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


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