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.


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.


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).



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.


written by Big Raddy

There’s Only One ……

October 1, 2014

First things first……

Congratulations to Mr. Wenger on his 18th Arsenal Anniversary. You do not look like a man who enjoys a cream cake and a bottle of Asti Spumante so instead we will take the cheap route and send best wishes.

What a fantastic ride it has been from the DB10 years, through the TH14 years and now onto the DW23 era. Thank you.


“I left the Afghan coat in the 2CV”

Right, let’s get onto what will be a difficult game. It would be a tough one had we been on form and given our inability to find cohesion this season  …. yadda yadda yadda.

Galatasary are only in the competition because their city rivals and league champions Fenerbahce were very bad boys and not allowed to play in the CL so the Turkish runners-up took their place.  They like Italian managers and have employed both Mancini and Prandelli over the past season – we can expect a compact, counter attacking team. They have some fine players including the mercurial (read unreliable) Sneijder. In Yilmaz and Pandev they have strikers who will cause problems to our brave lads but as always in CL games at The Emirates it will be the quality of the opposition defence which will determine tonight’s result.

And talking of defensive quality, let’s talk Eboue. Tonight should have seen his return to his real home club but instead poor Emmanuel will be sitting elsewhere. His star has faded in Turkey and as far as I can find out Eboue hasn’t even travelled with the squad. Apparently he has been relegated to the reserves. What a shame. It would have been great to hear “You’ve only come to see Eboue” sung once more at THOF.

Onto The Arsenal. Much is made of our injury record and with good cause. Just a few games into the season and we have already lost 4 first team starters (and Diaby is being rested for tonight :-D ). It must be hugely frustrating for Mr, Wenger to see his squad depleted year after year. However, as always it gives opportunities for others to shine and a few games for the Ozil/Alexis combo to fire.

With so many midfield and attacking options picking a team is guesswork but  …

My Team:1st october

Hard to leave out Cazorla who is such a marvellous player. Perhaps my line-up is too attacking though Alexis is very good at tracking back and helping the midfield. It will be fascinating to see how the team sets up when Walcott returns in just a few weeks.

Against Spurs Ox had a fine game and I expect him to continue his good form tonight. Last season’s injury robbed him of a breakthrough year; at almost 21 he is on the path to super-stardom and a run of games will convince Mr Wenger that The Ox is undroppable (hopefully!). AW predicted that Ox will be a central midfielder …. we shall see.

I am always loathe to predict a victory but if Arsenal are to progress we have to win tonight. 10 points is the target and given the drubbing we got in Dortmund we cannot assume we will beat them at home (of course we will BR – you doomer), so a win and a draw away plus two home victories will be enough.

A win tonight will set us up for a tough game at Chelsea. It will also give a boost to the fans at the Emirates who are starting to lose the feel-good factor left over from the FA Cup win.

On an Anniversary night Let it be So.

written by Big Raddy

Borussia Dortmund 2 a Bunch of Strangers in Blue 0

September 17, 2014

If you want to sugar coat that performance by telling yourself that it is a mini league and one loss doesn’t mean that we are out of the competition, then fill your boots.

But what I saw was a team that was completely outclassed in every department and in the end beaten comfortably by Borrusia’s B team — heaven help us when their key players return.

We can’t even use the excuse that we were missing key players; well, not missing in the sense that they were injured anyway. Let’s face it, the best thing to happen all game was the substitutions.

Özil and Ramsey were not clicking to put it politely and as much as I worried that Wenger would persevere until the bitter end, he changed them on the hour and the difference was instant. Hopefully Wenger will carry this into the weekend.

The case for Ozil being able to pull a rabbit out of the hat is all well and good but when our backs are against the wall we need every single player to pull in the same direction and his inability to add anything to the defensive cause is getting tired.

Ramsey slipped back into his dark days: Borrusia would make a simple pass for a team mate to run onto whereas the Aaron was trying to be too clever; the result being, that most things never came off and we almost always lost possession.

Arteta never comes back from an injury and hits the ground running; he always needs a few games to get himself back up to speed. The problem is that it is taking longer and longer after each time that he is sidelined.

I don’t blame Wenger for fielding the team he did; on paper, it is the best we have but it still isn’t working. Somewhere within that very talented squad there is a beast of a team desperate to get out I just hope Wenger can find it sooner rather than later.

Written very late by a very tired LB

And these thoughts from Shard ………………………..

It’s not often I feel let down by Arsenal. Every once in a while it happens though. This was one of those days. It wasn’t quite the stream of chilli and spicy food fueled, burning excrement that the Liverpool 5-1 defeat of last season was, but it was poo(r) all the same.

Of the players that took to the field, I thought only Szczesny, Gibbs, Kos, Wilshere and Ox could come away with some credit. That’s not to say that they all had good games. Just that they at least put something in the plus column, regardless of their negatives. Alexis tried but was ineffective. Bellerin was ok.

Regarding him playing, the commentators were making a big deal out of it, but I have no problem with that. At some point we have to accept that we are a club that is going to try and bring players through. That means trusting them to play, and on yesterday’s evidence, Bellerin doesn’t look out of his depth.

Raddy made a comment during the game saying ‘do we have a midfield?’ which I thought was accurate. Defensively they were bypassed with ease. Forget Aubemayang getting past Arteta and Mertesacker because of his pace to score his goal, in the first half, there were at least 3 incidents where the midfielders ignored runners and it was only the timely interception of Koscielny that ensured they weren’t through on goal. Arteta and Ramsey were both completely ineffective. Ramsey was invisible throughout the game, playing too high up the pitch. Arteta seemed poor not just physically, but mentally, seeming to not read the game well, and making a hash of simple passes, or just allowing the ball to run expecting Kos to do his dirty work for him.  Wilshere was just as bad defensively, though he managed to somehow get back in time to put Mkhitaryan off from scoring in the first half.

Which brings me to the midfield being absent in offense. For a virtual replica of that Mkhitaryan chance, see the cutback by Alexis, which went toward Welbeck but was blocked. The ball fell in virtually the same area as it did for Dortmund’s chance, but we had nobody making a run towards there and Dortmund cleared with ease.

So our midfield was doing absolutely nothing in defense, and barring a few decent dribbles by Wilshere, nothing in offense either. Mesut Ozil. Fantastic player, but absolutely cannot coast through the game and not put in any defensive effort, especially when he’s contributing nothing going forward. Playing on the wing is no excuse, being tired is no excuse, and I think it is not right that he is starting in front of Cazorla and the Ox, and even Rosicky.

We also saw that Welbeck isn’t going to be our saviour. He offers us something we lacked earlier, but the lack of a great first touch, and the missed chances suggest that we will need to be patient. It is something I can live with, because I think the reward will be there.

Seeing Wenger at the end, I could see how much it hurt him. I don’t know if the tactics were wrong, but when more than half your side don’t turn up, I don’t think any tactic is going to work very well. However, he needs to look at his squad, think about the system, and especially think about rotations. That is one aspect of his where I feel the criticisms are correct. He doesn’t use his entire squad enough.

I am not concerned about our overall direction. we are on the up. Comparisons with Dortmund are not really fair in my opinion. I see Dortmund as the Arsenal of the late 90s. Battling one major domestic opponent, losing key players to richer clubs, but still finding good players to maintain consistency, their style of play and continue building up. This current Arsenal team have been less settled and are still a little short of being the end product to then maintain. We are a little behind them on the team building curve.

What I do have concerns about is this season. On paper we are stronger than last season and looking to build on our wonderful FA Cup triumph. But I worry that this team has become so concerned with taking the next step that they might have forgotten what got them where they are. There was no team effort, no fight yesterday.

Individual players like Alexis and Wilshere kept trying in their own way, but there was none of that collective spirit that we saw last season and identified as the reason for our success. It seems like we’ll play well for a bit and then assume that the rest will just follow. A hard fought win against Crystal Palace. Tough games against Besiktas, Everton and then Besiktas again, and we seemed to think we just have to show up against Leicester. Slightly unlucky to draw against City after playing very well, and we go back to being useless the next game vs Dortmund. This makes me more concerned than any lack of signings, or playing youngsters. For the first time, I am worried about our entire season. It is up to our players to show us that this sort of performance is not part of a pattern. If it is, I fear that times will get worse before they get better.

Written by Shard

BVB. The Return.

September 16, 2014

The Signal Iduna Park. Scene of one of the best football nights of my life. Regular readers will be bored with yet another reminder of the why’s and wherefore’s of Didit and my victorious campaign to German soil. We came, we saw, we conquered. Enough said.

However, a repeat of the Arsenal victory may kick start our season and I can see no reason why we cannot beat them again.

To begin with BVB have lost important players – Lewandowski (who scored at the Emirates) has joined Bayern and Gundogan, Reus, Hummels,  Sahin , Ji and some bloke with an unpronounceable name from Truskolasy in Poland are all out injured.  However, Sven Bender and Kagawa are fit as is some Armenian CF who is a bit tasty and whose name I cannot spell.

BVB are finding their feet in the Bundesliga having won two and lost one so far. Kagawa returned to a heroes welcome at the weekend and scored in an easy win over Freiburg but Arsenal are (hopefully) a sterner test.

Arsenal have defensive problems …… Debuchy knacked,  Monreal banjaxed, Chambers 50/50 (throat knack). Thankfully Gibbs is fit and I suggest we may see Flamini take the right back shirt with Arteta returning to the conductor’s podium. Or we could blood Bellerin. Would you?

Now I have high hopes for Bellerin – I like that he comes from the Barca factory, that he has phenomenal pace and that he has a ridiculous haircut. Plus his parents were irresponsible enough to name the lad Hector. Can you imagine going into the 5th form classroom and introducing yourself as Hector? He must be well hard by now.

Mr Wenger has taken Bellerin with the squad to Germany so he must trust the boy.


Does this chap look the full shilling?

These defensive injuries are certain to arouse the smug  “I told you so’s” amongst some of the AFC fans but before you get all Jack the Peanut – the defensive frailties have been highlighted by every single football fan and you are not cleverer than Mr Wenger – so sit down and shut up. Mr Wenger was obviously after a specific target and didn’t get his man. Nor did he find a suitable player to improve the squad. Like everyone else I think this was poor, make that piss-poor from our Purchasing Dept.

Elsewhere we abound with outstanding talent, so much so that great players cannot even get on the bench and that is without Giroud, Walcott and Diaby. I would start Podolski tonight instead of  ….. mmmm I don’t know who :-D

And that is the problem. We have too many quality players.

My Team:

16th sept

Perhaps we could rest Welbeck, play Sanchez centrally with Rosicky or Podolski playing a more defensive left sided role. We have been exposed recently by our over-zealous attacking fullbacks. I don’t blame them – I would prefer to look at the tactical awareness of the midfielders who must see the huge gaps Monreal and Debuchy leave behind.

The local food in Dortmund is unsurprisingly beer and sausage. The local brew is Dortmunder Pilsner and I can tell you from personal experience it is possible to almost drown in the stuff without losing consciousness (5.5% alc).  A fine tasting brew. I am told it is best accompanied by the “Salzkuchen mit Mettente” which is a curried sausage in a caraway seeded, bagel type roll. I have only tried the bratwurst (hugely disappointing).



So will we come home with the points? It is undenianable that BVB are a fine team, one of Europe’s best and the sense of lassitude about tonight’s game is purely repetition rather than opposition. It must be the same for Messrs. Klopp and Wenger, whom we are told are good friends which may be very exciting when thinking about Arsene’s successor! Both teams are weakened by injury, both teams are struggling for form as their international players recuperate from the stresses of the World Cup. I would be delighted with a repeat of 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Lastly, I am disappointed but not surprised by ITV’s decision to show Liverpool against a team of East European hairdressers as opposed to what is the plum tie of the round. No doubt we will hear that the “atmosphere is incredible as Liverpool return to the Big Stage” etc etc  Anti-Arsenal bias? You bet.

written by Big Raddy



Phew, that was too close for comfort

August 28, 2014

Well as I suggested earlier in the day this was going to be a squeaky bum time 90 minutes, and so it turned out to be.

There will be countless opinions about the referee but on the whole even with his bizarre booking of Chambers and to an extent Szczesny we got lucky on at least one penalty call when Wilshere was a cigarette paper away from conceding, which he admitted could have been given.

There was no doubting our commitment and energy levels and IMO there were stand out performances especially from Cazorla, Wilshere, Debuchy and of course Sanchez for his work rate and sealing the win.

alexis scoring

We so often don’t make it easy for ourselves, but to be fair after only four competitive games we have had to make several changes to the line up through injury and suspension. There were signs of the return of our fluidity especially on the counter attack but there is still improvement needed and hopefully at least one if not two quality signings before the deadline approaches.

One minute in the game stands out for me.

Oxlade – Chamberlain really should have made it 2-0 and within thirty seconds Debuchy received a second yellow, so from basically having the game in the bag we had to endure twelve odd minutes of extreme angst, however overall the team dug in and there was relief all round as the final whistle was blown.

I hope Wenger was bluffing when he said there was no need to buy an additional striker. Sanogo and Campbell are raw recruits who hopefully will come good. Walcott is still at least twelve matches away from being considered and Podolski who was on his way to the airport forty eight hours earlier is now apparently another option upfront.

I don’t generally like to pick out players for a poor performance but if we persist playing Ozil out on the wing we will never get the true benefit of his class. His whole demeanour and body language is quite different to anyone else in the team yet I get the feeling he is uncomfortable in the chosen role that Wenger has allotted him. Any thoughts?

Finally, seventeen years of consecutive Champions League football is to be congratulated and hopefully as players get more playing time their fitness will improve. I wish with additional funds available this Summer we would have been bold and added a couple of quality players earlier and not have a last minute rush as in previous seasons, if we actually further strengthen at all.


First leg verdict : Two slightly differing opinions.

August 20, 2014

Shard’s appraisal

The game yesterday. Frustrating, but not too bad I thought. It was an entertaining enough game. They had at least two glorious chances to win it, but I thought we could have won it as well, despite playing like numpties on ice.

Giroud will undoubtedly get a lot of stick today (when does he not?) and he was pants. Utterly terrible. BUT.. That is not his real level. He’s better than that. I would have liked to see Campbell but I think Wenger wanted Giroud to play through his bad form rather than take him off and have him dwell on it. Height may have been another concern, and once Ramsey went, I don’t think he was going to come off. I also think Wenger isn’t entirely sold on Campbell. The way he talks about him. He says all the right words, but I think he’s a little undecided.

Ramsey’s sending off, I saw it exactly like GIE did. Wilshere looked like he was getting better. Not great yet. Not at his best even. But getting better. Wilshere’s hard tackle when Ramsey was kicked in the abdomen was exactly what was needed. Not reckless, but a response to Besiktas’ increased physicality in the second half.

Besiktas were pressing well, but for the most part we played through their press with calmness (as long as Arteta was there) and I couldn’t help but thinking that a fitter, more settled Arsenal side would have torn them apart. But as we know, we are not at our free flowing best. 0-0 is a bit of a dangerous result, but I still expect us to beat them at home. Even without Ramsey.

Hopefully the returning Germans and some increased rotation will help us against Everton, because that will not be an easy game.

Kelsey’s appraisal.

On the whole I am disappointed with the overall performance yet we live to fight another day.

One can’t make excuses about the pitch as it was the same for both sides,and one can only give an opinion on the players who actually played.

0-0 is okish but at the back of my mind next week there is always the possibility of conceding just the one goal.

The Turks showed their intent from the first few seconds with the cheeky shot that nearly caught Sczsceny by surprise
They were really up for it, were as physical as any team such as Stoke and we never really let us get into a rhythm.

To me we looked lethargic and a lot of our play was similar to the Palace game.

Ramsey should have known better but these things happen and as Raddy just said Arteta’s injury could keep him out for a few weeks.

If we had lost 3-1 we couldn’t have really complained so luck was on our side and it was a magnificent save from Chamberlain’s shot.
Giroud showed yet again that he is a work horse but not a game changer.
Chambers again thrown into the deep end only made one real mistake and looked very composed.

Debuchy as well looked the part but generally our small lightweight team never feel comfortable in these sort of games
If the three Germans are back next week that may well make a difference but our defence still looks very vulnerable and now we have the daunting task of Everton Away before we even think of the return leg.

Two games in and and the injuries are already mounting up.


Champions League: Why bother?

August 19, 2014

How important is a positive result tonight? Is it more important than a win at Everton? Is it more important than the 3 points last saturday?

I ask the question because how many of you believe we have any chance of winning the Big Cup? Oh, come on ….. you are just saying that to be contrary! You know that the bookies odds of  20/1 are reasonable and just tempting enough to ensure some people will have a punt and thus line the pockets of already mega-rich bookmakers.

So, given the debilitating effect of the CL on our Premiership aspirations, why do we care whether we advance tonight? Perhaps we should send out the B team and keep the lads fresh for Saturday.

Just kidding :-) I love the Champions League even though I doubt we will win it in my lifetime.

And what of tonight? Another visit to Turkey where we did so well last season. I have to admit I was delighted when we drew Besiktas, thinking any team which comes third in the Turkish league must be totally pants, well it seems I had done no research as Besiktas have form. Unbeaten at home in 15 games, beating Feyenoord and signing a man whom we were linked with just a year ago is evidence of quality, however the Turkish season has yet to start and Besiktas lost to Wigan in one of the pre-season friendlies. Furthermore, Besiktas are only in the CL thanks to Fenerbahce being banned for match fixing, that said Arsenal will have to play well to get a result.

Given our track record in the CL qualifiers I have faith. I can just imagine the scenes at Besiktas when they drew us – all their fans and club members must have been praying “anyone but Arsenal” and then put on a smiley face for the cameras whilst thinking “we are doomed to the effing Europa again!”

Team news is a mixed bag, Koscielny is fit enough to travel, Gibbs and Sanogo are not. The Gibbs injury is a concern as he has had a full pre-season and should be at 100% fitness, given Gibbs injury history this could easily result in Mr Wenger looking for a new left back next summer (or even earlier).

Chambers will almost certainly play alongside Kos tonight. What a 10 days for the 19 y.o. An appearance at Wembley, a home debut and now a CL appearance all (so far) completed with aplomb. The hopes for him are ratcheted higher with each game. Tonight he faces Demba Ba, a quality striker who somewhat surprisingly finds himself in the Turkish league. Serves him right as he took the pieces of gold from Chelsea without giving any consideration to his future, though €6m seems cheap for a striker with PL experience.

I would like to see Rosicky start tonight, he is a better tackler than Cazorla and better suited to an away leg. Jack needs to play regularly and get past a poor performance vs Palace. Giroud will surely start given the lack of both Sanogo and Walcott.

I hope Mr Wenger doesn’t get too defensive and play Flamini ahead of Wilshere, he has done so in the past and returning to the Emirates with a clean sheet is important but I would prefer we focus upon our attack rather and bring on the Flamster at 70 mins.

My team:


Debuchy    Chambers   Koscielny    Monreal

Ramsey   Wilshere   Arteta

Sanchez    Giroud    Rosicky

Please note that when picking the team in the format above it does not mean I expect us to play 4-3-3  –  our team is so flexible I do not believe there is any one method of play and as any regular AA reader knows Raddy is hopeless with tactics.

We know Besiktas have fanatical fans, we know the pitch will be rubbish, we know the ref will be a homer but we should have enough to come back home with a positive result

written by Big Raddy


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