Arsenal’s next Captain

July 15, 2014

The other day LB wrote an interesting post entitled “Is Thomas Vermaelen still needed? This led me to think about the player as a captain and conversely the captain as a player.

Before looking at individuals in those roles I got to thinking just what should we look for in a Club Captain, note the capital letters, in my opinion the Club Captain is equally as important as The Manager, The Chief Executive or The Owner.

So the candidate should be of sufficient stature, not just in a physical sense, but in the status he holds in the game as a whole. To attain the necessary status he must have been around a while, he must be a good enough player to command a starting place in the club’s first team and preferably in his National side as well. He should also have earned the respect of not only his own team but also opposing players and particularly the on pitch officials. Needless to say he must also be media savvy, articulate and able to offer rational answers to irrational questions at times of both elation and disappointment in post match interviews for example.

tony adams

Looking back, I can recall Frank McLintock, sleeves rolled up barking out orders to players, organising his defence at corners and free kicks and generally running things on the pitch. Similarly with Tony Adams and of course Patrick Vieira. Arguably the best Captain I ever saw was the incomparable Bobby Moore, calm authoritative and respected throughout football.

Latterly the armband has been a bit of a poisoned chalice, not only at Arsenal but also at international level with England. Fabregas and van Persie were appointed only to depart shortly after, Vermaelen suffered both a shocking loss of form and a series of injuries and could soon follow the other two out of the club and there are rumours that Arteta could also go if someone of the stature of Khedira or Bender are signed. In the England team the captaincy has, disgracefully, been swapped around more times than at a kid’s game of pass the parcel.

At the moment it appears to me that should Vermaelen leave, the only rational candidate would be Per Mertesacker, but for how much longer can he command that starting place in the team? Longer term we can all hope and expect the appointment of Jack Wilshire, but will it happen?

What are your views on both the Captain’s role as, should it be largely ceremonial, tossing the coin, handing over a little pennant and posing for a snap with the officials or, as the Manager’s voice on the pitch and the players representative off it. Surely there must come a time when a stop is put to the absurd situation of referees being mobbed by a group of angry players, then only the Captain should be allowed to approach the officials, and that will require a calm sensible approach, one more attribute needed for the job.

Who should our next Captain be?

Written by Norfolk Gooner

 


Koscielny is Key

July 2, 2014

Watching the World Cup and our players representing their countries it is possible to view their performances without the bias of an Arsenal match.  I would like to highlight our central defenders.

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Having enjoyed the Germany/ Algeria game it became apparent that Mertesacker was being focussed upon by the Algerian midfield. They chose to send long balls onto a forward who was as close to Per as possible. Why? Because Per has excellent vision and pitch awareness, he knows where to snuff out danger and how to make the best of his talents, but what he doesn’t have is pace. My grandmother with bricks on her feet has more pace – even I am fleeter of foot. In the first half in particular the Algerians attacked this weakness. The German response was to use the goalkeeper Neuer as a sweeper – not the most secure defensive tactic!

Germany use Merts as the distributor from the back and as such he is always the last man and it repeatedly caused Germany problems. He does the same at Arsenal but for us he doesn’t appear to be such a liability – why?

Let’s look at France’s defensive set-up. Two attacking wingers, the best (? RM think so) young centre back in world football and Koscielny. What has become clear is just how reliant France are upon Kos’s awareness and pace. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Varane may well become a brilliant player but right now he is being educated by his centre back partner. It was good fortune for France that Sakho was injured and Deschamps was forced to play Kos whom the French blamed for the loss in their first game against Ukraine in the WC play-offs.

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Kos is two-footed according to Sagna (and he should know), he has a prodigious leap, is tactically aware but above all is is quick – very quick. Arsene bought him for €9m and after a problematic opening season he has developed into a key player at Arsenal. When he is missing even a fine defender like Vermaelen cannot fully replace him.

Which brings me to this. To be successful one has to have a proper CB partnership – we have one of the finest. Per and Laurent complement each other. They have different skills – Kos is a better tackler, Merts is better in the air, Kos is better with the ball at hois feet and running into midfield, Merts is better at distribution out of defence.

The fact of the matter is that Mertesacker is a better player when Koscielny is by his side and vice versa.

There isn’t a better CB partnership in the World Cup than Arsenal have at the Emirates – we should be proud.

Written by Big Raddy


Arsenal to appoint a new captain

June 18, 2014

Arsène Wenger is reported to be ready to appoint a new club captain. With the departure of the present incumbent, Thomas Vermaelen, looking ever more certain the position needs to be filled. Thomas has apparently agreed terms with Man U, although so far no negotiations over a fee have taken place.

What should we be looking for in a captain? Well first off he must be an established and regular starter. He needs to command the respect of the players as well as the fans and he must have sufficient standing within the game to be able to communicate calmly with the on-pitch officials.

The two most influential captains that Arsenal have had in their long history have been Tony Adams and Patrick Vierra and so in my personal opinion any candidate would ideally be a centre-back or defensive mid-fielder and thus be in a position to see the whole game.

Our current vice captain, Mikel Arteta is an obvious candidate but as the appointment must be a long term one he perhaps is ruled out.

So I guess what I am saying is that it comes down to just two possibilities, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Koscielny is a fine player and would make an equally fine captain but overall I’d go for Mertesacker for his general calmness and the stability that he has brought to the team.

I know that a good number of people will be calling for Jack Wilshire to be given the job but as yet he can’t command a regular starting position, although in time I expect him to become our captain and to hold the post for many seasons to come.

Written by Norfolk Gooner

 


Ramsey’s 15th and Jenkinson’s 1st – match review

May 12, 2014

Many called this game a dead rubber but most were thinking first and foremost who would start and more importantly how to avoid injuries while keeping up the momentum of four successive wins in preparation for the Cup Final.

We weren’t disappointed. We started the first half in quite a cautious fashion and Ruddy made a couple of excellent saves, although I thought Giroud should have scored around the 32nd minute. Having said that, I thought he had a very solid game. Giroud has been improving as the season drew to it’s conclusion and the deadlock was broken when he lofted a beautiful ball for Ramsey to volley home.

What a player we have in Aaron Ramsey and one wonders how much nearer we would have been  to the title if he had remained fit all season.

Jenkinson settled the match with his first goal for the club and his facial expression on scoring will live long in the memory.

All in all the whole team did just enough that was required though I thought Ozil had a very quiet game. Maybe he is saving himself for next week.

With Fabianski starting one could presume that he was given his last game today and our Number 1 will be in goal at Wembley.

One can never second guess Wenger even after nearly two decades and when he said afterwards

if you look at our overall season I think we need to focus first of all in keeping everyone together” and when asked about possible transfers in the Summer he said “World Cup transfer markets start after the World Cup, usually.”

We will see if those words run true.

Those who read my comments know I am a great Sagna fan and yet again he didn’t let us down playing with Koscielny in central defence, regardless that it was against Norwich, so keeping everyone together by the boss was an interesting comment.

To see Diaby back after a full fourteen months was greeted with loud applause from our fantastic away fans and he even applauded them as he came on.

Jack had a cameo and it was hard to tell if he is absolutely fit, though not spectecular,  it was good to see him come on and by all accounts we will have The Ox back midweek, so it will be really interesting as to who lines up for The FACup Final.

Finally Wenger said he would still be here next season. I just wish  he looked a little happier.His post match interview was very low key or even sombre and subdued, which frankly, surprised me.

kelsey

 

 

 

 


Just two minutes of Magic and Mozart Composes another beauty.

March 17, 2014

North London Derbies are always that little bit special and with the tightest race for years as to who will eventually become Champions, together with the implosion of United and the resurgence of Liverpool and of course not forgetting the two big mega bucks clubs, this was a game we just had to win.

Within under two minutes the ever enthusiastic Oxlade Chamberlain set up Rosicky to what can only be described as a wonder goal, if not our best long range shot of the season.

We were ecstatic and yet not for the first time, instead of taking advantage of the early lead, we handed possession to Spurs and apart from Oxlade Chamberlain missing a sitter or passing to Podolski we retreated further and further back and left Giroud as a lone attacker. For the rest of the match he was largely nullified except on the few occasions he was brought into play.

Alex v spuds

This is a dramatic change of tactics by Wenger as we have been always an attacking team with neat fluid passes which more often or not produced pleasing football to the eye and invariably some spectacular goals. A better team may well have punished us. Spurs huffed and puffed had 60% of the possession but in all honestly only mustered one or two half chances

It’s a dangerous tactic to employ especially with practically the whole game to play after the early lead. Having said that Mertesacker and Koscielny were outstanding, is there a finer defensive partnership in the League ?

kos per and olly

We have several players still out and perhaps the after effects of the Bayern game took the edge from our overall performance but the need for support for Giroud with a world class striker really became apparent in this game.

Three points in the bag though. I wouldn’t say we won ugly and we certainly weren’t at our best but a massive improvement is needed next weekend against what I consider our hardest game in the run in, or so my crystal balls tell me :)

I have to give Rosicky Man of the match purely for the reason that his goal won us the game. Koscielny a close second and The Ox for his never ending drive and directness always looking for goal.

Finally a word on Szczesny. Allowing for the fact he had missed the last two games and made a fairly straightforward save, twice in a minute he dropped a cross, once he was fouled but on the other occasion he got lucky and if you look carefully was flapping and nearly brought Adebayor down, which could have resulted in a penalty. He is by no means the finished article and I still maintain he needs competition for his place.

Players after spud victory

Written by kelsey


What do you think of Tottenham?

March 16, 2014

Easy answer to that question :-D

Thing is, as my nephew keeps telling me – Spurs are having a very good season (by their standards) – and that should they win today they will be just 3 points behind with us facing a death cluster. My reply  ….  Always in our Shadow.

Kaboul gets sent off for a dubious red giving away a penalty – his card is rescinded. Koscielny does the same – banned for a game. FA bias? As if!

Injuries could have some effect upon the result. Spurs are without Dawson which is a huge blow to the Arsenal. The man is hapless and a secret agent paid by Mr Gazidis. So far he has done well, let us wish him a speedy recovery.

Spurs have looked Up North for inspiration as they attempt (yet again) to break into the Top 4. They could have based their plans upon Man City or Liverpool and develop an attacking , fluent style of football. They didn’t. They chose to “ape” the playing style of Stoke! With £100m to spend they bought Orcs.

The skilful Lamela, who is Spurs record signing, hasn’t had a sniff of the first team, instead they have 7 players over 6 ft. all of whom are trained in the Dark Arts.  The long-suffering Spurs fans put all their faith in a 21 y.o Dane because he is the only one who can use the ball on the ground. Take out Eriksen’s free-kicks and there isn’t much else in terms of ball skills.

Unknown

Adebayor. When he plays against other teams he really amuses me in his haplessness, unfortunately he seems to excel against us and we must hope he will have a quiet game today.

Having been thrashed by a fine Benfica team they will be refreshed today. I can only assume they played with today’s match in mind because Spurs were pants.

Tim Sherwood: Can you imagine such a knob as our manager? The man has passion – I will give him that, and a huge desire for Spurs to do well. My wife has the same and also has the same level of team management experience. How could Levi give this fellow the job? Was it a money-saving exercise? That said, Sherwood’s record is no better or worse than previous Spurs managers because you could employ Noddy or one of the Teletubbies as Spurs manager and they would do just as well.

Arsenal: I am saddened that Ozil will not have another chance to silence his critics today, instead we have another opportunity to show just how deep the squad is (or isn’t). A midfield of Ox, Santi, Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta is still strong and the decision to load the squad with mid-fielders has proven to be sensible. In the past when we lost, for example, Cesc, we were at a loss, now we have options.

At this point can we all laugh at Chelsea!! :-D

Monreal will be a key player today as Spurs will probably look to hit on the break through the pace of Lemon and Ade. The midfield battle will be just that, Spurs have monsters and they like to “put it about”, if Sandro plays the match-up with Flamini will be exciting.

This is a day for The Ox. He plays well, we win. For this reason I expect Sherwood to tell his team to target our young maestro, expect to see rotational fouling – which has become the norm – and we must hope for a strong and fair referee. In recent times we have suffered from homer after homer; watch the BM game and see dreadfully biased refereeing. Watch the Stoke game – see JW get horribly kicked throughout the first 30 minutes and then see a highly dubious penalty given by yet another homer ref. It must be so frustrating for Mr. Wenger.

My Team:

sp v a

I hope we shall see the wing play of Gnabry at some point or the power of Podolski

Tottenham: Regular readers will be used to my rambling on the origins of the city in which we play. To find the origins of Tottenham we have to go back to the 11thC. This was the time of the Battle of Hastings and King Canute and Harald. A Royal edict was written which proclaimed  that London (Londinium) was becoming unhealthy thanks to the cramped living conditions in the city. Under this Decree  the Nightmen had to take their wares to an area of flatland by the River Lea. A Nightmen’s job was to clean the streets of the night’s “refuse” which was thrown out the windows into the streets. This unpleasant mess was taken by barge down the river and over time the excrement and rotting vegetation developed into a slimy ooze. The area was avoided by sane people and yet there were some drooling, bewildered unfortunates who made this stinking morass their home. Originally known as Shittingham it was re-named Tottenham during the late 19th century.

Big game today – always is. Take 3 points today and we close the gap at the top.

Let it be so….

COYRRG

Written by BigRaddy


The centre-back conundrum that nobody mentions….

January 11, 2014
Since the beginning of the season, Arsenal has been solid defensively in most games (the game against Man City, remaining one important exception) as the team has learned to defend as a block but has also benefited from the strong defensive display of the “Per-Kos” pair and the discipline and dirty work carried out by Flamini and/or Arteta.
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However, Flamini, Metersacker and Koscielny are very much prone to injuries (all three of them!) and/or suspensions (esp. Kos and Flamini). With everybody calling our for a new striker or forward to enhance our bid for our first EPL title in a decade, one should not overlook the importance of having quality defensive players at our disposal…
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If Flamini can be somehow replaced by the likes of Arteta and even by Ramsey/Wilshere/Rosicky on occasion (Will Diaby ever get fit again?), it seems that at the moment, we are a bit short at the centre-back position. Vermaelen is not the “Verminator” anymore and although he is hard-working and committed, his injury and error-prone records in the past two years does not really make him a “truly reliable” back-up. As a result and since our team’s good form this season has been strongly based on our defensive strength, wouldn’t it make sense to (also?) look into purchasing a quality centre-back to give reliable back-up to the “Per-Kos” pair?
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If so, which players could be approached?
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Written by RC78

Can I have some more, please. Cardiff again.

January 1, 2014

A long night’s partying means that the opportunity of lying supine on the couch and enjoying an afternoon’s football is very attractive, an Arsenal victory would make it doubly so. Given the condition of the man writing this post it will be short and to the point …

What stands between us and 3 points? A host of injuries, a stubborn Cardiff side and  ….. well, nothing really, we should beat a managerless team who are in disarray. We beat Cardiff just a few weeks ago with another superb display from Ramsey but little can be predicted as Cardiff will be playing a very different Arsenal.

I watched the recent Cardiff vs Sunderland game and Cardiff for most of the game were strong and well-organised; expect the same today.

A domestic dialogue from earlier this morning …..

“BR: I am really interested in seeing our B team

Mrs BR: Oh, come on Big Raddy, you know that isn’t strictly true – a B team doesn’t have BFG etc in it.

BR: You don’t understand, Ozil, Ramsey, and a host of others are crocked.

Mrs. BR: Doesn’t that give the excellent squad members a chance to shine? You may even see that little fellow Gnabry whom you speak of so often. And  I will have a chance to see my mad countryman Big Nik start a game.

BR: Exactly, doesn’t fill me with confidence. Hopefully Podolski will score a brace and Santi will return to scoring ways.

Mrs BR. See, you are already feeling more confident as our “B Team” is still made up of 11 internationals who have easily enough talent and experience to beat a team likely to be relegated.

BR: You are right as always , my Dearest.”

My Team (assuming the injury rumours are true):

arse v cardiff

The bench should be interesting!!

2013 was an excellent year in the development of this team, in particular it was a good year for Mr Wenger who once again has shown himself to be a manager of the very highest order. Hard to believe that he has worked as AFC manager for longer than all the other PL managers have managed their teams added together. We have been blessed.

It was another trophy-less year (though in any just world there would be a trophy for the  team which wins the PL in the calendar year :-)  ) and many will say we have once again not achieved anything solid, but I beg to differ, we have seen some outstanding football, lots of goals, the founding of an excellent defence and the development of real world class talents; much is made of Ramsey’s improvement but what of Cazorla, Gibbs, Koscielny and BFG?

My personal year highlight has been sharing many hours with my friends on Arsenal Arsenal. Thank you all (except the troll)

Happy New Year

written by Big Raddy


Slog On The Tyne: Arsenal Report and Player Ratings.

December 30, 2013

So we enter 2014 as the star on top of the Premier League Christmas tree.

Will we still be there at the end of May? Who knows, but if we are it will be thanks – in large part – to grinding out difficult wins like yesterday’s at Newcastle.

Toon have been one of the EPL’s form teams in recent weeks so going up there three days after playing another away fixture and coming home with all three points should not be underestimated. Coming away with the win was hard slog indeed and made a fitting end to a year in which we have been the best team in the country, bar none.

If the league title was played from January to December, we would be Champions.

There were a number of reasons to be concerned before the kick-off yesterday: injuries or illness to Ramsey, Ozil, Monreal and Vermaelen had severely reduced the manager’s options; Olivier Giroud was on a long non-scoring run and the referee – Lee Probert – has previously shown himself blind to fouls committed on Arsenal players.

Nevertheless we started brightly, moving the ball well and finding our players at close range for little give-and-gos.

Unfortunately whenever our moves reached the point where we could hurt the opposition we chose precisely that moment to misplace a pass, miscontrol the ball or chose the wrong option entirely.

Even superb technicians like Santi Cazorla were found wanting.

To a degree we seem, as a team and a squad, to be slightly off our game at the moment (perhaps the result of mental and physical fatigue from a recent unhelpful schedule that might have been devised specifically to harm our prospects).

Newcastle, to their credit, worked hard to deny us space and to ‘get in our faces’. They are a big, physical team with some talented players and it was easy to see how they have been getting good results. I noticed before the game that several of the “experts” were tipping this game as a good bet for a home win.

Newcastle were set up pretty defensively against us so it was no surprise that Theo Walcott, in particular, had little space to exploit.

Referee Probert, true to form, was letting quite a few clear fouls on Arsenal players go unpunished but, in fairness, he also overlooked several fouls by our players. However, for the second game running there was an off-the-ground jumping tackle on one of our players (Williamson on Giroud) that went completely unpunished when, at the very least, a yellow card was merited. It seems like it will take another leg break before we start getting protection from this sort of recklessness.

In the first half we managed to get off a few shots from medium distance, but the ball was magnetically drawn to Tim Krul’s midriff on each occasion.

Newcastle came on strong in the last couple of minutes before the break, forcing a fine save from Szcesny from a long distance effort and hitting the crossbar with a speculative lob.

Half time 0-0.

The second half continued much like the first with Arsenal having the majority of possession and looking like the better team, without fashioning clear goal scoring opportunities.

Newcastle were most dangerous down our left flank where Gibbs was often up against two players because Cazorla had been pulled infield.

But the real battle was in central midfield – a place where Newcastle have been particularly strong and combative this year

Tomas Rosicky and Matthieu Flamini were our stand-out performers, constantly breaking up Toon moves, winning tackles and keeping the ball moving when we were in possession. Rosicky also looked the most likely to provide a breakthrough going forward.

Jack Wilshere also had a very combative game. He has a tendency to turn into trouble and over-elaborate on occasion but I thought this was a much better performance from him than in recent outings. His overall pass success rate was 83% – but it was 100% in our defensive third of the field, 90% in the middle third and 67% in the attacking third, where he was trying lower percentage options. Defensively, he won two third of his tackles. He has also been reading Arsenal Arsenal I reckon, because his body language was much better and he (mostly) got straight back up after being fouled/falling over.

The breakthrough, when it finally came, was from our handsome, non-scoring French centre forward.

Not much had been working for Olivier Giroud (a lot of his lay-offs went to black-and-white shirts) but, as ever, he laboured tirelessly for the team, taking his usual quota of knocks into the bargain.

But when Theo Walcott floated a beautifully weighted free kick into the box, Ollie got a slight contact with his head – just enough to guide the ball past Krul’s left hand.

og

What a pleasure it was to hear “one nil to the Arsenal” ringing around St James’s Park. It goes without saying that our away fans were fantastic (and were just a fraction louder than usual, thanks to the presence of Chas and Ant).

Soon afterwards we almost made it 2-0, when Theo managed to get a toe-end on a through ball which then rebounded back to him off Krul. Theo’s second stab at it – a little lob – was goal bound but was headed onto the crossbar and out by an alert Toon defender. The ball then came to Giroud on our right of the six yard box for a gilt-edged chance to at least threaten the net. Sadly Ollie showed why many people still have doubts about him as a finisher, shanking the ball away from goal. In comments yesterday Rasp put this down to his lack of a decent right foot.

Gibbs was removed with an injury and Flamini moved to left back, while Arteta slotted into midfield.

Then came perhaps the hottest debating point of the game. With about 15 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger opted to go completely on the defensive, taking off Walcott, putting Carl Jenkinson at right back and moving Sagna into the middle to give us three centre backs. In post game interviews he said this was because the team was looking tired and he thought it better to close out the game. He even referenced mistakes from previous seasons where we had let in goals late on through not being defensive enough.

According to some who commented yesterday it was tactically astute and enabled us to cope with the extra forward players that Alan Pardew (Arsene, Arsene knock him out, Asrene, knock him out) had thrown on to try and salvage a point.

To me it seemed crazy. It led to a final quarter of an hour that made The Alamo seem like a pyjama party as we basically said to Newcastle: “OK, you have the freedom of the park to bombard our goal.”

There were numerous Toon crosses into dangerous areas; countless heart-in-mouth moments as the ball bounced around our penalty area; last ditch clearances and headers; frantic hoof-outs from the back.

We failed to control the ball for more than 10 seconds at a time and were, in my opinion, slightly fortunate not to have conceded.

Meanwhile with Walcott off and a ponderous Giroud up front, there was never any chance of countering with speed.

The one real counter-attacking opportunity came when Tim Krul came up for a Newcastle corner. We cleared the ball and got a throw-in in their half. Krul was desperately legging it back up the field. All it needed was a quick throw-in from Jenkinson to the screaming Bendtner (who was on for Giroud) and Bendy would have had an open goal to aim at (albeit from about 40 yards out).

Unfortunately young Carl had been possessed by the Eboue fairies and as he diddled and dawdled the chance went begging.

The final whistle, when it came, was a huge relief.

In summary, we deserved the three points for being the better team for 75 minutes, but boy did we make it tough on ourselves at the end.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: one great save from a long range shot; some fine work as we were under siege at the end… but there were a couple of howlers from our young Pole in this game. Following his gift to Carlton Cole a few days earlier I hope the carelessness of last season is not creeping back into his game because he has been fantastic so far. 6

Sagna: very solid defensively and offered plenty going forward: 7

Mertesacker: thank Dennis for the BFG. We really needed his calm head and composure in this game and he was excellent during the final onslaught. 7.5

Koscielny: back in the side and back to his best – which he needed to be at times. 7.5

Gibbs: had real problems in the first half because Cazorla was caught inside and the Toon fullback kept making overlapping runs. Overall though he was as solid as we have come to expect and contributed to our attack when he could. 7

Flamini: a very good game from the Frenchman, tackling hard, covering brilliantly at times and doing well when forced to move to left back after Gibbs’s injury. His pass success was an outstanding 95%. 7

Wilshere: better than in recent outings. His defensive work was solid but he still has a tendency to run or pass into trouble at times. 6

Cazorla: some good moments from the wee Spaniard, but too often his touch was off where it really mattered – in and around the opposition penalty area. 6

Rosicky: all action from start to finish and our stand-out performer. Without Tomas it’s unlikely we would be coming home with three points. 8

Walcott: Newcastle’s approach to the game meant there was little or no chance to exploit his pace. But he made the goal with a beautiful free kick and was very unlucky not to have scored. 7

Giroud: was having one of those games until he scored. You can’t fault his effort, but he will still need to do more to convince some people that we don’t need an extra striker in the January window. He gets an extra point because of the goal. 7

Substitutes

Arteta: seemed a bit off the pace. 6

Jenkinson: aside from falling asleep when he could have given Bendtner a chance at an empty net, he did his defensive work well. 6

Bendtner: did all he could for the short while he was on. 6

RockyLives


Character, Desire and Strategy: Symphony drowns Heavy Metal!

November 7, 2013

Notwithstanding the fantastic results that Arsenal have been producing most weeks and in midweek games since the beginning of the year, and the consistency with which the team have been turning whinging disbelievers and useless pundits into muppets, if there was ever a moment when the good guys proudly donning their red and whites on the field had to prove a point, this was it.

Playing away from home at the home of the formidable Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund, having succumbed to the ignominy of an embarrassing loss to the same club at The Home of Football, and knowing that their dreams of progressing from the Group of Death lay in their own hands (erm, feet and heads), this was the moment of destiny.

Would they remain a bunch of kids led by a handful of immature generals trying to play a game meant for men, or would they show the strength of character, desire and strategy that separates the sublime from the ordinary? On a rain-drenched evening in Dortmund, in front of formidable opposition and a vociferous crowd, they fought valiantly with heart and mind to achieve a memorable victory that dreams are made of.

The stage for the show was set up well. The set was immaculately chosen in advance, and the background music was perfect for the occasion – perhaps the tune of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. At the disappointing loss at home to Dortmund a fortnight earlier, Arsène Wenger, a man known for his economy of words and measured temperament, rather uncharacteristically chose to criticise the team in public for their alleged ‘naivety’. Adding salt to injury, Jurgen Klopp, the respected Dortmund manager tried to take the art of mind games to the level of Symphony Fantastique.

“[Wenger] likes having the ball, playing football, passes” he said,”It’s like an orchestra, but it’s a silent song, yeah? And I like Heavy Metal more. I always want it loud! I want to have this: ‘BOOM!’ “.

It was time for the true mettle to shine through the din of Heavy Metal, and it did! The good guys of Arsenal fought their heart out, played with their minds sharp, and manufactured a fantastic away win!

It was a very tough test against the skill, aggression and hard work put in by a truly fantastic team, Borussia Dortmund, and in front of their home crowd as well. On the night, the entire team was fantastic. In the first half, both teams played a measured game, Arsenal sitting deep in defiant defence, and Dortmund piling on attacks without creating that many chances. Mkhitaryan squandered the best chance curling his shot wide of the post, but that apart, the central defence of Mertesacker and Koscielny nullified every chance that Dortmund created, with the able support of Sagna and Gibbs.

Arteta and Rosicky worked tirelessly to organise the midfield, and together with Ramsey, Santi and Özil maintained the threat of counter attacks. Giroud was left a bit isolated up front, but it was really that kind of a game. For me, our attacking threat in the first half was captured in the one occasion when Özil beautifully controlled a pass at the top of the Dortmund box, made the turn towards goal, but the moment the ball was pushed less than a foot forward, along came two defenders to snatch it away. Such was the tireless industry of the Dortmund defence, it was a treat to watch and admire! Anyway, the half ended a relatively event-less all-square.

There was all to play for in the second 45. But along came Dortmund with renewed vigour, and piled on attack upon attack. Most of these were repelled by the resolute Arsenal defence led by the fantastic Mert-Kos duo. For a nervous few minutes, the relentless pressure appeared to work. The nightmares of the Emirates appeared close. Once, Reus got through unmarked, and just a few minutes later Blaszczykowski had a low shot on goal. On both occasions, Szczęsny brought off fantastic saves. And that was it. No more serious attempts on the Arsenal goal followed.

Aaron Ramsey

Instead, it was a moment of magic at the other end. Rosicky, an ex-Dortmund player, latched on to a ball at the left flank and tried to move towards the centre, lost the ball, won it back and spread it wide to the right. Özil held on to it and sent a cross into the box, Giroud towered above his marker and used all his strength to nod the ball back towards the centre, and Ramsey lurked in with a great heart and headed the ball home almost right from the Subotic’s raised boot.

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The goal opened the floodgates somewhat, no not from Dortmund attacks, but Arsenal’s threats on goal. From a Giroud cross, Ramsey forced Weidenfeller into a smart save. From a Santi corner, Giroud saw a shot somehow cleared off the line. Per came along into attack with great vigour and came close to scoring twice, the second time sending a loopy header to the top of the net.

The mighty Dortmund, worthy finalists of last year’s Champions League, undefeated in the Bundesliga so far this season, did not know what hit them. Perhaps they were not used to losing. They were completely rattled and disheveled. Apart from a muffled attempt from Reus, they offered hardly any threat. The 11 brave men of Arsenal defended resolutely and saw the game through.

In the middle of all this, one man stood tall in midfield, led from the front, and for me captured like no other player the spirit that Arsenal stood for. It was Mikel Arteta. He manned the centre of the field like a fighter, defending and winning balls throughout the 90 minutes, earned a yellow card for his troubles, somewhat unfairly, for tugging Blaszczykowski’s shirt, and came disastrously close to a second as well. But he kept fighting. At the other end, Reus tugged back Rosicky but was not booked, and neither was there a penalty for bundling valiant Kos over. Injustices galore. But the brave and good guys stood tall amongst the ruins, and came out valiant winners. What a night of Champions League football! Lucky Micky and Raddy who represented AA in the ground!

How did we manage to win this game against all odds? Hard work, perhaps even more than skill, but what was most important was strategy. The strategy of sitting back and defending resolutely, the strategy of going all out in counter attack, but only when the opposition had got somewhat tired and demoralised, and most importantly the strategy of knowing how to get the best efforts out of the players. Going even to the extreme of publicly criticising the team for naivety. In a game characterised by character, desire and strategy, STRATEGY came out tops for me. In a game between symphony and Heavy Metal, the mettle displayed by the team was beautiful SYMPHONY. In a game of strategy between two great managers, Arsene Wenger came out on top! Arsène Wenger is my Man of the Match!
Arsene
Every player did his bit on the night. Here are some tentative scores.

Szczesny: 8 Had little to do on the night, except to make two fantastic saves. And they were crucial.

Sagna: 7 Measured performance in defence and attack. 

Mertesacker: Excelled at the heart of defence, went out in counter attack, almost scored as well. What a performance! 

Koscielny: Fantastic in defence, great combination with Mert, played with a big heart.

 Gibbs 7 Measured performance focusing on defence, cricial interventions when Mert and Kos had moved up and Dortmund attacked on the counter.

Arteta: 9 A true leader on the day, leading from the front. Valiently marshalled the midfield all evening. Outstanding.

Ramsey: 9 What can you say! The “Welsh Messi” Aaron Ramsey did what he does best – deliver the sucker punch.

Cazorla: 7 Good, solid, if somewhat underwhelming performance on the night.

Ozil: 8 Good performance, great cross that led to the goal.

Rosicky: 8 Fantastic performance. Together with Arteta, maintained the midfield, fighting for every ball, moving forward on every occasion possible.

Giroud: 7Assist for the goal, tireless performance as the lone striker, holding up, running tirelessly after the ball. Almost scored as well.

Arsene Wenger: 10 Le Manager, what fantastic strategy, what a man, what a team. This performance was surely for him.

Monreal: 7 Came on 75 mins for Santi, reliable as ever.

Vermaelen: No time to make an impact.

Bendtner: No time to make an impact, but ran after the ball continuously for the 5 mins he was on.

Written by arnie

Our on the spot photographers have provided these pics of a view from the away end:

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