How was it for you?

October 31, 2012

How much fun was that game last night? Not the first 35 minutes obviously but by the end of 120 minutes I couldn’t actually remember how I felt when Reading’s 4th goal had hit the back of the net.

Aaaarrrrrggggghhhh that was how I felt and it’s also how I feel now because my whole match report has disappeared into the ether :(

What to say quickly so that you can all carry on chatting? Bullet points it is then …………….

How can we concede 5 goals?

What an amazing come-back, although we do like to do that in this cup competition. Why isn’t that desire there for some PL games?

Theo Walcott – what an absolute star he was last night, I shall be very upset to see him in another shirt. He’s dangerous, so dangerous.

Olivier Giroud – looked comfortable last night as an Arsenal player. The difference between him and Chamakh is that he fills the space that he stands in whereas Chamakh always looks like he wants to be invisible.

Arshavin is going to need a month to recover from last night, he worked so hard, I can’t believe he played the whole 90 minutes, he must have been exhausted even before Miguel had to go off injured and from then he had no chance of being subbed.

Well done again to the away supporters who were magnificent.

Bringing on Giroud and Eisfeld were important substitutions.

Hahaha to McDermott for bringing on a sub in injury time only for time to be added on for us to score the equaliser.

Any number of players could have scored any number of goals once we got started but why wait until you’re four down to up your game?

It was fantastic, a real roller-coaster of a game and we’re in the next round phew.  If anyone wants to write some player ratings we can add them on.

peachesgooner


Into Silicon Valley in search of Silverware

October 30, 2012

My expectations for tonight are not great. Away to PL opposition is always difficult with a reserve side, but on the other hand these are the type of games when we really see how our lads perform under pressure.

Will Reading prioritise the League Cup (or whatever it is called this season)?  Their next two PL games are QPR away and Norwich at home, both games against direct relegation rivals which will surely have an effect upon McDermott’s selections.

Reading’s last game was an exciting 3-3 draw with Fulham, scoring in the final minute through Robson-Kanu who had trials at Arsenal (no relation to the great man). The manager, Brian Mcdermott was of course a Gooner – probably still is. In ’84/5 he played 45 games under Don Howe. Sadly, George Graham didn’t appreciate his talents and he fell from grace, but he was at AFC for 7 years. McDermott recently called Arsenal Football Club “world class” which shows he is a keen and astute football man.

Another ex-Gunner is Stuart Taylor who also had 7 years at Highbury winning a league title, FA Cup and two League Cup medals – almost all from the bench (like Nasri). He may play tonight. Pogrebyak is a Russia regular and a friend of Arshavin, should he play, he will be a handful for our  CB’s.

Will Mr Wenger play any of the players returning from injury? If Gibbs is approaching fitness I would give him 45 mins to sharpen up ahead of MU. With Szczesny approaching a return it may be a last hurrah for Mannone but can AW take the risk of an injury? Of course not so Martinez will get another chance to show us why he is considered so promising.

My Team:

As you can tell I have little idea of the team. Mr Wenger has to make decisions about whether to risk any first team players in what will be a feisty game, though the above team appears too defensive and there is no real left back,

Chamakh needs to start if he is to find a club in January (assuming he hasn’t already done so). Either that or Walcott could be given his chance as central striker. Who would you pick?

Today’s top man:  Sir George Everest  (1790- 1866) . An explorer and surveyor who spent much of his life in India. Surveying was extremely important in those days  because people had no maps and no real idea of the correlation between places, and without maps people didn’t know where there were. Imagine how grateful the natives must have been when they could say “I live 42 miles North West of  Faizabad”. Couldn’t have been done without surveying and the British surveyed the world. Knighted in 1861 there is a mountain named after him.

Sir Everest in his Sunday suit

Tough game tonight but one we can win. We are sure to be solid in defence with Martinez given a chance to shine. As Reading are scoring freely and porous in defence we should see an attacking game.

It’s a Cup, we need silverware.

Written by Big Raddy


Theo Walcott …. going …. going …. GONE

October 29, 2012

After a couple of pretty abject team performances recently, most can appreciate the extra zip that Theo brings to our wing/forward play. Against QPR we had a chronic lack of pace down the flanks for most of the game. The result was that we were toothless in the final third and Giroud cut a lone and frustrated figure in the centre of our attack. All that changed the minute Theo came on.

Pace is a natural attribute that can be honed but not taught. Its importance on the pitch is never more evident than when it is missing. Pace can be in the legs, in the feet or in the head. Henry had it in all three, Cesc and DB had it in the head and feet and didn’t need it in the legs. With Theo it’s mainly (but not exclusively) in the legs, but still he is a potent weapon in Arsenal’s armoury and a player who defenders know will hurt them if they allow him the space to run at them. It should not be forgotten that he is also one of the best finishers in the squad.

I confess to having changed my mind about him over the last 12 months. I recognise that he has improved in certain areas and he is an asset to the team. He’s a player I’d like to keep. He’ll never be a great help defensively but he can be a game changer and those types of player are few and far between.

Some on this site will know that I have an annoying habit of being right when it comes to predicting whether a player is leaving or not. This doesn’t make me clever, just heartlessly cynical as in the majority of cases we have desperately wanted the player to stay.

My reasoning is simple and it involves observation of body language, analysing individual performance in relation to team performance and assessing their worth to us as a player compared to their monetary value and our ability to replace them. Add to that the imminent expiry of a player’s contract and everything is brought into sharp focus.

The one thing I have learned is that almost everything the player says during the period of speculation can be dismissed. Similarly a lot of what club representatives say will be misleading; in fact, believing the opposite will more often bring you closer to the truth because this is the way the transfer game is played.

But if you look back, there will be times when amongst all the verbal jousting, the player (and sometimes the club) will indicate their true feelings but it just gets lost in the melee of media speculation.

Brave Sir Robin actually told us all he wasn’t staying when interviewed after the last game of the season …. we just didn’t want to hear him. Fast forward this clip to 2 minutes –  you don’t have to be a genius to read between the lines.

So that brings me back to Theo Walcott, a player who has divided supporters as much as Alex Song – and maybe there is a lesson to be learned from his departure.

Theo has said “I want to play for this club (Arsenal) and hopefully something can happen very soon” – hardly a passionate reassurance to supporters.

Add to this the statement that he wants to play centrally and the inference that this forms part of his conditions to sign a new contract. All of a sudden his words take on a different meaning. Everyone in the business knows you cannot dictate where you will be played to a manager and certainly not to one of the best and most respected in the business. I can only view this as a ploy to justify Theo’s decision should he leave.

My belief that Theo is on his way has been growing steadily and recent events have only reinforced that opinion.

These are the bare facts as I see them (and my selective interpretation of the reports in the media):

  1. If Theo does not sign by January, we will sell him if a deal can be done or worse, he’ll leave on a free in the summer. We know we are prepared to sell a player to a rival; the only criterion is getting the best price possible. He could have gone last summer but it appears that no club tabled a sensible offer – I wonder why?
  2. It seems likely that there are now several interested parties including foreign clubs. This is good news as competition should secure us a transfer fee in excess of £6m.
  3. Theo says it’s not about the money. So did Robin. It is … or at least money is the biggest single factor.
  4. On the pitch, Theo is doing his best to impress. His tally of 4 goals and one assist so far this season is very good considering the minutes he’s spent on the pitch. As it stands, he is on course to outstrip his stats for last season and that level of performance will attract interest from other clubs.
  5. Theo has watched teammates like Clichy, Na$ri and Cesc leave and achieve trophies and greater financial reward elsewhere.
  6. Another factor is that we now have The Ox – the new young face of Arsenal’s and England’s future. He’s already on the front cover of FiFA 13 and is fast replacing Theo as a marketing asset to Arsenal.
  7. The time when Arsène Wenger allowed himself to feel pressured by a ‘star player’ is over. He dealt ruthlessly with Alex Song. That must have sent out a message to players and their agents and who knows, Sagna may be in for a shock.
  8. We are looking at potential replacements and have shown interest in Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha as well as Athletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez and a several others not being touted on the internet.
  9. When in our PL history did we ever re-sign a young first team player in the last year of his contract? I can’t think of a single instance.

The evidence is mounting and Theo’s departure seems inevitable. As I’ve already stated, I’d like him to stay. Not because he’s probably going, but because I really think he can gel with the new set up and we can now get the best out of him playing alongside the likes of Cazorla and Wilshere.

Is he worth more than £75k a week? Probably not when taking into consideration what fellow first team players currently earn. Could we afford to pay him more than £75k a week? Yes, but we choose not to. The question is academic because it is likely that other interested clubs will offer Theo a higher wage than Arsenal can afford.

From what I heard walking away from The Emirates on Saturday, some supporters would prefer he left. Can successive England managers be wrong in preferring Theo to the likes of Aaron Lennon and Adam Johnson? I think not, it seems Theo may be appreciated more by the supporters of other teams than our own.

Saturday showed that a player with Theo’s abilities is important to create the supply to the likes of Giroud and last season proved that he can form successful partnerships with other players of high quality.

We lose Gervinho for up to 6 weeks to the ACN from January 2013. We have the Ox and Ramsey who can play on the right but they are better suited to other positions.

If Theo leaves, it is important we make every attempt to bring in another striker who scores goals, can cross the ball and can play wide right – a tall order. Such players are not easy to find and probably won’t come cheap. All we can hope is that we identify and sign a player who can fill the void quickly.

Written by Rasp


QPR Report and Player Ratings: Context Is All

October 28, 2012

There were more than a few “Phews” at the final whistle yesterday.

After two defeats during which we had displayed the cutting edge of a doughnut, a victory was essential to help steady the Good Ship Arsenal.

And a victory we got, but not one that was easy on the ticker.

At one point the TV cameras focused on an old boy in his 90s who has been following Arsenal since the 1920s. I remember thinking that games like the one we were watching were likely to finish the poor old fellow off.

Mind you, given some of the dire, trophy-less periods he has lived through I doubt whether he gets as hot under the collar about our current travails as some of the younger supporters (which in his case means everyone apart from Dandan).

The big news before kick-off was that Arsenal’s saviour had returned: Jack Wilshere starting a first team game for the first time in 17 months. Bacary Sagna also returned after his own absence: hard on young Carl Jenkinson perhaps, but there’s no harm in the lad getting a break after deputising very well so far this season.

Up front, Arsene Wenger took the revolutionary option of starting with an orthodox striker – Olivier Giroud – supported by Cazorla, with Podolski on the left and Ramsey taking the right-sided midfield role he performed so well against the champions a few weeks ago.

Andre Santos continued at left back, prompting long queues at the crappers before kick-off.

The opposition, managed by the unlikeable Mark Hughes, were bottom of the table despite having spent freely, assembling a squad littered with decent players.

QPR are also a big, physical team, proving that “Hughes the Elbow” did not abandon his fondness for the darker footballing arts after hanging up his boots.

As far as I could tell from watching on the box, the stadium atmosphere at kick off was supportive, but apprehensive. We all remember how nasty things got when the wheels came off at the start of last season, and you could tell the fans were nervous of the disharmony that might be waiting to rear its head if we were to suffer a third consecutive defeat.

Rather than a blow-by-blow report, I want to offer an overview of the game.

I felt we started well and immediately looked to have more positive intent than against Norwich last weekend. Cazorla was busy, finding space between the Rangers’ midfield and defence, Podolski was threatening at every opportunity and Wilshere’s quick feet and direct running were a sight for sore eyes (and I don’t know about you, but after Norwich and Schalke my eyes were as sore as Nasri’s splintered arse).

Hopefully one effect of Wilshere’s presence this season will be to take some of the pressure off Cazorla.

Opposition teams have quickly got wise to the dangers posed to them by Santi and he is usually closely marked now. The way we are playing at the moment you feel that if Santi is stopped, so are Arsenal.

But with Wilshere showing the sort of touches, skill and vision he displayed yesterday it’s not going to be so easy for other teams to nullify us and the prospect is mouthwatering.

To QPR’s credit they did not set out to Queens Park the bus (or at least not as much as most other teams we play at The Emirates). They had two up front and were prepared to try and get forward in a systematic way rather than just booting it up to Zamora.

We could have gone ahead early on, when a flicked header from Ramsey looped just onto the crossbar rather than just beneath it. My recollection is that Sagna crossed the ball in that incident – if so it was just one of several good crosses Mr Reliable made on his return. Incidentally, Sagna showed no signs of rustiness, which is quite remarkable after such a long lay off.

We had a few long range shots on target, a couple of which were spilled by Cesar in the QPR goal. None of the spillages fell to an Arsenal boot which, depending on your perspective, is either because we were unlucky or we did not get enough men in the box.

As the first half wore on and we failed to create any gilt-edged opportunities, the level of apprehension seemed to grow. The stadium was pretty quiet (although I accept that the television coverage does not always give an accurate indication of sound levels) and the players looked tense.

At half time it was hard to feel completely confident that we would come away with all three points and the second half continued in the same vein.

The turning point was a piece of petulance by the visitors’ centre back Stephane Mbia. Fouled by Vermaelen out by the right touchline, the Cameroonian lashed out a boot and was rightly shown red.

There were about 15 minutes to go and we had been gradually building up the pressure even before the sending off. But with QPR down to 10 we were really able to turn the screw.

A succession of chances followed – the best of them falling to Santi Cazorla who blasted over from inside the penalty area when he should at least have hit the target.

Cesar made some fine saves in the Rangers goal – the best of them from a deflected clearance off a QPR defender.

We finally got our reward in the 83rd minute. Giroud – who had a really good game leading the line – was able to win a great header in the box despite being under pressure from two defenders. Cesar parried it, but the ball found Arteta in the six yard box. His header hit the crossbar, bounced back into the six yard box and finally squirted (via Ramsey) to Arteta again, who poked it home. There was an argument for offside which may be justified but would have been difficult to call in the melee that led to the goal.

As we all anxiously willed the clock to tick faster, the team very nearly shot itself in the foot. Twice QPR found great positions to equalise. First Granero pulled a shot wide, then Mackie bundled through three challenges only to find Vito Mannone standing strong to make the block.

Finally the whistle went and the collective sigh of relief must have been audible in West London.

How to view this performance is all about context. If we were coming off the back of a string of good results, we would see it as a professional job: a game in which we were not quite in our best fluid form, but did enough to take all three points.

But after the two recent defeats (and, more particularly, the paucity of chances created in those games), this will be viewed by many as another dodgy outing in which we were lucky to come away with a win.

It’s worth noting, however, that we had 70% possession to QPR’s 30%, and we had 21 attempts on goal (11 on target) compared with QPR’s four (three on target).

Those stats should provide some measure of reassurance and certainly give the lie to Mark Hughes’s ridiculous claim that Rangers controlled the game until the sending off. But a man clinging to his job by the skin of his elbows is liable to say anything.

For me there were many pluses: that we ground out the result; that Jack is Back and looking every bit the player we remember him to be; that Bac is Back and in fine form; and that we have made the first step on the road to recovery.

Player ratings

Mannone: not a lot to do but made a vital stop in the dying minutes. His kicking was mostly very good. 7

Sagna: excellent performance by Bac. I don’t recall him being exposed defensively once all game and he got forward and made several fine crosses. 8.5

Mertesacker: solid outing; some good interceptions and headers and the usual composure when distributing from the back. 7

Vermaelen: unspectacular but did his defensive job well – exactly the sort of performance he needs as he gets his form back together. 7

Santos: after his struggles in the last two games Andre did better, but was still exposed a couple of times. However, he is getting a run of games and will improve. 6

Arteta: I’m running out of superlatives for Miki. Outstanding defensive duties and control of the ball. 8.5 (MoTM)

Wilshere: very encouraging return for Jack. His control, passing and running with the ball were all in evidence. If he stays fit he will make a big difference to our season. 8

Ramsey: when he plays wide right he is certainly no winger, but he kept the dangerous Taarabt quiet and did a lot of good work and got the assist for Arteta’s goal. I wish he had a better left foot because he sometimes gets himself into trouble by having to make wide turns on his right. 7

Podolski: he seemed to be hanging back more than usual to help protect Santos, but also looked lively when getting forward. Not his best game but you always feel he’s capable of popping up with a goal. 7

Cazorla: always busy and dangerous. He is surprisingly hard to barge off the ball for such a small guy. Should have done better with his shot when it was still 0-0. 8

Giroud: I really like this player: QPR are a big strong team but he more than held his own, moved their centre backs around a lot and brought others into the game. His fine header led to our goal. We need to be patient with Olivier because he will come good for us. 8

Subs

Walcott: looked as if he could threaten, without actually doing a great deal.

Gervinho: had a couple of typical runs (ie, tricksy runs with no end product) before picking up an injury and being substituted himself.

Arshavin: made the cross that led to the goal – a player who should, perhaps, be getting more pitch time.

RockyLives


Quo Vadis Arsenal v QPR

October 27, 2012

It is rare that Big Raddy struggles to raise enthusiasm for a post but this week has been just so disappointing. Two hard defeats, a dull AGM and another plucky  MU victory, all horribly depressing. Apart from our neighbours scraping a draw with a team of chicken farmers and the losses of MC and the Chavs, it has been unremitting pain.

BR on Thursday morning

But we Arsenal fans aren’t going to let a few disappointments mar our season are we? We are going to get back in the saddle and ride out to face the massing hordes of the enemy. And today we face one of football’s most craven villains. Not the team – everyone has a soft spot for QPR, but their manager, the odious frog -faced Mark Hughes. It is well documented that I have a problem with this miscreant; many detest SAF, others Pulis or Fat Sam, but for me Hughes is the arch villain – he is Lex Luther to Arsene’s Superman.

Just look at his record. This fool has destroyed club after club, admittedly he doesn’t cause the economic ruin that *Arry does, No, what Hughes does is more insidious. He teaches players to perform as he did, with touches of panache which disguise a petty violence – he is the ankle tapper, the achilles tendon breaker as opposed to the leg breaking of Allardyce. At least Allardyce stands up for his crimes to football, Sparky just blames others.

Unfortunately, Rangers have started to improve. The tens of millions spent on new players may not have been wasted as the team starts to gel. I watched their performance last weekend in the draw with Everton and QPR looked good – they could and should have won. Decent ball players, the creativity of Taraabt, some pace and stout defenders…. you know their assets as well as I do. But…..

This game will revolve entirely around Arsenal’s performance. My prayer is that we score early and stop the ill-humour which will inevitably grow should the team struggle. Get the fans onboard, start playing the football we know we can and get back to winning ways.

The signs are that Wilshere will get some pitch-time which is a huge fillip to the fans. So much expectation is resting upon his very young shoulders, but should he be the player we all think he is, then the future is rosy.

My team:

Much depends upon who is fit. What is clear is that somehow we have to create chances for the forwards. In the last two game we haven’t had a sniff at goal. We don’t have the type of strikers who can create their own chances, ours are finishers. The Gervinho in the middle ploy worked for a couple of games but (and I hesitate to say this) he is not intelligent enough to play the role being asked of him – he is no Thierry. We have an expensive CF, play him and let him show what he can do, let Giroud play 90 minutes. Podolski has been subbed in almost every game which makes me question his fitness, so why not give him a 2 week rest?

As to Santos. I feel he has been vilified in the same way that Ramsey, Song, Eboue etc etc have been. Santos is a good player working his way back into the team after a long lay-off through injury, that said, his lack of match fitness is costing us goals, both Norwich and Schalke’s first were as a direct result of Santos not keeping the defensive line; if Gibbs is fit he must start.

Today’s man is just a taster for one of Britain’s great heroes; David Livingstone was an extraordinary man who needs more time than I have today. Instead I will leave you with a picture of his father-in-law, a missionary who established a South African church in 1820.

Three  points is a must today. Not just to stop the rot but to condemn Mr Hughes to a P45 (if they exist anymore)

Written by Big Raddy


Is Fourth really achievable?

October 26, 2012

I will start with Wenger’s words at the end of the AGM.

“There are five trophies,” the Arsenal manager told the club’s shareholders.

“The first is to win the Premiership, second is to win the Champions League, third is to qualify for the Champions League, fourth is to win the FA Cup, and fifth is to win the League Cup.”

The Frenchman added:

“I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they don’t ask if you won the League Cup, they ask if you play in the Champions League.”

Many will argue that two abysmal back to back results do not have an impact on the players or the fans. I strongly disagree and when we look at our ever growing list of injuries how many of these players would actually improve the team as a unit.

Walcott who has come in for a lot of criticism is a bit part player, yet I read “if only he had played against Schalke” Rosicky hasn’t kicked a ball since early June, Fabianski has a mystery injury, Podolski is carrying an injury yet played and was ineffectual.Gibbs is a big miss but his history of injuries doesn’t make pleasant reading and the same applies to Diaby, and regardless of what has been said about Santos, he is not the answer to our long tradition of left sided wing backs in fact as a defender he is useless. Sagna is a miss but young Jenkinson has improved game by game and to sub him on Wednesday was madness. Szczesny is still two to three weeks away from a return (which could mean anything) so Vito remains in goal and one can visibly see he is as nervous as hell.

Many think Jack will suddenly be our saviour after nearly missing 16 months of football. It just doesn’t work like that.

The Ox is a gifted young player but again Wenger will play him in a cameo role, as he does the once gifted Arshavin.

Recent buys such as Park, Squillacci and Chamakh have been a total disaster and one has to blame Wenger. Now one reads that Bould and Wenger are not agreeing on tactics, which may or may not be true, but I saw enough on Wednesday that Bould doesn’t know how to make the right tactical subsitutions or at the right time. Schalke are no Barcelona, just a fairly good Bundesliga side.

Why buy Giroud and either give him less than half a game or drop him altogether after so few matches when he is the nearest thing to a striker that we currently have?

I will not slate the new figure to be continuously berated Ramsey,  as was Denilson, as I feel that if our squad had sufficient quality he would be loaned out to get some confidence back.

Next we play QPR who though bottom of the league will think this couldn’t be a better time to play us. Then it gets better United and Schalke both away ( I am dismissing the Reading game even if some think it will give the returning players some game time).

There is absolutely no confidence or fluidity in this squad at present and as I mentioned on Wednesday it beggar’s belief when Vermaelen and Santos were at times our most advanced players.

I have supported the club long enough but to me the club is in complete shambles from the boardroom down. The signs were there last season and who will be the next of our diminishing players to be sold come next Summer.

I really have had enough of this financial stability comes first and foremost and that there is money available now as there has been for a while.

If the players give 100% and lose so be it, but I see that it is going to take quite a while to get the attractive winning Arsenal back on it’s feet and by then fourth will be out of sight.

I am sure most will disagree but I would have rather be told when we moved that finances are tight and that expectations by the fans should go on hold rather than be nearly totally reliant that the FPP will benefit us more than most other clubs.

I can’t watch this rubbish anymore with such a passion for a club I once loved.

Written by kelsey


Impotent Arsenal ….. Another Bad Day At The Office

October 25, 2012

Looks like I was wrong again, it seems my early predictions that it would be Arsenal and Man City who vie for the EPL are way off the mark. Embarrassing as that lofty prediction now seems I don’t regret it. As a season ticket holder one of the things that keeps me paying the annual expense is a genuine belief that the good guys could bring the title back to THOF and this preseason was no exception.

I calculated that with the purchases of Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud and the further emergence of The Ox we would have what it takes and so it seemed. For a few weeks the heady smell of silverware polish was in the air; the Liverpool game sent my head spinning but that was short lived as the cold light of day has dawned and the reality of exactly what our team consists of has now come into sharp focus.

It is quite simple, our attack is not potent enough to win the League, it doesn’t function as a unit and it doesn’t have the wherewithal to change. Theo on the right might help, well let’s face it; things up front can’t get much worse.

Unlike the Norwich game, which Wenger claims the team did not take seriously enough, I thought the team selection for Shalke showed exactly how seriously he was taking the game. Ramsey on the right was the key to this for me, the Welshman doesn’t offer much by way of defence but he does offer some, and it was that ability that enabled him to drop back and try to help out against the waves of German attacks.

All went reasonably well in the first half I thought, we were in the game, the BFG was holding things together at the back and there was always the chance that Gervinho might get lucky. But luck is all it was ever going to be; he does not have the talent to be team player and by that I mean he doesn’t have the skill to be able to bring other players into the game; he is so erratic no one knows what he is going to do next, I am not sure he knows himself. A large part of the crowd has turned against him, there were cheers when he went off, not all, but the number is growing and the dissenters are becoming more vocal.

The second half still offered hope even if it was becoming clear to the most blinkered of supporters which was the better team on the pitch. The defence held well and that includes Santos who was up against a very skilful Farfan. Did Shalke score due to his error? No and neither did Norwich, the Brazilian is getting himself back up to match speed and while he is doing so he retains the support of this gooner who can remember how exciting he was before his injury last season.

Shalke finally scored, if the blame has to be pointed at anyone I suppose Vermaelen should catch it; he seemed to nod off for a moment enabling the Germans to get through.

Wenger sent on Gnabry and Arshavin but it was too little too late (pun intended) and for all those who might accidentally rush to elevate our own young German to saviour status, I would point out that it was he who was caught in possession that led to their second goal.

Written by LB


Schalke: Speke’s Fighting Spirit

October 24, 2012

Schalke. An enchanting name, like a lover’s whisper on a hot summer night.

To be honest,  I know next to nothing about Schalke and from yesterday’s lack of response it seems none of you do either. Yes, we know that they beat Borussia Dortmund last weekend and that they finished 3rd in the Bundesliga last season ( a season in which we beat their  current Champions) but apart from Huntelaaar , their players, history and town are unknown. So following some research here is a short resume:

Managed by  Huub Stevens, Schalke play their home games in the 62k capacity Veltins Arena (Veltins is a brewer). They have over 100k members. The last time they won the Bundesliga was in Black and White (1957). Schalke have won the UEFA Cup (1997), twice won the Inter-Toto and in 2011 reached the CL semi-Final only to be knocked out by MU, who happily got hammered in the final. They have some fine players including a wunderkid – Draxler, a couple of old Arsenal targets, Metzelder, recently returned from Real Madrid  and Affelay, who is on loan from Barca. A player to watch (should he be fit) is Lewis Holtby, a young MF who has represented Germany at all levels despite having an English father. Schalke  (like BD) have a very fervent support – it is unlikely The Emirates will be quiet tonight.

No, not Chelsea …. Schalke Fans

Reports say that Schalke beat BD by playing on the break – this is not especially good news for Arsenal. That said, they are averaging two goals a game and clearly have attacking intent.

Podolski who knows a thing or two about German football states that Schalke will be our toughest opposition in the group. They rarely lose at home so tonight we must maximize our home advantage.

Arsenal go into the game under pressure to perform. We were pants at Carrow Rd and the team has taken a media battering. They deserved it. I don’t go along with those who say the team lacked effort or passion, what they lacked was team work, cohesion, inspiration and luck. Norwich’s goal was lucky –  a fellow takes a pot shot from 35 yards, the ball swerves unexpectedly, Don Vito is surprised. Holt who should be offside is onside because Santos isn’t concentrating, BFG couldn’t get back because he was doing his job of taking out the defence and we went 1-0 down. Norwich got lucky. But, there was no excuse for the total lack of inspiration in the next 70 minutes and tonight we must see a return to form or the knives will be out.

Let us look at the possible forward combinations. We have a choice of Pod, Gerv and Giroud. Podolski has a minor injury and in ideal circumstances would be rested, but can we go into the game with just OG and The Swerve upfront? We could if we had a potent midfield ….. but we don’t. Could Chamakh make a comeback?  No –  that isn’t a joke! And what of Arshavin who will surely get some pitch time tonight?

Rosicky, Sagna, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Diaby, Szczesny, Gibbs and Koscielny. That is some team and every one is injured. – 9 top players out which  may be part of the reason for Norwich.

My Team:

Which is exactly the same team that started at Norwich. Apart from Coquelin or Arshavin there are few alternatives. There is a possibility that Koscielny will be fit but I wouldn’t start him ahead of TV and BFG.

Enough of football and onto Raddy’s current interest which is those intrepid English explorers. Today’s great man is John Speke seen looking lovely and tidy in a portrait below ….

John Hanning Speke

Speke discovered the source of the Nile which had been a mystery for over 2000 years, he called it Lake Victoria (known by locals as Nyanza Ukerewa). To cross through Central Africa in those days was a major undertaking with over 80% of the explorers dying from illness or attack, it took not only great courage but lots of money – Speke had both. Speke fought in the British Army in India, he explored the Himalayas and even tried to climb Everest. He died in a shooting accident in 1864.

Would a man who was captured by Somalian tribesmen and stabbed several times before freeing himself and his friends go belly-up because of a crap result at Norwich? Would he hell, and neither will The Arsenal.

3 points tonight and we are almost assured a place in the next round. You know it will not be easy, it isn’t the Arsenal Way but ….. Victoria Concordia Crescit

Written by Big Raddy


Losing Faith In Arsène

October 23, 2012

Saturday’s defeat at Norwich affected me much more than is normally the case with our setbacks and I have spent the last couple of days trying to figure out why.

Usually in the wake of a bad defeat (or even a depressing draw, like the 4-4s against Newcastle and Totteringham) I am able to keep things in perspective.

But on Saturday evening perspective was nowhere to be found: it was off cavorting somewhere with Lord Lucan and the Loch Ness Monster.

In yesterday’s Post Kelsey said: “That was one of the worst team performances I have seen for many a season.”

I would go further: it was the worst performance I can remember from Arsenal since Arsène Wenger took charge.

Casting my mind back to earlier horrors, there was always either an extenuating circumstance or something positive to grab hold of.

Collapsing 8-2 at Old Trafford? Well, we were a club in turmoil with a team comprising mostly youths and reserves.

Drawing 3-3 at home to Norwich during the run-in last season? The defence may have gone missing but at least we scored three.

Going from 4-0 up to finish 4-4 in the debacle at Newcastle? Again, we scored goals. Plus Joey Barton behaved despicably to get one of our players sent off and Phil Dowd gave the worst refereeing performance that this spectator has witnessed in more than 40 years.

I could go through many more examples (sadly) and there would always be some crumb of comfort to take away from the mess. But not on Saturday.

On Saturday we were so poor that the only crumbs were little bits of broken dream, dissolving dismally into the East Anglian turf.

Going forward, we were as toothless as a granny with gingivitis. At the back, we were as impregnable as an Essex girl on a Saturday night. And in midfield we made so many backwards passes we might as well have been playing rugby.

The three pillars of successful football – Skill, Passion and Determination – were absent without leave, away with Lucan and Nessie.

Of course, as you probably know, the disappointment hit me harder this time because I truly believed that we had put those sorts of performances behind us. Not that we would never again have bad results – that happens to everyone – but that there would be no more examples of just not turning up for a game that was  there for the taking.

In recent seasons I have felt that these kinds of showing were down to an inherent psychological weakness in the squad – one that also always manifested itself in our traditional late-season collapses.

And the weakness I blamed on the fact that the balance of the squad was wrong: too many young players who did not know what it took to win the big prizes. And that we also had players who were disruptive to good team spirit (like Nasri and Adebayor).

This season no-one can say we don’t have experienced, mature players throughout the squad: Mertesacker, Arteta, Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla for starters. And there seems to have been a good sense of camaraderie among the players so far. The only potentially disruptive factor has been the on-going saga of Theo’s contract, but you just don’t get the sense that he is someone who would cause trouble in the dressing room.

I know we have a lot of injuries, but when I saw the starting 11 for Saturday’s game I was happy we had a team capable of bringing home the points.

So when we lost in such a timid fashion, my train of logic went like this: here we are again with another abject surrender; but we now have mature players; we no longer have the disruptive elements… so it must be down to the manager and his team.

I do not for one second believe we lost because we were tired from international travel; or that we were complacent. Other teams also had many players on international duty and they did just fine. And we have had so many bad results to lower placed teams in recent seasons that the complacency thing doesn’t wash.

What was lacking, I felt, was any sense of motivation from the team. And the man ultimately responsible for motivating them is the manager.

If you look for a link between all the bad performances of the past five or six years, it’s not the players: the personnel have changed so much that our current team is barely recognisable from even two season ago; it’s not even the silent whipping boy of some supporters, Pat Rice. Pat has left and the man everyone wants to replace him is now in his position; the only link is Arsène Wenger.

In my post-Norwich doldrums I started to realise I was losing faith in Arsène. And that’s why this defeat hit me harder than any previous one.

Losing faith in Arsène is like falling out of love with your wife. It can creep up on you and before you know it, you’re looking at someone you have known for years as if they are a stranger.

The things that were so appealing, so charming – the windmilling arms, that way of drawling “weeellll…” at the start of every answer, the silly knee length puffer jacket – suddenly look silly. Unattractive even. But that’s enough about my wife. A similar effect was starting to happen with my view of Arsène.

In a marriage you can go to a relationship counselor who might just make you realise that the woman you always loved is still there, it’s just that current circumstances have got in the way of you seeing her properly.

In a football relationships, there are no counselors but there is good counsel to be found. And I found it here in the comments of Arsenal Arsenal. I read a litany of disappointment and disbelief. But, as the shock of that awful performance wore off, I also read many comments putting it down to “a bad day at the office.”

And while there has, perhaps, been a reassessing of expectations for this season, many commenters also pointed to the optimism we felt after the West Ham and Liverpool wins; to the quality of our performance against Man City. Surely the team that did so well in those games can not have vanished overnight?

There IS a link connecting all our poor performances of recent years. But it’s not Arsène (or at least, not a failure on his part to motivate players). The link is the changing economics of football.

This link forced us (rightly) to build a bigger stadium, with the period of austerity that it inevitably brought; it meant that when sugar daddy owners came on the scene they could skew the market for players to such a degree that even a club like Manchester United can no longer compete equally; and it meant a club like Arsenal, running itself sustainably, would suffer defections of key players at bad moments.

That’s the link that has left us now with a team in which several regular starters have only been with the club a few months; a team, therefore, that will inevitably stutter occasionally as it gels together; a team that has lost the EPL’s top goal scorer and player of the season; a team that gets lambasted by the ignorant press for not adopting the sort of Gordon Gekko economics that have bankrupted the entire nation.

No manager could have produced a title winning team during that period. In fact, no manager could have kept a team in the top four throughout all those crazy years.

Except that one man did: Arsène Wenger.

My faith wobbled, but it has come back stronger. We may win nothing this year. We may not even finish in the top four. But Arsène is still the right man at the helm and the tide in football finances is turning ever so slowly in our favour.

And I have a funny feeling that this version of Arsène’s Arsenal is going to surprise us all.

RockyLives


Reality check needed after Norwich defeat.

October 22, 2012

A lot has already been discussed about our game at Norwich but there are still many factors to ponder.

We kicked off after all of our main rivals had played and results should have given the team the incentive to grab three points against a bottom of the table side who had conceded nine goals in their last two matches.

We are, by now, used to this Arsenal team. Consistency, regardless of whoever we play, has been missing for quite a few seasons, and we weren’t disappointed. That was one of the worst team performances I have seen for many a season. People will say that it would have been different if  it were not for the fact that the in form Gibbs as well as super sub Walcott were out injured, but if we are a club that has genuine aspirations to winning the title or at least being in the mix, it has vanished.

RVP nearly single handedly got us into third last season with assists and goals (amounting to 27 points) and of course a helping hand from the Albion keeper Fullop. The warning signs were there.

I think it really is time for a reality check. We have now amassed only 50% of the points available after eight games – and has Bould really improved our defence? We have now conceded first in our last four EPL games, therefore having to chase the game each time. We were at sixes and sevens in defence, a better team than Norwich would have added to their tally.

All clubs have injuries but when you look at our squad, Diaby, Gibbs and Rosicky in particular have a history of injuries and IMO our squad just isn’t strong enough.

For the first time,  I place the blame on Arsene Wenger’s shoulders. Can he really motivate these players anymore? I am beginning to have my doubts.

He says we have to regroup for the Schalke game, but even if we eventually get out of our group as winners or runners up, can anyone realistically see us progressing further?

My main beef has been the same for a few seasons and that is the goalkeeper’s position. Apparently our Pole in Goal has been carrying an injury since the end of last season. Fabianski was shot two seasons ago and I will not argue that Mannone is a good third choice keeper. How many top clubs have to play their third choice keeper as the only option? Surely we need experienced cover for our number one, but Wenger appears to be blind to that. Apparently he tried to sign Schwarzer last season and when that didn’t happen, he appeared not to pursue any other options.

I really think we will struggle to get top 4 this season without an upturn in form and commitment by some of the players and investment in January.

A lot will be expected from Wilshere but I hope he isn’t played until he is 100% fit (as previously players have been selected then afterwards it has become known that they were carrying a knock – go back only to Saturday and Podolski was one who played under those very same conditions)

Santi is a great player but can be marshalled out of a game as was the case against Chelsea, or if he is off form we have no one else to pick up the reigns.

I am not asking for Wenger to go. Even if he did (in theory), nothing would change in the Boardroom in terms of what many would consider releasing REASONABLE sums for player acquisitions.

Look at our fixture list for November and the increasing number of injuries – it does not bode well. Chamakh is obviously out of favour as we saw the young German lad Gnabry thrown on to try and rescue a point . Is that the squad of a club with top four ambitions?

I am angry, upset, but mainly disappointed in the performance collectively, and only hope that things don’t get worse……..but I won’t hold my breath. We have a range of testing conundrums on our hands.

In the immortal words of Rocky…I will get my coat  :)

Written by kelsey


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