Get off Mertesacker’s back

March 6, 2015

I am fed up with people looking at Mertesacker as the man responsible for all Arsenal’s defensive woes. I am also bored by the continual moaning about BFG’s lack of leadership on the pitch.

Let’s start with his defensive ability. Someone recently wrote on the blog that BFG may have over 100 caps for Germany and is a World Cup winner but that does not make him a quality centre back. What complete and utter tosh. He has pedigree, a pedigree that few players in the world have.

Perhaps it is his age which has turned some fans against him,  BFG is just 30, Tony Adams was 35 when he captained us to the 2002 double. This season Koscielny has been a shadow of the player we know he can be, he has made many mistakes both is judgement and in ball-play. No-one suggests that he is over the hill yet he is only 12 months younger than BFG.

Some talk about his lack of pace and let’s be honest he is hardly a speedster but neither was TA nor Steve Bould or David O’Leary or for that matter the man who is considered the best CB in the PL, John Terry. What all these men had/have in common was an ability to see and assess danger then act accordingly, BFG has that skill, though it must be said he does make the occasional error as witnessed last Weds.


To have a secure defence requires a settled and regular back line – we haven’t had that for some time. All our defenders have succumbed to long-term injury since BFG signed so there has not been the chance to establish an automatic understanding. This season BFG has had to settle Bellerin and Debuchy into the team as well as Chambers and Gabriel. Plus he has been forced to “enjoy” a CB partnership with Monreal.  Is it any wonder the man is tired?

Leadership: What is that? Is it screaming at players to keep in position? Is it inspiring by one’s own performance? I think it is a natural quality – either you have it or you don’t. BFG doesn’t – very few do. Why blame him for lacking something no-one in the squad seems to have AND he is only captain because Arteta is out.

Should Gabriel take his place this season? Of course not. Gabriel has had less than 2 games for us against poor opposition and has been fortunate not to concede goals to stupid mistakes. I am sure he will become a fine CB at Arsenal but right now he is a fine back up, nothing more.

I see Mertesacker’s difficulties in recent weeks as exhaustion. Unlike Ozil and the other WC players BFG has had no rest, he has carried the defence without pause. He deserves plaudits not criticism.

Leave our Big Friendly German alone. (Peaches Mother Rule!)

written by Big Raddy


Monaco: Match report and Player Ratings

February 26, 2015

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.

Player Ratings:

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


Paulista on his way?

January 24, 2015

Dredging through Newsnow and the newspapers it seems that there is a strong likelihood that the Brazilian is coming.

Paulista is not in the Villarreal squad which is a good sign.

Apparently so is Kevin Grosskreutz from Borussia Dortmund. A 26 y.o. defender who can play any position across the back-line and is available for €5m which in today’s insane transfer fees is just a pile of M & M’s.

Let’s assume both these chaps arrive, what then? What about the development of Calum Chambers who hasn’t played for months and needs games to fulfil his undoubted potential?

What of BFG? Is he to be a bench-warmer? I know the man is creaking but who wouldn’t after having played virtually every minute of the season. Merts is not ready for his free bus-pass – the man is only just 30 and has at least 3 good years in him.

My guess is that one of the stories is nonsense – probably the Grosskreutz transfer. After all BD are still in the CL so why sell him now? Plus, as I said, Chambers is going to be the nuts

And why haven’t we seen any rumours about our inevitable capture of Cavani? The man has Arsenal in his blood and is desperate to sign for us. The non-appearance of this story is another of the masterful Wenger smoke-screens :-D

written by Big Raddy

Do we need a Centre Back or a Defensive Midfielder? Vote.

December 31, 2014

To CB or DM, that is the question?

We are rapidly approaching the January transfer window and let’s be honest we are aquiver with excitement (slight exaggeration!) We have a gaping hole in our squad and AW is sure to fill it, but how?

CB: Do we need another centre back? With Monreal, Debuchy and Chambers all able to understudy BFG and Koscielny, is another CB essential? Will we be able to attract a young player to sit on the bench or will the new chap take over BFG’s starting role? There are fears that Kos will leave in summer, I have not heard anything which convinces me he is Barca-bound but who knows? If he is then a big money signing is a must – Hummels or someone of his standing will be the order of the day. BFG has played almost every game this season and he needs a break – is it any wonder his form has suffered, but perhaps his loss of form is permanent as the Big Man becomes even slower.

But if they both stay and we buy someone who will be benched? My gut reaction is neither as we will try to continue with the personnel already at the club.

DM: Flamini’s contract is for 18 more months, Arteta is starting to creak and is prone to muscle injuries – his absences are costly as Flamster, despite his energy and commitment, is simply not good enough. We need to sign someone who can play DM and at a push CB. But they are much in demand and expensive. Carvalho – the flavour of the month – is valued at over €25m and the only time I have seen him the man was anonymous. However, we are in need of a direct replacement for Arteta or are we? Can Ramsey, Wilshere or Ox or even Chambers play the role?

What do you think?

Written by Big Raddy

Could This Be Mertesacker’s Last Season As First Choice Centreback?

December 23, 2014

I like Per. He’s a great guy. He always leads the players around the pitch to applaud the supporters after games.

I never bought into the ‘he’s too slow’ argument because his reading of the game and his very effective partnership with Koscielny where they complimented one another’s play was really good for the first couple of seasons.

But lately (and without Koscielny by his side) he has worried me. He has been outshone by rookie stand-in CB’s in the shape of Monreal and Debuchy. He has not shown the on-pitch leadership I would expect from a player of his experience. A player of his stature should have been captain, but Arsene chose Arteta over an International footballer and world cup winner – why?

Chambers has come on the scene and everyone is tipping him as a future CB. But he’s only 19 and we have seen errors and too many cards creep into his game recently. That’s only to be expected from a young player. I know he is a star of the future but I don’t think he is ready to be a first choice CB at a club like Arsenal yet.

So what do you think. Can Mertesacker carry on as a first choice CB? Should Chambers replace him? … or should we be looking to recruit a top class CB in the summer?

For me it’s thanks but TTFN BFG.

A plea to Arsene … if you do buy another CB, please can he not be so nice ….. a mean b%$&^£d is what we need :?



The underdogs fight back.

August 24, 2014

This was never going to be an easy game and many Arsenal fans would have been happy to take a draw before the game started. But not me. I wanted a win. Yet, I ended the day happy.

Everton have become a very good side, and their manager seems to have impressed a lot of people with not just his tactics, but also his ‘niceness’. They had an injury to Barkley, but we were without Arteta and Gibbs, while still bedding in our new signings. Crucially, we were also just coming off a midweek game away in Turkey on an energy sapping pitch. Like I said, this wouldn’t be an easy game.

We welcomed back 2 of our World Cup winning Germans, with BFG replacing Koscielny (presumably carrying an injury) and Ozil playing on the left. Alexis Sanchez got his first start in the striker position, with Ox coming in to add some speed and directness. This made Micky very happy. But it also seemed to make Tim Howard happy because just as Arsenal could not find their feet, the Ox could not find the goal with any of his shots. Arsenal went behind to a headed goal from a brilliant pass by Gareth Barry, huffed and puffed some more, but couldn’t cause Everton any problems.

Arsenal then conceded once again on the stroke of half time after Lukaku bundled over Mertesacker, and got a clear path towards goal when Chambers dived in instead of covering. He then passed the ball to an offside Naismith who scored between Szczesny’s legs. Yes, it was a dirty moment in the game and one that both the referee and the linesman should be ashamed for allowing to happen. To be fair, some blame might also rest on our defence because Everton actually had a brilliant chance to score prior to this when Mirallas got in behind our defence.

Still, to be 2-0 down just before half time to an undeserved goal was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Wenger then did the unthinkable and made a half time substitution (please let this not have been due to an injury to Alexis).

With Giroud providing more of a familiar figure and a target man to bounce things off, Arsenal slowly started to get into the game, although it still took them a further 20 minutes to register a shot on goal. In the meanwhile, Everton retreated, secure in their ill gotten gains and unleashed the krack-head Naismith to kick, dive, moan, and try and get Debuchy sent off. That the referee didn’t is probably a huge surprise because he was certainly aiding and abetting this behaviour. Maybe he was just feeling the love from the Toffee crowd but Arsenal ended up getting heavily punished with yellow cards and fouls, while Everton were allowed to constantly get away with worse. It made our tough task even tougher.

While a lesser team would have collapsed, we kept trying. Wenger brought on Campbell and Santi for Wilshere and Ox with around 15 minutes to go. And it was Santi who was to finally provide a sumptuous ball across goal that Ramsey turned in, as he is wont to do nowadays.

There were now 7 minutes left on the clock and only a goal in it. Game on!

In the 90th minute Ramsey overhit a cross from the right, which was kept in by Ignacio Monreal. He in turn crossed to Giroud, who got between Jagielka and Distin to score with his coiffed head. He might have missed a chance early in the second half, (which I felt wasn’t an easy one to take though no doubt people will say a ‘world class’ forward would have scored that) but he made no mistake at the end of the second half. Arsenal tried to continue attacking, but time was running out. Sadly, Giroud’s final act of the half was to get injured trying to block a clearance and the manager says it’s not looking good, and so we get to maintain our record of an injury a match.

However, even that does not dampen the positivity around the spirit we showed in very challenging circumstances. A point gained rather than two dropped, and now Arsenal  switch their attention towards reaching the Champions League, where no toffee has gone before.

Match analysis written by Shard

Player ratings from LB

Szczesny: another solid game as far as I could tell, don’t really see how he could have done much to stop either of the goals. 7

Debuchy: made a huge stride forward, I thought, better defensively, better in attack, better all round, if he can improve that much in the space of three games he is going to be all and more that we hoped for. 7

Chambers: this was the stand out player for me over the whole 90 minutes, there was one slip again which naturally gets highlighted but Mertesacker does that every game and certainly did today on more than one occasion the difference being that if the opposition don’t score no one bats an eye lid. 8

Mertersacker: good to have our vice captain back, yes, he looked a bit rusty but what did we expect, it was his first competitive game, got more and more into his stride as the game went on. 6

Monreal: we shouldn’t forget that the Spaniard is a stand in for Gibbs; yes, he got skinned on more than one occasion but as he was the one who sent in the cross for Giroud to head home and save a point all is forgiven with me. 6

Ramsey: had a poor first half, his passes were going all over the place, but just when you are about to get frustrated with him he pops up to score the goal that gave us a life line. 6

Flamini: his role is not a glamorous one, protecting the backline is a thankless task on the best of days, he’s not bad but he’s not good. If we qualify for the CL I hope the potential revenue generated is spent on an upgrade in this position. 6

Wilshere: if he is not an attacking midfielder which he clearly isn’t, then what is he?
We have so many better options. 5

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: well we got our wish, he played but was not that effective I have to say, lots of running, all the chances falling to him in the first half, not quite what we hoped for: 5

Sanchez: first time playing up front, I thought he was brilliant; he was my MOTM for the first half. The problem of course was that the new system was so different nobody quite knew what to do. It wasn’t that he was doing things wrong it was the players around him. 9

Ozil: we heard all the jokes about him still being on the beach; still, changing flip flops to boots at half time helped, obviously not match fit but got better as the game went on. 6


Giroud: there is not a plan A and a plan B, different players are better suited to play against different opposition. If Wenger attempted to motivate Giroud by playing Sanogo ahead of him then it worked to an extent but nowhere near as much as it fired him up when he saw Sanchez get the nod ahead of him. This man had a point to prove when he took to the field for the second half. Competition for places, you gotta love it. 8

Cazorla: he aint a left winger. If he is played in Arshavin’s grave yard then we should expect below par performances. We shouldn’t forget that the reason we fell in love with him was because he used to play in the hole just behind the CF. We got a glimpse of it when he came on; he is still a quality player. 7

Joel Campbell: a few good touches, not enough time to influence the game.

Chambers: a midfielder, really Arsène?

August 7, 2014

The most interesting and exciting part of Wenger’s post Emirates Cup interview to me was that he seems to genuinely believe that Chambers can play in the midfield.

Chambers 1

I don’t know enough about him to form an opinion but contrast that with Vermaelen for example?

We have spent hours and hours of blog time trying to persuade each other that Vermaelen could and should play as a DM in certain situations.

There have been games when this seemed the glaringly obvious thing to do; and yet no, Wenger has never played TV in the midfield and what’s more he has never suggested in any interview that it could be a possibility.

If I have thought about Arsenal during the off season it has been the FA Cup win that has sprung to mind rather than any other aspect of last season or at least it was, until that is I was rudely reminded by BT Sport’s advertising campaign of those awful thrashings we had to endure.

I am firmly in 26’s camp that those BT adverts which show the club and the supporters suffering so painfully will have a very positive effect; if that is, they haven’t done so already.

I have this boyish image in my mind of Wenger being shown them and then passing them onto Kroenke. My impression of these people is one of being gentle giants but those ads have been the equivalent of someone poking a big black bear with a sharp stick; the result being, that both Wenger and Kroenke have been so angered that they have gone into the transfer market with both guns blazing – and they aint stopped shooting yet.

The bad old days of Arsenal supporters either wanting Wenger to stay or wanting him to go are gone. The only divide that I can see is those who believe that he has learnt from those thrashings and those who think not.

Unsurprisingly I suspect, I like to think that he has learnt from those painful experiences and Chambers is evidence of how he is going to prevent such nightmares reoccurring.

For the majority of our games last season, and it will be the same this season, we will have 75% of the ball and we will play the majority of the game in the opponents half. In situations like this somebody shielding the back four is a waste of a player, far better to have an attack minded player like Arteta as our deepest midfielder.

But, we will also play City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manu and in those games we will not have such a high percentage of possession. Arteta is going to need help and this is where Chambers comes in. If Wenger is right and he can play in the midfield then for the first time since Gilberto (Shard will correct this no doubt) we will have a player whose skill set is first and foremost that of a defender playing in the midfield – a DM.

Let’s be clear, Arteta is not a defender; he has been converted into that role and fine as he is against lesser teams such as Palace and QPR he is another BT ad waiting to happen against the other bigger teams I mentioned above.

We have had two glimpses of Chambers so far and on both occasions he has looked calm and assured. If indeed any of what I have just said is likely to be part of Wenger’s way of thinking then the big test for Chambers will come Saturday the 13th of September against Man City, if he plays and copes there then we will know that Wenger is right and that he can play in the midfield.

Written by LB



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 570 other followers