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


The Last Good Friday ….. Good Luck to Norfolk Gooner

February 28, 2014

Last Friday:

Gradually the furore over Olligate is dying down, only for criticism of Ozil over the penalty miss to be given more impetus. Surprisingly, at least to me, Wenger admitted that Ozil was not “over” the penalty miss, which seemed an odd way to restore the players confidence. The consensus among the pundits is that Le Boss will drop our record signing for the Sunderland game.

Saturday:

So for once the pundits were right, Mesut Ozil was left out of the squad with a thigh injury. Yes, Arsene, of course we all accept your explanation for his absence.

The chosen line-up showed a number of changes with Szczesny coming in for Fabianski, Monreal for the injured Gibbs, Arteta for Flamini, Podolski for Ozil, Giroud for Sanogo and, surprisingly, Rosicky for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

giroud scores againnst sunderland

Olly didn’t quite get the hat-trick that I had asked for but to score on two occasions was certainly acceptable, redemption? I think so! What a master stroke by Le Boss, Rosicky’s goal must be the best of the season so far, even outstripping Jack’s early season wonder strike. Koscielny wrapped up the scoring with a free header from a corner, before joining Monreal in the treatment room.

The missus wants him to stay

The missus wants him to stay

Sagna was my Man of the Match for the outstanding effort he put in, playing right-back, before swapping to left, when Monreal failed to come out for the second half, and then centre-back when Koscielny went off.

All this after running himself into the ground in the Bayern game.

Please Monsieur Wenger give him a new contract, give him three years and a pay rise if that’s what it takes to keep him at Arsenal.

We can’t afford to lose players of Bacary’s calibre.

Sunday:

The press just can’t let go can they? The Telegraph’s headline…. Giroud puts poor visitors to bed! Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s surely time to put that one to bed.

Monreal and Koscielny are expected to be fit for Stoke next Saturday, Wilshere may have a hamstring problem and Ozil should be back…shouldn’t he?

Monday:

No change at the top of the table, all four of the top four won at the weekend, The Chavs managed a home win over Everton with the only goal coming in injury time, City scraped a one nil home win against Stoke, Liverpool scrambled to a four three home win over struggling Swansea, while Arsenal took all three points with a handsome four one win over Sunderland.

The race for Europa League qualification hotted up as Manure won and the Spuds lost to brave little Norwich City.

Rosicky to stay for another year!

Le Boss confirmed that Tomas is ready to sign a one year extension to his current contract; “Tomas Rosicky will stay” said Wenger. “We have an agreement with him and it will come out soon. I am absolutely adamant that he has to stay at the club.” Well done Arsene, now get to work on Sagna and Vermaelen.

Tuesday:

Mesut Ozil was given special permission to return to Germany for an extended break after the Bayern game. He is due to return to training today and expects to be fit to face Stoke on Saturday.

Aaron Ramsey is hoping to be fit in time for the game against Spurs on 16th March.

Apparently, and this is tabloid news, 31 year old Bacary Sagna wants a three year contract and £100,000 per week. Go on Arsene, split the difference, £100k and two years. You know it makes sense!

Wednesday:

Johan Djourou, has hinted that he does not wish to return to Arsenal but would like to make his loan at Hamburg permanent in the summer.

Arsenal target Julian Draxler has refused to rule out a summer move to Bayern Munich.

‘I am ready to play for Arsenal’ – Olympiakos hero Joel Campbell desperate for chance at Gunners.

Fresh from scoring a brilliant goal for Olympiakos against Man U on Tuesday, our young Costa Rican striker said “I believe I am ready to play for Arsenal next season,” “I have the capacity to play there and I am only waiting for the opportunity. With hard work I can get there.” Only a couple of weeks ago his agent said…‘Going back to Arsenal? He would not be happy sitting on the bench – even in a top league.’

As a transfer fee of around £7 million had been mooted, the agent would be in danger of missing out on a sizeable chunk of that if Campbell returned to The Gunners. So some mixed messages there. The decision will be made in the summer, and it will be Wenger’s to make.

Thursday:

In spite of a trawl through all my usual sources I’ve been unable to come up with much that could be called news. One headline caught my eye, but the actual article was ambiguous to say the least.

Arsenal get transfer boost as Julian Draxler admits he’s ready to quit Schalke “Julian Draxler has cleared the way for a move to Arsenal at the end of the season after telling Schalke he is ready for a new challenge.

Draxler, who was subject of a failed bid from the Gunners in January, remains a top target for Arsene Wenger ahead of the summer transfer window.

And amid speculation that Arsenal are working on a new bid for the midfielder, Draxler has left the door open to a switch to the Emirates by revealing that he wants a new challenge.

‘I can make my own decision about my future and I want a new challenge,’ he told the German press.

‘It’s no secret that I have a buyout clause in my contract and so from year-to-year I think about what is best for my development.

‘It leaves room for a lot of speculation, but I am calm and it’s also good for all sides.’

The 20-year-old’s release clause is set at £37.5million but it’s thought that Schalke would consider doing business for less at the end of the season.

Arsenal’s offer in the January window was about £20million, but that is expected to be increased when the club make a new push for the player.

Now I may be a bit of a cynic, but where does it say that Draxler is interested in a move to Arsenal?

Ahead of Saturday’s clash Stoke-on-Trent newspaper The Sentinel carried an interview with City’s chairman headlined…

Ryan Shawcross treatment after Aaron Ramsey incident still rankles Potters, admits Peter Coates

The chairman admitted: “Yes, we have got this thing with Arsenal.

We were very disappointed with how the Shawcross incident was treated because we thought there was never any intent whatsoever on Ryan’s part.

angle devil

We thought he was very badly treated over that incident in various quarters and it was wholly unfair on him. “Players get bad injuries all the time in professional football and in the vast majority of cases there is no blame to be attached, but Ryan seemed to be unfairly singled out over this one, in my opinion.” Watch out Arsenal, The Orcs are stirring, and so is Mr. Coates.

Much of the “news” that I have summarised over recent months has inevitably been speculative in nature, written by journalists striving to keep their jobs in a very competitive market place. They come in for an awful lot of criticism and abuse, some of it deserved, some not so. Occasionally they do get something right as this headline about Olympiakos vs. Man U demonstrates.

Clueless, Aimless and Hopeless

I regret to say that this is my final round-up, at least for a while. I have cataracts developing in both eyes and as a consequence I must cut down on the time spent peering at a computer screen. I’ve both enjoyed writing the posts and reading your comments, which have been almost entirely complimentary. I’m sure I shall look in on Arsenal Arsenal from time to time.

Keep the Faith

Norfolk Gooner

A note from ed:

Many thanks to Norfolk Gooner for his wonderful Friday Newsrounds. They have transformed a traditionally dull day in football terms into a joy that we all looked forward to. We hope his problems improve and that we can enjoy his company in the comments section whenever he is able.


Arsenal’s confidence restored as the Black Cats get blown away.

February 23, 2014

Playing less than seventy hours after the extraordinary game against Bayern there were many questions to be answered.

Would Ozil be rested, could Giroud regain his place, would Podolski get a rare start and what physical and mental effect would it have had on those playing two games in such a short space of time?

Would Sunderland have one eye on The Capital Cup Final next week?

As a bonus we had the unveiling of the statue of the iceman, who was greeted with a standing ovation at half time.

Six of the team that started on Wednesday played, Giroud and Podolski were reinstated and we eagerly waited to see how the combination of Rosicky,Wilshere and Cazorla in midfield would perform.

Well, we didn’t have long to wait as the fluidity and pace had returned and it was nice to see Giroud being so clinical with both the opening goals. The pass and move that led to Rosicky’s delightful chip finish was much appreciated. The game was virtually over by half time yet Sunderland gifted us a forth,courtesy of Koscielny and the job was done despite a fine late goal by Giaccherini.

There were many positives but for me Sagna was the man of the match with his tireless running and interventions and having to play in three different positions during the match. If he leaves it would be a great loss.

Rosicky is like a man reborn and his energy levels are amazing and it was nice to see him rewarded with his first league goal of the season.Great goal but would a better team have let us walk the ball through their defence.

Wilshere was back to his best and to an extent took the baton from Ozil who had been rested.

Overall just the result we needed and though as with most matches we picked up a few niggles,hopefully all will be fit as we enter what will most probably be the toughest test of the season.

Ratings :

  • Szczesny 7.5
  • Sagna 8.5
  • Monreal 6.5 (Jenkinson – 45′ )6
  • Wilshere 8
  • Mertesacker8
  • Koscielny  8 (Flamini – 67′ )8
  • Cazorla7.5
  • Arteta7.5
  • Giroud 8
  • Rosicky 8 (Gnabry – 73′ ) 7
  • Podolski 7

Written by kelsey


The Rosicky, Gnabry, Walcott Show – Match report

January 5, 2014

I’m really getting into this business of constantly getting tough draws. We’ve had six so far this season: in Europe, we’ve drawn Fenerbahce, the Champions’ League Group of Death and Bayern Munich; in the League Cup, West Brom and Chelsea; and in the FA Cup, Spurs for the Third Round. And most of those ties have proved to be very enjoyable.

Spurs arrived at the Home of Football on a mini-high, having, in their last four games, won three and drawn one. They’d summarily ditched the manager who’d given them one of their best starts to a Premier League season, and given the job to Tim Sherwood, highly thought of within THFC circles but completely lacking managerial experience. And apparently he’s also a Gooner….

Sherwood appears to come from the Harry Redknapp school of thought: all swashbuckling flourishes, and bugger the planning. The answer to the failure of Soldado under AVB was to sacrifice a midfielder by pairing Soldado up with the ever-lovely Emmanuel Adebayor, in a 442 formation. That’s all very well when playing a team with a substandard midfield, like Man United, but, whatever our other faults, that isn’t going to fly when facing this Arsenal side. It’s always going to be tough to avoid ceding complete control of the midfield to us when it’s five quality midfielders against four, especially when one of the four is Aaron Lennon and another, Nabil Bentaleb, was making his full debut.

And so it was. Arsenal bossed the midfield, and that assured us the victory. Arteta was utterly assured throughout. Rosicky was effervescent, his constant movement making it a very uncomfortable evening for anyone in a white shirt (well, a white shirt with a splash of red on it). Wilshere didn’t have quite the performance he had against Cardiff, making some of his old overambitious errors of judgment, but he still had a good match. Cazorla was back to his very best. And Serge Gnabry was tremendous, linking up again and again with his partner in speed, Theo Walcott. Gnabry plays without fear, enabling him to get the best out of his obviously significant talents. He certainly looks to be the real deal.

In defence, Mertesacker was rested, at least initially, with Thomas Vermaelen getting a much-needed run-out. Monreal continued at left-back, with first picks Koscielny and Sagna also chosen. Fabianski got a chance to get his shirt dirty.

The big question for Wenger was what to do up front, with Giroud unwell, Bendtner injured and Podolski having been unconvincing against Cardiff. Walcott got the nod. How would we cope with a short guy up top, when a key component of our success this year has been the solidity afforded to us by tall Giroud’s tireless efforts? It turns out we coped well, very well indeed. Our play was faster than usual, with Walcott (5’9”), Cazorla (5’6”), Rosicky (5’10”), Gnabry (5’8”) and Wilshere (5’7”) buzzing around, quickly exchanging passes and looking for any chance to run at the Spurs defence. It worked a treat.

Spurs had a couple of moments in the first half, including when Eriksen capitalised on an error from Koscielny to go one on one with Fabianski. But Fab stood strong and pushed the near-post shot round the post. Setting such moments aside, Arsenal were the dominant force in the first half. Our diminutive attacking force worked its magic.

Having tested Lloris on a few occasions already, the breakthrough came when Sagna attacked down the right wing, passed inside to Gnabry, who (while Walcott made a decoy run to stretch the defence) fed it to Cazorla, who was in buckets of space. The little Spaniard arrowed a first time shot into the far corner. It was an excellent finish, but it was made easier by Lloris misreading matters, and diving to his near-post.

cazorla v spurs

So we went into halftime with a deserved 1-0 lead over the old enemy. The fly in the ointment was the premature departure at halftime of Vermaelen. I thought it was a preventative step, to avoid the Belgian getting a second yellow card, since he seemed to have been targeted by Spurs after picking up a booking. But after the game I learned that he had in fact suffered a cut knee or shin. In any event, it was a pity for his day to be terminated early, with the BFG being brought on.

If we were the better side in the first half, we were doubly so in the second. Frankly, I was expecting more from our friends from the other end of Seven Sisters Road, but they were pretty lame and tame. Adebayor reverted to type and was anonymous throughout, save when he fluffed his one decent opening (cue lots of laughter). Soldado was poor, and Lennon not much better. Eriksen wasn’t too bad, and was the source of most of their interesting moves, but even he didn’t look a patch on any of his opponents.

Gnabry wasn’t quite as much a force in the second half as he had been in the first, but Rosicky, Cazorla and Walcott remained as energetic as ever, and they were a source of problems for Spurs’ suspect defence and undermanned midfield. The quality of our play and superiority deserved a second goal, and that arrived just past the hour, when Rosicky, breaking after we’d defended a corner, caught Danny Rose in possession on the halfway line. Having stolen the ball from Rose, Rosicky broke forward – Walker tried to make up the gap, but Rosicky held him off and, as Lloris came out, dinked the ball over the Frenchman and into the net.

rosicky v spurs 2014

With Özil and Flamini having been brought on for Arteta (who got a knock) and Wilshere, our remaining substitutes had been used up by the time Walcott picked up a knee injury. We have to hope it will prove not to be serious, Walcott certainly looked fairly chipper as he was carried around the pitch, like a mini Caesar in front of the entire bank of Spurs fans, who took the chance to bait the England man. Some might say it was silly for Walcott to respond, and there is something in that, but I can’t help but smile at the pics of Theo with his “2-0” figure salute. In response, coins rained down on Theo and the stretcher-bearers. And we had to play the remaining ten minutes of the match with ten men, which brought Spurs onto us. But they couldn’t do anything with the advantage, the closest thing to a goal in those minutes being Özil’s effort, which was well saved by Lloris.

And through we went to the 4th Round.

It’s always great to win a North London Derby, even if our superiority deserved at least one more goal, and the FA Cup does retain something of its old appeal, even in these less sentimental times, but perhaps the significance of the match is the success of playing without a hold-up striker. It probably wouldn’t work against sides stacking their defences (Cardiff, Sunderland, West Ham, Chelsea etc), but against the more ambitious teams, who will give us space, it is something we could make more use of. Walcott certainly showed how well he can function in that set-up, so long as he has plenty of support and options from the attacking midfielders behind him. But I am sure Podolski could do very well there too, even if he was off his game in his last match. It will be interesting to see if Wenger deploys it in other matches.

Fabianski: Spurs didn’t give TPIG2 much to do, but he did his job well. Good save from Eriksen. 7/10

Sagna: Excellent game from Bacary. I think he won every aerial battle he had, and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. Linked up with Gnabry well. 8/10

Koscielny: Dominated Adebayor, generally excellent, but fluffed his lines once when under pressure from Eriksen. 7/10

Vermaelen: Did well, snuffed out Soldado’s one break. Shame that his game was ended early. 7/10

Monreal: Completely blocked off Lennon, and the Malaga link-up with Cazorla was a fertile source of opportunities. 8/10

Arteta: Ran the midfield, made Dembele look ordinary and generally allowed the side to keep its shape. 8/10

Wilshere: Not as good a game as against Cardiff – not that he played badly, but his attempts at creating attacking moves resulted in lost possession on more than one occasion. 6/10

Gnabry: Superb performance from the youngster, especially in the first half. Had a fantastic effort that was only fractionally too high, and linked up brilliantly with others, Walcott in particular. Showed maturity, creativity and bravery throughout. 8/10

Rosicky: What a fantastic performance from our Czech genius. He was everywhere, he seems to become more energetic with time. Great goal, both in its creation and execution. Sign him up, quickly. 9/10 MOTM

Cazorla: Back to his best, he really tormented the Spurs defence. Took his goal clinically. 8/10

Walcott: Fantastic performance from TW14. He and Gnabry were able to threaten Spurs with their combined pace, and lots of good link-up play. As for his injury, all Gooner fingers should be crossed. 8/10

Mertesacker: As ever, the BFG was solid, did everything right. 7/10

Flamini: Did his job well without anything standing out. 6/10

Özil: Nearly scored and played a number of good through balls. He did mess up once when on defensive duties though, and gave away a freekick in a dangerous position. 6/10

Written by 26May1989


Old wine, or new bottle, or old wine in new bottle?

December 31, 2013

End of the year, and part of the ritual is to take stock, and look forward towards the future with glorious plans and renewed expectations. And what a fantastic year this has been for Arsenal fans! At the midway stage in the Premier League last year, Arsenal was lying 7th, well off the pace for Champions League qualification, and even off Spursday football places. Qualifying second in their group, Arsenal faced a tough round of 16 encounter against Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in Europe at that stage. With significant changes to the Board, a new owner in tow, there were uncertain times for the club management. The fans were up in arms, with substantial ammunition provided by a negative press, dubious pundits and even the Arsenal Supporters Trust. Difficult times indeed!

But Arsenal managed to make a fantastic turnaround. Attaining qualification for CL was nothing short of a miracle! Yes, Arsenal lost out in a two leg epic battle against eventual winners Bayern, but before that showed their mettle in an amazing 2-0 away victory. Despite all the negativity, good progress was made in the summer transfer window. The progress continued in the current season, and Arsenal is sitting at the Top of the Premier League at the halfway stage. Qualification to the Champions League was gained from the aptly termed “Group of Death”. Grudging acknowledgement of Arsenal’s strength and mettle is gently arising from beneath the rubble of disdain and the green fumes of envy. Indeed, if the league was played over the calendar year, Arsenal would have been Champions of 2013. Oh, what a year this has been!!!

 

per and kosser

All in all, a good year in prospect. There are plenty of challenges yet to be met. Plenty of time still before we even begin to celebrate the achievements of this team. But, also plenty of positive vibes and expectation in tow. So AA ers, looking towards the future, what did we learn new about Arsenal this year, and what were we reminded of afresh, that we did not know with so much certainty one year back? Let us discuss. Here are a few of my tentative suggestions. It was not all rosy, though. Injuries continued through the year. The squad seems a bit thin. Progression to the round of 16 in the Champions League was gained, but only in second place. Like last year, we have drawn Bayern Munich. Lovely games in prospect, but significant challenges as well. And if the vitriol from the fans is a bit subdued due to the sustained run of fine results and resilience in the field of play, the negativity from the press and pundits continues unabated. Perhaps most importantly, whether by luck or design, Arsenal continues to be at the receiving end of poor refereeing decisions. Alas, some things never seem to change!

First, same time last year we did not know what a fantastic central defensive partnership, together with a very competent goalkeeper, we were developing. Indeed a large part of our success this year owes itself to the fantastic defensive pairing of Per and Kos. What a duo!!! And what a great leader in our beloved BFG! When Verms got injured, who would have thought we would have such a strong defence where even a fit squad captain cannot find a place?

Per and kossser 2

Second, one of the best revelations of the year was the discovery that Ramsey had developed into such a fantastic player. He was the subject of much of the blame and vitriol during our indifferent showing in 2012. Perhaps somewhat undeservedly. But our beloved Rambo rubbed all these adversities off his shirt, returned in style from his long standing injury, and has grown to the stature of one of the best midfielders in the League, perhaps in Europe as well.

Ramsey

He has shown a very mature head as well, leading for his country at a very young age. In tow, Jack Wilshere is developing into a fine player, if somewhat idiosyncratic on occasions. Together with Theo, the Ox, Gibbs and Jenks, they also form a British core to the team which had been somewhat deficient for a while. Who would have thought a year back that Rambo would develop into such a fantastic and dependable player, and Jack’s game will be coming along so nicely as well?

The English players

Third, one of the most encouraging developments of the year, at least for me, was the maturity with which the owner Kroenke, Gazidis and the Board conducted themselves. Perhaps the best development was that the Board did not interfere in footballing matters, leaving team and signing decisions to the people who know best, led by one Arsene Wenger. If you think that this is not a surprise, look around at other clubs. Several clubs have met with significant disasters as a result of owner power, such as the Spuds, Cardiff and even the Chavs, and in some others the environment is not very nice even if the performance has not been equally devastating.

The principles of the club, that a fantastic team can be developed without wasting money on the wasteful purchase of overpriced bench idols, was not compromised by a new owner and a new look Board. Surely, this was not a given at the start of the year, after the club had gone through a rather aggressive ownership contest and change of hands.

Fourth, amid the mantra of financial fairplay and traditional hesitancy to spend big money, and the recovery from an expensive move to the Emirates, who would have thought that Arsenal would spend their money where it mattered most?

Ozil

In the procurement of one Mesut Ozil, who despite his tentative adjustment to English football and the Arsenal way of playing the game, has given the team something really special, Arsenal showed purpose and ambition, and real ability to deliver trophies. This came together with the free transfer of one Mathieu Flamini – ah, what a fantastic transfer move!

flamini

Fifth, against the backdrop of significant unrest and disquiet among good-weather fans, ably supported by the press and pundits, who would have thought that the positive outlook of a sane fan-base would shine through? The struggle against the doubters and doomday-usherers still continues in earnest, in ArsenalArsenal and elsewhere, but The Home of Football still reverberates with the positive chants and outlook towards the new dawn awaiting in the New Year!!!!

AA ers, what do you think? My final thoughts are:

COYG! Onwards and Upwards!! A fantastic year 2014 awaits!!!!

Written by arnie

Arsenal Record 2013 Calendar Year

P W D L F A GD Pts
38 25 7 6 70 34 36 82

Where would 82 points put us in seasons past?

SEASON Winners P W D L F A GD Pts AFC on 82 points
2008-09 Utd 38 28 6 4 68 24 44 90 4th
2009-10 Chavs 38 27 5 6 103 32 71 86 3rd
2010-11 Utd 38 23 11 4 78 37 41 80 1st
2011-12 Oilers 38 28 5 5 94 29 65 89 3rd
2012-13 Utd 38 28 5 5 86 43 43 89 2nd

Chart by MickyDidIt

2013 Calendar Year League Table

P W D L F A GD Points vs Top 7 Total Home Total Away
Arsenal 38 25 7 6 70 33 37 82 10 19 19
Shitty 38 25 5 8 86 39 47 80 10 19 19
Chavs 38 23 8 7 71 40 31 77 10 20 18
ManUre 38 23 8 7 70 37 33 77 11 19 19
Spuds 38 21 10 7 55 46 9 73 10 19 19
Dippers 38 21 9 8 87 39 48 72 9 18 20
Everton 38 18 13 7 54 35 19 67 11 20 18
Toon 38 16 6 16 51 62 -11 54 13 19 19
Southampton 38 12 15 11 49 43 6 51 13 19 19
Villa 38 11 10 17 50 58 -8 43 11 20 18
Swansea 38 10 12 16 44 54 -10 42 12 18 20
Norwich 38 9 11 18 37 62 -25 38 12 20 18
Fulham 38 11 5 22 39 67 -28 38 12 19 19
West Ham 38 9 11 18 41 57 -16 38 12 19 19
Stokies 38 8 11 19 34 60 -26 35 11 19 19
WBA 38 7 13 18 45 61 -16 34 12 18 20
Sunderland 38 7 10 21 36 62 -26 31 12 19 19

Stat Overkill by GiE


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.

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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


Vote for Arsenal’s most improved player

November 19, 2013

To make this as even-handed as possible the time-frame is from January 2013.

Let’s look at the runners and riders:

Goalkeeper: The man has come on leaps and bounds and Rocky made him his player of the season. Do you agree? Personally I don’t, TPIG started his career with such aplomb that many called him a potential world No 1. He had a dip in form and then a return to the quality we all know he has. Is a return to form an improvement? You decide.

Defence:  Kos, BFG and Gibbs have surprised many with their cohesion and developing understanding which is based upon fine individual form.

In my opinion, Kos’s lapses have cost us points this year and although he was superb in the run up to our excellent 4th spot, he remains just a tad below the immensity that is Mertesacker.

BFG has become my favourite AFC player. His humour, his calmness under pressure  – even if he is not blessed with Sprezzatura, BFG has galvanised the team. Is he better than this time last season? Certainly, but has his improvement been to the level of ….

Keiron Gibbs? At last the lad is having a relatively injury-free run and his qualities are becoming evident. He is keeping Spain’s LB out of the team which gives an indication of how highly AW thinks of him. IMO he is already better than Cole and Baines and should be England’s first choice LB for the World Cup. Improved? Massively

Midfield: Arteta sets such a high standard he cannot improve. Cazorla the same. Jack has yet to find form and fitness. Ozil  and Flamini are too shiny and new to include which leaves Tomas and Aaron.

Rosicky has been wonderful this season and his absence at Old Trafford could well have cost us the points. Given that he was written off by many (including BR) just a few months ago his rehabilitation has been neigh on miraculous, as has been the form of ….

Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh Messi is playing at a level none could have imagined a season ago. I wonder if even Mr Wenger envisaged such a transformation – quite simply, he is the best player in the entire Premier League this season. And if you disagree, name me another?

Attack. Only Giroud to look at but OG must be carefully considered because his improvement has been immense. Developing from a French journeyman who had many a Gooner in serious doubt as to his signing to a man who every game has all Gooners singing his anthem, he has had a fine year. Loads of goals, loads of assists but more importantly a focus for the attack, he has improved immensely . But is he good enough? You decide.

written by Big Raddy


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