January Transfer Targets Pt. 2

October 12, 2013

So …… Pt 1 raised some interesting responses. Some thought that TV should be given time in the first 11, many disagreed with my contention that Koscielny, despite being a top bloke and player, is not good enough to propel us to winning the title, others thought that Jenks is a weak link, which I agree with, but unlike me do not think he has the gumption to become Bacary’s successor.  There was more but if you want to know – go back and read the comments.

My conclusion remains that until we tighten up a defence that has kept only one clean sheet this season our campaign is doomed.

But, moving forward,

Midfield:  Ramsey, Wilshire, Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini with back up from Eisfeld, Frimpong, Olsson etc etc  (In these days of fluid positions it is hard to say whether Ox and Mesut are MF’s, so for today they are attackers. )

This has to be the best midfield in England. So good that brilliant players will be forced to sit on the bench – players who would be automatic starters in 90% of the teams in the PL.

Creatively we are stuffed with riches but how about the much discussed DM position? Many, myself included, were surprised how well Arteta performed the role but questioned what would happen should he suffer a long term injury. If this was the question then Flamini was the answer. An inspired move both for himself and Arsenal. But is The Flamster a good enough solution? Would we be better off with a DM built  in the shape of a Northern Outhouse, someone like PV4 or Gilberto Silva?  Well, Alex Song was a big fellow and I would much rather be on the end of a tackle from him than Matthieu.

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“Oh, No Mr. Wenger. Not the Left Wing”

And what would be your ideal MF in a 4-3-3? My choice would be Ramsey, Cazorla and Arteta but I have a suspicion our diminutive Spanish genius is going to spending much time on the left wing.

Transfer Targets: No need whatsoever, but if the rumours of Khedira from RM are true …..

Attack:  Firstly, do we actually play with wingers anymore? Given that Theo spends as much time in an inside forward position or through the middle, and that Podolski has the pace of an overweight Panda, then the answer must be No. But I love a winger, I love a player who sets up a fullback and then leaves him bemused and wishing he were at home with a mug of Ovaltine and watching Midsummer Murders.

Walcott has proved to be a fine right sided attacker and certainly the best in his position (?) in the PL. Podolski is a great finisher and adds power in support of the centre forward.

Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up an injury at a vital point in his AFC development – a run in the team could see him become an AFC great, but will he get the chance, and if so, in which position?

We do have 3 pacy teenagers; Myaichi, who appears to be an old fashioned winger. We thought The Ox and Gnabry were as well but both suit deeper roles which brings us to the DB10 role – the crux of the attack.  We have so many players who can fill this role but €50m has bought someone who has lifted the entire team and in short time has made the role his own. Mesut Rules and the whole club should be built around him. The prospect of him and Cazorla is mouth-watering.

All pundits, fans, club employees etc etc know where we are lacking – We are over-dependent upon the fitness of Giroud. We need a fox-in-the-box. Suarez would have been perfect but he didn’t arrive and my guess is that resulted in Dick Laws’ fan being covered in the brown stuff. That Mr Wenger was prepared to spend €45m on a CF shows he recognizes where the squad is lacking.

We have alternatives; Theo and Pod can play centrally. Sanogo could be the next Anelka, but if it is to be our season then we need a body. Or we need for Giroud to become Bionic.

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” I, Giroud can play 50 games a season”

Transfer Targets:  The chance of getting a top quality striker in January is slim. There has been talk of LLorente but in my opinion he is similar to but not as good as OG. However, needs must and on a loan he would be a fine signing. Suarez in summer? Yes please. The problem is that every top club is desperate for strikers. Real are unhappy with Benzema, Barca do not have an out and out CF, MC are likely to lose Aguerro and are dissatisfied with Dzeko, Chavs – :-D, MU – BSR is coming 30 and a crock, Rooney doesn’t score enough. I could go on but you know the teams as well as I do.

What do you think? Can win the title without adding a striker?

written by an absent Big Raddy


Why did Wenger sell Alex Song?

January 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilshere, Rosicky, Diaby, Ramsey, Cazorla and Arteta

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

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

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

20 mil……..12………15……….done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by LB


The revolving door – Where’s the legacy?

August 23, 2012
“…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings”
                                    ~King Richard, Richard II

What a start to the season last weekend. It started with the heir apparent running off before his coronation, continued through a war of attrition in our first game, and ended with us Songless. It’s the two men who’ve left I’d like to address as one word has been bothering me with regards to the way players seem to leave us these days…

Legacy.

I go to games with my dad, who drives 300 miles to games and has been going to the Arsenal for 50 years. I learned a lot about the history of the club, the players who’ve passed through and the managers who’ve overseen it all from him. My dad always…ALWAYS… speaks well of the players of the ‘60s, ‘70s, early ‘80s even…and the late ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s he gets misty eyed about them. Players like McLintock, Radford, George, Graham, Rix, Brady, Nicholas, Merson (responsible for a haircut my dad made me have that I’ve never lived down) and more are remembered very fondly……but time moved on and so did they.

Over the last few years we’ve seen a procession of players sold by Wenger. This is nothing new, he did it before the oil barons started throwing their cash at him. Shockingly, even Rioch, Graham, Howe and Neill sold players. The managers before them sold players, too. Were we angry? Rarely. Why do we get so angry now? It’s how they leave.

Brady left us way too early…my dad was gutted, not angry (even though he’d named my brother after him in ‘78!). McLintock went off to ply his trade in west London just two years after captaining us to the Double. George…Derby….Graham? Manchester United. Were people angry? No…disappointed. When Frank Stapleton went to Manchester United, though…that’s recalled with some resentment as he forced through a move to Old Trafford, with the fee having to be set by a tribunal…he was top scorer for three years, part of a team that went to Wembley three seasons on the spin, scoring in game against Man Utd…but now? Persona non grata as far my old man is concerned.

More recently, in the Wenger era, we’ve become Barcelona’s favourite shop. Hleb and Song have left in acrimonious circumstances…Henry and Fabregas only slightly less so, with their moves to Catalonia seen as inevitable by most, although neither move was welcomed. But what about the first two they bought? Overmars and Petit left us in 2000 for the Nou Camp. It was dealt with quietly – we got a pile of cash (by 2000 standards) for two of our best players – and it was very much in the traditional manner of moves, nothing but a sense of disappointment and a shout of “good luck” from Arsenal fans.

Then there’s the moves of Adebayor, Nasri, Flamini and most of all Ashley Cole to make my point. Cole…who admitted to nearly crashing when heard of a derisory £3m a year contract offer from Arsenal is now busy revising history to suit his new, 2012 version of events…it’s no longer about the money, y’see, he left to “win the European Cup”. So what if it’s 6 years later? From his armchair made of cash he laughs and shouts “F*** you, Cole don’t care…whatever…you’ll believe any old crap”. The other three, too, have been portrayed as mercenaries. Adebayor seems all set to fill Bogarde’s place in the record books as most expensive reserve team player ever.

Nasri…same as Cole. Bleats about leaving to win things when everybody knows the truth…otherwise why does he feel the need to go on? Two others have made the same move to Eastlands in the Wenger era…both are recalled fondly, neither encounter the boos and vitriol that the other three do. Clichy and Toure. Why? Because they were “good leavers”. When asked about our club, they’re always complementary. They didn’t force through moves publicly, didn’t badmouth the manager, the board, the fans and have acted with humility. See! It can be done!

RVP is a tough one…can see why he left (29, last big contract, wants trophies…*pukes*…), but not the ridiculous statement made on his website. Did he tarnish his legacy? Will it always be one of injuries and treachery or will we remember the glorious goal at Charlton, his magic 2011 and his decent captaincy?

If he went abroad…I’m sure it would be the latter. But Man Utd?! Sure we’ll find out at OT when 4,000 away fans get to vent their feelings…

As for Song – I remember (although I may be mistaken) early on in his Arsenal days, Wenger tried to sign one of the de Boers from Barca. Bid was turned down and he “threatened to go on strike” according to reports. Wenger refused to sign him after that…honourable. Is a player ever right to force through a move? Will Song’s legacy at Arsenal be one of a bad attitude, laziness and forcing his way out?

With all the transfers out of club over the years…which have left you with the worst memories? And which players do you think handled their exits in a way that didn’t tarnish your memory of them?

Written by Rhyle


Is this midfielder Arsenal’s second best player of the season?

May 15, 2012


There would be little value in doing an opinion poll on who has been our best player of the season. No doubt, a vast majority would opt for our captain, top goal scorer, and the PL’s Player of the Season, Robin van Persie. But it all becomes a lot more difficult when we have to choose our second best player of the season.

There have been many fine performances throughout the season, but not many players have actually been able to play through the whole campaign, with only the odd week out as a result of a slight injury. Only a small number of players were fit, and judged good enough, to play more than 70% of the games: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Koz, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Walcott, and Ramsey (and of course RvP). Rosicky and Ramsey both had good spells this season but have not done enough for me to be included in a shortlist for ‘second best player of the year’, so I suggest we choose our favourite out of the remaining six players (but feel free to suggest any other player in today’s post comment section).

Szczesny – Played 48, 29 clean sheets

He has had a good but not a great season imo. Wojciech makes us feel generally comfortable when he plays in goal and although he has made a few mistakes this season, I think most of us will agree that he has done well. He has enjoyed only very few periods of consistency with regards to the four defenders in front of him, which of course does not help when trying to get some defensive reliability and solidity. He has done enough though to be our Nr1 in goal again next season, but it will be interesting to see whether Arsenal will buy an experienced back-up keeper who would provide a bit of healthy competition for Szczesny. Not my second best player of the season.

Vermaelen – Played 39, 6 goals, 2 assists

He has had a good season, but again, not a great season. Thomas was a key player in our unbelievable recovery in February and March, but in the last few games of the season we have been able to see a few weaknesses. We all love his tenacity and energy, his surging forward runs, and his ability to battle with any attacker, on the ground and in the air. But in those last few games, he should have been one of the players with the intelligence and experience to maintain our shape and defensive discipline, and to lead our team at the back, and for me he did not do that enough. Not my second best player of the season either.

Koscielny – Played 39, 2 goals, 2 assists

He has been our rock in defence throughout the season, and he formed a fine partnership with both Mertesacker and Vermaelen. Especially his partnership with the BFG seemed to get the best out of him. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and has improved physically, as he seldom or never was outmuscled this season. He reads the game well and can play with focus and discipline. In every game, he seems to play a number of wild forward passes which usually end up with the opposition’s defence, but other than that he had a pretty faultless season. If we take into account the whole season, it is fair to say that Koscielny has been our best defender. Koscielny is a strong candidate.

Arteta – Played 37, 6 goals, 3 assists

He has been our rock in midfield, and surprised many of us with both the position he occupied, and the skills he has displayed at Arsenal this season. We all loved his unselfishness, his work-rate, professionalism and the joy with which he played football for us in the last eight months. He has been the vacuum-cleaner in our midfield and linked up defence with midfield, and midfield with attack seamlessly. Since his injury, Arsenal have struggled to stick to its formation and play with composure. He has also scored 6 goals in 37 games, but his assists (three) were a bit on the low side, even when we take into account his deep position in midfield. Another strong candidate.

Walcott – Played 46, 11 goals, 13 assists

This season, he has been our best winger, and he produced the third highest number of assists of all our players (RvP was second 14). At the start of the campaign, there was a fair bit of criticism for Theo, but since then he has shown the thickness of his skin and the brightness of his football brain. 11 goals and 13 assists in 46 games is a pretty fine return, and during this season he has grown into a man. He scores goals and produces assists against any opposition – for example, this season he scored against the Mancs, Chavs, Udinese, and the Spuds (two). I would love him to sign a new contract and become a long-term Gunner, but I am not sure whether that will happen. He has really impressed me this season, but has not done enough to be my second best player of the year.

Song – Played 46, 1 goal, 16 assists

This season, the big question surrounding Alex was whether he has been neglecting his DM duties with the blessing of Wenger. A lot of fans have given him stick for not being disciplined enough in protecting the back four, which they regard as his main duties. Alex has suffered a lot from Arteta’s season-ending injury as the Spaniard proved to be his perfect partner in the centre of midfield. For me, Alex Song has been a phenomenal player throughout the season. I am convinced Arsene has asked him to play a free role in which he both helps out defence and supports the attack whenever he could.

A lack of creativity in midfield forced us to play Song in such a demanding role, and he has revelled in it. Other than Yaya Toure, I cannot think of another midfielder with such a diverse skill-set. Yes, he is a slow starter in games and loses the ball unnecessarily too many times, but these are minor compared to what he has brought to the team. At crucial times this season he has been world-class, both defensively and in terms of producing a high number, and match-winning, assists. His performance against Milan at home was one of the best I have seen in an Arsenal shirt this season. 16 assists in 46 games is simply exceptional – with two more than RvP and three more than Theo he produced  the most assists of all our players! At the end of the season his performance dipped a little bit, but overall Song has made a tremendous contribution to our team. Another strong candidate.

My choice

For me, the strongest candidates for second best player of the year are Koscielny, Arteta and Song, and taking the whole season into account, I think Song just shades it. I really hope he signs a new contract and Arsene is able to make him an even better player in the next few seasons.

But who would you choose and why?

TotalArsenal.



The Next Three Games All Hinge On These Factors

April 24, 2012

Three games to go in this extraordinary season.

Three games to secure third place and a guarantee of Champions League football next year (not to mention the increased likelihood of retaining the services of a certain Dutchman who finds the net at moments of his own choosing).

Or three games to slip to fourth, maybe even fifth and re-ignite the poisonous debate about the future of our club and its most successful modern manager.

After a poor performance against Wigan and an unconvincing (though far from terrible) one against Chelsea, it would take a brave man to confidently predict a smooth run-in from here.

I’m not that brave.

I think it’s POSSIBLE we could win our next three games at a canter (Stoke away, Norwich home and West Brom away). I also think it’s possible we could lose two or even all three.

So let’s look at the balance sheet of pros and cons as we go into those games.

The Pros

We have a full week to rest between each game. Not that it seems to have been doing us much good lately.

None of our remaining opponents have anything left to play for.

We have some margin for error – particularly over Totteringham, but also (slightly) over Newcastle thanks to our far superior goal difference.

In recent weeks this team has beaten Totteringham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Everton, AC Milan and Manchester City.

Benny the Goon will be available (he was ineligible to play against Chelsea).

Diaby is back and managed to complete half an hour on Saturday without injuring himself again.

Coquelin is fit again to provide more cover in midfield.

Tomas Rosicky has been in his best Arsenal form for years.

We have two of the best central defenders in Europe.

We have the second highest number of scorers of any team in the EPL this season (17).

We have Robin van Persie and he scores when he wants.

We have Arsène Wenger as our manager.

We are The Arsenal.

The Cons

We are losing key players at this vital time.

Walcott is the latest to add to that list after idiotically trying to run off a hamstring pull. He reminded me of John Cleese playing a knight in The Holy Grail and getting his arm chopped off: “Just a flesh wound!”

With Walcott, Arteta, Mertesacker and Wilshere all unavailable for the rest of the season we can’t afford to have any more of our top players out – especially the PFA Player of the Year (Lord Dennis hear our prayers).

Arteta’s absence may well be the most crucial, as we tend not to win games without him and he dictates the tempo of the team. So far his replacements have been more garden gnome than metronome.

We still haven’t entirely shaken off last season’s bad habit of hitting the self destruct button (witness the two goals in two minutes conceded to Wigan).

In recent weeks this team has lost to both QPR and Wigan.

The zip and zing seems to have vanished from our open play. We need someone to just rip out the handbrake.

Tomas Rosicky is starting to look tired.

Robin van Persie has stopped scoring and looks jaded.

We have Arsène Wenger as our manager.

Which Arsenal are we?

When our strong run of results started in February (coinciding with the return of our orthodox fullbacks) one of the most striking things was the obvious camaraderie among the players.

Led by the captain, the team seemed really to be enjoying each other’s company and relishing one another’s successes.

Lately things have been harder going and the joy and togetherness engendered by some great wins and stunning late goals has been harder to spot.

If we are going to finish the 2011/12 season the way we all hope, the crucial factor (in my view) is going to be the players themselves. Arsene Wenger and the coaching staff can do their bit, but in these last three games it’s going to come down to the players refusing to fail.

In the last few seasons our players have not had the strength of character to finish strongly when it counted.

This year I believe we have a team with greater moral fibre, led by a captain with far greater powers to motivate and inspire than his sulky predecessor. Robin van Persie, regardless of his own scoring form, needs to remember that his role as leader and inspiration could still be the deciding factor in us finishing third.

(I’m sure you have your own ideas of ‘pros and cons’ that I have failed to include. Please share them in the comments).

RockyLives


Need We Be Wary Of These Wounded Wolves?

April 11, 2012

DLLLLLL  

No, I haven’t just mashed my forehead onto my keyboard, the above letters are the recent record of tonight’s opponents Wolves since they sacked Mick McCarthy. Drew one, lost six, a run of matches that sees them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with a measly 22 points, six away from nearest relegation battlers Wigan.

Each club to their own, and we’ve enough to keep us occupied, but I think it was folly to sack McCarthy, after the transfer window and seeing as the players were playing for him, he could have kept them safe yet again. What was even worse was that they replaced him with Terry Connor – a man with no experience of managing a team at senior level or any other level at that. Talk about throwing the poor man to the wolves (not pardoning the pun).

Wolves have been inept to say the least since McCarthy departed. They have no shape, no belief, nothing. Since the commendable 2-2 draw against Newcastle they have been hammered by Fulham and the Mancs, beaten comfortably by Blackburn and didn’t have the nerve to get results against Norwich, Bolton or Stoke. To add misery to their already massive mountain of misery, they have the insufferable Roger Johnson as Captain – the same one that sees fit to turn up to training drunk and pick a fight with their ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey who has had some fine games for Wolves.

As it is, I don’t see Wolves causing us much trouble tonight. A draw isn’t much good to them, so they will have to try and come at us some bit. They don’t have the nerve to defend for the 90mins either, so the only ones that can beat us are ourselves. We were fantastic against Man City on Sunday – Sagna, Song and Arteta particularly impressed, as did RvP who was unlucky that Kompany was the one good Man City player to play well on the day. We need to keep this going into tonight’s game and not get complacent. With the Spuds (and Chelsea) having the FA Cup next (and after losing to Norwich), we have a real chance to put some daylight between us in 3rd and everyone else. A good night’s shift should see us grab three points.

Gibbs is out with a groin injury (or groin fatigue as AW likes to put it – draw your own conclusions), and Koscielny is suspended. Santos will come in for Gibbs which is no bad thing – he will torment Wolves down the flank, as will Sagna down the right – and, is it just me, or are Bac’s crosses getting better and better? Wenger has said that Squillaci and Park will come into the squad but probably won’t get their arses off the bench (AW didn’t say the last bit).

Expected starting XI:

We need to win this game so no “resting” of Rosicky or van Persie, they can rest themselves all they want at the Euros. I’d give Yossi another start because he works so hard off the ball, and with Santos going up and down the wing like a mad man, he would provide good cover and has more experience than the Ox or Theo in doing that kind of job. I do expect the Ox to come off the bench with about 20mins to go.

I’m calling a 3-0 win for the good guys.

Before I let ye go debate the game, a shout-out to Tomas Rosicky for winning the Arsenal Player of the Month. He has been immense in recent weeks, this is the guy we signed from Dortmund, the player I’ve been harping on about that is so needed in the Arsenal squad.

Oh, and did you also know that you can do this and its all fine and dandy?

Nice one FA ….

Written by IrishGunner


Cash Is So Last Millennium – Class Is So Permanent: Match Report

April 9, 2012

Written by TotalArsenal

Today, Arsenal had a chance to make a statement of where it stands in the current hierarchy of English football. This was not just a game we needed to win to keep us in contention for a top-four finish – no, this was also a game in which we needed to demonstrate to ourselves again how good we really are. During a transitional year, progress is measured not only by finishing as high as possible – it is just as important to claim the scalps of teams like Pool, the Chavs, and especially, the Oilers. Winning these sorts of games builds confidence, belief and respect: they’ll become part of the DNA of this new, post-Fabregas team.

First half

From the first minute it became clear Arsenal were up for this game. During the first quarter of the game, Arsenal enjoyed 78% possession, leaving Citeh with nothing else to do than chase the ball and set up a fortress around their box. This must have been hard for Citeh, as it’s usually them who keep the ball, and pass it around, better than their opponents. Recently, Arsenal have been a little bit lob-sided towards our right, but we were constantly able to switch our attacking play from side to side in the first half. Although we threatened a lot with our energetic and innovative attacking moves, we did not manage a clear attempt on goal until the 16th minute. RvP made a perfect connection with his head to Arteta’s corner-kick, but his effort hit the back of Vermaelen’s head, whose own run had taken him to just under the Citeh’s crossbar. RvP was just so unlucky not to score.

Soon after that, MC had to withdraw Toure who got injured during a strong challenge by Song. Rather than the tried and tested De Jong, Mancini decided to replace the Ivorian with the relatively (PL) inexperienced David Pizzaro. Undoubtedly, this was a big blow for Citeh, as Toure has been a consistent force in midfield for them in recent months.

Citeh had only one half-chance in this half, and it came from a ball through the middle that almost reached Balotelli. However, Sir Szczesny did fantastically well in anticipating the danger and with a quick and timely run he reached the ball before the Italian hothead.

During the rest of the first half there were no more clear attempts on goal, as Arsenal dropped off a bit and MC were able to regain some possession, albeit without threatening our goal themselves. Balotelli was keen to grab all the attention with another petulant performance, and he should have seen a straight red card for his nasty, studs-up challenge on Song. The referee appeared not to have seen the incident, so the Italian got away with it. Luckily, Alex somehow survived the charge. After that incident, Balotelli fouls our RB, Sagna, twice, and he finally gets a yellow card. He should have had a second one for a handball before the end of the first half, but once again, he got away with it.

Second half

Arsenal started the second half tentatively, with a lower tempo and less hunting down of the opponents compared to the first half. This allowed Citeh to have more possession and create a few chances. After 8 minutes, Citeh create their first proper chance with a decent, weighted ball into the box by – the until then very quiet and timid – Na$ri towards Zabaleta and Aguero who, however, stand in each others way, resulting in a weak effort on target.

In the 63rd minute, Song produces another of his trademark, fine, lofted balls into the box towards the continuously alert RvP. For once, the yet again very impressive Kompany has not anticipated Song’s ball. Robin shows his top-striker instinct by heading the ball straight towards goal, beating Hart in a flash, but the post is in the way. Once again, Robin is unlucky, and I am starting to feel a bit uneasy; thinking this might be another one of those games against Citeh, where we play well but are just not clinically/lucky enough to win it.

My uneasiness grows further when Baloteli tries an overhead kick from a header into the box by Kompany – luckily he fluffs his attempt – and, soon after that, RvP is, agonizingly but correctly, ruled just offside, after yet another fine passage of attacking midfield play by Song, who found RvP in the box with a weighted pass.

The good thing is that Arsenal are all over Citeh again, and that the Oilers are starting to look tired in the second part of the second half. There is only one team who really want to win this game by now.

In the 76th minute it looked like we would finally, FINALLY get our reward. But yet again, it was not to be, as Citeh survived three attempts on goal in the space of a few seconds. Rosicky passes the ball into the box towards Theo who does not hesitate: he does not take a first touch, but strikes on goal with a low and placed shot towards Hart’s right corner. Hart manages to just get a hand on it, diverting it towards the post where the Belgian Rottweiler is ready to pounce. FFS, would you believe it! Inexplicably he slips, AGAIN, and his fluffed effort ends up with Benayoun who, two yards from goal, also cannot manage a clean contact and Citeh, miraculously, escape once more!

After that, I was convinced we would have to settle for a draw, but then, THEN the moment we had all been waiting for, still came. And it could not have fallen to a better, more deserving person: Mikel Arteta! After vacuum cleaning the ball away from Pizarro, Arteta moves forward, and I am sure we all felt that this was the moment. Arsenal’s Engine Room sees a rare opportunity to have a shot on goal. As soon as he lined up, I felt it would go in. Arteta cleverly uses Lescott’s body to block Hart’s view and unleashes a pile-driver from 25 yards towards Hart’s left corner. The England number one has no chance and at last we have our goal. Simply orgasmic: 1-0 to the good guys!

In the last minute of the game, Ramsey had a great chance to make it 2-0 and he should have done better. It sadly looks like my prediction that Aaron will become a victim of ‘fans fulfilling prophecy’ is coming through. He looks to be low in self-confidence and is starting to believe his critics. Arsene has got some work to do with Aaron over the next few weeks to get his pecker up again.

At the end of the game, Balotelli made sure he got some more attention by making another reckless challenge on Sagna, resulting in a second yellow card, and a sending off.

Conclusion

But, today’s game is not about Balotelli and how he let his team down. It is about a very mature and professional Arsenal TEAM beating a ‘collection of highly overpaid individuals’, supposedly fighting for the title, at a pivotal moment. And in a way, I am happy Balotelli only got send off at the end, as it would have been hard to argue now that an earlier dismissal had not weakened Citeh and therefore did not have a crucial impact on the result.

Instead, we beat them fair and square, 11 against 11, when they HAD to win to stay in contention for the title. There was a lot at stake on Sunday: this game was about putting the Oilers in their place, to show that class is indeed permanent – that it cannot be bought so easily. Beating Citeh is a scalp we badly needed, and it has taken away any remaining doubt that this new Arsenal team has become a force again – one that will be fighting at full strength for the top prizes next season.

Player ratings:

Szczesny: fine, confident performance, remained focussed throughout the game: 8.

Sagna: super warrior as always, worked incredibly hard and did not let himself get provoked by Balotelli once. Supported our front men time and again, and he is a total team player: 8.5.

Vermaelen and Koz: very powerful, energetic performances, bossing their area with ease and composure, great support to our midfield as well. 8.

Gibbs: fine performance, unfortunately had to go off early. 7.5.

Song & Arteta: what a duo today. They are working together better and better and totally bossed the midfield, even before Toure went off. Song has so much to offer: is there a more all-round midfielder in the PL at the moment? Arteta had a great game as well and also showed what a complete midfielder he is for us, and of course he scored the all important goal. For me, they are both Man of the Match today (with Sagna not far away). 9.5.

Rosicky: worked hard and always wants to attack quickly and incisively but does still miss accuracy at times. He did a lot of chasing down opponents and is also a total team player: 8.

Benayoun: a good team performance, he also did a lot of chasing down opponents and supported Gibbs well. 7.5.

Theo: was not given any space by Citeh, as they were well aware of his danger and provided plenty of protection for their LB. He still worked hard to be a constant threat as he stuck to his role well, and he put in a fine team performance too: 8.

Robin van Persie: worked his socks off, always making clever runs and making himself available. Very unlucky not to be on the score sheet today, despite having to combat with one of the finest CB’s in Europe: Kompany. 8.5.

TotalArsenal


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