One Nil to The Arsenal

October 31, 2010

League positions usually go out of the window when there is a local derby, and West Ham who had fared quite well against us in recent years came with the obvious intention of not losing. Expectations were high amongst the home supporters after seemingly scoring for fun whoever we played in the last few weeks,yet it soon became apparent this was going to be in the main an all out attack against a resilient defence. I don’t think I am being too harsh in saying that this wasn’t one of our most fluent performances as unusually Cesc and co weren’t on top of their game yet others who had been criticised lately, mainly Clichy and Sagna both had outstanding games. Koscienly is performing better with every game and his partnership with Squillaci looked solid. Fabianski had little to do, but he is reborn,oozing confidence and commanded his area well. Long may that continue.

Arshavin is just totally out of form and should have been substituted earlier and Denilson didn’t have the best of games. Chamakh is only human, and he too found it difficult to impose himself.

Nevertheless as the game progressed Nasri started to control the game and the surge continued, and he blasted a free kick from a full 35 yards which hit the crossbar. Song,who obviously enjoys his role as an attacking/defending centre back or is it midfielder kept moving forward more and more. Eventually Walcott was introduced and within minutes was unfortunate not to score, hitting the angle of the post which rebounded to the excellent Green. Green made several other outstanding saves, primarily from Fabregas and Walcott and many watching felt resigned to us drawing against our East London neighbours.

Everyone was on edge and the clock was ticking down, when Clichy cut inside from the left flank and sent in a curling ball and there was our unsung hero  Song to head the ball into the net.That is three goals in three games for the much maligned Alex.

The final minutes were a master class of possession by the lads and as the final whistle blew there were smiles all round and a huge sigh of relief.

1-0 to The Arsenal :)

Player ratings courtesy of RockyLives:

Fabianski: Not a lot to do, but when he had to do it he was composed and sure. His confidence is growing visibly and there was a wonderful moment when he was literally dragging Cesc onto position in the box as we defended a free kick or corner. (I gave him an extra half mark for that). 7.5

Sagna: some misplaced passes in the final third but excellent defensively. 7

Koscielny: didn’t put a foot wrong. His tackling and positional play were first rate and he’s brilliant at staying on his feet and steering opponents away from danger without diving in. MoTM: 8

Squillaci: another good game for The Squid, who is forming a solid partnership with Kozzer. He made some strong tackles when needed, always looks calm and is a threat in the opposition’s box from set pieces. 7

Clichy: comes in for a lot of stick for his positional play but he was good today (partly helped by West Ham’s lack of ambition). And a rare assist for the vital goal. 7

Song: worked his socks off playing box to box and scored the late winner. West Ham’s lack of threat in attack meant you never felt too worried about any potential holes he was leaving. Got his customary first-half yellow for diving in in a non-crucial area. 7.5

Denilson: Tidy, if unspectacular. Nevertheless with Song charging forward his conservative positioning was important. 6.5

Fabregas: Not one of his better games. His touch was off and he misplaced a third of his passes, which is very uncharacteristic. On the plus side he kept trying to make things happen and had a couple of attempts on goal. 6

Arshavin: what’s happened to the player who single-handedly destroyed Liverpool? Nothing worked for him and it was painful to watch at times. Sadly the time has come to take him out of the spotlight for a few games. 4

Nasri: not as influential as he has been in other recent games (partly because Cesc and Arsh were misfiring, so our rhythm was never properly established). But he still did well and was driving us forward at the end. 7

Chamakh: some have criticised him for yesterday’s performance but in truth he was a victim of our general lack of fluidity and West Ham’s packed defence. It’s not as if he missed a hatful of sitters, it’s just that he couldn’t get in the game. 6.5

Subs

Walcott: continued his good recent form and was unlucky not to score. 7

Bendtner: didn’t have time to make much of an impact but definitely added to our threat as we chased the winner. 7

Eboue: a typical Eboue cameo: 6


The Academy in Free Fall

October 30, 2010

Written by Big Raddy

West Ham United at home. I love this fixture, a love going back to the ‘60’s when the East Enders brought a frisson of passion and violence both on and off the pitch.

West Ham. Take a moment, what do they mean to you? To me, the name evokes a different era – The Academy, The Famous Three, The Chicken Run, Ron Greenwood, The Inner City Firm (hooligans), I’m forever Blowing Bubbles, Trevor Brooking’s header in the 1980 FA Cup Final. And my mate Fat Bob, who has endured 40 years of hurt.

The current Hammers are in trouble; no money, a poor team held together by the excellent Scott Parker, and a likeable but hands-tied  manager. I fully expect them to be relegated this season in the wake of the financial meltdown of the club. No money means a poor squad, and the young talent developed in the Academy has yet to have an impact upon the team. “And like my dreams they fade and die” ….. because this afternoon we will assist in West Ham’s decent towards the Championship

We go into the game on a fine run of form. Clean sheets, loads of goals from a variety of scorers, playing superb football and yet with that traditional Arsenal fragility that has you biting your nails until we get at least a 2 goal cushion. And (whisper it) we have a goalkeeper in form. – make that 2 goalkeepers in form. Chesney was superb at Newcastle and staked his claim, but Fabiansky has been very solid and finally deserves his starting place. Could Almunia have played his last game for us? I doubt it, AW is a very loyal man and Almunia, despite being in my opinion a poor GK, has done little wrong this season (little, not nothing !!)

No Jack today. Nor the unlucky Gibbs. It is a hard team to pick. With the return of Koscielny, will JD return to the bench or the older Squillaci? And who will play upfront? Two goals in two games for Bendtner, Theo looking very dangerous and confident after his brace at Toon, Chamakh consistently scoring. It is difficult to imagine all 3 starting, thoough AW will have a good idea as to whether NB can play with Chamakh. Could Chamakh play left side and NB in the middle with Theo on the right? And what happens when RvP returns?

In midfield despite no Jack, we are so strong. Denilson has played very well in his last two appearances and is pushing for a starting place. I expect Rosicky to get a rest after Weds, and Arshavin to start following his rest.

My team:

We have an embarrassment of riches :-)

Barak Obama is a confirmed West Ham fan (wiki) having been a supporter since 2003. And according to the Daily Mirror, so is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.  Not sure how many games they go to !

This is another must-win game for us. We cannot afford to drop points at home against relegation fodder.

COYRRG


It’s like George Graham never existed

October 29, 2010

In the light of all the positivity following two excellent performances, 7 goals scored and none conceded, it would seem odd to publish this article submitted by Carlito 11, but I think it serves to show how quickly things can change in football. The piece was written after two pretty poor performances and our customary loss to chelski. We are on a high now and everyone is fired with optimism and expectation – but the concerns aired will inevitably be just below the surface waiting to be voiced again should we fail to land a trophy this season……

Written by Carlito 11

I used to be in love with all things new, but especially our team as it got ever more exciting and first signed, then developed ever more exciting players. But I am rapidly becoming a nostalgist when I think about the development of our beloved Arsenal.

A lot has been said on here of late about the lack of a tough mentality and strong defensive tactics at the back. Can it be true that the manager has forgotten what those winning teams consisted of?

I believe that this cannot be the case in such a thoughtful man, and that AW has been influenced by a desire to win the Champions league in getting ever faster, more skilful players with more flexibility and eschewing defensive shape and rigour for a free flowing “total-footballesque” way of playing. It’s all a bit like Chelski before Mourinho turned up, or (and this is my point) like an Arsenal who had never had George Graham as a manager.

We play brilliantly against the big boys and then get turned over by lower mid-table teams. We lack defensive co-ordination, and God knows, we can’t defend a one-nil lead! Now I’m not advocating a return to 442 long-ball football, but the gk, back four and central midfield need to return to the impenetrable shield that won us the League in 91 (just 18 against all season) or the Cup Winners Cup in ’94 (repelling wave after wave of attack in both the semi and the final). With that kind of solidity and attitude- the ability to suck up pressure and bring teams on to us- we have the players to counter-attack with precision, just as we have always had during the Wenger reign.

But it’s not only positioning and how the teams line up, it’s also attitude and mental strength. AW is rightly credited with revolutionising the game with his training regime, players’ diets and emphasis on sports psychology- but it seems that his emphasis on players’ mental strengths has actually produced a pretty fragile crop who can’t be subbed off when underperforming lest it damage their confidence. Where are the Ian Wrights or Paul Mersons of this team who would be so angry at being subbed off they’d play an absolute blinder in the next match to prove the manager wrong?

So, to my mind, when Wenger came in he liberated the attack whilst the defence (mainly) took care of itself. Now we need a manager to bring back the discipline in defence (we have the personnel except gk) and the attack can take care of itself. I never believed I’d write such a seditious blog so, in mitigation, I hope that manager can be Arsène!


Wenger’s U-Turn? Do Me A Favour (and Player Ratings)

October 28, 2010

So, according to the newspapers, this was the game where Arsène Wenger would show his desperation for silverware by fielding a significant contingent of his first team against the Barcodes.

It was a U-Turn they said, a departure from his tried and tested policy of playing kids in the Mickey Mouse Cup. An admission of defeat. Caving in to his critics. Going against his principles.

What utter rubbish. What putrid balderdash.

By my reckoning NONE of last night’s starting eleven would feature in Arsenal’s first team if our squad was fully fit.

Last night’s team:

Our ideal first team (if the treatment tables are empty):

So the idea that Wenger was lacing his Carling Cup team with first-choicers is plain wrong. Not that you can really blame the media. After all, Arsene himself said he was taking the CC more seriously than before.

But I think that was just mind games. It was his way of saying to the players who started for us that he didn’t think of them as second stringers – he saw them as part of a large Arsenal first team squad from whom he expected great things this year.

The average age of our starting line-up was just 23 (and that’s with a 30-year-old Tomas Rosicky bumping up the average). Admittedly only one of the eleven (Eastmond) came from the reserves squad, but it was still a very long way from our strongest starting team.

And so to the game.

It was a lively match, which we bossed from beginning to end. By my reckoning there were five attempts on goal in the first two minutes (including one for them).

Truth to tell we should have been two or three up by half time (indecision and poor shooting by Bendtner and Vela being the main reasons for our blank), but a comedy effort from Newcastle sent us in to the break a goal to the good. Eastmond managed to get a header on target from inside the six yard box, the Toon defender made a hash of it on the line and the ball ended up being Fabianskied into the Newcastle net off the back of the keeper’s head.  You’d need a heart of stone not to have cried laughing at that one.

We had shown some lapses in concentration in the first half and, as you would expect, lacked the fluidity of our normal play, but overall we were doing pretty well and always looked threatening when we attacked.

In the second half the Toon made a concerted effort to get back into it but, despite some wobbly moments, our defence held firm. Koscielny was always there to pick up the pieces and Djourou made some vital interceptions and tackles (but was also muscled off the ball a little too easily on occasion).

When we broke away and scored the second (a calm finish from Theo) you sensed there was no way back for Newcastle, even after they threw on Carroll, Barton and Gutierrez.

The hard working Nicklas Bendtner added a third with a positively Bergkampesque finish, a peach of shot from the inside left position, and Theo sealed the win with his second goal late on.

All in all a job very well done against an admittedly weakened Newcastle side who were, nevertheless, good enough to put the Chavs out in the last round.

Ratings

Szczesny: He’s talked the talk and now he’s starting to walk the walk. One misjudged charge out of his area early on could have ended up embarrassing him. But there were at least two top class saves and a general sense of competence. I also liked his quick distribution, which reminded me of Lehmann. 7

Eboue: Started at right back, shifted to left after Gibbs went off. Some good defensive play. Some excellent attacking runs with the ball. Some falling-over-when-hardly-touched. Some getting into great positions and choosing the wrong option. In other words, a vintage Eboue performance. 6

Koscielny: Hardly put a foot wrong. Was always there to break up the Newcastle attacks and made countless great tackles. MoTM 8

Djourou: The critics are too harsh on this lad. He was out for a year with injury and is finding his way back. He made several mistakes which would have been costly had Kozzer not been there sweeping up behind him, but at other times he showed great skill and determination. He has to learn that, as a defender, it’s no good going to ground and hoping the ref gives you a free kick, because if he doesn’t your whole back line is undermined. 6.5

Gibbs: Looked to be really in the groove, both offensively and defensively, before yet another unlucky injury saw him have to go off. Someone please send him a black cat with a horseshoe round its neck and a rabbit’s foot tied to its tail. 6.5

Sagna: Came on for Gibbs and went to right back. Typical Bacary performance – defensively strong, some good attacking runs and some overhit crosses. 7

Eastmond: A good effort from the lad. Puts himself about and is always available for the ball. Lost possession with some casual passes but it’s part of the learning curve. Is he a Gooner legend of the future? Hard to tell, but he’s worth persevering with. 6

Denilson:  I’ve been critical of Den in the past but last night he was the metronome in our midfield. I thought he had an excellent game, both covering our back four and being progressive.  He seems finally to be dealing with the concentration issues which affected him last season. His pass completion rate is excellent. If he carries on playing like this he will be hard to leave out. 7.5

Rosicky: Every time he starts a game we win handsomely. He was a bit less effective than I would have expected tonight, but his intelligence and composure were crucial to our overall play. 7

Walcott: Two goals, always a threat, this boy’s in form. Something has switched on in his brain, because he now exudes a maturity that wasn’t there before. His body language is different from a year ago and he has the potential to have a memorable season for us. 7.5

Bendtner: Stunning finish for third goal. Always looking for the ball and always direct but, in typical fashion, his touch and finishing let him down once or twice. What’s great about our Striking Viking is that he will never hide, shirk or give up the ghost. 7.5

Vela: A really bad night for Carlos. I want him to succeed, but something is not quite right with our young Mexican. Right now, his Arsenal career is not heading for a happy ending. His touch, finishing and decision-making were all off. 5

Subs:

Sagna (see above); Fabregas 7; Emmanuel-Thomas 6.

RockyLives


A Striking Viking to Nik it.

October 27, 2010

Mr Wenger faces a dilemna tonight; does he keep his promise and target all 4 trophies or does he play the kids knowing there are more important games to come?

I believe the CC is a waste of time for the top teams, a number of games with the potential for injuries and a meaningless trophy at the end of it. I acknowledge  the need for silverware as does Mr. Wenger but the Carling Cup ranks lower than the Youth Cups in my opinion and we shouldn’t be bothering. Does anyone mention the winner’s after the day? No, only the fans of that particular club and they are embarrassed – without checking do you know who played in the Final last season?  The Final isn’t even shown on European TV.

But …… it does allow the fans to sing “We are on our way to Wembley” etc and Silverware is needed at the Emirates as proof that this team is maturing and capable of winning a trophy. We are on a roll (if 3 games can be considered a roll) and would like it to continue.

Newcastle away was as poor a draw as we could have got. A long trip up to the Frozen North, a rabid crowd expecting their team to knock over the fancy-dans from Down South, and a team who are in good form at present with some big units throughout the side (though the brutal Barton is diminuitive). If we play the kids (knowing that the best of them are out on loan) we could get hammered, but do we want to see Fabregas get a kicking from Barton ahead of WHU and Shaktar next week? Be honest  –  if we win both of those games who cares about tonight?  WHU is  a vital 3 points with our rivals having tough fixtures, and 3 points in Donetsk guarantees our place in the Final 16 allowing AW to play a reserve team for the remaining CL games.

We must play Chesney, he needs to feel part of the future. Should he not play AW can hardly expect anything else than a rejected contract offer at the end of the season.

My team:

The Vikings attacked and settled in Newcastle (Monkchester at the time) for a few hundred years. As a student of Danish I can tell you that many Geordie words derive from Danish. Mr Bendtner will feel completely at home; expect him and Arsenal to conquer the Geordie’s once more.

COYRRG

p.s. Sorry about the dreadful title ….


Should Cesc Have Been Sent Off Against Manchester City?

October 26, 2010

It was disappointing to see Cesc Fabregas apparently making the ‘give him a card’ gesture to Mark Clattenburg on Sunday.

Only four minutes into the game against the Mancunian lottery winners Boyata was beaten to the ball by Chamakh, who would have been clean through on goal, but the young central defender lunged in recklessley and brought down our Number 29. It was as bang-on a red card as you’ll ever see for denying a goal scoring opportunity.

I have no doubt that Mark Clattenburg made up his mind immediately to show Boyata a red card. So, in the seconds before the red was produced, to see our captain shaking his hand at the ref in what seemed a card-wielding gesture was a real shame.

As an offence it’s not in the same category as studs-up tackles or flying elbows, but it’s still one of those things you don’t like to see in the game because it shows a lack of respect for the referee. And yes, I know that we in the stands can spend many a happy half hour disrespecting referees, but for the players it’s different.

Some years ago the FA’s refereeing panel deemed the ‘give him a card’ gesture to be an unsporting action that could merit a yellow card at the discretion of the ref.

So… if Cesc had been booked for that gesture – as he might well have been – he would have been off before half time after receiving what would have been a second yellow for a foul on De Jong and who knows how the game might have gone then?

This has certainly been a complaint made by many Citeh supporters and, even if you leave aside the ‘what ifs’ (like, if he had picked up a yellow for the card gesture he might have been more careful about not incurring a second yellow and so would not have fouled De Jong) they may have a point.

Having looked back on the incident I think Fabregas was lucky that Clattenburg had his back to him when he made the gesture.

“So what?” you might reasonably ask. We deservedly won the game, Cesc didn’t get sent off and worrying about things that didn’t happen is a sure step on the road to madness.

Well, the reason I raise it is that it’s not the first time that our captain has shown what opposition supporters would describe as a ‘nasty side’ to his character.

His rap sheet is not long, but it does have some highlights:

  • Throwing pizza at the purple-faced Gorbalian in the dressing room at Old Toilet.
  • Telling Mark Hughes to shut the f**k up and asking him what he’s ever won.
  • Throttling Tim Cahill at Goodison Park (and earning a red card for his trouble).
  • Allegedly spitting at Michael Ballack during a European game (denied by Fabregas and, later, by the German FA who said Cesc had merely been shouting insults. Spitting vitriol, as opposed to spitting, er, spit).

And most heinous of all…

  • Wearing a puffer jacket onto the pitch at the end of a home game against Hull.

Of the above, I happen to approve of the pizza-throwing, Cahill-throttling, Ballack-barracking and Phil Brown-baiting (all actions that show our Number 4 has bottle and passion).

But I’m less impressed by a player in his early 20s insulting a manager with an outstanding playing record like Mark Hughes. That’s just disrespectful and. To his credit, Cesc later apologized to Hughes for that one.

Making the card-waving gesture in Sunday’s game is a similar sort of offence – not terrible, just unworthy of our captain.

One of the best things about supporting Arsenal is that we know we have the classiest team, manager, supporters and club in Britain.

Compare Arsenal’s honourable and private dealings in the transfer market with those of our rivals.

Compare Arsene Wenger’s intelligence and restraint with the frothing fury of Ferguson or the crass stupidity of Allardyce.

Compare the way we play the beautiful game with the gridiron approach of Chelsea and Man City.

Compare Cesc’s dignified handling of Barcelona’s pursuit this summer with the money-grabbing, media-spinning tawdriness of Wazza Rooney’s campaign for a bigger payday.

So it’s disappointing when anyone associated with Arsenal (especially our captain) occasionally behaves in a less classy way.

I don’t want to go overboard about this but, as he enters what could turn out to be a very significant period of his Arsenal career, I would like Cesc to remember who he is and what he represents. He does not need to resort to unsporting behaviour – he has all the power and eloquence he’ll ever need packed into those two wonderful feet and that one amazing brain.

RockyLives


Sheikh, Rattled and Rolled

October 25, 2010

Written by kelsey

By now you will have most probably read several reports about the game at Eastlands, and those lucky enough to have witnessed it will now have a broad grin on their faces.

The general consensus of opinion beforehand was that a draw would have been a good result, but with United winning, the nerves were on edge and many thought could we turn up and possibly bag three points. With Wilshere suspended, Diaby was dropped and Sagna regained his rightful place at right back and Denilson came in to bolster the midfield.

The game kicked off and within a minute Tevez tricked Djourou into a mistimed challenge and passed to the talented Silva who flicked the ball goal bound and the much maligned Fabianski made a tremendous save. To me that was even at this early stage the turning point of the game.

Within a further 4 minutes Boyata fouled Chamakh and there was no hesitation from Mark Clattenburg to issue a red card. Refs come in for a lot of criticism but he had an exceptional game and got almost every decision right, a rarity these days.

So it was ten against eleven and City were primarily defensively minded. I am one who believed that the one man advantage didn’t benefit us greatly until the final 15 minutes when City were run ragged.

Arshavin gets a lot of stick, but yet again his assist for Nasri was sublime. A second goal was needed,and when Fabregas was brought down,we thought 2-0 but Hart made a magnificent save. The first half had been feisty, with 4 of our players booked and many thought at half time we would finish playing ten again ten. Wenger must have given explicit instructions at half time, and as the game fanned out, the team grew in confidence and we added two further goals.

I have to say that I haven’t seen a keeper look as assured as Fabianski for many a game. Hopefully his confidence will be sky high and he will remain as our number one. Cesc got man of the match but to me Fabianski and the highly skillful Nasri were just as good. Overall a really good team performance and if one was to critisize anyone it would be Clichy and the ring rusty Djourou.

It was good to see a real team that has been built with integrity and patience triumph instead of a cash rich hastily manufactured side who spent a further 100 million this summer and had 100 million pounds of talent sitting on the bench – a message of hope to all well run teams who aspire to compete with the billionnaires.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 477 other followers