0017 – Licenced to Roam

August 16, 2014

Excited? You should be because this season is going to be epic and it starts today

Let’s be honest a managerless Crystal Palace should be lambs to the slaughter but we found out in last season’s opener that opening games throw up strange results. Mr Pulis did well with an average side and as usual forced his team to play kick and run (with an emphasis on the kick). How will CP play today? Who knows. Who cares, as long as they don’t injure any of our heroes.

Palace have big men all over the pitch; Chamakh, Hangeland, Jedinak, Dann, Puncheon etc, all decent players and all hard workers which they will need to be. It has to be said that Palace have a decent front-line. Chamakh may not have achieved much at the Emirates but he is showing he can perform swell at a mid-table club. I wish him well in the coming days but hope he has a stinker today.

Jedinak has been much touted after a fine season – good enough for a top 4 club? Not according to their managers!

Enough of the opposition, let’s get onto the men in the white hats ……

To be honest I have no idea who will start this afternoon. I doubt anyone outside of Mr Wenger and his coaching staff do – such is the wealth of talent available. The only players I can be sure won’t play are Theo, Abou and Ryo.

Let’s start with the defence.: I am sure Merts will play. I cannot see heim as the type of chap who would holiday  in a 5 star Las Vegas hotel surrounded by bottles of Champagne after along night in the casino, then spending his daytime flaked out by the pool having his pale body massaged with Factor 50 by a bevy of hookers. Can you?

No, I see him resting and preparing himself for today’s kick-off. He is a German after all.

If I am wrong and Merts has spent the summer on the sauce, it will be exciting to see how Chambers copes; his Wembley appearance was superb which brings heavy expectations onto such young shoulders. Midweek I went to Malmo to see their top of the table clash with another Swedish team (an exciting 3-2 victory to Malmo). The reason being that I am friends with their fitness trainer – Young Ben. Ben was assistant fitness trainer at Southampton and he tells me that Arsenal have signed a monster player who is is not only a better footballer than Luke Shaw but also in far better physical condition. He says that €16m was cheap for someone who will be a future England Captain – oh and he told me that Shaw has a history of niggling muscle knack.

Koscielny: Now I cannot understand at all how Sakho started for France ahead of Kos. What an insult to our beak nosed Gaul. No surprise that France did not concede a goal whilst Kos played and then lost to Germany when the idiot Deschamps picked Sakho ahead of our boy. Mr Wenger would not make such an error and as such (if fit) our usual CB pairing will start.

Unknown

Actually the defence picks itself doesn’t it? TPIG, the shiny new right back and Gibbs make up the numbers in what is a tight and effective first choice defence. Problems will only arise when injuries and exhaustion hit.

Midfield. This is where it starts to get difficult. Arteta and Ramsey are automatic starters. Ramsey!! What a fantastic player this lad is. The finish at Wembley last week was the work of a top class striker and this from a box to box midfielder. Ramsey has it all and, sad as I feel about it, not signing Fabregas was the right decision – Ramsey is the better player (as is Ozil :-) ).

Wilshere ? Of course.

And the Ox? This lad needs games – give him them and he will develop into one of the best players in the PL. He has everything except aerial ability. Great shot, explosive pace, an eye for a pass, tactical awareness. BUT where does he fit into the side? Thankfully this is Mr Wenger’s problem, but in my opinion he is too good to spend this season on the bench.

Will Ozil start? Probably not but he is ready and I would like to see our little genius and World Cup Winners medal owner line up on the right or behind the striker. If not, Santi, who had a fine game last week, is hardly a poor replacement – he would walk into almost any other side in the world but I fear this could be a frustrating season for him as there is so much competition in the attacking third.

Sanchez is a definite starter and I predict he will score on his full home debut. This man is the dogs and was the plum PL signing of the summer. I was surprised he didn’t go to Liverpool as a Suarez replacement (hahahahaha – let’s see how well you do this season Mr Rodgers) but clearly the prospect of living in Toxteth and rooming with Jordan Henderson was not particularly attractive. Hampstead and OG made AFC an obvious choice. I expect him to start from the left today – the TH14 position. He will be our secret agent 0017 – with licence to roam.

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0017 – One for the Ladies

OG gets the CF shirt. Until Sanogo improves, Theo gets fit or OG hits a bad patch of form he must start.

My Team:

Szczesny

Debuchy     BFG     Kos     Gibbs

Ramsey    Wilshere      Arteta

Ozil      Giroud      Sanchez

At last we have a super strong bench. Chambers, Monreal, Cazorla, Sanogo, Ox, Pod etc

I hate to put a bok on today but I cannot see anything but an Arsenal win. CP did surprisingly well to get 11th place last season but let’s be honest, they spawned it as other teams went into free fall. The chances of another opening day Aston Villa are unlikely as the lads will be determined not to get suckered again.

The World Cup players apart, our boys have had a full pre-season and on the evidence of the Community Shield are in fine fettle. You lucky, lucky folk who are going to the game will have a fine time.

I will be in Peaches pocket. Actually today I am going to the Southern Cross in Løngangstrædet Copenhagen to watch the game with California Gooner. See you there.

COYRRG

N:B. I have yet to think of a season theme. Any ideas will be welcomed and then discarded :-)

written by Big Raddy


Wembley memories – FA Cup 2014

August 9, 2014

A Vines’ Day out at Wembley

Saturday 17th May 2014

We set off at 8am from Nottingham to make sure of getting to Moons in plenty of time to become completely incoherent by 5pm.  Arriving at our Beaconsfield ‘budget’ hotel at just after 10am gave us plenty of time to  get a car park sticker (too early to check in),  walk to the bus stop for a short trip to Beaconsfield railway station and catch the 10.26 bus. The sun was already beating down and sun cream had been applied to all exposed parts.  Getting to the bus stop, we found out the boggers had changed the bus times a week earlier without letting us know! (Ant was gutted that the chance for a swift one at the ‘Spoons alongside the hotel had been forsaken)

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A month earlier we had got the same bus and the bus driver had been a chav who said that the price for Gooners was 5 pounds, so when the bus finally came, Ant thought it was the same driver and asked what the fare was for Arsenal supporters. The foreign bus driver wondered why two fools dressed in red were talking to him as if they knew him. He tried to charge us more than last time but we negotiated the same price as before. Ant posted the following photo to Facepalm with the caption “Bus wankers” after a sketch from The Inbetweeners.

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We received an update from the Croydon branch of the Vines Gooners and discovered we were all wearing different Arsenal tops. Unforgiveable in Micky’s eyes for grown men to wear replica shirts but, come on, we had to wear red to Wembley even those of us that weren’t attending the stadium!

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By the time we got to Moons the Bus wankers photo had 12 likes. Jon and Matt arrived at the pub soon after us and Jon revealed his creation for the match. She Wore was sung with gusto and a few lucky Gooners had the opportunity to have their photo taken with the banner.

The atmosphere at Moons was lacking some vibrancy so we decamped for The Green Man.  The banner was tied up alongside the same burger van as we’d been in front of with the puffing giant from Norfolk at the semi and provided lots more photo opportunities for munching Gooners. Dennis knows what this chap had found in his burger!

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Ant managed to catch about 15 seconds of the AwayBoyz (sorry lads).  More photos galore and the odd pint followed.  Ant asked this chap what the hair piece was all about and he replied that it was a Niklas Bendtner tribute.

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The fence alongside us was being used as an extra toilet and Ant proceeded to take a few snaps of a few fans in the act.

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We had a bet on the nationality of the girl in the shorts below, some swearing blind that she wouldn’t be from North London, others wondering why not.  Turns out she was Croatian!

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Matt had produced an American themed packed lunch. Jon was distinctly unimpressed with the peanut butter and jelly roll! I remember eating Mesut’s Buffalo Chicken Wingers and Karbassiyoon’s Chicago Style Pizza, but can’t for the life of me remember Stan’s Thanksgiving buffet.

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One last photo in front of the banner and it was off to the ground.

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I do remember receiving a phone call from Micky just as we were leaving the pub but the man was talking such absolute gibberish, I had to cut him off. J The journey up from Devon with the plastic sheet must have taken it out of him.

When we arrived, the ground looked very red apart from a small gold and black section. This just had to be our day and it turned out that it was, as Rambo’s goal saved us from having to endure a win on spawny penalties.

A9a

 

We went back to The Green Man for a few liveners. Much needed at this juncture and then went back to the curry house we’d been to a month previously at the semi-final.

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The train journey back was not particularly pleasant with one lad (not a football supporter) slumped over a waste paper bin being sick (luckily there was a plastic bin liner present).  His mate was dancing by himself to some shite music on his phone. When he started grabbing at Ant’s bag, “you’re not messing with my flags” quickly put him in his place.

We phoned for a luxury Merc taxi back to hotel to get back for the highlights. The poor chap on the check-in desk got some abuse when he couldn’t get the card machine to accept payment straightaway. Well we may have been missing the start of the programme!  We loved watching all the goals go in for the first time on a small screen and Ant swears I was snoring before the analysis section.

Football always has that capacity for the most extreme memorable highs. Thankfully this was one of them.

FA Cup Winners 2014 and what a belting day, bliss.

A lovely contribution by chas and his family

 

 


A Welcome Three Points.

April 29, 2014

Yet another “must win game” as we entertained a Newcastle side woefully out of form and quite frankly had nothing to play for. After a very cautious opening twenty minutes, something we have got used to seeing far too often this season, we got the breakthrough with a delightful deep ball over the visitor’s defence for Koscienly to poke it home.

Maybe the pressure of really having to win made the team a little nervous but personally I would like to see us stamp our authority on the opposition a little more frequently.

Our momentum increased with Ozil and Cazorla dictating our attacks and just before half time after a double save by Krul, the ball fell neatly into the path of Ozil to tap home.

One expected more from the Geordie’s after half time yet it didn’t materialise bar a single on target effort by Gouffran which was expertly dealt with by Szczesney.

Our momentum overall increased and Ramsey was performing better than he had done in the first half. He fed Ozil who crossed to the practically unmarked Giroud,to head home his first goal since The Battle of Hastings ;)

All in all it was a good performance and there is a case to nominate several players as Man of The Match, but more important it was three points which now puts us firmly in the driving seat for a CL place.

Ozil really is a masterclass, his intelligence on and off the ball is second to none and he will be hugely influential next season. A word on Podolski who had a fine game and seemed to be showing the boss that he should be a regular starter.

Giroud is always a bone of contention with me. Yes he can can hold the ball up but really we need a more clinical striker especially against better teams than Newcastle. Anyway that’s for another day.

If we add pace and power to the team, we could well be a real force next season but for now confidence is returning and hopefully we can wrap up forth next Sunday as it is quite feasible that the final game of the season against Norwich may determine their premier league status.

In conclusion ,although the season is not quite over generally we have done better than previous seasons against the teams we are expected to beat and if we can just improve our record against the mega rich clubs there is no real reason why we can’t be in the mix for all of next season. Perhaps FFP will have an influence, but I feel that we, as a club, are putting too much emphasis on the power of FFP, time will tell.

Over to you Mr.Wenger………..

kelsey


3 goals, 3 points and we are back on track.

April 21, 2014

Arsenal fans always seem to find a whipping boy just now it’s Arteta and of course Giroud, but I will come back to that in a moment.

There is no such thing as an easy game in the PL (ask Chelsea)  and confidence seemed to be coming back after the midweek win against West Ham so expectations were high for our visit to Hull, especially with the return of Koscienly, Ozil and Ramsey. However, for the best part of half an hour we again seemed off the pace and Hull created one or two chances notably when Livermore hit the post from distance.

This seemed to be a wake up call. I had asked beforehand if Cazorla and Ozil could play together, but more importantly open up a very physical and determined Hull defence? The answer was an emphatic yes, but it was the inclusion of Ramsey, who is going to be a world class player, that gave us the extra impetus and it was he who opened the scoring, ably assisted by Ozil and Cazorla.

ozil and rambo

Ozil seemed to have a free role and after a reasonably long lay off showed all the doubters that he oozes class. Further excellent goals by Podolski, sealed the match and at times we were seeing the Arsenal of old with pace, fluidity and a renewed confidence.

ramsey v hull

Giroud comes in for a lot of stick from many sections of the fan base but he laid off the ball for the second and takes a bruising every single game. Despite his twenty goals this season, he is not a natural clinical striker but he has a part to play in the squad and we will see come the end of the season if he stays or goes or even possibly gets demoted to an alternative forward if we venture into the market .

poldi scores v hull

Arteta is slowing up and still had a reasonable game but we need someone with a more physical presence for next season. My only beef about him is that often he slows the game down especially when we are counter attacking.

All in all it was a pleasing performance and still kept us on track for CL qualification yet the main talking point was how much we had missed the Welsh Wizard who considering his long lay off really made a huge difference to our attacking options.

Confidence, returning players,and goals are back in abundance, so all in all a positive position to be in for the final run in.

kelsey


Wham Bang, thank you Arsenal.

April 16, 2014

What I want to know is this: exactly what happened in the dressing room at half time? Any ideas? Was it even legal?

The first half was one of those end of season games between two mid-table sides with nothing to play for. Only it shouldn’t have been. Sure, the odd bit of skill here and there, but generally looking more like twenty two footballers who had never met before.

So, the first half rumbled on until, and oh thank you West Ham, a goal, and then all change. Arsenal reacted, and no surprise it was Podolski who pulled us level. The Man can shoot accurately and hard.

Into the dressing room at 1-1. Now, I’ve never had Arsène down as a natural motivator, which is fine so long as you have natural leaders and fighters on the pitch and I’ve had my doubts that we do. I was beginning to believe the gutter press, particularly with regards to Santi, but he in particular, but also the entire side in general, were clearly introduced to each other at half time, and a new side emerged for the second forty five.

Energy, drive, understanding and desire was evident from the Arsenal XI.

In the fiftieth minute, Ollie climbed into DB10’s football boots, controlled the ball with the most exquisite of touches and buried the ball with a superb finish. Sheer quality. Twenty odd minutes later, and Podolski slammed home his second and Arsenal’s third. Job done.

At this stage of the season, and given the closeness of the battle for forth with Everton, it was always the points that most mattered, but the nature of the second half performance gave room for massive optimism.

Verm played a disciplined and excellent game, and the importance of quality in depth was further highlighted by the introduction of Aaron late in the game. With the likely return of Mesut for part of the run in, and of course my favourite Ox in the wings, I’d image we could be savouring some great performances as well as the necessary points.

Written by MickyDidIt

 

We have two posts today, here are kelsey’s thoughts on the game……….

 

Arsenal burst West Ham’s Bubble.

Many questions were asked before the game. Would the draining one hundred and twenty minutes on the Wembley turf would take its toll on our depleted squad with only three  days respite between the two games? Who would have recovered in time yet keeping a balance in the side?

Wenger decided to make five changes and in the end they were more than justified. Every game in the run in is a massive match and the jostling for fourth place might not see an outcome until the final day.

For the first half an hour apart from a glaring miss by Giroud, our play was nervous and generally lacked pace and a real threat, then invariably in one of West Ham’s rare attacks Jarvis scored a header which in all fairness was a messy goal and thoughts returned again to “oh no”.

Of course the ideal situation is to fight back immediately and just before half time Podolski let fly with his lethal left foot.

“Goals change games” , a phrase often used and the Arsenal team that came out in the second half had a spring in it’s step and was more like the side we had been watching a couple of months ago .

Giroud, the enigma he is, scored a fantastic goal and the when the tired Rosicky game off the introduction of Ramsey showed how much we had missed him and within minutes his dinked header into the path of our left footed German nearly broke the net, and the game was won.

It was a much changed team and it was nice to see Cazorla back to his best after a slow start. He seems to save his best performances for Home games and I just can’t work Giroud out. He generally misses the easy chances yet converts the more difficult ones. Maybe with him and even Podolski to an extent it’s just regaining confidence.

Another who surprised me was Arteta, though not foot perfect, he and mainly the whole team seemed to have been revitalised after the Cup win, and that bodes well for the run in.

I keep repeating it, but Sagna should be retained if possible. He even found himself in the centre forward position on one occasion and his energy levels are amazing. He maybe getting on,but a player who can naturally play in at least three different positions is invaluable.

All in all a very satisfactory performance and a vital three points. Others are still to come back and by the weekend including most probablty Ozil and Oxdale-Chamberlain, we may well then  have a selection problem. It’s a “Funny old game”, that’s why we love it and emotions swing up and down several times in just ninety minutes.

Well played lads, today we are smiling :)

Written by kelsey


A Commendable draw but if only we had a Striker

March 30, 2014

Many of us feared as we approached this match with trepidation could the team pick themselves up after a pretty poor week but more importantly would there be a commitment and desire to silence the growing number of critics.

What was to unfold literally was a game of two halves.

City were quicker to the ball and had us mostly pinned in our own half with most of their attacks aimed at our left side  and  at eighteen minutes the ineviatable happened when Silva bundled the ball over the line after a ricochet off our post and thoughts turned to another drubbing on the cards.

The second half was a completely different story and credit to the lads as they slowly regained composure and possession and it was no surprise when Flamini out of all people slammed in the equaliser with the best part of forty minutes to go. His first league goal since 2008 and didn’t he just enjoy it :)

The Home crowd were fantastic. Rosicky ran his socks off and even Podolski put in a shift but defending doesn’t come naturally to him – he could have won the game but at the end of the day we drew with honour but IMO it’s a game we could have won.

Toure and Kompany had been booked in the first half which may have played on their mind but we didn’t have the know how to try and make them commit a second foul, as they are undoubtedly the drive and defensive rock of man city.

Santi always plays better at Home and being two footed is wasted on the wing.

Szczesny concerns me. In the first few minutes he cleared a ball which was inches away of being met by a City player and that could have been one nil down. He flapped again in the second half and in the melee we may have conceded an own goal. He needs competition for his place.

I watched Giroud carefully and apart from one lay off he was completely useless. He can’t control a ball, beat a man, head on target, has no pace, and his long punt from the halfway line was embarrassing. He is the worst striker I have seen in an Arsenal shirt for years, despite his stats. I stress the point about him because at 1-1 a top quality striker would have got that vital goal and most probably won us the game. I know many will say he often gets no support but then I say change the system, or buy a clinical striker not an average hold up player.

All in all a great game to watch and in all reality we could definitely win the FA Cup and it’s a straight fight for forth between us and Everton.

I don’t expect you to agree with me with my observations, but if only a few of our walking wounded especially Ramsey and Koscielny could feature in our last three or four games that would bolster the team enormously and give us CL football yet again.

kelsey


Draxler? Not as Good as Cazorla

January 28, 2014

What has the title got to do with this evenings trip to St. Mary’s I hear you ask? Read on …..

Arsenal go into this fixture on a superb run of results which have brought joy and good humour into every Arsenal home. Southampton have won their last two games as they look to rediscover their early season form. Injuries and boardroom problems have affected them but the return of players should see them climb the table again – starting next weekend!

Do you think players are affected by BoD strife? Can you imagine Rickie Lambert being concerned about the loss of  a chairman? Manager perhaps, coaches certainly, but a Chairman?

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“What’s a Chairman?”

Southampton welcome back Wanyama who has been a major loss but they are still without the “naughty” and suspended Osvaldo, Lovren and Ramirez. Lambert is a doubt. Pocchettino says he will send his team out to play “on the front foot”. Great, I hope he does because two attacking teams makes for an exciting game. Imagine having to suffer watching a Mourinho team through season.

We saw in the home tie that Southampton have some fine players and tonight will be a tough test.

Arsenal: Arteta, Ramsey, TV and Rosicky are back in the squad though I doubt they will start. Wilshere has another ankle-knock so my guess is that Oxlade-Chamberlain will start against his old club.

My team:

saints v arse

This may be too attacking in an away tie but what the heck. As long as we score more we take the points! Mr Wenger may disagree and play Arteta in place of Ox – we shall see. Ramsey is an automatic starter when fit but another few days R & R wouldn’t hurt.

Now – why is Santi better than Draxler? Because he is naturally two-footed, one of the best dribblers I have ever seen – his close control is exceptional – he has a wonderful spirit and he loves The Arsenal. This is not to say that Draxler will not develop into a marvellous player, he certainly has the physique which Cazorla lacks but ….. Let us assume Podolski comes good through to the end of the season and ends with 15+goals, why spend €35m to replace him? And if Drexler does come do you really think Santi will get to play centrally when the Wizard of Oz is in the team?

Nope. Get Theo fit and the squad is strong enough  in the opposition half. I would prefer we buy a top defensive shield. An Essien style player.

But what do I know – I am not paid squizillions to manage a football team, though I am available ……

Southampton: Founded in the stone age, the town really took off when the Anglo-Saxons (yet again)settled in the St. Mary’s area. Their town was called Hamwic, which gave rise to the name  Hampshire. By the end of the 9th C the settlement became known as South Hamtun. Those pesky Vikings raided throughout the next couple of centuries and South Hamtun floundered.  However, a fortified settlement  was established to keep out the scandinavian swine and by the time of Norman Conquest of 1066 the town had become important  as travellers moved between England and Normandy. By the 13th century fortifications were built including Southampton Castle (most of which still stands) and the town became a major port where French wine was exchanged for English cloth and wool.

Over the years the town became the major embarkation point for the British armies as they conquered the world, and later became the home port for cruise ships such as the Queen’s Mary and Elisabeth.

Back to the game: Another must win? Much has been said of the MU team which won the title but only won one game against a top 4 side, ( let us not presume we cannot win against strong opposition) and harvesting points against teams outside the top 5 is essential. We have done brilliantly so far and I see no reason why our run cannot continue.

Anyone think that Boruc will try to outsmart Giroud again?

Click here to relive the moment….

Hopefully the 3rd best Polish GK will gift us another tonight.

Big Raddy


Business as usual! The march at the top continues

January 19, 2014

The bottom line is simple. Despite the green fumes of envy from the clueless pundits and money spinning ignorable others, we stay Top of the League.

This was a historic day in the English Premier League, when goal line technology was used for the first time to the benefit of the Northern Oilers and the disappintment of the new boys from Cardiff. This was also a day when Arsenal had a job to do at home against Fulham. Fulham has had quite a Mauleen from all and sundry, and at The Home of Football they were clearly expected to receive a battering. Arsenal were Top of the League before the game. Despite the accumulation of injuries including a rather serious one to Theo Walcott, and despite the disappointment of fans from a typically unimpressive transfer window, we were not expected to drop points at home against an unfancied opposition.

However, Fulham came out with purpose, with a revamped central defence sporting the fit-again captain Brede Hangeland and “recalled from loan” six-and-half-footer Burn. The midfield sported the hacker mercenary duo of Parker and Sidwell, and ahead of them a frontline sporting one evergreen Dimitar Berbatov. At goal was the World Cup finalist “Mr Dictionary” Dutchman Stekelenburg, with 10 distinct letters in his surname (I kid you not!!!!!).

Arsenal came out with an unchanged starting lineup, which had only one omission from Raddy’s carefully considered choice. The little master Santi Cazorla was chosen over the little Mozart Tomáš Rosický. The “masked Czech” was left on the bench to nurse a delicate nose flattened in a previous brawl. Other than Monreal on the left, the backline was familiar – Mert, Kos and Sagna. The defensive midfield positions were manned by Flamini and Wilshere. Özil, Santi and Gnabry together with front-man Ollie completed the attacking line up.

For me, the starting line up made good sense. The left and right backs had freedom to roam upwards along the flanks. Flamini and Jack were positioned to start the cleanup operations and link forward. For me, the movement through the centre is perhaps the best way to use Jack’s speed and youthful exuberance. The wing play of Sagna and Monreal allows the attacking midfield freedom to move laterally through interchanging positions. This is perhaps the most natural movement for both Santi and Gnabry, and it offers the opportunity to use any lack of tightness in the opposition back four.

Arsenal fans everywhere, including the venerable Arsenal Arsenal family, have been clamouring for the addition of a striker in January, and that wish of a post-Christmas present has so far been steadfastly ignored by “Mr Santa” Le Boss. Giroud had unfortunately misplaced his shooting shoes during his nocturnal escapades on one fateful night in Kiev last November. Hence, the forty million and one pound question was: where would the goals come from? Despair not. The answer came later during the game.

Anyway, the game commenced in earnest. The initial exchanges were tasty. 5 minutes on, Gnabry moved inwards deftly from the right, and found a gap to send the ball forward, Jack met this with aplomb and fed on to Özil on the right end of the 6-yard box. Instead of shooting himself, the German wizard tried to pass to Giroud, but Hangeland deftly hacked away. Again, 20 minutes on, Gnabry cut in from the right and fed Olivier Giroud at the edge of the 18-yard box, but he fired the ball high and wide. In between, Arsenal continued to boss the game, Wilshere being particularly enterprising, but failed to create clear chances.

Something was amiss. I thought there was lack of coordination between the attacking midfielders at the centre. The way Arsenal plays, all three of them have liberty to move and exchange places. On the day, this exchange was not working quite right. When Gnabry moved in from the right and released the ball, he continued to move to the centre, but the gap on the right was not seamlessly filled in by the other guys. The same happened when Santi moved in from the left. There was crowding in the centre and the game could not be spread wide. As a result, the Fulham defence was able to close their gaps easily.

At the same time, Fulham were somewhat potent on their rare saunters upfront. On 27 minutes, Berbatov’s cross was cleared out of the box and fell to Steve Sidwell, who launched an audacious 20 yard stunner that Szczesny had to deftly fist over. The Pole made two other crucial interceptions in one on one situations, diving to the feet of Dejagah first, and taking the ball off the feet of Kacaniklic the second time. In both cases he superbly avoided a touch with the rushing shooters. Fantastic stuff.

Together, the robust rebuttal of Arsenal’s advances continued, through a combination of skillful defence, agricultural mercenary action and sheer luck. Some freekicks were conceded but no bookings – surprise, surprise!! From one of these freekicks, the good guys produced their first clear chance. From about 20 yards out, Santi drilled his kick into the wall and the rebound fell to Sagna on the edge of the box. His first timer glided through the crowd towards the bottom right corner, but Stekelenburg brought off an amazing reflex save, and immediately after from Giroud’s follow-up. Giroud was flagged offside, but the Dutch goalkeeper would not have known. Brilliant play.

In between, nothing much had worked for the Arsenal attack. Wilshere and Gnabry were enthusiastic without much success, Serge attempting three wayward and juvenile long rangers, and Jack trying fancy one-twos with Giroud that, unlike the Norwich game, did not quite work out. Flamini had a quiet game, doing his basic job without producing any moment of inspiration, but almost contributed to a disaster. Almost at the end of the half, Per Mertesacker ran in to head a ball, bending himself low to the ball, and Flamini lent his arm in support. Per dashed into Flamini, hurt his neck and stayed down for an anxious few minutes. To the relief of Arsenal fans, no serious damage was done. The teams went in at halftime all square. Fulham were competent in defence, and Arsenal attacked all half without much conviction. It seemed they could go up another gear, though.

At half time, there were plenty of nerves, and some disagreement among the faithful followers on Arsenal Arsenal who were unlucky not to be at THOF. Clearly, the shape and formation of the team was not quite right. The game was not spread wide. Raddy felt Gnabry should stick to the wing and not fight for space with Santi. Arnie thought, dare I say so, that being the central guy, Özil had the responsibility of moving over when either of Santi or Gnabry moved to the centre. In any case, a job needed to be done. Raddy moved over from lager to wine, Arnie continued to provide bloopers, and Rocky sat down with pen and paper to record Plobert’s errors of commission and omission.

As the second half commenced, Arsenal came out in earnest, trying to use the flanks better and upping the pace of the game. But Fulham continued to provide some potency on the counter, Berbatov holding the ball up well until support arrived from the other players. These attacks were clinically thwarted by the Mertesacker-Koscielny duo, with able support from Sagna and Monreal mainly, and everyone else in the team as well.

10 minutes into the half, Arsenal produced their first significant action. Gnabry provided a moment of individual brilliance, moving in from the right side-stepping three defenders before firing in a low shot which was spectacularly saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. Then, Monreal whipped the ball in from the left, Sagna’s effort was cleared off the goal line. Gnabry poked it rebound forward and somehow Fulham again cleared off the line. The stalemate continued. Nervy times.

The first moment of the Santi magic came on 57 minutes. Santi picked a ball from the left, passed through to Ollie on the top of the box and continued his run in. Giroud took a ball with his back to goal, flicked out a one-touch lay-off into the path of Wilshere, who picked up Santi on his run. Santi, oh beauty, slided in and with his right foot fired into the goal from close-rage. Absolutely lovely team goal. The Emirates erupted in unison, well, except the hapless away fans I suppose. Celebrations ensued. Giroud wrapped his arms around Santi and made some strange arm gestures that I found hard to interpret. Beyond, of course, the unimaginable!!

santi v fulham

Within 5 minutes, there was the second piece of Santi brilliance. This time, with his left foot. Monreal crossed the ball in from the left, and as it was hacked out from the box, Santi rushed in from the right, and fired in from the edge of the box into the corner of the net. 2-0 to The Arsenal.

The march continued, the fans sang loud and clear. Poldi replaced Gnabry, and launched a superb rasper from 20 yards out that was somehow fingered on to the upright by the Dutch goalkeeper. The Ox came on very late and almost got his head to a cross from the left, but not quite.

Still some nervy moments at the end. Mert sauntered on one of his escapades and failed to intercept a loopy cross which Szczesny failed to reach as well. Bent stepped around him and somehow missed from close range. Under pressure from Koscielny of course, who had an absolutely brilliant game. In the final minute, The Ox launched into an agricultural heave at the edge of the box, and off the resulting freekick, the Pole in goal spilled the ball in the first attempt and somehow grabbed for dear life in the second. Szczesny the Savior, on his 100th game for Arsenal as well. Absolutely fantastic performance from him.

Thus the game ended after a nervy extended injury time. Job well done. We are Top of the League. This was a thorough team performance, and the tentative scores reflect this.

Szczesny 8. Superb saves. His was a very crucial performance. Coming out and not reaching the ball in injury time the only major blip.

Mertesacker 6. Good composed performance. Missed a loopy ball towards the end that led to the Bent chance. A couple of other similar errors in judgment that could have proved costly on another day.

Koscielny 8. Superb. One of the true stars on the day. What a great performance, what a big heart!

Sagna 7. Good performance in attack and defence. Two good shots on goal.

Monreal 7. Like Sagna, good in defence and in overlapping. His cross led to the second goal.

Flamini 6. Decent composed performance without being inspirational.

Wilshere 8. Good enterprising and credible performance. Assist for the first goal. Fantastic.

Özil 7. Good performance. Nice interchanges and distribution. Would perhaps be more proactive in organisation of shape and formation on another day.

Cazorla 8. What can you say, except for Wow! Superb. Two goals. The star on the day. Man of the Match! The little master is back.

Gnabry 7. Very good performance. A future star. The development continues.

Giroud 6. A decent day in office. Missed a few chances. Tried a lot of fancy lay-offs that did not work. But one of these did, and it led to the first goal.

Podolski 7. Came on for the final 20 minutes. A superb effort on goal. The rehab continues.

The Ox. Too short to have a score. But nice to have him back. Almost at the end of a cross on the right post, but not quite. However, a terrible tackle in the end that on another day could have proved costly. The rehab has begun in earnest.

What lessons did we learn? Plenty of positives to take. Yes, this is work in progress, yes the loss of Theo is costly, but this is a team where everyone does his bit and steps up on the day. And yes, the conviction that we are resilient in defence and attack, and are not going to give away easy points. The defence and goalkeeping performance was superb. 10th clean sheet in the league, 8 clean sheets out of 9 games at home. Santi coming back to his best, the rehab of Poldi and The Ox continues. Onwards and upwards!

Arnie.


Quotes of the Year: Arsenal New Year(ish) Quiz

January 6, 2014

What a fine year 2013 was. We were the best team in England during the past twelvemonth, confounding the doom sayers and the “experts” who make a living from sitting on TV studio couches with too-tight trousers and bad haircuts. Now 2014 is a few days old and Gunners everywhere will be hoping for more of the same. Today, for a bit of a diversion, I thought we all might like a bit of fun. Below is a list of quotations relating to The Arsenal, all made during 2013. All you need to do is match the quotes to this list of fine (and not-so-fine) folk: Arsene Wenger, Piers Morgan, Sir Chips Keswick, Lord Sugar, Andrei Arshavin, Per Mertesacker, Ivan Gazidis, Alan Shearer, Tony Adams, Santi Cazorla, Andre Villas-Boas, Harry Redknapp.: All answers are at the end. Good luck. Arsenal Related Quotes of 2013

  1. No mobile signal in directors box, assumed was correct. Composed tweet in stand, got sent after game.”
  2. Arsenal cannot win the league this season, no way, they haven’t proved anything yet.”
  3. I promised myself I would make sure I did things well and, considering the money that Arsenal spent on me, I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
  4. What does Wenger see in Ramsey? A complete and utter liability.” (January 2013).
  5. We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they (Arsenal) are on a negative spiral in terms of results. To get out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.”
  6. I wouldn’t compare the two squads (Arsenal and Tottenham). Tottenham are much stronger, no doubt.” (August 2013).
  7. It felt like the crowd (at Arsenal) was at the theatre – good seats, expensive tickets and they wanted to see a show, not to support the team.”
  8. It can’t just be all happiness, peace and pancakes.”
  9. Don’t mind and don’t care.” (On being asked by journalists for a reaction to Tottenham being knocked out of the Europa Cup by Basle).
  10. “Yes there is a poster of Gareth Bale in Times Square, but he no longer plays for Tottenham – he now plays for one of our rivals!‘”
  11. “I am greatly honoured to have been appointed _______  of Arsenal Football Club. This is one of the great clubs in the game, recognised and loved by millions. I am looking forward to leading the Club to future success.”
  12. “If they just wanted a figurehead, they should have gone for me. It would have been a better visionary decision.”

RockyLives

Scroll down the page to find the answers ………….

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Answers to Quiz:

1. Lord Alan Sugar, after getting Spuds fans all excited about a non-existent Newcastle goal against Arsenal on the final day of the season)

2. Alan Shearer

3. Santi Cazorla

4. Piers Morgan.

5. Andre Villas-Boas

6. Harry Redknapp

7. Andrei Arshavin

8. Per Mertesacker (explaining why he roasted Ozil for not saluting the away fans)

9. Arsene Wenger

10.  Ivan Gazidis

11. Sir Chips Keswick on being announced as Peter Hill Wood’s successor as Chairman

12. Tony Adams, responding to the appointment of Sir Chips.

RockyLives


Mesut Özil …… Sprezzatura.

November 16, 2013

Now, I don’t know many long words, and even fewer in Italian. However, a few years ago I stumbled upon this word Sprezzatura. No other language has a word encapsulating the same qualities. It means “Effortless Grace”.

If you want to be able to sound clever, then read the bracketed bit below, otherwise, skip it.

(Castiglione wrote The Book of the Courtier as a portrayal of an idealized courtier. This ideal courtier was supposed to be skilled in arms and in athletic events but be equally skilled in music and dancing. However, the courtier who had sprezzatura managed to make difficult tasks look easy. Concerning sprezzatura, Castiglione said that: “to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”. In short, Sprezzatura means Effortless Grace.)

When I first discovered this word, my first thoughts were one Dennis Bergkamp. I decided the word was simply too good to waste, so I thought I’d bide my time and wait.

Enter Mesut Özil.

I believe he may become Arsenal’s Greatest Ever Signing. The Man oozes Sprezzatura.

I have heard that “He’ll take time to settle into the PL”. I say: “Bollocks he will. I have never seen someone so clearly settled”.

Look at his assists so far. On the whole they are fairly simple balls. Pinpoint accurate, yes, but fairly obvious balls. I remember Chas posting some of The Arsenal Gentleman’s genius cards, and Mesut’s “Special Move was: The Mesmertron, a hypnotic through ball”.

How many of these hypnotic balls have we seen? Very few, and the reason is that Mesut knows the players are not quite ready for him to unleash his full dazzling array of ball skills.

So, what’s going on? Quite simply, every player around Mesut is out of their depth, and he knows it, which is why he’s still playing it simple. I reckon that soon, through a combination of pitch time, as well as work on the training ground, the movement from those around him will improve.

Think back to Thierry Henry, and the impact DB10 had on his game. This is the reason I understand why some people are asking for a different type of striker. Someone who speaks the same football language as Mesut. I suspect we may see the Mesmetron deployed if either Theo or Podolski take up the central striker role.

I think we are going to witness Arsenal’s Greatest Ever Signing. He will elevate and educate those around him into superior players. Watch, savour, and enjoy. Exceptional things are about to happen in the Red and White of Arsenal.

Written by MickyDidIt89


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