Arsenal swagger to the top of the league? Player Ratings.

December 11, 2016

There is nothing good about the fixture Arsenal vs Stoke: nothing glamorous, no excited anticipation; we receive untold amounts of criticism if we lose and next to no praise if we win. Stoke is miserable place in the middle of nowhere with a horrible manager, a bunch of knuckle draggers for a team and the thickest of supporters who sing the most stupid song about some bint called Delilah, best thing to do is beat them convincingly and send them back up the motorway suitably humbled to make pots or whatever they do up there.

It was a convincing performance, wasn’t it? There is a whole new level of determination emanating from this group of players; a will to win that I haven’t seen in I don’t know how long.

Sanchez and Özil, our two super stars, head and shoulders above the rest, are showing the way; there is so much enthusiasm from them, so much desire to win I ask myself what is going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of?

We all know that there are in contract negotiations taking place in an attempt to keep them at the club, so if you were the manager and the chief negotiator who I assume is Gazidis what would you do?

I have read here and there in, I must admit, not the most sophisticated of publications, demands from ex Arsenal players that Wenger should spend everything it takes to keep Özil and Sanchez at the club. This kind of talk baffles me; beyond Wenger making it clear to the board that he wants them to stay at the club he has no more involvement at all. He doesn’t decide what the club can and can’t afford.

If this were me I would decide how far I want to push the boat out with these two and the club, as we all expect, is going to be slashing about in the middle of the Atlantic with these two and then having decided on a figure I would make the offer to them on the basis that we win the league this season. They both want to stay at the club but they both understandably want to be paid the correct value for their labour so the figure I imagine that has been put to them is no doubt eye watering but there is a clever little incentive attached.

Not convinced, fair enough, but those two are showing no signs of players who want to leave, that I am sure you agree on. It seems more than likely that offers have been put to their agents for them to consider but what I would do is say this amount that I am sure would be the GDP of a small country is dependent on us winning the league. A solution will of course be found if we don’t win the league but the players and the agents know that it is a done deal if they do bring that kind of glory to the club.

OK, you try and find something to talk about after an Arsenal – Stoke game…….Arsenal brushed Stoke aside to swagger to the top of the league with three goals coming firstly from Walcott who deftly steered Bellerin’s pin point cross past their helpless keeper to bring us back on terms; the second and probably the best came from Oxlaide-Chamberlain’s growing works of art, his cross was a thing of beauty but Ozil’s exquisite looping header was a master piece. The cherry on the cake came from Iwobi, who after Sanchez had been up ended in the most agricultural of ways, continued to drive into the box before steering the ball past the Stoke keeper – well yeah, but now what do you write?

Player ratings.

Cech: outstanding as ever, less hoofs up the field and more calm playing out to our team, a far better idea Petr, instead of increasing the chances of us losing possession we are guaranteed to retain it, simples. 8

Easter: he was getting better and better playing in his adopted position of right back, Rasp made a good point a couple of weeks ago, when he stopped trying to be a wing back and just played as an additional CB he found his feet. It was of course very useful that he was completely up to speed to fill in for Mustafi. Hector came on taking up his usual berth; I think it took Wonder Boy less than ten minutes to help bring us back on terms. 7

Mustafi: Easter did perfectly well when he replaced our lucky charm (we have never lost when he has played) but we also got a clear comparison and as good as Easter is he ain’t no Mustafi, we can only hope the second best German we have will not be out for too long. 7

Koscielny: masterful, did everything and more that we would want from our captain. 8

Monreal: rested in the week but made to sit on the bench while Gibbs put in a five star performance reminding the Spaniard that he better keep on his toes if he wants to keep his starting spot; which, to be fair he did. 7

Xhaka: I have said this before but I am going to say it again: this man has had a talking to; he is not the same player who arrived and played in such a gung ho way. A much more calm thoughtful performance and clearly so much more room for improvement. 7

Coquelin: another one who was rested in the week who came back in and put in a top performance, very impressed, if Özil wasn’t in such commanding form Francis would have been my man of the match. 8

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: and yet another one who was rested in the week and hit the ground running; there really is a fantastic little battle going on between him and Iwobi for that spot out on the left, it’s hard to tell right now who is ahead, although as the Ox is starting it must be him. 7

Özil: the German genius ran the show again; man the match and a rare headed goal to boot. 9

Sanchez: is there another centre forward in the world who while the team are in full flow attack can come back and take up positions in the centre circle and not a person bats an eye lid or moans one bit; when you think about it that really is quite amazing. Another excellent performance, hopefully he was taken off for cautionary reasons and will be available for Tuesday against Everton. 8

Walcott: what is it about having someone on the bench, who scored a hat trick in the week, breathing down your neck, ready to take your place at a moment’s notice that brings out the determination to do whatever it takes to keep your place? Well that is what Perez did to Walcott. Theo made a very good start to the season as we all know but has fallen back a bit over the last couple of weeks but then dropped to the bench his replacement scoring for fun looks like it scared Theo back to his determined best and his very important goal should not be forgotten. 8

Wenger: he really is deploying the troops well, resting where necessary and creating competition where needed. I am hoping that the resting part bodes well over the manic Christmas period that we are about to embark on. It is this energy sapping month that takes its toll on all teams and Chelsea are no exception, they have a small squad and one injury to Costa and it is bye bye league; his absence should be enough to get us over the line in May, although, a bolt of lightning to Hazard wouldn’t go a miss. 9

An LB offering.


Stoke Pre-Match. Lee Mason?

December 10, 2016

To say I dislike Mark Hughes would be like describing  the size of the planet Jupiter as being bigger than a dog. I don’t like the cut of his jib. You can tell much about the man by his football philosophy – this is a chap who can take the wonderful artistry of Shaqiri and turn him into yet another water carrier. Stoke are a club where the manager’s personality reflects the club itself (as does ours, of course).

Just in case you forget, ask Ramsey and Debuchy what they think about Stoke’s physical approach.

But, their recent results are good, since September Stoke’s results would have them in 4th place in the PL, above the Mighty Totts. They have won 5 of the last 7 games.

We are on  quite a good run ourselves, unbeaten in the league since the opening day blip and scoring 9 goals in our last 2 games.

This is our third game in 8 days so we can expect rotation.

My Team.

Cech

Gabriel     Mustafi    Koscielny     Monreal

Xhaka    Coquelin     Ox

Theo    Alexis     Mesut

Not easy to get the midfield correct. AW loves Coquelin and he is rested after missing the midweek victory, so I expect to see him start. Xhaka is the sort of chap we need to fight the Orcs but I fear he may retaliate – perhaps he is better coming off the bench, but what the heck, let’s see if he can show grace under fire.

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Warning. Today’s referee is Lee Mason. A man who is so stupid he cannot see the continuous rotational fouling Stoke use against AFC. This is a chap whom Alan Green (who knows a thing or two about football) calls “the worst referee in the PL”. A man who gives our players a yellow card for every 2 fouls and every 9 fouls for the opposition. I suppose it adds to the spectacle😀

Stoke have yet to win at The Emirates. The run needs to continue.


Worthless Boredom Wood?

December 9, 2016

Within a space of just a few days, the flame of the youth project flicked just briefly and then fizzled out. So sad! First it was crashing out to Saints in the Mickey Mouse Cup and then to Basel Juniours in the youth version of the CL. With that went the chance to watch our youngsters for another year. Eddie and some other regulars have often expressed the opinion that the youth project is not worth it, while GiE and Total have been discussing the loss to Saints. Perhaps it is time then to organise a full and proper funeral?

It looked very promising two years back when Andy Bonkers had joined in, when youth graduate Gnabry was knocking on the doors of the first team following from The Ox, while Sanogo, Akpom and Zelalem were waiting in the wings. Fast forward to the summer of 2016 and with substantial infrastructure investments and personnel changes in place, there was still considerable discontent. It was reported at one point that Bonkers was leaving, but this turned out to be a false rumour. Henry was under-18s coach but was told he could not continue both a coach and TV pundit, so he left. However, Freddie and Tony are still very much there.

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On the progression side, there has been good excitement, with Iwobi and Holding breaking through with credit into the first team, with Reine-Adelaide and Maitland-Niles waiting their opportunities in the wings. All sounded good, except that the juniours then crashed out of two significant competitions within a week. In the UEFA Youth League they had to score at least twice and defeat Basel away. They put in a valiant effort and created several chances, but could only open the scoring around the 80th minute through Nketiah. They they went into all out attack and conceded a last moment goal from a counterattack. There were some significant gains from teh competition, with Mavididi, Nketiah and Keto being the top stars. Not a disgrace, but an exit nevertheless!

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Which then brings us to the painful manner of the exit to Saints in the Mickey Mouse Cup. Yesterday, resident tactician-in-chief Gööner-In-Exile wrote: “I think it should also direct us back to the Southampton game where many of our squad players were questioned, amazing how different they look when surrounded by first team regulars … After that game there was a lot of hand wringing here and elsewhere about the quality of our reserves.” Which brings me to the question, if football is about playing one-two-three, and admittedly such Wengerball requires substantial understanding between the players, would we not have been better served by playing our juniours in the Mickey Mouse Cup against the Saints?

Well, we tried that in the past and then Wenger was criticised of disrespect. Damend if you do, damned if you dont! But, given the manner of our loss, would it not have been nice to see for ourselves what the likes of Willock, Bielik, Mavididi, Nketiah, Reine-Adelaide and Maitland-Niles can do as a team? A significant opportunity lost?

Red Arnie


Can we win the CL? Is it too early to start dreaming?

December 7, 2016

That question was not mine. It was Eddie’s. But, here is our answer. YES,we can!

There was a lot of discussion, following Micky’s fantastic curtain raiser yesterday, as to how much risk-averse Arsene should be. Truth be told, we were not expected to win the group. Like last year, and the year before, and the previous year as well. Same old, same old!

To be fair, splitting points home and away against the French oilers PSG was no mean feat. Nevertheless, given UEFA’s strange new rules, PSG still were above us in the standings before the match, despite our far superior goal difference. Plain injustice! Nevertheless there was all to play for. We have already had a measure of PSG’s visually stunning but ineffective acrobatics in front of goal. Ludogorets had all to play for, to try and manufacture a fragile progress to the Spursday league. And so had Basel!

What can one say about FC Basel 1893? A proud club with a long name and equally tall pretences? Not! Their home record in CL against English clubs speaks volumes.

2002/03 Liverpool 3:3
2002/03 ManUre 1:3
2011/12 ManUre 2:1
2013/14 Chelsea 1:0
2014/15 Liverpool 1:0

In the event, Arsene chose a team that was fit for purpose. Perez up front which I thought was just ideal. No funny histrionics, just going about your job industriously. Use your anticipation to take promising positions within the box, and just take your chances. Simples! What a fantastic hattrick as well. Well done Perez.

The most important part of Perez’s game for me was not trying to do too much. No jostling for space in the central midfield, leaving all the opportunity, as GiE puts it, for “Ozil’s and Alexis kick a ball round a dustbin all day, you just know they’d find ever more creative ways of making it look beautiful.” In the event, it turned out even better. Not only beautiful, but also superbly effective, as we saw yesterday. To quote Beebs: “Lucas Perez’s second goal came at the end of a 33-pass move. No goal in the Champions League this season has involved more passes.” Wow, just awestruck!

And then Iwobi! What can one say. Fast, hardworking, picking up loose balls in the midfield and relay them along to the magicians, Alexis and Ozil, to weave their magic. And then wait in the box for any opportunity that might arise. And what a nice goal as well! My highlight of the game was Iwobi’s big smile after the tap-in and running off to hug Ozil. Just brought a tear to my eye. It really did!

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I thought Rambo played an effective role, waking up occassionally to team up with the two magicians to weave the wand in the midfield. Xhaka (the Gooner one, the other one was rubbish) just played tango very effectively. Good solid game. So, did Gibbs. Gabriel and Kos were effective. I would like to make a special mention of Rob Holding. A good honourable CL debut! Well done son!! Could have done better on their consolation goal, but a good show nevertheless!!!

Ospina had little to do, but made a solid contribution as the first line of attack. Altogether, a pleasing team performance. As Arsene said earlier: “That is what football is about. It’s not about one player. It’s not me, me, me. It’s about one, two and three”.

Finally, it is time to wait in the wings to find out who gets the opportunity to face our next onslaught on the CL trophy this year. Onwards and upwards!

Written by Red Arnie.


Arsenal v Basel: a classic risk assessment

December 6, 2016

Fans of Big Raddy are about to be seriously disappointed, although probably not entirely surprised. More than any, they will understand the challenges he faces in being a hippy, and the lasting effects of a life bombarded by cosmic rays and shit like that.

Right, me here, so brace up and deal with it.

We all know what’s going on tonight. We could win. Paris could draw. We could top the group.

As I said earlier, a classic risk assessment is needed. I’ve had a quick gander, and Sanchez travelling gives us a glimpse into the Wenger mind. We could top the group and still get a very tough tie in the next round. For me, we had our chance, didn’t take it, should smell the coffee and lie low.

Having said all that, we could still field a very strong side and gain much, in terms of progressing as a squad. Embedding new understandings and combinations that could serve us well later in the season.

Just so you know, Basel are already 12 points ahead of second placed Young Boys in their domestic league, and steaming towards their 8th consecutive league title. They may well field a strong team simply to take another scalp.

I think we’d all pretty much agree on the players for whom an injury would hurt us the most, so I’d like to see them rested.

Lucas Perez is someone I’d like to see more of, and as striker. He scored 17 goals for a very low placed Deportivo last term. Arsene has so far deployed him largely on the left, and while Ollie is a great option, Perez may be the one to rotate with Sanchez if we wish to keep the same style.

I won’t put up my guess for an XI, and leave that for you lot. I will be interested to see how you’d play things tonight, and of course, ultimately what Arsene will do.

Written by MickyDidIt89


Are Arsenal better than Chelsea?

December 5, 2016

Chelsea are on a six match winning streak and looking very impressive. When this fact came up over the weekend amongst my red and white friends the first thing that got mentioned was that not so long ago we soundly beat them 3-0. This is obviously correct but truth be told we never beat the current formation; the winning formula that Conte has managed to find. On the subject of Conte for a moment; there is an interesting comparison going on out there between the Italian who clearly does everything possible to encourage his players and Mourinho who has no qualms about publiclly berating his: fairly obvious which of those two strategies is reaping more reward.

No, we may have beaten Chelsea but we did not beat the current formula; I mean, if we were to beat them next week then that would be a different story; we would and should crow about such a victory from the roof tops.

The title of this post: Are Chelsea better than Arsenal was a thought that sprang into my mind just after they had beaten City; I didn’t watch the game so the result of 1-3 away was all I had to go on before the start of the West Ham – Arsenal game and that score line was scarily impressive.

I continued pondering this while watching Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Monreal wreak havoc down West Ham’s flank and while Monreal may have an excuse for not being able to deliver the killer pass, Oxlaide-Chamberlain doesn’t. Alex was pants and as hard as I tried I could not stop myself from thinking Oxlaide-Chamberlain is no Hazard. The Belgian can use both feet and he has excellent close control. Then there is Walcott. Theo’s close control is so bad that Sanchez and Ozil are playing with a man short which although they are better than anything Chelsea have they cannot do is all on their own. In a nut shell Willian is so much better than Walcott.

It was still nil nil at the Olympic Stadium and I was thinking that over the length of a season those two advantages that Chelsea have will surely make a decisive difference.

I watched Match of the Day later that evening wanting to see how good Chelsea were and to my surprise I quickly realised how lucky they had been to win the way they did. It was not the all conquering performance that I feared. David Luis should have been sent off and Debruyne should have converted the sitter, not to mention the umpteen other golden chances Man City had to put that game out of Chelsea’s reach.

Fabregas was back and he sent one of his trade mark majestic forty yards passes that found Henry who used his body to shield himself from the ineffectual Otamendi before firing home to level the score. The only thing is of course is that it wasn’t Henry it was Costa. Meanwhile Arsenal had gone ahead at the Olympic Stadium with a Sanchez-Ozil combo and the reassuring realisation hit me that Chelsea can only win the title if the Elephant man stays fit for the length of the campaign; it can happen, the last time they won the league they had hardly any injuries as was the same last year with Leicester but these are rarities.

So the balance starts to swing back to the Good Guys because although the loss of Sanchez would be painful we still have Giroud, Welbeck, Perez and even Walcott.

We have a better defence than they do and we have more defensive back up. On that subject didn’t City look pants at the back, very poor? Leicester may have won the league with a lot of luck on the injury front but their defence was rock solid; there is no way that can be said of either City or Chelsea for that matter.

Arsenal, although, having gone one up were not dominating as they should have against a poor West Ham side. Enter Ramsey exit Walcott and hay presto we suddenly took complete control and as you know we ended up thrashing West Ham 1-5.

As to whether Arsenal are better than Chelsea only time will tell, the league does not lie. I know who my money is on.

COYRRG

An LB offering.


West Ham 1 Arsenal 5 – Player ratings

December 4, 2016

Subjective as always and I realise the opposition were very poor on the day, but you can only beat what is in front of you and I had a wonderfully rose-tinted day out in Straford.

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Cech – Didn’t have a deal to do against a team struggling for confidence. Covered his posts nicely when the Hammers did threaten. Stood and watched when the ball came back off the bar for the West Ham goal  – 8

Gabriel – We really couldn’t work out whether Gabs was severely injured or not. Appeared to have Chazzed his knee at the end of the first half, but, to our amazement,  came out in the second half only to sit down injured again moments later. Seems to be settling in at full back and wasn’t unduly troubled by this season’s Payet. His height is useful at corners, too. The Hammers most dangerous chance did come from their left flank, but compared to the Hammers’ right side of the defence, Gabs’ side was like Fort Knox  – 8

Monreal – Looked excellent going forward, linking with Ozil, Alexis and the Ox – 9

Koscielny (C) – Settling in nicely to the Captain’s role. He drove the team on all game with his flawless example – 9

Mustafi – His instant passing forward is becoming a useful weapon in Arsenal’s armoury. Defended as if his life depended on it as has become customary. Love him – 9

Walcott – Poor Theo must be having a few disturbed nights with his new bab. Barely touched the ball before being subbed. Had one excellent chance but failed to get a shot off quickly enough – 6

Ozil – I just don’t think you understand. Majestic world class, a Rolls Royce of a footballer – 9

Coquelin – Excellent throughout. Really silly getting booked by kicking the ball 50 yards to the advertising hoarding. Wasn’t made to pay by being booked a second time – 8

Oxlade-Chamberlain – Alex looked the player we all know he could be at the London Stadium yesterday. Driving forward at every opportunity, using the ball wisely, involved in the goals and to cap it all scored a peach. More of the same, please, young man – 9

Xhaka – Another settling in, in a most agreeable way. Staying on his feet more in the tackle is helping and his quality on the ball was very evident yesterday – 8

Alexis – If Mesut is a Rolls Royce, Alexis is a Ferrari. His road-holding, acceleration and fancy handling are all qualities from the top echelon of motor vehicles. Three glorious and very different goals capped his MOTM performance. I’m not sure about this short backlift business but more that it’s the speed he gets a shot off which is his strongest feature in front of goal. The dummy and chip for the hattrick were just sublime –10

(Alan Shearer knows almost nothing about football even after playing it for 20 years. I suppose his managerial record is testament to that, in part)

Arsenal's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez (L) scores his third goal, the team's fifth, during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Arsenal at The London Stadium, in east London on December 3, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. /

courtesy Justin Tallis

Sub

Ramsey – I saw a comment on twitter that someone at the game thought we’d be holding on to the 1-0 for the last 25 minutes. I’m not 100% sure that it was Rambo who was the catalyst for the bombardment that followed his arrival on the pitch but he certainly contributed a large amount. Aaron finding some form could go some way to making up for the loss of Santi – 8

Written by chas