When Saturday Comes…..

November 30, 2012

On Saturday I am going to be making the (roughly) 7 hour round trip to the Emirates Stadium from West Yorkshire in order to watch a group of 20-30 something men kick an inflatable piece of leather in between some sticks!

Madness, some might say, but for me this is the completion of a childhood dream.

The first time i watched Arsenal on the TV was during the 1993/4 European Cup Winners Cup winning run, and I knew they were the team for me. That’s right people, I was a glory supporter! But seriously, with future club legends such as John Jensen, David Hillier and Eddie McGoldrick wearing the red and white, what wasn’t to love!?

From that day forward, even through all the grief suffered at the hands of adolescent Leeds supporters (you know the thugs that you see in the news now, imagine them as kids!), it has been my dream to watch Arsenal in the flesh, and on Saturday 1st December, at 3pm, my dream will finally come true. For that one afternoon I will forget about all the clubs current ‘issues’ and this group of finally tuned athletes will be forever etched in my memory the same way that the team of Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Bould, Davis, Morrow, Merson, Selley, Smith and Campbell are.

My question to you this morning, and for some of you oldies this may be a tad difficult, but can you remember when you first fell in love with the Gooners, and what was it that set them apart for you?

And on a side note, is there anything that I MUST experience on my first trip to the Emirates (apart from a win, of course!)?

Written by slimgingergooner


Arsenal Supporters: Put Your Toys Back In The Pram

November 29, 2012

Yeah, it wasn’t a great performance up at Goodison Park last night.

Yeah, the same faults in evidence at Villa were on show again against the Toffees.

Yeah, we would all like things to be better at the moment.

But for crying out loud let’s keep some perspective.

We have just recorded our second consecutive draw on the road. Aston Villa are always tough opponents even if they are in the doldrums right now; Everton, meanwhile, are being strongly tipped for a top four finish this season.

Neither draw was a bad result, unless you are so ridiculously entitled that you are going to strop out on principle every time we fail to win.

To judge by the reaction of some fans you would think we had just suffered two heavy defeats to teams of no consequence, not two away draws at difficult venues.

Here are a few thoughts to put things in context:

  • We are unbeaten in six games (since the away defeat at ManUre).
  • While our attacking game stutters, we are at least becoming hard to beat.
  • Manchester United lost at Everton this season and Liverpool failed to win (in fact the last team to win there was Arsenal, last season).
  • Our goal difference is Plus 10 after 13 fixtures. At the same point last year it was Plus 3.
  • Our squad is returning to full strength.
  • At this point last year we had suffered four defeats compared with three this season.
  • Last year we lost four of our next nine league games: I don’t expect us to do that this year.

This is not to say that there are not problems with the way we’ve been playing recently.

We lack fluidity up front; we are disconnected in midfield; we are still prone to silly individual mistakes; our midfield seems to struggle physically with a lot of opposing teams.

But this is not a crisis.

We have the players and the manager to put things back on track. If I were to bet, I would say we will be top four by the end of the year.

And I also expect Arsene Wenger to spend some money in the winter transfer window.

If you are feeling down in the dumps about all things Arsenal at the moment I understand: I share those feelings. But, as the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. And the Arsenal dawn is coming.

RockyLives


To Goodison and Beyond.

November 28, 2012

Lovely club Everton. Good manager,  proper ground and fans, history, decent board, solid team with some much-in-demand players but ….. they would sell their grandparents to get 4th, something we spoilt Gooners have started to sneer at.

Would you be happy if Moyes took over from Mr. Wenger? I thought not.

If you were Moyes and had a chance of getting a CL spot would you sell Fellaini, Jelavic and Baines in January? No, I thought not.

Do you think, apart from Baines and Fellaini, that any Everton players would be first choice for Arsenal?

So why are they above us in the table?

Everton have won one out of their last 7 PL games, however they have yet to lose at home this season. We have a fine recent record at Goodison, something AW will be looking to continue.

The return of Theo and JW will add much to our team and hopefully give some thrust  to our attacks, something lacking at Villa. I feel for Ramsey who had a decent game on Saturday but will always be in Wilshere’s shadow.

My Team:

Mr Wenger is prone to adding an extra midfielder when we are playing away but I hope he takes the risk of attacking from the off; we have been awful in the first 20 minutes for over a month. Ox was poor last week and must do better if he is to force his way into the starting 11.

Given the power of Fellaini and Jelavic I would play TV rather than Koscielny, conversely Kos has been back to his best and we haven’t conceded in the last two games.

Today’s English Explorer: May I introduce you to George Vancouver (1757-1797) who explored and surveyed the Pacific coast of North America from Oregon all the way to Alaska. Like  many explorers of the time he had a penchant for naming things after himself – Mount Vancouver, Vancouver Island and 2 Vancouver cities (Canada and USA) plus the Vancouver Peninsula in Australia, He learned his trade on two trips with Captain Cook to Australia and Hawaii aboard the Discovery.  Vancouver died young at just 40. He is buried in Petersham, Surrey.

No facial hair. No title

Arsenal are on a 5 match unbeaten run. In order to make it 6 we shall  have to be resolute in defence. I expect the game to centre upon who wins the midfield battle, Arteta’s return to Goodison will fill him with enthusiasm and hopefully be the springboard towards a victory. Set pieces could well be the key. Scoring has not been a problem but we really have to be more accurate with our crossing – in Giroud Arsenal finally have a player who is excellent in the air, let’s use this ability and make sure there are enough runners into the box to capitalise on the knock-downs.

We can win this ……

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Dear Mr. Wenger, All I want for January is ……….

November 27, 2012

I know it’s a little early to be talking January Transfer Window, but here goes …………….

I thought that with the recent influx of funds courtesy of our favourite airline, mixed with a lot of discussion about Wenger possibly coming to the end of his tenure, it might be a good chance for people to put forward the transfer targets that they think could bring the trophies back to the Emirates whilst at the same time getting Arsene back in the fans good books.

There have been a lot of different figures banded around the press about how much Wenger actually has at his disposal come January, but i’m thinking that around £30-£40m investment is what is needed to get fans back onside.

Personally, I believe we are only 1 or maybe 2 ‘quality’ players away from having the squad needed to get back in the fight for trophies.

As many of you will probably agree, a striker is priority number one. A few of the names being thrown around are Huntelaar, El Shaarawy and Llorente.

Personally, I think Huntelaar seems the most obvious and most likely option. It doesn’t look like he is going to extend his current contract which runs out soon, and at 29 he is probably looking for one more big move before time runs out on his career. With a small price tag of around £6m it would leave enough funds to cover his possibly high wage demands.

The second position that is being discussed a lot is Left Back. Santos seems to have fallen out of favour since his car ‘incident’ and poor performances have done nothing to improve the situation. Young Dutch International Jetro Willems has been mentioned a lot and would certainly fit the bill as a typical Wenger signing.

The other position we may have to fill in January is the RW with Theo still not agreeing a new contract. Most are now desperate for him to re-sign (a massive turnaround from 12 months ago when he was being slaughtered by fans) but if he decides to walk away then Wenger will definately need a replacement. Zaha at Palace and even the dreadful Downing have been named as possible recruits, but personally i think Theo will actually sign on the dotted line.

Anyway, enough of what i think!

Who do you think Arsene should buy in this window, and what positions do you feel we need to strengthen? We would all love Messi, but try and be realistic and stick to the budget.

Written by SlimGingerGooner


The Press is Killing Arsène

November 26, 2012

No apologies, but this is a slightly misleading headline.

Regular readers will know that one of my bugbears is the way media coverage of Arsenal is so often ill-informed, sensationalist or plain biased.

But that’s not the kind of “press” I want to talk about today.

After watching our attacking endeavours thwarted – yet again – by a defence whose recent record is leakier than Julian Assange’s outbox, it’s clear that there is a problem in search of a solution.

Aston Villa had conceded eight goals in the two games before we rolled into town. Afterwards they had conceded eight goals in three games.

We were similarly impotent away at Norwich, who had shipped nine goals in their two fixtures immediately before meeting us.

We’re like a travelling tube of Super Glue, ready to lock tight any previously gaping defence.

Why is it happening?

Many reasons, no doubt. But one of them appears to be the fact that we are struggling to create chances when other teams press us in our own half.

“The Press” is a tactic that requires lots of discipline, concentration and hard physical work from the team employing it. Barcelona, of course, are the highest profile exponents (although their version often entails the two or three players closest to the opponent with the ball swarming him until he loses possession).

The way The Press is being used against Arsenal is best illustrated by the away game at Old Trafford.

The ruby conked Hibernian ordered Wayne Rooney to man mark Arteta, who normally receives the ball from our defence. Arteta was suddenly not available. Other United players applied pressure elsewhere in midfield and our defenders had to play higher risk passes to get the ball away.

It’s safe to say that if Aston Villa had strikers of Manchester United’s quality, they would have completed the job against us, having nullified our attacking threat by snuffing it out at source.

When Arteta is given time on the ball, we look fluent in attack. Players move, passes travel quickly and openings are made.

But when the Spaniard’s influence is limited by the opposition pressing him deep in his own half, the opposite happens.

If we can’t get the ball to Arteta, or he receives it and is immediately under pressure, there is less time to move the ball quickly on to Cazorla or one of the other midfielders; when (if) it eventually finds its way to another midfielder, that player is also already under pressure so their chances of making an effective pass are similarly reduced.

I was very struck during the Villa game how little movement there seemed to be from our players not on the ball.  One of the hallmarks of Arsene’s Arsenal has been the dangerous movement of our midfielders and strikers – and it’s worrying to see them so static. It was as if they weren’t moving because they didn’t expect to get the ball.

Some of our best moments – and our very best chance of the game – came when Laurent Koscielny surged forward from the back, breaking The Press and causing confusion among the Villa players.

The Premier League being what it is, other managers are going to look at what has worked against us and try the same thing themselves. The worst part is that you don’t need high quality players to make it work, so all the mid to low table teams can give it a go. They just need lots of effort from their players. So it’s up to us – or rather, up to Arsene – to find an answer.

Using the wings is one obvious alternative: it was noticeable on Saturday that we looked better when Oxlade-Chamberlain stayed out wide. Unfortunately, whether under instruction from the manager or whether from youthful inexperience, The Ox drifted infield far too often. Podolski sometimes stays wide, but always gives the impression of wanting to head inside.

Walcott and Gervinho will certainly help in that regard and it’s good to know both should be available for Everton.

We could try hitting long balls up to Giroud, with our other forwards and midfielders looking to get closer to him to pick up knock-downs and lay-offs, although this does not seem a natural Wenger tactic.

Or we could look to shift things around in midfield. Perhaps it’s time to give Coquelin a run in the holding role, with two of Santi Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta ahead. Coquelin would play that role differently to Arteta, and the two other MFs would have to drop a little deeper to collect the ball and start our attacks.

Those of you who are better at tactics than me may well have some other ideas – it would be great to hear them.

One way or another, Arsene has to find a way of overcoming The Press and getting his team’s forward threat back to what it should be.

Right now, it’s the biggest challenge he faces in terms of keeping us in touch with the top four in the table.

There was a debate in the Arsenal Arsenal comments yesterday about whether it was time for our manager to step aside for someone else

How he tackles this latest dilemma will go some way towards telling us whether he still has what it takes.

RockyLives


Bore Draw

November 24, 2012

I don’t like 5:30pm kick offs on a Saturday, mainly because I don’t like ESPN commentators and pundits but also because I have lost count of the times these games don’t go to plan.

However with a win in the NLD and qualification to the Champions League knock outs we had two wins under our belts and the chance to make that three with a visit to Villa Park I felt more confident than normal for a Saturday evening fixture.

With JohnnieNYCs post ringing in his ears and a glance at Raddy’s pre match Wenger decided to give rotation a go. I have often complained in the past that Arsene doesn’t get rotation, he either rotates all or none, well today he went for four changes from the team that took the field against the Lilylivered cretins from N17. Rested were Vermaelen, Wilshire and Sagna, being replaced by Gibbs, Ramsey and Jenkinson, the injured Theo replaced by Oxlade-Chamberlain. If I was going to criticise I would say that was two too many. We had no choice with Theo and playing Gibbs at left back is a no brainer when fit. I wouldn’t have swapped Jack and Bacary but I would have kept Koscielny in the side as Arsene did. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and pre match yesterday I wasn’t too worried about Jenkinson. But in my opinion there is an issue when too many new partnerships are on the pitch at once it causes a getting to know you period which affects our play.

A rain soaked pitch is good for us so I was pleased to see it pelting down at Villa Park, for the record Lambert likes his teams to pass so I wouldn’t expect him to be one of the managers who purposely don’t have the sprinklers on the surface pre match. A zippy surface should mean we can play passes at pace. But we don’t seem able to do that anymore.

There really isn’t too much to report in terms of events on the pitch it was all very timid, gilt edges chances were few and far between, it says something about our attacking display that the best chance of the game fell to Koscielny who was on one of his upfield charges after nicking the ball from an unsuspecting attacker. Unfortunately the ball was behind him and he couldn’t get a good contact with his left peg, and it was very much a centre backs shot harmlessly over the bar.

So without much to comment on in the game lets focus on why we failed to breakdown another average PL defence. For me it’s the way we are currently setting up, the start of all our possession is The BFG, you will not find many better passers of the ball at centre back, but he is getting fewer and fewer options every time he receives the ball, Arteta used to be his outlet but he at the moment seems unable to show for every ball, when he does show he in turn has very few options close, Cazorla, Ox and Pod yesterday were too far up the pitch when we had the ball at the back. When the ball did get to them we had no space or pace as we are not passing and moving. We are missing runners from deep. We try and pass the ball round the defenders, and put in crosses, but we are just not good enough to make this work.

In my opinion when we have possession at the back the midfield and wide players need to start 10 yards deeper. This then means when we move forward we have to pass and move at pace which can only be good for us, and should mean we have players breaking through defensive lines.

Right anything else to say about the match…..two good stops by Szczesny, and our crossing and shooting were pretty woeful.

Ratings:

Szczesny 8 – one top drawer save, good control of area and another couple of solid stops

Jenkinson 7 – good physical display, some timely challenges, didn’t support attack as well as he can do

Gibbs 7 – good to have the future England left back back

Koscielny 7 – assured performance

BFG 7 – what we have come to expect.

Arteta 6 – not in the game, is there a curse on the armband?

Cazorla 6 – didn’t do enough.

Ramsey 7 – he gets a lot of stick but he never stops showing and he sees a lot of ball because he makes himself available. Never ever hides, and plays wherever he is asked to.

Podolski 5 – very poor from the Pod, touch let him down in the first half.

Ox 5 – didn’t make his mark on the game, must hold wide if this is where he is being asked to play.

Giroud 7.5 MotM – he was the only one consistently playing one touch passes encouraging midfielders to run past him with clever touches, and lay offs. Made bad passes look good. Got no meaningful service but never stopped showing.

Subs:
Gervinho – 6 ran it out of play more than in to danger areas
Arshavin – 6 did nothing
Coquelin (too little time to score)

Written by GoonerInExile


Can Arsenal sustain the Improvement?

November 24, 2012

Let’s not get carried away. Two wins against very poor opposition does not mean we are going to charge up the table  – or does it? Could a week of 7 goals and a clean sheet be the portents for a massive improvement? We will find out today.

Aston Villa have had a troubled start to the season; they lack confidence, strikers, cohesion and points. What they do not lack is a very good young manager who will be using all his skills to rectify this situation. Lambert has proven he has the ability to take a club with a small budget to PL safety, I expect him to do the same at Villa, though he is banned from the touchline for this fixture thanks to being rightly upset with the officials.

I have always liked Villa; they have a noble history but went into decline 20+ years ago. To those younger fans it should be noted that, unlike us, they have won the European Cup – can anyone remember the name of their manager at the time? (without Google :-)).

Never liked their ground, set amongst motorways, scrubby parkland  and industrial estates – and the scene of that horrible night of the DB missed penalty, and a hairy Giggs goal (BR was there in ’99). But like Liverpool and Everton, Villa are a proper club.

Who is this Man? (clue: he is not Inspector Clouseau)

Villans are not happy, their team are struggling but there are signs of improvement – 2 ahead against MU, doing OK at MC before being shafted by the ref, this will not be an easy game for us. Villa have a young inexperienced squad and are heavily dependent upon Benteke to score, despite having Darren Bent and Abonglohar in the squad. What has happened to Bent? A confirmed Gooner and according to Peaches a very pleasant chap, he has cost his employers over £50m in transfer fees and yet doesn’t feature in a team desperate for goals. He could be a reasonable Chamakh replacement in January.

Stat time; We have not lost against AV for 13 games (6 dr 7 w). In 7 of the last 9 meetings there has been a goal after the 87th minute. AV have won just 2 of their last 18 home PL games. All of this bodes ill for Arsenal who love to buck the trend!

Arsenal: No Theo, some of the team looking jaded, Sagna and JW both being used too often after retuning from long-term injury, Gibbs a risk, Podolski overplayed – is JNYC right that we need some rotation? Most would say Yes, particularly as we are away at Everton mid-week. I think a little tinkering and perhaps some timely substitutions will suffice.

My Team:

I would be happy to se Gervinho if O-C his not fully recovered from his hip injury . Much will depend upon how AW sets up the midfield., he may choose to play Coquelin in place of JW.

Our recent run of form is entirely due to the good luck brought by the two hirsuite brave Englishmen presented in these pre-matches. Today’s explorer is sure to bring us victory:  Edward John Eyre (1815-1901). An English land explorer who was just a touch self-obsessed as witnessed by the names of his discoveries – Lake Eyre, the Eyre Peninsula and the Eyre River (all in South Australia) he walked through South Australia, the Nullabor plains and along the Great Bight – over 2000 miles! Eyre later became Governor of Jamaica.

Why not re-name it The Eyre-Mirates?

I foresee a tough game this evening. Villa will be keen to get their season on track and our lads have yet to play 90 fluent minutes. Our recent habit of starting very slowly needs to be addressed, so I look for fast start, an early goal and a tight defensive display.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Give it a rest Arsène ………. why not rotate?

November 23, 2012

I just want to point out that this view comes from a fairly new football fan but more importantly an  Arsenal fanatic. Because I am been new to the game, I probably watch more than my share of non-Arsenal matches, in my quest for knowledge. I note the way other managers use their squads, and then I look at our talented team. I am well aware of the players not available due to injury at any given time, as all of us are.

I am constantly frustrated by the feeling that we have players who are getting run into the ground, while on the other hand, we have talented eager people getting rusty, and possibly disgruntled, on the bench. Both of these feelings are compounded even more by the fact that we never do early substitutions.

Let me start with this example: Sagna has just returned from a serious, long term injury – also one very similar to his previous leg break. Before his return, Jenkinson was filling in more than admirably. He was mentioned as a candidate for MOTM often, also being recognized by the media and the national team. So, as we heard that Bacary was close to his return to the team, I thought about how he should probably be used.

To me, there certainly was no reason to rush him any faster than necessary, but I did worry about Jenkinson getting too many minutes from the beginning of the season. But still, a great problem to have. Why not give Sagna enough match time to regain sharpness, then make sure he gets an occasional week off, to keep him healthier, and Jenks sharp. Now, it feels to me, (despite the new contract)  like Carl has fallen off the map.

Before the Tottenham match, or maybe the previous one, Sagna was a doubt, and had to pass a fitness test before the game. Wouldn’t that be a perfect time to have him take a day off, considering his recent injuries, the run of games he played, and the quality of the backup for the position? I know he doesn’t want to sit ever, but few players do, and the manager has to get them used to rotation.

Why is there such fear, that we must start our absolute best 11 for every match? It’s not as though there’s a frightful drop off in quality with the example I just cited. It’s not like last years RvP – Chamakh situation.

Arsene fills our team with international quality along with young, promising players. I just don’t see us resting our best or working in the rest of the squad, in any prudent manner.

Cazorla, to my eyes, takes a more than usual beating, because he plays at such a high level of effort, he is marked harder than anybody on the pitch by the opposition, and because of his size, they try to rough him up as much as possible. Even if you don’t like the drop off in class to the second or third choice, he must be given some time to recharge. The same goes for Arteta. I think we are seeing some fatigue with our midfield. I really don’t want Jack to be overworked. I know he has been subbed for, but that’s not the same as a week off, considering how long he’d been out.

I won’t waste your time going through all the possible options that we have to give our guys some rest. There are plenty.Including some versatile players like Arshavin, Ox, Coquelin, who can do midfield and other positions pretty well. They might even be inspired to excel by the opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised that even if we have a fully fit squad with Diaby and Rosicky, Arsene would over use Cazorla,and Arteta, though probably a little more careful with Wilshere (learned the hard way).

Our recent midweek match with Montpellier as an example, a good opportunity to work in Jenkinson, or rest either Santi or Arteta in midfield. If we don’t trust ourselves to tweak the starting 11 in a match like that, how will we ever be confident.

At the back, I think we need to keep our top 3 CBs fresh. No one likes a rusty center half, so when Gibbs returns to LB, we must keep that in mind- and he is another that should not be playing 2 matches per week, or for or five in a row. Not with his history. I don’t care if it’s Santos, Vermaelen, Yennaris, Miquel (I’d like to see Ignassi a bit more).

We can’t approach every match selection as if it’s a Champions League final. But that drives me to my final point ———

Something that many of my complaints come back to : We are often in this position because of how we do our business. The feeling of having to start our best players always, with no margin for error, because of our perennial slow starts to the campaign. This comes from late bargain hunting at the end of the window, or general disorganization at the top regarding contracts and such. All made worse by a ridiculously impractical pre-season in which our players (even the ones who signed early) had precious few minutes in matches together, in some cases, almost no time to gel. Terrible for a club with youth and a high turnover like ours. We can still do tours, but we must set up more practice matches.

Even having noted that situation, it’s no excuse not to rotate a lot more than we do. Keep everyone better rested, fresher, sharper, maybe happier- and who knows, we might even see a few less injuries that way.

Written by Johnnie nyc


Jack in the Box

November 22, 2012

Morning all, we have two match reports today, the first from GoonerB and the second from RockyLives . Both include their own player ratings. Enjoy.

We ideally wanted a win and to qualify before the last game of the group and we got it. We may not win the group but this is maybe not so important. There are other very good teams looking like they will end up second in their group anyway so the potential for a difficult draw is likely either way. It is a cup competition so anything can happen, and a lot of the play that I saw tonight from our team would give me cause to be very optimistic.

We started rather cautiously as has often seemed to be the case recently. We looked to be a bit too slow and casual with our passing and kept it deep within our defence without any urgency to go forward. Montpelier pressed us quickly and higher up and forced us into mistakes in these areas which seemed to give them an early threat in the game. After about 15 minutes, however, it all changed. We suddenly regained our ethos as an attacking side and, in my opinion, mostly bossed the game from then. I think we are a side that needs to keep a high tempo in a game, and are not so good when we try and slow it down, but that I would throw out to debate amongst yourselves.

I would say that we look so much better when we leave players in advanced positions so we can pass forwards rather than sideways or backwards, and I think this could be the key to this current team reaching the heights we all wish for. The confidence in passing and movement seemed to develop and increase as the game progressed and I really think we have a team on our hands if we can get the best out of them. It obviously requires a fine balance between the defence and the attack, something that has been talked about in recent posts, and I feel that if this can be fine tuned then we may have cause for optimism in the near future.

On to the ratings :-

Szczesny 7

Didn’t have too much to do but came out bravely and snuffed out the threat when their player was through on goal.

Sagna 7

Typical Sagna performance of solidity with regular help in attack. Did get exposed when caught forwards, at one time in particular, but is that an acceptable risk across a whole game with an attacking full-back?

Mertesacker 7

He seems to be the general in defence now. He lacks the pace of TV and LK but seems to read the game better than most, and another solid game from him

Koscielny 7

Was potentially lining up as MOTM till later in the game when he got caught on the ball instead of clearing the danger. It almost cost us. Up until then he was imperious, using his pace to snuff out problems before they even started and bringing the ball out from defence. If he can iron out the errors he is a seriously good defender.

Vermaelen 7

Played out of his best position but did a job for us. It is a nice problem to have in choosing him, LK and the BFG in a starting line up. He is our captain and I expect he will show us why as the season progresses.

Arteta 7

Normal no nonsense highly effective performance from Mr Reliable. Is he the glue that binds it all together?

Wilshere 7

Hard to believe he is still so early in his recovery from a long term injury. He oozes class and, although by his standards this was a good rather than great performance, I think we will be salivating in greater measures in the near future.

Cazorla 8

What to say. Arsene has come up trumps with this fellow. Another great performance pulling the strings. As I have mentioned before, if we can mostly keep him higher up the pitch even when defending, then we will always look a greater attacking threat.

Chamberlain 7

Had a good game if not his greatest and made them worried about him. I love the way he is prepared to run at defenders and commit them.

Podolski 8

It was likely a 7 until the volley. BSR, eat your heart out. He is a natural goal-scorer and for me works hard for the team. I am glad we have him and think we will appreciate him more and more over the next couple of seasons.

Giroud 8 My MOTM

Getting better and better. Didn’t even score tonight but the question is would we have scored without him. Two assists and a constant headache to their defenders. He drops off, works hard, and has very good intelligence and link up play. If we can get the other attacking players working off him more effectively then we may have an attacking force to be reckoned with.

Substitutions

Coquelin 84 for Cazorla. Solid tonight but needs to bide his time to be a regular starter. Maybe a long term replacement for Arteta providing he remains patient.

Ramsey 60 for Chamberlain. Has many detractors but I feel he needs more time for AW and the fans to fully assess him, He has some good strengths and was solid when he came on.

Gervinho 84 for Giroud. Not enough time for me to see what he could do.

Written by GoonerB

As a bonus we have a second match report from Rocky 

We beat Montpellier 2-0.

We’re through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League AGAIN (London and Manchester Oil Corporations please take note).

Here are five big positives I took from last night’s game, most of which I was able to watch despite some dodgy stream issues in the first half:

Clean Sheet

We secured our first clean sheet since the 1-0 win over QPR six games ago. It’s all very well taking the view that it doesn’t matter if the opposition score provided we score more. The reality is that clean sheets breed confidence – not just for the defence, but throughout the whole team. I thought Koscielny was outstanding in defence and showed his speed on numerous occasions to snuff out Montpellier breaks down our left flank, where Vermaelen did OK but did not provide the cover an orthodox left back would have.

Podolski’s Performance

Lucas had as busy a game as we have seen for a long time and capped it off with a fine goal. If he can be as involved on a regular basis he will be a force to be reckoned with. He may want to play down the middle, but Giroud is making that position all his own. However, there is no reason why the Pod can’t come infield at times and act as a second striker – which is exactly what he did for his goal last night.

Santi’s On Song

When we had that short run of games where we considered it rude to create a chance on the opposition goal before the 90th minute, it was instructive that our toothlessness coincided with Santi Cazorla’s early season form tailing off. The good news is that it was just a blip, and after his Man of the Match performance against the Spuds he followed up last night with another display of creativity, tenacity and determination. A quality player.

Jack in the Box

Arsene Wenger reckons it will be Christmas before Jack Wilshere is back to his best. Well, what a present that will be. Last night he showed even more great touches and bursts than he did against the N17 Saddo Society and, best of all, he popped up in the Montpellier penalty area to grab a great goal. People were saying he could be the complete midfielder if he added goals to his game. You always felt it was just a matter of time. Let’s hope last night has set the ball rolling.

Don’t Stop The Momentum

Football is a game where confidence and momentum have a disproportionate effect on a team’s fortunes. After a stop-start season this win – securing our place in the CL knock-out rounds – following on from a resounding derby victory will start to rebuild the optimism we were all feeling after the Liverpool and Manchester City away games. I have always felt the quality of players in our squad was good enough to challenge for big prizes. If they can get on a roll I hope they can prove me right.

What are your positives and negatives from last night’s game?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Player Ratings

Szczesny 7

Not much troubled, but looked secure and confident. He raced out of his goalmouth to tip the ball away from a Montpellier forward’s boot in the first half when it was still 0-0. It was an important moment (about which the unremittingly negative Alan Smith could only say: “That would have been risky if he’d got it wrong”).

Sagna 7

Reliable as ever from Mr Reliable.

Mertesacker 7

Typically sound outing from the BFG. He defended with composure, distributed beautifully and almost dribbled his way through for what would have been our most remarkable goal of the season.

Koscielny 8

He has had a few wobbles recently, but last night Kozzer was back to his best against some very skilful and speedy opponents. Was unlucky not to open the scoring with a powerful header against the crossbar.

Vermaelen 6

Got caught out of position a few times but he did a job for the team in a role that does not fully suit his skills.

Arteta 7

The metronome kept things ticking all game long. If Santi and Jack had good games, it was because Mikel was behind them doing the donkey work.

Wilshire 7

Some fine touches and bursts and a very well taken goal. His understanding with his midfield partners and the forwards is growing visibly.

Cazorla 8

What a player! Creative, imaginative, daring, surprising. A joy to watch. He orchestrated most of our best moments.

Podolski 8.5 (MoTM)

For my money his best outing yet in the famous red and white. He was heavily involved throughout and scored a peach of a volley. He was able to combine some good wing play with cutting inside to form a front two with Giroud. I feel this role suits him as he is not a natural “holder up” of the ball like Giroud so, I feel, would struggle if played as our out and out centre forward. He had a couple of decent goal attempts before he scored. For one of them he perhaps should have passed, but I don’t have a problem with a striker being greedy in front of goal. It makes a change from endless tippy tappy.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 6

Not his best game. He seemed a bit rusty, his passing was off and he drifted inside too much. A learning curve game for a talented young man.

Giroud 8.5

Close call for MoTM. He led the line superbly, made two excellent assists and was a thorn in the Montpellier side all game. He’s a different flavour to the strikers we have become used to under Wenger, but it’s a flavour that I’m developing a taste for and I suspect many other Gooners are too.

Subs

Ramsey 7

Gervinho 7 (one touch, but he didn’t mess it up!)

Coquelin 7

RockyLives


Why bother with the Champions League?

November 21, 2012

We had a vibrant discussion recently based around Gooner In Exile’s suggestion that the CL should not be prioritized ahead of the Premiership. An interesting and unusual viewpoint but one which has occupied my mind ever since. (please correct me if I misunderstood!) The point being that we will neither win nor get near to winning the cup.

With Aston Villa away followed by Everton we have difficult games ahead, games in which we will need an injury free squad. So should Mr Wenger put out his best team tonight? In my opinion definitely, because Champions League games at home are the pinnacle of Arsenal watching. The opportunity to play the best foreign teams has always excited me and despite many, many seasons of failure to win Big Ears, it still does.

But I see GIE’s point, does anyone really believe we can win the thing?

Are we kidding ourselves?

Last season Man City went out pre-knockout and won the PL, Man Utd went out at the same time and were within 30 seconds of another championship. Could we have done better without playing those extra games? Would the team have been galvanised by the “humiliation” of not progressing further?

Ask Arsène. I believe he really enjoys these games and given the choice of Schalke or Sunderland away and I know which he will choose!

A win tonight puts us in the box seat for qualification with the tricky trip to Greece as our final game. We beat Montpelier away but quite frankly a draw would have been a fairer result with our defence standing firm against a tide of French attacks. Losing to Schalke was a shock, not so much the result but the manner of the loss – we were undone, stripped naked, spanked and left embarrassed. Pride was regained in the recent draw but anyone watching would be foolish to bet on Arsenal progressing very far in the CL.

Yet you have to be in it to win it and a win tonight is a must.

Montpelier are in average form and feeling the loss of our new Wonder-Striker. They are 14th in La Ligue and have drawn their last 3  games plus they lost away at Olimpiakos. We have seen the dangers of Belhanda and Camara is their top scorer but we really should beat them.

My team:

The return of GIbbs is timely, Tommy is not a left back – he doesn’t have the spatial awareness nor the attacking ability for the position but is Gibbs fit enough to play tonight and Saturday?  I hope so. Gervinho is also fit and could well play as Theo is out. I would prefer to see Ox start – he hasn’t played enough this season and needs a run of games.

Captain James Cook brought us a handsome victory at the weekend over the subterranean ghouls. Let us see if today’s hero can do the same.Thomas Blakiston 1832- 1891. This brave fellow spent much of his life tramping over the world in search of wealth, fame, animals and plants. He was the first Eurpopean to travel the length of the Yangtse in China and then spent many years in Japan. Prior to this Blakiston explored Wetsern Canada. He died in Columbus Ohio of pneumonia.

I discovered the Blakiston Fish Owl in Japan. What have you done? (& I do NOT look like Scott Parker)

An early goal to settle the nerves and a composed defensive display will set us up for the next round.

Written by Big Raddy


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