Business as usual! The march at the top continues

The bottom line is simple. Despite the green fumes of envy from the clueless pundits and money spinning ignorable others, we stay Top of the League.

This was a historic day in the English Premier League, when goal line technology was used for the first time to the benefit of the Northern Oilers and the disappintment of the new boys from Cardiff. This was also a day when Arsenal had a job to do at home against Fulham. Fulham has had quite a Mauleen from all and sundry, and at The Home of Football they were clearly expected to receive a battering. Arsenal were Top of the League before the game. Despite the accumulation of injuries including a rather serious one to Theo Walcott, and despite the disappointment of fans from a typically unimpressive transfer window, we were not expected to drop points at home against an unfancied opposition.

However, Fulham came out with purpose, with a revamped central defence sporting the fit-again captain Brede Hangeland and “recalled from loan” six-and-half-footer Burn. The midfield sported the hacker mercenary duo of Parker and Sidwell, and ahead of them a frontline sporting one evergreen Dimitar Berbatov. At goal was the World Cup finalist “Mr Dictionary” Dutchman Stekelenburg, with 10 distinct letters in his surname (I kid you not!!!!!).

Arsenal came out with an unchanged starting lineup, which had only one omission from Raddy’s carefully considered choice. The little master Santi Cazorla was chosen over the little Mozart Tomáš Rosický. The “masked Czech” was left on the bench to nurse a delicate nose flattened in a previous brawl. Other than Monreal on the left, the backline was familiar – Mert, Kos and Sagna. The defensive midfield positions were manned by Flamini and Wilshere. Özil, Santi and Gnabry together with front-man Ollie completed the attacking line up.

For me, the starting line up made good sense. The left and right backs had freedom to roam upwards along the flanks. Flamini and Jack were positioned to start the cleanup operations and link forward. For me, the movement through the centre is perhaps the best way to use Jack’s speed and youthful exuberance. The wing play of Sagna and Monreal allows the attacking midfield freedom to move laterally through interchanging positions. This is perhaps the most natural movement for both Santi and Gnabry, and it offers the opportunity to use any lack of tightness in the opposition back four.

Arsenal fans everywhere, including the venerable Arsenal Arsenal family, have been clamouring for the addition of a striker in January, and that wish of a post-Christmas present has so far been steadfastly ignored by “Mr Santa” Le Boss. Giroud had unfortunately misplaced his shooting shoes during his nocturnal escapades on one fateful night in Kiev last November. Hence, the forty million and one pound question was: where would the goals come from? Despair not. The answer came later during the game.

Anyway, the game commenced in earnest. The initial exchanges were tasty. 5 minutes on, Gnabry moved inwards deftly from the right, and found a gap to send the ball forward, Jack met this with aplomb and fed on to Özil on the right end of the 6-yard box. Instead of shooting himself, the German wizard tried to pass to Giroud, but Hangeland deftly hacked away. Again, 20 minutes on, Gnabry cut in from the right and fed Olivier Giroud at the edge of the 18-yard box, but he fired the ball high and wide. In between, Arsenal continued to boss the game, Wilshere being particularly enterprising, but failed to create clear chances.

Something was amiss. I thought there was lack of coordination between the attacking midfielders at the centre. The way Arsenal plays, all three of them have liberty to move and exchange places. On the day, this exchange was not working quite right. When Gnabry moved in from the right and released the ball, he continued to move to the centre, but the gap on the right was not seamlessly filled in by the other guys. The same happened when Santi moved in from the left. There was crowding in the centre and the game could not be spread wide. As a result, the Fulham defence was able to close their gaps easily.

At the same time, Fulham were somewhat potent on their rare saunters upfront. On 27 minutes, Berbatov’s cross was cleared out of the box and fell to Steve Sidwell, who launched an audacious 20 yard stunner that Szczesny had to deftly fist over. The Pole made two other crucial interceptions in one on one situations, diving to the feet of Dejagah first, and taking the ball off the feet of Kacaniklic the second time. In both cases he superbly avoided a touch with the rushing shooters. Fantastic stuff.

Together, the robust rebuttal of Arsenal’s advances continued, through a combination of skillful defence, agricultural mercenary action and sheer luck. Some freekicks were conceded but no bookings – surprise, surprise!! From one of these freekicks, the good guys produced their first clear chance. From about 20 yards out, Santi drilled his kick into the wall and the rebound fell to Sagna on the edge of the box. His first timer glided through the crowd towards the bottom right corner, but Stekelenburg brought off an amazing reflex save, and immediately after from Giroud’s follow-up. Giroud was flagged offside, but the Dutch goalkeeper would not have known. Brilliant play.

In between, nothing much had worked for the Arsenal attack. Wilshere and Gnabry were enthusiastic without much success, Serge attempting three wayward and juvenile long rangers, and Jack trying fancy one-twos with Giroud that, unlike the Norwich game, did not quite work out. Flamini had a quiet game, doing his basic job without producing any moment of inspiration, but almost contributed to a disaster. Almost at the end of the half, Per Mertesacker ran in to head a ball, bending himself low to the ball, and Flamini lent his arm in support. Per dashed into Flamini, hurt his neck and stayed down for an anxious few minutes. To the relief of Arsenal fans, no serious damage was done. The teams went in at halftime all square. Fulham were competent in defence, and Arsenal attacked all half without much conviction. It seemed they could go up another gear, though.

At half time, there were plenty of nerves, and some disagreement among the faithful followers on Arsenal Arsenal who were unlucky not to be at THOF. Clearly, the shape and formation of the team was not quite right. The game was not spread wide. Raddy felt Gnabry should stick to the wing and not fight for space with Santi. Arnie thought, dare I say so, that being the central guy, Özil had the responsibility of moving over when either of Santi or Gnabry moved to the centre. In any case, a job needed to be done. Raddy moved over from lager to wine, Arnie continued to provide bloopers, and Rocky sat down with pen and paper to record Plobert’s errors of commission and omission.

As the second half commenced, Arsenal came out in earnest, trying to use the flanks better and upping the pace of the game. But Fulham continued to provide some potency on the counter, Berbatov holding the ball up well until support arrived from the other players. These attacks were clinically thwarted by the Mertesacker-Koscielny duo, with able support from Sagna and Monreal mainly, and everyone else in the team as well.

10 minutes into the half, Arsenal produced their first significant action. Gnabry provided a moment of individual brilliance, moving in from the right side-stepping three defenders before firing in a low shot which was spectacularly saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. Then, Monreal whipped the ball in from the left, Sagna’s effort was cleared off the goal line. Gnabry poked it rebound forward and somehow Fulham again cleared off the line. The stalemate continued. Nervy times.

The first moment of the Santi magic came on 57 minutes. Santi picked a ball from the left, passed through to Ollie on the top of the box and continued his run in. Giroud took a ball with his back to goal, flicked out a one-touch lay-off into the path of Wilshere, who picked up Santi on his run. Santi, oh beauty, slided in and with his right foot fired into the goal from close-rage. Absolutely lovely team goal. The Emirates erupted in unison, well, except the hapless away fans I suppose. Celebrations ensued. Giroud wrapped his arms around Santi and made some strange arm gestures that I found hard to interpret. Beyond, of course, the unimaginable!!

santi v fulham

Within 5 minutes, there was the second piece of Santi brilliance. This time, with his left foot. Monreal crossed the ball in from the left, and as it was hacked out from the box, Santi rushed in from the right, and fired in from the edge of the box into the corner of the net. 2-0 to The Arsenal.

The march continued, the fans sang loud and clear. Poldi replaced Gnabry, and launched a superb rasper from 20 yards out that was somehow fingered on to the upright by the Dutch goalkeeper. The Ox came on very late and almost got his head to a cross from the left, but not quite.

Still some nervy moments at the end. Mert sauntered on one of his escapades and failed to intercept a loopy cross which Szczesny failed to reach as well. Bent stepped around him and somehow missed from close range. Under pressure from Koscielny of course, who had an absolutely brilliant game. In the final minute, The Ox launched into an agricultural heave at the edge of the box, and off the resulting freekick, the Pole in goal spilled the ball in the first attempt and somehow grabbed for dear life in the second. Szczesny the Savior, on his 100th game for Arsenal as well. Absolutely fantastic performance from him.

Thus the game ended after a nervy extended injury time. Job well done. We are Top of the League. This was a thorough team performance, and the tentative scores reflect this.

Szczesny 8. Superb saves. His was a very crucial performance. Coming out and not reaching the ball in injury time the only major blip.

Mertesacker 6. Good composed performance. Missed a loopy ball towards the end that led to the Bent chance. A couple of other similar errors in judgment that could have proved costly on another day.

Koscielny 8. Superb. One of the true stars on the day. What a great performance, what a big heart!

Sagna 7. Good performance in attack and defence. Two good shots on goal.

Monreal 7. Like Sagna, good in defence and in overlapping. His cross led to the second goal.

Flamini 6. Decent composed performance without being inspirational.

Wilshere 8. Good enterprising and credible performance. Assist for the first goal. Fantastic.

Özil 7. Good performance. Nice interchanges and distribution. Would perhaps be more proactive in organisation of shape and formation on another day.

Cazorla 8. What can you say, except for Wow! Superb. Two goals. The star on the day. Man of the Match! The little master is back.

Gnabry 7. Very good performance. A future star. The development continues.

Giroud 6. A decent day in office. Missed a few chances. Tried a lot of fancy lay-offs that did not work. But one of these did, and it led to the first goal.

Podolski 7. Came on for the final 20 minutes. A superb effort on goal. The rehab continues.

The Ox. Too short to have a score. But nice to have him back. Almost at the end of a cross on the right post, but not quite. However, a terrible tackle in the end that on another day could have proved costly. The rehab has begun in earnest.

What lessons did we learn? Plenty of positives to take. Yes, this is work in progress, yes the loss of Theo is costly, but this is a team where everyone does his bit and steps up on the day. And yes, the conviction that we are resilient in defence and attack, and are not going to give away easy points. The defence and goalkeeping performance was superb. 10th clean sheet in the league, 8 clean sheets out of 9 games at home. Santi coming back to his best, the rehab of Poldi and The Ox continues. Onwards and upwards!

Arnie.

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160 Responses to Business as usual! The march at the top continues

  1. Morning all

    Thank you Arnie for the excellent match report.

    Arnie sent some gifs but I can’t get them into the post, will try again later.

  2. arnie says:

    Raddy: The reply came from the person the question was intended for, and it came promptly. :razz:

  3. Big Raddy says:

    “quite a Mauleen” :-)

    “agricultural mercenary action” :-)

    “Raddy moved over from lager to wine, Arnie continued to provide bloopers, and Rocky sat down with pen and paper to record Plobert’s errors of commission and omission.” :-D

    arnie. A masterpiece which will surely not be bettered by any of the professional hacks. Both amusing and informative, thank you.

  4. kelsey says:

    Thanks for the post match report Arnie.

    I have already posted my thoughts yesterdy and this morning however I don’t agree with several of your ratings,no offence intended, noticeably, Mertesacker,Sagna,Ozil,Gnabry and Cazorla who I would have rated higher and Wilshere lower :)

  5. Gööner In Exile says:

    Morning all, nice report Arnie filled in the blanks the MotD highlights omitted.

    Unfortunately I can’t really discuss the match because highlights give you all to brief a view of the match.

    Needless to say Swans win and Chav draw will do me today.

  6. Big Raddy says:

    kelsey’s earlier comment….

    Morning all

    I take your point about Giroud but if the intention was to buy him as a clinical striker he is preety avergae. As part of the team no one in the front line works harder but there will be days when we can’t rely on our fantastic attacking midfielders to score a vital goal in a tight match.
    Do we really need what was used to be called an old fashioned striker or is Giroud just a good hold up player.

    With regards to Santi it has been proved without doubt he plays his best when not on the flanks.
    I predict both Gnabry and The Ox will be better players than Walcott in the future,yet so often we lack width as nearly all our midfielders our those that start on the wing drift inside.
    Though a RB Sagna actually plays more like a winger than anyone when we attack.
    With Ramsey fit and if he shows his form of two months ago he is more than likely to continue to score.
    Podolski is a hard one to access as has been said before what is his best position and his stamina. His shot is most probably the best in the squad but is he another Arshavin in work rate.
    Wilshere shows his best and worst assets usually in any given game but he has age on his side.
    Overall we must all be pleased as no game is ever easy and maybe the league will be won by the team that scores the most or one that concedes the least.

    Take away City and Villa defeats to concede only 10 goals in 20 matches is a fantastic stat.

  7. Norfolk Gooner says:

    ‘morning AAers, brilliant match report Arnie, definitely one for the AA Hall of Fame.

    I thought Fulham manager Meulensteen’s after match comment was apposite, ” I emphasised to them (the defenders) to stick with Arsenal’s runners. they forgot and Cazorla scored”.

    Peaches/Rasp, e mail at arsenalnuts re Friday.

  8. Thank you NG, I’m still trying to work out how we run this week’s posts :(

    Football on Friday night …… what is the world coming too?????

  9. While I’m here ……. we really need Moist to get his boys to play a very boring defensive game today …….. find a huge bus to park and put 10 men behind the ball. Maureen is going to have to win that one to stay with us …….could be fun to watch the frustration :D

  10. GunnerN5 says:

    Adapted for AA readers.

    ……………………………………………………………………………..

    Two AA’ers promised their friend Seamus, who had been a seafaring gent all his life, to bury him at sea when he died.

    Of course, in due time, he did pass away and the boys kept their promise.

    They set off with their friend Seamus all stitched up in a burial bag and loaded onto their rowboat.

    After a while Micky says, ‘Do yer think this is fer enuff out, Raddy?

    Without a word Raddy slips over the side only to find himself standing in water up to his knees.

    This’ll never do, Micky. Let’s row some more.’

    After a bit more rowing Raddy slips over the side again but the water is only up to his belly, so they row on.

    Again Micky asks Raddy, ‘Do yer think this is fer enuff out Raddy?

    Once again Raddy slips over the side and almost immediately says, ‘No this’ll neva do.’ The water was only up to my chest.

    So on they row and row and row and finally Raddy slips over the side and disappears.

    Quite a bit of time goes by and poor Micky is really getting himself into a state when suddenly Raddy breaks the surface gasping for breath.

    Well is it deep enuff yet, Raddy?

    WAIT FOR IT

    Aye ’tis,

    Now hand me that shovel Micky.

  11. LB says:

    Did you really finish that at 3 in the morning Arnie? That is a lot of work if you did, superb report, but……..

  12. RA says:

    arnie, baby, that is a superb effort and was worth every minute of sleep that you missed.

    Very impressive indeed! :-)

  13. kelsey says:

    peaches

    I don’t think United can afford to play for the draw.

  14. Rasp says:

    Thanks arnie, super report. I didn’t get to watch the game live and was tortured by the BBC text commentary into thinking we were heavily under the cosh at times.

    I’m quite liking the idea of using the Pod as a super-sub, but please, let’s give him at least 30 mins if the pattern of the game allows.

    Gnabry or the Ox – there’s a poser …… if it had to be one or the other, who would folks prefer?

  15. RA says:

    arnie, having had a belated chance to watch the game and it was a good solid performance with the successful winning of the 3 points, but …..

    My overall impression is though that we seemed to lack pace.

    Obviously missing Theo was a big part of that, and the result was that everything seemed to have been done at a brisk military pace, but not our usual lightning quick attacks.

    Forget CF backups or additional midfielders, we should go for a fast winger with a trick or two — that would change the emphasis up front and scare out opponents who may have begun to work us out.

  16. Big Raddy says:

    RA. I don’t agree. IMO we have pace enough in the team. The problem yesterday was that in the first half the passing was sideways and pedestrian.

    Once we speeded up the pace of pass we looked sharp and in total control.

    The difference between the two halves was marked – even the BBC interviewer noticed the change which means it must have been glaringly obvious!

  17. Big Raddy says:

    I can guess what LB’s “but” is :-D

  18. BigDave says:

    Can you break into The Emirates Stadium and check the insurance policies, before suggesting that Ozil should have “shot himself”.

  19. RA says:

    BR,

    It is fine to disagree – consensus is not always necessary, and a difference of opinion is often akin to a difference of personal perception and can be very creative.

    In my value judgement there is a clear divergence between speed of thought, speed of passing and speed over the ground of particular players.

    I grant you that the first two measurements of speed were missing in the first half and increased exponentially in the second half.

    On the other hand, I do not think we have any players with exceptional pace, other than the injured Walcott.
    I will not list our midfield and forward players as you know them anyway, of course, but for all their talents, I challenge you to name even one of them who has natural pace – Theo excepted.

    That is what I was saying is missing, and with Theo’s frequent injuries it is a recurrent problem.

    If we remedied that lack, I was positing that we could wrong foot our rivals who have no doubt analysed our strengths and weaknesses, and the introduction of someone with a pacey skill set could have the same galvanising effect as the introduction of Ozil had.

  20. arnie says:

    Thanks everyone, and forgot to mention in the morning, apols, thanks a lot, Peaches.

    LB: I can guess the “but” as well ….. :D

    OK, Kelsey and LB, I may have been a bit generous to Jack. :sad: But what the heck, the ratings are subjective anyway. :D

    Raddy and Redders: Yes, I think the pace was distinctly upped in the second half, and more forward movement. :D :D

    Can Poldi be played as the shooting striker and Giroud as the holding striker, I wonder. With one DM and three attacking midfielders, perhaps?

  21. arnie says:

    I think Rambo and Jack have pace, may be not quite like Theo, but …. And this is the reason they are playing in the DM position to run down the middle. On the wings, there is not that much talent available anyway, and that includes other clubs. Navas?

  22. RA says:

    arnie,

    There is a natural and understandable desire to be defensive about the players in the team people support, and that is fine.

    Forgive me for disagreeing with you when you say that Jack and Rambo have pace.

    Let’s be clear that I do not doubt that they would beat you or I in a sprint to the bar in the pub, but I was comparing our lack of pace with comparable professional players in the Premier League, and I cannot believe any objective appraisal would hold either of them as pacey.

    To be candid I backed up my comment with an explanation of what I meant by the lack of pace in our midfield and attack but faced with a contrary judgement supported only by a subjective opinion, I suspect there is nothing more to be gained by continuing the discussion. :-)

    It has been observed before that well thought through and written Posts, like yours, do not always receive the level of discussion they deserve on a Sunday. That is a pity.

  23. Gööner In Exile says:

    Dying Swans this afternoon….I say send Knuckles in.

    Now as for us and pace etc, is it pace or acceleration we need? Ok maybe we are confusing the same thing, but I agree that Theo offers us something different because he is exceptionally quick getting to speed. Pace in itself is not that useful against massed ranks, guile is obviously required but also that acceleration to find the space behind the back four when it matters.

  24. Gööner In Exile says:

    Swansea have had a terrible time since winning the a League Cup….relegation?

  25. arnie says:

    Redders: No disagreement in principle. As your post also emphasized, the balance of opinion is important on a forum like AA. Hence for whatever it is worth, we should all put our opinions in place. Yes, there is a distinction between the best players and the best stars, and this often clouds vision. But, on with the show!

    GiE: And here, you put it very succinctly. The distinction between pace, guile and acceleration is key. And the vision and leadership within the game. So, the discussion continues.

    Yes, “they would beat you or I in a sprint to the bar in the pub”, but we may yet manage to get the drink off the buxom lady at the bar before them, dont you think!!!!!! :razz:

  26. Bayonne Jean says:

    If the FA sat JW one game for his “We’re #1″ gesture, what might they conjure up for OG’s master stroke?

  27. Big Raddy says:

    Very few have Theo’s pace. All that is required is to be faster than the opposition and we nearly always are

  28. arnie says:

    Redders: regarding attention to posts on a Sunday, quality matters perhaps more than quantity. I am personally happy with the discussion so far, and the disagreements as well. This was partly intentional as well, as you might have gathered. :D

    GiE: Getting the ball behind the defensive ranks is the key issue. The traditional approach is from the wings using pace. Unfortunately, only Theo has that kind of pace and skill. In his absence, it is not as if there are many other options. I have looked around other clubs, in Europe as well, and there seems to be a real dearth of talent in right wing.

    The alternative is movement laterally and finding gaps to place the ball in, and players to move into such tight spaces. I think we do OK in that regard. This is what we have at the moment.

    Transfers, a bit up in the air, I am afraid. :sad:

  29. arnie says:

    Bayonne Jean: :D

  30. RA says:

    arnie,

    My original comment was simply an observation, and although it referred specifically to the game yesterday, but Theo’s frequent injury record made a good case for addressing the lack of pace in our attacking intent.

    It seems, if the media are to be believed, that AW seems to have some thoughts to do something about it.

    –“Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been given a boost in the pursuit of the 22 year old French wing forward after Griezmann admitted he could leave his La Liga club in order to assist his push for a first call-up to the senior national team set-up.

    “I am relaxed about my future at the moment,” he told radio station RMC .

    “I have not had talks other clubs yet. This is something to look at.

    “I want to play for a leading European team and I hope this can help me get a place in the France team.”

    Arsenal failed with a £12m bid for Griezmann and have been told to fork out twice that amount if they want to land the talented wide-man, a bid that Wenger may be more likely to consider now that Theo Walcott has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

    Griezmann is into his fifth season at Basque side Real Sociedad and has been in marvelous form, scoring 12 goals in 17 La Liga fixtures this term, a strike rate that is phenomenal for any player not plying their trade for one of Spain’s giants Barcelona or Real Madrid.”

    My own view is that the fee is a bit too rich for it to happen, but perhaps AW and I share a similar desire for a speedy winger with a trick or two. :-)

    Oops – that’s where I came in. Laterz. :-)

  31. chas says:

    Great match report, Arnie. Thanks.

    I particularly liked some of your phraseology.
    “….but Hangeland deftly hacked away.”
    “…The Ox launched into an agricultural heave at the edge of the box…..”
    “….stunner that Szczesny had to deftly fist…..”
    “…..that was somehow fingered on to the upright……” :)

  32. 26may1989 says:

    Well done for the match report, arnie.

    I may not be as big a fan of Flamini as many Gooners (he would rarely be a first pick for me where we have no injuries), but I thought he had a really good game yesterday.

    Bollocks, Eto’o has just scored a screamer…..

  33. 26may1989 says:

    Hazard looking very, very good. Precisely the sort of speed of thought, technique and pure pace that Raddy and RA were discussing. That’s why I think we would step up another level if we had a player like Draxler.

  34. RA says:

    26,

    Stop it – you globe trotter – that is exactly what I meant re: speed of thought, technique and pure pace. :-)

    And sadly, I also happen to share your reservations regarding Flamini.

  35. arnie says:

    Ah, transfer speculation, what pleasure!!!!! :D :D

    Oh dear Chavs 2 ahead!!!! :sad:

  36. 26may1989 says:

    2-0, double bollocks.

  37. arnie says:

    Please withdraw your support, 26, we do not wish to see Redders sad. :D

  38. RA says:

    You are very considerate, arnie, but my sadness as such is only because I enjoy debating with my friend, 26M.

    Too much agreement between us reduces the opportunities for debate. :-)

  39. Gööner In Exile says:

    ManUre playing like a team that knows without BSR and Rooney they haven’t a hope in hell of scoring a goal. Forgive me if I’m wrong but isn’t it us supposed to be struggling with squad depth?

  40. Big Raddy says:

    United a pale shadow of last season. I know they are missing their 2 Best players but they have nothing in midfield

  41. Gööner In Exile says:

    Just read a headline on BBC about Freedman being upset by their 7-1 drubbing at Reading.

    No shit Sherlock……he left Palace to manage that team!!!

  42. 26may1989 says:

    United are just terrible, appalling.

  43. 26may1989 says:

    Without RvP and Shrek, the quality of the players may be ordinary, but the organisational level in United’s defence for that corner was really pathetic. And as Pulis shows, it doesn’t matter how ordinary the players, they can be organised.

  44. evonne says:

    yep 26m, shocking. Losing 3 nil and no urgency, not trying, zilch.

  45. 26may1989 says:

    One thing I really like about this Chelsea side is its balance: each unit is just right, other than the striker (ironic, given that’s where all their goals today have come from). Luiz and Ramires turns out to be an excellent CM/DM pairing.

  46. Big Raddy says:

    14 points behind us :-)

    This time last season MU had 19 more points and were 22 ahead of us.

    What is Moyes doing? Kagawa on the bench despite a total lack of creativity.

    Moyes In.

    Chelsea look the dog’s though. Strong, organised and dangerous.

  47. RA says:

    Like many of you I am not a big Maureen fan, but he has promoted a ‘spare’ CB in Luiz to a very effective midfield muscle man who can play a bit (and very effectively) — whereas Arsene just won’t listen to me when I suggest the same thing for the Verm. :-)

  48. 26may1989 says:

    Agreed, Raddy, I didn’t think much of Chelsea before the season started, but they look more impressive to me than City do.

  49. Big Raddy says:

    This time last season we were 7 points behind Spurs

  50. 26may1989 says:

    The difference is, RA, that Vermaelen is a very good CB, whereas Luiz is too much of a loon to be be able to perform there. But I agree, TV could play well at DM.

  51. Big Raddy says:

    RA. I will give you a reason why AW will not listen to you ……. Pace :-)

  52. RA says:

    Wenger OUT.

  53. RA says:

    Just kidding, Arsene, pax domine vobiscum! :-)

  54. 26may1989 says:

    This means we really have to beat United when we play them in a few weeks – odds on, they won’t play as badly as today.

  55. 26may1989 says:

    One down, two to go…….

  56. Big Raddy says:

    RA. As you say.

    I wonder what AW would do with this MU squad. I am sure the MU board would like to know too

  57. evonne says:

    it is still 15:1 for manyoo to draw, good bet

  58. evonne says:

    forgot to ROLF atfter last statement

    Ok Raddy, so this MU squad is poo. So how did they win the league last season? Fergie is the only difference, time to fully appreciate the genius of the Red Nose

  59. Big Raddy says:

    Evonne. Mmmmmmmm

    MU fans blame SAF forgetting this squad are champions. Ingrates.

  60. 26may1989 says:

    The genius of Red Nose, and the failures of City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

  61. 26may1989 says:

    I don’t really care, in that United have already lost this match, but that is not a red card.

  62. 26may1989 says:

    Now that deserved a red card – the airborne Rafael wasn’t in control of that tackle.

  63. arnie says:

    ha ha ha, the game of mice and men!!!!!! Vidic returns against us. What were the chances of that, a priori? :sad:

  64. 26may1989 says:

    Very disappointing from United.

  65. arnie says:

    OK, some transfer rubbish then.

    But first, Arsenal to appoint former Bayern Munich and Barcelona coach Andries Jonker as new academy boss. Ivan Gazidis: “Liam has a deep understanding of what it takes to discover and develop a talented youngster into someone who can perform at the highest level. He has made a massive contribution to Arsenal Football Club.”

  66. Big Raddy says:

    Arnie. Bring on the rubbish

  67. Don’t know what the odds are, but you can bet Shrek and Argh V D will be back to face us !. Even if not, we still have a mental block against them, Chavs and City !. Not beat any of them since April 2012 !.
    When we play Man Std, we need to play not the name, but the current shit that they are ! ( Obviously minus Shrek and Argh V D ! ).

  68. arnie says:

    ha ha ha, Raddy, here we go. Take 1.

    Arsenal legend Charlie Nicholas believes German playmaker Julian Draxler would be the ‘perfect’ signing for his club in the January transfer window. Nicholas compared the Schalke star to past greats in north London, and believes the 20-year-old would be an ideal addition now winger Theo Walcott is out for the rest of the season.

    “Draxler is different, he’s a different type of player, a bit like Ljungberg or Pires – although maybe not as talented as Pires. His running off the ball is what Arsenal are desperate for, because Theo Walcott is out for the long-term,” he said on the show.

    “He’s absolutely perfect, and I think the money is right. With buy-out clauses, by the time you draw breathe, somebody else has nipped in and taken them from your door. Arsenal have the money and they don’t need to wait anymore.”

    The money is €45.5m.

    Two versions now. One which says Arsene is dithering because that kind of spending will bring imbalance to teh side. The other says a deal will be announced tomorrow. :D :D :D

  69. arnie says:

    Take 2. Big Sam has said West Ham will ask about teh availability of Verms for the rest of the year. He says he understands teh chances are very low, but it is worth a try. :sad:

  70. arnie says:

    Take 3. Transfer talks with Sagna have broken down. Arsene Wenger tried to rush the issue by making a guarded public statement. But it seems Sagna wants either 3 years or none at all. :sad:

  71. arnie says:

    Now, what chances of an UFO sifhting? You guys asked for it!!!!!! :razz:

  72. arnie says:

    Take 4. Auxerre President Guy Cortet told the local newspaper L’Yonne that he has taken the initiative to speak with Arsenal regarding their supposed interest in his attacking midfield starlet Paul Georges Ntep and has spoken to Arsene Wenger about whether or not the Premier League leaders will make a move.

    Cortet was quoted in the local paper saying as follows:

    ‘Instead of waiting around listening to all these Arsenal rumours and seeing if they would make an offer, I took charge and contacted Arsene Wenger. He assured me that Ntep does not interest him at the moment.’

    The President suggests that Arsenal will therefore not be making a move for the player this transfer window, but with these situations it is best to err on the side of caution. We await to see what happens to Ntep in the coming days.

  73. Gööner In Exile says:

    Vermaelen give up a Championship medal….unlikely.

    On the 2013/14 United vs 2012/13 United.

    List of possible reasons:

    1) SAF got big decisions from refs end of discussion, Moyes is not getting same decisions. No way Vidic would have seen red today if SAF was on touch line.

    2) No Scholes, Giggs another year older, likewise Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra.

    3) No improvements over summer when everyone else was getting stronger United bought Fellaini. Chavs are in a similar transition of old guard to new guard, but they added where they needed and will add again next summer.

    4) BSR and Rooney injured for long spells.

  74. JanMan says:

    Arnie. Great post, thank you. I do not concur with all of the player ratings but of course that is only opinion driven. I do wish that posters would stop banging on about Giroud. He is all we have at this time so there is no point continually going on about him. He is what he is, does what he does and we just have to accept what he does for the team which I believe is a lot! As for commenting about the work rate of Poldi that makes no sense at all, As soon as he came on he was involved and in my opinion brought the game up a gear. When he did loose the ball he was chasing back. Personally I believe he brings a lot to the team.
    I think Man Utd are now out of the chase and it is down to us, City and Chelsea. Still a long way to go but we all need to believe.

  75. Gööner In Exile says:

    It’s a matter of opinion but I think Dowd was right to send Vidic off, it’s a blatant hack with no attempt to play the football borne out of malice and frustration.

  76. arnie says:

    OK, enough for now.

    Wenger likes Draxler very much! Heldt says no club has contacted him. I love Poker! And Bayern will be at the table. Showing no cards— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) January 18, 2014

  77. evonne says:

    True GiE
    But, all teams have good and bad refing decisions for and against them. We laugh about Webb being on Manyoo books, but that’s just a joke.

    All teams have some aging/dead wood players, and significant injuries, nobody is immune. True, they didn’t sign any major players, but I thought Moist brought Fellaini with him (where is he?). So really, all of the reasons bar 1. could be applied to any team.

    De Gea was rubbish today, he doesn’t help matters over there

  78. evonne says:

    not for me arnie, I am off to read your post now :) no time for anthing these days

  79. 26may1989 says:

    Exile, I guess one could just about characterise Vidic’s challenge as one using excessive force, but for it to be a red, there must also be a danger of injuring the opponent. Do you think Hazard was in danger form that challenge? Didn’t look it to me. Whereas Cahill was most certainly in danger from Rafael.

    Ignoring the travesty of his performance in our 4-4 against Newcastle way back, I think Dowd’s one of the better refs, but he got those two decisions wrong, I thought.

  80. RockyLives says:

    Super report Arnie.

    Some of the great lines have been highlighted by others but I also love your completely original style of report – weaving in how the game played out in the comments of AA as well as on the pitch. Inspired and clever :)

    As to the ratings…

    For me Flamini gets a 7 or even a 7.5. Unglamorous work, but vital to us controlling the game (similar to the way Gilberto’s work went mostly unnoticed – until he left). I mentioned in comments late yesterday that he had 98% pass success yesterday, the best of anyone on the field.

    I would also give Ollie a 7. I really understand why people have doubts about him – he is not and never will be a clinical finisher. But somehow he has become absolutely integral to the way we play as a team. In fact I believe his style of play and his work rate have helped AW find a new style of playing for Arsenal (something GiE touched on earlier).

  81. RockyLives says:

    evonne
    “all teams have good and bad refereeing decisions.”

    True, but the amount of each can vary greatly. When Fungusface was in charge at ManUre it is unquestionable that they got a really easy ride from the officials. Didn’t they go three years without a penalty being awarded against them at OT at one time?

    This season that “rub of the green” (if you want to give it an innocent description) appears to have switched to Man City who just happen to be the wealthiest club in world sport. I’ve lost count of how many wrong decisions have gone in their favour this season including many that have led directly to points.

    Even in yesterday’s win their first goal should have been disallowed because Silva controlled the ball with his arm.

    Isn’ t there a table somewhere of how the EPL would look if the decisions had been called correctly? I’d like to see an updated version of that…

  82. arnie says:

    Rocky, 26, JanMan, Chas, everyone: Thanks a lot. My great pleasure. It was good fun writing this stuff. :D Yes, the ratings are somewhat subjective, and yes, I had gone through the comments on AA and tried to be a bit provocative. :razz: Good fun!!!!

  83. arnie says:

    Probably the best bit is that I have had very little to disagree with the comments today, which does not happen often. :D :D :D

  84. evonne says:

    arnie – brilliant post! you could have easily split it into 2 parts and have some published on Tuesday. Very, very good and funny, I love your sense of humour.

    “the robust rebuttal of Arsenal’s advances continued, through a combination of skillful defence, agricultural mercenary action and sheer luck” – absolutely. And to me that’s the difference between us this season and last season.

    I don’t think we played considerably worse last year, but we definitely drew and lost more games than now. Now we can grind results, which is fine by me. They can keep on grinding all the way to the end of the season!

    arnie – once again, thank you very much for such formidable work!

  85. evonne says:

    I don’t know Rocky, i am normally suspicious and always ready to assassinate any character associated with Manyoo, but I somehow cannot believe that refs were deliberately giving decisions to MU because of Fergie. I am sure they were scared of him, but if i am scared of someone, i certainly wont do them any favours.

  86. arnie says:

    Thanks, Evonne. Yes, we will not give away easy points this year. But the way the EPL is panning out we have to win against our main rivals, plus ManUre. And that is where the main challenge lies.

    Plus, the double header against Bayern which is coming one day closer every day!!!!!! :D :D :D

  87. arnie says:

    Regarding refereeing, I personally think Redders’ post was a classic. It may not be so much corruption, but just supporting teh status quo position in crunch situations. And since the status quo in English football has been the North West for a while now, ManUre and now the Oilers, it just feels like corruption. That is what I think it is all about. At a practical level, there is no difference for Arsenal though. We just suffer! :sad:

  88. fatgingergooner says:

    Early December 2012 and Arsenal were 10th in the PL and all was bad. Fast forward 13 months and we are top of the PL and all is good!

    United at the moment remind me a lot of that Arsenal side from last year. Total lack of confidence and struggling with injuries and form.

    The circumstances are obviously very different, but our turnaround just shows what can happen with a couple of personnel changes and a huge thing called confidence. With Rooney and RVP to come back I would say they are in a better place than we were back then and that’s exactly why I wouldn’t write them off as a force just yet (although they will struggle for top 4 this year).

    That doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at them though! :)

  89. chas says:

    Hong Kong Gooners

  90. chas says:

    Indonesian Gooners

  91. Gooner in Exile says:

    26 i know where you are coming from…but

    Reckless….yes no intent to play the ball
    Excessive Force…..well considering the ball wasn’t there was quite excessive :D

  92. 26may1989 says:

    Exile, I agree with both of those points: it was reckless, in that Vidic didn’t care about the effect on Hazard, and the force he used in the challenge was also excessive. But for a red card, the rules do require that the player challenged be in danger of being injured, as well as the perp (getting into CSI-speak now) having used excessive force. And I don’t see that Hazard was going to get injured by that challenge. A reckless foul gets a yellow card, that’s what it should’ve been. Not that Vidic would win on appeal.

    On the subject of refereeing, I see Martin Atkinson got another big and easy decision wrong today, when Dawson obviously pushed Bony for what should have been a penalty at 0-0. Is there another referee who’s made more significant errors this season than Atkinson?

    But all of that was too dry, I have to put some smilys in: :) :) :)

    That’s better…..

  93. 26may1989 says:

    FGG, I agree that United aren’t finished yet, I can certainly see the corpse twitching a bit over the next few years. But the question is what do they have now that will form the base for them going forward? They obviously have plenty of money (at least when the Glazers aren’t ripping the fans’ money out of the club to line their pockets), but I just had a look at their current squad – I might be biased (OK, I am 100% biased) but my views on their squad are as follows:

    Once you omit the old players (Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs and van Persie), I reckon right now they only have four players you could say are properly good and are young enough to have a role to play in the future: de Gea, Rafael, Januzaj and Rooney.

    There’s a bunch of players whose age isn’t a problem but who aren’t necessarily fantastic: Lindegaard, Jones, Buttner, Young, Valencia, Fellaini, Carrick, Zaha, Welbeck and Hernandez. And there are a few whose faces don’t appear to fit and must be on their way soon: Kagawa, Nani, Anderson.

    There’s a group of players I think just aren’t good enough for a top side: Evans, Fabio, Smalling, Cleverley, Fletcher and Macheda.

    Of course, there are others in their squad or their academy who I may not know but who might be great. But if they don’t have a new golden generation coming through, they have some serious work to do on their squad.

    Ferguson should be thanked for everything he did, but United fans should get off Moyes’ back and recognise that he has inherited a very, very flawed squad, one that Ferguson should take responsibility for.

  94. Gooner in Exile says:

    Anthony Taylor?

    It may be that Phil Dowd just treated it as violent conduct?

  95. 26may1989 says:

    Taylor would definitely give Atkinson a run for his money. That dipstick who disallowed Newcastle’s equaliser against City (Jones?) deserves an honourable mention too.

    You may be right about Dowd’s decision, though that would seem even further off the mark.

    Still, at least we’ve had two good refereeing performances in the last couple of games.

  96. Fantastic match report, Arnie, thanks for a very entertaining read.
    I like the variety and different options at our disposal this season.
    We have a tangible maturity and some added steel, which I think is in no small part down to the re-signing of Mathieu Flamini.
    With better officials we’d have beaten Chelsea and maybe even have nicked something from the Etihad.
    It’s also noticable that if any particular player is having a bit of a lull, someone else will step up, which hasn’t happened in the recent past.
    I’d be surprised if AW added to our squad during this window
    so it’s crucial that between now and May we don’t pick up any serious injuries to the likes of Sagna, BFG or Koscielny. We have good cover at left-back, fantastic options that compares with the best in the world in midfield, possibly a bit light up front, but if we can our key defenders fit and keep our defensive solidity the title is most definitely on. But whatever happens we’ve enjoyed a long spell at the top of the league, and that in itself has made this a very enjoyable season.

  97. arnie says:

    WATA: Thanks a lot, my pleasure. Great comment. Agree 100%. We have developed players who are part of the project and passionate about it. They will try their best to step in and give their 100%. This forms the base of a great side which we are in the process of developing. This is the source of our consistent performance. This will continue. :D :D :D

  98. arnie says:

    26, GiE, Rocky: Perhaps we should have a post on the ref league table. :D

  99. 26may1989 says:

    Agreed, WATA, it’s been good fun this season, even if (or perhaps because) we haven’t really been scintillating, we’ve been steady as she goes. Very unArsenal. It reminds me a bit of Chelsea in Mourinho’s first phase.

    For anyone up and about, The Big Lebowski is on ITV4. Dudism…..

  100. arnie says:

    where are you, 26. i thought Texas. itv4 in Dallas? :D

  101. 26may1989 says:

    I’m back, arnie, I’m back….!

  102. arnie says:

    26: :D :D

  103. Of course there are question marks about this Arsenal team, but that is true of every club. To be honest I still have Arsenal finishing third, but at this moment in time they are top, and if you have any love for the club you have to enjoy and savour it.
    The only real acid-test they failed was at OT. They didn’t turn up for the Capital One game against Chelsea, but in the league game a few weeks ago, Mourinho’s side were second best and lucky to leave with a point. The goal Jack Wilshere scored against Norwich was pure unadulterated artistry. The performances against Napoli and Liverpool at home were brilliant. We went toe-to-toe with Dortmund, last seasons CL runners-up and got a 1-1 aggregate score against the odds, and we’ve won both NLD’s, the last one comfortably. Yes, we should have beaten Everton, but by that logic MC shouldn’t have lost at Cardiff or Villa, Chelsea shouldn’t have lost at Stoke.
    Yes Arsenal’s mettle and resolve will be well and truly tested over the coming months, especially in March, but we’re not there yet so I can’t worry about what has yet to happen, the Football Gods are smiling kindly on us, and through a combination of many factors, we are top of the Premier Lge, and as a life-long die-hard Arsenal supporter, that makes me extremely happy!
    If you can’t find a shred of pleasure in your support of a Football Club, why would you continually punish yourself with something that fails to meet your exacting standards?

  104. Gööner In Exile says:

    I think the saying goes….”it’s the hope that kills you”.

    But it’s what being a football fan is about hope dreams and disappointments for all but a minority if fans.

    Can we win the league? …..yes

    Will we win the league? ……we’ll find out

  105. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    It is clear to me that Dowd sent off Vidic because he was the ugliest bloke on the pitch and he was protecting the TV audience. I would have had him off earlier.

    MU have one of the ugliest squads and that is why they paid so much money for one of ours to be the focus of their team photo.

  106. chas says:

    I thought these were more appropriate.

    “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them.”

    or

    “Without hope the only road you may tread is that of the troll”

  107. chas says:

    They’ve loaned out one of the ugliest though, BR.

  108. chas says:

    Pass the pufferfish on the left-hand side…….

  109. Big Raddy says:

    chas. That fellow is a monster, So ugly he could be a Stoke player

  110. Big Raddy says:

    6.52 What a wonderful world …..

  111. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Arnie,

    That was so appreciated by me. I missed the game, and then receiived the most rounded, amuzing, original and complete report I have ever read on here.

    The icing was that you managed to slip in the best footballing metaphor of them all..”agricultural” :-)

  112. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ahem Chas

    I would think Beijing has much worth saying today :-)

  113. chas says:

    This makes me ashamed to have two legs that work and yet I still moan…..

  114. chas says:

    Micky.
    I had a look last night and it is very entertaining, though much of it has the front bottom word in from those who’ve taken the bait (that’s aside from from the Duke of Edinburgh inspired racism). :)

  115. chas says:

  116. chas says:

  117. chas says:

  118. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Chas

    Well I, for one, would still enjoy reading them. I think we ought to get a clearer picture of when Peaches’ Mum is actually looking in, then we’d know when we could relax our values :-)

  119. chas says:

  120. chas says:

  121. chas says:

  122. chas says:

  123. chas says:

  124. chas says:

  125. chas says:

  126. chas says:

  127. chas says:

  128. chas says:

  129. Gööner In Exile says:

    If United were to sack Moyes what would the promised transfer budget have to be to attract a better manager?

    I’m not saying Moyes is a bad manager he is probably just not as good as many have believed.

    In other news I was looking at Chelsea PLC accounts last night, something was bugging me about the profit they made last year (2012) (first since Abramovich) and that it was partly due to share trading.

    It said something along the lines of this there was a gain of £15m as BSkyB plc waived their right to the preference shares and dividend that had been owned since 200x and were accruing dividends at 5p per share per annum.

    Why did Sky waive their right to the shares?

  130. Gööner In Exile says:

    Ok just read it was part of a deal to sell their stake in Cheksea Media Company back to the club. Makes a mockery of Chelsea’s 2012 profit though.

  131. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Classic Chas, thanks :-)

    As for the Ken Dodd pic ROLF

  132. chas says:

    Does that mean Sky have other shares in Chavs PLC?
    That shouldn’t be allowed, should it?

  133. Big Raddy says:

    Doddy! Always has a place on a blog

  134. chas says:

    The remarkable difference between dogs and cats when they teach their offspring how to take the stairs….

  135. chas says:

    Last one, I promise.

    Here’s her profile pic.

  136. evonne says:

    ha ha ha Chas, that cat :) no wonder they are so independent
    Re the difference between how cats and dogs drink – it is how ‘some’ men drink that is worrying :)

    Did you go to the game?

  137. evonne says:

    I read all of your comments about Moist, but I still don’t get it. The spectacular fall of Manu is just baffling, I am not sure we have witnessed anything like that before.

  138. chas says:

    Of course, I did.

    We parked outside your house but didn’t have time to come in and see the hair do.

  139. chas says:

    Not really. :)

  140. chas says:

    I was never any good at keeping promises.

  141. WATA – fantastic comments from you in the early hours of the morning and well done for not engaging the troll. Thank you :)

  142. evonne says:

    you went? zero rating for your performance on the day. no ant and duck shor

  143. evonne says:

    i get it – and as for you Evonne talking to the troll…..oh well :)

    Super Rob and MY Santi are very naughty, very very naughty

  144. Big Raddy says:

    Dog/Cat vid brilliant. Thanks chas

  145. Gööner In Exile says:

    Chas, ITV digital once had shares in quite a few EPL clubs (us from memory) when they had highlights before the channel/company went bust.

    As for Sky and Chavs the deal saw them sell their stake in Chelsea TV, part of the deal was to waive their call to preference shares. Probably beneficial to Chelsea FC as I think the media co (like ours) is owned separately.

    The structure would have definitely helped Chavs if the waiver of those shares is allowable in FFP calculations. All a bit much for this time of the morning.

  146. evonne says:

    GiE :) it is 9am already :) Tell me please, would ALL accountants understand you, or do you have higher qualifications?

  147. chas says:

    I heard that the PGMOL sold its United shares at the end of last season. :)

  148. evonne says:

    don’t you start chas! you’re not even an accountant :wink:

  149. chas says:

    I’m a B.Sc. Econ, which is even worse.

  150. chas says:

    Don’t look at this link if the front bottom word offends you.

    http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2014/01/20/whats-your-mp-name-nsfw/

  151. chas says:

  152. evonne says:

    ooooooooh, are you now? not just a pretty face then :)

  153. Morning all

    We have a New Post …………

    ………..just choosing some pics, I may be awhile …………

  154. arnie says:

    Motning all. Its Rocky-day!!!!! What fun!!!!

    Thank you Micky.

    Motning crew, great stuff. Chas: a special thanks, everything you posted this morning was brilliant!!!!!

    Await the Rocky show now!!!!! :D :D :D

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