Looking ahead ……. 2nd half-term

December 21, 2010

Written  by MickyDidIt89

Boxing Day and the visit of Chelsea marks the beginning of the second half of term, and I have some thoughts on the way that half may pan out. Should Utd win their game in hand, then in points speak,  we would be as close to 1st as we are to 5th.

Every team is always open to criticism in some quarter or other.  Knowledgeable supporters often agree on their teams’ weaker areas, however, with the 2010-11 Arsenal Vintage, this is far from the case. I think before a ball was kicked this season, most Gooners would have said the goalkeeper was the obvious area of weakness, that we had made good defensive signings and that surely one of them would be good enough to forge a strong CB partnership with TV. Song looked like he was developing into a real star last season, and along with Frimpong’s pre season displays, we had Denilson who I certainly believed was about to do a “Flamini”. After a solid World Cup, just maybe, RvP’s injury problems may have been behind him, on top of the fact that we had made a great looking signing in MC.

It is my belief that any team hoping to win top honours should be armed with three World class players. I would say that we do have three, in RvP, Cesc and Nasri. However two of them are very injury prone. Therein lies the first of two problems that I believe we have.

At the same stage of last season, we were gazing longingly into the transfer window in the belief that by adding a striker we could go the whole way in the league. This time one of my wishes would be for an injury free second half – term from Cesc and RvP.

It is very probable that the winners of the league will be the ones that keep their most influential players on the pitch. You only have to see how Chelsea have wobbled in the absence of Terry and Lampard, and the points dropped by Utd whilst Rooney was resting at The Nike Home For The Wayward, to see the importance of these players.  The other factor will be how the managers operate in the transfer window.

Would I enter the transfer market? Yes, I would, but only for an established World Class Leader, if such a person was available. This is to resolve the second of my problems. Leadership.  For which position? Here’s the odd bit. I don’t really mind. Perhaps an Adams, maybe a PV4, but whoever it may be, this man will be at the top of his career. That’s it, no resale value.  This would be short termist. Or would it? The way I see it, is that no harm would be done to the development of  JW, Ramsey, Frimpong, Gibbs, Theo, JD et al, to spend one or two seasons in a Trophy winning team developing the sweet taste of success.  It does not appear that there will be much between 1st and 5th, so with one big heave ho, we can be at the happy end!

Some of you may be evacuating to a bloggless land for Christmas ( whilst I cannot make it to the village shop), but let me take this opportunity of thanking Rasp and Peaches for this wonderful platform, thanking fellow bloggers for their wit, charm and great company, and wishing you all a Very Happy Christmas.

Wenger’s Number One Apologist.

December 20, 2010

Being Arsene’s number one apologist there is a question that has been floating around out there that has been bothering me for a while: why did Wenger play a weakened side against Shakhtar and Braga away? His critics accuse him of arrogance and obstinacy; the fall out of these decisions being that we came runners up and now, unnecessarily, have to face Barcelona.

The excuse I offer will, I suspect, be easier to run with if you have man managed a group of people at some point in your life, I think this is one of the reasons I always agree with Dandan and more often than not with Big Raddy both of whom have had the responsibility for a number of people to a greater or a lesser extent.

Wenger has twenty five players to keep happy which is more people than I have had to man manage so I accept that a lot of what is about to follow is pure guess work; but hey, what is a blog for?

Twenty five professional footballers to keep happy — all at the same time — no easy task in my opinion; some of the more lowest common denominator Arsenal blogs dismiss this by pointing to his six million annual salary but it does not change the fact that the man still has to do the job of keeping twenty five very large egos under control.

Right, having established that, cast your mind back to just before the Shakhtar away game and you will remember that we had maximum points from the three games in our CL group; we had beaten Birmingham 2-1 at home, City 3-0 away and then West Ham 1-0 at home in the EPL – we were, by anyone’s standards, on a roll. Wenger had got the Red Machine humming but the problem he faced, as I saw it, was how to keep everyone content.

Bendtner had made his return against City; successfully getting on the score sheet and doing exactly the same in his following appearance against Newcastle in the Carling Cup. Walcott, being the best player at the club for the first three games of the season, had returned scoring impressively as well against Newcastle and when Wenger was asked if Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was knocking at the door he replied that he wasn’t just knocking he was banging on it with both hands; all this without mentioning Szczesny who, when it comes to demanding first team football, makes the others, including Bendtner, look shy and retiring.

My point is that it was perfectly reasonable to field the side Wenger did against Shakhtar – even more so when you consider we had trounced them only a couple of weeks before at home. Wenger said that he selected a team he thought capable of winning; all perfectly reasonable, but in my opinion it had just as much to do with trying to keep twenty five players happy.

So, all neatly tied up then, the problem I have is that on the other shoulder sits a little devil who whispers in my ear: do you really believe that? Wenger could not lose by playing a so called weakened team: if we beat Shakhtar we were as good as through to the next round but if we lost Wenger would have a more humble, a less demanding, a more malleable Bendtner and Walcott and so he did and still does. A similar story applies to the Braga away game. The other reason Wenger couldn’t lose by making those decisions was because he knew that if we came second in the group no one would blame him if we go out to someone as powerful as Barcelona.

A little something to think about on this long break without football.

Written by London but hey, you already knew that. lol

Arsenal’s Frozen Assets

December 19, 2010

Arsenal’s frozen assets are in the form of key players returning to fitness and form – if everything goes our way, we may see the loss of yesterday’s game as a bonus in that it gives us a little more time to get closer to full strength. The return of Cesc, Vermaelen, Ramsey and Diaby would make us a force to be reckoned with capable of fighting on many fronts and yes, beating Barcelona – why not?

Top of the League for Xmas had such a nice ring to it but the snow put an end to that possibility with the postponement of our game yesterday. Unfortunately it paves the way for the Manchavs to possibly be top of the pile unless their game is called off tomorrow night against Everton. Come next Monday night,  we’ll still be in the top three when we kick off against the chavs so that’s something to be optimistic about.

Aaron Ramsey has only played 45 minutes of football on loan at Notts Forest and is due to return to Arsenal on the 3rd of January. Should we get him back so that he can be of some use to us towards the end of the season or leave him at Forest to slowly rehabilitate? I wasn’t sure about him going there on loan in the first place so I’d like him back in training with us. We haven’t seen much of Denilson and Diaby is too often a one game wonder, so Ramsey alternating with, a by then exhausted Jack, would be a good option.

Barcelona now have so much money they’re going to pay £100m for Cesc. Whatever they want to pay for him he needs to be playing for us at the moment and its very sad for him that he’s not. His heart must have fallen to his boots when the Champions League draw was made but as he missed the tie in Spain last time round I hope he’s going to help us show the world that we can play like that too.

The red card that Sagna received in our game against Belgrade means that he’ll be missing both the legs against Barca  which will be a great shame as I feel he’s back to his first season best. Will we have a fit first eleven by then? – will we heck, but it’ll be interesting to see how the team sets up over the next few weeks. Can Robin and Cesc get match fit? Who will be our no 1? Which of our centre-backs will gel as the first choice pairing? Will we all love Song again? Much to ponder.

Yesterday the club announced the signing of  18-year-old Japanese forward Ryo Miyaichi a player who impressed AW while on loan earlier in the year. He is reported to have a mix of Thierry Henry and Christiano Ronaldo in his locker – I’m looking forward to seeing that.

We have inches of snow here in North London which while looking beautiful is a right pain. If you have snowy conditions stay safe and keep warm.

Written by peachesgooner

Give a warm Emirates welcome to Mr. Ryan Shawcross

December 18, 2010

Firstly, I would like to thank all those who wrote such kind words regarding my piece in  the Arsenal in the Community book. Secondly, I would like to thank Peaches and Rasp for establishing such a hotbed of creative activity.

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with Stoke, particularly the “hotbed of creative activity!!” We know what to expect from this Stoke team under the tutelage of Mr Pulis, it will be park the bus, long throw ins and long, long balls to test the aerial expertise of our defence.  The midfield will be tigerish putting our skill players under intense physical pressure and yet trying to remain within the rules. Pulis will not be distraught if another Stoke player gets a red card because his defence for any loss will be that Arsenal are a team of foreign pouffs and divers…… “Same old Arsenal, Always cheating.”  Mr Wenger doesn’t speak to Pulis which tells me all I need to know about the Stoke manager.

Lest we forget, Ryan Shawcross is a stalwart in the Stoke defence, an innocent according to his manager, a nice guy who doesn’t deserve the criticisms from fans according to the pandering British press, and an out and out thug according to Aaron Ramsey. This is what the super-intelligent contributors to Arsenal Arsenal think:

Gunnern 5  “I hope that Shawcross gets the worst, and most sustained, barracking that any player has ever received from an Arsenal crowd.”

Rocky Lives “I hope our home support is loud and sustained and drowns out any noise from those Stoke tw*ts who sang abusive songs at Aaron Ramsey as he lay on the deck with half his leg hanging off”.

As you can see, there is not much love lost between Stoke and the Arsenal fans. Unlike WBA, Stoke will not come and try beat us playing stylish attacking football – Stoke will come to be efficient with the hope they can create an upset and return to the Potteries with a point. We must stop them.

At last we are getting back to a full squad. There are rumours of Diaby’s return to fitness, though he will need some pitch time to regain his sharpness. I know he is not to everyone’s taste but I believe he has all the qualities to be a valuable squad member. Theo, Nik, and RvP are vying for a start. For me the experiment of playing RvP as a deep lying forward in the DB10 mode is not working and needs to be abandoned. I want to see Robin leading the line and as such would give Chamakh a 70 minute rest.

My team:

Bench.  Chesney, Nik, Kos, Cesc, Chamakh, Arshavin, Gibbs

I believe the height of Djourou will be important as will the strength of Squillaci and Song. If Diaby really is fit, I would give him the first hour, but am expecting Wilshere to start. I really hope Fabregas will be given more time to recover, my personal choice would be that he takes a week off in the Maldives and comes back full of vim and vigour, but as Club Captain I guess he will be desperate to start.

CL draw. Barcelona. I would have preferred to meet them in the Semi’s but we are going to have to beat them to win the thing, so let’s get them out the way in 8 weeks. If TV and Cesc are fit, we will win and win comfortably. 3-0 at home and a draw away.

Today we can bounce back from Monday’s disappointment and return to the top. 4 goals would be nice…..


Arsenal …. you’ve forgotten haven’t you…

December 17, 2010

Written by Rasp

It’s easy to forget that Arsenal is more than just a football club, particularly when we have recently suffered disappointment on the pitch. Arsenal is part of the community and affects people’s lives worldwide. Peaches and I were  reminded of this last night when attending the book launch of Arsenal ‘Til I Die at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal Arsenal had submitted a selection of some of the many great posts on the site over the last year for inclusion in the book and we are proud that articles by Big Raddy and Irishgunner made it to the final print – luckily for us, neither author could make the occassion so we reluctantly had to deputise for them…. The book is a complilation of personal stories relating to Arsenal written by diehard supporters. It has been produced in collaboration with Arsenal in the Community and the National Literary Trust and proceeds from the book sales will go to charities supported by Arsenal.

Back to the football…….

Ok, so Lady Luck was not on our side against the mancs, but considering we’ve lost 5 games before Christmas and we’ve still got as much of a chance of winning the title as anyone else, I’d say she’s been pretty to kind to us so far.

There are three reasons why I can be cheerful (maybe even optimistic) when I look ahead to the second half of the season. For the first time in several years, we may have the makings of a strong spine to the team – and hopefully a team who play with some backbone. The emergence of Djourou as a top class defender and Chamakh’s role as a target man who brings out attackng midfielders into play are huge plusses, but  I believe that our success could rest on these key factors.

  1. Szczesny. The goalkeeper is the foundation of the defence. The young pole put in an excellent performance on Monday despite being tested early on by his own defenders who put him under pressure with under-hit back passes. He is 6ft 5in, brash with confidence, good in the air and a great shop stopper. He is Arsenal’s number one with the potential to be better than Seaman.
  2. Vermaelen. Hopefully he will be back in the New Year. We’ve really missed this guy. Apart from his obvious ability, he marshals the defence. He’s a leader at the back, someone who instils and inspires confidence in those around him. We need a commanding presence to make the defence solid. TV is National captain and was captain of Ajax – he is our man.
  3. Fàbregas. We saw how shockingly poor (by his own standards)  our captain’s passing was when he came on at OT. He’s not fit and should be rested until he is 100% because a fully fit Fàbregas makes Arsenal the best it can be. So I hope that Arsène sees sense and Cesc is not even on the bench against Stoke. I’d be quite happy to send him back to Spain for a week or two to recharge his batteries. If we can get our captain back to the full fitness for the New Year, we can launch a serious bid for the title.

Other reasons to be cheerful …….

The boost of winning the CC. The final will be played on Sunday 27th February. Barring a spectacular lapse into over-confidence we should be able to get past Ipswich over two legs and secure our place in the final. If/when we reach the final, the desire to silence the critics and bring our much publicised trophyless run to an end will surely see us climb the Wembley steps to collect the silverware.
The fixture list. We’ve already played most of the difficult away fixtures except totnum and that is a score we will need no motivation to settle. The second half of the season just looks as though it’s opening up for us to go on an unbeaten run. We have consecutive home games against pool and the mancs on the 16th and 30th of April and if we can be top after that, we have only Stoke, Villa and Fulham to complete the season.
Nasri’s on fire – but we’ve made it to 2nd in the table with the majority of our players not on top form (although Sagna is back to his best) and we can only expect them to improve – we will not fall at the final hurdle this time.

Ken Friar spoke from the heart last night as he explained that the Board were as fervent supporters as any of us in that room. They care passionately about the club and take nothing out. The tour of the Emirates is awe insiring. The lay-out, styling, facilities, attention to detail …. everything about our stadium is incredible. Sometimes we need reminding that we have achieved a miraculous transformation under Arsène Wenger of which we should all be proud.

Time to move on ……..

December 16, 2010

Thursday morning and the inquest into Arsenal’s latest big match disappointment rumbles on. Arsenal fans the world over are rightly disappointed that we have now gone 11 games without victory against either United or Chelsea. Whilst I find it difficult to say that you can take positives from any defeat, I do think it’s worth noting that we didn’t lose in the same manner as we have in many of those 11 games. This was a game, bad pitch or otherwise, that saw an alarmingly low technical level from both sides. United came away victorious but they did not outclass or outplay as. There is a big difference between disappointment and humiliation.

The reasons given for this defeat have been many although none seem to hit the nail on the head.  There have been many criticisms of Clichy, criticisms which I believe are largely valid. There is no doubt that he could have closed Nani down quicker for the goal however, it should also be remembered that he did a lot of good work, on his own, against one of the Premierships best performers. Certain voices have criticised the whole defence, argued that player for player they are not good enough. Even Sagna has come in for stick in some quarters. This seems to be a knee jerk reaction. Whilst I would have preferred Djourou to Koscielny, he and Squillaci actually did well against Rooney. None of the chances we gave away, only 2 good ones to my memory, were the fault of the back four.

Alex Song has come in for his usual criticism. It seems to be received wisdom these days that he, in keeping with our ethos, goes forward too much. This clearly was not the case for him or the rest of the side on Monday. Song joined in when possible but basically stayed at home and, as a result, limited United’s opportunities. In post match anger and disappointment I expressed the view that we should be more circumspect in these games. It seems that tactically, we had tried to be just this. Take Samir Nasri’s comments post match:

“In the first half, we sat back and waited for them a bit. We didn’t want to push too high up, because they always find each other in space, whether it’s Park or Wayne Rooney playing on his own up front.

“We wanted to sit back and wait for them and we held out well until we conceded the goal four minutes from half-time.

So, on reflection then, we were actually set up ok tactically. We didn’t try to blow them away and then get caught on the break which has led to our undoing in so many games in recent years. Effectively we were beaten by a fortunate goal. Without the deflection it would not have found Park’s head and we would most likely have gone in 0-0 at half time. A 0-0 draw would have seen a different response from the media and fans a like. As it stands, we are rueing defeat by a very slim margin.

Whilst I don’t think we should all just smile and get on with it we should also try to look forward rather than back. This defeat was not symptomatic of our usual perceived short comings. At worst, we lacked the invention and creative spark to create an opening but, on balance, it’s not like United carved us open too often either. Defeats are always painful but we must keep our heads, as a set of fans and a club in general. This defeat was not men against boys, it was the sort of result that happens in big games. This may sound strange but had we not been burdened by this awful record we would not be picking over the bones of this defeat with quite so much fervour. Unfortunately, we do have this awful recent record and people are understandably disappointed.

I would argue that we can now put to bed the idea that we don’t have anyone physical enough to stand up to opponents or that we aren’t committed enough. We were just as physical as them and that is not where the game was lost. As I’ve already written, this defeat also wasn’t the direct result of a bad goalkeeper or a fragile defence. I can’t argue that the result could have just as easily been 1-0 to us as we offered very little going forward but, we do have gifted forwards so it’s not unreasonable to claim that on another day we might have done better. The main factor we lack as a team is self belief. The players appear nervous and, in this pivotal season, so do the fans. We need a good result in one of these games soon, to prove that we can do it and the harbingers of doom are not correct. In truth, we were far closer to a positive result here than we have been for some time. What better Christmas present than a home win against Chelsea? In that game we must forget what’s gone before and show togetherness, players and fans alike.


Where’s the grit and determination?

December 15, 2010

Yesterdays blog saw some great discussion following the defeat at Old Trafford and SharkeySure picked out a couple of comments that spurred(!) him on to the following rant.

26 May – “it really annoys me to see our players not matching the energetic determination of their opponents”

Mike – “Thirty minutes to go and I see very little urgency or intensity from any of them. There is no spirit, no real grit and determination”

My overriding thought from Monday night’s game is that with two minutes of injury time left, we have a free kick deep in our half that is passed to our keeper and three more shortish passes ensue before RVP puts a cross into the box which leads to Theo’s tame (wild?) effort.

A winning mentality would have the keeper waving his troops into the box and strarting a mini Alamo. We really are the only side that I can think of who will continue to probe for an opening with so little time on the clock. We’ll also still have a back four in our half marking no one, or at best, one fat granny shagging striker.

Ok we’re not Stoke, but would it really hurt to push Squillaci up front and start an aerial bombardment for the duration of injury time..?? After all, Theo’s effort came from a weak headed clearance !

Scratched record alert !!!!

For all of Song’s misplaced passes on Monday, I still look at his approach to games and can’t help but think that if we had more players with his attitude we would see a real upturn in our fortunes.

He’s strong, he’s quick (out paced Evra!!), he’s normally a good passer, and one of our best in the air.

For all he gets told to stay back by so many, he has scored vital goals this season and been heavily involved in a fair few of our recent goals.

Personnel and circumstances dictated that he guard the back gate for most of the 2nd half on Monday, but I for one was cursing that we had no Denilson out there to allow him to push on a bit.

So I agree with Neamann re Song and Denilson, Neamann prob got the idea from a comment of mine from Monday night !!  In all seriousness mine was a bit of hindsight insight if you like, based on how ineffective I thought Rosicky was.

Clichy is also much maligned, I thought he played Nani very well for the most part. He’s another one with the right amount of guts and determination !!!

Last point on Song. Give him credit for never hiding away. Misplace two passes, and he’ll still want the ball under pressure, yeah he might then misplace a third, but then again he might not.

Why do so many people completely overlook the great defensive work he does for us..??

Written by SharkeySure

Manchester United Babies 1 Arsenal Men 0 (And Player Ratings)

December 14, 2010

Let’s be clear about this. We didn’t deserve to win this game. But, equally, we didn’t deserve to lose.

And what struck me most about the game was what a pathetic bunch of cheating babies the United players are.

More about that in a moment, but first a word for Howard Webb:


If he had even loosely followed the rules of the game we would have been playing against nine men for a large portion of last night’s match.

But this was Howard Webb and the venue was Old Trafford, so we had as much chance of not getting robbed as an armless man at a pickpockets’ convention.

I always thought that laying hands on the referee in anger was a red card offence. Not so at Old Trafford when the ref is Webb and the player is Darren Fletcher, who has just run 15 yards in fury to arm-check the official. It was clearly a straight red but, no, Webb just looked scared. Not so much of Fletcher as of what the purple-faced Gorbalian might say if he dared to send off one of his players at the Toilet.

Then, later, Rio Ferdinand executed a flying kung fu kick that left a foot-long gash in Bacary Sagna’s shirt, just below rib level.  If that reckless assault had happened the week after Karl Henry and Nigel de Jong’s leg-breaking challenges, Plug from the Beano would have been given his marching orders and rightly so.

But Webb bottled it again. Not a red card. Not a yellow card. Not even a foul. That’s clear then: in Howard Webb’s book, raking your studs down an opponent’s midriff is acceptable fair play. Or at least it is if you’re a Man Utd player at Old Trafford.

Then there was the ‘penalty’. Clichy fell to the ground and Nani kicked the ball against the elbow he was supporting himself with. He did not make any ‘hand to ball’ movement, he was lying with his full weight on the arm and it was tucked under his body, but the pen was given.

We all know that conceding a soft (by which I mean non-) penalty at United is a habitual hazard. In this case the fat lino flagged for the contact and Webb eagerly grabbed the opportunity to ingratiate himself with the Vesuvius-nosed Glaswegian by pointing to the spot.

The only consolation was what happened next. While we were fuming about not getting the rub of the green, Wayne Rooney was clearly thinking about getting the rub of the gran. She must have been sitting in Row Y, because that’s where his big wayward ball plopped down.

His round-the-corner run-up (presumably intended to unbalance our rookie ‘keeper) was pure Jonny Wilkinson, with the same end result.

Apart from the above, the key moments of the game were two excellent saves from Chesney in our goal; some tame long range shooting by both sides and a gilt-edged opportunity for Theo to nab an equalizer right at the death (squandered, sadly).

Oh, and there was the goal, too. Gael Clichy was at fault again (all United’s best attacks were down our left flank) but there was still a slice of luck about the goal. Nani’s cross/shot deflected off Clichy’s foot onto the head of Park, who contorted himself brilliantly to send the ball looping over Chesney and into the net. Like so many of the goals we have conceded recently, there was a huge dose of ill fortune about the whole thing, but also some of our regular failings on display.

And so to the muppet display from Manchester United.

A year ago the mouthy runt who plays left back for them (you know, the one who led the French national team to the biggest humiliation in their history at the last World Cup) said that playing against Arsenal was men against boys.

Well, last night it was Arsenal’s men against United’s babies. Throughout the whole game, whenever an Arsenal player lost a 50/50 he would try to play on. Whenever a United player did he would throw himself to the ground and writhe around in agony.

Needless to say, Webb bought the play-acting every time. The chief culprits were Rooney, Nani, Anderson and Evra.

I read a hilarious comment on a moronic United blog to the effect that, because Webb called 17 fouls against us, this demonstrated that we had carried out deliberate ‘rotational fouling’ on their players. (Rotational Fouling, it should be noted, was a tactic devised by Ferguson to combat Arsenal’s superior side in the late 1990s, a fact confirmed in Jaap Stam’s autobiography). The idiot who wrote the blog clearly can’t have seen any of the ‘fouls’ because most of them comprised Arsenal players winning the ball and United players diving like Tom Daley.

To my shame, there were occasions when I was calling out for our boys to hit the deck like the United players, but we carried on playing the game fairly.

Frankly, United should be ashamed of themselves.

They are a good (but certainly not great) side, whose principle strength is their defensive organisation. But if they want to live up to their self-styled role as flag bearers for English football they really need to man up and stop the cheating which now seems endemic throughout their squad.

A few final thoughts on the game: Cesc and RvP came on as subs and played exactly as they have been playing recently (ie not very well). Our defence performed pretty well, except for the now familiar ‘Clichy moments’ that happen in every game. But United often had too much space between our midfield and our back four.

In the attacking third we tried hard but nothing really came off. There were a few half chances but we hardly troubled van der Saar.

All in all nil-nil would have been the fairest result, but Howard Webb was never going to allow that to happen.

We can take positives from a strong performance but we really, really need to get that monkey off our back: no, not Gareth Bale; the other monkey: the ‘not winning games against our title rivals’ one. We had a chance last night and didn’t take it, but there’s another one coming up fast.

This was never a ‘must win’, but for all the psychological reasons that have been much talked about, home to Chelsea on December 27th is exactly that.

Player Ratings

Szcesny: This boy is going to be a star. Can’t be blamed for the goal. Made a few distribution errors but there were two outstanding saves and he looked commanding. He already looks like our best ‘keeper.  8 MotM (not many contenders).

Sagna: Solid performance from our full Bac. Defensively tidy as usual, some good crossing and one or two wayward efforts. 7

Squillaci: Made some excellent tackles and interventions. Maintained his good form. 7

Koscielny: Relatively quiet game but managed to keep on top of Rooney for most of the match. 6

Clichy: Too many mistakes from Gael are costing us points. Should never have let Nani cut into the box for the deflected cross that led to the winner. 5

Song: Great work rate, some great defensive work but, again, some poor passing. He has been given licence to go box-to-box but still performs best when deep in his own half. 6.5

Wilshere: Very good in the first half but tailed off in the second and was rightly replaced. Glimpses of what a super talent he’s going to be. 7

Rosicky: Very good first half, pulled the strings and worked tirelessly. If you look back at the game, watch his gut-busting runs to get back every time we lost possession. He also tailed off in the second half. 6.5

Nasri: Not at the races today. He was double-marked for most of the game and, apart from a few isolated good moments, couldn’t grab the game by the scruff of the neck. 6

Arshavin: Busy, always looked like a threat, always happy to try a shot, but nothing really came off for Andrey. 6

Chamakh: Up against two outstanding CBs, couldn’t get much of a look in but never stopped running, fighting and holding up the ball for us. 6.5


Fabregas: Probably shouldn’t have come on in a match of such intensity. He’s going to need games to play himself back to form. His passing is still off. 5

Van Persie: Peripheral figure and couldn’t get into the game. 5

Walcott: looked to threaten on occasion, but fluffed his lines repeatedly. Had a great chance at the end to level the game but shot over. 5


The Big Game

December 13, 2010

Written by BigRaddy

The words Old Trafford always brings a shiver down the spine because Man Utd are  the biggest club in football. Perhaps Barca and Real could dispute their crown but MU play in a competitive league which they have dominated for quarter of a century. I always get excited by this fixture, it is one of the glamour games of the year and when both teams are on form almost guarantees an enthralling spectacle – however neither side is on form at present and I fear the worldwide audience will be disappointed if they expect a feast of football akin to the recent Barca v Real game.

Speaking to Arsenal fans at the Emirates and my Goonermates worldwide, there is a strong sense of foreboding – they expect us to lose tonight, which I find perplexing. I know United have only lost 2 points at home this season but we have very good away form. We are scoring freely on the road and MU are trying to incorporate a damaged goods Rooney. We are top of the League and United are not.

The positives for us are the wonderful form of Nasri and the mercurial Arshavin. Should they both play well we can and will win. We need to adopt an aggressive policy from the start and retain ball possession. The defence has to stay solid and be aware thet United do not play route one but attack at speed down the flanks – Clichy will need to be fully concentrated.

There is rumour that Fabianski is injured and that Chesney may start? If true then what better way to start your PL career with a clean sheet at OT?

Then there is the question of Cesc . Should we play him if he is back to fitness? In my opinion he has to start if fully fit, this is not a player who needs to be nursed through with warm up games, he is too important and too good. That said, this is just 3 points in a long season and should he be anything less than 100%  he must be rested, playing a 20 minute cameo should we be losing by a single goal at 70 mins.

The team almost picks itself:

We all know about United, their  problems and strengths are highlighted all over the media.

Tonight’s game is being watched by football fans all over the world, there will be hundreds of millions of viewers and the match will require a strong referee who will neither be influenced by the spite of Sir Alex nor attempt to be the centre of attraction. Tonight’s referee is Howard Webb, who by any standards has had a fantastic year; to ref the 2 biggest games in World football and then be handed the honour of tonight’s game is a huge accolade. He is not a favourite at Old Trafford because (so far) he hasn’t given the expected home decisions. Should he stamp down on Nani and Rooney’s diving plus Fletcher and Scholes savagery, we will have a chance. If not, it could be a long night.

At some point our team has to gel again. We have played wonderful football at times this season and the dreaded November has passed – we can and will win this game unless Lady Luck fortunes Man Utd (as usual!).


Arsenal are a huge club …… are Spurs?

December 12, 2010

Written by Neamman

Well, obviously that title was tongue in cheek as we all know they are not, but a recent trip got me thinking, just who are the HUGE British clubs in the world?

Before I start let me give some personal disclosure. Born in Kentish Town I have spent over half my life in Canada, and for the last 20 years have visited Asia at least once a year and worked there for 16 months. This article therefore is going to be subjective in the sense that I can comment on Britain, North America and Asia, but have little idea about who is huge elsewhere. I will try to be as objective as possible and tell it as it is, not as I wish it were!

At the expense of reinventing the wheel and for the benefit of the younger and any non British readers lets recap how you usually choose your team. Way back when, before Sky, we saw perhaps one match a week on TV so, although there were always exceptions, your football allegiances were largely shaped by where you were born, and who your family followed. Being a Kentish Town boy I had but two choices, my Dad was a rabid Spurs fan but for some unknown reason as a kid I chose Arsenal. It was a brave or stupid choice at the time, as those were the glory days of the Spurs double side. I think it was just because I liked the colour red over white.  Being of an Irish background with relatives of orange and green family considerations made me follow Rangers almost as much as I do Arsenal, but birth trumped family history for me, Arsenal are always number one. My sister married a guy from Ilford and all her kids grew up as Hammer fans so birthplace was normally the deciding factor.

These days, with wall to wall TV coverage, I think birthplace and family ties are not so important and its quite common for someone from say, Brighton or Preston, to follow a big 4 team due to media exposure.

So who are the big teams in England? Well the obvious candidates are MU, Arsenal and Liverpool who are above everyone else. Chelsea, Everton, Villa and yes… Spurs….could all be called big teams in terms of support and history though not at the same level as the top 3. Below them we have such teams as West Ham, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Man City who border on being “big’ if they ever won anything of substance.

In North America I have to say Man U are in a league of their own, with Liverpool very close behind. Arsenal are a strong third at probably the same level as Celtic and Rangers who have huge support in the expat Scot and Irish communities. I would imagine this is pretty similar in Australia and New Zealand. For the Spurs fans reading this, if any, I am sorry but in 30 years in North America I have seen just THREE people wearing a Spurs shirt. You may be reasonably big in Britain but outside of the British Isles, you really don’t register.

In Asia once again Man U and Liverpool dominate with Chelsea and Arsenal close behind. Earlier this decade Arsenal were ahead of all but Man U but since 2005 many people have probably switched to Chelsea. In Thailand, Everton is quite popular due to Chang beer but the other big teams in terms of shirts worn are Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern and AC Milan. Once again you rarely see a Spurs shirt unless worn by a tourist visiting, and even then in 20 years I have seen just two.

So as Gooners we can say with confidence worldwide we ARE a big team. We have slipped a bit these past five years but given the financial difficulties Man U and Liverpool face, and given  our coming financial stability and power I am quite confident that over the next 5 years we will reach the same level of support that only MU currently sees.

In closing I am trying to think where was the strangest place I have seen an Arsenal shirt worn by a local. About 5 years ago I was doing the Yangtze cruise in China, one day we passed a barge going in the opposite direction and one of the Chinese deckhands was wearing an old away shirt of ours. I waved and gave him the thumbs up and I would like to say we bonded but the reality is he probably never noticed the strange Laowei [foreigner] waving at him. But I noticed my friend, I noticed.