Derby Day Support Network

February 28, 2013

As a relatively young fan in 1989, I don’t think I ever fully understood the feelings of Nick Hornby as written in Fever Pitch….I have never really been let down by Arsenal, I’d never been given that false hope, I definitely had never felt like he did during that 90 minutes of football, well that is until the elation that followed Thomas charging through the midfield I have always known what that moment felt like. (I also remember how that half term seemed to take an eternity as I couldn’t wait to go back to school and rub my Spurs supporting mates noses in it)

In my first few years supporting Arsenal it was not really with any hope or expectation, there were no real glory years to speak of in recent memory. We had won the League Cup in 1987 breaking the Rush hoodoo (“they always win when he scored you know”), and been at Wembley the following season to watch the horror of losing to Luton….thanks Gus and Nigel. Then that memorable night at Anfield.

Then came another League win, and the Cup double plus the Cup Winners Cup, what was Hornby on about? In 10 years of avidly following Arsenal I had seen 1 European Trophy, 2 League Cups, 1 FA Cup and 2 League titles. What was hard about that. And then after Graham relieved himself of his duties by relieving Rune Hauge of £400k, and the Rioch interlude, along came Arsene and his band of entertainers and in the next 10 years I got to see another 3 League Titles and 4 FA Cup wins. Before I turned 30 I had seen Arsenal win 13 trophies (the pedants among you will realise the trophy count was actually 14 but 1979 somewhat passed me by as a 3 year old and you will recall I had a brief dalliance with West Ham from ages 4-9 due to my Grandad buying me the 1980 kit for my 4th birthday).

The following 7 years have not been so kind (and not just to my waistline) and finally I get how Nick Hornby felt on that Friday night in May 1989. Pacing up and down the living room convinced that we aren’t going to get a winner or that we will concede an equaliser. Big games greeted with a feeling of inevitability about the performance/result. Away at West Brom last season the team put us through the mill, and they have done on various occasions this season too, and now Sunday beckons…….I am going to be a wreck come 4pm, and i’m not sure how I am going to survive the match that follows.

I need your help AA’ers: How are you going to get through what could be the most stressful 90 minutes of our season so far?

Gooner in Exile


Shut Up Whining And Get Supporting

February 27, 2013

It’s been a tough season so far, enough to test the patience of a Southampton fan (think about it).

We probably all have our own personal lowlights of a campaign that has had more ups and downs than a Super Mario Brothers game (just when we’re about to reach 100 coins, we always manage to fall in a pit or get zapped by Bowser).

But there have been highlights too (5-2 anyone?), even though some supporters seem to remember only the bad stuff.

And now we are entering the most crucial part of the campaign, at least as far as on-field matters go.

There are 11 games left, from which we must accumulate enough points to finish in the top four of the Premier League.

We have expertly ensured that there will be no fixture congestion by removing ourselves from all the cup competitions (you will deduce from this that I am not expecting any miracles in Munich).

So it’s all about Premiership points from here on in – and every Gunner should get behind the team to help them over the line.

Don’t fall for the media campaign against our club: there is no crisis except one of confidence among some of the fans, which, on occasion, affects the players. If you doubt me, think about these FACTS:

  • We are fifth in the league, just two points behind the Chavs and four behind the Spuds with everything to play for.
  • We are the EPL’s form team, with four wins and a draw out of our last five league games. Only ManUre can equal that.
  • We have scored more goals than every other team apart from ManUre and the Chavs.
  • We have conceded fewer than everyone except Man City (although – with 30 against- we’re level with the Chavs and Spuds).
  • Our goal difference is considerably better than the Spuds’ (+22 compared with their +15).

If this is a crisis it’s one that most teams would like to have.

And before the pessimisti among you start shouting at me, that does not mean I think things could not be better and that I’m happy to settle for fourth place every year – no more than Arsene Wenger is.

But given that things didn’t gel as well as we would have hoped this season, we have to deal with the here and now.

Which is why it astonishes me when I take a rare excursion through some of the highways and byways of the Arsenal blog world and see people who call themselves supporters demanding that season ticket holders boycott home games; or giving up hours of their time to compiling lists of all the “donkeys” Mr Wenger has signed in recent years; or taking greater delight in our setbacks than our successes.

I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate questions to be asked, but not here, not now.

Now is the time for one thing only: unquestioning support until the end of the season.

If you think we need to change our manager, or that some of our players are not good enough, or that our ownership situation leaves something to be desired then voice those opinions once the campaign is done.

Because nothing of structural significance is going to change between now and the end of May: Stan Kroenke will not sell his stake; Arsene Wenger will not quit or be fired; no new players will come in.

We have who we have and we need to get on with it and support those players and coaches. Apparently Gervinho’s name was booed by some people at the ground when he was announced as one of the substitutes on Saturday. Way to go! That’s really going to help his confidence, not to mention his willingness to fight for the club.

Whatever you think of Gerv, he will certainly have a part to play for us between now and the end of the season. Do you really want to see him mess up again just so you can say “I told you he was cr*p”? Or do you want him to score goals and provide assists, maybe the goals and assists that secure Champions League football next year? I know which I would prefer.

Likewise those who are already writing off Nacho Monreal (yes, seriously, some people are) need to take a look at his personal stats from the Villa game. I won’t go through them here, but they make very pleasant reading.

And if you are a season ticket holder who has stopped going either for financial reasons or because of disillusionment, please try to make sure someone else takes your place.

It’s time for a late season charge – and a charge only works when everyone is united.

Let’s do it!

RockyLives


Thank Boo for the lack of World Class Signings

February 26, 2013

Yesterday saw the release of the clubs six monthly figures, I was asked to provide an analysis of them, but to be honest I think thats a pretty boring blog for the non accountants and would lead us into a circular debate that we have been down many times before. Instead I wanted to focus on a certain element of them, and look at them from a different angle.

The numbers I wanted to look at was transfer money in and transfer money out.

I am using purely the value and am not worried about whether it has been paid or not at the time of the financial reports:

6m to Nov 2012 12m to May 2012
Players Out £44.2m £71.4m
Players In £40.8m £78.2m

As you can see from the above we have spent as much as we have had coming in from transfers over the last couple of seasons. So whats the problem?

I think one of the problems is that Arsene has been forced to buy more players in than we have sold, again the question why? Well thats where you the boo boys and naysayers come in.

This was our squad at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Keepers Defenders Midfielders Attackers
Szczesny Sagna Song v. Persie
Fabianski Djourou Wilshere Chamakh
Almunia Koscielny Nasri Bendtner
Lehmann Clichy Fàbregas Vela
Mannone Squillaci Arshavin
Gibbs Walcott
Vermaelen Rosicky
Traoré Denílson
Eboué
Diaby
Ramsey
Frimpong

Whilst the 2010-11 season is seen as a failure by many it was the last time we came close to achieving something, 1 point behind ManUre in February, a bent ref away from knocking Barca out of the Champions League and well the Carling Cup we all know what happened there, and the season fell away, we were probably one centre back short of a trophy, we already had him in the squad he was unfortunately injured for most of the season.

Before the 2010-11 season we had a bit of a clear out, Gallas, Eduardo, Senderos, Silvestre, Campbell from the first team squad. And in came Squillaci, Koscielny and Chamakh. We were settled going in to the season, and we did ok, the football was a lot better than what we are seeing now, if you look at the squad above it is not hard to see why it was that way, apart from the new arrivals everyone had played for the club for over two years, knew Arsene’s style and methodology.

At the end of the season we lost Cesc, Nasri and Clichy, I do not want to go over old ground and lets just assume that they were unavoidable for now. That would have raised us £67m, not exactly small change. What could we have bought with that? Mata, and Hazard, no problem at all get them in. Look at the squad above take out Clichy, Cesc and Nasri add in Mata and Hazard, wouldn’t be so bad would it? Ok Maybe we could have done with another centre back as well, but we would have been almost a carbon copy.

But instead of that we had to lose all those players deemed by the fans not fit to wear the shirt, out went Eboue and Traore too. On top of that there were the players who had decided that being booed wasn’t exactly the nicest experience when they played football so they also looked for a move away, so out on loan went Denilson, and Bendtner, eventually joined by Arshavin out on loan to Zenit to get match fit for the World Cup and to escape the abuse ringing in his ears after we lost to ManUre at home. Squillacci sitting at home unplayable because who knows what the reaction would be if he was allowed to take to the turf at the Emirates again.

So as a result Wenger now had to replace 7/8 players in the squad with his £77m, at an average of £10m a player I am afraid it is not going to achieve the desired quality. If we had managed to show those players enough love to stay or that Wenger did not fear using them maybe we wouldn’t have had to look for Poundland value, we could have got in the big names, and added to what we had.

This problem has been compounded into the 2012-13 season, as we all know we sold Brave Sir Robin, and Alex Song, again a couple of players needed to replace with £38m, a holding midfielder, and a centre forward, could we have achieved it? Probably yes, but now we have more unplayables, Chamakh, Djourou, Gervinho. So again we have to sign more players around the £10-£15m mark rather than go out and spend on one or two players. We probably wouldn’t have needed to sell Song if we didn’t need to add a second striker.

This cycle will continue until we as fans start supporting every player at our club, we need a squad, we have to accept they are not as good as the first team, but we also need to realise that if we lose squad players we have to replace them, if they go out on loan or get sold cheap because we have ripped them of all confidence then it is our fault, and we are giving Arsene a headache that he doesn’t need.

There is a big risk we could go through the same again at the end of this season, there is growing criticism of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sagna, Vermaelen and Merteacker, and even Szczesny and Arteta are having question marks placed over them, it has already reached fever pitch for Gervinho, Diaby, Arshavin and Ramsey, and we have already managed to force out Santos.

When will we realise that not every player in the squad needs to be World Class, what we actually need is a settled squad and a light smattering of game changers, and we the fans can help that happen, we just need to stop writing off the squad players and instead give them our support….otherwise we will have more long seasons ahead.

Written by Gooner in Exile


We Can All Learn Something From the Capital One Cup Final

February 25, 2013

Yesterday was a real treat, a cup final at Wembley contested by two proper football clubs and two proper football teams. There’s little needed to say more about Swansea and their wonderful style of play, but Bradford, still stuck in the bottom tier of English professional football, have been a revelation this season. That’s brought pain to us, of course, when we failed to muster enough of what mattered to overcome their well-drilled, energetic game. But what they’ve shown is that there is no need to be condescending, they have disposed of us as well as Wigan, Villa and Watford, and a couple of others – they are no mugs. It hurt, but if we’re honest, Bradford deserved to beat us, even if it was a victory borne of an appalling penalty shoot-out performance.

Living in northwest London, Wembley isn’t far away from my house, and it warmed my heart to see the streets filling up, not with cocky Chavs, Spuds, Reds, Oilers, Scousers or Gooners, but with the fans of two teams that haven’t come to take cup final appearances for granted, fans who really know the value of cup competitions, rather than treat them as consolation for failing to win the title or sideshow baubles. These were fans from less fashionable parts of the country (sorry Sheep!), and fans who love their football. Good on them.

Beyond the satisfaction of seeing two good footballing sides and two good sets of fans go to Wembley, there is a lesson in watching the success of Bradford and Swansea. These two clubs have spent years at the bottom of the football heap, laid low by years of short-sighted and incompetent management by their boards. Bradford had gone nuts when they got into the Premier League, splurging tomorrow’s money on stupid contracts for the likes of Benito Carbone. That stupidity saw them go into administration and go tumbling down the footballing pyramid. The Premier League glory days were long gone, but under Phil Parkinson, with no money to spend, they have found sufficient shape and confidence on the pitch to suggest the club has happier days ahead.

And Swansea’s renaissance is just remarkable. Little more than ten years ago, when being managed by ex-Arsenal player John Hollins, they were midway through a descent to the bottom, the club was sold for £1, players were being sacked, fans were protesting and the Football League was talking about punishing them. In 2002, they only narrowly avoided relegation out of the Football League. And then in 2004, they made the first of a series of managerial appointments that sent them climbing up the divisions. First there was Kenny Jackett, then Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup (with a Paulo Sousa interlude). Without being able to know quite how they organise things, it is obvious that the board there have established a superb way of working: the club’s resources (not a sugar-daddy’s) are used incredibly well, they keep on recruiting high quality managers and undervalued players and they have enough confidence in the coaches and players to allow creativity to flourish. None of your Pulis, O’Neill or Allardyce rubbish for them, they’ve created an environment where skill and talent rule. And now they’ve won a major trophy, with European football attached, and look like they’ll see their side finish in the top half of the division. Anyone who loves football must love Swansea these days. Perhaps not if you’re from Cardiff (they must hate life right now), but everyone else.

I might be gutted that we won’t have a pot again this season, but seeing two clubs like Swansea and Bradford at Wembley just goes to show the value of a well-run club, that doesn’t think it’s all about throwing money about but instead achieves success through hard work, planning and skill. That, in my opinion, is something to respect and savour, and it’s something some in the Arsenal community would do well to bear in mind, there are lessons in there for all football clubs.

Written by 26may


3 Points is 3 Points, as they say

February 24, 2013

My overall impression of this game was that we played slightly with the famous handbrake on. Possibly a more accurate description is that we still looked like we were suffering a slight hangover from the previous 2 games, which obviously didn’t go our way. It wasn’t a lack of effort that was missing, but more a clinical fluidity and sharpness. Whether this was more from physical fatigue or was more a psychological issue on the back of the last 2 games I am unsure.

Either way it was a game that could have, and should have, seen us score 3 or 4 and run out easy winners, rather than endure a nervy narrow 2-1 win. Their goal should have been a consolation goal rather than a goal that kept them in it till the final whistle. I had a discussion with Rasp pre game and we were saying the same thing about the Blackburn fiasco. We should have been 3 up when they scored what should have been only a consolation goal instead of a winning goal. Despite good chances and superior dominance in some games we fail to clinically finish chances off and put games to bed early.

We will put 4,5,6, or 7 past some teams but we are not consistently clinical in our finishing at the moment. Maybe Arsène has identified this as a problem and the rumours about David Villa do indeed carry some weight.

On to the game and we had an early chance when Wilshere was put through behind the Villa defence by a good early ball from Giroud. He looked up and saw that Walcott was making an effort to get into the box but decided the better option was to go it alone and shoot from a tight angle. Was it the wrong option? Maybe the pull back to Walcott was the better option but hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing, so it is not a point I would criticise.

santi vs villa

We continued to try and take the game to Villa and got the early break-through. Cazorla received the ball on the left side of the Villa box and seemed to try and play a partial through ball, partial shot. Either way the ball was rebounded to him again and his trademark quick footwork didn’t allow the nearest Villa defenders any time to get at him and he made no mistake with a low powerful shot that went between and through the legs of the Villa defenders, bending away from Guzan, and into the net. 1-0 to the good guys.

After this we seemed to become a little casual and passes seemed to come up short or just behind their intended targets. Even Jack was gifting away possession at times. Villa had 3 good opportunities to try and hit us on the break as a result and twice Szczesny was called into action with the third going dangerously across our 6 yard box with Agbonlahor just failing to connect. The interesting thing for me was that all 3 chances came from balls from our left flank where Villa had got behind Monreal. It seemed to be an area they targeted to me and is a point I would like to open for discussion. How did this situation occur 3 times when we were 1-0 up?

We entered the second half with a bit more purpose and continued to try and get the second goal. Giroud played a couple of flicks with Cazorla and immediately got the return pass putting him through on goal. Unfortunately the big man didn’t have his shooting boots on in this game.

On 61 minutes Ramsey came on for Diaby. I thought it was because Diaby was only having a so-so game but I now believe it was due to another injury. Shortly after this we had everyone bar 3 players forward for a corner which they managed to hoof upfield. Jenkinsons headed clearance was ineffective and the ball eventually found its way to Weimann. He was still a long way out but the 3 defenders left back from the corner retreated as he advanced and our returning defenders didn’t manage to get back in time. He fired a shot from some distance. It wasn’t a bad shot but was no screamer. Szczesny seemed to dive in slow motion and the ball squirmed past him. It is one he should have saved.

On 76 Podolski came on for Jenkinson to try and win the game. I was worried about how this would leave us exposed on the counter but Villa didn’t offer up much else and it was mainly all us trying to get the decisive goal. We had a number of wide balls coming in that no forward player seemed to want to take a chance with and get into the 6 yard box.

We have seen this many times before, and it seems to be a long-standing habit of ours. On 85 minutes, however, a good ball from Wilshere put Monreal through down the left. This time Giroud made the run into the 6 yard box. Crucially it dragged defenders with him and left space behind where Cazorla was lurking. Monreal picked the right option and left Cazorla a relatively simple finish.

santi vs villa2

There wasn’t too much drama after this, although it didn’t seem that way at the time. Koscielny came on for Walcott to shore us up for the closing minutes of injury time, and we saw the game out. 3 vital points especially with Everton losing. We can sit back now for the rest of the weekend and hope that Citeh and West-Ham can do us a favour.

On to the ratings.

Szczesny 6 – He actually made a couple of vital stops earlier on but should have prevented their goal.

Jenkinson 7 – I thought Jenks had a solid game. He generally put good balls in and didn’t seem to be found wanting when the pacey Agbonlahor tried to get at him.

Mertesacker 7 – Didn’t do too much wrong all game and it was a solid performance. A couple of key blocks also.

Vermaelen 7 – Much the same as with Mertesacker.

Nacho 7 – I didn’t like the way we were exposed behind him but he did get some good balls into the box and set up the decisive goal.

Arteta 7 – Nothing spectacular but kept us ticking and I can’t remember any mistakes from him.

Diaby 6 – Occasional moments but seems to have lost the powerful influence he showed against Liverpool earlier this season.

Wilshere 8 – Was a bit sloppy early but took more command as the game went on and any win normally has some key contribution from Jack. Maybe looks a bit tired.

Cazorla 8.5 and MOTM – I thought he was an influence the whole game as well as scoring the 2 goals. I was also impressed that he seemed to put in a good defensive shift as well.

Giroud 6.5 – Could have had a couple. He wasn’t too bad but it didn’t really come off for him today. His link up play though is still excellent.

Walcott 6.5 – Not his best game but he always gives off an air of danger that worries the opposition.

Ramsey for Diaby (61 minutes) 6.5 – Nothing spectacular but was solid when he came on.

Podolski (for Jenkinson 76 minutess) 6 – I didn’t notice much of a contribution and I thought he was guilty a couple of times in not taking a chance getting into the 6 yard box.

Koscielny (for Walcott 90 minutes) – No time to really rate him.

Written by GoonerB


Redemption Song. Villa pre-view.

February 23, 2013

So now what? Will we continue to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or will Lady Luck give us a lap-dance at the Emirates?

One thing for sure, today will not be a de rigeur victory over a slightly rejuvenated Aston Villa. It seems our team are incapable of simple. Even the 1-0 victories have drama attached.

Unknown

On the back of two defeats, the visit of Aston Villa could be seen as an easy opportunity to remedy some wrongs and allow the team to regain confidence. But AV are very capable of at least drawing today. The threat of Benteke is enough to have our CB’s quaking and both Agbonlahor and N’zogbia have caused us problems in the past. Fortunately Richard Dunne is injured which will stop him injuring one of ours.

Despite the Vonder of Vaar Villa have conceded 50 goals already this season – we will score today, and probably more than one. I think Theo could have one of his better afternoons though Villa will look to sit deep and hope to counter-attack. They have the pace and the power to do so. Ball retention and concentration will be vital

But let’s be quite clear, Arsenal may be in a different class to Bayern Munich but Aston Villa are in a different class to Arsenal; if the footballing gods are with us, we should win comfortably. But they are not …..

Will  Mr Wenger trust Gervinho this afternoon? If he does it will demote Podolski to the bench. Now I like Podolski, I like him much better than I like Gervinho. So my hope is that Gerv is used purely as an impact sub.

Can anyone explain why we persist with playing 4-4-2 at home? I just don’t understand it. Ramsey is a fine player but we desperately need thrust and the man doesn’t have it.

My Team:

arse v villa

Perhaps this would be a game to use Coquelin who has been “knocking on the door” and needs pitch time if he is not to agitate for a transfer in summer. Jack despite being magnificent  needs a rest, I would start Diaby and bring on JW after 70 mins.

Today’s explorer. I am still in shock the Sir Francis Drake got beaten by the Germans. Let us hope that Charles Mason (1728-1786) brings us 3 points today. Mason was born in the Cotswolds, trained as an astronomer, met Dixon and together they created the Mason-Dixon line in USA.

images-2

There are no images of Charles Mason, so I found this Gooner instead

In 1761 he travelled to Sumatra to study the transit of Venus; upon his return to England he met Jeremiah Dixon. Together they surveyed the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. This was important because it became the dividing line between the North-East and Southern states of America. Both men were expert astronomers and surveyors, both became members of the Royal Society. Mason died n Philadelphia at the age of 58.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy

Ed: I found this image of Charles Mason but can’t vouch for its accuracy – disappointing lack of facial hair …

Charles_Mason


Arsenal – Darwin or Lenin?

February 22, 2013

This attempt at a post was borne out of my genuine desire to know how people feel about this. And by this I mean the following: Whether Evolution is better than Revolution. I ask this fully aware of the difficulties in even deciding what counts as revolution, while what counts as evolution can also be disputed (such as by the creationists of Chelsea)

What does this have to do with Arsenal? Well, I doubt that needs explaining. I don’t think any gooner in the world is unaware about the differences of opinion among the fans, with it being debated (to be charitable) the club is either in terminal decline, the only remedy to which is letting the blood run on the streets, or is just short of mutating into a Santa-esque (red and white and spreading good cheer) version of the Incredible Hulk, smashing everyone in its path to victory.

I’m going to make it easy for everyone and just say that I believe an evolutionary process is the way to go. I mean, apart from the fact that I’m always right, it is the way humans, and indeed all creatures, have survived up to this point. You can’t argue against nature can you? For the more pedantic among you (cough..RA..cough), you can, but you’ll lose.

Having said that, revolutions, at varying scales, seem to be all the craze in human history. You just know that the first caveman who proclaimed himself king, was sought to be toppled (or clobbered) by someone the next day. A mini revolution if you will. These happen every day in one form or another, but they are so miniscule, and so much a part of life, that these never count as revolution, rather as part of the evolutionary process.

So herein we reach the problem of how to differentiate between Messrs Evo and Revo Lution? What makes a true revolution? In my view, it is the evolution of certain revolutionary ideas that makes revolution worth its name. The abolition of slavery, the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau in the French revolution, growth of socialist and communist ideas in the Russian revolution etc. It is these ideas that have survived rather than the revolution itself. Most revolutions tend to become the very thing they are supposed to have rebelled against, unless the ideas that produced them are adhered to in practice, and then built on. (Napolean followed the French revolution, The peasants were in many cases worse off under Soviet rule than Tsarist rule) Evolution (as regards political processes) is far less spectacular, but the stability it offers, provides the basis of meaningful, and usually irreversible change/progress.

So let’s return to Arsenal. What would count as revolution, and what is just part of our evolution as a club? We’ve sacked managers before and this is hardly a path breaking concept. So it shouldn’t count as revolution, should it? Except, it does. No other manager in our history, and perhaps no other manager in the world, with the exception of Sir Rednose at Red Mancs, has had the level of impact at a club that Wenger has had on ours. In fact, it could be argued that Wenger’s impact on Arsenal was in itself a revolution. The dietary and training regimen imposed on players, the ability to find players no one had ever heard of and to get them to play the brand of fast, free flowing football that we did, was unheard of in England in those days, leave alone the impact (not yet fully realised) of the building of the training ground and stadium and of overhauling our academy structure. So, has that revolution run its course, and is it time to indulge in another?

In my view, no. Especially, not without having an idea of what this revolution is supposed to entail. What ideas and philosophy does this new revolution expound and seek to uphold? Till now, I haven’t heard of one beyond the narrow aims of spending money, more trophies, better players etc. And until I hear a revolutionary alternative, an idea so moving, and a purpose so worthy and desirable so as to justify its cost, I’ll be sticking with the path our club is on now. Remember, without ideas, you are just a headless caveman looking for the pot of gold at the end of the windmill.

Written by Shard


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