In Cesc We Trust

October 24, 2010

We could banter all day about the merits of Man City and the financial imbalance between MC and the rest of the PL (ex. Chelsea), but three points are still to be settled today and they are to be fought over by two fine squads of players. However one player stands head and shoulders above the others and that is Cesc Fabregas.

Admittedly Tevez is a fine player and City’s recent results have relied heavily upon his non-stop energy and fine finishing, but Cesc is THE man, not only on this field but on any PL pitch.

We have had some sterling performances in his absence, we have seen Nasri realise the promise AW saw in him, Jack Wilshire excite the whole of the British media, Chamakh start his Arsenal career with a flurry of goals, but since Cesc’s injury we have struggled to maintain our fine start to the season. We have lost unecessary points  thanks to sloppy play, points that I believe we would have won with a fit Cesc.

Last season we slumped to an ugly defeat 4-2 at City, quite frankly we were humiliated by a side who were in the process of rebuilding and then there was that Adebayor goal. Today I hope for better from us, I do not expect us to win easily but based upon the Chelsea performance and adding in the Cesc factor, we can get a result. Losing Wilshere is a blow though Rosicky has been improving and deserves a start.

Will Wenger try to fight fire with fire and pack the midfield as Mancini does, thereby leaving Chamakh as a sole striker, or will he start with Theo on the right and try to out attack them? My preference would be to throw caution to the wind and go at City, starting Walcott because MC have problems at Left Back (they have only Bridge,  Lescott and Bridge to choose from., over €45m of LB !!!). No Kolo is to our advantage, and I hope Mancini chooses to play Ade over Silva who looks a fine player.

My team would be:

Fabianski

Eboue Squillacci  Djourou  Clichy

Cesc Nasri  Song  Rosicky

Walcott Chamakh

Attacking I know, but why not, we are never going to outmuscle a City team that is based upon power, so let’s play to our strengths.

Manchester has been a centre of industry for hundreds of years and was the focus of the German air attacks outside London. Over Xmas in 1940 475 tonnes of explosives and 37,000 incendiary devices were dropped on Manchester by German bombers causing enormous damage and loss of life. In contrast, the first Gay Supermarket in England was opened in Manchester’s Canal St.

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

COYRRG


I wonder what happened to Mickey Boot?

October 23, 2010

Written by Neamman

Back in the 60s, perhaps 66 or 67, we had a young player who appeared in 3 games in a month, I saw his debut. His name was Mickey Boot and he scored 2 goals in those three games, the one I saw was a nice shot from outside the penalty box. Yet he never appeared for us again and soon thereafter moved to South Africa. I always wondered why he never progressed, was he a drinker? Did he not have the right mental strength? He certainly had the skills but obviously not all that was needed to succeed!!

The reason Mickey Boot came to mind was when I saw Jerome Thomas score for WBA. Now its not a strict comparison as he has carved out a reasonable career for himself but I remember the first time I saw him. I was at Barnet watching our reserves beat Chelsea 5-0, Jeffers scored twice, I forget who else did. Thomas and Juan [a Brazilian left back some of you may remember] were on the left wing. I watched astounded as the two of them raced up and down with the ball virtually tied to their feet, their control was so good. I had those two players pegged as potential first teamers but in the end neither made it, Juan due to knee problems.

I know the game has changed but I miss watching the way young stars worked their way up through the ranks and ultimately made it to the first team. Our double team of 71 was largely made up of youngsters who had played for us in the old SE Counties youth league plus the Football Combination. The great teams that clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Leeds had in the 70s were largely home grown boys with 3 or 4, usually high profile stars, judiciously brought to fill in weaknesses. It was the pleasure in spotting and watching the youngsters develop that melded you to you team in a very large degree. I can remember the anticipation when Charlie George made his first team debut, we all knew he was special and it was even in the papers prior to the event. Sadly these days most teams, at least in the EPL, rarely nurture youngsters through their ranks. I think the Manchester United class of the early 90s is the last example of a great team comprised mainly of home grown lads.

But perhaps this is changing, finally the youth academy at Arsenal is starting to bring through a steady stream of youth, players steeped in the Arsenal way. In the early years of this decade we had a very successful youth team but none of them made it as regulars, Sidwell, Harper, Thomas to name a few were all good players, but not good enough for Arsenal, Cole being the exception. We also had another youth cup winning team recently but now we are starting to see some of them in our first team squad as regulars, Gibbs and Wilshere are already established and there are several more on the fringes.

I, for one, hope that this is the start of a new trend, that we go back to producing a steady stream of youngsters who will be given their chance, a realistic chance, in the first team. For those of you who have the opportunity I recommend you start to attend the youth and reserve games as often as you can. They usually are free and, who knows, maybe you will be the first one on this board to tell us about the NEW Jack Wilshere or Cesc Fabregas!!!!


That Damned Abusive Offside Law

October 22, 2010

Written by RedArse

There are only 17 Laws of Football. The one that is the subject of this article and which makes me bristle with frustration and anger is …… Law 11, The Offside Law.


Before we can rationally discuss the pros or cons of this law we need to know what it says!

Offside Position

It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.

A player is in an offside position if:

he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.

A player is not in an offside position if:

he is in his own half of the field of play or
he is level with the second last opponent or
he is level with the last two opponents

Offence

A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

interfering with play or
interfering with an opponent or
gaining an advantage by being in that position.

No Offence

There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:

a goal kick or
a throw-in or
a corner kick

O.K., so they had defined Law 11; but how did it work in practice.

Following much controversy shortly after the current rule was introduced, FIFA brought out some “clarifications” or interpretations to re-define what the terminology meant, so that Referees worldwide would be consistent in their decision making. Not an auspicious beginning and the angst was to continue!

Clarification – Decision 1;

In the definition of offside position, “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of his head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition.

Clarification – Decision 2;

The definitions of involvement in active play are as follows:

Interfering with play means; playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate.

Interfering with an opponent means; preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.

Gaining an advantage by being in that position means; playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.

So, despite Andy “know it all” Gray, it is not sufficient for a player to have his feet level with or behind the defender’s, if his head or torso is ahead of the defender’s body parts, he is offside!

Anyway, following last weekend’s games, I got extremely exercised at how Referees, or their Assistants, had interpreted the offside law, and in doing so, had materially affected the outcome of at least two games.

Let’s take the Spuds v Fulham game as an example. Huddlestone struck a terrific shot, from outside the penalty area, which flew thru a crowded area and over the boot of Gallas, before lodging in the back of the net.
The Assistant Ref flagged for offside, (Gallas gaining an advantage?), the Spurs players protested, and after consulting his Assistant, the Ref overturned the offside decision and allowed what turned out to be the winning goal.
After the match, ‘Arry the Twitch, said “I don’t know if it was a goal, or not, because I don’t understand the offside rules”. A furious Mark Hughes predictably said the Ref had made the wrong decision by overturning the Assistant’s decision, but agreed the Offside Law was very difficult to understand.

And that’s the crux. The Offside Law is difficult to understand or, more aptly, to apply, because it is open to each official’s subjective interpretation. Enshrined within the Law “clarification”, it declares that “in the referee’s opinion” is the major criterion, and this has to be a recipe for obfuscation. The result is that “goals” are allowed or disallowed, by different Referees/Assistants, in what are very similar circumstances, much to the frustration of Managers, players and fans, because each individual referee can make decisions, “in his opinion”. By definition, mistakes are being made, and far too frequently, because those “opinions” can be illogical.
I say this without wishing to castigate the match officials, who are doing their best in almost impossible circumstances.

The prime mover with this Law change was to promote more goal scoring opportunities (keeping TV audiences engaged?) coupled with the injunction to give the benefit of any doubt to the attacking side. Very laudable, you might think, but conversely, the large majority of the errors continue to benefit the defending side, thus negating the very purpose of the Law.

Part of the problem, of course, is that Referee’s Assistants are frequently unable to properly make offside calls because it is impossible for them to “compute” the many variations of whether or not a player is “active” or “inactive” at the precise moment his teammate touches or passes the ball, not least because the human eye often cannot physically see both the kicker and the recipient clearly because of the angle they are at, or his “line of sight” may be impeded by other players’ bodies.

It is only human nature that, if an official is unsure whether or not he has correctly worked out all the possible permutations, in the split second available, and does not want to make an embarrassing mistake, he will likely err on the side of caution by raising the “offside flag”, rather than not doing so and looking incompetent.
Why is this? Well if the official does not to flag, and wrongly allows play to continue, resulting in a goal, this will get highlighted and shown over and over again on TV, or ridiculed in the morning newspapers. The effect on the official’s career path could be terminal.

Back to my original point, that Law 11 is misunderstood and incorrectly applied. In a newspaper today, Graham Poll the ex-referee declared, in his inimitable doctrinaire style, that the Referee was correct to allow the Huddleston goal because Gallas was not in the goalkeeper’s line of sight. He made no mention of “gaining an advantage by being in an offside position”. The shot from Huddleston passed over Gallas’ foot, which must have caused Schwarzer, at least, a momentary delay in reaction simply by his being there in that position, yards in front of any defender.

What to do? The old Law 11 came into disrepute, because in major international championships, a lot of ill feeling was caused when stunning “goals” were disallowed because a team mate on the attacking side was scratching his arse in an “offside” position out on the wing.

Before the current Law came into effect, this “problem” was overcome by adding the simple sentence “unless interfering with play”.

Therefore, in the above example; under the “old” Law 11, a stunning goal would be allowed, even if the winger was “offside “whilst playing with himself, unless he was interfering with play, due to flashing.

The solution is to return to the old Law 11 rules. We all understood those simple instructions and it would demystify the current refereeing decisions, which satisfy no one!

A very Happy Birthday to Arsène Wenger.


Why we failed to win the Premiership last season ……. Where is our Tone?

October 21, 2010

Written by MickyDidIt89

Having professed to know the reasons why we have failed to land any trophies for the last 5 years in a rash comment on Arsenal Arsenal recently, I was challenged to put my keyboard where my mouth is and write a post to justify this claim! So here goes ……

Seasons come and seasons go, and always the same old criticism – no plan B, outmuscled and always trying to walk it into the net.  Let’s look at last season’s league campaign. We were twelve points from the title. We drew six games. So, if you concede one fewer goal in each of these, you are Champions. Or alternatively, score one more in each; same story. Just six goals to score or avoid conceding.

Now this is very simplistic, I know, but it does highlight two things. The fine line between success and failure, and the importance of goals is the other. Strangely, all too often, the focus is on elements of the game that are too far removed from the ultimate and basic objective of goal scoring/defending.

The essence of my piece  is that we are not as far away as some would have us believe. Have we strengthened the defence? I believe so. Have we strengthened the attack? No, not yet. Why not yet, because last season we had Bendy around for some of the time when RVP was injured. This term, both are injured and Chamakh is playing. So effectively, same numbers. Had RVP been fit all season, and Chamakh  on board, we would have been very close indeed. We have not won anything since we last had a consistently fit striker.

At the other end of the pitch, we all know about the goalkeeper issues. However, one all too often overlooked aspect to the winning team is the on-field leader. It was pointed out recently that when Arsene describes coming Third as a Trophy, he is instilling a losing’s-ok mentality. I have always found in life that peer pressure, values and expectations are the driving forces that really get under my skin. Would drawing any game have been acceptable with Tony Adams? Would you have wanted to be in the dressing room with Tone after the WBA game? How about in there with Almunia or Cesc as Captain? Thought so.

My two solutions are thus. One, find a Captain. I am hoping that Verm will be the man, and two, sort out the injuries. Are we overtraining? What’s with the medical team? RVP being sent for placenta treatment. Give me strength!

It is not a compilcated game. I can’t speak for my fellow bloggers, but I get sick of the constant “Arsenal have no Plan B” bollocks constantly levelled at us by commentators. I take criticism very badly (apart from when its about my spelling, when I totally ignore it), and when people criticize The Arsenal, then its personal.

Can I give you my version of Plan B. We do not have one, and we do not need one. Nice, crisp and clear. The reason we only need one plan is that we do not play to lose and we do not play to draw. Therefore, you put eleven men on the pitch, using roughly similar patterns. Then you have a few spare players who sit next to the pitch on expensive faux leather seats. Finally, you have a Leader who wears a tailor made suit of sober design with a shirt and tie.

It is my belief that had Verm, Cesc, Theo and RVP all been on the pitch against Chelsea, or sitting in the expensive faux leather seats, then we would have beaten those tall, heavy, overpaid chavs.

I can only think of one tiny flaw, and I am reminded of the words of Mr Ron Atkinson. He had just taken over at Sheffield Wednesday (I think) and it was the eve of an important local derby, when he supposedly said that he missed the “good old days, before all this tactics bullshit, when we turned up on Saturday, had some lunch, played football, had some beers, then went home”. Sadly for my theory, Big Ron’s team lost. He got fired.

If there is anything of any value whatsoever in what I am saying, it is this. I believe we are very close to domination, and we will do it The Arsenal way. Our way.


Donetsk Forget To Mind The Gap In London As We Celebrate 6 Goals

October 20, 2010

“I don’t think I will celebrate,”  Eduardo.

True to his word, everyone’s favourite Crozilian didn’t even acknowledge his consolation strike, but how we celebrated. You guys behind the goal, I saw you, jumping up and down like it was an Arsenal goal, and the Nicklas Bendtner look-alike in the crowd I saw you too, holding that number 9 shirt proudly aloft, and we all heard the announcer acclaim the goal as if it had been scored a year ago. The standing ovation afterwards was just proper order for a player who didn’t get a real send-off, he has now. Yes, us being 5-0 up at the time helped the mood a lot, but be honest, how many shouted “yes” and punched the air when he scored? We all want the clean sheets but exceptions must be made, and this was one of those times. Its almost like a weight off our shoulders that we gave Dudu his dues.

Eduardo aside, last night’s game was very comfortable. The Ukrainian visitors should know that when you come to London you must mind the gap, not alone on the underground but those around the Emirates pitch. Give us enough gaps and we will punish you.

Donetsk are a far better side than what they showed last night. In the second half we saw they could pass the ball and press a lot better than what they did. Its almost as if they had decided before the game that they would lose here, give us the group, try and get something from us in Ukraine and go for second which they should get based on the evidence so far. Not a great plan and honestly a much harder match might have suited us with Manchester City coming up on Sunday. Not that we should have been ran into the ground, but it was almost a five-a-side training session at times and we rarely had to move out of second gear.

Apart from Eddie, the other opposition player to bring a smile to our face last night was Pyatov – what a shocking ‘keeper he is! His missed catch for Song’s goal even had van der Saar laughing, while my eyes may have deceived me, I thought I spied our Moroccan making a cup of tea after checking was he onside for our fifth.

It was good to see Fabregas and Walcott get a run out. Cesc’s touch was a bit off at times but that’s to be expected after his lay-off, hopefully it will be better by Sunday. It was also interesting to see Wenger play Walcott in the middle when he came on. He didn’t have much time, but on one occasion near the end in particular we saw how his speed has the potential to wreck havoc in the opposition defence.

We now have 9 points from 3 games, with 14 goals scored and only 2 against. A draw away in the next match should see us top the group and after that Wenger can bring out the kids and rest some key players.

Player Ratings:

Fabianski (7) – Didn’t have a whole load to do but made an excellent save at the start of the second half to keep the score at 2-0. Looks more solid in recent weeks.

Eboue (7) – Not too much defending to do, and concentrated on attack. Linked up well at times, but was wasteful on occasion.

Squillaci (7) – Again didn’t have much to do, but should have got out quicker to Eduardo to stop his shot.

Djourou (7) – Made a fine last ditch tackle in the second half and won us a penalty. Will be back on the bench once Vermaelen and possibly Koscielny return.

Clichy (6) – Bombed forward when he could and wasn’t overly troubled by the opposition. I do still worry about his positioning at times.

Song (8) – I thought Song had a great game last night. He won ball around midfield, tidied up, linked well and scored a goal.

Wilshere (9) – Played a central role even though Cesc was back and in the first half completed more passes than the Captain. Great vision, great positioning and great finish.

Rosicky (8) – Started well and his name kept popping up. Involved in defence and attack.

Fabregas (7) – Not at his sharpest but for me he did a fair share of defensive work when it was needed. Well taken penalty.

Nasri (9) – Brilliant once again. Played some superb passes and scored a great goal.

Chamakh (9) – I thought he would be a good signing. WRONG! He has been a great signing. Tremendous work-rate, pressures from the front, excellent hold up play and a cool as you like finish.

Subs

Denilson did well when he came on. Made some strong challenges.

Arshavin was given a breather by Wenger and played little more than a cameo. Got involved in some good link up play.

Walcott didn’t get a whole load of time and the game was well won but hopefully we’ll see more of him down the middle in weeks to come.

(It would be remiss of me not to mention the “situation” at Old Trafford. First Tevez, then Ronaldo and now Rooney – smells of a selling club to me!)

Written by Irishgunner


Another step upon the road to European Glory.

October 19, 2010

First off, there is the possibilty that Cesc is fit, so is Theo and Nik. At last we have the opportunity to rotate the squad. Without diminishing the threat of Shakhtar, it is time to give certain players a rest before the real business of the PL at the weekend. Arshavin for one needs a break.

Tonight I would like to see Theo start on the right and Chamakh play centrally, with Chamakh getting a rest after 60 minutes, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nik start. Bendtner does well in European ties.

I expect Wilshere to start ahead of his 3 match ban, his form has been outstanding and Shakhtar will be stunned by our 18 y.o marvel. Should Cesc start we will play a very attacking midfield  though I expect him to be on the bench ahead of the important game at Man City. The defence picks itself with so many injuries, though perhaps Gibbs will be fit in which case I would expect him to start ahead of Clichy.

My team

Shakhtar bring our old friend Eduardo back to THOF and  he will get a hero’s welcome. Despite never reaching the heights expected of him on his return from injury, he gave all for the cause and left with dignity. I wish him well but not tonight.  Shakhtar have a decent record in the CL however we have a superb home record in the CL and I expect it to continue. That said, Shakhtar not having conceded a goal in the CL this season plus they have won 15 out of 17 in the Ukranian League. They are level on points with us and having won 3-0 in Braga are clearly no mugs, but we will surely beat them if we play to our potential.

This Arsenal team look great on European nights and appear to play better against foreign teams who play the passing game as opposed to the muscularity of the Premiership, though Shakhtar who play with two hard tackling midfielders are not afraid of the physical challenge.

It should be noted that Shakhtar Donetsk won the UEFA Cup in 2009 and are a fine team.

Donetsk is Ukraine’s second city with a population of over a million. It was founded by a Welshman (John Hughes) in 1869 (no kidding!!). More Russians live in Donetsk than Ukranians and the city was  called Stalin until 1961. The Euro 2012 semi-final is due to be played in Shakhtar’s stadium. The most famous son of Donetsk is Sergei Bubka the brilliant pole vaulter who between the years 1984 -1994 broke his own world record 18 times! He remains the world record holder 16 years later.

Can we win?  Yes.   Will we win?  Yes

COYRRG


What’s Wrong With Rosicky?

October 18, 2010

What has Arsène Wenger got against Tomas Rosicky?

For long periods of Saturday’s game, as we played tippy-tappy around the edge of the Birmingham box, it was obvious that we needed some good old-fashioned directness.

Apart from Wilshere, none of our players were willing to take the responsibility to make the quick killer pass or take the first time shot at goal.

Diaby, with his bursting power-runs, seemed to be affected by an invisible force field on the edge of the opposition penalty area. Unfortunately he also had ‘goldfish memory’ syndrome, so time and again he would charge forward only to go DOING!!! into the invisible wall.

Arshavin, I think, is suffering from sore toes. It’s the only possible explanation for his unwillingness to use the front of his boot when making a pass. Either that or he is involved in some kind of bet to see how many back-heels he can make in a single match.

Nasri, who has been a consistently good player this season, could only get so far with his dribbling runs when the opponents were packing the defence as resolutely as the Brummies were.

And poor old Alex Song, lumbering into dangerous areas and misplacing his passes, was like your 10-year-old son trying to help you assemble an Ikea wardrobe: eager to help, but generally getting in the way and making you hit your thumb with the hammer.

Don’t they know that if you want to get to Birmingham, it’s best to take the M1?

When Tomas Rosicky came on the difference was immense and immediate. Instead of zig-zagging through Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, suddenly we were taking the fast route. Here was a player whose first priority was not to create beautiful 20-pass moves, but to hurt the opposition.

It was another excellent cameo from the little Czech – and raises the question of why he is getting only cameo roles. Why doesn’t Arsene trust him to start ahead of Diaby or the clearly misfiring Arshavin? In eight league fixtures TR7 has started two and come on as a substitute six times.

The two games that Tomas started? Blackpool (6-0) and Bolton (4-1). We certainly had ‘thrust’ in those matches. He was also in the starting line-up for the League Cup hammering of the Spuds. That’s pretty strong evidence for his impact on the team – and the fact that for the West Brom calamity he was on the bench makes me want to cry.

As Peaches pointed out in the comments yesterday, Rosicky is a ‘proper footballer’ who has played elsewhere – clocking up five seasons with Borussia Dortmund and 74 caps for his country. He is experienced and, age-wise, is at the peak of his career. He definitely adds something to the way we play.

But Wenger doesn’t seem to see it. Could it be that the Boss is more keen to persevere with the players who constitute his so-called youth experiment: the likes of Diaby, Denilson and Song?

Is he worried that Rosicky’s injury record means he can’t be exposed to more substantial amounts of playing time?

Or does he simply think that the other players are better?

If it’s the latter I would respectfully suggest that he needs to reconsider. Rosicky is a player who, at his best, can come close to matching Fabregas for ability. And above all he adds a forward momentum to our play that is often lacking.

A starting line up that includes Fabregas, Wilshere, Rosicky and Walcott has the directness to hurt any team, especially those who ‘park the bus’. We have been unlucky (again) with injuries this year, so that foursome has never been on the pitch together at the same time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see them soon in the starting eleven?

RockyLives