Alexis Sánchez – Arsenal’s greatest ever signing

July 11, 2014

OMG, however excited you were about the signing of Ozil how much more excited are you about the signing of Sanchez? This is big, Gooners, this is a great signing for us.

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Come on, on a scale of 1 – 10, no actually no even starting at 1, starting at 5, how much more excited are you about the signing of Sanchez than you were when we signed Özil?

If you haven’t had a chance to think about it yet here are a few reasons why, as a Gooner, you should have a smile like the wide-mouth frog and be skipping along wherever you go today.

1. Early signing – Arsène has been on the beach for weeks and although the rumour mill has been rumbling along who’d have thought we’d have a player sorted before the World Cup final?

2. A striker – Arsène has bought us a striker, this is unusual because we really need one and often in times of need we’ve been disappointed.

3. Not just any striker – Sanchez is a classy striker, not a winger that wants to play through the middle, he’s a proven goal scorer and he’s going to be scoring goals for Arsenal.

4. He only wanted to come to Arsenal and this is what he said …….

Sanchez said: “I’m so happy to be joining Arsenal, a club which has a great manager, a fantastic squad of players, huge support around the world and a great stadium in London. I’m looking forward to meeting my new team-mates and to be playing for Arsenal in the Premier League and Champions League. I will give my best to Arsenal and want to make all the supporters happy.”

Sanchez new kit

This is what Arsène Wenger had to say about our shiny new toy (copyright LB)

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said: “As many people have seen during the World Cup this summer, Alexis is a fantastic footballer and we are delighted that he is joining us at Arsenal Football Club.

“Alexis will add power, creativity and much quality to our squad and we are all looking forward to him joining up with us in a few weeks. He has consistently produced top-quality performances at the highest level for a number of seasons now and we are all excited to see him integrate into the Arsenal squad. I’m sure all Arsenal supporters will join me in welcoming Alexis to our club.”

Arsène has looked happy and very relaxed in Brazil and now we know why. Hopefully there are more new signings to come.

Have a very nice day :)

peachesgooner

 

 


Give Us A ‘C’: Arsenal Alternative Alphabet

May 28, 2014

And so we move on to the ‘C’ words in our alternative Arsenal Alphabet.

C is for:

Charlies

We Arsenal fans have been blessed with a simply wonderful pair of Charlies: first, there was Charlie George – an Islington boy who went from terrace tearaway to Wembley wonder. The picture of him lying on the turf with his arms in the air after scoring in the 1971 FA Cup Final is one of the most enduring Arsenal images of all time. Our second Charlie is Charlie Nicholas, the mercurial, genius Scot whose goals clinched us the first trophy of the George Graham era (he scored a brace against Liverpool in the 1987 League Cup Final). Sadly his love of the high life soon grated with disciplinarian Graham and he was on his way not long after that Final. However he’s still very fondly remembered by the supporters.

Chicken

Whenever we need a laugh all we need to do is glance up the Seven Sisters Road and look at their ludicrous club crest: a chicken standing on a basketball.

Clock

How many great moments have been shared by the faithful beneath the Clock End at Highbury? The only mystery about the clock is why it took the club so long to figure out that they should install it at the new ground when we moved to Ashburton Grove. At least they got there in the end.

Curse

There was a story put about that, when the stadium was being built, a construction worker who supported the Spuds buried a Totteringham shirt somewhere on the site in an attempt to curse us. Given the shaky start to our trophy efforts at the Grove some Gooners even began to give credence to this tale. Well, the FA Cup win over Hull should put paid to that nonsense. The buried Spud shirt had all the efficacy that Spud shirts normally have – namely none.

Crocks

If only, if only… how many times in recent years have we wondered what might have been if our key players had managed to stay out of the treatment room? Our injury record is simply appalling and I really hope that dealing with this recurring problem is a priority this summer. Although the portents are not good: apparently we’ve agreed a three year deal for Mr Bump, while we have also made an official bid for Humpty Dumpty.

Cashley

Poor, poor Cashley Hole. He could have been an Arsenal lifetime legend, instead he almost crashed his car because of our terrible pay offer of 60 grand a week, held illegal meetings with The Special Needs One and decamped to Chav Towers, lured by filthy luchre and the attraction of the club’s impressive three year history. Now the Chavs don’t want him any more and he’s trying to find a new club. He needs to start calling up his contacts… now where did he put that mobile phone?

OK, over to you for your own C Word contributions…

RockyLives


Bayern: A Fan’s View.

March 15, 2014

The draw for the next round of the Champions League was about to be made. Please, please Munich or Madrid. Two sides I’d love to see us beat, and two Cities I’d love to visit.

I packed light. Scarf, wallet, passport, ticket, fags, lighter, Nicorette gum, e-cigarettes and a lightweight tunnelling shovel just in case.

We lift off from Bristol Airport at 2pm on the Monday, and I’m in my hotel in the middle of Munich by 6pm local time. My chum Max doesn’t arrive until Tuesday evening, so I head to the bar where there are already gathered ten or more committed drinking Gunners. Three of us head into town and explore a wonderful City. We launch into a heart stopping Bavarian Meat Fest of epic quality and then back out into town. We visit every one of the famous beer halls (thanks for the tip YanMan), and eventually roll back into the hotel in the early hours.

Match Day. Kick off not until 20:45 local time, so plenty of time to explore. I opted for the two hour trip to Mount Wank. The train journey South and West to The Alps takes you through absolutely stunning countryside. Past Lakes and then into the foothills before journeys end. Turns out Mount Wank is little more than a pimple, so I opt to head up The Zugspitze (Germany’s highest peak at over 9,000 feet with views over four countries).

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Step One. I board the small mountain train that climbs the steep snowy base before entering a tunnel gouged through the heart of the mountain itself. Being the only passenger not in heavy footwear and florescent arctic clothing, looks in my direction are curious. Emerging in some ski resort or other, I then head to the cable car for the final push. At this point, curious looks turned to something more sinister. Now I don’t know if any of you have ever in your youth boarded a tube train in rush hour, with dyed orange and black hair, reeking of fish with every square millimetre of your hands bloodied and scabbed, having done a day’s work with sea lions, but I have, and the feeling is one of being highly toxic and infectious. The unsurprising upside is that you find yourself, as I did in the cable car, with a lot of space to yourself and the most terrific choice of views.

Wow, the view from the top was breathtaking on a perfect day. I felt fantastic. Things were going well.

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I managed to re-join one old mate as well as my new chums back in the hotel bar around 18:00.

Off to the match and a fast thirty minute express train to the outskirts of the city. Emerging from the underground, the Stadium comes into view. Perhaps half a mile away, it sits isolated on a barren plain sitting there like some squashed glowing poisonous tropical fruit. It is impressive in its Bayern Red luminous robes.

Stadium

I’m guessing there were three odd thousand Gooners high in the North End behind the goal. For me, our vocal support was somewhat muted in its potential as there were two distinctive areas of noisy support, and being divided by a quieter central group, we never managed to sync and get maximum volume. Nevertheless, we did our best against overwhelming numbers. Incidentally, and perhaps it was just on this occasion, but the Bayern support was nothing like as colourful or vocal as we experienced in Dortmund. Having said that, they all remained until the very end. Now it’s worth remembering, that this Stadium is a 40 minute tube ride to the main Munich rail station, and also, that kick off is a full hour later. Mmmm.

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Needing to be at the airport at 14:00 on the final day, there was time to explore the City. It really is a lovely place. Stunning architecture and very friendly people. Time to visit a Palace, and track down some chocolate to bring home. Sitting outside a café in the sun, I pondered the difference between Munich and London. Striking to me was the absence of road markings and hideous signposts everywhere. The lack of traffic wardens and surveillance cameras. Uncluttered by ludicrous instructions. It struck me that citizens in Munich are capable of making their own decisions and not nanny stated. Clearly a very personal view, but it appeared to me that people were allocated individual responsibility, and they used it wisely. It was refreshing. I liked the place very much.

Here’s a question to myself. If I knew for absolute certain that The Arsenal were going to win every single game, would I still go? No, I wouldn’t. We lost to the current European Champions, and these things happen. I don’t mind. The team played with passion and pride, and I banked more very happy memories. I was in Dortmund with Raddy when we won, and that was also memorable but for more reasons than just the victory, and next season I want to try again. I met Gooners who were there when we beat Villarreal and Madrid, but they had to witness losses on their travels for that to be possible. This is football, and it is exciting. To make these journeys with fellow Arsenal fans is a privilege.

Thank you Chas and Ant, as without your amazing away support, I would never have been able to go.

Written by MickyDidIt


Arsenal go out, but with heads held high

March 12, 2014
Personally I feel it is difficult to write a review on a two legged fixture when constantly one refers back to key incidents in the first leg.

When one is playing arguably the best club side in Europe comparisons have to be drawn. My overall conclusion is that the tie, for all intensive purposes, was over in the home leg but the team showed a dramatic improvement last night and we should all be proud of the display.

We contained Bayern in the first half which had one fleeting moment when single handily Oxdale- Chamberlain literally walked through the Bayern midfield and defence, and though it came to nothing for one so young he is the future star of this Arsenal team.

When one is constantly pegged back in ones own half and the midfield is pushed back deeper and deeper I wondered if having Giroud as the lone striker was the right tactical decision last night. This is not a slight on Ollie but to counter balance my thoughts we didn’t have the quality or type of player on the bench to change the formation.

Would a fully fit squad have changed things ? I really am not sure, but there is no question in my mind that the gap has narrowed and we still have a major chance to win the FA Cup and a possible chance of The League.

On the downside Ozil, who looked completely out of sorts, has sustained a hamstring injury and when the boss says that he will be out for weeks, that is ominous. The inclusion of Rio who was not eligible to play really needs investigating.

I may be repeating what many have said, but we just are two or three quality players short to strengthen the squad as recent history has been proved to show that we pick up more injuries than any other PL team.

The diving and cheating by Robben has been discussed a thousand times, yet he seems to be getting away with it for years, so to me it’s a pointless discussion.

We gave it our best shot, so one can’t ask for any more and now we have a number of days to regroup and get down to the business end and give Spurs a spanking.

You will all have your opinions on each players performance though to me The Ox was our stand out player. Vermaelen who has played little football this season, played admirably in a position not best suited to him and Fabianski once again was composed and IMO it would be a bad decision to let him leave in the Summer as competition to Szczesny wouldn’t go amiss.

Written by kelsey


Can he inspire us to another win in Germany?

March 11, 2014

One of our own is out there. A solo mission without backup and on his birthday. Can he do it again? Can Didit’s positive energy inspire The Arsenal to another surprise win? It has worked before so it could work again – perhaps he is the lucky charm.

Big Raddy is a logical man, not prone to flights of fancy nor believing in things which cannot be proven …. and yet …. I still believe in lucky socks, lucky wine, lucky mints +++ When I go to The Emirates I have to take a certain route to the ground and drink in a lucky pub. My guess is that you have rituals as well, so why shouldn’t Micky’s presence affect the result?

I could write at length about this wonderful Bayern team – you will have read or heard all the stats – they are the best team ever in the Bundesliga which is some achievement. They have averaged almost 3 goals a game at home and have only lost twice in 100 home games – we know who inflicted one of those losses  :-)

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So, despite Guardiola’s assertions, BM are huge favourites to win the game and the tie. But  ….. we have reasons for quiet confidence. We have won there before, we have just beaten a good Everton side, we were better than BM prior to Szczesny’s sending off and we are The Arsenal. Plus we have our secret agent  ……

It is remarkable that we have beaten both Bayern and Borussia in their own grounds on our last two visits to Germany. Which other team in world football can say the same? I will tell you …. none

My Team:

b v a

Gibbs has a late fitness test and Monreal is just recovering from his foot knack so given the inexperience of both Jenks and Bacary playing left back I would prefer to see Captain Fantastic playing there  - he has done so in the past and it allows us to play the dreaded 3 at the back.

Give Podolski a run on the hour and perhaps give Gnabry a kickabout should we be losing (highly unlikely)  on 75 minutes – just to show the Germans what they have allowed to slip away.

Munchen: In Old German means “place of the monks” (unsurprisingly) because the Benedicitne monks established a monastery in the area. It was officially granted city status in 1175 and was a stopping point on the Old Salt Route through Germany. The city expanded rapidly when Duke Louis of Bavaria was crowned German king in 1314 and Holy Roman Emperor in 1328. He gave Munchen the salt monopoly which brought great wealth into the city and by the 15thC it was a gothic centre for arts and architecture.. By 1506 Munchen had become the capital of the independent  state of Bavaria (later to become a Kingdom) and remained so until the unification of Germany in 1871 .

Pre-match we will be split in our predictions between the optimists and the other less smiley people but come match time we shall all unite behind our team. There is a chance we can recover from an undeserved home defeat and without belief all is lost. A similar scoreline to last season will take us to penalties  …. errrm  ….. we need to score 3 !

A final note …. About now Micky will be climbing Mt. Wank singing songs from the Sound of Music – which song do you think he will sing at the summit? I am going for “High on a Hill was a Lonely Goatherd”. :-)

Written by BigRaddy


Thirty Five Minutes of excellence, then beaten, but far from disgraced

February 20, 2014

Where does one begin in a game where Arsenal were written off by many before a ball was kicked and then to the astonishment of many the fledgling Sanogo was announced as leading the line, yet who was to believe what was to unfold.

You will either have attended the game or by now read numerous reports. The many controversial decisions will be discussed for days to come, so I will just offer a few personal thoughts.

There is no doubt we were fired up from the whistle with a fantastic support from the Home crowd which lasted the whole game despite the dramatic events that were to follow.

Apart from the excellent Kroos testing Szczesny after a few minutes we took the game to Bayern. We had their back line at sixes and sevens and then what we thought was the breakthrough. Ozil got tripped in the box, decided to take the penalty himself and to say he fluffed it would be an under statement. To be honest he never recovered his composure and that naturally affected his game.  We continued to press and the gulf in class between the two sides was negligible, and Bayern were worried.

Then the inevitable happened when Gibbs, who was having an outstanding game, once again got injured. It looked like a hamstring pull and he was replaced by Monreal.

A quick word on Sanogo . This was a huge game for the kid who is built like a tank, he showed good vision and that was clearly seen with his dinked through ball from the half way line for The Ox nearly to score .His time will come.

Bayern were getting more of the ball and nearly every attack was concentrated on our left side. To me, Monreal is not the answer to replace Gibbs and it showed.

In the thirty-fifth minute Szczesny was alleged to have brought down Robben. He was shown a red card and not for the first time his youth got the better of him and he made some gesture as he left the field. A penalty was awarded and there was another miss but now it was 10 versus 11 for over 50 minutes and that was always going to take it’s toll.

The second half was basically played in our half and we didn’t have to wait long before we were behind with second scored as injury time approached. In all probability the tie is now over.

Ozil is tired, he should never ever take a penalty again and needs to be dropped for his own good. Apart from Ozil, neither Cazorla nor Podolski are best at tracking back.  However, as a team we have improved dramatically from last year and I would say judged by their own high levels,Bayern aren’t as good as they were.

I thought taking off The Ox was the wrong decision but apparently he is alleged to have got a niggle. Flamini acted like a captain urging his team mates on throughout the game and Koscielny played his heart out and yet was lucky not to give away a second penalty.

I wonder if a fit in form Ramsey would have made a difference,but let’s not dwell as all is not lost and we still have an excellent chance in two competitions.

The photos provided by chas were fantastic and showed what a wonderful sight it is to be at The Emirates.. .

Written by kelsey


Arsenal v Bayern: self-preservation …… the first law of nature

February 19, 2014

The long awaited moment has finally arrived. The Bavarian brigade have descended on London. Time for nervous anticipation and a bit of trepidation perhaps. Following their survival from the Group of Death, a fresh challenge awaits the good guys of Arsenal. What can be more daunting than to face Bayern Munich, the “best team in the world”, in the first leg of a dance unto death?

2 nil against bayern

Neither is this the first time. Last year as well, Arsene Wenger’s men played Bayern in a first leg at The Home of Football, and they lost 1-3. An outrageously superb return leg victory by 2-0 still saw Arsenal crash out of Champions League on away goals. Bayern Munich went on to win the Champions League in Europe followed by the World Clubs Cup.

However, daunting as the challenge no doubt is, there are some positive notes of encouragement this time round.

First, the away win against Bayern in Munich sparked a remarkable run for Arsenal, leading to an amazing record over the calendar year 2013; by and large, this run of performances and results still continues.

Second, Arsenal have had occasional indifferent performances, but the positive vibes from the FA Cup win against Liverpool are fresh in the minds and hearts. This is in sharp contrast to last year, when they went into the game against a disappointing loss to Blackburn. Quoting Arsene from yesterday: ““We have a strong team spirit, that is for sure, and a strong desire to do well and a united team. … We did not always have the belief, because belief is built by the results and on that front we are stronger.”

Third, Bayern were the champions last year, and are favourites this year. But they are not yet champions again, and the law of averages indicates they may falter at some step. And after the heroic display by our boys last year, it is quite possible that the massive fall from grace may happen here and now, against the mighty Arsenal.

Fourth, Bayern were a formidable unit last year, and they still are. But are they better than last year? Well, the core of the team is essentially the same, and the main difference is the new manager – the master craftsman Pep Guardiola. By contrast, Arsenal have a new magnificent wizard, Mesut Ozil, plus a lovely bunch of upcoming stars in The Ox, Wilshere and Gnabry. On balance, the relative changes in team strengths seem evenly matched.

On the injury front as well, it seems fairly balanced. Arsenal are missing two key players in Ramsey and Theo. Bayern have sustained injuries to Ribery, Shaqiri and Badstuber; Schweinsteiger is returning from injury and may not feature in the game.

Fifth, Bayern have been mighty impressive in the Bundesliga this year. But they get to play largely weaker teams in the German league. Whereas Arsenal has fought hard against the Oilers, and is therefore potentially better tempered by their fighting performances. The motivation and spirit within the team is very high. Yes, there was a minor incident involving the truancy of one Olivier Giroud, but that cancels off against the reportedly unsettled Kroos in the Germand side.

Overall, it looks even stevens. It remains to be seen who turns up on the night. Who has the greater desire to perform well. Arsenal’s defensive performance will be under particular spotlight. Not conceding an away goal will be particularly crucial.

On the line-up, the goalkeeper and defence select themselves. The primary objective to my mind will be to withstand an immensely potent Bayern attacking force, likely comprising midfielders Robben, Kroos and Muller and frontman Gotze. With this in mind, I would suggest Flamini and Wilshere as defensive midfielders, and an attacking midfield of Rosicky, Ozil and The Ox. Rosicky may moving back in defence and Wilshere likewise move up in attack.

And finally, here is the bombshell. Given disciplinary issues, including a disregard for team curfew the night before a game, I would not be averse to Wenger allowing Giroud some more bench warming time. Football is a team game, and no one is indispensable within the team. Podolski is the striker in my starting lineup. He has just scored a fantastic team goal against Liverpool, and so his confidence should be high. Santi scuffed shooting opportunities twice gainst Liverpool and does not appear to be fully fit. He will be on the bench as well, in preparation to launch a salvo when the need comes.

a  v bm

However, the Boss knows best. We will see what team emerges. The bottomline is to fight hard in the midfield and break down opposition attacks, and a tight and compact backline to thwart any advances that may trickle through. The priority is not to concede an away goal to Bayern. There will be chances at the other end, and we should be eager to take these chances.

All to play for. Onwards and upwards!

COYRRG!!!!

Written by arnie


Two Death Clusters To Make Or Break Arsenal’s Season

January 27, 2014

Look away now if you are easily frightened.

For example if you have to cover your eyes during the scary bits of Scooby Doo or you run screaming from the room when Alan Hansen appears on TV, the next bit may cause you to swoon:

Within the next 10 weeks we have two horrible groupings of fixtures – what you might call “Death Clusters.”

Here they are:

Death Cluster 1

Sat Feb 8thLiverpool A

Wed Feb 12thMan Utd H

Weekend of February 14 -17 – FA Cup 5th Liverpool H

Wed Feb 19thBayern Munich H

Death Cluster 2

Weekend of March 7-10 – FA Cup QF

Tues March 11 – Bayern Munich A

Sat March 15 – Spuds A

Sat March 22 – Chelsea A

Sat March 29 – Man City H

April 1 or 2 - ECL QF 1L

Sat April 5 – Everton A

April 8/9 – ECL QF 2L

In Death Cluster 1 we play four games in 11 days against opponents who include our title rivals, the Champions of Europe, a team aiming to get in the quarter finals of the FA Cup and Manchester United.

Death Cluster 2 is even worse: one month with (potentially) eight big, big matches including (again) the reigning European champions, our noisy neighbours and the two money-doped petrodollar juggernauts.

So what do we do about these daunting anomalies of the fixtures merry-go-round?

Well, we could all go into hibernation and come out with the daffodils and crocuses in mid April.

But, as my dear late Dad said when he threw me – a non-swimming six-year-old – in the deep end of Charlton Lido: “You have to confront your fears.”

Later, as the lifeguard resuscitated me, I pondered the wisdom of his words but was, perhaps, too young to fully take them in.

These days the sentiment is reflected in the saying: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I’ve never been too sure about that one either: if you narrowly avoid death from a debilitating muscle-wasting disease or lose three of your limbs in a combine harvester accident you probably don’t end up stronger.

But that’s just nit-picking.

When it comes to Arsenal, what’s abundantly clear about these Death Clusters is that if they don’t kill us, they absolutely WILL make us stronger.

And that’s why I see them not as the terrifying storm-on-the-horizon that some supporters are worrying about. Instead I see them as a great big gift-wrapped golden opportunity.

Because much as these sorts of fixture runs can derail a team’s season, they can also turbo power it.

Let’s look at Death Cluster 1: if we win or even draw at Liverpool then beat ManUre at our place (getting that particular Bale off our back at the same time) the confidence and togetherness in the squad – which is already excellent – will get even better.

Then we have the 5th Round of the FA Cup. As I write this I am praying that Dennis bestows on us a comfortable home fixture against lower league opposition so we can rest and rotate. Written before the draw.

Then it’s Munich at home. If we avoid defeat in that game we will have come through Death Cluster 1 in great shape. Crucially, good performances and/or results against Liverpool, ManUre and Munich will put us in great shape to face Death Cluster 2.

By the time we start on that second run of tough games we will have that most important quality in football: momentum.

With a head of steam behind us we can roll through mid March to mid April scattering our foes before us like James Corden rolling downhill through a field of size zero models.

And yes, I know this is all speculation and what ifs. And I am aware that if we fail to get past Bayern the second Cluster eases up a bit. But I want to emphasise the point that if this Arsenal is to be the team we all want it to be, these huge games need to be seen as springboards not obstacles.

Squad fitness, new signings (?), refereeing competence – all will play their part. But really it’s down to our team and our club to make the most of these opportunities.

Let’s laugh in the face of Death Clusters.

RockyLives


That Was The Arsenal Week That Was

December 13, 2013

Friday:

Owner Stan Kroenke’s son Josh has been appointed to the board as a non-executive director. Announcing the appointment, on www.arsenal.com , Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick said:

“We are delighted to welcome Josh Kroenke to the board of Arsenal. He has great experience in running sports organisations and brings extensive knowledge of what is required to succeed as we develop our Club for the future.”

Mr Kroenke, 33, a financial management graduate of the University of Missouri, said:

It is an honour to join the board of Arsenal. This reaffirms our family’s long-term commitment to the Club.”

“Arsenal is in a strong position on and off the pitch. We are enjoying a period of growth for Arsenal and the Premier League. We look forward to an exciting future that includes winning trophies, increasing our already impressive support around the globe and extending our commercial opportunities.”

Some new blood in the boardroom, as opposed to dried blood on the boardroom floor, can only be a good thing for The Gunners.

Recently retired Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has been honoured for his contribution to the Club with the unveiling of a bust at Emirates Stadium.

Mr Hill-Wood served on the Arsenal board for 51 years from 1962, following in the footsteps of his father, Denis, and grandfather Samuel in a family legacy stretching over 86 years. Even some of the oldest AA contributors don’t go back that far

Peter Hill-Wood took some stick over the final few years of his stewardship, much of it, in my opinion, was decidedly not deserved. It was good to see that he was well enough to attend the ceremony after his severe illness.

Aaron Ramsey was voted Player of the Month for November, the fifth such award on the trot for our Welsh Wizard. Who’s going to knock him off his perch in December, Mesut? Santi? Olly G? or who knows a rejuvenated Nicklas Bendtner. Whisper it quietly, he may not be on his way out in January!!!

Saturday:

Despite rumours to the contrary the Flamster is fit for selection ahead of Sunday’s game against Everton. Arsene Wenger talking to www.arsenal.com :

“Apart from Podolski being back in training, everybody else is available from Wednesday night. We had no injuries and the players who were available then will be available for Everton.” “Bacary Sagna is short so he will not be in contention”.

Now I know Bacary isn’t exactly a tall as the BFG but he’s done OK so far and surely Santi Cazorla is shorter than Bac.

Sunday:

The news that mattered to Arsenal was all about the chavs dropping three points and the Oilers dropping two, not to mention the unmentionables dropping three.

The prospect of playing three vital games in seven days prompted Arsene Wenger to call for an “ethics committee” to look into fixture congestion due to television rights. He claimed that teams should be allowed to decide themselves when they play, perhaps to bring a game forward to a Friday evening or to play on a Sunday rather than on Saturday at lunch time purely to fit in with TV broadcasters’ rights. It would give players a bit more recovery time, it happens in other leagues, particularly The Bundeslige.

Monday:

Woodwork saves Everton as Giroud’s injury time wonder volley smashes into crossbar.

That’s my headline for today and the only mention of Sunday’s game.

Looking forward to Napoli, Carl Jenkinson is in an up-beat mood. Asked if last month’s Dortmund result had given them the confidence to win anywhere, the right-back said:

“I think so. When we play to our peak, we can beat anyone so it is important that we go and do that on Wednesday”. “It is going to be a tough game — they are going to be battling because they want to qualify just as much as us. We will work hard and go out there with the confidence that we have from our recent results and, hopefully, come back with the result we want.”

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup took place and the Tie of the Round is undoubtedly that between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to be played at The Emirates in January.

Unusually for me, I have spelled out the full name of our opponents as they are a team that exist in the shadow of an illustrious neighbour and they may not have been instantly recognised if I had used the more common names for them.

Tuesday:

Bacary Sagna did not travel to Naples, he’s still recovering from a hamstring injury. There were no reports of other injury worries, apart from long termers Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo and Diaby.

Lot’s of speculation about the starting line-up, but only Arsene could answer that but was keeping mum.

Wednesday:

Arsenal were put on security alert, players and staff were advised not to leave the team hotel amid fears of violence by the Napoli “Ultras”. After threatening to have the game played “behind closed doors” following violence at the Napoli Marseille game, FIFA instead called for greater security in and around the ground. Well done Monsieur Platini, I bet that scared the life out of the hooligans.

Arsene was in an uncompromising mood:

This match is the priority and there will be no weakening of the team ahead of back-to-back Premier League fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea”.

“The other two games are not definitely decisive,” said Wenger. “We are five points ahead in the Premier League. The championship is a marathon. We will be in the race no matter what happens but those games will show our strengths hopefully”.

“We can’t afford to rest players. I rotate a little bit sometimes, never more than two or three because stability is important. Overall, we have no major sign of fatigue medically”.

The odds for the match; Home win 6/4 against. Draw 23/10 against. Away win 7/4 against.

Thursday:

By the skin of our teeth, yes it was that close, but we made it into the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League, albeit as runners up in the group. The post mortems have been carried out and the entrails examined it’s over let it go.

There were reports of “heavy handed” policing outside the ground which meant that many of the travelling Arsenal fans didn’t make it into the stadium until sometime after the match kicked off.

On the prospects of the draw Wenger said:

“That is the frustration (of not winning the group), because you feel there was room to do better, but it could have been worse as well tonight.

“Of course, to finish second makes the potential draw more difficult. In the last four or five years we have had very difficult draws, so maybe this time we will be more lucky.

“But if you look at the teams who are potentially there, at least we know we will have a difficult draw.

“On the other hand, we have now qualified for a 14th consecutive year for the last 16 and maybe number 14 will bring us a bit of luck.”

Amen to that Arsene!

A great match in prospect tomorrow, they just keep coming!

Enjoy the weekend

That’s it for this week

Norfolk Gooner


Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin: Napoli 2 – Arsenal 0

December 12, 2013

Arsenal arrived in Napoli knowing they had to leave with nothing more than a 2 goal deficit. That is not the best recipe for a winning performance, we have seen it in the past. Not just by us but by many other teams.

The simple fact is that when the CL Group draw was made many of us were contemplating whether it would be better to exit in totality or join that other mob on Spursday.

The fact we went into this match in such a strong position is testament to the form of the team this year.

Arsene sent an experienced side on to the pitch, this was probably one of the oldest average age squads we have seen take the field in red and white for quite a long time, only Jenkinson and Szczesny under 25. The game plan was simple soak up pressure, get the ball up to the three of Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky and try and keep the ball for as long as possible.

To a certain extent the first half was very comfortable, we were rarely threatened and Szczesny was not forced into serious action, the centre of defence was calm and assured with Mertesacker and Koscielny seeming to build on their growing confidence together, if Mertesacker didn’t win first ball then Koscielny swept round with consumate ease. We even managed to have an effort or two of our own, Giroud denied after some lovely build up play.

But in the main this was a game of containment, Napoli were quick to pressure us with the ball, giving away a number of small fouls which the experienced heads were winning to take pressure off us.

At half time I was quite content, whilst we hadn’t created much we had not conceded many chances and a point looked assured. I was pretty sure Napoli could not keep up the intensity of their press for the next forty five minutes.

How wrong could I be? Napoli seemed to come out energised perhaps by knowing the scoreline in France and that even a 1 goal win would see them progress, they came out firing and we found it harder to keep the ball and harder to shift our defensive line up the pitch.

There were a few reasons for this:

a) Typical Italian Centre Half play preventing Giroud from bringing down the high ball.

b) More hurried long ball clearances in the second half rather than finding feet as we had done in the first half, meaning the quality of ball up the pitch was poor an coming straight back at us. This was because we were lacking options in front of the back 4, several times Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Gibbs and Koscielny were faced with three yellow shirts in front of them and no movement to find an angle from Arteta or Flamini. This got worse after Arteta’s dismissal.

c) Not shifting the line up the pitch, when we were in possession, this is maybe where Arteta’s weakness as a defensive midfielder highlights Flamini’s strength. Flamini was imploring his teammates to move forward with him to press Napoli higher up the pitch, with Arteta refusing to budge from a position ten yards in front of the centre halfs there were large gaps for Napoli to play in and leaving us defending our eighteen yard box.

Back to the game, Napoli got their breakthrough with 70 minutes on the clock, Higuain fed too easily inside the box and allowed to turn and shoot in one motion and he found the bottom corner.

Arteta effectively took away any chance of an equaliser by earning himself a second yellow card, admittedly Callejon earned a row of 10′s for the triple summersault tucked salko that followed marginal contact, but I would expect Arteta to know better, I sometimes suspect he thinks the captains armband exempts him from soft yellow cards.

Meanwhile Szczesny was doing his best to waste time at every opportunity, despite Arsene’s protestations from the sideline for him to “Play”. I was glad I saw Arsene doing that because it tells us who was responsible for the mentality shown on the pitch. More work to be done by Arsene on instilling the philosophy.

Most surprising that down to ten men and a goal down Napoli didn’t go for the jugular, they had one guaranteed way to progress, win by three, but they played it around at the back content to win 1-0 and hope Marseille could hold out.

As news filtered through that Dortmund were ahead Napoli pressed as hard as they could and found a second goal with a minute of injury time to play, Jenkinson allowing a pass round his body and Mertesacker outpaced in behind, Szczesny advancing on a bouncing ball all conspired to give Napoli the slimmest of hopes.

Thankfully the referee feeling guilty for his part in the last twenty minutes called a halt to the game within seconds of the restart.

Through to the knockout stages…again, but second in the group, at the end of the day you have to beat good teams to win this competition, if we think we can win the tournament, an easy tie in the first knockout makes no difference, if we think we can’t win it surely better to be done and dusted early?

More important is the trip to Manchester on Saturday lunchtime, rest those legs and figure out how we are going to set about them. I predict a few changes across the midfield and perhaps a run out for Theo.

Written by Gooner in Exile


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