A Tale of Two Sixes: Arsenal vs. Manchester City (EPL, 9-23-2012)

September the 23rd marked my sixth year living in the Tampa Bay area and nothing could help me start that day better than a valiant display of attacking football at the Etihad.  The Blue Moon’s number 6, Joleon Lescott, scored from a thumping header in the first half, but it was our number 6, Laurent Koscielny, that made the comeback with one helluva goal (thanks in no small part to a corner earned from Cazorla’s near death shot.  Ouch!!) to deny the Citizens the win.

I’ll be brief with my words here, but the Gunners’ midfield dominance was key to all of this.  Those who predicted that last Saturday’s game would be a war between Abou Diaby and Citeh giant Yaya Toure were in for a surprise as the latter exerted absolutely no influence on the game.  Both Diaby and Arteta commanded the pitch while Ramsey had his BEST game ever, darting away and making trouble for the citizens outside the penalty area.  Gervinho continued to have the majority of the chances, and although he blew quite a few, he was instrumental for adding pressure to the opposition’s defenses.  Cazorla and Podolski continue to link up well, with the latter being the creative outlet for the team.  By miles, we were the better side going forward.

But the talk of the town right now is our defense, specifically with Per Mertesacker.  Voted Man of the Match during the game, Per made key interceptions during Citeh’s forward drives and was THE leader of the defense, while Koscielny used more of his skill to win back or take away the ball from the opposition.  Laurent almost gifted Aguero a goal after his, but thankfully, the Argentine’s shot went wide.  Mannone is beginning to prove himself as a number one and will be seen as a keen competitor for the spot soon.  Gibbs was reliable going forward and in defense, save for his error that gifted Citeh a corner, while Jenkinson continues to improve dramatically, with him being the one that began to mount more attacks in the second half.  Who would’ve thought that we could defend like this?

And let’s not take anything away from the Blue Moon.  They defended well and had great chances in the counterattack, but were unable to mount anything particularly deadly (generally) since they were unable to hold the ball for any long spell.  Overall, it was a spirited performance from Arsenal, and if it even got Jaime Redknapp, Gary Neville, and that cunt of a man Robbie Savage to actually sing praises about the Gunners, then by Jove my friends, I think we’ve done it.  Staying humble amidst all of this is a must, but it seems like the belief is there in the squad.  Chelsea is a comin’ and we’ve got Coventry to tangle with today for the League Cup, so lets keep this up gents.

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Steamrolling Southampton: Arsenal vs. Southampton F.C. (EPL, 9-15-2012)

Saturday’s game with Southampton called for the Gunners to bring a win home at the Emirates without the influence of the reinvigorated Abou Diaby, who was absolutely exceptional against Liverpool before the international break.  Regardless of that, the Gunners brought in that much deserved win, as they ran rampant across the newly promoted Saints with all the attacking prowess they could muster.

The Gunners piled on layers of attack onto the Saints and were given their first goal as Gibbs’ cross was slipped in by Hooiveld for an own goal.  The goal itself was made possible thanks to some impressive build-up between Podolski and Gibbs.  Prince Poldi made it 2-0 however, with an impressive free kick that curled in away from the top corner in top class quality.

And as noble as the Saints were in defeat, things got worse as Gervinho became the central threat on the field, where he squeezed off quite a few chances early into the first half.  However, it was Arteta’s simple throughball that got the Ivorian onto the score sheet as he dashed away carefully and smashed the ball into the net with all the confidence he could muster.  Let it be known that this blogger was thoroughly happy with that goal as it is quite clear that Gervinho has always demonstrated a great deal of skill with some below par finishes, but on that day, he proved he can finish well.

It soon became 4-0 thanks to another own goal from a Gibbs cross as the Gunners pushed yet again.  However, the Saints briefly pressed on and pulled one back as a lapse of judgement from Szczesny allowed Fox to shoot one in.  By the end of half time, the score was 4-1.

As the second half started, the Saints began to show more bite as they pressed forward more, and looked much better compared to the first half, but Arsenal continued to create the chances.  Arteta held well as the DM while Cazorla created havoc once more.  Ramsey came on as a sub and showed some brilliant stuff.  Yes, he skyed another chance, but he’s getting there, the Welshman.  Gervinho soon made a double thanks to Aaron’s pace in the box as he eluded a defender and tried to slide it into the net.  Though he was not quite there in goal, Gervinho was in place to simply tap it in.  The nails were finally set in as Walcott subbed the Ivorian and took one home as he shot a deflected attempt from Vermaelen.  Man, what a day.

The Saints fought hard, and you have to give a rousing clap for Adkins and his boys.  They were down, but kept on trying.  For them to give trouble to both Manchester clubs is something worth noting, but as Adkins himself pointed out, “We turned it over far too cheaply.”  As for Arsenal,  the Gunners are looking great domestically, and are showing fine spirit in both defense and attack.  The worry right now is whether or not they’ll run out of steam as they go toe to toe with the likes of Merc City this Sunday.  Arsenal’s win against Montpellier (which, I for one have not seen aside from a glimpse of the second half) seemed to be a tough one as the fightback in the first half was turned on its tiptoes as the French champions began to dominate the second half.  If there’s any chance for us to tap up the depth we’ve amassed, now is the time.

For now however, let’s hope the Gunners rest up, bring in some of the other boys who are itching to play (I smell Santos and Koscielny!!), rest the ones that have done well for us, pray for a Giroud hat-trick and look forward to what we can offer as we face up against the Champs.

Naika Reviews T-Square’s “WINGS” (2012)

T-Square’s new effort is nothing short of uplifting.  If the album title “Wings” doesn’t at least give you the hint of that, then you deserve yourself a whack across the head.  Joyous, uplifting and fresh, T-Square’s “Wings” is one heck of an album.

Andoh’s Heroes is a great way to start the album up, and although I was looking for something along the lines of a no-holds barred EWI power ballad like Truth or Faces, it is what it is, and that’s fine with me.  There’s a great deal of dramatic power going on with Kawano’s Flight of the Phoenix, which is simply awesome, while the fast paced fusion from tracks like Flashpacker and Fast Break keep the album energetic.  However, it’s tracks like Sympathy and Natsu no Ashioto that give the album a bit more variety and depth.  Sympathy itself is a moving seven minute track full of emotion while Natsu no Ashioto is a summer time stroll in the park which features T.K. Itoh making pleasant melodies on the flute.  That’s right, the flute.  It’s been a while since he’s done that on an album, right?

In addition to all of that, what’s not to love about the rest of the album?  The summer festivities roll on with Sunshower, along with The Bird of Wonder, while Tell Your Story has a nice slice of funk to it thanks to the much improved bass thumping of Shingo Tanaka (I wonder if he’ll ever become a full fledged member, because he’s starting to grow on me).

And let’s not forget the upbeat theme track to Japan’s Sunday Scramble TV show, Cheer Up!  Fast, funky and full of flair, this track, along with Bandoh’s Little Big Life from “Nine Stories,” really showcases Satoshi’s knack for writing some funky and fresh sounds for the group.  If there’s any song in the album that you might want to hit up first once you crack open that jewel case, I’ll put my money on Cheer Up!

As T-Square nears its 35th anniversary, it’s nice to know that year after year the gang still finds a way to get the most out of themselves to create another great album.  Like “Natural” and even “Natsu no Wakusei,” the band paints a lush summer picture with each track while giving you enough variety in terms of sound that there should be little to complain about.  Dynamic, pleasant, moving and, ultimately, uplifting, T-Square accomplishes so much with “Wings” that by the end of it all, you’ll feel as if you were soaring across the sky.

Time is EXPENDABLE!!: Naika Reviews “TIMECOP”

With The Expendables 2 raking in the moolah at the U.S. Box Office, it’s no surprise that much of it has to do with the Big Screen return of the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean Claude Van Damme.  Contrary to what others may say, JCVD hasn’t been languishing in DTV purgatory, but has instead honed himself into a much better actor than most give him credit for.  With such DVD gems like Wake of Death and In Hell, Van Damme has expanded himself from the Belgian one-liner toting kick machine with an ass into an individual who can create an atmosphere around him that can speak volumes.  Van Damme’s stunning portrayal of himself in Mabrouk El-Mechri’s JCVD should be ample proof of this.

Timecop, however, speaks no volumes of Jean Claude’s acting range, nor does it foreshadow anything that provides the Belgian with an ounce of thespian depth, but it does, however, provide this:

Yes, it provides Van Damme doing splits, one pair of naked tits and the Belgian Buttkicker the chance to plow Mia Sara like a horny Ox in a drought ridden rice field.  Forget that it’s 1994, ditch the awful futuristic stage design and revel at the fact that somebody’s doing splits in their kitchen while being assaulted by James Lew himself and you’ll see that there’s a fucking reason why this movie became a talking point on “Friends.”

However, like many of Van Damme’s other films, the plot is lacking in the plot department (which really isn’t a bad thing actually).  JCVD plays Max Walker, a poor sap of a Cop who helps to enforce time, drinks himself stupid to videos of his dead wife who got fried by an explosion in 1994 (happening shortly after her savage plugging by the likes of me, errr,…..Van Damme), and has to deal with the sarcastic villainy of Senator Aaron McComb, played to perfection by the late Ron Silver.

Marvel at how the plot thickens in Peter Hyams’ “Timecop” as Mia Sara gets shafted by something…err, thick.

The fights themselves in Timecop are short and sweet, with JCVD utilizing more stuntmen for some of his nastier falls and dives, while he takes it upon himself to kick, punch, and kick some more.  The first action scene in particular, where he faces off with his former Time Enforcement partner, features him doing the splits, walking on walls, spouting some shit about boxing and beating somebody half to death with two sticks.  However, both the aforementioned encounter and his knife fight with the almighty James Lew appeared more savage than it actually was thanks to the magic of movie editing.  In particular, Van Damme’s knife fight with Lew only features him parrying the knife of his would-be attacker by waving it up and down, with various angles of the same action spliced together to make it look dangerous.  Oh, and there’s tits here too:

With boobs, kicks, time travel, and lots of fucking explosions, who WOULDN’T be surprised that this was Van Damme’s most successful film?  Couple all of that with some solid performances from the likes of Bruce McGill and Gloria Reuben (along with Van Damme I must say, despite what I said earlier) to round out the cast and you have yourself a nice little action gem from the nineties.  With the Expendables 2 being the big return to the big screen for JCVD, it’s not a bad thing to look back at one of his most profitable films ever while sporting one of the weirdest mullets he’s had since Hard Target.  Max Walker was right.  “I’m still kicking.  I must be on Broadway.”