£800m Investment vs. Wengerball

November 30, 2011

Written by Total Arsenal

Arsenal 0 – 1 Manchester City: Match Review

 

During the day there was a lot of discussion whether we should take this game seriously or not. Most bloggers felt we should not risk any injuries to our key players and it would not be a disaster if we would be eliminated tonight. After all, it would mean fewer games to play in the crucial and demanding winter months. However, Arsene does not like losing, especially not in front of the home support. The team he put out tonight was a mixture of young talent and experience, but only one of them has been a regular in our first eleven this season: the wonderful Koscielny. Manchester City put out a strong team with the likes of Nasri, Johnson and Dzeko upfront, a decent enough back four and De Jong and Hargreaves in midfield to add experience and steel to their team. After 30 minutes, Kolarov was substituted for Aguero and it became clear that Mancini was very keen to win this match.

Although Arsene had added some experience to the team in all areas, I felt that our team was not strong enough to deal with Citeh’s embarrassment of riches: after all, their team on the pitch had been purchased for the princely sum of £119m, and that is excluding Aguero’s little price tag! Luckily, I was wrong as Arsene once again showed what Wengerball really means, and it almost was enough to reach the semi-finals of this relatively unimportant cup competition.

First Half

Both teams showed great industry from the start, as they were trying to establish a coherent shape to their play and get a passing game going. The biggest battle was in midfield, but it was our boys: Coquelin and Frimpong, aided by the industrious Benayoun and the supertalented AOC, who took more and more control over that crucial area. In the 11th minute, just after Johnson saw a great effort from distance almost dip into the top-corner, Arsenal had their best chance of the match to score a goal. Chamakh, typically playing with his back towards the opposition’s goal, shields off Citeh’s two central defenders and passes the ball perfectly sideways to Coquelin – the latter does not hesitate and puts a peach of cross in towards Park who, although hindered by a defender, makes decent enough contact to hit the target and score. It was not to be as the beautifully named Pantilimon is able to save the effort with a strong hand. Such a shame, as a goal would undoubtedly have given this unfamiliar team a real boost of confidence and purpose. After that, the game continues as before with a lot of endeavour on both sides and a hungrier Arsenal, but very few changes. Out of nothing, the Ox produces a fantastic shot from distance – pretty similar to the one Johnson produced earlier – that looks bound for the top-corner, but the giant Pantilimon makes a great flying stop to deny him. Both Chamakh and Park are trying hard to get involved but are missing sharpness, cutting edge and football intelligence to find the right runs. It is fair to say though that many chances were neither carved out for them on the night.

Second Half

The second half continues down the same lines as the first. There are very few clear-cut changes, but once again Oxlade-Chamberlain keeps driving our attack by trying to create something – unfortunately without success. The pivotal moment of the game comes seven minutes before the end of the game. In the 83rd minute, Djourou collects the ball from his own box and drives forward, and combining with Gervinho they almost find Benayoun in the box, but the MC defence is there just in time to put the ball out for a corner. The subsequent corner-kick by Oxlade-Chamberlain, once again, does not beat the first man and Citeh are able to break. Dzeko, who had a brilliant game last night, uses his strength and speed to get past a few players and plays the ball to Johnson, who had made a clever run away from Frimpong. Johnson combines a fine first touch with spinning cleverly just outside the box to get the ball to Aguero with the outside of his foot who, from that distance, leaves the keeper with no chance. All night Citeh managed only one shot on target – compared to five by Arsenal – but unfortunately they make that one count. Arsenal keep attacking after that but to no avail.

A Few Conclusions

We missed real cutting edge last night, and that was the only difference with Citeh (although our defence did a great job in keeping them from scoring). Unless Joel Campbell is to join us soon from Lorient, Arsenal really need to do some business in January to fill this obvious gap. Park needs more time, although I cannot see him making it at our club: it is just a gut-feeling but something is missing. Chamakh, for me, tried hard but it was not to be. Just like Arshavin, he seems to have reached such a low in confidence that nothing seems to go for him anymore. It is time to move on for both Chamakh and Arshavin, and buy one or two new wingers/strikers of decent quality.

The real positives have been the performances of the Ox, Frimpong, Coquelin and all of our back-four players. Coquelin reminds me of Gilberto. Such a graceful player with real power and determination, and he just did not show any fear or too much humility on the night: a super prospect. Frimpong is just steel and enthusiasm combined: another great prospect. The Ox was simply phenomenal on the night and that at 18 years of age! What a joy to watch, and tonight he proved for me that he can play in the first team from now onwards. The same goes for Coquelin, and that is the real gain of last night’s match.

We narrowly lost this battle, but we made progress in the war with the club of bottomless pockets and weightless morals: Citeh. Our cheap and cheerful team displayed so much quality on the night, and the potential of our second string team is simply enormous. The margin between them and us was very small: in fact, if Arsenal would have played their first-team strike-force, just like MC did last night, we would have won this game with ease. But Wenger has bigger fish to fry with Arsenal and decided to rather take the risk of losing gallantly on the night (words borrowed from Rasp), than the risk of potential injuries to our first eleven players.

Despite an eye-watering investment of £800m in the last few years, MC are no better than Arsene’s sustainable Wengerball, and I am now more than ever confident that Arsenal will show who is boss in a few weeks time at the Citeh of Oil stadium.

Player Ratings:

Fabianski: 7

Back-Four: 7.5, Koscielny 8: all had a good game and worked well together to my surprise. Miquel had a nervy start but really improved after that.

Benayoun: 6.5: had some good spells, but was not consistent/dominant enough.

Coquelin: 8: what a prospect: an absolute joy to watch.

Frimpong: 7.5: another great prospect – has improved a lot since the start of the season.

Park and Chamakh: 6: tried hard enough, but just not enough quality/end product.

The Ox: 8.5: he drove our attack last night. Fearless and never gave up: top-quality performance. Man Of The Match.


Money Can’t Buy you Love

November 29, 2011

Today’s discussion is likely to revolve around who will play tonight, but I would like to start by investigating whether we should care about tonight’s result.

It would be fair to say that the fans are evenly split as to whether AW should put out a strong team in order to get into the semi’s, hopefully to  put last  year’s Wembley nightmare behind us, and those who think the team need to concentrate upon other targets. Both arguments have their merits, the silverware hoodoo needs to be dealt with and we are just 3 games from lifting a Cup, on the other hand, how valuable is the CC? Does it really count as silverware? Would Birmingham have preferred to lose the final and stay in the PL?  Their form fell apart after their victory and though I am not a Bluenose and haven’t discussed it with them, but my guess is that they would prefer to be in the Prem. Who won the CC two seasons ago?

My opinion is that we must stick to the principle of playing a young team in the CC and seeing how well they can perform. Taking it seriously didn’t work so why not have some fun and damn the consequences.

Best Forgotten

Man City are in a different situation, their squad players will be desperate to show Mancini they are worthy of a first team start. On Sunday Balotelli and Dzeko were on the bench! There is no need to talk about the quality of their squad, we all know it, even their cheapest reserve cost more than our most expensive signing (almost). They are playing really good football and are a joy to watch – if it is not AFC who win the PL I want it to be City because Mancini sends his teams out to entertain.  Yes, they are solid in midfield and are not averse to a physical battle but they also have magic in the team which will hopefully be left up the M60 tonight.

Team selection is difficult. Do we have another RB to deputise for JD/Kos? Or another LB?

Mr Wenger has stated that he will play a team which has a chance to progress and could well play a couple of regular first teamers, Santos being the most likely, Not an easy game tonight and perhaps this will spur Chamakh on, he must want to play against the best and tonight he has the opportunity. The Ox is just bursting to show he deserves a starting role and it is no coincidence that Theo is playing the best football of his career following Alex’s arrival. Park will score…..

Today’s Gooner? Step forward Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury. Born in the East End, The Arsenal was George’s second love (God then Arsenal)

Sporting the Raspberry kit (badge hidden to look more holy)

We have home advantage, we have a fine squad of young, hungry players, we have the North Bank. Can we beat the best reserve team in World football? Of course we can!

Written by BigRaddy


Sad Times and Glad Times

November 28, 2011

The death of Gary Speed has in my opinion put the trials and tribulations of supporting a football team into some sort of perspective.

Look back over our posts since the CC final fiasco and see how many AA subscribers were tearing their hair out, demanding immediate changes of all kinds as though the fate of our football team was a matter of life and death. It was not of course and never has been for the average supporter or fan. Football is a game, nothing more, nothing less.

Sure it may be your passion an interest that transcends the everyday dross of a working life, to others it becomes the driving force in their lives, the only intellectual interest they truly have, but nevertheless it remains a game.

Yes there are those who have been driven to suicide by the bounce of an inflated ball that appears to have the capacity to remove logic and reason from minds that would in other circumstances, I am sure, be far more dispassionate about such obvious misfortune.

One only has to read the vitriol that flowed through our: for want of a better word respectable site: to understand the lengths that those supporters would go to enhance their bragging rights.

Some other blogs of course, defy reason and in doing so become a cess pit full of swearing, cursing deluded would be activist, demanding the implementation of bans, marches and strikes. Whilst calling down all manner of disasters, curses and sackings on all and sundry connected with the club who come with in the compass of their hatred.

We know not what activated Gary Speeds decision to end it all. But that a man so respected, liked and admired throughout the game could come to such a decision is a warning to us all, that we must treat the game as the game it is and recognise that life has many more severe challenges than winning football matches.

Read yesterday’s blog, having dropped two points in the evening game, to a team we were actively forecasting we would, figuratively speaking, have for breakfast in the pre-game comments. We greeted the result both then and today with equanimity and calm discussion. Why? Because the position that we find ourselves in today, would have been touted as a miracle in the despair that was the aftermath of the Blackburn game, just a few short weeks ago.

Is it too much to hope that in the light of the changes these few weeks have brought, that we continue to support our super club in so grown up a manner, criticise by all means for without that there would be no discussion. But leave the soul searching and tub thumping to those whose lives revolve solely around footballing success and nothing else.

Written by dandan


Not The End of the World, But The End For Arshavin? (plus Player Ratings)

November 27, 2011

There was something poignant about the moment, mid way through the second half, when Arsène Wenger made his first two substitutions.

Gervinho and Abou Diaby were bouncing on the touchline: primed, eager and ready while the fourth official fiddled with his number board.

Three yards away from them, on the pitch, a small Russian man was standing on his own, looking downcast and waiting for the inevitable appearance of the number 23 on the official’s board.

After an evening in which pretty much everything he tried had failed, you could see that Andrei Arshavin was not just expecting to be hauled off: he WANTED to be hauled off.

When the numbers flashed and it turned out that he was not one of the two players being substituted (Ramsey and Mertesacker ended up making way) he looked genuinely shocked. And disappointed.

It is heartbreaking to see what has happened to our pocket Russki.

Once upon a time (in an earlier life, it sometimes feels), he scored four goals against Liverpool in one of the most devastating individual attacking displays I’ve ever seen.

You could never say he was 100% consistent, but he always had the potential of doing something brilliant.

Yes, his tracking back was somewhere in the hinterland between rare and nonexistent; yes, his demeanour was often doleful; yes, his arse seemed large enough to make him as tall lying on his side as when he’s standing; but when he did fire into life he could ghost past players like they weren’t there and put his goals away with venom.

Yesterday he was a shadow of the player who terrorised Liverpool. He just looked absolutely shorn of confidence and ability. Towards the end of the game I thought he was drifting infield to hide among groups of Fulham players in order to not receive the ball.

I, for one, was left with the distinct impression that this could be the end of the Russian’s career at Arsenal. I might be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Maybe our genius manager can get him firing again. But he seems to be in a dark place and it may well take a fresh start somewhere else to drag him out of it.

The game itself was a bit of a come-down after the high of beating Dortmund midweek and becoming the first English club to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions’ League.

Arsene Wenger blamed physical and mental tiredness and he had a point, but the Cottagers deserve credit too for playing a good defensive game designed to smother our movement between midfield and attack.

However, we also had a familiar dollop of bad luck: shots cleared off the line (again); gifting the opposition an own goal (again); a rival ‘keeper in inspired form (again).

Despite Fulham’s obduracy we carved them open enough times to have won the game. Twice in the first 10 minutes Arshavin was involved in penetrating attacks down our left (unfortunately that was more or less the end of any positive contribution from him).

Theo was ripping them open down the opposite flank and driving into their box at will.

But overall there was a bit of a lacklustre feel to our team performance. Both Ramsey and Arteta had industrious displays but both seemed to find that their touch was off, resulting in a lot of misplaced passes and being caught in possession.

We were also standing off the Fulham players too much and not pressing the way we had done against the Germans on Wednesday. The pressing game has been a big part of our revival this season and at times against Fulham it was notable by its absence.

By the time Fulham scored I had come to the conclusion that it was just going to be one of those days. And when we did put them ahead with a Tommy Vermaelen own goal (I would need to see it again to judge how culpable he was), I feared the loss of all three points.

As several AA commenters have already pointed out, you would have expected last season’s Arsenal to end up losing from that position. But this year’s crop has some real bottle. It was just a shame that it took us going behind to spark the team into life.

Suddenly we had a real urgency about us. Arsène’s attacking substitutions (including taking off Mertesacker and dropping Song back into CB) helped galvanise the team and we launched a series of frenetic onslaughts on the Fulham goal.

The equaliser was a fine glancing header from Vermaelen, making amends for the own goal.

Theo and Gervinho (showing Arshavin how it should be done) continued to torment the opposition defence from their respective wings, Prince Robin twisted and turned and peppered their goal and we went close numerous times. But, with Schwarzer eking out the time like a dying man the clock eventually ran down.

Final score 1-1. No doubt some of the nay-sayers will leap on the performance and result as evidence that we have not really progressed from last season. But they would be wrong. Even when we were winning Doubles we would get the occasional draw against weaker, but resolute, opposition. It happens to everyone.

And the positives were plain: we showed character to come back from a goal down, our unbeaten run continues and we made numerous chances to score and win the game.

A minor disappointment, but project New Arsenal is still very much on track.

Ratings

Szczesny: No chance for the goal and made one fantastic save from a powerful shot. His kicking was better than usual, but overall he didn’t have much to do. 7

Djourou: Came in at right back and had a super game. Made some great last-ditch tackles and nicked the ball from the opposition all game long. 8

Mertesacker: Another top performance by the Mert. I didn’t see him put a foot wrong and his reading of the game is so good that it often means he snuffs out attacks before they’re dangerous. It’s not as spectacular as the last-ditch scramble, but a lot better for my heart rate. Also came close to scoring with a good header. 7.5

Vermaelen: Powerful and dynamic as always. One point off for the og. One point added for scoring the equaliser. 7.5

Santos: His best game yet. Our new Brazilian is fast becoming a crowd favourite and yesterday he looked composed, skillful and dynamic. He drifted out of position occasionally, but usually because he was trying to push us forward. Got no help from Arshavin. 8.5 MoTM

Song: Good work screening the back four – and he was called on to clear up more than he ought to have been because of the way his MF team mates were giving away possession. Unfortunately could not tap his alter ego Songinho to inspire another goal for us. 7.5

Arteta: Did a lot of his usual good work helping to screen the defence and keeping the ball moving. His touch went off badly in the second half and, uncharacteristically, he lost the ball several times. Tired, perhaps. 6.5

Ramsey: Always driving, moving, tackling, trying to make things happen. But yesterday it just wasn’t coming off for young Aaron. Not his best game, but he never hid and never stopped trying and after years of Denilsonitis I’ll take that any day. 6.5

Walcott: Brilliant and direct in the first half and unlucky not to score or get an assist. Faded a bit in third quarter but came back strongly as we pushed for an equaliser and then a winner (that sadly never came). Surely his critics must shut up now? He is one of the best wide players in England and is demonstrating it on a weekly basis. 8

Arshavin: Nothing to add to what I said above. A bad – and sad – day for the Russian. 5

Van Persie: Exuded class all game, but for once the magic touch was off by a smidgen and he didn’t get on the score sheet. Fulham defended well, denying him space in the areas he normally likes to exploit between defence and midfield. 7.5

Subs
Gervinho: Outstanding when he came on. Was unlucky not to inspire us to victory. His brilliance made Arshavin’s performance look even worse. 8

Diaby: Nice to see him back. He showed some of what he can do (but also a little bit of his old failing of holding onto the ball for too long). 7

Chamakh: Didn’t have much chance to get in the game, but he tried. 6.5

Manager: His decision to start with Arshavin and leave the electrifying Gervinho on the bench may well have been what cost us all three points. His attacking substitutions helped make for an exciting finish, but it was still two points lost. 6

RockyLives


On the Sunny Side of the Street

November 26, 2011

Following the International break, we are back in the full swing of club football with Arsenal playing their third game in a week; what with City on Tues, Wigan on Saturday and Olympiakos the following Tues, we are busy. Long may it remain thus because it means we are in all competitions.

Today brings Martin Jol’s Fulham to the Emirates. Fulham are 16th in the PL, and are on a poor run of form (LLDDDWLLWL ). This is unsurprising because Fulham have been hard hit with injuries and despite the return of the OAP Riise, they will be missing Stephen Kelly, Damien Duff,  ex-Gunner Sidwell and Simon Davies. For a squad as small as Fulham’s this is hard to overcome.

Stats:

We have won our last 2 games following action in the CL.

Fulham have yet to win at our place  –  Pl 25 W22 D3 L0.

Fulham are on a run of 34 away London derbies without a win.

Fulham have yet to score more than one goal at THOF

Fulham have won  only 12 away fixtures out of their last 101. We are 4/9 to win with Ladbrokes.

Uncanny

It has been pointed out that we have played the same team twice running which showed in the way the players connect, I fully expect us to play the same team again. Why change when the players have next week to rest?  That said, perhaps Ramsey could rest his young bones.

We have been finding a rhythm not seen at THOF for sometime and it is this which is so encouraging. This Arsenal team do not have the swagger of The Henry teams, nor the calculated violence of the Adams years, instead the current Gunners team are becoming more than the sum of it’s parts. It bodes well for the future, and should allow players of the quality of Arshavin, Benayoun, Diaby, the Ox, JW, Sagna etc etc etc to slot seamlessly into the team when required.

My Team:

It would be great if Gervinho  got on the scoresheet today. He has been dallying in front of goal which suggests a lack of confidence (wanting to make sure rather than using his instincts).  Theo is also due a goal as is Ramsey, but it would be a fool who bet anyone’s house on RvP not scoring this evening.

To continue the series of famous Gooners,  we go to the Thirtie’s and as luck would have it I have found a Gooner and a great inventor. Alan Blumlein. This is a top bloke. Inventor of stereo and the Radar. Alan was born in Hampstead in 1903 and at the age of  28 he patented Stereophonic Sound whilst working for EMI. His spare time was spent at Highbury where he was a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Blumein died in 1n an aircrash in 1942 whilst testing his newly patented radar.

Mr Blumlein the morning after celebrating the 1936 FA Cup victory (slightly the worse for wear)

All the form guides point to a home victory but we have learned to our cost that application in all games is essential, losing 3 points to relegation fodder like Blackburn, Spurs and Liverpool is proof that no quarter can be given.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


One Man Team?

November 25, 2011

Another game for Arsenal, another win, another two goals, and who scored them? Of course our one man team Robin Van Persie, or at least that’s what the Fleet Street Scribes, Football Pundits and Broadcast Hacks will have you believe. And judging by the Emirates faithfuls reaction of silence then rapturous applause when Robin at first went down nursing a limb and then got back to his feet dusted himself down and walked back to the head of our attack Arsenal fans also subscribe to the theory.

What is it to be a one man team? For me it’s a team that relies on one player for creativity, and that everything goes through. Whilst Robin is playing very well at the moment the ball moves from back to front without him. If I could pick a player in a European club that is more important to his team than Robin is for Arsenal I look North to Salford and see Rooney. A player who as is always pointed out on highlight shows has such a huge bearing on the outcome of United games. Defensive tackles, dropping deep to create from midfield, and finally getting on the end of moves he starts.

Whilst if necessary Robin can do all this (well maybe not the tackling) he has concentrated this year on being in the box and doing the job centre forwards are paid to do….scoring goals. Long have we Gooners bemoaned the lack of a 30 goal a season striker, some seasons 20 would have been nice. Somehow we’ve found ourselves a 40 goal a season player at current rate and now we think others should be contributing.

Look at the 17 goals he has scored so far this campaign (I know 17 goals and we’re not out of November!). Anyway have a think back about the goals….how many have been close range tap ins from good wide play, or on a plate from a good through ball, by my reckoning I’d say 13-14 goals this season have come from the work of others or John Terry being shit. The exceptions are the free kick against Sunderland, the dribble and shot against Bolton and his hattrick goal against Chelsea.

Don’t get me wrong any injury to Robin right now is going to hurt him and us fans but the way the team is playing any centre forward worth a place in a Premier League squad should convert at least half of the chances the skipper has been handed this year (if not more).

I think Vermaelen, Song or Szczesny would be a bigger loss to the team as a whole for the platform they provide for the players in front of them, Robin by default is the focal point of attacks and in the form he is in teammates are looking for him with crosses and passes does that make us a one man team? I don’t think so, if it did the Liverpool with Rush were a one man team, Arsenal with Wright were a one man team, Barca with Messi are a one man team…..I could go on.

Robin is doing what strikers should do and long may it continue but if we miss him for a few games I’ll still back this team to score goals, because I see how many chances they are creating.

Written by Gooner In Exile


Goetze hurts as Song too strong!

November 24, 2011
Written by FatGingerGooner
 

Champions League week 5 and ze Germans were the visitors to London town in the form of Borussia Dortmund. Fresh from a fantastic 1-0 win against league rivals Bayern, they came into the game full of confidence and looking for the win that would put them right back in Group F contention. Arsenal, however, were looking for the victory that would see them qualify for the knockout stages.

 
No real suprises in either line up and the game started as expected. BD were pushing high up the pitch and pressing the home midfield at every opportunity. The Arsenal defence were seeing plenty of the ball but were finding it difficult to get the ball forward,  opting for patience as they knocked the ball from side to side.
 
The pattern of the game then changed due to a couple of BD injuries. First, the fantastically named Bender was caught by a stray boot and had to be stretchered from the field of play, shortly after, the boy wonder Goetze, who many were looking forward to seeing, was subbed with what appeared to be a dead leg. Unfortunate for BD and the game, but I wasn’t really complaining as he looked threatening early on!
 
Dortmund had looked dangerous but the loss of 2 key players seemed to effect their game and Arsenal were starting to find a little more space. Walcott, in particular, was starting to look lively. First, he had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, and then some neat play saw him latch onto a through ball but fail to round the onrushing keeper. Then came the most incisive action of the first half as Theo dazzled the full back with a beautiful dummy before collecting the return pass and whipping a delightful cross towards RvP, only for the keeper to stick out a paw and diffuse the situation. It was the best move of a tactical first 45 which saw neither keeper troubled. Surely the second half would see more goalmouth action with both teams needing a win?
 
No more changes at the break and Dortmund started brightly. Some slick passing down the right resulted in a deflected cross which rolled agonisingly across a packed area but fortunately for the Gunners, straight to the BFG who knocked it out for a corner. A scare, but nothing more. This kicked Arsenal into life. Some neat passing down the left eventually fell to the feet of Song, who showed his strength to hold off one tackle before twirling through 2 more tackles with moves that Robbie Savage would have been proud of, before finally floating a beautiful ball to the back post where captain fantastic did brilliantly well to not only generate power, but also head the ball down and beyond a disappointed keeper. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
 
The game had finally come to life, and with Dortmund looking a little dejected and tired from their earlier hard work, space was starting to open up for the Arsenal midfield. Song and Ramsey were starting to control the game and it was the later who found Gervinho’s perfectly timed run with a defence splitting pass, and suddenly the Ivorian was clean through on goal. He jinked past the keeper with a fantastic sidestep but should really have been more aware of the defenders getting back, one of which nicked the ball away for a corner just as he was about to pass the ball into the net. Gervinho once again showing little urgency in front of goal, something reminiscent of Kanu and something that will need to change if he is to be an Arsenal great.
 
More chances followed for the home side with Walcott firing wide and substitute Benayoun just unable to find Walcott at the end of another flowing move. Song was everywhere, Vermaelen was dominant at the back and my new favourite Santos was showing more tricks than David Blain as Arsenal took control. Then, with around 10 minutes left, the brilliant home fans were given a treat as Diaby made his way onto the field for his first appearance of the season. Its great to have him back. Seconds later the Gooners were cheering again as a corner routine reminiscent of Bould and co saw RvP all alone 2 yards out. Game over.
 
For the last 5 minutes, Djourou replaced Koscielny, and it was his mix up with Song that allowed Dortmund in for a consolation goal, Kagawa tapping in from close range. Szscesny was rightly furious that his clean sheet was taken away at the last, but it meant very little as Arsenal finished the night as group winners.
 
Overall, Arsenal were excellent. They found it difficult in the first half to find space but that was due to great organisation from Dortmund rather than poor Arsenal play. The second half was a different game and with the tempo of the passing increased, the gunners midfield proved too strong for their German counterparts. A great result against a very capable German outfit.
 
Oh, and Chelsea lost!
 
Player ratings:
 
Szscesny-didn’t have a great deal to do. Made a pretty routine stop at the beginning of the second half and kicking was good throughout 7
 
Koscielny-saw loads of the ball first half but played a couple of sloppy passes. Looked awkward going forward but solid as always in his defensive work 7
 
Mertersacker-won a lot of headers, as you would expect, and was his usual calm self. Never looked like making a mistake which is good to see 7
 
Vermaelen-what else can you say about this fella? Outstanding and commanding. Flicked on for RvP second 8
 
Santos-he’s dangerous, but my god is he fun! All the tricks you would expect from a Brazilian striker and solid one on one. love him 7.5
 
Song-outstanding display, espescially second half. His skill for the first goal was class. Would have been full marks had he not gifted Dortmund a consolation goal. MOTM 9
 
Arteta-along with most of the team he struggled to find space first half, but showed his class and experience in the second. Great corner routine. 7
 
Ramsey-excellent second half when more space was available. Playing well at the moment and appreciated by his team mates 7.5
 
Walcott-liveliest player in the first half and caused the Germans problems. solid performance. Great cross in first half 7.5
 
Gervinho-should have scored when clean through. Goes round people for fun but final ball/finish must improve 7
 
RvP-2 goals, smart performance rather than outstanding. Linked up well and knows where to be in the box. 8
 
Subs
 
Benayoun-worked hard as always but showed a bit more of his attacking ability. Great player to have in the squad 7
 
Djourou-didn’t have much to do and was sold a bit short by Song for the BD goal. Will get slated for the goal but Song should have got rid 6
 
Diaby-great to have him back. Could be a top player if can get through a season or two without injury 6 
 

High Hopes: Borussia Dortmund Preview

November 23, 2011

Cut and paste the post for the Dortmund away fixture …..

Except, Arsenal were in the midst of our terrible run and some of the players who have now bedded in were still struggling. That is not all, our Centre Backs had yet to be formally introduced and with Aaron out, Benayoun started.  The stadium was full of fervent  and expectant BD fans. For those who were three sheets to the wind in order to combat the nerves, BD equalised with a wonder goal in the 86th minute. A draw was a very good result given the circumstances.

Arsenal must surely be confident on the back of such a fine run of results, however the same can be said of BD who this weekend went to Munich and beat Bayern – never an easy task and even harder this season as Bayern rediscover their pedigree. BD know that should they lose tonight their CL adventure is all but over, they talk about tonight as a Cup Final. Coming to THOF will  give the Germans a huge challenge as they play in front of the best supporters in world football in the best stadium in world football – it could inspire them or petrify them, let us hope for the latter!

Nights like tonight are special – a slight chill, time to have a beer or two in the pub, some banter with mates, the floodlights, a full ground, top opposition; I wish I could be there – instead I will be sharing the experience with other AA’ers who are not so privileged.

60,000 Lucky Ones

A worry must be Koscielny playing at RB. True, he had a good game on Saturday but playing against Pilkington is very different to Kagawa who showed in Dortmund that he is a fine young player.  The improvement of our midfield 3 bodes well for the future. Arteta appears to have the football intelligence required to assist his young playmates –  Song looks better and Ramsey is improving weekly alongside the Spaniard who is proving to be an inspired signing.  Another huge difference is the return of The Verminator, what a monster player this man is.  He give us more defensive security, leads the team from the back, improves all the players around him, is superb coming forward and is all round a top, top player.

My Team:

* Raddy’s team selection has been amended following the late news that Gervinho will not be playing due to a personal problem.

Looking at the above team I ooze confidence. Santos is a different proposition to Gibbs (who played in the first leg), especially at home where he will have more opportunity to get forward – not that he needs an invitation ! Diaby is on the bench and we look forward to seeing him contribute during the coming months; if he can stay fit he is a marvellous albeit infuriating talent.  Should Walcott play as he did on Saturday I can see him on the scoresheet and we can only hope if AA plays in place of Gervinho, that he will prove as effective as the Ivorian has been lately. If our defence can keep them out, we will win.

A new BR feature for home games will be famous Arsenal fans and we start with Harry Beck. You may not be familiar with the name but you certainly are with his work. Harry created the schematic London Underground map which is a work of true beauty. Harry lived in Finchley Central and was a Gooner through the Chapman years dying  (happily) just after we won our first Double.

Harry wearing his favourite Arsenal away shorts. ( out of picture but take my word for it)

Where we have a major advantage is in the experience of our manager. Mr. Wenger will analyse  the previous fixture and make adjustments to the way we play. AW stated at his press conference that BD were in form and “developing,” He expects a fine game of attacking football, plenty of thrills and a topsy turvy night. So do I.

Written by BigRaddy


Arsenal’s Hairy Upper Lip

November 22, 2011

As many will know, we are in the middle of Movember. Yup, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland, chaps are being encouraged to let the above-the-lip stuff grow unchecked for a month.

And this has exactly what to do with the greatest football club in the world (that’s us, in case there’s any misunderstanding)? Well, it made me wonder about who the best moustachioed Arsenal players have been in my years in harness. My criteria are entirely arbitrary, frankly I don’t really understand them myself, but both the quality of the moustache and the quality of the player are somehow taken into account.  Full-on beardies are excluded.  Here’s my countdown:

10. Chris Whyte: An Islington-born centre-back in the sides of the early to mid 80s.  His patchy hair was more noted than his upper lip furniture, but he nonetheless was a proud exponent of the mou.  Whyte was an adequate defender but who also enjoyably filled in as striker for a while (easy to enjoy because we were hopelessly rubbish at the time, so playing a centre-back up front was good for a laugh).  But he left the club disconsolate when not offered a new contract, and spent two years playing US indoor footy before enjoying a renaissance with West Brom and then Leeds, culminating in being an ever present and playing alongside Cantona, McAllister and Strachan in the title-winning 1992 side.

9. Alan Sunderland: A man who sported the finest example of the white man’s afro, complemented by an unrepentant moustache. Sunderland deserves a higher profile in our history books, he was a potent striker, most famous for scoring the winning goal in 1979′s “five-minute final” against Man U – we were coasting at 2-0 before Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy pulled it back to 2-2 in the closing minutes. Liam Brady then burst forward, released Graham Rix on the left, who floated over a high looping cross that Gary Bailey in the United goal flapped at, only to see Sunderland sweep it home at the back post. A mammoth moment. And it secured the only trophy we picked up between 1971 and 1987.

8. Viv Anderson: Many refuse to acknowledge Anderson on account of his enthusiastic departure for United (he was Ferguson’s first signing), but he was a great recruit from recent European Champs, Nottingham Forest.  With Sansom on the left flank, for a while we provided the England team with both their full-backs (Anderson having been the first black player to play for England).  I also remember being on the North Bank when a goal from big Viv contributed to a glorious 3-1 win over the mighty Liverpool.  Classic Phil Lynott-styke tache

7. Robert Pires: I still love Pires, he was such a fantastically creative player to watch.  The insanely good goal against Southampton stands out, but there were so many.  And with Henry, Bergkamp and Ljungberg, he was part of possibly the best attacking line Arsenal have ever had.  And the ludicrously Gallic Three Musketeers moustache that sometimes adorned his upper lip was the perfect accoutrement to the man.

6. Kevin Richardson: A man with no known nickname, a solid, dependable, no-nonsense, ego-free, moustachioed Geordie.  A real pro, George Graham loved him, and Richardson was a member of the side that won at Anfield THAT night in 1989.  His tache?  Well, it was a tache, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing extravagant, just your regular Joe moustache.  He looked like he would’ve been at ease in Edwardian England.

5. Kevin Campbell: Superkev – we loved him, but let’s be honest, for all his bustle and bulk, he wasn’t very good.  He was sometimes pretty effective, and I remember fondly the two goals he scored in the stunning six we racked up against Sheffield Wednesday in the last 18 minutes of a 1992 match, the score finishing 7-1 to the good guys.  A pretty straight forward tache, looked a bit dodgy in his early years but he grew into it.

4. Ian Allinson: “Ian who?” I hear younger fans ask.  Well, Allinson might have had all the charisma of a beige carpet, but he had a glory moment in the epic three-part League Cup semi-final against Spurs in 1987, when in he came on as a sub and scored the equaliser, before Rocky got the winner and we went to Wembley and won the Cup against then-mighty Liverpool.  That win proved to be the launch pad for our renaissance and led to our title wins in 1989 and 1991.  His terrible tache was in keeping with his Austin Allegro persona.

3. Kenny Sansom: Solid mou from the ever dependable left-back. Was he worth the bizarre swap for Clive Allen, sold twice in one summer?  You bet your Gillette Shaving Gel he was.  (Oops, apols for the betting reference, not really suitable when talking about Mr S.)  Time hasn’t been kind to Sansom (though his porky deterioration is as nothing compared to what’s happened to Dean Holdsworth – has anyone seen the state of him these days? Not good).  We’ve been lucky with left-backs down the years, but Sansom ranks right up there.

2. John Jensen: The cult hero’s cult hero, bad tache, bad curly hair, bad player. Yes, I say to you, yes.  This is a man who would have been judged to look uncool in 1970s East Germany.  He was not burdened with style.  When we signed a player who scored in the European Championships Final, we might have thought we could count on the new guy for a few each season.  It didn’t work out that way, and the fans (when they had a sense of humour) adopted “We’ll be there when Jensen scores!” as a song.  And once he did score, at Loftus Road.  We still lost.

1. David Seaman: Surely the only possible winner, top tache, culminating in the fantastic bad-taste combo with Spunky’s ponytail. Oh and the best keeper we’ve ever had.  OK, he might have suffered a bit with the aerial stuff (Nayim from the halfway line, Ronaldhino etc), but the £1m we spent on bringing him from QPR was a superb investment.  Had to leave his native Yorkshire because he can smile.

So there you have it – my Gooner Tache list.  Feel free to dispute it, suggest others I’ve missed etc.

But also think about contributing to the Movember cause: if you know someone doing the business, sponsor them, and if not, you can always donate on http://uk.movember.com/ The charitable causes relate to research and awareness raising in respect of prostate and testicular cancer.  Many of us will have experienced cancer affecting family members, and these are indisputably worthy causes.

Written by 26may1989


Arsène Does The Hokey Cokey

November 21, 2011

“You put your whole self in,
You put your whole self out,
In out, in out,
Fill us all with doubt…”

What’s going on with Arsène Wenger?

Is he in? (staying with us until his dotage, when he can emerge from the Emirates elevators like Young Mr Grace and say “you’ve all done very well” to mystified tea ladies and reserve team kit assistants)?

Or is he out, sulking off to Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City like your common or garden Mourinho?

In an interview with a French magazine (L’Equipe) Le Boss stated very clearly that he would be considering his Arsenal future at the end of the current season:

“Will I be there next season? I will be looking at the situation at the end of this season.”

He has not denied the comments or claimed he was misquoted.

So he’s on his way out then?

Well, not necessarily.

After the Norwich game he gave the following quotes to Arsenal.com:

“I wanted just to say that this is the Club of my life. I have a contract that I will honour and the only way I would one day consider [leaving] is if I feel I have not done well enough for the Club.
 There is no mixed message in there. My commitment and love for this Club is total. The only way I would consider [my future] is if I was not doing well enough for the Club.”

Great! He’s staying with us for life!

Er, not necessarily that, either.

What seems clear is that the best manager Arsenal has ever had has been badly spooked by the failure of the ‘Fabregas Team’ to win any silverware.

In his French magazine article he said:

“For the first time I lost young players who were reaching maturity. I suffered. It’s painful to lose key men you have invested a lot in”.

“What is hard is the feeling something is finishing. For me, we’re now talking short term.”

I suspect that Arsène has had a crisis of faith: both in himself, and in the nature of the modern player.

For five years, like an architect, he constructed a team that he felt would conquer all. Despite the constraints of the stadium move he convinced himself he could produce a squad that would be even better than the Invincibles.

He was wrong. In the end that team let him (and us) down.

It wasn’t all their fault – if Arsène had added two or three experienced professionals to the mix I suspect they would have at least won some cups, but it wasn’t to be.

Then, like a slap in the face, some of his most treasured assets upped sticks and left: Fabregas went to Barcelona ostensibly with Wenger’s blessing, but I believe that AW secretly thought he could persuade him to stay.

Clichy and Na$ri decamped to Abu Dhabi City – the former for a new challenge, the latter for a new Ferrari (every week).

The Na$ri case was a first for Arsène: a player who turned down his arguments about being part of a beautiful team playing the beautiful game in favour of bucket loads of filthy lucre.

For the first time Arsène was faced with losing prized assets when THEY wanted to go, not when HE wanted them to go.

Which brings us to now.

If you deconstruct Arsène’s quotes to L’Equipe and Arsenal.com, some things are clear: he will honour his contract with Arsenal (which means a minimum of two more years). But he will walk if he feels he can’t build success for us again.

Saying that he will be considering his position “at the end of the season” is not the same as saying he is thinking of leaving then. It means that next summer, he will give thought to whether he wants to extend his contract beyond its current bounds.

But by the same token, saying that Arsenal is “the Club of my life” is not the same as saying that “I will be at this Club for life”. Arsenal has undoubtedly been the “Club of my life” for Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, but that does not mean they didn’t play for other teams subsequently.

The well-respected French journalist Philippe Auclair believes there are difficulties between AW and the Arsenal Board. If that’s right, it would further explain why Arsene is prepared to reconsider his position when his contract runs out.

But I have a funny feeling that necessity may be the mother of retention: that we may retain Arsene’s services beyond his current contract because of the love he will develop for the New Arsenal.

For all the sweat, blood, tears and hope he poured into the Fabregas Team, he may well find that the new team that has been forced upon him by circumstances touches his heart in a purer and simpler way.

When you look at how he has turned this 11th Hour Eleven into one of the best form teams in the EPL despite an appalling start, you can only stand back and say that the man is a genius.

He must be loving the intelligence and commitment of players like Arteta, van Persie, Santos, Vermaelen and Koscielny: players who (you feel) have a humility about them that their immediate predecessors lacked.

Frankly I can’t see how he will not come to love them.

I certainly hope so, because if he does decide to leave at the end of his current contract it will be a dark day for our club.

It has been a long time since anyone has trolled onto the Arsenal Arsenal site and appended “In Arsène We Rust” to the end of their ill-thought-out (and usually illiterate) comment.

On other sites, the “Arsène Out” noises are strangely muted.

After five years working with gold, Arsène has started working with iron – and against all the odds, the results are proving more robust and just as beautiful.

When his new creation comes fully to fruition I can’t see him walking away.

Which should mean he’ll extend his contract for five more years.

Thank the Good Lord Dennis.

RockyLives


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