Very Nearly A Perfect Day.

February 28, 2010

I cannot remember the last time I felt so proud of an Arsenal performance.  A fantastic day in which we clawed ourselves back to within three points of Chelsea after a dogged, determined display against Stoke, marred only by the tragic injury to Ramsey.

Rumour has it that we had been training all week in preparation for Stoke’s predictable aerial threat — and it showed. I am not talking about the goal we gave away after only seven minutes; I am talking about preparing ourselves for a determined fight back in the event that we went behind. And boy did they respond well, led notably by the team’s paternal leader, Sol Campbell, who may not be the armband wearer but he certainly is Arsenal’s proud standard bearer.

Stoke’s goal came predictably from a throw in conceded by Song who should have known better and given away a corner rather than a far more advantageous throw in but instinct kicked in. Delap sent the ball in with predictable menace which bounced off one of a cluster of heads and fell kindly for Puke, or what ever his name is, to head home. The commentators pointed the finger of blame at Eboue who certainly deserves his share of it but where was Sagna and who had been designated to protect that post during all the supposed mid-week preparation?

Stoke’s tails were up; they were fighting for every ball as if their lives depended on it and I for one feared the worst but there was one man who was not going to say lie down and role over: Sol Campbell was determination personified. Fabrégas may rightly get the man of the match award but it was Campbell maturity that shone through when the chips were down to rally the rest of the team when they needed it most. His infectious determination to throw himself at fifty-fifty waist high headers lifted the team to drive forward in search of the equaliser.

Arsenal poured forward using the most potent weapon we have available: our quick passing game. The interplay between Fabregas, Nasri and Ramsey was impressive; the problem was that the ball, having been thread through the eye of a needle, found its way to Bendtner who compared to world class Cesc does not have the ability to control it, the result being that the ball would pop up and we would lose possession.

It is a mark of Fabrégas’s own determination that he did not let that put him off and simply switched to using the Dane’s aerial ability. Our Catalan Captain sent in a superb cross for Bendtner who somehow managed to out jump three tall Stoke defenders to send the ball over Sorenson and into the net. The goal took the wind out of Stokes sails, their mid-week exertions started to take their toll and it was now Arsenal who with renewed belief were chasing everything down as if their lives depended on it.

The break enabled Stoke to catch their breath but that didn’t last long there was now only going to be one winner. Arsenal came out with all guns blazing, pouring forward with images of Premier League medals in their minds and then it happened. I am going to make clear that when Eduardo had his leg broken I didn’t think it was a red card offence, I thought it was a hanging offence, so I am no liberal, but having the use of Sky plus I have replayed the incident ten times and I do not think that it was intentional. Ramsey was unlucky, that break was a result of his commitment to the cause of Arsenal winning the league and boy I want to see him lift that trophy.

Many of the Arsenal players were understandably distraught by the sight of one of their friends groaning in agony on the floor and I for one wondered if they were capable of lifting themselves up. This job fell to Clichy: the image of the Frenchman determinedly encouraging the players to refocus will stay with me for a long time. The introduction of Rosicky and his experience helped; he led by example, driving forward in search of a winner but nagging thoughts started to enter my mind and I wondered if it was going to be one of those days when everything goes against us. Enter Nikki, his quick thinking changed all that, aiming a clever little chip at Puke’s hand, the referee decided we deserved a bit of luck and awarded a penalty, could you watch?

Fabrégas stepped up and in the face of what must have been incredible pressure slotted the ball into the corner, we were ahead. It was time for a bit of keep ball. The icing on the cake came in injury time when Rosicky drove a low rasping shot towards the Stoke goal, Fabrégas anticipating the rebound was there to knock it calmly across the goal to  our fox in the box Eduardo to score one of his trade mark tap ins. Cue unbridled celebration and relief to finish off what was very nearly a perfect day.

Player ratings:

Almunia: it has to be said that he had a good game, ok there was one flap but in that kind of game if it doesn’t lead to a goal then I reckon it is forgivable. I have been trying to work out where his new found confidence has come from and the only thing I can come up with is that being dropped for the Porto game and assuming his days at Arsenal were numbered he then watched Fabianski and said to himself: I may be crap but I am not that crap. 7

Sagna: another warrior like performance from our Bacari, I reckon he has been practising his crosses because they were a darn site better today, not great, but better. 7

Campbell: inspirational performance from the paternal captain his job is to get the team past the winning post at the end of the season. Take a look at his celebration after the Vermaelen goal, committed to the cause or what. 8

Vermaelen: has learned how to play with Campbell now and because of it gave a very commanding performance, what was he doing on the goal line four minutes into injury time? 8

Clichy: back to his absolute best today, he ran tirelessly down that left flank, was always available and had the best right foot low pile driver I have ever seen him send in. 8

Ramsey: he drove forward as hard as any other player on the field; the thing I noticed today that was different was how he had gained the respect of Fabrégas; our Captain won’t pass to anyone, for instance he will pass to Walcott as a last resort but today Ramsey was as good as anyone in the mid field. I obviously hope he recovers quickly. 8

Song: ridiculous yellow card, totally undeserved, we will miss his commanding presence in the midfield. 8

Fabregas: world class performance from a world class player.9

Eboue: sadly not as influential as I hoped, his job was to run with the ball into Stoke’s area, he was slightly better when he came out in the second half but still no where near as good as he needs to be to keep his place on the right mid; I expect him to be replaced by Walcott next week. 5

Bendtner: if he was half as good as he thinks he is he would be brilliant, still that was a fine header for the equaliser so credit where credit is due. 7

Nasri: put in the kind of performance he usually saves for the Emirates, skilful and determined. 7.5

I don’t know how you are going to believe us; we are going to win the league.

By London


Gunners MUST Rule Brittania …. or throw in the towel!

February 27, 2010

I was a young football mad Gooner in 1970, a home and away supporter, overcoming the vagaries of British Rail and the highly unpleasant attacks of Northern football hooligans to watch my heroes. Stoke away was one such journey and  will remain with me for a long time.

Most people think of the season 70/71 as a stroll to the Double (the first after the ’61 Spuds wonder team), but I can assure you it wasn’t. The drama went right to the wire and Stoke played a major role. The lowpoint of our season was a 5-0 drubbing for the lads at the Potteries, resulting in  a severe dressing down of the team by McLintock, Howe and Mee, which set us on the road to Silverware.

In addition  it was Stoke with the great Gordon Banks who would oppose us in the FAC Semi Final.  We drew the first game at Hillsborough with Peter Storey scoring a 90th minute penalty against Banks.  I stood there praying that he would score but convinced Banks would save it.  Banksy failed and we went onto the replay which we won 2-0 at a canter,  sending us to Wembley and the historic double winning victory over the Dippers.

To bring us up to date, last November we smashed Stoke (2-0!) at the Emirates with Sorensen playing his usual inspired game, and Fab missing a penalty.  Stoke go into the game  on the back of an 11 game unbeaten run and unbeaten in 2010.  They have just beaten City in the Cup, and Arsenal have yet to beat them at the Britannia. That said, we are learning to play the more physical teams and have a decent record ‘Up North’ this season.  One advantage could be the referee,  Peter Walton,  Stoke have never won with him officiating!  Surprisingly (at least to me) Stoke have garnered 12 points from their last 6 games and will go into the match very confident of continuing their fine run.

Tactically it will be the same old same old with Stoke.  Big men trying to kick lumps out of our frail, waspy wonders.  The Towel and Delap.  A highly charged and aggressive midfield.  Fuller on the breakaway, and lots of long ball over our midfield.  The fact that Robert Huth is Stoke’s top goalscorer tells us all we need to know about Stoke’s tactics!

I dismiss our 3-1 defeat in the FAC.  We played with half a team which was reflected in our performance.

We are missing Diaby, Gallas and Arshavin, but welcome back Eduardo.  I believe Bendtner will have a big game, though he will be up against Shawcross and Huth, both very tough CB’s.  This is Theo’s type of game IF we can entice Stoke to get forward and leave spaces for him to run into.  Please Arsene play Sol in place of Silvestre at CB,  he is such a strong presence in the box, and will be vital against the long throw.  I prefer Eboue to Ramsey or Denilson, purely for his height and pace, but we will need a disciplined performance from him.

My team would be:

A Goalkeeper

Sagna Campbell TV Clichy

Eboue Song Cesc Nasri

Walcott Bendtner

Subs Gk, Ramsey, Rosicky, Vela, Silvestre, Eduardo

Nigel Winterburn says, “You know what you are going to get at Stoke, there will be no time to get the ball down and play as Arsenal like to do. But they HAVE to get that passing game going”. I agree with him, if we can hold onto possession and play pass and run, we will exhaust a team that went 120 minutes at full throttle on Wednesday night. This is a very important game for us, perhaps not a must-win, but very close to it. It would be wonderful to see us score early, a gambit we seem to have lost the ability to perform. I go for a hard won 3 points.

Stoke, is famous for it’s potteries – Wedgwood, Spode, Royal Doulton and Minton. Wedgwood was the favourite china of Elvis Presley, who as we all know was a renowned Gooner  😉

RED ‘Salvation’ ARMY!

February 26, 2010

By ryandanielwood

Being an Arsenal fan at this moment, is a lot like visiting the Salvation Army. Ultimately we are relying on the charity of others. “Others” in our case being that poaching, mega-bucks, team of dollar chasers. Manchester City.

Now, I’m not about to go out on a limb and suggest that Man City can alone decide the fate of the league trophy this season. It is of course down to all the eligible teams in the race. It is down to the performances of Manchester United, Chelsea and the squad of unequalled Red and White geniuses in North London, as to whom undisputedly go the spoils.

My point however is that with the upcoming Chelsea fixture this weekend at Stamford Bridge, Roberto Mancini’s team of millionaire misfits might pose the best threat of ramming the league leaders off course. Take into consideration Chelsea’s trip to Inter, a match that put them a little more to the test and maybe, hopefully, weakened their resolve. Anyone left doubting the jetlag and overall weight of a champion’s league fixture should stretch their minds back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s account of why Everton overpowered his side recently. Let’s face it, at this point any Arsenal fan will be left wishing to the god’s of the beautiful game to transport us back to pole position. I know, because I witnessed such desperation and mild lunacy last weekend in a local newsagent.

The shopkeeper is a keen Gooner. He plays coverage of the matches on a small TV by his till while serving his customers. I entered the shop around 6pm last Saturday, all football coverage had finished. I made friendly conversation, mentioning the Everton victory over Man United earlier in the day. Expecting a positive reply, and hopefully a response of how Arsenal can manipulate the scenario to their advantage. He was totally disconcerted by that. His mind was literally somewhere else.

“You know, if we had beaten United and Chelsea, we’d be six points clear right now…SIX CLEAR!” he frenetically jaunted at me. He even counted it on his fingers, just in case I hadn’t heard. I assure you I and the rest of the formed queue behind me, had heard.  He went on:

“I’ve drawn up the premier league table as if we had won.” He wanted to produce the false statistics for me, but now very un-nerved, I made a mental note to shop elsewhere in future and passed on the offer leaving the shop.

But his passion and unquestionable belief that we should be Barclaycards Champions this year sparked a fuse inside me. I wanted to construct my own chart of statistics and formulate my own belief behind a strong set of factors. Though mine are at least loosely based on fact.

Other than the crucial over-riding factor that Chelsea lost at the San Siro, we will all no doubt have taken a larger interest in the pretty serious looking injury that had Petr Cech carried off the pitch. With a bit of good fortune he’ll be unable to appear again before the title has been decided, and if Ancelotti is reckoning on Hilario to produce an adequate stand in role for the following eleven premier league games, he’ll surely pay the price. Let’s be honest here, I’ve seen bladder poisoned incontinence victims keep cleaner sheets.

This unfortunately isn’t a guaranteed occurrence to bring the premiership back to the Emirates. None of it is. Manchester City for all their worth, were undone by a plucky Stoke side in the F.A cup (sounds familiar) and since checking out Hilario’s Wikipedia I’ve discovered he does retain a half decent record between the sticks. Still that’s what makes it all the more likely for everything to change. Football, it’s a funny old game.

By ryandanielwood

An Arsenal Supporter in New York

February 25, 2010

I had an interesting experience in New York not so long ago. Arriving late at night I went straight to sleep and woke early to make my way to a bar that I had already made certain was showing the Wigan game. There is always an enjoyable culture shock when first arriving in NY but making my way to see Arsenal and seeing people in Arsenal shirts walking towards 2nd Avenue at 10 in the morning made it even more surreal than usual.

The best way I can explain my feelings on entering the bar, which is called Nevada Smith’s by the way, is to compare it to an experience of going on the Ghost Train when I was a child: you sit on a carriage and move very slowly towards a door and than suddenly you go though and everything is very dark except for flashes of strange light, you feel a bit scared by the unfamiliar surroundings. But, then you start to focus and the first thing I saw was a huge flag on the wall with the words “New York Gunners” and then I noticed the bar was full of people wearing Arsenal shirts which naturally put me at ease.

The game started the goals started flowing and this bar started singing, in fact, they started singing after half an hour and didn’t stop until the end of the game. Being a cynical old bastard I was thinking that of course we should be beating Wigan but these people were celebrating with a happy innocence that made me feel slightly envious. There were little groups of girls there in their Arsenal shirts and when someone made a tackle they went started jumping up and down (an interception in American football is a big deal) The thought also crossed my mind that I have heard that it is hard to find a single heterosexual man in New York but I didn’t realise that girls had to go to that extreme, I jest of course.

I found myself sitting there, and the place was packed with gooners by the way, when I realised I could overhear two New Yorkers talking about the team, yet again feeling superior in my knowledge of all thing Arsenal I was humbled by how I found myself agreeing with them, they were expressing the need for a new goal keeper and another centre forward; although, this was not said in the cynical kind of way we are familiar in blogsphere this was said with a helpful innocence. I was a good win and a great experience but I will leave you with this…..when it comes to surreal thoughts can you imagine a bar full of gooners singing “There is only one Arsène Wenger”……. IN AMERICAN ACCENTS!

By London

Young, Gifted …… and Getting Better

February 24, 2010

Why do we have such unreasonably high expectations of a 20 year old Theo? The same goes for the 21 (just 22) year old Denilson.

How about other player’s careers aged 21?  Thierry Henry at the age of 21 had scored 20 goals in 105 games for Monaco and had just been brought into the French National Squad. Robert Pires at 21 was still at Metz and struggling. Freddie was at Halmstad, Martin Keown was about to be sold to Villa and was on loan at Brighton. The great Zinedine Zidane was still at Bourdeaux and yet to break into the French team. For all of them their Glory Days were in the future, at 21 they were starting out on their careers.

Of course, Fabregas at 21 was already our best player, same goes for Liam Brady, the very great John Radford (still Arsenal’s youngest hatrick scorer) and PV4.

What separates them? Well, in my opinion it is largely different rates of development, both physical and mental. Alex Song at 20 was so poor that Arsene Wenger was forced to talk to the press and support him, saying that we couldn’t see how brilliant Song was in training and that he had a huge future. I for one, laughed. Yet at the age of 22, Song is able to go for a 50/50 ball with two Sunderland thugs and come away with the ball, and you know what, I wasn’t surprised. What does that tell me? It tells me to be patient with our players.

The same can be said of Diaby. Wenger has been raving about him for 2 seasons, now we are beginning to see what AW sees. Diaby needed time to mature, he still does because he certainly isn’t the finished article. Even Van Persie, who is a huge talent, is only coming good now he is over 25. Prior to that he only fired sporadically. Fabregas, on the other hand was ready for the first team at 18, he matured at an alarming rate, though he still lacked the physicality he has found this season. Sadly for our other young players Cesc has become the benchmark, whereas he is truly an exceptional talent.

Distance runners do not mature until their 30’s, they need that long to develop their stamina and strength, so why should we expect Walcott to be consistent for 90 (70) minutes at 20? He has shown how physically fragile his young body is, and judging from his adrenaline-fed crosses, he is lacking mental maturity as well. He cannot calmly assess a situation, perhaps he never will, but Capello and Wenger both rate him. And maybe, like many a player, he will show how good he can be in his mid-20’s (though Theo, if you are reading this, a few stand out performances before season’s end would be fine). Of course, Theo has flattered to deceive, BBC Young Personality at 17, England’s youngest hatrick hero, the youngest scorer in the u-21’s; We expect great things from him, and that is the reason the fans are getting frustrated. One aspect often raised is that Walcott has been with us for a number of years, and has played in (not started) over 70 games for us,as such it is reasonable to expect a return from him (once again the same can be said for Denilson who has also played 70+ games). But look at them, compare them to a real man (Kevin Davies/Drogba), they are boys! When I was 21, I had had a lot of experience in certain areas (!) but I certainly wasn’t mature, were you?

Defenders also take longer to mature. Their best years are after 27 (which bodes well for TV). Gallas is a better player now than at 25. We are on Clichy’s back at present (no pun intended), yet he is still only 24, young for a full back, especially one with so much experience. Again, Clichy matured so fast that we forget how young he is, he will without doubt return to the form he had 2 season’s ago – form is transient, quality isn’t.

Ramsey, Vela, Wilshire etc etc such high expectations laid upon such young shoulders. Sending Wilshire to Bolton where his reputation doesn’t put such stresses upon him is best for Little Jack, and in the long run for Arsenal. He has made prodigious leaps forward but this season has not continued his remarkable development. It could well be because his body and mind need to settle before he continues his march to greatness. Wenger clearly appreciates this and has protected him from the spotlight as much as possible, in a way that he couldn’t with Walcott.

For an example of differing rates of development just look at your school class – for those that can remember that far back – was everyone the same in terms of physical development (stop laughing at the back), or maturity (I said stop laughing !)?

Early physical maturity is the exception, though there are some fine exceptions, Samantha Fox was only 17 when she first appeared in the Sun, and as we all know, Sammy was a renowned Gooner….

Silverware or Not – What happened to the Carling Cup team of 2007?

February 23, 2010

The Carling Cup divides gooners. Should we play the kids or should we go for it and try to win some silverware? Not having won anything for 5 years it’s an emotive question.

Arsène likes to use it as a stepping stone for the youngsters he believes will be our stars of the future.

Yesterday afternoon on this blog we touched on the financial restraints we feel Arsene is operating under and the fact that he may need to sell players to balance the books. If that is true then the Carling Cup is a good way to get some of the young players good exposure – put them in the shop window if you like.

Lets examine what happened to the team that played in the Carling Cup final in 2007, and compare them to the full strength Chelsea side they met on the day.

The Chelsea subs were Hilario, A Cole, Mikel, Robben and Kalou

The Arsenal subs were Poom, Djourou, Eboue, Hleb and Adebayor

The whole of that Arsenal squad were first team players who had featured  in teams in the Premiership, Champions League, FA cup and Carling cup games. The  players missing were Henry, van Persie, Freddie, Rosicky, Gilberto, Gallas, Flamini and Clichy.

The players who have since left Arsenal are:-

Justin Hoyte moved to Middlesborough in August 2008 for£3m;

Kolo Toure moved to Man City in August 2009 for£14m;

Aliadiere moved to Middlesborough in June 2007 for £2m;

Mart Poom moved to Watford in May 2007 for an undisclosed fee;

Hleb moved to Barcelona in July 2008 for £15m;

Adebayor moved to Man City in August 2009 for £25m.

Senderos is currently on loan to Everton and Baptista was on loan to us. The players that have been sold have either wanted away or were surplus to requirements so the Carling Cup doesn’t seem to be a chance for ‘Player For Sale’ signs to be hung around necks but I’m sure the experience helps.

So in 2007 Arsène  took the Carling cup seriously. Yes or No?

When you look at the squad that Chelsea put out it would seem that they were taking it more seriously than us.  I went to that cup final to support the team although I didn’t expect us to get the result as many first team players were missing and some of the Arsenal team were young and inexperienced.

If Arsène is  accused of throwing away the cups and destroying the confidences of the young players by using them in this way, why do we still have eight of the players ( if you include Eboue and Djourou)  from that team playing now. Apart from Senderos who was already having Drogba nightmares – did any of these players suffer from playing in a cup final and not winning?

I don’t believe that the Carling Cup is a valuable piece of silverware. Certainly with our squad depth it would be madness to play a full strength team at any point.  I think the competition is a great platform for some of the inexperienced players to have the chance of mixing it with the big boys and I think  Arsène promises them they will be used in this way. If  we were to win it, I would be thrilled of course but I wouldn’t want to jepodise any of the other chances of silverware by using players unnecessarily.

The Carling Cup final is this coming Sunday and we aren’t in it – how do you feel about that?

CARRY ON FOULING – they (Arsenal) don’t like it up them Capt. Mainwaring

February 22, 2010

Having watched around a half century of Arsenal games live, both at Highbury and Ashburton Grove, one of the first things I’d noticed – after the bowling green-like surface at both “Homes of football”- was how much opposition teams would need to toil away at their foul count to get a yellow card compared to us.

My first game was one of the Champions Leagues games played at the old Wembley (against Fiorentina) and even then I used to marvel at the fact that a robust challenge on us would generally get waved on by the man in black yet if an Arsenal player tried that same type of vigorous interception there would be a sharp intake of breath while the crowd waited to see whether there would be “an ecstasy of fumbling” at the referee’s top left pocket to flourish a yellow card.

As I trudged home after that first live match experience, where I had the delights of seeing Bergy, Henry, Kanu, Adams and other Arsenal legends play, I put down that perception to my partisan nature and I assumed the sense of injustice felt then was due to that natural fans bias.

Fast-forward ten years and has age mellowed my perception of this egregious treatment of our team and do I believe match officials deal with our games in an impartial manner?

No and no. So that’s a double no.

By way of an attempt to look rationally at this I thought “New year, fresh chance for officialdom to convince me of their objectivity” so I counted up – with my advanced level excel skills coming to the fore – fouls and yellows awarded in our games so far this calendar year.

We’ve had 4 home and 5 away games and the stats are as follows:

Match Date Arsenal Opponent
Fouls Yellows Fouls Yellows
Liverpool 10/02/2010 H 19 3 14 2
Chelsea 07/02/2010 A 14 2 11 2
Man IOU 31/01/2010 H 9 1 12 0
Villa 27/01/2010 A 15 2 16 2
Stoke 24/01/2010 A 8 0 20 0
Bolton 20/01/2010 H 16 1 17 2
Bolton 17/01/2010 A 3 2 7 1
Everton 09/01/2010 H 10 1 11 1
West Ham 03/01/2010 A 8 1 17 1

In total we’ve had 102 fouls awarded against us with 13 yellows while our opponents have had 125 fouls and 11 yellows. That means 7.85 fouls per yellow for us and 11.36 fouls per yellow for our opponents, that means the opposition have to foul us nearly four (3.52 to be precise) more times to get a yellow.

This is prima facie evidence of what I’ve always suspected, that we are either penalised more or we don’t know how to “skilfully” foul or foul at a low enough but persistent level to not warrant a caution, Darren Fletcher style, yes YOU Fletcher you scruffy, dishevelled excuse for a footballer.

However if you look at how the home and away statistics disaggregate another picture unfolds. At home we have conceded the same number of fouls as opponents, 54, yet we have been shown 6 yellows to the opponents 5. So that show’s we don’t have referees influenced by the crowd at Ashburton Grove as it’s a near identical fouls per yellow (us 9 exactly and opponents 10.80) but its away from home the referees show all the bias to the “Top 4” that smaller clubs with chips on their shoulders bleat about.

Our 48 fouls away from home have resulted in 7 yellows (6.86 fouls per yellow) while the opposition playing in front of their home crowd have earned only 6 yellows from 71 fouls (11.83 fouls per yellow) – that’s approaching TWICE the level of fouling required by us to warrant a yellow, and that’s just the opposition fouls that are called by the referee (we can all remember plenty of instances where dangerous fouling against us has gone without caution.)

I’m well aware that some may say statistics can be produced to support any argument however something as straight forward as fouls per yellow is not a convoluted or especially esoteric measure of the equality of cautions earned compared to foul play.

The home-away disparity is partly due to the hostile atmosphere at away grounds influencing referees – they may say it has no effect but 44,000 ‘dippers crying out for a penalty when Stevie Me launches into his trademark double axel with a half twist near our penalty area nearly always results in a spot kick. A similar situation exists at Old Toilet where the Shrek (and Greasiano and “Donkey” van Nistelrooy before him) has been conning us out of results (none more so notably to end our unbeaten run) on a regular basis – that our manager is no longer surprised by this is testament to how long this situation has prevailed; these are just “Old Trafford-ish” instances. The power of the prawn sandwich brigade has had referees from Riley to Webb showing all kinds of ludicrous inconsistencies favouring the toilet scrubbing in-breds who play in that Salford retail park.

In conclusion I would say we have to wise up and learn how to foul more “efficiently” and we have to make Ashburton Grove a more forbidding environment for the opposition so that we can make our home advantage count for more in influencing the referees.

Perhaps we have started to develop a bit more of a nasty streak in recent times which is all the better for letting the opposition to not start taking liberties with us.

There is also hope for the our home atmosphere being more intimidating on the evidence of the Bolton game where I joined in the jeers of Jaaskelainen (while they were 2-nil up) for time wasting and booing the Bolton players for their traditional thuggish approach.


We won … but can we win?

February 21, 2010

On the face of it a victory and 3 points gained on manu courtesy of a 3:1 defeat by Everton was just what the doctor ordered – so why was the atmosphere at the game subdued and the walk home to the station characterised by head shaking and hushed tones? The answer is simple; playing like that, we’re not going to win anything.

The team selection was positive, with Almunia back in goal and Ramsey featuring in midfield in place of Denilson. The inclusion of Eboué was greeted with enthusiasm by fans who a year ago would have groaned in disbelief – and he didn’t disappoint.

The pattern of the game was familiar. Sunderland had set their team up with negative intent. Same old boring tactic, pack the defence and try to get lucky on the break – and it almost worked when Kenwyne Jones got through one on one with Almunia and should have equalised but pulled his shot wide. Craig Gordon was timewasting when taking his goal kicks from the start but unsurprisingly managed to execute them much more quickly once they went a goal down. Darren Bent was wasted playing out wide and hardly featured in the game.

We had plenty of possession and created a few chances, but lacked the cutting edge up front. We really need a striker who can spearhead the attack, Chamakh will be most welcome. Players were receiving the ball out wide but crosses seldom found an Arsenal shirt often because there wasn’t one in the danger area.

The exception was Emmanuel Eboué who gave one of his best performances albeit peppered with the occasional sortie into am dram. He was quick, direct and threatening whenever he received the ball. The way he battled to squeeze the pass through to Bendtner for the first goal was typical of his performance throughout the match. The Dane should be very grateful for such an easy tap-in as his first touch had deserted him a few minutes earlier when in front of a virtually open goal and lost vital seconds only succeeding in finding a defender instead of the beckoning net.

The pattern of the second half was much the same as the first up until the all too familiar last 15 minutes when Sunderland actually showed some endeavour and gave us a few  tense moments. At this point, I, like a lot of fans around me thought that 1:1 was the most likely outcome. Thankfully we could relax when late on Cesc ran towards the box and invited a rash challenge by Campbell. It looked like a soft penalty and may have even been outside the box, but we are overdue a touch of generosity from a referee!!! The resultant penalty was dispatched low into the bottom right corner by our captain. Three points secured.

I do not propose to give player ratings but would make the following observations:

Almunia – did OK but does not inspire confidence and once again was indecisive and hesitant when coming for the ball on occasion.

Clichy – had a much better game, kept it simple and concentrated on defending.

Sylvestre – coped for the most part with a poor Sunderland side, but give me Sol any day.

Nasri – he is a very clever and skillful player and provided a lot of the quality on show.

Eboué – my MotM, without his contribution I doubt we would have won.

Cesc – he worries me. He played well but seems to have lost some heart. He needs quality players around him otherwise his talent is wasted and may be lost back to his home country.

Bendtner – he worked hard but often drifted wide and left the middle unattended. He still lacks confidence in front of goal.

Arsène – good team selection, but it was ridiculous to bring on Denilson with a couple of minutes to go. He wasn’t up with the pace of the game and just added an extra nervy 30 seconds to the injury time.

Apologies for this hastily thrown together report, it was going to be written by another author but sadly events have made that impossible. There’s plenty to disagree with – it’s only my opinion. I’m delighted we won, but realistic that we need to improve on this performance if we want to be in contention for the title at the end of the season.

Victory – by Royal Decree!

February 20, 2010

We need a confidence booster and who better to play today than a poor Sunderland side who come into the game missing a number of first teamers ? The Black Cats arrive at the Emirates looking for a double over us this season and not having been beaten by Arsenal for 3 games. Reasons for optimism? Well, Sunderland are in the midst of a dreadful run, not having won in their last 12 games, they have taken 3 points from a possible 36 on the road and have a Gooner as their top scorer.  Darren Bent and his family are massive Arsenal fans, and I am sure Darren will not want to disappoint his Mum by scoring against her beloved Arsenal!

Steve Bruce: Another in the long list of ex-Manc managers. All trained by SAF, all promote efficient as opposed to imaginative football, and all are fighters. Bruce is a man one would want in the trenches, a natural leader of men. Were it not for Martin O’Neill I would expect him to be SAF’s successor.  He seems to be a decent chap and despite an incredibly successful career at MU never won an England cap.  Expect to see him as manager of Newcastle within 2 seasons !!  Bruce is not known for playing expansive football so it is highly likely that Sunderland will “park the bus” at the Emirates.

Of course Roy Keane was manager  prior to Bruce, and it is a testament to his management skills that he signed Anthony Stokes from us for  €2m. Thank you Roy, you paid for a 8 months of Theo’s wages.

I am looking forward to watching Lorik Cana. He has said recently that he would have been a Gunner, having been invited to trials when he was 16; Visa problems prevented his arrival. There was much talk on the Blogs of  Arsenal signing him last season, but the fact that he signed for Sunderland must indicate that it wasn’t just Arsenal who doubted his ability to cut it at a top club. That said, he has looked a beast in the middle of Sunderland’s midfield and will give Fab a good challenge (hopefully nothing too violent). It is reported that Lee Cattermole has been Sunderland’s best player this season, but he is suspended for the game. I am sure our delicate players will miss him!

We go into the game missing Diaby, Gallas and Arshavin. Song returns in place of Diaby, and I expect to see Walcott replace Nasri or Rosicky.

My team:

A Goalkeeper

Eboue          Sol         TV       Clichy

Song      Cesc       Nasri       Rosicky

Walcott       Bendtner

Alternatively it could be:

A Goalkeeper

Sagna       Song     TV      Clichy

Denilson    Cesc      Rosicky

Theo      Nik     Vela

Much will depend upon whether Wenger wants to play an attacking team and 4-3-3. Playing Song at CB against a team that will almost certainly play on the counter-attack could be a good ploy; Sol’s lack of pace plus two games in 4 days could count against him.

Last season I had the privilege to attend the Emirates in the company of Peaches to watch a seemingly interminable 0-0 draw. My only memory of the game is that it was very cold!! Sunderland games are like that – forgettable, though I do recall a stunning RvP free kick a couple of years back

The Black Cats have a decent defence but if we really are to challenge this season, we have to beat teams like Sunderland at home and win handsomely. There will be no excuse for losing any points.

Sunderland became a City as recently as 1992 as part of the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of The Queen’s accession to the throne.

And as everyone knows. Our Queen is a renowned Gooner ……


February 19, 2010

My good friends will tell you that I’m not very good at comedy, being a girl I almost never remember even the funniest of jokes but I did think we needed a bit of cheering up today.

It occurred to me that Arsene always has a sound-bite and like every good politician he can roll them out for similar situations hoping that no-one will notice ‘hes used that one before’. I did some searching and after an hour and a half of reading through hundreds of quotes a pattern emerged, and the realisation that many of his gems that had been used over the years can still be applied now – why was I surprised?…………

“I really can’t remember having as many injuries as this but it is not a crisis. We have enough good players in the team to win the game.”

“We should not have lost. Our side played with a team spirit showing some great quality, but we were punished for a lack of experience and maturity.”

“I think we have the best defense in the league and you don’t do that with a bad goalkeeper.”

Plus who can this be referring to…………….again?

“It does not stop him from moving or playing. He can play with an anesthetic in his hand but we will monitor him in training tomorrow morning.”

Arsene relishes his battles with the other top teams in the Premiership and there were lots of quotes about Fergie and Mourinho and Arsene’s desire for Arsenal to be successful in winning the title.

The opposition love the fact that he is always ready to declare how positive he is and my spud friends delight in telling me at every opportunity that we aren’t going to win anything.  But there is a way that Arsene worries the others with his sincere belief, his cold grey eyes staring into the camera declaring that even with half a team we have the character and the spirit to win the battles.

“I have got more important things to worry about. We do not even talk about the title. The most important thing I am concerned about is winning our next game.”

“At the moment it does not look likely that we can catch Chelsea. Lets get our injured players back first, but right now Chelsea are not even a worry for me,”

There are times when even he lets his guard slip, shows some humility as he recognises that no team can win everything all of the time. This from the man that predicted his team could go unbeaten for a whole season and then they did.

“It is a miracle we are still in the competition but we are up for this game and I think we will go through.”

“What’s good about football is that it’s not predictable, … I feel we have the needed cohesion, the belief and the quality to beat them.”

“What’s important for me is that Arsenal are the best team in the country. At the moment we are not. That is the real worry for me.”

“There’s something happening in this team and it’s growing in confidence. It’s young and showed resilience, attitude and not just quality, but character.”

As you could possibly predict there were so many accolades to Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp that I just couldn’t choose which to include but there were also some quotes about players that we can all have a guess who they refer to……….

“You can compare him a little bit to Vieira, who has a similar stature. He is a little bit of a different player but Patrick is a good role model for him. To model himself on Patrick would be a good idea because he has that kind of stature and strength.”

“Unfortunately for us, he has made a good decision. But he has played 14 years for Arsenal, so he could not turn down the opportunity to have two more years playing than he could have had here.”

“Don’t forget, he started out as a centre-forward when he was young and sometimes he reminds people of that.”

“Wayne Rooney has achieved a lot, and I want to be cautious with comparisons. But he has the same ingredients at the same age to be a big prospect for England.”

This has to be my favourite – its such an understatement

“It is a big blow to lose the two players, because our squad is a little short.”

And this was the most topical quote of them all

“We need to be more consistent in the championship, … Hopefully, you will see that against Sunderland on Saturday. We have a good opportunity at home.”

A good opportunity Arsene to keep up the pace on the leaders and ensure we don’t get sucked into the chasing pack.

I shall be there – maybe Sol will play ……………