Time for Revenge. Anderlecht Away

October 22, 2014

Many years ago in a land far away our valiant boys took the field for the first leg of the 1970 Inter-City Fairs Cup Final which today is the equivalent of the Europa Cup. We had been poor for a number of years and recently lost the League Cup to Swindon, yes Swindon, so the prospect of playing the Belgian Champions was worrying.

Despite being a rabid Gooner and having been to all the league games at home and many away, I didn’t travel abroad (my Mum wouldn’t let me). Just as well as we lost 3-1. At three down it was all over but Ray Kennedy managed to notch one back in the 82nd minute to give us some hope for the return – which I will write about when Anderlecht come to the Emirates.

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The current Anderlecht team have won their league 4 out of the last 5 seasons. Quite honestly I know very little about Anderlecht apart from the fact they play in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium and that one of their players had a trial at Arsenal as a 16 y.o. (Dennis Praet). This season in the CL they drew away at Galatasary and lost 3-0 to Dortmund. After 11 games they are top of the Belgian league, 3 points ahead of Brugge.

Arsenal have selection problems (!!!).  Ever heard of Ryan Huddart? Neither have I, but he is on the bench for us tonight and if Martinez gets knocked he will be playing. A 17 y.o. who has just signed professional forms in goal in an away CL game! Then there is the defence – Chambers will play CB and Bellerin at RB, two 19 y.o.’s. This is Arsenal we are talking about not some Mickey Mouse organisation and yet the 8th richest club in the world has allowed this to occur. Am I bovvered? You bet I am.

Midfield and upfront we are much better served. There are many permutations but I go with this one

My team:

22nd oct

Not sure who we will have as a defensive sub apart from Monreal but hopefully we will not need one.

Food: Belgium is not renowned for its cuisine though for a few years in the ’90’s Belgian beer and Moules was popular in N. London. Belgians like a bar of chocolate and a truffle or two and of course are responsible for the dreadful Mandarine Napoleon which is made by mixing brandy and tangerines. I suppose what most Belgians eat is waffles …. they love a waffle.

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Maple Syrup, Nutella or Fruit?

As I have a little time perhaps you will allow me to tell you about another time an English team went to play on Belgian soil.

It was 15th June 1815.  The English squad had their version of Podolski, Mertesacker and Ozil in the team (at that time known as Prussians), they were taking on the current European Champions, the French. Our boys were managed by the Duke of Wellington and the opposition by the foreign genius and Mr Wenger of his day Napoleon Bonaparte. You will not need me to tell you that Our Boys gave the French a good spanking (one reason being the English forces numbered 120k and the French 72k).

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Beating the French away.

Will we lose 3-1 as we did all those years ago? Unlikely. The two teams have grown in different directions and despite the excellence of the Belgium national team Anderlecht are the weakest team in the group. We should get a result.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Ox to step up?

September 20, 2014

Well, the fans have giving the team a good kicking this week, we can only hope they pass it on to Aston Villa this afternoon.

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We are always unlucky about meeting a team as they are in good from and today is no exception. Given last season’s miserable performances it was more likely that Lambert would be sacked rather than make his young team into the formidable opponents they will be post kick-off. Fair play to the man.

Or could it be his assistant who has engendered this startling change of form? Keane doesn’t like Arsenal, never has. He does however respect The Arsenal and has been involved in may victories over us. Has he learned from Surralex? I am convinced he has and expect to see Villa play the same way MU did when they could beat us … that is, with violence. Not just violence but cunning violence. Expect the game to start with a flurry of  nasty tackles on our creative players (rotational of course). How the game develops from here will depend upon two things

1. How our delicate flowers respond to a bit of aggressive pruning (just for you Peaches :-) )

2. The strength of the referee. Today we are blessed with Mike Jones.

Before discussing Jones may I remind you of how the referee affected the game in our opening fixture last season. Anthony Taylor was so poor he was demoted – deservedly so. Do you recall how he waved play on after a TPIG foul in the area and then when Agbonglahor missed gave a penalty (which they scored)

Where was I? Ah yes, Mike Jones. Last season in 32 games he gave out 108 yellows and 3 reds. Yes, you read that right! This season after 3 games 10 yellows and one red. This chap is card happy. Will this be a good thing this afternoon? The stats do not show whether he is affected by the home crowd as so many refs are. We must hope not and that he continues to brandish yellow each time one of AV’s thugs ploughs through the back of our heroes.

We welcome the return of Big Phil. A player I have always liked – not Arsenal quality but a top bloke and one of Peaches faves. Alongside Vlaar he makes a fine CB partnership and with two quality FB’s Villa have become very difficult to break down. Especially as they have a busy midfield with Delph showing just why he was so highly rated as a teenager at Leeds.

Upfront, they rely upon pace which is not good news for BFG. Breakaway goals are an AV speciality and we can only hope the lessons of Tuesday night have been learned. We cannot afford to be too gung-ho.

Arsenal:  Please, please play Oxlade-Chamberlain today. I don’t care who gets dropped, we need his energy and drive.

The difficulty as I see it is how does a player recover from a bad bout of form without playing? Ramsey is one of our best players but of late has been completely anonymous (apart from scoring two vital goals 😃 ). Can Mr Wenger drop him? Can he drop Ozil?  Of course he can but will he?

Can Sanchez play twice a week given the amount of energy he expends during a game? Or Welbeck, who has covered more ground in 3 games than Giroud does in 6.

This is a tough team to guess but let’s try

 Villa 2014

I am excited to see Chambers get a run in the position he was bought for. Once again we have a powerful bench though lacking in defensive possibilities

Being in the Midlands the food I associate with Villa is always a curry – so I will choose one of my favourite dishes, a Daal Makhani. I read that one of the best can be purchased at the Sanskrit in Stratford Rd.. Add in a Paneer Marsala and a few breads and you are assured a veritable eating extravaganza.

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All it needs is a chilled Lager

Birmingham is home to a host of famous drink and food brands. Typhoo tea, Birds Custard, Bournville cocoa, Cadbury’s chocolate and HP sauce all originate in Brum.

Can we win today? Of course. Our team will be desperate to absolve themselves after the Dortmund Debacle. If it goes tit’s up it will not be because of lack of effort. We have attacking talent in spades, our defence will be augmented by the excellent Gibbs, and we have a fine record at Villa Park

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Wilshere MOTM, Pellegrini moaning and another draw

September 14, 2014

A 2-2 draw with City, Pellegrini making excuses for his team, Arsenal conceding stupid goals but scoring some great ones. Football came back after a fortnight and it was as enjoyable a game as could be hoped for, even though the result wasn’t.

It was a tough match at the Emirates yesterday :)

But Arsenal showed that they are tough too, albeit prone to moments of weakness. We began with a flourish. None of the hanging back and letting the game come to you nonsense. We went out to grab the game by the…. neck.. and City had no response beyond kicking out and disrupting the rhythm of play.

Maybe this is what Pellegrini is trying to hide with his statements against the referee, who although did well to at least call the fouls (rare in the English game, especially when it comes to Arsenal) did not produce yellow cards as quickly as he should have. Check out Welbeck being taken out by Kompany before Debuchy had his shot, and I think Silva bundled Ramsey over during another move. Both were blatant, (ref played advantage) and Kompany had many more such fouls and I don’t think he got a yellow card all night.

I thought we did well to respond to that physicality with some of our own. We aren’t, and probably won’t be, very good at the dark arts, but we can handle ourselves on the field given a fair referee, which we did yesterday including with the supposed fouls that Pellegrini complained about.

We all saw the goals, have our own thoughts on our defending and fullbacks pushing up. I said in a comment that I think Ramsey and Flamini share the blame for the first goal we conceded. I also think we wouldn’t have conceded a second if Debuchy had not gotten injured, though of course we’ll never know.

As an aside, Debuchy has apparently not had a fracture, but has to undergo a medical exam tomorrow. He would have been suspended for Dortmund anyway. Let’s see how long we have to do without him.

Another injury doubt before yesterday’s game was Ramsey. He played, and ran his heart out as usual, but he was far less effective and involved in the game than his midfield partner Jack Wilshere, who ended the game with a goal and an assist. He also seems to be developing a good partnership with Alexis, who was brilliant as well yesterday.

Jack Wilshere has his detractors, and I suppose that is to be expected, partly as a consequence of his early hype. (I said partly LB. Don’t chew me out) His early promise is almost like a burden on him rather than cause to hope for better in the future for many. I don’t see it that way. He’s had his injury worries and missed a lot of football. Just over a season ago, Ramsey was in a worse place but has come back to become almost the heartbeat of this team (yesterday was the first time in a long time we played well when Ramsey didn’t) My hope is that Wilshere can do something similar. I am not alone in holding this hope of course, and a Ramseyesque emergence is not something that just happens, but yesterday adds to that hope.

I think the formation change  we’ve seen (blamed for Ozil’s woes) not only provides us some more stability in midfield, but also helps Wilshere. Last season it was tough to see where he’d fit in, but he now has the opportunity to make this midfield spot his own. He’ll still need to work on building an understanding with Ramsey. Still needs to be better at knowing when to release the ball. But his increased confidence and strength are now almost as visible as Nasri’s surprise and frustration as he bounced off him onto the ground where he’d have hit his chin if he had one.

I’ve never been one of the Jack the Lad guys. His being English means nothing to me. His being a Gooner though, does. I have been sceptical of that too in the past, but I think the way the team his shaping up, his recent comments, and hopefully, his continued improvement, makes him an important part of our success for years to come.

 


Arsenal’s Weak Spots

September 10, 2014

Last night Aaron hobbled off with an ankle injury, and although we won’t know until later the severity, it made me wonder about our vulnerability to injury.

At the beginning of last season, I would have said the areas of most concern would have been injuries to Theo, Ollie or one of our defensive pairing of Mert and Kos.

During the season, we witnessed the meteoric rise of Aaron, and by the end of the season it could be argued he was our most valuable player. By valuable, I mean an injury to this player having the biggest negative impact to our overall play.

I think we have covered the CB pairing with the arrival of the phenomenally talented Mr Chambers.

Ollie is now covered by Welbeck as well as Sanchez, and to an extent both can play both Left and Right providing cover for both Theo and whoever is the best Left Sided option.

It is actually very difficult to isolate the weakest spot, as we simply don’t yet know how the new side will settle down, and who will ultimately play where and in what formation.

Ozil is as yet far from the pivotal player we anticipate he will become, and I’d say it is possible he becomes the most irreplaceable only if he becomes the fulcrum in the middle. If he continues to be deployed more from the flanks, then I don’t see him as being especially irreplaceable.

Again, it is very hard to assess the key players up top. Either Sanchez or indeed Welbeck could emerge as Key Men. Of course, Ollie could return rejuvenated and become a Must Player.

Overall, and it’s difficult at this early stage of the new look side, but Aaron does appear to me to occupy the “most essential player” slot right now, although overall when fit, Theo still shades it for me.

The other day, a chum asked me who I saw as our most valuable player this season. I answered Theo, but went further to add that my biggest single wish for the season was that either Mesut or The Ox would emerge to challenge Theo for that particular honour.

Written by MickyDidIt89

 

 


………. and Leicester

August 31, 2014

For those who are new to the Emirates or do not go to games the “and Leicester” refers to a terrace chant sung to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory

“We all follow the Arsenal,

Over land and sea ….. and Leicester

We all follow the Arsenal

onnnn tooooo vic-to-ry.”

Why Leicester? Well, in the old days Filbert Street was an awful experience on a wet Wednesday evening; muddy pitch, poor facilities at the ground and very physical opposition. The club moved to the Walkers stadium in 2002 which has been re-named the King Power stadium and this is Arsenal’s first visit to the King Power (as far as I can find out!)

Until a few years ago I liked Leicester. Decent club, well run, loyal and vocal fans  – then they signed Robbie Savage.

I have a mental top ten of the first people to be executed when the world finally sees sense and makes me World President. Savage has always been up there – not at the top, but always there or thereabouts.

Perhaps my affection for Leicester stems from my admiration for one of their stalwarts who became an Arsenal legend …. Mr Frank Mclintock who captained  LCFC to two losing FA Cup Finals before coming to Highbury and captaining our ’70/71 Double team.

Leicester had a fantastic season in 2013/14. Winners of the Championship with 102 points! The season could hardly have gone better but now they have to find out if they can survive with the Big Boys. What do you think? They haven’t spent big just adding experience to the squad and relying upon the abilities of the team which brought them promotion.

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I like the Schmeichel son. He may be a smaller version of his brilliant father but he is nonetheless an excellent keeper whose career path is interesting. I wish him well but hope he has a stinker today. We also have a chance to see another old boy in Matthew Upson (injury permitting). There were high hopes for him when he signed for AFC in 1997 (£2m at a time when a million was big money), he struggled and was sent out on loan until finally settling at B’ham and then West Ham. Given Upson is now 35 y.o. we must hope he plays 😃

The Arsenal:  A result today would see us go into the 2 week International break (FFS!) unbeaten. which for a team that has hardly got going is excellent.  It would be churlish to say we are not playing well as qualification for the CL, a home PL victory and a draw away at Everton is a very positive return, but let’s be honest, we have not exactly performed to the heights we know this team can achieve.

I see the problem like many others. How does Mr Wenger want this team to play? I love to see technical players passing intricately all over the pitch but sometimes I would like to see a player put his foot through the ball. Only Flamini seems capable of doing so and for that reason I am hoping to see Podolski’s name on the team sheet. To be fair, the Ox is also a man who can get “physical” with the ball.

Why? Because when going to the Midlands it is important to have “thrust” and we have been lacking in this department so far this season. Giroud sometimes gives us a bit of power and his loss could prove costly, we must hope Mr Wenger has a contingency plan (could be a forlorn hope).  Artistry is all well and good but it must lead to goals.

We have conceded three in 4 games – the defence looks solid., still a little suspect at set pieces but otherwise OK. The return of our CB pairing brings more security as Chambers, good as he is, is not at the level of Koscielny.

My Team:

31st august 14

Now this may be heresy but  when Ramsey is playing I would rather see Ox or Podolski than Cazorla. Santi may well be a wonderful player but especially away from home I would like to see us play a stronger left sided player who is less likely to venture inside. Let Santi come on as sub and provide the type of pass he gave Ramsey last saturday. Podolski adds some strength to a small side and he scores, something we need to do more of.

Big Raddy is going to try and find foods from the region of our away games, so let us start with the humble Pork Pie. Leicester is the birthplace of the pork pie and Melton Mowbray is the zenith of art of pork pie manufacture. Apparently there are 15 Indian food manufacturers in Leicester and  I could easily have chosen Red Leicester or Stilton cheese but there is something about the pork pie and the artisans of Leicester City F.C. It just fits.

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If I am honest I will be disappointed should we not get at least a point today but yesterday’s results show that nothing can be taken for granted. This much I know – Leicester would be cock-a-hoop should they beat us.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


The underdogs fight back.

August 24, 2014

This was never going to be an easy game and many Arsenal fans would have been happy to take a draw before the game started. But not me. I wanted a win. Yet, I ended the day happy.

Everton have become a very good side, and their manager seems to have impressed a lot of people with not just his tactics, but also his ‘niceness’. They had an injury to Barkley, but we were without Arteta and Gibbs, while still bedding in our new signings. Crucially, we were also just coming off a midweek game away in Turkey on an energy sapping pitch. Like I said, this wouldn’t be an easy game.

We welcomed back 2 of our World Cup winning Germans, with BFG replacing Koscielny (presumably carrying an injury) and Ozil playing on the left. Alexis Sanchez got his first start in the striker position, with Ox coming in to add some speed and directness. This made Micky very happy. But it also seemed to make Tim Howard happy because just as Arsenal could not find their feet, the Ox could not find the goal with any of his shots. Arsenal went behind to a headed goal from a brilliant pass by Gareth Barry, huffed and puffed some more, but couldn’t cause Everton any problems.

Arsenal then conceded once again on the stroke of half time after Lukaku bundled over Mertesacker, and got a clear path towards goal when Chambers dived in instead of covering. He then passed the ball to an offside Naismith who scored between Szczesny’s legs. Yes, it was a dirty moment in the game and one that both the referee and the linesman should be ashamed for allowing to happen. To be fair, some blame might also rest on our defence because Everton actually had a brilliant chance to score prior to this when Mirallas got in behind our defence.

Still, to be 2-0 down just before half time to an undeserved goal was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Wenger then did the unthinkable and made a half time substitution (please let this not have been due to an injury to Alexis).

With Giroud providing more of a familiar figure and a target man to bounce things off, Arsenal slowly started to get into the game, although it still took them a further 20 minutes to register a shot on goal. In the meanwhile, Everton retreated, secure in their ill gotten gains and unleashed the krack-head Naismith to kick, dive, moan, and try and get Debuchy sent off. That the referee didn’t is probably a huge surprise because he was certainly aiding and abetting this behaviour. Maybe he was just feeling the love from the Toffee crowd but Arsenal ended up getting heavily punished with yellow cards and fouls, while Everton were allowed to constantly get away with worse. It made our tough task even tougher.

While a lesser team would have collapsed, we kept trying. Wenger brought on Campbell and Santi for Wilshere and Ox with around 15 minutes to go. And it was Santi who was to finally provide a sumptuous ball across goal that Ramsey turned in, as he is wont to do nowadays.

There were now 7 minutes left on the clock and only a goal in it. Game on!

In the 90th minute Ramsey overhit a cross from the right, which was kept in by Ignacio Monreal. He in turn crossed to Giroud, who got between Jagielka and Distin to score with his coiffed head. He might have missed a chance early in the second half, (which I felt wasn’t an easy one to take though no doubt people will say a ‘world class’ forward would have scored that) but he made no mistake at the end of the second half. Arsenal tried to continue attacking, but time was running out. Sadly, Giroud’s final act of the half was to get injured trying to block a clearance and the manager says it’s not looking good, and so we get to maintain our record of an injury a match.

However, even that does not dampen the positivity around the spirit we showed in very challenging circumstances. A point gained rather than two dropped, and now Arsenal  switch their attention towards reaching the Champions League, where no toffee has gone before.

Match analysis written by Shard

Player ratings from LB

Szczesny: another solid game as far as I could tell, don’t really see how he could have done much to stop either of the goals. 7

Debuchy: made a huge stride forward, I thought, better defensively, better in attack, better all round, if he can improve that much in the space of three games he is going to be all and more that we hoped for. 7

Chambers: this was the stand out player for me over the whole 90 minutes, there was one slip again which naturally gets highlighted but Mertesacker does that every game and certainly did today on more than one occasion the difference being that if the opposition don’t score no one bats an eye lid. 8

Mertersacker: good to have our vice captain back, yes, he looked a bit rusty but what did we expect, it was his first competitive game, got more and more into his stride as the game went on. 6

Monreal: we shouldn’t forget that the Spaniard is a stand in for Gibbs; yes, he got skinned on more than one occasion but as he was the one who sent in the cross for Giroud to head home and save a point all is forgiven with me. 6

Ramsey: had a poor first half, his passes were going all over the place, but just when you are about to get frustrated with him he pops up to score the goal that gave us a life line. 6

Flamini: his role is not a glamorous one, protecting the backline is a thankless task on the best of days, he’s not bad but he’s not good. If we qualify for the CL I hope the potential revenue generated is spent on an upgrade in this position. 6

Wilshere: if he is not an attacking midfielder which he clearly isn’t, then what is he?
We have so many better options. 5

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: well we got our wish, he played but was not that effective I have to say, lots of running, all the chances falling to him in the first half, not quite what we hoped for: 5

Sanchez: first time playing up front, I thought he was brilliant; he was my MOTM for the first half. The problem of course was that the new system was so different nobody quite knew what to do. It wasn’t that he was doing things wrong it was the players around him. 9

Ozil: we heard all the jokes about him still being on the beach; still, changing flip flops to boots at half time helped, obviously not match fit but got better as the game went on. 6

Subs

Giroud: there is not a plan A and a plan B, different players are better suited to play against different opposition. If Wenger attempted to motivate Giroud by playing Sanogo ahead of him then it worked to an extent but nowhere near as much as it fired him up when he saw Sanchez get the nod ahead of him. This man had a point to prove when he took to the field for the second half. Competition for places, you gotta love it. 8

Cazorla: he aint a left winger. If he is played in Arshavin’s grave yard then we should expect below par performances. We shouldn’t forget that the reason we fell in love with him was because he used to play in the hole just behind the CF. We got a glimpse of it when he came on; he is still a quality player. 7

Joel Campbell: a few good touches, not enough time to influence the game.


Ramsey and Wilshere. Together?

August 22, 2014

Chalk and Cheese. Lampard and Gerrard.

Bacon and Eggs. Sausages and Marmalade.

Some things do. Some things don’t.

If I am being completely honest with myself, then I must admit that had I been The Manager against Palace and Besiktas, we would have won both games. The reason is simple.

Right now, I cannot see any situation, or team set up, in which Ramsey and Wilshere can fit together.

It’s a kind of process of elimination. Back five. Minimum of one defensive midfielder. Three front boys and a play making No 10’ish . That leaves one slot.

Ok, you could argue, as Arsene appears to, that from the front three, at least one does not need to be some kind of goalscorer, or even speed merchant, and I can imagine him playing Mesut as a part of that threesome. You could also argue the case for two deeper defensive types of midfielder in the mould of Arteta and Flamini, but that in itself leaves the problem of where to play the undroppable Aaron.

I watched those two games and saw how an Arsenal midfield containing both Aaron and Jack nullified the creative talents of Santi, who found himself shunted out of position.

I believe Aaron and Jack only work in tandem in a 4-4-2. Kind of Vieira Petit style. This is not going to happen, so it’s an either or.

To be clear, I still have faith in Jack and believe it would not take much for him to rocket on up a few levels in the same way Aaron did, but for now, he’s fighting with Aaron for the same spot. Quality in depth is one way of looking at it.

What’s the answer?

Written by MickyDidIt89


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