Goodbye Denilson – written by RockyLives

September 20, 2010

Written  by RockyLives

In a game of many villains for us it may seem odd to pick out one, but I’m sad to say that Denilson does not belong in the Arsenal first team.

Before I elaborate, it’s worth having a quick word for each of the other villains of the piece (and some heroes):

Alex Song: idiot for the first booking (he was carded for the dissent, not for the non-foul). Idiot for the second booking: when you’re in a minefield you don’t start doing Riverdance. Song knew that another booking would mean red yet he kept making niggly fouls. The obstruction that led to his second yellow would be a booking seven times out of ten. Aside from the bookings, he seemed leaden-footed and went marauding forward on too many occasions leaving us vulnerable in midfield, as if his goal against Bolton has made him think he’s Thierry Henry.

Phil Dowd: many people’s hate figure for allowing the Sunderland goal in the fifth out of four stoppage time minutes. But we all know that the official allocation of extra time is a minimum and anything above that is discretionary. After the flak that the ref in the Everton v Man Utd game took last weekend for blowing the whistle during an Everton attacking move it’s not surprising that refs this week were hyper-sensitive to the issue. Anyway, we’ve benefitted in the past from extra-extra time goals ourselves. If I was going to take issue with Dowd (who was generally pretty good) it would be over the fact that Bramble twice scythed down our players on the edge of the box as they bore down on goal and neither foul produced a card.

Rosicky: he had a good game overall, but the penalty miss makes him a villain. However, even the best players fail to convert pens occasionally and there’s no point dwelling on it.

Jack Wilshere:  London made the point on here yesterday that in the first half he was leaking balls like a pair of torn underpants and perhaps should have been rested after the Braga game. He certainly struggled in the first half, but I thought he played very well in the second and, unlike the more experienced Song, was careful not to incur a second yellow.

Andrei Arshavin: will whoever has pinched his shooting boots please return them immediately to Mr A. Arshavin, Ashburton Grove, London N5. No questions will be asked.

Heroes: although Sunderland played really well and made a few half decent chances, Almunia, Kozzer and Squelchy all played well. Up front, Chamakh put in a tireless shift but in the last 15 perhaps he should have been replaced by Vela. Nasri and Rosicky also had good games overall.

And so to Denilson.

Let me start by saying I’m not a Denilson hater and I don’t like scapegoating players. I was at the Wigan game when so-called fans were booing Eboue and I was not one of them.  I was away at Fulham when a 17-year-old Alex Song was shamefully booed by the traveling support and I did not boo then either.

Two seasons ago I thought Denilson was a promising player, tidy on the ball and efficient with his short passing game. He was far from the finished article but, if he continued to progress, he had the potential to end up being a first team regular. What’s more, he was Brazilian and we all know that Brazilians have an extra bit of brain devoted exclusively to footballing skills (it’s in place of the ‘don’t cut down rain forests’ bit of the brain).

Sadly little Den has not progressed and has, in fact, regressed.  Two seasons ago he seemed able to maintain his focus and work rate.  That’s not the case now. He was rightly condemned for some of his woeful performances last year (being overtaken by the ref during a Man Utd break which led to a goal was a particular low point). Looking at his 37 minutes and 15 seconds yesterday it seems he’s learnt nothing from that criticism. In that relatively short space of time I counted three occasions on which the Sunderland player he was challenging did a give-and-go, and Denilson turned to stand and watch the path of the ball instead of going with his man. It was as if he was a spectator while his opponent raced ahead into dangerous positions. Even Sunday League players know that when the man you’re supposedly marking or closing down gives the ball and runs you’re supposed to go with him. On other occasions when Sunderland won the ball in their own half and attacked at pace, you could see most of the Arsenal players sprinting back to cover – apart from one: there was Denilson, jogging gently back as if it was the end-of-game warm down.

To reluctantly steal a quote from Alan Hansen, it’s as if his football brain is not fully developed; as if his awareness of what to do in crucial situations has gone adrift. I feel sorry for him, I really do. I would love nothing more than to see him turn into a world class midfielder. Elements of his game are still good – his short passing in particular – but it’s not enough. He has become a liability and I have no doubt his inattention will lead directly to us conceding goals this year.

I have a sneaky hope that Arsène knows this too, which is why Denilson has slipped down the pecking order behind Wilshere and Diaby (and no doubt behind Ramsey too when he returns).

I will never boo him, I will never barrack him, and when he turns out for Arsenal I will support him, but I fear the time has come to say goodbye to Denilson.

RockyLives


Wenger is asking too much of Wilshere – written by London

September 19, 2010

A moment’s lack of concentration after ninety four minutes and forty seconds in a game that was supposed to last ninety four minutes cost us two precious points.

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that not only was it the poor time keeping by referee Phil Dowd but also the stupidity of Alex Song and an atrocious penalty miss by Tomas Rosicky that combined to deny us two points which could end up making the difference between winning the league and coming second.

As tempting as it must have been to keep an unchanged side after the six nil mauling of Braga it became apparent very quickly that it was wrong. Sunderland were a different animal and it needed a different approach.

Wenger is asking too much of Wilshere, two full on games in the space of a week for an eighteen year old is asking for trouble.   Wilshere is not ready for that and it showed; he gave away possession no less than four times in the first fifteen minutes giving belief to Sunderland that their game plan of closing us down quickly would ultimately reap rewards.

The first half would have belonged to Sunderland if it wasn’t for a brilliant piece of quick thinking by Fàbregas to put us one up. Ninety nine times out of a hundred he would have angled his foot in exactly the right way to score what was, even by his high standards, a very impressive goal albeit one that sadly resulted in his injury and cost us his calming influence for the rest of the game.

A goal behind and Sunderland piled on the pressure being awarded what seemed like a never ending stream on corners which our impressive central paring of Squillaci and Koscielny dealt with professionally.

We just couldn’t seem to get a grip on the game; the half time whistle couldn’t come quick enough for me as I waited in the hope that Wenger would work his magic during the break.

Sunderland tried to continue their high tempo game in the same way as they left off but it became apparent ten minutes after the restart that it was going to be a tall order to maintain it for a full ninety.

Still, help was shortly on its way for the Black Cats in the form of Alex Song who decided to hand out loaded pistols to his many detractors and said, go ahead, shoot me. This weekend he deserves all the criticism that comes his way. Petulance for the first yellow, a schoolboy error, right next to the ref, for the second and off he went.

Finally, Denilson came on and we got to grips with the game, he should have started, his much maligned short passes, the ones that always find their man would have made this a completely different game; one in my estimation that we would have dominated completely from start to finish.

Sunderland were tiring and even with ten men we were running the show, Nasri and Chamakh were working their socks off to keep us in the game, the defence carried on their sterling work and just to tease us just that little bit more we were awarded a penalty after Nasri had his leg clipped, a happy weekend beckoned and I mean happy, then up stepped Little Mozart and hit the wrong note.

In fairness to Wilshere he did improve as the game went on but ultimately his inexperience showed when in extra, extra time he should have cleared, had he done so we would secured all three points and that long journey back from Sunderland for all the players would have been a win rather than what must have felt like a loss.

Written by London


Cesc happy with Cattermole’s ban. Sunderland preview – written by BigRaddy

September 18, 2010

The Stadium of Light, there’s a misnomer. Anyone who has had the misfortune to travel to Sunderland away knows the drab, watery light that emanates from the cold North Sea and washes over the industrial wasteland that is Sunderland. They will also know how we struggled at TSOL last season, despite having 90% of the possession we got beaten by a late  Darren Bent goal (plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose).

We go into our 5th game of the season with a tidy haul of points, all of which have been taken from Northern opponents, and it would be excellent if we could garner another 3 today. However Sunderland have a fine home record (one defeat in 12) and we will have to be at the top of our game to win.

Gyan appears to be a fine signing and alongside a rejuvenated Darren Bent (saved by Steve Bruce from the N17 hellhole), they will present a menace upfront. Our defenders must be fully concentrated as it should be noted that we have conceded in every one of our last 9 away games. We cannot rely on our ability to score more than the opposition – a few clean sheets away from home are essential.

We go into this game in superb form, as good as we have seen since last autumn when we smashed Porto etc. Sunderland will be worried particularly as they will be missing their midfield enforcer, Lee Cattermole (how could anyone seriously suggest we need a man like him), and possibly John Mensah. Cattermole is a perfect example of a talented and skilful player who has been given a poor football education, his disciplinary record is appalling. A CB pairing of Titus Bramble and Anton Ferdinand ought to bring a smile to the face of our nippy attackers, both are good defenders but susceptible to ingenuity and pace. Steve Bruce has become a fine manager and I expect him to get the best out of his players today. His stated respect for Wenger is a refreshing change from the vitriol of most British managers and does him much credit – does he fancy the job as AW’s replacement in 2014 (not my ideal choice!)?

With the team playing so well it would be tempting to play the same players as Wednesday, but I would give Wilshere a break. I would include Eboue because he is harder than Nasri and we may need some physicality  today.

There is very little to tell about the “City” of Sunderland (I thought cities had to have a Cathedral).Founded in 1974 during on of those ridiculous boundary changes which brought 4 “Hovis” towns together, Sunderland boasts it is the birthplace of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and that Sid James died there. Oh, and my friend Julien’s father used to be Mayor.

Can we win? Yes. Will we win? Why not?

COYRRG


Van Persie on the bench for the Champions League Final – written by Rasp

September 17, 2010

It is not teams but squads that win the EPL or the CL. If the CL final was tomorrow and everyone was fit and available, what team should we pick based on what we know about the players at this stage?  For the first time in several seasons, we have well balanced squad comprising a solid defence, an embarrassment of riches in midfield and a true cutting edge up front, so competition for places will be hard fought.

Players will develop through the season. Some will come into contention and others will be surpassed. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume the impossible – that we have no injuries.

Guaranteed to start:

There are some players who we know would be in the starting line-up if available – but not as many as you might think. This is purely my opinion and I expect many to disagree, but at this stage of the season, for me, there would only be 5 guaranteed starters – Vermaelen, Sagna, Song, Cesc and Chamakh.

The formation:

4:5:1 is here to stay – but more in the form of a 4:2:3:1 or a 4:1:4:1 depending on the opposition. The midfield 5 continually interchange and cover for one another according to the pattern of play. All of our midfielders like to go forward and look to score goals and that is a great thing, but when we are under pressure, they need to be disciplined and defend as a unit. We are often criticised for being too narrow in our play and there is some truth to this. The width will have to be provided by the full backs overlapping as Nasri and AA will always look to cut in towards goal.

The keeper:

Almunia is on a mission to prove his many critics (myself included) wrong. He hasn’t been subjected to huge pressure yet, but you’d have to say he is the safest choice for keeper based on his performances so far and long may it continue.

The defence:

Vermaelen is a gimme. He has been outstanding and would make any team in the world. At the moment it’s hard to choose between Koscielny and Squillaci for the right sided centre back. Kozzer has been extremely impressive in the way he has adapted so quickly to the team and English football albeit with the occasional lapse of concentration that could cost a goal. Squillaci has shown us what experience brings. He is strong, solid, and aggressive. He keeps it simple and reads the game very well. I thought he was better than Koscielny against Braga and didn’t get beaten for pace. At the moment I would just plump for Squillaci for a big game, but if Kozzer continues to grow in the side he may well become favourite by May.

We are lucky as we have 2 excellent players vying for both left back and right back. Sagna is having his best start to a season since he joined and has to get the nod over Eboue. Clichy’s experience and attacking ability will keep him as favourite for left back unless the mistakes and over-elaboration when defending creep back into his play, in which case, Gibbs is a more than adequate replacement.

The midfield and attack:

Our midfield is so fluid in its movement and interaction that it is almost pointless to talk about position on the pitch; but here goes. Song has to be considered as one of the deep lying midfielders although he played very effectively in advance of Cesc in the second half against Bolton. So would we play another defensive midfielder? The candidates are Wilshire, Rosicky, Ramsey and Denilson and Diaby. Wilshire has played this role in the last couple of games. He is tough in the tackle although sometimes a bit too reckless. He is scarcely able to last the full 90 minutes at the pace Arsenal play so we must be careful not to heap too much pressure on him. That said, Cesc was good enough at his age, if he continues the form he has shown so far, he’d get my vote for the position – controversial I know, especially when you look at the quality of the other players available.

So who will play either side of Cesc? On Tuesday we saw Nasri on the right (but actually he played right across the pitch) and Arshavin on the left and those are the two I would currently pick. Arshavin can be brilliant one minute and frustrating the next, but he has a rare ability and is a big game player.

The spearhead:

Chamakh is my choice to lead the attack since he has all the attributes necessary – he’s strong, a handfull for defenders, he wins headers, he can hold the ball up, his close control is excellent and he brings his team-mates into play.

The bench:

Mannone (I wouldn’t risk Fabianski), Koscielny, Eboue, Diaby, Rosicky, Walcott and van Persie.

Most likely to come on as a sub:

Depending on the course of the game, RvP and Theo  if we are looking for a goal, Eboue and Diaby if we need to consolidate a lead.

Not even on the bench:

Bendtner, Denilson, Ramsey, Gibbs.

Controversial:

No RvP in the starting line-up? It seems madness that a player rated by many as the second best in the squad would not make the starting eleven. He is a brilliant player, but do his particular skills compliment those around him? I don’t think he is as good a target man as Chamakh or a better dribbler in tight situations than either Nasri or AA, so reluctantly RvP sits on my bench – but what a sub!


Six of the Best ….. the Cesc and Jack Show

September 16, 2010

When a team wins by a margin like 6-0, it’s very easy to dismiss the match as a sporting contest. And so it is in this case, Sporting Braga were ripped apart by an Arsenal team that was in the mood to show the best of their game. At no point, from the first minute to the last, did Braga look like they had a chance of taking any of the points. We were left with our second 6-0 home win of the season, to go alongside our 4-1 win over Bolton.

There can be virtually no criticism of the Arsenal players’ performances. Individually and collectively, they were fantastic. Arshavin, Nasri, Fabregas, Wilshere and Chamakh provided an energetic and almost relentless attack. Time and time again, incisive passes from the imperious Fabregas carved open a limited and bamboozled Braga defence, with a zesty Arshavin, a mobile Chamakh, a confident Wilshere or a vibrant Nasri on the receiving end, and constantly creating new problems.

On the defensive side, Braga presented little threat, and failed to press the ball sufficiently to earn the opportunity to do much more. That said, we saw enough from Squillaci and Koscielny to fortify the feeling that Wenger has made two excellent signings. William Gallas might have had the name and the medals, but these two, alongside Vermaelen, promise to give us defensive strength and intelligence that we have sorely missed in recent years. On the odd occasion they needed to defend, the two centre backs read the game well and dealt with the pressure. And going forward, each of them acted as launch-pads for attacks, frequently pressing Braga players into errors and winning back possession quickly. This knack of getting the ball back is going to be important this season, and it wasn’t just the centre backs tonight, Sagna, Clichy, Song, Wilshere and even Arshavin often pressed and won back possession.

Although the goals were evenly divided between the two halves, Arsenal’s first half performance was especially impressive, yielding goals for Fabregas (converting a penalty following the keeper’s early foul on Chamakh), Arshavin (a neat near post shot following a pass from Cesc) and Chamakh (an efficiently despatched shot following a moment of genius from LJ, who back-healed the ball through the legs of a defender to release the impressive Moroccan). Constant movement was the order of the day, with Arsenal players in possession always having multiple options available to them. As the players went off at half-time, the man who has almost become the team’s spiritual reference point, Emmanuel Eboué (a sub on the night), greeted each of the Arsenal players at the mouth of the tunnel, acknowledging the level of Arsenal’s first half dominance and the stylishness of the creative football on display.

They couldn’t quite keep the pace and intensity going in the second half, but by then Braga were a broken team. The only surprise was that Arsenal only managed to score three more goals. Braga’s defence collapsed for Cesc’s second goal, giving both him and Arshavin more time than they could wish for. Inevitably, Carlos Vela scored the fifth and sixth goals, finishing off two beautiful passing movements, with Arshavin getting another assist and Cesc laying on the last goal. I wonder what proportion of Vela’s goals have been scored against demoralised teams that have already effectively been defeated. It seems to be Vela’s curse. But his ability to finish a move really is excellent.

There were plenty of other chances along the way, but Braga’s first Champions’ League game was a harsh demonstration of how far off the pace they are. After all, we may be consistent in CL football but we aren’t exactly a dominant force. While not knowing much about this side, many of us were mindful of the danger that a team that had denied Sevilla a place in the CL would represent. We needn’t have worried. The one-sidedness of the contest affected the atmosphere, which was pretty muted for much of the time. The suggestion that there were 59,000 fans present (a statistic Kim Jong-Il might have been embarrassed to announce) was ludicrous but there will be far more intense evenings ahead of us in the competition.

All in all, plenty of fun and some beautiful football, and without expending too much energy, but Sunderland away on Saturday will be a far tougher proposition.

*****************

Player ratings:

Almunia: Did what little he was asked to do well, always looked comfortable. 7.

Squillaci: Superb, intelligent, strong, good positional play. 8.

Koscielny: Excellent as well, strong in the challenge, good concentration and jockeyed his attackers well. 8.

Sagna: Efficient, did well at the back and going forward, including a couple of excellent crosses. 7.

Clichy: A good performance, but was probably the only player one would criticise at all, since he got caught out once or twice. But used his pace going forward to good effect. 6.5.

Song: Quietly went about his business and did it well. 7.

Wilshere: Confident, creative performance. Was unlucky not to score and his back-heel to put Chamakh in was wonderful. 8.

Arshavin: As energetic a performance as I’ve seen from the little Russian – his tracking back is genuine and appreciated. But his performance in the top third suggests a player who’s rediscovering his mojo. 8.

Fabregas: Another fantastic performance from the man Barca think is only worth €40m. How wrong they are. 9.

Nasri: Excellent first half, drifted away slightly in the second half, but Nasri constantly created problems for Braga’s defenders. 7.5.

Chamakh: Really good performance from a player who has pace, awareness, a great touch, ability in the air and who can finish well. A quintessential Arsenal player. 8.

Vela: Another lovely sub’s performance, I just hope he gets the chance to do more this season and that he takes that chance this time. 7.

Denilson and Eboué: Tidy subs’ performances. 7.


You know we will win, but…. – written by BigRaddy

September 15, 2010

When was the last time we failed to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League? Not being a historian I cannot tell you but it was a rare occurrence and some time ago. Which is why I am not over enthusiastic about tonight, it seems a diversion from the real target of the Premiership. I realise this is a purely subjective view but I would swap the winning of the CL for the PL (both would be best but unlikely).

There will be shock and derision if we do not progress from this group, such is the level of expectation of our supporters. For us the real competition starts in February. We have become spoiled. If you don’t agree listen to the rampant excitement emanating out of N17.

My concerns are that with a thinning squad and some big PL games coming up, Braga are a nuisance, not quite on the Carling Cup level, but nonetheless another possibilty for injuries. And I am not the only one to think this way – Man Utd put out a reserve team last night in what to Rangers was a huge game. Sir Alex prioritised the Liverpool game at the weekend and was satisfied with a point knowing MU will qualify.

The fact is the Top 3 sides in the Premiership would win the title in any country other than Spain, (and probably there as well). I know, I know …. Inter beat the Chavs and Barca, but they were totally outplayed by them and inspired by Jose, – would you expect the same results with Rafa in charge?

Barring individual errors, we will beat Braga. If we don’t there will be another media investigation. Would there be the same furore had the rabble from N17 lost last night?  …… I rest my case.

As to Braga. Like many I know little about them. They are a tidy outfit who have beaten both Celtic and Seville on their way to the Emirates. They finished higher in the Liga than our regular opponents Porto, but 5 points behind Benfica. Their squad is littered with Brazilians, but this is their first outing in the Champions League proper.

I hope we line up like this:

GK

Eboue Squill Kos  Clichy

JW Cesc Denilson TR

Vela Nasri

thereby giving Song (who will be vital at Sunderland), AA and Chamakh a rest. But we won’t…… I expect to see last Saturday’s team with Cichy and Sagna back, and JW losing his starting place to Eboue.

Not much to tell you about Braga. In the North of Portugal (175k residents) it is one of the earliest Christian cities in the World, having a synod established in the 6th century, and the winner of the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest, Marie Myriam, was born in Braga but sang for France.

Will we win tonight? Of course we will.

COYRRG


Cahill’s Ban Should Be Extended – written by RockyLives

September 14, 2010

So Gary Cahill is appealing against the red card awarded for his foul on Marouane Chamakh.

Good. I’m delighted. Bring it on.

By appealing, Cahill leaves open the option of having his three-match ban for a straight red extended by the FA committee that hears his appeal. And make no mistake – he deserves to have the ban extended.

If you’re in any doubt, take another look at the challenge (you can view it on arsenalist.com). Cahill comes in late and from behind on Chamakh, who has just executed a sweet back-heel into the path of Arshavin.

Watching it live (and from high up in the West Stand) I thought the red card was harsh and, at first glance of the replay, you’re tempted to agree. One of the reasons it doesn’t look so bad is that Chamakh just gets up and gets on with things without any histrionics (Eboue, please take note). Chamakh’s not badly hurt – so it should be a yellow card at most, right?

Wrong. Take another look. Cahill dives in with both feet off the ground, which is a definition of recklessness. His left foot takes Chamakh’s left ankle, his right foot takes Chamakh’s right ankle. Neither foot gets within nodding distance of the ball.

By a small miracle of timing both Chamakh’s feet are off the ground at the moment of impact. Now play back the tackle in your mind and imagine what the outcome would have been if either one of our Number  29’s feet had been planted at the moment of impact: with Cahill’s flying, uncontrolled lunge, Chamakh would surely have had ligament damage at the very least and possibly even a broken ankle. We would have lost him for several weeks or several months, at a time when we are also missing Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner.

That he was not seriously injured was a pure fluke. Cahill’s challenge was dangerous and stupid and the instant red card proffered by Stuart Atwell was a rare instance of good refereeing by the ‘up and coming top ref in England’ in a game in which he was generally out of his depth.

He correctly adjudged that he should punish the intent, not the outcome. By doing so he may just save some other professional from having his leg snapped by the likes of Cahill later on in the season.

I don’t need to remind anyone of the horrors our players have faced in recent seasons from wild, uncontrolled challenges by brutish defenders. Cahill’s was a collector’s item of the species and three games on the sidelines is the least he deserves.

Following on from the Joe Cole dismissal in our first game of the season, the Cahill red card gives some hope that referees have discussed how to protect creative players and have agreed among themselves to act quickly and decisively if they see reckless lunges like Cahill’s. Quite how Atwell managed not to dismiss Robinson for his even more dangerous challenge on Abou Diaby a short while afterwards will, however, remain one of the great mysteries of football.

When Cahill gets to stand before the FA, let’s just hope they have the intelligence to study the video properly and the balls to act accordingly.

RockyLives


The Magic of Highbury …. lest we forget – written by London

September 13, 2010

Today I am going to take you on a journey to a very special place in your heart: you are sitting on a packed train surrounded by people you do not know, nobody is smiling at you but regardless of that you feel a sense of well being, a common bond, a kindred spirit. The tube comes to a halt at a familiar stop, the whole train empties and the mass of bodies’ walks slowly up hill, through a poorly lit tunnel with a rounded ceiling for what seems like ever before finally coming to the end where your eyes are shocked by the sudden glare of day light.

It’s hard to focus but as you do you notice the familiar sight of police on horses, and the sound of men crying programmes, you turn LEFT and make your way past colourful stands with people selling scarves, pennants and pictures of old heroes. On your right are the giant gates to the North Bank, the sight takes you back to your boyhood. Just after is a little sweet shop that sells favourites like Aniseed Twist and Cola Cubes.

Tickets, tickets who wants tickets are spoken in loud whispers and always out of police earshot. In front of the small Victorian terraced houses old programmes are meticulously laid out which draw you in and spark a memory of a game gone by, you continue walking, to your left you feel the surge of people arriving from Finsbury Park joining the flow, just after is the Supporters Club, a private world of cheap beer or so I was told.

The Chippy comes into sight followed shortly after by the smell before you turn right into Avenel Road and the familiar, intoxicating blend of horse shit and Hamburgers engulfs you. Men are crying out ‘get ya gooner, get ya gooner’ and pretty girls are shouting ‘up the arse only a pound’. You look up and realise that you are now in a sea of people, the occasional cry of “Come on you Gunners” can be heard which sets  your heart racing just that bit faster. The entrance to the Marble Hall is now in sight, the old man in a uniform with a white sash across the front is standing in the doorway with the occasional fresh faced youth player looking around for his guests.

Just after you take your place in the cue to the entrance with all the other people holding little red books, as you get closer the clunk of the cast iron turnstile gets louder and louder before it is your turn to meticulously tear out your match day ticket and enter through the back of the wardrobe and into Nania, ok it isn’t the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe but it was always a magical place to me. You turn left and make your way up the concrete steps with a red hand rail until you pass a cloud of smoke made by men hovering around Ladbrokes, you carry on until you see the entrance to your block, you pass through the arch and without fail the intense excitement hits you, no matter how many times you go through that arch the sense of wonder never recedes, the view of the beautifully groomed pitch and the majesty of art deco stands can never be tired of.

Ladies and Gentlemen you are in the Home of Football.

Written by London.


Thunderbirds Are Go – written by London

September 12, 2010

If ever there was a game that went to Wenger’s original plan it was surely today with Arsenal beating Bolton by what ended up being a comfortable three goal margin. In an interview just before the game in which Wenger announced the team he was asked if he had made his selection with one eye on the midweek game against Braga to which he was able to honestly answer, no, but had he been asked whether he had made it with both eyes on it he may well have had to fess up and say yes. There is no doubt that the three points were important to him but it was very clear that he never put a single drop more fuel in the tank than was necessary to achieve that goal.

Clichy, Sagna, Nasri and I suspect Vermaelen were all rested; Diaby’s injury might be the only spanner in today’s fine works but with a bit of luck they should all be fighting fit and raring to go on Wednesday. The resting of some gave rise to opportunities for others: Squillaci, Gibbs and Denilson made their starting debuts for the season, all nicely warmed up and ready should they be called upon in the week, this might seem as though I am putting a bit more emphasis than is necessary on the Champions League game but if you saw Braga destroy Seville you will understand why.

Walcott was sorely missed: sublime passes from Rosicky and Fàbregas split Bolton apart, putting Arshavin through one on one with the goal keeper no less than three times; he missed on every occasion, making it difficult not to imagine that Walcott’s pace would have given him just that extra bit of time to compose himself and slot all three home; nevertheless, Arshavin had a very good game, he looked as though he cared and fought as hard as any other Arsenal player out there.

With the Russian squandering his opportunities someone was going to have to score and it seemed as though Koscielny picked the lucky straw; Wilshere sent in a cross to the far post for the on rushing Fàbregas who should have smashed it home but sent it across the box, bouncing of two players before Koscielny swept it home from a foot out to notch up his first goal. If it was a night game we wouldn’t have needed flood lights as his smile would have lit up the ground more than enough. Well done that man.

The goal was the breakthrough that most assumed, once achieved, would put the game in the bag, as other goals would surely follow. We certainly applied the pressure in an attempt to turn this assumption into a reality but as happens so often with Arsenal the maxim of why do it the hard way when you can do it the easy way gets turned on its head.

Bolton sent in a high ball that wasn’t going anywhere when Koscielny, rather than head it clear, sent it across the box to be picked up by a Bolton player who sent it back to the far post which was headed in for Bolton’s equalizer. This is two school boy errors in two games both resulting in equalizers it’s lucky he had scored or his honey moon period might have been over quicker than he was expecting.

The comparison between our two new centre backs became clear, while I think that Koscielny will be at Arsenal for years and grow into a very solid defender it is Squillaci’s experience that is needed right now and because of that he would be my choice to partner Vermaelen in the week.

The break came and went and Arsenal took to the field a good 5 minutes before Bolton which was the first sign of the urgency that Wenger had obviously tried to install in them at half time: it worked. Arsenal upped the tempo and Owen Coyle’s New Bolton, the one with the delusion of playing expansive football, was getting carved apart by the sublime interplay of Arsenal’s midfield. Unsurprisingly, Bolton reverted to type: when push comes to shove they are no more than Fat Sam’s thugs dressed in Coyle’s sheep clothing. (It almost works)

Koscielny was purposely shoulder charged by Davis in such a way that could have caused a serious injury; Davis is a dirty piece of work if ever there was one. Still, Koscielny recovered and carried on hopefully in the knowledge that he is unlikely to face anyone quite as despicable in the near future, well, not until Joey Barton arrives in town at least.

There are certain points in a game where it isn’t clear what Chamakh is supposed to be doing and just when you are getting a bit concerned up he pops to head home the all important second goal making you wonder why you were ever concerned in the first place. A beautiful piece of interplay between Arshavin and Fàbregas who sent the cross over for everyone’s favourite Moroccan to score his second goal of the season.

Shortly after, Cahill was sent off for hauling down Chamakh, it was only a yellow card offence but hey ho who am I to complain, that said, it did highlight what a dreadful referee we had on the day – where do they find them?

Bolton, down to ten men and a goal behind, tried to make a fist of it but with the collective skill-set that Arsenal’s mid-field possess it was only a question of time before the third came along and indeed it did and from a very unlikely source as well: Song, brimming with confidence, burst into the area and chipped the keeper from what seemed an impossible angle, this third goal killed of any remaining hope Bolton may have harboured, it was time to sit back and enjoy.

Showboating was now the order of the day and Arsène sent on Vela who, after what seemed like a fifty passing move, slotted home sublimely to finish off what was, all in all, a very good day at the office. If we beat Braga I think we can safely say our season is really up and running.

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Player ratings.

Almunia: clumsy, sloppy and some really good saves, it was the usual Big Al jamboree bag: the good the bad and the ugly. 6

Eboue: this didn’t really work with Rosicky I am not sure why, usually you can’t stop him bombing forward but he was quiet, still what he did he did well. 6

Squillaci: so far so good, his experience showed and was very welcome; it is going to be very interesting who Wenger picks to partner Vermaelen in the week. 7

Koscielny: getting better every game, the goal will help, had a particularly good second half but he has got to cut out the school boy errors. 6.5

Gibbs: ok lets get this clear, Gibbs is a good left wing back but he is not as good as Clichy yet. In truth he didn’t have that much to do but it is hard to shine on the left when the Arshavin show is in full swing in front of you. 7

Fàbregas: I am convinced it says in his contract that “if he can breathe he plays” this is how we have kept him for so long: our Captain does not do sitting on benches, the best player we have by some distance, I can’t speak highly enough of him. 8.5

Song: fit and hungry, lean and mean, the Cameroonian mid-field machiiiine had fun today, bolstering the defence in the first half before moving up to play in the attack…..what? Yep, that’s what it looked like. 8

Wilshere: getting better every game, not quite there yet but it won’t be long.7

Rosicky: it’s easy to forget that names like Little Mozart are not dolled out quite as easy as people might think in the football world, today he lived up to this name. 7.5

Chamakh: like all attackers they play better after they have scored, with confidence oozing he showed us all what a great addition he is to the squad. 7.5

Arshavin: worked much harder than usual or certainly gave the appearance of caring more, this might be because he felt a bit embarrassed at missing the one on one he had with the keeper after five minutes. 7.5

Can’t wait for Wednesday.

Written by London.


Coyle’s Conundrum – written by BigRaddy

September 11, 2010

Having witnessed the destruction of Blackpool who stuck to their manager’s laudable commitment to open, attacking football, will Owen Coyle reconsider his tactics? Would you? Coyle had the difficult task of developing a team who had been managed by two of the men most responsible for the development of anti-football; Fat Sam and Gary Megson. It is to Coyle’s credit that Bolton have flourished. At the time of his takeover Bolton had won 4 from 18 fixtures and looked doomed, yet Coyle took them to 14th spot, and he did so with a determination to play a more expansive game.  It is a testament to Owen Coyle that Mr.Wenger chose Bolton for Wilshere’s development.

However, whilst appreciating Coyle’s achievement, Bolton remain a club who can “dish it out” (are dirty), they have players who “like a tackle” (are dirty) and have “fighting spirit” (are dirty). They employ the player who has committed the most fouls in the PL for 5 out of the last 7 seasons  – stand up Kevin Davies, a proud record and one not easily achieved!!

Some stats:

Bolton have yet to win at Arsenal in the Premiership.

Arsenal have won their last 8 games against Bolton

Arsenal have not conceded a goal in their last 5 home games.

Bolton have failed to score in 8 out of their last 11 away PL games.

Arsenal have scored in the last 20 minutes in 15 of their last 16 games at the Emirates.

Bolton have not won at Arsenal since 1962 – the year after THFC won the League in B & W!

………  Happy reading for an Arsenal fan.

My team would be:

GK

Sagna  Squillaci  Kos  Clichy

Diaby Song Fab Rosicky

Chamakh Arshavin

However, I expect to keep up my 100% record of team prediction failure.

Bolton have problems of their own, missing Jaaskalinen and Klasnic.

Bolton are never an easy team for us despite our outstanding record.  In our last home game back in January, we went 2 goals down in the first half hour. It was the game when Gallas stamped on Davies in the move leading up to our second goal in a 4-2 win …. seems an age ago.

In 1916 Bolton was subjected to one of the World’s first air raids. A German Zeppelin air balloon floated over Bolton and dropped 21 bombs, killing 13 and destroying many buildings.

I will be interested to see whether Coyle continues with the passing game at the Emirates or reverts to the long ball game. Despite his well documented admiration of Wengerball I suspect the latter.

Can we win? Yes. Will we win? Of course.