Bale’s A Proven Diver: Why No Fuss?

December 31, 2012

Against West Brom recently Santi Cazorla was fouled in the opposition box and went down. We scored from the resulting penalty.

The camera angles first appeared to show little or no contact. Later an angle emerged showing clear contact on Santi’s shin.

Arsenal's Cazorla challenges West Bromwich Albion's Reid during their English Premier League soccer match in London

But that did not stop the media going into a frenzy about our little Spaniard’s alleged “cheating”.

The story ran for days – including calls for retrospective banning – and was a foul slur on an international performer who plays the game fairly.

Of course it was no surprise to us Arsenal supporters. We had seen the witch hunt perpetrated against Eduardo following a Champions League game versus Celtic shortly after his return from a (literally) shattering leg break. Eduardo may or may not have dived in that case, but the outcry was out of all proportion to any other diving incident in football ever.

Now fast forward to the Saturday just past. Tottenham’s winger Gareth Bale was booked for diving after what was, at best, minimal contact from a Sunderland player. Bale had reacted to the contact by hurling himself to the ground.

bale dive

Here’s the remarkable thing: it was Bale’s FIFTH booking for diving since the start of last season – three more yellows for simulation than any other player in the EPL, even Ashley Young!

We know that referees get things wrong from time to time, but five bookings for diving can’t be explained away by officials’ errors. It quite clearly points to a player who uses cheating as a weapon in his armoury.

And let’s not forget, those are only the occasions where Bale’s dives have been penalised. There are many other examples of dives that have gone unpunished by the refs. Often they result in a free kick or even penalties to Tottenham (as we have found to our own cost).

So we see that Bale is a proven cheat of a player. Someone who, while undoubtedly a talented footballer, has been shown up repeatedly for his dishonesty.

And against Sunderland he took his tally of bookings for cheating up to a shamefully high level.

With that in mind, I expected the Sunday sports pages to contain a barrage of articles demanding that he be banned for a long period, that he be made to apologise publicly, that his manager be forced to condemn diving and so on. Or at least some earnest debates about morality in the modern game.

Lo and behold, what did I find?

Match reports that barely mentioned Bale’s booking and did so exclusively in the context of the Welshman’s claims of being persecuted; and – most ludicrous of all – articles suggesting he would be “hounded out” of English football “like Cristiano Ronaldo” if referees kept targeting him in this unfair way.

So please, Dear Reader, answer me this: why does the media seek to make English football’s most proven cheat appear as a persecuted victim, yet sets out to crucify any Arsenal player against whom there is the slightest allegation of diving?

I can’t fathom it.

Perhaps it’s that Bale (unlike Eduardo and Cazorla) is British and the British media seldom take to task home grown players for blatant cheating and foul play (Ashley Young, Rooney and Gerrard all have extensive “previous” for simulation, but are never demonised by the press).

Or maybe it’s just that the reporters have put so much effort into building up Bale as the next big thing (despite his stats being not as good as Theo Walcott’s) that they can’t bring themselves to acknowledge a glaring flaw in his approach to the game.

Or maybe you have a better theory… I’d be interested to hear it…

RockyLives


Arise Sir Theorry? Newcastle Report & Player Ratings

December 30, 2012

What a game!

For us spectators it was up, down, up, down, up down… then a long and satisfying climax.

Followed by 50,000 metaphorical cigarettes being smoked as we all came down from such a thrilling ride.

Do you remember that children’s rhyme about magpies? One for sorrow, two for joy etc? Well it goes on to say: “Seven for a secret never to be told.”

001

As we put our seventh past The Magpies to finally overcome their dogged resistance, I fell to wondering what the “secret never to be told” might be.

Perhaps it’s the reason why Theo hasn’t signed a new contract? What Stan Kroenke really wants? Or maybe it’s as simple as: “Park Chu Young: Why?”

But enough of such contemplation: it’s time to celebrate a truly entertaining game of football – the sort of match that only the English Premier League seems to throw up.

Arsene made only one change to the team that had won its last two Premiership outings – Koscielny coming in for the unwell Mertesacker (“German measles” as someone wittily suggested in the comments yesterday).

It meant another outing for Theo Walcott down the middle – and another chance for him to try and convince the manager (and fans) that he is a central striker. His two previous showings had been inconclusive: he played well and scored one in the rout of Reading; against Wigan he was quieter but won the penalty that led to us pocketing all three points.

Apparently Thierry Henry – who is back training with us and may well be signed on a short term loan again – has been working with Theo to improve his general strikeriness. Can a god train a mortal in the arts of the divine? We would have to wait and see…

Newcastle were coming off the back of a brave and narrow midweek defeat at Old Trafford. They also had several first teamers out injured – but not the man with whom we are being strongly linked as a possible January transfer target: Demba Ba.

Arsenal were fast out of the blocks, applying pressure early on and threatening both Newcastle flanks. When we went ahead in the 20th minute it was no more than we deserved.

Podolski, who had an industrious game, split the Magpies’ defence with a pass that invited Walcott to run straight at goal. His pace kept him ahead of the defenders and once inside the area he opened up his body to side-foot the ball past Tim Krul’s laft hand and into the bottom corner of the net. It was a really fine finish – indeed, a finish reminiscent of Thierry, who was looking on from the stands. Theo down the middle? You bet!

Having taken the lead, we fell back into one of this season’s recurring bad habits: taking our foot off the gas: reducing our pressing game and ceding both territory and possession to the Geordies.

It was disappointing, but on the plus side we were not allowing Newcastle to create clear cut chances (although a long range effort from Tiote brought back uncomfortable memories of that awful day at St James Park when we were winning four-nil at half time but gave up four second half goals to a Toon attack spearheaded by Phil “Fatty” Dowd).

Eight minutes before the break we should have gone two up when Walcott, after a nice exchange with Podolski, found himself one-on-one against Krul again, this time much closer to the goal. Theo tried a chip but didn’t really catch hold of it and Krul saved. Theo down the middle? Don’t make me laugh!

As is often the way, our profligacy was soon punished. Just before the break Sagna gave away an unnecessary free kick outside our box. Ba stepped up to take it and fired in a shot that looked to be heading straight towards Szczesny for a routine save. Unfortunately Wilshere, as the spare man to the side of the wall, was in the ball’s path and couldn’t decide whether to duck or block. In the end he half ducked, the ball deflected off his head and went straight into the net.

Jack is a quick study and I doubt we will ever see him make that mistake again. Next time he’ll take the ball in the face if that’s what’s needed.

Half time – 1-1.

The second half saw us come out with greater attacking purpose, soon rewarded when Oxlade-Chamberlain fired in a low, hard shot to put us back in front.

But we all know that this Arsenal team can give up a goal to any attack at any time and, sure enough, only eight minutes later a bit of comic defending allowed Marveaux to tap in unchallenged at the far post after a low cross across the face of goal from Obertan, who had beaten Sagna far too easily.

On the television it was difficult to tell who was at fault for leaving a man completely unmarked at the back post.

Gibbs had been drawn into the middle of the box which seemed unnecessary when we had two centre backs in the six yard area, but maybe a midfielder should have spotted the danger and plugged the gap.

Could we get back in front? Well, in this seesaw game anything was clearly possible and we had a couple of decent half chances – Cazorla drawing a good save from Krul and Podolski just inches away from a through-ball into the box.

Our third eventually came from some brilliant work from Wilshere, who made it to the goal line inside the Toon area and chipped back a lethal cross into the six yard box from a really difficult angle. Coloccini had no option but to get his head on it right under the bar. The ball bounced off the crossbar and the predatory Podolski was on hand to head home.

This time, surely, we could hang on to our lead.

Not with this Arsenal!

Newcastle came back at us and, sure enough, we gave away another soft goal. Marveaux found space on our right flank and crossed a ball to the far post, where Ba was lurking – marked by Gibbs. Unfortunately our left back took his eye off the Newcastle striker to ball watch for a second and that was all Ba needed to break clear for an easy tap-in. Poor defending from Gibbs.

Three times ahead, three times clawed back. For an Arsenal team with a certain flakiness in its DNA this was a worrying trend.

But yesterday was not destined to have an unhappy ending.

Four minutes after Newcastle’s equalizer Walcott received the ball in the opposition penalty area after a great run and cutback by Gibbs. He had time to control the ball, turn and side foot it into the top left of the net. Another superb, composed Henryesque finish. Theo down the middle? He’s a natural born killer!

It would not have been entirely unexpected for Newcastle to haul themselves level again, but finally their exertions in Manchester seemed to catch up with them and Arsenal started to turn the screw.

Giroud was on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey came on for Podolski. With Giroud’s appearance, Walcott was pushed out wide right and soon showed that he can be deadly from the wing too. An outstanding early cross invited a diving header from Giroud and the ball was powered through Krul’s legs to put us 5-3 up.

The two-goal deficit really made Toon heads drop and we pushed on for more. Giroud grabbed the sixth with a powerful low drive in the 88th minute. Then Walcott secured possession of the match ball with another stunning goal. Picking the ball up on the left wing he dribbled past two Toon defenders and into the box. He appeared to be fouled but picked himself up and finished with an audacious chip past Krul. Theo down the middle? Argument settled.

Walcott’s hat trick was, after all, just divine.

Giroud almost grabbed a hat trick of his own before the final whistle went to huge applause.

The scoreline flattered us to some degree but there were many pluses to take from this game: we seem to have rediscovered our verve in front of goal; we had enough mental strength to not get deflated by three times giving up the lead; and, strangely, we did not let Newcastle create much of danger – preferring, instead, to do the dirty work for them ourselves.

One very striking figure from the match statistics was that we had only 45% possession, Toon having 55%. This is very unusual for Arsenal but I wonder if it points to a deliberate tactic. If we are going to play with Theo Walcott as our front man our greatest weapon is his speed in attack. In that case it makes sense to concede ground to the opposition, let them come on to us and hit them on the break as Wenger’s early (successful) teams used to do.

All in all, a great game in which Newcastle very much played their part.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: had no chance with any of the goals and dealt well with the other Newcastle efforts (shots and crosses). A couple of times he put us under pressure by passing to defenders who were clearly marked. He needs to improve this aspect of his game. 7

Sagna: perhaps the uncertainty over his future is affecting his game. He seems a bit out of sorts and was given a torrid time by Obertan. Was partially responsible for all three Newcastle goals. 5

Koscielny: filled in very well for Mertesacker. A typical Kozzer showing, full of commitment and effort. 7

Vermaelen: also had a solid game – he seems to have got over his bad patch. However, as GiE pointed out in comments yesterday, what was he doing letting Gibbs get drawn into marking a big centre forward like Ba? 7

Gibbs: overall a good game with some good attacking play and an assist, but he was woefully at fault for Newcastle’s third and partly at fault for their second. Still seems like a youngster who is learning on the job at times. 6

Arteta: like the rest of our midfield he got the runaround when we slackened off after taking the lead in the first half, but otherwise his game was as effective as we have come to expect. Much of his work is unspectacular and (I suspect) unnoticed by some fans. 7

Wilshere: fine game by the captain-in-waiting. He drives us forward every time he gets the ball and his run and chip for the Podolski goal were outstanding (LB said the chip reminded him of Brady, which is high praise indeed). He loses half a point for giving away Newcastle’s first goal by trying to dodge the ball. 7.5

Cazorla: always a joy to wacth, Santi made one and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet himself. He was a thorn in the Newcastle side all the time he was on the pitch. 8

Podolski: a really good game from the German, full of industry, commitment and strength. His goal showed a great poacher’s instinct and he made Theo’s first. 8

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Oxo is getting slowly better with each game. He took his goal very well and was heavily involved until subbed off for Giroud. His passing is occasionally a bit loose, but he will put that right in due course. 7

Walcott: couldn’t really have done anything more to prove his case for a central striker’s berth. Great hat trick, of which the highest compliment I can pay is that Thierry Henry would have been pleased with any of those goals. I have always rated Theo’s finishing and what I liked most about his goals was the composure he showed in putting the ball in exactly the spot where it could not be saved. His third also gave the lie to the criticism that he can’t dribble. Yes, he made some mistakes too, but all strikers do. What’s clear is that Theo is becoming a huge asset – someone who can be deadly as a main striker, or as a wide man. It would be a crying shame if we lose him just as he’s is reaching the fulfillment of his potential. 9 MoTM

Substitutes

Giroud: I love this player. His cameo was almost perfect (and would have been if he had converted the chance to get a hat trick). 8.5

Ramsey: another good, tidy appearance from Aaron. 7

Coquelin: also tidy, although one unforced loose pass almost put us in trouble. 6.5

RockyLives


The Return of the Dancing Fool

December 29, 2012

Today the Arsenal resume footballing hostilities with our first home game for three weeks against Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United in the 5.30pm kick off.

Mr Pardew is remembered less than fondly by Gooners for his jig of celebration in Wenger’s face during his spell as West Ham manager.

wenger pardew

Our opponent’s were on the rough end of yet another referee inspired victory for the denizens of Old Toilet with our former skipper VanJudas (or should I say “Lazarus” in view of his near death experience in the previous game?) scoring the equaliser that paved the way for the usual Fergie time winner we have witnessed all too often at the home of the Glazer’s loan security vehicle.

It is worth noting that referee on this occasion was Mike Dean, who saw fit to send our manager to the stands, full of rabid, uncouth ManUre fans, for the heinous crime of kicking a water bottle yet failed to mention “Sir” Alex’s repeated hostile verbal abuse of him and the match officials over a disputed off side goal in his match report.

Surprising ?

Not if you assume Dean didn’t want to be demoted to a League Two game for this weekend’s fixtures, as happened to Chris Foy when he allowed the Spuds to win at Old Toilet in October. That was clearly a because Foy hadn’t read the latest edition of the referees handbook which states: “play must continue until Manchester United equalise.”

Anyway, I digress.

Having scored three goals away from home and still losing it could be said that it would have some sort of psychological impact on most teams but I don’t believe we should believe that will necessarily apply to the Toon.

That being said United have only won one of their last four league games, and that was a win against Harry Redknapp’s bottom placed QPR(wouldn’t it be funny if he took another team down out of the Premiership?), so their current form is less than impressive.

Injuries to their midfield, exacerbated by another unpunished, reckless tackle by a home player on an away player at Old Toilet mean that our opponents will be fielding a much depleted midfield.

This is because Perch will have to go into defence as Williamson, one of their regular centre halves, was yellow carded against ManUre and is suspended for today. Other absentees include Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Gutierrez.

Up front the Toon have a choice of two Ameobis (Shola or Sammy) and as well their main danger man Demba Ba, the subject of much continued, and annoying, transfer speculation.

While we tend to lose games in clutches there is the possibility that Newcastle will use the injustice of the loss to ManUre as a motivation to increase their efforts as they are a team that have goals aplenty in them and for that reason our defence has to be on tip-top form; particularly cutting out any lazy cross field passes in our own third.

Therefore I would pick our current first choice centre back pairing of the BFG and Vermaelen, with fullbacks Gibbs and Sagna, although our right back’s form has been a tad patchy and I would not be too surprised to see Jenko get the nod.

For the middle three I would go for our form players, namely Arteta, Wilshire and Santi although I wish we could rest one or two of those as I fear they may hit the “red zone” soon. As Rosicky is available today perhaps he could start or at least be subbed on to give Santi/Mikel a rest.

Up top I would start the Ox with the Pod and Giroud, with Theo coming on later as an impact sub, although this may not help too much in respect of Theo’s long running contract negotiations.

Injury wise we are without Fabianski and Santos as well as the ever absent/present(in the injury room) Diaby which leads to today’s “Fun fact”, namely that it is exactly three MONTHS to the day since our fragile number two last played for us, after it was reported here by Arse.com that Diaby would be out for three WEEKS.

In keeping with this year’s theme as established by Big Randy today’s explorer comes from Gateshead appropriately enough and goes by the suitably genteel name of Harold Crichton-Browne.

His pen and ink caricature, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, is shown below in which he sports a lavish handlebar ‘stache that befits a man who in later life served as a Lieutenant Colonel in Africa.

NPG 6251(12); Harold Crichton-Browne by Harry Furniss

He accompanied the more well known James Thompson on an expedition to the Atlas mountains of Morocco in the late 1880’s – anything other than a win against the Toon today and we’ll face an uphill struggle (to keep in the running for a top four finish) as difficult as that faced by Joseph and Harry in Morocco.

UTA !

Charybdis1966 (on Twitter and youtube)


Is there any ‘Ba’ nefit to having Demba in our squad?

December 28, 2012

Recently we have been linked to in form Newcastle striker Demba Ba, but would his arrival be beneficial to the mighty Arsenal?

His goal scoring record speaks for itself:

Demba Ba:

12/13: 11 goals in 18 (1) games (only behind Michu and BSR)

11/12: 16 goals in 32 (2) games (more than Balotelli, Dzeko, and Suarez). that included 14 goals by mid season before he went off to ACN and played second to Cisse (managed to kick 13 goals in the second half of the year)

10/11: 7 goals in 10 (2) games

Un ‘Ba’ lievable right?! Just how good is it though? Well lets compare it to a couple of other strikers we are linked too at the moment:

Fernando Llorente:

12/13: 1 goal in 1 (9) game

11/12: 17 goals in 24 (8) games

10/11: 18 goals in 37 (1) games

David Villa:

12/13: 5 goals in 12 games

11/12: 5 goals in 8 (7) games

10/11: 18 goals in 32 (2) games

Huntelaar out of reach – 2 year contract extension

I know who the smart money is on! Comes with EPL experience, including monstering key premier league defences.

The one question mark that exists is his fitness. He was supposed to join Stoke a couple of seasons ago but failed the medical because of a knee problem and was described by Pulis as a “major risk”.

The injury exists thanks to a serious fracture in this tibia and fibula (front and back bones in the leg) which left him on the sidelines for 8 months. Unfortunately the operation was a shocker and left Ba with knee pain thanks a nail that was inserted in his tibia causing sensation problems in his knee. Reports suggest he is on a pay-as-you-play deal at Newcastle at the moment. However, he really has shown no ill effects since he made the switch from West Ham.

Is he worth the risk? Or do we want another potential injury risk joining Gibbs, Diaby, and Rosicky in the sick bay?

For the 7.5 million dollar release clause I think it would be money well spent! Not to mention he himself has stated it would be a ‘dream move’. But do you think it’s wise?

Oz Gunner


No defence for the premiership

December 27, 2012

We like to think that our football is the most entertaining to watch, but this season we are seeing games where the defending is so poor that the event becomes a goal fest. Why is this happening?

The Manks sit top of the table having conceded 28 goals at the half way mark. The three teams at the bottom of the table have conceded 33, 34 and 35 respectively – so not that many more than manu. Stoke have conceded the least with 14 to their name …… only 4 goals conceded at home, the best in the premiership.

Arsenal have the fourth best defensive record at the moment with 18 goals, but 10 conceded at home!!!! The other Mancs have conceded 16 and the chavs 17 so far this season – and many of the big clubs are looking to sign a striker.

Obviously the points tally is what is important and winning games 4-3 will get you to the top of the table as the manks have proved but old red-nose must be doing his nut.

We started the season being very tight at the back, we weren’t even giving away corners but then sadly that began to change and we have had a few games where we’ve allowed team to score easy goals against us.

Last season’s title was decided on goal difference, City conceded 33 and United 29. City are doing much better so far having only conceded 16.

I have always felt that defending is an area that can more easily be improved with extra drilling and training but maybe some managers have decided to have a more free flowing, entertaining style and hang the defence.

Another upside is that it seriously offends most of the football pundits :)

So are we seeing the worst defensive play in Premiership history this season?…… and if we are  …. why?

Written by peachesgooner


An Arsenal Arsenal Christmas Concert

December 26, 2012

Apologies to non regulars, but on this matchless Boxing Day (thanks a lot London Underground staff!) this is a little festive offering in praise of the motley bunch of characters who make blogging on AA such a comfort and joy throughout the year.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

So with no further ado, I am pleased to present the Arsenal Arsenal Christmas Concert, at which the following timeless favourites will be performed:

God Bless Ye Terry, Mental Man

No matter how dire the performances, no matter how gloomy the outlook, we have always been able to rely on Terry popping up to remind us that the ghosts of his underpants are stirring and glory awaits for Arsenal. Thankyou Terry.

Jingle Kels

Those flowing silver locks must surely make the sound of sleigh bells when Kelsey is skipping across the bowling green with gay abandon…

Rudolph The Red Arsed Reindeer

“Will you guide my sleigh tonight?” asked Santa.

“Affirmative,” replied RudeArse. “Verily I will coxswain your hibernal perambulator this eventime.”

“Eh?” said Santa.

When A Child Is Born

For GiE, of course!

He’ll be the loudest Dad in the schoolyard.

A Fairytale of New York

For our Johnnie, keeping the flame alive among the New World Philistines.

I Saw Irish Kissing Santa Claus

She had no idea it was really Chas in a fake beard and 1971 home shirt.

Chas Nuts Roasting On An Open Fire

After Irish found out.

Dan Dan Merrily On High

Shock news: our veteran Blogger hits the spliffs…

While Sheep Hagger Watched His Flock By Night

See – even the relative newcomers to AA get a mention! Welcome to the blog Sheep – you have brought us many smiles already and long may it continue. Just get ready for Peaches gently suggesting you might like to write a Headline Post. Then not-so-gently suggesting it…

Raspin Around The Christmas Tree

What can I say? Let’s hear it for the old rocker who keeps this site bopping all year long…

In The Peach Midwinter

All is bleak and frozen… until someone agrees to write a match report and the sunshine returns. Thanks for giving us this playground to play in Peaches.

The First Big Al The Angels Did Say

Was for a certain poor Gooner in fields far away.

Living in Thailand for the “climate and the food,” eh Big Al? Yeah, right. We believe you.

O Little Town of Brig-le-ham

Somewhere up in Scotland, if memory serves me well. Is that right Brigham?

O Come O Come Evonnnuel

I’m not explaining this one. Even at Christmas.

Do They Know It’s Charybdis?

Once he starts laying into the purple conked Gorbalian they certainly do.

Winter Wonderman

Like the Rough Legged Buzzard and the Barnacle Goose, Wonderman is only an occasional winter visitor but it’s always nice to see him.

Silent Night

For Sharkey and 26May… who have been uncharacteristically quiet lately. Come on boys, we want to hear from you.

Mullet of Kintyre

Soon dealt with by our very own Prince of the Scissors, Mr GoonerMichael.

Have Yourself A Micky Didit Christmas

Which basically entails lots of smoked meat, healthy moorland walks and not making eye contact with the in-laws.

Joy To The Shard

Another of our super-positive Gunners this year.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Glicmas

Which basically means it’s X Rated. Sorry kids.

Mistletoe and Slime

As a newlywed, our Slim Ginger Gooner is going to be making full use of that mistletoe. Best not go into the slime bit though…

Christmas AA Alphabet

Season’s greetings to LB, PPP, VCC, JM, GN5, Kgooner, GoonerB and everyone else with a capital identity.

I Saw Three Ships

For Richie, who spends half his life swanning around the Med. And must have seen a sight more than three ships while doing so.

Rad Tidings

Which usually consist of reminding us all to keep our perspective after a bad result. Big Raddy has seen it all, done most of it and married several of it.

The Little Donald Boy

WeeDonald has been an interesting addition to AA this year. A feisty little fellow, but as stout hearted as Terry in his support of our great manager.

FrOZty The Snowman

He may be Down Under, but Oz is always an “upper” on AA.

Santa Claus, Is Tony Cummings In Town?

Santa: “No – he’s gone to Malta.”

The Double98 Days of Christmas

The world’s longest Christmas song: “On the 98th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… one Champions League title, two ‘worldie’ signings, three players mended etc etc.”

Angels: “We Have Herb On High”

“And he keeps insisting that Chapman was the best Arsenal manager ever.”

Peace on Earth

For Buddhist Steve: stay chilled Steve, stay chilled…

All I Want For Christmas

Is a Carol with a title that provides a pun for Jonathan, ArsenalForever, Goonerjake, Neamann, Adrian, Reddawn, Carlito, Tomstoned, Barum and anyone else I’ve forgotten.

Happy Boxing Day fellow AA-ers.

RockyLives


A Merry Christmas from all at Arsenal Arsenal

December 25, 2012

AA merry christmas

Seasons Greetings to all our Gooner friends across the globe.

Whatever your beliefs, be it religion or 4:5:1 as opposed to 4:4:2 :P we can join together at this time and celebrate what unites us.

COYRRG 


Santi has goals in his sack

December 24, 2012

I loved Andrey Arshavin when he first joined. He was always prepared to try the outrageous and had the talent to pull it off. He scored by far the greatest goal I have seen at the Emirates when he stroked in that winner against Barca – and don’t underestimate the finish, it was top drawer and he was probably the only player in the side that would have put it away.

But sadly my little Russian friend has gone off the boil and doesn’t even make our bench these days … but being a fickle fan, he has been replaced in my affections by another 5 foot 6 inches of footballing genius.

untitled

Santi Cazorla is the type of footballer that we have become accustomed to under Arsène Wenger. He’s a pocket sized bundle of football trickery. He plays the game with a smile on his face and magic in his feet.

Like AA, Santi will see 3 defenders lining up against him as an opportunity not a dead end. His vision, range of passes and ability to use both feet to equal effect are key to his success – but it should also be acknowledged that his work rate is terrific and an example to all those who play around him.

But beyond all this, the point of this short post is to highlight the fact that he is improving as a goalscorer as each year passes. He has doubled his strike rate since joining Arsenal compared to his year at Malaga.

2003 – 2006, Villareal, 40 apps, 4 goals = 0.1 goals per game

2006 – 2007, Recreativo, 34 games, 5 goals = 0.15 gpg

2007 – 2011, Villareal, 127 games, 23 goals = 0.18 gpg

2011 – 2012, Malaga, 38 games, 9 goals = 0.23 gpg

2012, Arsenal, 17 games, 7 goals = 0.41 gpg

Arsenal’s future success lies in the hands of Santi, Jack and the Ox. If they can develop the understanding of each other’s movement, to instinctively know where the other will be without needing to look up, to expect the unexpected pass when weaving into the box, then the discussions about our best choice for CF will be redundant.

Arsène’s sides have always relied on creativity from the midfield. We have a new maestro, the orchestra are just fine tuning their instruments, we can play sweet music in 2013.

Hastily written by Rasp


Crisis, what crisis?

December 23, 2012

As I write this Arsenal are driving back home down the motor way with three very valuable points from a tough encounter with a Wigan team fighting for their lives. These points, as I am sure you know, put us in third place and if we stay there at the end of the season we will get an even bigger trophy than we usually do from finishing forth. Not enough to warrant an open top bus driven through the streets of Islington but perhaps a mini bus decked out in red and white with a few beers in the back. Get it where you can I say, lol.

Yes, only two weeks ago people on this site and many others were calling for Wenger’s head but now we have gone three League games unbeaten the faithful can breathe a little easier. Phew.

Have you noticed Wenger’s cunning plan?

We have all heard the stories about the club offering Walcott 75k per week, just as much as we have heard the stories that he wants 100k per week, what irritates me is that some actually believe that if he were offered the 100 he would gratefully sign to Arsenal for a further five years or some such number. To you I say this; no he won’t. With Ballotelli reportedly earning 190k per week Theo’s agents are going to do their best to try and make sure some of that action comes their client’s way. Only if no other oil rich club is interested in Walcott will his agents suggest re-signing to Arsenal.

So what’s Arsene’s cunning plan. Prior to the Reading game, Walcott playing through the middle had reached almost mythical proportions. Thierry Henry was talked about in the same sentence whenever the subject of Theo at number 9 came up. It is so easy to imagine Theo’s agents talking to other clubs in excited tones about how great Theo would be playing down the middle of their club; all it would take is the same wages as Balotelli and Theo is your boy.

Wenger’s cunning plan was to simply pop the balloon. Theo was pretty good against Reading. He was quite good today but 190k a week good he was not. His close control does not put him into what? Oooh choose anyone of the Barcelona front line including those who regularly make the bench. Bringing Walcott’s real talent as a number 9 into sharp focus maybe Wenger’s best shot at keeping him..

Back to the game

According to Arteta in his post match interview, Arsenal were expecting Wigan to come onto us strong and the expectation was correct as come onto us they did. Arteta also made the point that it was easy to see that with that kind of drive and the occasional rub of the green Wigan are capable of inflicting serious damage. All in all I would say that the first half was honours even with Wigan perhaps shading it.

The second half was different; of course, from the restart Arsenal upped the pace with superb runs from the Ox down the right and the rest of the team moving the ball around with far greater urgency.

It wasn’t long before Wigan had been pinned back and a goal looked on its way. It arrived courtesy of a penalty awarded against Walcott, Theo did well to get this it must be said. Up stepped our penalty king to slot home his third in a row, one nil to the Arsenal rung out. This was the signal to Wigan to double their efforts and they almost came straight back with an equaliser. It became clear we had a nail biting twenty minutes in store. Mertersacker stood strong and Szcesney made important saves but Wigan just kept on coming. Time for Arsene to batten down the hatches and batten them down he did, throwing on every defensive player available with the only exception of Steve Bould but I am sure that thought crossed Wenger’s mind.

The end finally arrived followed immediately by a huge sigh of relief. Three points, third place, now that’s my idea of a good Christmas present.

Written by LB


Wigan’s a Biggun ….. and where’s Myaichi?

December 22, 2012

Lose to Swansea, beat West Brom. Lose to Bradford, beat Reading. Should this continue we may be disappointed by this afternoon’s game. The need for consistency is paramount if we are to be genuine contenders.

Wigan are struggling as they often do at this time of the season; fortunately, they have a knack of picking up points close to season’s end and thus escaping relegation.

Just 80k people live in Wigan which is a testament to the brilliant job done by the management, both at team and board level. Especially as this is Rugby League country, a town where football is for nancyboys. Wigan Rugby club have been World Champions 3 times which is astonishing.

The football club will always be in the shadow of the Warriors but nonetheless are a club to be admired. Formed in 1932 they are the youngest club in the PL.  In 1995 when Dave Whelan bought Wigan they were a 4th Division team sitting 83rd in the 92 club league, yet just 10 years later they made it to the PL. Back in ’95 their average attendance was 1,800, now it is almost 19,000 – a huge success for a small club.

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Remember Me?

I do not  know very much about Dave Whelan but he has done a great job for his club and his support of his managers is a lesson to other trigger-happy owners. Roberto Martinez has also done well given the constraints he works under;  he is destined for bigger clubs and bigger budgets.

As to AFC: The only question is whether AW will continue with Theo playing in the middle. My guess is No – I expect to see Giroud start and Theo back on the wing but with license to venture infield. The problem with this is that Ox doesn’t start and I think he needs to get a run of games to re-establish himself, alongside Jack, as the futures of English football.

Koscielny is fit again but I cannot see AW starting him today. I believe the Kos/BFG partnership is our best CB pairing, whether Mr Wenger agrees remains to be seen.

My Team:

wigan v arse

The 5 midweek signings were a sign of the future for AFC. A sign of the media narrative – that AFC are in crisis and AW has lost support of both the fans and the dressing room, is the obsession about Theo. Please, please, please Theo either stay or go. The uncertainty must be a negative around the club – if we ask the question do you imagine his team-mates don’t? I would send Frimpong round to Dench him.

Right onto the important stuff: Today’s English Explorer. Sir Walter William Herbert (1934 – 2007). Usually our explorers are long dead but Wally Herbert was lucky enough to enjoy The Invincibles. He is described as the Greatest Polar Explorer of our Time.

Herbert , not the American Robert Peary, was the first person to walk to the North Pole – it took two years (1968/9) to complete the 3,800 mile return trip and he was forced to winter on the ice. Peary’s claims have been disputed since Herbert, as the great Polar expert, was asked to write a biography about Peary. He discovered that there were huge discrepancies in Peary’s account of his journey and that it would have been impossible for Peary to complete his walk. Thus Herbert became the first man to walk to the North Pole. Having spent 15 years living and exploring the Polar cap and in the process walked and sailed over 23,000 miles Herbert retired to become a renowned author and artist.  He was knighted in 2000.

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Beard. Moustache. Ice. Knighthood.

My hope is that the euphoria of the players surviving the End of the World scare will promote a fine performance. The Mayans have predicted 3 points.

p.s. Ryo has only played 3 games for Wigan in an injury plagued season. He is currently out with an ankle injury.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


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