A point earned or 2 points dropped?

January 31, 2013

Well I will say from the outset, that for me it is the latter, despite coming from 2 goals down. Once again there were many positives from this game, in our attacking department, but that can’t gloss over the bad aspects of our defence.

theo equaliser

At the start of this season I would have happily argued that we actually had top draw defenders in our squad, but that what we lacked was the cohesive discipline to make it work as an effective unit. The sort of instinctive understanding that only comes from drilling it into the players on the training ground, so that everyone understands what their role and job is at all times when defending.

After this game, with the defensive frailties shown, which are not isolated incidents this season, I have started to question whether this is the case, or if basically our defenders just aren’t good enough for the level that Arsenal football club require, and should be aspiring to. I didn’t feel that Liverpool had to work very hard for their chances, while I felt they made us work hard for ours.

As I watched this game I remembered a comment regarding our defence from yesterdays post. I looked back through them and realised that it was Rasp that said it, and I feel it summarises my feeling after this game, so I will, (more or less), quote :

“Much as I’d love to sign a top striker I am adamant the problems lie in our defence. If we fail to make top 4 it will be down to goals conceded not failure to score”.

After watching this game and reflecting on it, in conjunction with other games this season, I find it hard to disagree with this assessment.

I couldn’t fault the general effort and urgency with which the team played in this game, which has been an issue recently, that we have all mostly been aware of. In fact I thought we were genuinely excellent in our attacking play for much of the game and should have had many more than 2 goals. Unfortunately to counteract this both of their goals involved a mix of poor positioning of our key defensive players at the required times, and a critical failure to clear our lines when the opportunity was there, in other words putting it into row Z. As a result, in addition to their 2 goals we presented to them, we offered up a few other gift wrapped opportunities to them, and could have seen more than the eventual 2 goals in the against column. This game could have easily gone either way but, for me, we were overall the better team. Our performance with the ball was very good but without the ball, well…….

A quick question to the AA faithful from me would be, “if we had Sol Campbell, (in his prime), and Vincent Kompany, currently as our 2 CD’s, would we have conceded the goals as we did in this game”?.

I have always advocated that a top notch defence gives you a platform to attack more freely through the attacking players. Better defensive players can make you a better attacking outfit. Poorer defensive players, for me, can drag your attacking players back to help bolster the defence and make you less effective in attack. I would surmise that we need serious consideration in this department and lo and behold we have less than 24 hours in which to possibly address this issue. It could be argued that it is more the way we train and defend that is the issue and not the quality of defenders, but could an issue like that really go on for so long at a club of this standing? I will let the AA responses determine whether it is the quality of the defenders, the way we drill them. Or a bit of both.

We have now been the nearly team for many years. I do however, feel that this team is close now, and that it requires only a couple of i’s dotted and t’s crossed to complete it. Onto the player ratings :-

Szczesny 6

He made a couple of his normal good stops, but was in no man’s land on a couple of occasions and still needs to make better decisions on when to come out and when to stay on his line and let defenders deal with the danger.

Sagna 6

Still improving after injury, but I still don’t feel we have the energetic box to box attacking full-back we used to have. Slipped for the comical first goal.

Mertesacker 5

At times his positioning and reading of the game is top notch. Tonight it was not so. We know he lacks pace, but when he is on form he overcomes that, but not tonight. Is it a permanent worry or just temporary? Turned his back for the comical first goal rather than take one in the face and stop it.

Vermaelen 6

Was covering a lot for under-performing team-mates tonight. Not been so good in recent weeks but I still feel he is a top CD and will get back to his best. Failed to clear for the comical first goal.

Gibbs 7

Looking the top class LFB he was destined to be dependant on injury. Lets hope the injury tonight is very minor.

Wilshere 8.5 and my joint MOTM

He is the real deal. The Arsenal and England teams of the future will be moulded around him. Most of our drive came through him

Ramsey 6

Decent, but I feel there are certain games he suits more than others, and it probably wasn’t this one. Ramsey, to his credit, is always a trier and will run all day for you, but I felt this game needed a more dominant defensive CM to release Cazorla and Wilshere. Near the end Ramsey looked like his legs had gone.

Cazorla 8

Not bad in the first half but excellent thereafter. A truly world class performer who plays with a genuine smile on his face,

Podolski 7

No goals but he is always a threat and was a constant thorn in their side. On another day he possibly gets a hat-trick.

Walcott 8.5 and my joint MOTM

Some things didn’t come off, but he always seemed to make the keeper work. I thought he was a constant worry for them whether he was attacking from wide to provide for a team-mate, or going for goal himself more through the middle.

Giroud 8.5 and my joint MOTM

Like Walcott a constant thorn in their side although in a different way to Theo. The 2 of them seem to be striking up a very good partnership working off each other.

SUBS

Santos for Gibbs 6

Not dreadful but not great either. I believe there will be many worried fans checking on the severity of Gibbs injury today, on transfer window closing day of all days.

Written by GoonerB


Suarez to Arsenal?

January 30, 2013

Why? Because this guy is as close to Ian Wright Wright Wright as we have seen since the retirement of the great man. If I had a choice of any striker in the PL, or perhaps even the world, it would be Suarez.  Brilliant player, plays for the team, runs non-stop, huge ego, controversial, he has the whole package and alongside OG would be superb.

How much would he cost? €40+m probably, but we have the money and  ……

OK, OK, calm down. It’s only a fantasy. Why would any club sell their lethal striker to a rival???

Unknown

 26/5/89. Deep Joy

Tonight we will see if the recent improvement in our team can continue. 2 consecutive wins were vital after the previous losses.

Liverpool’s recent humiliation at the hands of the mighty Oldham is history and we are unlikely to see Rodgers experiment with his defence, though it should be noted that Coates who looked totally out of his depth cost over €8m.

This is a very important game to both clubs. A loss tonight would be costly and painful. So, we won’t lose. Stupid defensive mistakes must be eradicated. Thankfully, Liverpool do not have a strong aerial threat and rarely throw the ball into the box from distance. No, they tend to attack at pace and try to get Suarez one on one with a defender. BFG beware.

There are loads of stats about this game none of which interest me enough to put into the post. I recommend Newsnow.

I was going to write about the old days when Liverpool and Arsenal were The football forces in the land, of the Keegan days and the Dalgleish era and the Barnes/Rush team who were the second best English team I have ever seen live (you know who is first :-D). But tonight is about the new era of both clubs as they struggle to compete with the Oilers.

Liverpool have spent a fortune trying to sit at the top table. Huge amounts of money wasted upon players who don’t get near the first team (some reduced to West Ham). Perhaps things are finally turning in the right direction – it is high unlikely they will repeat their  8th position and 37 points off the top.

Some good alternatives in midfield mean they do not have to rely on Stevie Me for inspiration, though he is in fine form. Shelvey, Allen, Henderson,  Lucas, Downing and Suso are all good players.

Upfront, the emergence of Sterling and the purchase of Sturridge means that the Scouse have weapons all over the pitch. Thre are still defensive lapses and the reliance upon Carragher gives us hope.

As does the fact that Liverpool have yet to beat a team in the top half of the table this season! (sorry, dull stat)

Onto the Good Guys…..

Can OG continue his scoring run? Carragher and Agger are both strong men who cannot be bullied but OG has other weapons in his armory, Have Liverpool the pace and organisation to stop Walcott?

In my opinion, the game will hinge upon Wilshere. If he gains control of the midfield and I fully expect him to, we will win.

Runners and Riders:

001L

Given Ramsey’s recent performances I am tempted to let him continue as Diaby regains his fitness and form, but Diaby is a special player and he needs to play. Mr Wenger may well rest OG and play a 4 man midfield, but I hope he takes the more attacking option.

Today’s English Explorer: Sir John Smith (1580-1631). Once more we delve into the Days of Yore. This fellow was the first to map and explore Chesapeake Bay in North America,  furthermore, he named the area New England. In North America he was captured by  a Red Indian tribe, the Powhatan, and saved by the famous Pocahontas (later immortalised by Disney – real story well worth a read)

Unknown

Full Set. Knighthood.

Leaving home at 16 Smith became a naval mercenary, fighting the French, Dutch and Ottmans. Smith was an expert duellist and was knighted for killing 3 Turkish commanders! He was eventually captured by Turks and sold as a slave before escape. On return to London, Smith joined the Virginia Company setting sail for America and fame. He died in London in 1631. A fascinating man and well worth further investigation.

Arsenal are close to having a very good team, a few considered signing and the world is our  lobster. Forget Diame. Forget Wanyama. Sign Suarez and we will win the CL (at the very least)

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Why did Wenger sell Alex Song?

January 29, 2013

Because he was………add your own four letter expletive.

I am sure this is the view of the majority of people who have stumbled across this site via NewsNow and thought they would give it a peek.

But this is not the only view: some of us rated him highly.

The list of reasons is long as to why Arsene sold him to Barcelona. They range from the straight forward idea that he was simply not good enough which is a slightly more polite version of calling him a four letter expletive but the sense is the same, to the idea that Wenger made a mistake, especially when the calls for a defensive midfielder who can play centre back are as loud as they are right now.

The most common reasons given by the group who didn’t think he was good enough were that he picked up needless yellow cards and that he was not disciplined enough in his positional play. We also had the rumour that Song was a bad influence in the changing rooms; he was late for training and acted as though he didn’t care.

I have been waiting a long time to explain my theory as to why he was so hastily despatched and it is not connected with any of those views above.

No, it is all about tomorrow. For the first time this season all the midfield heavy weights are fit and Arsene Wenger will be faced with a serious team selection dilemma when attempting to pick his side to face Liverpool.

Wilshere, Rosicky, Diaby, Ramsey, Cazorla and Arteta

So tell me, with all these players available how would Alex Song have fitted in?

The answer is he wouldn’t. We would have had too many midfielders and this, in my opinion, was anticipated by Wenger and was the reason why the deal with Barcelona was completed so quickly.

Barcelona to Arsenal: Are you interested in selling Alex Song, if so how much?

20 mil……..12………15……….done.

Alex Song vehemently denied that he wanted to leave the club in interviews given after he had signed for Barcelona; he also emphasised that he was fully committed to Arsenal. You may say, yeah, yeah, yeah but the unusual thing is that he said this after he had signed to Barça. Can you imagine Nasri or Van Persie saying such things?

Wenger can be quite ruthless when it comes to making room for the new. Silvinho was told not to return from Brazil to the UK to make way for Cole; Lauren was never played again after his injury to make way for Eboue (lets not go there).

A similar thing has happened to Jack Wilshere; our captain in waiting is Arsenal’s most prized asset; he is a player who when fit has to be played. This would have meant that Song might well have had to spend the best part of his new contract on the bench which would have been an absolute waste and so for that reason he had to go.

Alex Song brought so much that went unappreciated to the table, the most tangible evidence is just how less effective Arteta has been without him.

Song didn’t leave because he was home sick, he didn’t leave because the little boy in him was always Manchester United, he didn’t leave for City’s millions; the fact is given the opportunity he would have happily stayed.

The fondest memory I have of Alex Song is the superb pass he made to Thierry Henry enabling him to score on his return, tell me you didn’t go wild and I will tell you that you shouldn’t be on this site.

So Alex I thank you for that memory and wish you and your family happiness.

Written by LB


Oxlade-Chamberlain Out On Loan

January 28, 2013

Let me start by saying that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a very gifted young man who will become a huge player for Arsenal.

And yet… I really think that the best thing for his development would be to be loaned out to another Premiership club for the remainder of this season.

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In his 14 starts and eight substitute appearances this season, AOC has had some great moments and showed no shortage of skill and determination.

But he has also, mostly, looked a bit out of his depth.

In his last two outings (as a starter against Brighton on Saturday and a late substitute against West Ham) his displays were characterised by wrong options taken and little in the way of end result.

Against the Hammers, we were already winning 5-1 when he came on, but he twice took ridiculously ambitious shooting chances when a simple pass would have been much more likely to yield a goal.

Of course there are mitigating circumstances (aside from his age and inexperience): he was playing with unfamiliar line-ups and untested partnerships, as with Jenkinson at the weekend.

However, in the moments when he has had the ball he has seldom seemed to do the right thing and was generally not on the same wavelength as his colleagues.

Many young talents have a “second season dip” and AOC is probably just experiencing one of them right now, before he kicks on next season.

But he is not good enough to command a starting place and, therefore, his opportunities in the first team will remain limited to cameos for the rest of the season unless there is a serious injury to more senior players.

With that in mind, I feel he would learn a lot more by going out on loan to a team where he could expect to play most games – rather like the experience Jack Wilshere had during his loan spell at Bolton.

Jack came back a tougher, wiser player and I would expect Alex to do the same.

If he were to spend the next few months at somewhere like Wigan, Norwich, West Brom or Swansea he would get a lot more than just extra playing minutes. He would start to learn about the responsibilities that come with being a team player (responsibilities he has been neglecting recently in the red and white).

A few bollockings from good pros who don’t have anything like Alex’s talents but are prepared to work as hard as they possibly can for their team mates will do him a power of good.

And experiencing a life that won’t be nearly as cosseted as that afforded to the Arsenal players will also be good for reminding him just how fortunate he is.

He would – like Jack – return to Arsenal a more rounded player and man.

A final advantage will be that he will be out of the firing line of the more volatile element among our supporters – fans who don’t seem happy unless they have a hate figure to shout at.

Alex is possibly only a few iffy performances away from starting to attrach the sort of groans and abuse that have dogged Theo Walcott for years.

All this is not meant to sound like an attack on AOC. As I said at the outset, I am really confident he will turn into a huge talent for Arsenal and England.

But if a loan-out was good enough for Wilshere (and Szczesny and others), why not Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?

RockyLives


BRIGHTON 2 ARSENAL 3 – A Star is Born. MATCH THOUGHTS

January 27, 2013

When the draw was made, my first thought was “yikes”. Here is a team with their priorities firmly focused on grabbing one of the play-off places in the Championship. Playing in front of a packed house at their fabulous new ground, The Seagulls will go into the game with little pressure, and can enjoy the possibility of causing an upset.

When I saw the team sheet, my reactions were twofold. Firstly, I wondered whether this eleven had ever played ten minutes as a unit, let alone ninety. Second, I was delighted, and surprised, that both Santi and Jack would be rested.

However, I felt that if we could be solid at the back, and the midfield could find a way to gel, then with the Pod, Ollie and Ox up front, then we’d have enough to score more than them.

Well, what a Cup Tie!

The game lurched this way, then that way. Arsenal, understandably, did not show the continuity and fluency so evident a few days’ earlier. Despite going behind, it was clear the home crowd were going to enjoy the day and lift their team, while Arsenal were never going to be allowed an easy passage into the next round.

I am not going to give a minute by minute, blow by blow, account of the game, but before I dwell on something very dwellable, I will point out some understandable negatives.

Neither flank operated well. It has been very apparent how in recent games, the Podolski/Gibbs axis is really beginning to gel and operate as a well oiled unit, serving both the attack as well as defence down the left. This kind of cohesion simply was not on display yesterday.

Similar problems down the right. The Ox/Jenks teamwork operated ineffectively. I have on other occasions aired my concerns about Alex, and his progress since his debut against Shrewsbury a few seasons ago is something that really bothers me. I have said a few times how I think his final role will be more central, and finding ways of giving him constructive learning pitch time there needs to be addressed, if indeed that is his optimal role

I am not going to dwell on individual incidents that may be blamed for conceding, as I want to do some serious dwelling as I said earlier.

Olivier Giroud. Oh Boy.

untitled

At half time during the W’Ham game I made a borderline genius comment:

I pointed out that Big ‘Ol was far better with the ball to feet that many assume. The second half of that game began with a cleverly worked corner that saw the ball played in low and hard, where it was buried by the on-coming Giroud.

Now, like many on here, I have watched Mallard’s clips of both of his goals over and over again. Sure, the first goal was brilliant. The second however, and I have watched this about thirty times so far, is absolutely sensational. Great and perceptive though the pass from Diaby certainly was, it was slightly over hit for anyone other than a sublimely skillful footballer. Look again (and again). The way Ollie took the pace off it before his superb finish was technically top drawer. This was the goal of the season for me by a country mile.

I am not doing player ratings for two reasons. One is that I can’t be bothered, and the other is that I’d have to mark a few players lower than others, and given that they are not first choice starting XI’ers, I think that would be a little harsh. I will, however, compromise a little. Giroud 10.

It was a tricky away fixture fraught with dangers. There were five goals, we are in the hat for the next round, and in my view a Star has been Born. What’s not to like?

Written by MickyDidIt89


Young Jack to lead us into the 5th Round?

January 26, 2013

My parents had a holiday home in Brighton. It was a terraced house near the front which they bought for £4,000 (probably nearer a million today!). I spent every summer down there and got to know and love the town. When my father retired the family moved to Brighton but thanks to my Arsenaldom, I stayed in Islington to start an independent life. Why am I telling you this? Because it is very early in the morning and I am stuck for how to begin today’s pre-match :-D

P1060467

Mid-July. A Brighton Beach Holiday (©BR)

OK. Cup of coffee downed and onto football ……

I love the FA Cup. Wembley and Cardiff have given me some of the best days of my life, and I want more of them. Should we win today and get a decent home draw  …….. dream on, Raddy.

But, this a going to be a difficult game. Brighton are a good side and are on a run of 9 consecutive winning home FAC games. They beat Newcastle in the last round. Gus Poyet has done a fine job for them and promotion is a feasible target. He has created a team committed to the passing game and expansive football – whether we see it today is another matter as I expect Poyet to tell his team to press the ball at every opportunity. They will be good and difficult opponents. That said, we have never lost to Brighton in the FA Cup.

Interesting team selection for Mr Wenger today. We are depleted by injury but Diaby and Rosicky return to the squad. I would love to see Mozart start – he is one of my favourite players, his speed of passing and tactical awareness makes him a valuable player, sadly his chocolate legs have blighted his career. Some players need a rest, Sagna and Cazorla in particular and with Liverpool on Wednesday, I would rest Gibbs.

Runner & Riders.

bright v arse

Should we be in excrement alley after 60 minutes, Theo can be the impact sub. Problem with the above team is that there are 4 attacking MF’s but without a DM, we have little choice.

Today’s explorer is another of those lesser known English Victorian heroes who had extraordinary lives in a time when such a thing was possible. Edward Whymper (1840 -1911). This fellow was a naturalist, scientist, mountaineer and explorer. He mapped much of Greenland, he surveyed the French Alps, he went into the Ecuadorean Andes and made the first ascent of Chimorazo (6267m) whilst studying altitude sickness. He climbed in the Canadian Rockies and had a mountain named after him following his ascent (Mt Whymper). Whymper was best known as an Alpinist and in 1865 became the first man to climb Matterhorn; 4 of his party died on the climb. He later wrote books on Zermatt and Chamonix, where he is buried.

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No Beard ……  No Title. 

There is papertalk of Jack Wilshere being captain today. If so, JW will become the youngest ever Captain of Arsenal taking over from Tony Adams. Should he get the armband ahead of more experienced players? Damn right he should. Little Jack is going to be Arsenal Captain for many years, so why not start now?

Beating the Seagulls would give me much pleasure and boasting rights with my brother. Let it be so.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


We Ain’t Far Away

January 25, 2013

Patience, they say, is a virtue, certainly it is not one exercised by a hard core of Arsenal fans, who it would appear have not noticed the dramatic change of direction  the club has taken in the years since Cesc left.

With Cesc at the centre, in his pomp, the club was a pressing club, in the style of but not quite as effective as Barcelona. Since his exit we have gradually changed our style to one of counter attacking. The emergence of Theo to play at the tip has to some degree lessened the loss of RVP, not that a player of his class could ever not be missed, 30 goals a year is after all the stuff of dreams.

However the induction of the young British core that understands the system along with new players brought in to compliment them has provided possibilities not previously possible when everything had to go via Cesc at some point in the move.

Wednesday nights performance was perhaps the most sustained counter attacking exhibition we have seen this season. Although it has been apparent for some time that this was the way we were moving.

With the addition of a holding midfielder to break up attacks, provide the ball for our talented midfield to find the strikers along with a pacey centre half to handle their runners when we do get stretched our attack would be complete.

Put that together and the days of TH14 and the Iceman would not seem so far away.

Written by dandan


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