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

Subs

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

 


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.

images-1

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.

images

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

 


Is Mertesacker right ?

April 30, 2014

Per Mertesacker says Arsenal don’t deserve a place in the top three because of the horrible away days at the Middle Eastlands, Anfield, and Stamford Bridge. Speaking after the Newcastle game the other night,Pers said

The fans wanted us to finish further up, we were top of the league for a long time and everyone dreamt about getting the title, but it takes more than just staying at the top until the winter period. We could not afford those big games against big teams, so we did not deserve to be in the first three. That is something we have to manage much better next year.

And he said those trips have to provide lessons for next season:

We have to learn how to play and how to defend in the first 20 minutes. The games were all similar, we got caught on the break and that is something we have to look at.

This statement appears on a number of Arsenal sites today and it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have a daily post.

Is he right or wrong so I will leave it to all and sundry to offer their opinions.

kelsey


Wembley Domination

April 13, 2014

Having just woken up at 8am having arrived home at 1:30 am this is going to be a quickie. Getting the train home last night with intoxicated Norwich fans singing “we’re shit and we’re going down” certainly adds some perspective to a day out at Wembley where yes we didn’t play well but also resulted in a return trip and another day out for those lucky enough to be there.

I have seen some criticism of the fans “celebrating like we won the cup” it’s hard to be in Wembley and not feel like that, and with the allocation of tickets for the final likely to be a third of what we had yesterday it is unlikely those who were there yesterday will have a chance of being back for the final itself.

We filled the Green Man pub at 1pm and we filled the ground more than two thirds. Waning support? Not in evidence here. The atmosphere at kick off was full of passion and hope.

Unfortunately as we failed to make the most of early possession the songs turned to frustration and worse very quickly, I’d say the split was 50:50 in terms of those preferring to man than support.

At half time we went in 0-0 with little of note being created for either side.

The second half continued in a similar vein until Monreal got pushed off the ball, Vermaelen didn’t want to commit to a last gasp tackle and BFG stuck out a long leg to bring down the Wigan forward. This actually stirred the crowd into action and we sang in defiance up until the penalty went in and Gibbs replaced Monreal.

That was actually the turning point to our performance Gibbs was prepared to get past Podolski where Monreal hadn’t bothered either because he knew he didn’t have the legs to get back to recover ground that Podolski wouldn’t.

A while later after Rosler went to three centre backs Arsene changed it again, unleashing Giroud and removing the disappointing Podolski and switching to 4-4-2.

That was probably the decisive change we played the percentages more and after a few more close shaves we finally breached the Wigan defence, Oxhitting the ball into the ground and finding BFG at the far post who headed home. I was waiting for the flag to go up thankfully it didn’t.

BFG celebrates

We couldn’t breach it again in the remaining minutes or in extra time and we went to penalties.

Fabianski the hero

Fabianski channelling the spirit of Arsenal keepers of the past stopped the first two Wigan penalties. Whilst Arteta and Kallstrom dispatched with ease. The next two Wigan penalties, were scored which meant after Giroud had scored with the nanananaaaaas ringing in his ears it was left to Santi to send Arsenal back to Wembley and the fans into ecstasy.

Written by Gooner in Exile


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