cards. But that was not the case, the Gunners were drawn with Arsene Wenger’s former club AS Monaco, who surprising topped their group. Monaco may have only scored 4 goals, but their resilient defence more than made up for their lack of attacking threat.  On paper, either Monaco or Porto would have been the best case scenario, and that is what they got. Monaco will be a challenging tie, but the Gunners will be looking to make the final 8 for the first time in several years.

For the current league leaders, Chelsea once again face PSG. The two teams played out an enthralling quarter final tie last season. Where a late Demba Ba goal in the second leg at Stamford Bridge took the Blues through 3-3 on away goals. Once again, the two teams must once again face off, and it will for sure be another cracker. PSG will be looking for revenge, after failing to overcome Chelsea in the dying minutes last season. The French champions beat Barcelona earlier in the groups stages, and will want to see a similar level of performance here. Chelsea though look the more complete team, and with the advantage of playing the 2nd leg at home, Chelsea should be the slight favourites to edge this tie.

As with Chelsea, its the same again for current Premier League champions Manchester City. This time last season they were drawn to Barcelona at this stage, and lightning strikes twice, with another visit to the Camp Nou beckoning in 2015. Standing out as probably the tie of the round, City will want to make up for their failings here last season. Losing 4-2 in aggregate to the Catalans last time around. Manchester CIty have finally hit what you could say is something like their best form, clawing their way back into the title race, and looking like their usual self. But if they are to finally progress deep into the Champions League, they will have to start showing more of what they displayed in Rome in their final group match. With Barcelona’s devastating triforce of Messi, Neymar and Suarez.. City will have to be at their very best if they want a place in the final 8.

Among the other ties, defending champions Real Madrid will entertain Schalke, Dortmund will play Juventus, a tie which will actually make Arsenal fans somewhat delighted they actually avoided finishing top of their group. La Liga champions Atletico Madrid will host Bayer Leverkusen, and Bavarian giants Bayern Munich will take on the challenge of Shakhtar.