Picture this. It’s the first day of the Autumn (or Rugger) Term at DidIt’s “Little School”. Life begins with the Headmasters Speech in which he announces who is to be the Head Boy. Then comes Captain of 1st XV Rugger. Yip, no surprise here. Old Big Head Allen. Then for some reason there is something called Vice Captain and Scrum Leader…..”and for this year, DidIt. M”
“What the ‘ucking hell do you mean?” I thought to myself. “I friggin’ hate rugger”.
Thing was, I had given the wrong impression ie that I was quite good. Fact of the matter was that I hated getting hurt and had quickly learnt, in a cowardly kind of way, to hit people the moment the game began, and from then on, they pretty much left you alone. Problem was, occasionally someone gave me the wretched ball, and I could pretty much run about willy nilly, giving the terrible illusion I was quite good. I got to the top by being a coward.
Here’s another true story. I know a bloke with about seventy full England Rugger Caps, and a few Lions Tours thrown in. You know what, he doesn’t even particularly like the game. He’s bloody enormous, and naturally very good at sport. He grew up in the West Country where everyone plays rugger, and he was just always the best. One thing lead to another, and before he knew it, he was a professional, and now a few years after quitting, still makes a very good living through a sport he doesn’t especially love.
To get to play for The Arsenal you have done many things right. You are in the top 1% of all people playing professional football around the world, but I would suggest that you can get there through a combination of “right time, right place”, much skill of course, you keep fit, are a natural athlete and so on.
Here’s a problem. We are fans, and we really do care. Week in, week out. Year in, year out.
Do players really need to care is the question. This can only ever be answered by how a man reacts when the chips are down. It can be a fairly smooth passage to the top for many, and remember also, these days the rewards are colossal, and the cocooned pampering all around.
This is the attitude we want
Ultimately, we are looking for players who care about winning, as much as we care about OUR club.
Is this ridiculous?
written by MickyDidit
When the draw was made someone (no names mentioned but it was MickyDidit), told me that he would not go to Monaco because the away leg would be a dead rubber – he was right :-(
Essentially we were rubbish all over the pitch. It is all well and good Mr Wenger being furious at the lack of professionalism evidenced by having 10 players in the opposition half in the 93rd minute just after scoring what could have been a tie-saving goal, but who trains these blokes? If blame is to be apportioned then an equal measure sits on his shoulders.
We started well enough, pinging the ball around with our normal Emirates pace and efficiency; the game was open and enjoyable with both teams attacking. OG missed a couple of sitters, Santi was magical, the full backs were competing with the pace of the excellent Monaco wingers, then suddenly out of nowhere a man in blue takes a shot from 30 yards which deflects off BFG and deceives Ospina. Just what Mr Wenger warned about in his pre-match conference.
Then we lost the plot.
All out attack; BFG setting a very high line which totally played into the speedy Monaco forwards. Our forwards all decide to play through the middle encouraging our full backs to take the space on the wings and thus leaving acres of space at the back. The midfielders had no space to weave their magic. It all went to hell in a handcart.
Halftime I expected to see changes. We became even more gung-ho. Berbatov scored on a breakaway! A man who is already in his dotage and spends his days in a dressing gown, smoking a pipe and watching Emmerdale outpaced our defence!
There followed a baffling section of play. OG taken off having missed three more chances , Welbeck smashed an easy opportunity against a fallen Theo. Alexis got mad and was unlucky with a couple of efforts. The Ox scored and immediately allowed Monaco to turn the knife in the wound.
It was painful viewing. Thankfully, it was just one game in a season and to be honest losing to a poor MU at the Emirates was worse.
Perhaps the worst thing about last night was I fully expected us to thrash them, so did almost all the Arsenal fans, and unfortunately so did the Arsenal team. Monaco taught us a lesson and fair play to them – Monaco were excellent.
Ospina: Could have done better with the 3rd. IMO doesn’t inspire confidence 6
Bellerin: Seemed to play too far forward. Was he told to? As the junior player he needed guidance and support but didn’t get it 5
BFG: Very poor night. Directly responsible for two goals (the first not his fault). As Captain he should have controlled the defensive line and pace of the team – he didn’t 2
Koscielny: Not his best nor worst performance . One excellent header in the 1st half . Passes too slow to the MF’s 5
Gibbs: Too attacking, again probably told to be. Worked hard 4
Coquelin. Lost his defensive discipline. Booked as usual. Showed why we need a world class DM. 4
Cazorla: Glimpses of his magic but Monaco didn’t give him any space. Ineffective closer to goal. 5
Ozil: A passenger for over 90 minutes. His worst performance on an important night. Given his talent tit was simply not good enough 2
Alexis: As always worked very hard. Well marshalled by Monaco defence who always had 3 around him. Skewed a good chance wide. 6
Welbeck: Lots of effort, little result. 5
Giroud: Not his night but at least he was in a position to miss his chances. 4
Subs: Walcott : We looked more dangerous when he came on though Monaco were tiring 6
Rosicky: Had little opportunity to impress 5
Ox: Added verve when he came on. Scored a superb goal. Let himself down immediately after. 7
A hugely disappointing night to be a Gooner. That said, Monaco played a marvellous game, probably their best in recent years and deserve all the credit for their performance.
Onwards and Upwards
written by Big Raddy
Tonight Monaco will enter with trepidation into the steaming cauldron that is the Emirates on Champions League nights (a little sarcasm to start with is always good!). Should they be worried? Of course they should – We are The Arsenal.
However, we are playing Monaco side in fine form; they have only lost once since November and are rapidly climbing Ligue 1 as well as topping their CL group. These blokes are no mugs. A team based around a solid defence – they have only conceded two goals twice this whole season, Monaco have become a dour, dull team to watch evidenced by very poor attendances.
Expect to see this parked on the pitch
Monaco as we all know is a tax-haven and are unsurprisingly backed by Russian money. The buying policy which in 2013 brought in James, Falcao, Carvalho and others (￡140m+) has changed. The big money players have left, one to Real Madrid, another to the bench at Old Trafford as the club tries to bring through youth players alongside experienced but inexpensive talent. Could this be the result of FFP? A ground with an 18k capacity which averages 7k hardly generates enough money to afford Falcao let alone the rest of the squad. The new pragmatic approach both on and off the pitch seems to be working.
It will be lovely to welcome Berbatov back to London. Berbs should never have sullied himself by playing for Spurs. I wonder who has more pace, Mertesacker or Berbatov? It would be a close run thing!
So, a strong defence and workman-like midfield but little threat upfront. They have scored just 26 goals in 25 Ligue 1 games and only 4 goals in 6 CL games. This tells me that if we score twice tonight we will be Kushti.
And it is for this reason that Walcott should start tonight. Welbz is a fine player, he brings energy and awareness but he is not as dangerous as Theo and we need goals. Quite why Walcott was benched after scoring against Villa and Leicester is baffling; has he done something similar to Szczesny and has joined him on the naughty step? Perhaps it is something to do with his contract negotiations (AW showing Walcott is no longer essential to the squad). Whatever it is we need Theo tonight – he scores goals.
In my opinion, if Theo doesn’t start tonight he will be sold in summer; we have the brilliant Ox to find a place in the team and Walcott is the obvious man to leave.
Wilshere is out but I doubt he would have started because we need to be on the front foot from the start, I would play as many attacking players as possible. Bellerin ahead of Chambers and Gibbs on the left.
Bellerin BFG Koscielny Gibbs
Walcott Giroud Alexis
Bench: Rosicky, TPIG, Welbz, Flamini, Monreal, Paul Easter +
I don’t do tactics but I know this- scoring early is hugely beneficial, it forces Monaco to be less circumspect in their play which will hopefully create the spaces for Ozil to weave his magic. Alexis has gone 5 games without scoring and is hungry, Giroud is in fine scoring form. We have options.
Arsenal were delighted when the draw was made, Monaco seemed the best team we could have drawn. Tonight we will see whether our optimism was justified
written by Big Raddy
We Gooners awaited our fate in the CL draw lottery with trepidition, and hey ho! Arsenal draw Monaco, bring about a tryst with Arsene’s past, and a very winnable tie. Together with two of our four strong teams assured of dropping out – Chelsea or PSG, Man City or Barcelona – the quarterfinal draw looks tasty as well. Plus, there are two other qualifiers that look very tasty indeed: Basel or Porto, and Juventus or Borussia Dortmund.
To be fair, having a focus on a unique brand of nifty tiki-taka, the Champions League really has to be our final horizon. The EPL is focussed on an ugly combination of rugby and football, aided by officials turning a blind eye on blatant anti-football. Our good guys will never be sufficiently protected against the goons that proliferate the English League.
We have the skills and the resilience to be successful in Europe, as our record shows. How many times have we qualified consecutively for the knock out stage? How many QFs, SFs and Final? On those counts, we are surely up there with the best of the best. But we have not won yet.
This is our final frontier. Yes, we can. But, AAers, is this our time?
Well! That was a match to savour! Not sure I’ve ever seen a team line-up with three right-backs playing across the back four before, but it made for an exciting game for the neutrals.
An excellent first half for the Good Guys, you really can’t ask for more than a three goal lead at half-time. Podolski and Ramsey, twice, providing a selection of goals to satisfy even the most jaded of football fan’s taste buds. Could easily have been five or even the six we needed to overtake Dortmund.
Wenger rang the changes at half time, quite rightly in the circumstances, but that left us more than a tad open to attack and Galatasaray certainly welcomed the invitation.
According to the BBC, they had thirty-two attempts on goal, though only seven were on target and they only got the ball in the net once. If they had a striker, worthy of the name, the final score would probably have looked a lot less flattering. A bit worrying in view of the teams we are likely to meet in the next stage, but let’s just enjoy the moment.
Written by Norfolk Gooner
Given the state of the group should I find something else to do than struggle to find a stream? Should you?
No need to go through the significance (or not) of this game – you already know we are through and highly unlikely to achieve top spot. In a way this is a shame as an away tie in Turkey should be exciting, instead it is an exercise in escaping injuries.
Who is in the “red zone”? Much is made of the number games played by Alexis (or is he Sanchez – I never know) but if you want to see a man who is exhausted look at Mertesacker. The man has carried our defence through the first part of the season following a lengthy world cup campaign; at Stoke he looked shattered.
If I were manager I wouldn’t start a single first teamer and take the beating with a smile but I am not and Mr Wenger, unusually, has already named his team and to my dismay is starting the clearly knackered BFG and Ramsey. Bellerin is playing at LB – which is strange for a player who has struggle in his natural position on the other flank. The forward line looks potent with Sanogo central and Campbell and Podolski flanking him.
The bench is interesting and I would very much like to see Zelalem get some pitch time.
Galatasary: We have played them before. This is the team which lost to them in Copenhagen in 2000:
Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Adams, Sylvinho, Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Šuker 115), Henry, Bergkamp (Kanu 75).
Tasty but still losers. How many of that team would get into our current first team? I would say 11!!
Galatasary are undefeated in their last 5 home ties against English opposition in the CL. They also have a rabid crowd of fans (read loonies). These blokes make an unholy racket and have the full schmeer of flares, flags and banners – whatever happens it should be a fine atmosphere.
The food in Turkey is excellent, some of the world’s finest cuisine (IMO). So much to choose from as one would expect from such a diverse country. So far in this series I have avoided desserts but I am a man with a weakness for sugary stuff so today we will look at Baklava.
This wonder from the Ottoman empire first came to the West’s attention in the 1650’s though there is written evidence of it in the 13th century. Filo pastry layered and filled with chopped nuts and honey, it is hugely popular in Turkey, Greece and Central Asia. The difficulty is to find some fresh baklava because unfortunately in such places as Bounds Green and Green Lanes there are unscrupulous pastry shops who do not date their produce :-(
But find the real thing, freshly baked and ….. mmmmm.
Tonight is effectively a dead rubber but nonetheless it is The Arsenal and as we fight so hard to get into the CL it seems churlish not to enjoy it. Mr. Wenger has put out a side which I am sure will compete and possibly win. The front three have an opportunity to show the fans and prospective buyers their abilities. The defence is still fragile particularly down the left with two 19 year old’s.
Can we win? Without the pressure to win I can see this team being more expansive and despite lacking a creative edge (Santi, Ozil, Alexis, JW) we can overcome.
written by Big Raddy