At Last We Have A First Team

On Monday we outclassed Chelsea at the Grove. Yesterday the same starting line-up won a comfortable away victory against a Birmingham side notoriously hard to beat at home.

Finally we have a first eleven.

The second string is the one that played at Wigan and was unlucky to only draw. The first team would have won that game comfortably but the boss felt seven of them needed a rest (and Cesc was suspended).

The only other squad member who could expect to walk in to our newly established first team is Vermaelen – and even he can’t assume his place is guaranteed.

Establishing a definitive first team feels to me like a significant step forward for Arsenal – one that will increase our chances of winning silverware this year. And I suspect it has come as something of a surprise to Arsene Wenger, because I’m not sure he knew his best team before this week.

In the last three seasons we have not had a clear first team because of injuries to key players and Arsene’s insistence that he has does not have a first eleven but, instead, has a large squad of players any of whom can play in any game.

Rotation is necessary during a long season, but I can’t help feeling that Arsene now realises what his first choice starting line-up is. Of course it won’t start every game, but if all are fit and available this eleven will start the big ones.

We (and he) knew the optimum eleven names on the team sheet in the Invincibles season; likewise in ‘97/’98 and 2001/02. Now we know it for 2010/11 and it has involved some brave decisions on the boss’s part: dropping Arshavin to the bench; starting Theo; starting young Djourou and Koscielny ahead of the most senior defender in the squad (Squillaci); sticking with Fabianski; making Jack Wilshere a first team regular at 18 (now 19 – happy birthday Jack); and dropping Chamakh for RvP despite the former’s good start.

Barring knocks, I expect our Chelsea and Birmingham starting line-up to take the field against Manchester City on Wednesday.

Yesterday we were too skilful and strong for a physical Brummie team. Our first eleven carried on where they left off against Chelsea, working their socks off to close down the opposition and creating chances at will.

The first goal was all about Robin van Persie. In the 13th minute he was pulled back  for a foul outside the Birmingham area. It was only a small tug and Robin went down easily, but I have no sympathy: if you pull someone’s shirt it’s a foul.

What happened next was very interesting. Normally our free kicks are notable for their lack of imagination or ingenuity. This time we had a plan – and it worked! Cesc stood in the middle of the Birmingham wall, then peeled off as Robin placed the shot perfectly in the gap he’d left behind. Bowyer stuck out an elbow (for what would surely have been a penalty if the ball had not ended up in the net) but the deflection took it past Foster. One-nil.

For the rest of the first half it was a competitive game, but with Arsenal on top despite some scares. Van Persie twice found himself in great positions in the opposition six yard box only to fluff his lines; Wilshere was nearly put through but miscontrolled in the area; Djourou almost got on the end of a van Persie free kick and Walcott also made a mess of a chance in the area.

At half time I was beginning to wonder of we would rue those misses, but I need not have worried.

Nasri made it two-nil in the 58th minute after a lovely one-two with Fabregas and the wind seemed to go out of Birmingham’s sails. The third came twelve minutes later – an own goal off Johnson after a breathtaking move of give-and-go involving Fabregas and Nasri.

We could have had more goals after that, but I’m not going to complain about a 3-0 away win at Birmingham.

The team played well as a unit and for each other. It was noticeable that Song played more defensively than he has been doing of late – presumably under orders to help protect our back line following Arsene’s criticism of our defending after the Wigan game.

Robin van Persie had one of those games where not much came off for him, but he scored the opener and worked very hard. His form will come back, which is an exciting prospect.

The only other noteworthy point is a mention for some of Birmingham’s thuggery. Roger Johnson should have seen red for a studs-up lunge into Cesc’s ankle early on and Bowyer would have been sent off if any official had seen his deliberate stamp on Sagna. He later raked his studs down Sagna’s calf. He’s a lowlife and should be retrospectively punished but probably won’t be. Cameron Jerome also managed a sneaky stamp on Koscielny’s thigh. It was good to see that we didn’t retaliate except by passing them into oblivion

After the Chelsea win I wrote a post saying that this team was ready to claim its destiny. When we drew away at Wigan I had those words thrown back at me, but I stood by them then and I do now. The key point being that it is THIS team – this eleven players who beat Chelsea and Birmingham – that is ready to prove Arsene’s critics wrong.

Like Kellogs Bran Flakes, this season is getting very, very tasty.

RockyLives

Player Ratings

Fabianski: he’s beginning to win over the critics. Made one stunning save from a Larsson free kick. He also came well for aerial balls a couple of times (although got lucky once when he fumbled the ball but collected on the bounce). 8

Sagna: put one or two crosses astray but was as defensively solid as we have come to expect. 7.5

Djourou: big JD is fast establishing himself as our best CB. He put in an outstanding shift, dominating defensively and bringing the ball out well from the back. 8.5

Koscielny: as usual, some vital headers and tackles. His temperament and bravery are commendable and his partnership with Djourou looks strong. 8

Clichy: Gael had a very good game against Larsson, a former Gunner who can be quite a handful. Made one outstanding run and cross. 8

Song: an unusually quiet game for our woolly-headed wonder, but that was because he stuck to his defence-covering duties and because of Birmingham’s lack of attacking ambition. Didn’t do anything wrong. 7

Fabregas: pulled all the strings; didn’t react to some rough treatment from Bowyer; back to his best: 9 MoTM

Wilshere: more industry than inspiration from Jack yesterday, but he is forming a good MF partnership with Song and Cesc. 7

Nasri: superb movement, dribbling and passing – he is beginning to terrify defences and took his goal very well. Close call for MoTM. 8.5

Walcott: his normally accurate shooting was a bit astray last night, but he works hard, tracks back with great diligence and makes opposing defences nervous. Birmingham sat back a lot even when losing, so there was not the usual sort of space for him to exploit. 7

Van Persie: scored the opener but gave the ball away a lot and fluffed a couple of gilt-edged chances. Still working his way back to form. 6.5

Subs

Arshavin: 7

Denilson: 6

94 Responses to At Last We Have A First Team

  1. Morning all

    Nice discussion going on on the previous post about winning something not only for us but also for Wenger who has got us into a great position football wise.

    Feel free GiE and gnarley to copy and paste your earlier comments onto this post.

  2. 26may1989 says:

    Haven’t read the write up yet but I just wanted to re-post something from Gooner in Exile at the tail-end of yesterday’s post, because it is a great comment and deserves not to be lost:

    “Couldn’t agree more with Gnarley about winning the title for Wenger, I have a slightly different reason though. His Loyalty.

    When we were losing our stars and moving to the Grove he could have left, Real Madrid, Barca and others were sniffing around him the papers were full of rumours saying he wouldn’t sign a new contract yet he stayed and showed the club great loyalty. In recent weeks/seasons (or after a bad result) some “fans” have not shown him the same courtesy and start calling for his head.

    I am not one who believes he is infallible but I am also not someone who presumes I know more than Arsene does about the game the squad and how to be a top manager.

    The Arsenal have always done things the right way, if the money falls out of football we will still be standing while others will fail.”

    Hear hear, GiE, bloody well said.

  3. Thanks 26may and well said GiE

  4. 26may1989 says:

    Sorry Peaches, great minds and all that!

    Great write up of yesterday’s game. The only thing I would add is that, while we thoroughly deserved to win, it was as much a matter of luck as skill that we kept a clean sheet: Brum should have had a penalty and Johnson should have scored from close range when our defence failed to deal with a free kick.

    A reason for some optimism about chasing down United: they have one of the worst away records in the division and still have to go to Stamford Bridge, WHL, Anfield and Ashburton Grove, plus they have to play Chelsea at home too.

  5. LB says:

    Great write up and well said everyone. I agree that having a first eleven that’s identifiable and stable is an enourmous step forward. It is important for players to understand each other and for that you need stability. For someone like Cesc, he can play blind passes over the defence because he knows Theo is there. Also, this group defends better than the rest, from the front. It’s stunning to see because that’s Arsenal’s biggest deficiency.

    We will win the Carling Cup, and if we beat Man City this week, confidence will be sky high. The benefit of this is enormous. And if we do win, given that we already have the best squad in the league, the future will be scary for the EPL. Man U are in decline, so are Chelsea. That would leave only Man City and Spurs. And Man City still have to figure out how to play within the new EUFA rules. That’s going to cause them major problems.

    Well done to the boys, they now have a very impressive away record. How about going undefeated again next year then?

  6. Gooner in Exile says:

    Great write up Rocky not much more to add to the report. Great result, great attitude. Good times ahead, we may not win the League but it’s going to be a fun ride.

  7. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Rocky, thanks for post.
    Could not agree more about the importance of us discovering our 1st XI. All players can now settle into established and familiar roles. The system works both against attack minded as well as defensively set up oppositions. Plan A fits all!
    I have a major point of disagreement. Bran Flakes are cardboard cut into little bite sized pieces.

  8. Rasp says:

    Morning all, welcome LB,

    Great article Rocky. At last we have a balanced first team with players who all work for one another. Hats off to Sagna for not rising to the provocation from Bowyer. All we need is for RvP to regain his first touch and the future is very bright.

  9. MickyDidIt89 says:

    GiE,
    Hi. I really think we are equiped to beat both Manc sides at home, and that will leave us very well placed indeedy.

  10. For those who are new to the site Rocky is in Toronto and so won’t be along to comment until later in the day.

    LB – great comment about Cesc being able to play blind passes because he knows Theo is there – the intuity between Cesc, Nasri and Theo will become stronger and stronger. We haven’t had that in the team for three years, the last musketeers were Cesc, Hleb, Flamini and Rosicky.

  11. 26may1989 says:

    The ESPN commentator yesterday said Bowyer was an Arsenal schoolboy. I’d not heard that before – is it right?

  12. Pires07 says:

    Great write up, RVP wasn’t 6.5 though, for a player who brought the others in the game his all round play was impeccable. He brings so much to the team and is the main reason the midfeild have chipped in with 6 goals against Chelsea and Brum.

    I definitely agree that we now have our first team, Djourou has improved so much and taken his chance gratefully, playing with confidence and heart. I think Vermalaen and Ramsey will push strongly for the other starting positions in the team.

    It says a lot about our squad that Chamakh wasn’t in the squad altogether (which I’m secretly gutted about). Let’s hope he goes with the same team against Man City!

  13. Rasp says:

    The bookies now have us as second favourite behind manu to win the title. All we need is for their luck to change (or refs to officiate as though they were West Ham) and we will be the team to beat.

    I’m hoping that although battered and bruised, most of our ‘first team’ will be available to face citeh. I’d take a draw from that game as a minimum requirement, but after that the fixtures look very promising.

  14. Wiki says that Bowyer was a schoolboy at Charlton …….

  15. LB says:

    Pires07, gosh, you reminded me about Ramsey. What a great addition in the second half of the year. Jack will get some rest without us missing a beat. With all due respect to Denilson, Diaby and Rosicky, Ramsey is the real deal.

    By the way, without being emotional, what does everyone think of Diaby? I love the guy’s abilities, he is strong, he can really shoot and sometimes he is unplayable. But he is frustrating. I keep thinking we should sell him, and then I worry that he will go somewhere and become the best footballer in Europe. I wish he would become more consistent. We need someone like that. But has he reached a plateau?

  16. Harry says:

    1000% brilliant GiE, Wengers loyalty in the face of stinging criticism from johnny go latelys has been, as humble as much as steely and unwielding belief in his ways.
    I agree he is not infalliable and he does get some decisions wrong, in my humble opinion but then again I aint fit to lace his boots so to say….
    People have bemoan his team line up v Wigan, but as he says he has 0ver 20 internationals! And with so many games he has to rotate a little, ok 8 was more than little… But Cesc was suspended, RVP and JD returning from Injury, Jacks a kid…..Gael needed abreather, only LB fit, so Eboue jumped in, I could go on but all plausible reasoning. But I do feel a core of a team is very important……
    Where I thought he got it wrong (imvho), was I would have brought on Nasri and Walcott at 60mins to stretch wigan, but there again, if they hadnt got their penalty which wasnt and we had got ours which was and thus won, Would everyone had criticised wenger still or hailed him? As cesc said after the Chelsea game “Very thin line between success and failure” or words to that affect…..
    Chelsea (H), Wigan (A) and Brum (A) yielded 1 point last season, this we got 7…..

    I do think that if Vermaelen is not going to be fit, we needed another CB in….And when he is fit, personally he would be in front of Kosser to partner JD, i like Kosser, just TV5 is better.

    Anyway with 18 games to go, we have 3 must wins and 15 should wins, City and UNited at home and spuds away, win those 3 games and it really is in our hands……The other 15 games we need a core of “the” team available……
    The one thing I would like at every home game from now is a better more intimidating atmosphere, the chelsea one was the best all season, maintained throughout nearly, the spuds was ok till they equalised and the fans went silent, all of us have gotta to remember that a passionate and noisy crowd does push you on, look at yesterday, brummies were vocal until the 2nd goal and then went flat like their team, both gave up…

    Lets support this manager and the lads to the title, come on you rip roaring gunners……I will be standing there singing my heart out, who is with me?

  17. Big Raddy says:

    Peaches. More proof of ineptness of the awful, biased and ignorant EPSN commentators.

    Fine post match RL , however I am not totally in agreement with this first 11 idea. There are games where we will rotate because we need a taller MF (Diaby) a stonger defending MF (Denilson) or a bigger aerial threat (Chamakh).

    I could continue but there is the kernel of a post here ….

  18. Rasp says:

    LB,

    I think that Diaby is a distraction to AW for the reasons you give – the frustration of the potential we can all see that never really materialises. His moments of brilliance are usually spontaneous and instinctive whereas when we need him to dig in and become solid, he often loses concentration (witness the og against manu). Add that to the undeniable fact that he is injury prone and I think you are correct, we should let him go.

  19. ManUnitedForever says:

    For all your optimistic, Man United will win the league unbeaten.

  20. Rasp says:

    Great comment Harry – we could have made a post out of that. Please consider yourself invited to join the list of writers on AA any time you feel inclined… you too LB

  21. Rasp says:

    Thanks for not resorting to the sort of gutter prose we have received from your fellow supporters MUF, having said that, your assertion is pure bravado.

    The title will probably be decided between our two teams, but we have a stronger squad than yours and it will become stronger as the season progresses …. so I beg to differ with your conclusion.

  22. Ozzie says:

    A stable first eleven these days?…I doubt it…in any case let’s not forget that each game provides a different set of problems & challenges. Whatever else we may think of him Fergie is the master of selecting teams & formations to exploit the opposition.
    Arsenal now have a template but even apart from injuries etc there will need to be some adjustments. For instance, Walcott should only play when the opposition will give him space to run into, & Chamakh or Bendtner should play whenever an aerial option is desired or else crosses are a complete waste of time (RVP is hopeless in the air)…

  23. Gooner in Exile says:

    Well said Harry, my one big gripe about the Grove is the sometimes lack of atmosphere for the smaller games. The crowd has a lot to do with the way the team performs, but I’m not sure there are enough who go there who want to be vocal.

    On my infrequent trips to the Grove I am always shocked that families shuffle out to the food stalls during the game and come back with doughnuts etc. Gone are the days when the only way to grab a snack on the terraces was if the Peanut seller had passed your way in the last 5 minutes. Is it too hard to ask that they sit (preferably stand) for 90 minutes and support the team from whistle to whistle?

    Man Utd’s squad rotation involved bringing Gary Neville in at Right Back…what a squad! He was unbelievably slow, and Rio was constantly barracking him from what I could see on MOTD. Hope he has to play at the Grove 🙂

  24. Gooner in Exile says:

    i meant play not lay, although he’d have to have a lie down after 15 minutes i reckon

  25. LB says:

    Harry, I asked in the previous posting if the team looks more comfortable away from home. I certainly am less nervous when they play away. I don’t know what it is, but the pressure of playing at home seems difficult for the players and the supporters.

  26. gnarleygeorge9 says:

    Top post that. Without trying to sound like a relative of Big Johan, I cannot speak more highly of his partner is crime Kozz as well. Infact, Sqid works well with Big Yo Yo20 too IMO. But the magic ingrediant is Johan.

    Ok, I know, I mention the big Swiss cheese alot on here, but some part of me left the building when Tony &/or Marty K bowed out. To really be a serious threat, we’ve needed a robust tall type of CB. Now, we can but sit & wait for TV to boogey back into the line up to partner JD20. These could be fine times ahead indeed.

  27. LB says:

    Rasp, thanks for the invite. But I’m too inconsistent with writing. I’m also not sure how the inivite thing works. Would I have to be regular and predictable, because that’s where I would struggle.

  28. gnarley – I found you a clip of the nasri song

  29. Harry says:

    Rasp, Many thanks will do…….

    GiE, I agree in a way there seems not enough who want to, alot to do with how the tickets are allocated i think, personally I would have our away fans sat next to the opposition away fans…..Our away fans are awesome, only been to a couple away in last few years, something I want to improve on, go to most home matches…Also split the Red Action corner longways across the North Bank……

    LB; spot on mate, it is an unnervying pressure that gets to them at home, against Chelsea we (the fans) were behind them throughout, slight wobble at 3-1!! but managed to get it back. As I said against Spurs the fans as a Unit let the team down and left them to it.

    The negative pressure exterted at the Grove is immense at times, It really is a team game, but some forget the team is the Manager, the players and the Fans, all play their parts to a lesser or greater degree…….

  30. Rasp says:

    LB,

    There are no conditions attached. Some bloggers have written one post for us and then disappeared. As we are a ‘co-operative’ site, we aim to include as many like-minded writers as possible and will often do some constructive editing if the writer wishes.

    Don’t worry though, it’s just that you have written some very good comments and are obviously joining in the spirit of AA – it’s good to have you on here in any capacity.

  31. Rasp says:

    Great stuff Harry,

    We look forward to adding you to our list of writers.

  32. Red Arse says:

    Great write up Rocky, as per. 🙂

    Some really good constructive and intelligent follow up comments. (before 26May cavils at that, I freely admit I am not any judge of intelligence) 🙂

    Excellent points made by the newbys!

  33. RedanDread says:

    What’s even more important for me is that more than just a 1st team, we have two teams capable of playing at this level-the depth of our squad is looking , well for want of a better term, DEEP! That we can make 8 changes and still field a very competitve team syas a lot for our squad.

  34. Red Arse says:

    Slightly off subject, I watched/heard McLeish’s post match i/v.

    The appalling ESPN commentary team voiced their usual idiotically biased views, in particular they were trying to hang RVP out to dry as a diver. The studio guest confirmed he was a diver blah, blah.

    McLeish in his i/v contradicted them when he said he thought RVP had been nudged while off balance and the ref’s decision, in that instance, had been correct.

    Imagine my surprise when two of this morning’s papers reported he was outraged at RVP’s dive which led to the first goal. His philosophy seems to be — I always tell the truth, except when I lie! Quite sickening!

  35. Lady Arse has a name for the aforementioned musketeers – Theo van Nasregas – http://ladyarse.co.uk/2011/01/arsenal-victorious-in-the-stompodrome/

    Wish I’d thought of that 😛

  36. Mariella says:

    I love how we now have a menagerie of beasts real and imaginary. Unless I’m much mistaken, Theo van Nasregas was coined here:

    http://www.soccer-forum.org/arsenal-3-chelsea-1-gunners-get-some-post-christmas-cheer-by-beating-the-blues

    And I like how our defenders have become

    Djourscielny, Squiscielny, Djourmaelen and Verscielny here:

    http://arseblog.com/2011/01/birmingham-0-3-arsenal-a-perfect-start-to-the-new-year/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arseblog+%28Arseblog+-+It%27s+fucking%27+excellent+-+an+Arsenal+blog%29

  37. Red Arse says:

    Peaches,

    I loved hearing the Arsenal fans chanting the Samir song; “nan nan nana Samir Nasri”.

    I first heard it in the Darts championship for Van der Voort. Much better for Sami!!! 🙂

    Hope you and Rasp add your genteel voices to the vibrant coruscating chant! 🙂

  38. Big Raddy says:

    Another exciting game at the Bridge. They are now below the Totts!

    Amazing when compared to 5 months ago.

  39. RockyLives says:

    Hello All and thanks for the comments. A cold morning here in Toronto (but that’s a nice relief after two days of mild weather and rain). I still find it weird that my first winter in Canada has (so far) been much less severe than the one I would have experienced had I stayed in the UK!

    Well done 26May for re-posting GiE’s brilliant comment about Arsene’s loyalty. Late last night (Canadian time) I went on another ‘popular’ Arsenal website that I don’t normally visit but which is, I believe, well known to some of the regulars here. The site had lots and lots of comments before, during and after yesterday’s game. Almost without exception they were filled with bile, bitterness and vile abuse of Arsene and many of the Arsenal squad.

    As the kick-off approached there were lots of predictions about how sh*t this or that player would be, how we were bound to f*ck up again, how we should sell these seven players etc.

    When the game started, anything we did wrong in the match (fluffed chances) was pounced upon as more evidence of why certain players were sh*t and must be sold immediately. When we scored, the immediate celebratory posts quickly gave way to a sense of disappointment that we were winning. Because we played well and won, it seemed that the posters on this site had lost their main source of fun for the day – slagging off Wenger and his squad.

    I was left with a bit of a foul taste in my mouth but, more than that, with a sense of real bewilderment. Why do these people follow Arsenal? They don’t seem to want us to win or to succeed.

    If we win the title this year (and I happen to think we’re still outsiders to do so) will they all just go away into the shadows? Will they recant and say that, oh yes, Arsene did know what he was doing after all? Presumably the site itself will shut down as its raison d’etre (abusing Wenger for his failings) will have been removed.

    Sorry to go off on one, but I don’t often take a stroll through the more demented pathways of Gooner blogdom and was genuinely shocked.

  40. London says:

    Hi Rocky

    Excellent report as usual.

    Someone equally perplexed as yourself came up with a theory about the “supporters” you refer to; he had the idea that they must be Arsenal supporters who secretly wished they supported someone else. It struck a cord.

  41. RockyLives says:

    A few responses to comments:
    LB hit the nail on the head by saying that what’s special about our newly-discovered First Eleven – apart from the sheer quality of key members of the team – is that they defend well from the front and work harder than others who have played in those roles.

    Pires07 – I feel my rating of RvP was fair. He gave the ball away more than any Arsenal player and missed several great goal chances. But this is all down to rustiness and he’ll be back to his best soon.

    BR/Ozzie – even though we will always rotate for rests and injuries, I think it’s important that the players, boss and fans have a sense in their head of what our strongest eleven is. I don’t think we’ve had that for a while but we do now. The players not in that group (Arsh, Rosicky, Chamakh, Squidgy etc) all have important parts to play on our season, but the first 11 is the first 11.

    Gnarley – fair play, you’ve been giving big love to the Swiss boy for a long time now and it seems you were right.

    RedanDread – “the depth of our squad is looking, well for want of a better term, DEEP!” 🙂

    Redders – McLeish is just doing what all managers seem to do – wanting to have his cake and eat it. We should just ignore him.

  42. RockyLives says:

    Thanks London. It did occur to me that there was some complicated psychopathology going on there. I suspect they think themselves representative of a large minority of Arsenal supporters. But most real supporters reading those comments would assume they were written by Spuds fans.

  43. kelsey says:

    Some excellent comments today and I feel it is a good time to retire as the site is in good hands.

  44. Rasp says:

    Hi Rocky,

    Thanks again for yet another top post. I have no doubt our ‘first team’ is capable of beating citeh. It would be ironic if the only game we drop points in this congested period is Wigan (probably the easiest game)- but I’d happily take 10 points out of 12 🙂 and it would stand us in good stead for a run of games to put us in with a realistic chance of the title.

  45. Rasp says:

    Hi kelsey,

    What are you talking about – not retire as a blogger on AA I hope?

  46. RockyLives says:

    Rasp, I watched Citeh v Blackpool. The lottery winners are a funny team whose whole is somehow less than the sum of the parts. They are very physically strong – Blackpool players were being brushed off with ease all game long – and Tevez works like a terrier and could have had a hat trick but some dodgy finishing.

    In terms of player quality they are our very close to us. Where we have an advantage (I hope) is that we are a team and they are not (yet) a team.

    I hope they play Balotelli and that we play Wilshere – and that Jack puts in a MoTM performance.

  47. Rasp says:

    Rocky,

    I’d like to think that home advantage counts for something – particularly after the chelski result. They’ll be bruised from the 3 nil drubbing at their place so I expect a very hard fought, physical game. I hope the ref puts in a decent performance and we play with composure and patience as well as energy. I would be surprised if the game is decided by more than the odd goal.

  48. RockyLives says:

    Rasp, my only concern is that we have been playing better on the road (and our support has been unconditional away from home) whereas at The Grove both players and fans have spluttered and stuttered. Hopefully the Chavski performance from team and crowd has put that one to bed.

    You’re right about needing a strong ref, but from what I’ve seen of Citeh (and notwithstanding the presence in their side of Kompany and De Jong) they are physical rather than thuggish.

  49. Red Arse says:

    Rocky,

    Agree with every word! 🙂

    It is certainly perverse that someone could profess to love something, or someone, and then do their level best to denigrate, ridicule and scorn the object of their love.

    The same thin-skinned people are hurt, indeed mortified, if anyone should doubt their motives.

    It’s beyond me, I am afraid! 😦

  50. Rasp says:

    Rocky, Red Arse,

    I agree with what you say about the negative blogging, and I’d hate any of our players or management to read any of the vile insults etc. I think some of them hide behind a keyboard persona, because when you actually meet and talk to them in person, you realise that they use blogging to exorcise their fears – but even so, it does nothing to remotely support the team they claim to love.

  51. RockyLives says:

    Redders, apart from looking at Newsnow stories that purport to have “news” I tend only to read a handful of sites where the writing is good and the debates are intelligent (like Arseblog, Goonerholic, 7am Kickoff). So I really was shocked when I read through the comments on this other site.

    Being charitable, it’s perfectly reasonable to be sceptical about Wenger’s project and critical of what he does and, therefore, it’s reasonable to have a site where criticism is the prevailing view.

    And because the regulars on such a site keep talking mainly to each other, the abuse starts to seem normal and reasonable. They probably don’t even notice how weird and dysfunctional it looks to the outside world.

  52. RockyLives says:

    Rasp, good point about hiding behind the keyboard. I see this at work sometimes – someone sends a really rude email, but if you phone them up and talk to them you find their position is nowhere near so dogmatic and belligerent as it seemed in the email.

  53. Rasp says:

    Yes that’s exactly it Rocky. Franchise has ruffled quite a few feathers on here and elsewhere, but having sat next to him at a game and seen his reaction to the team, I can tell you he bleeds Arsenal.

    I think there is a bit of ‘second in command syndrome’ involved – it’s easy to talk tough and give advice when you’re not the one who has to make (and take responsibilty for) the decisions.

    I found that out when we started AA – all of a sudden my opinions became less extreme (hard to believe I know 😕 ) because I felt I had to look at the bigger picture.

  54. RockyLives says:

    Right, off out now to enjoy the sub-zero temperature – will check in later.

  55. Red Arse says:

    Rocky, Rasp,

    Your rationalisations as to the motives/causes of the often bilious attacks on Arsene and certain of our players do you both credit. 🙂

    My own take is that the tribal compartmentalising into supposed Arsene Haters and Arsene Knows Besters, is just a device to carry out internecine verbal warfare.

    They would be better served going onto non-Arsenal blogs to further their need to engage in this visceral, aggressive posturing.

    That said, there is no problem, in my mind, for fans to state their concerns about the way the club is run; the qualities or lack thereof of certain players; the natural disappointment about a perceived failure of the manager’s strategy. The only proviso is that all this is expressed without the unnecessary personal insults and vile abuse of the Manager or the players concerned.

    OK, I know ….. I am still living in Cloud Cuckoo Land! 🙂

  56. Rasp says:

    Apologies to Mariella @ 2:57, unfortunately your comment went into moderation because it contained 2 links, it was as follows:

    I love how we now have a menagerie of beasts real and imaginary. Unless I’m much mistaken, Theo van Nasregas was coined here:

    http://www.soccer-forum.org/arsenal-3-chelsea-1-gunners-get-some-post-christmas-cheer-by-beating-the-blues

    And I like how our defenders have become

    Djourscielny, Squiscielny, Djourmaelen and Verscielny here:

    http://arseblog.com/2011/01/birmingham-0-3-arsenal-a-perfect-start-to-the-new-year/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arseblog+%28Arseblog+-+It%27s+fucking%27+excellent+-+an+Arsenal+blog%29

  57. Gooner in Exile says:

    One reason I have stayed here is because it seems to be a genuine supporters website, the difference with other blogs I have read, along with 606 on web is most opinions are listened too, and not shot out of the sky immediately.

    The problem is most people will only voice the extreme view the middle majority doesn’t often get heard. And the extremists as others have said are just looking for a fight, they often have nothing to back up their view except we are trophyless for 5 years, we were trophyless for 8 years before Georgie and his Magic Hat took us to Wembley to beat the Scousers, after the FA Cup win in 1993 I had to wait another 5 years for us to win the League/Cup Double with AW. At any time did I personally clamour for another manager? (Well probably when Rioch was in charge but who didn’t!)

    Point is we have been long periods before without a trophy, the support remains, I’m sure a lot of people who bash Wenger for not winning trophies have been misled by what they read in the press and hear on the radio stations like Talk Spite?

  58. ryandanielwood says:

    Brilliant post Rocky,

    It does feel like a first team has arose from the last three games. Obviously contrasting results (and lineups) have played a huge part in revealing it. After the uplift of the season at home to the chavs, we couldn’t possibly see ourselves getting setback so soon. And after the changes at Wigan, I suppose that same first eleven took it’s opportunity to cement some much needed stability to the team sheet.

    This site is wonderful for picking up and reporting on the important developments from game to game. It all makes for brilliant reading. You actually come away feeling you’ve learnt a little bit each time.

    When I lived abroad in Canada myself, my ties with the EPL and Arsenal were cut very thin indeed, I had absolutely no way of watching the games due to my age which kept me out of bars screening matches, and I didn’t have internet in my home so I missed out on this wonderful lark of blogging about my team.

    I’m glad you’ve been able to maintain this Rocky, and don’t bother yourself with the poisoned voices away from AA, I imagine they themselves couldn’t remember when and why they started sounding so spoilt and bitter.

  59. Rasp says:

    Good point once again GiE. Imagine how we would feel if our magnificent stadium was half empty like the DW yesterday. The club can’t be doing that badly in the eyes of the supporters when every game is a sell out.

  60. Big Raddy says:

    Disturbing comment from Kelsey. What can he mean? It is always sad when a valued blogger disappears from the site.

    Hope all is well in Kelseyworld and you come back soon.

  61. 26may1989 says:

    Interesting opinions about the anti-Wenger fundamentalists. I thing that really gets me, and which I thought Gooner in Exile addressed brilliantly in his post this morning, is the absolute failure of Wenger’s critics to take account of the context within which he has worked over the last six years or so.

    When the Club decided on the stadium move, meaning no money for a chunk of time, he would have been perfectly within his rights to say “Thanks but I want to continue to bag guaranteed silverware, I’ll take one of those offers from Barca, Real or Chelsea”. He didn’t, he applied his considerable skills to keeping us at top level without any cash being available.

    And how do some fans react? Slaughter Wenger while Chelsea and hoover up trophies using Russian cash. They second-guess his every move, being led like sheep by tabloid journalists and those muppets on Match of the Day.

    He’s not perfect but (and sorry for repeating one of my favourite lines from the last few years) there isn’t a manager in the business today who could have achieved what Wenger has achieved in keeping us at this level without money and with the instability of the move. Being criticised is part of his job, and he’s well paid, but it embarrasses me to see fellow Gooners failing to take into account the circumstances that have applied over the past few years. As Red Arse says, we’re all entitled to our opinions, including to criticise, but the venom of many fans is out of order.

  62. MickyDidIt89 says:

    BR,
    Very worrying about Kelsey. I have just emailed him.

  63. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Sorry, much work to do tonight, so just spying!

  64. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. It was one of the central tenets upon establishing this site that we would accept criticism of AW but not abuse, it remains the case.

    There are sites where four letter expletives are considered acceptable when talking of our esteemed manager and I believe the bloggers on those sites have every right to express their opinion in any way they wish, however this is not, nor will be, the case on Arsenal Arsenal.

    IMO a single line of abuse is not something which opens debate, quite the contrary. Nor is personal abuse which occurs on some sites acceptable here. Luckily, we have enough bloggers with access to the inner workings of the site to maintain the respect that I value so highly on AA, long may it remain so.

    We have had many disagreements and heated discussions but there has yet to be a case where feelings have over-ridden good manners. To my knowledge only one blogger has been banned from the site and that decision was taken with heavy heart and democratically. It is what separates this site from the others and why we continue to attract such entertaining discussion.

  65. London says:

    Kelsey

    I am very concerned about your comment above….retirement? May I humbly offer this view: most people opt for retirement when they wish to take some pressure off themselves, when they want to slow down a bit and enjoy what they have around them; if that is the case, how about explaining to admin that you would just be like to be viewed as a blogger who offers a comment now and again without the pressure of feeling as though you have to write head line posts. I hope you can see that I mean well by what I say and ask for your forgiveness if I am a long way off. If however you do chose to retire I for one will miss your views on the games a great deal.

  66. 26may1989 says:

    Peaches, just realised I forgot to thank you for looking up Bowyer’s record re not being at Arsenal as a schoolboy, muchos gracias.

  67. 26may1989 says:

    Rather than quit the site entirely, perhaps Kelsey just meant retire from being one of the site organisers etc, following Sharky’s kind words yesterday. Certainly hope so, Kelsey has plenty of good stuff to say and would be missed.

  68. Camberwell gooner says:

    Good post, very interesting stuff but I have to take issue with one of your points. Bran flakes are “very, very tasty”? I think you need to branch out in your cereal choices!

  69. London says:

    Following Sharkey’s words? I must have missed that.

  70. London says:

    That’s a funny comment Camberwell Gooner

  71. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff, EpiKnightz. EpiKnightz said: At Last We Have A First Team: On Monday we outclassed Chelsea at the Grove. Yesterday the same starting… http://bit.ly/hb5eLK #Arsenal […]

  72. RockyLives says:

    Kellogs Bran Flakes: They’re tasty, tasty, very very tasty, they’re very tasty.
    Now try getting that jingle out of your head for the next 24 hours…

  73. gnarleygeorge9 says:

    Fantastic peaches, you are a gem 😛 Thanx for the clip

  74. SharkeySure says:

    Well said Rocky…although I do wonder if there is a still a small between for supremacy between Wilshere and Diaby, and Theo and Arshvin.

    Diaby because of his size and talent, and TLR just because he is such a bloody good player, and because Theo may ot always get the space that he needs.

    I’m really not Arshavin’s biggest fan, but I do believe than he is in a run of poor form as opposed to not being good enough, and this has aided Theo’s recent promotion.

  75. SharkeySure says:

    London, the key word was ‘yesterday’.

    In the vein of yesterdays comments from me and some more from GIE and others today, I must respectfully repost this line of Radders’ –

    “there has yet to be a case where feelings have over-ridden good manners”

    Quality !!!

    Nite all

  76. SharkeySure says:

    Rocky 3.54. Reading back thru the game day comments on ‘that site’ is something I regularly do after we win (so thats most games) its absolutely hilarious. I feel like Darwin or Atttenborough when I do.

    Steer well clear after of it after a loss though !!

    You ask “Why do these people follow Arsenal?” Well I have long believed there to be very strong parallels between the pyschology of those ‘doomers’ and that of ‘wifebeaters’. I don’t understand either type….

  77. Ahhh the ‘doomers and the wifebeaters’, I’d have never have guessed Sharkey 😆

  78. […] At Last We Have A First Team On Monday we outclassed Chelsea at the Grove. Yesterday the same starting line-up won a comfortable away victory […] […]

  79. RockyLives says:

    Ryan – thanks for that. Fortunately it’s now possible to watch just about every Arsenal game here in Canada, thanks to a variety of different channels.

    Sharkey – I think AW has realised that he can’t rely on Diaby for the first eleven (mixture of injuries and inconsistency) and that Arshavin’s lack of work rate means he can’t be started in the big games.
    Love the wifebeaters analogy 🙂

  80. Gooner in Exile says:

    I agree with Rocky about both Arshavin and Diaby.

    Diaby is such an unfulfilled talent and it’s such a shame. He is so gifted but the string of injuries has definitely affected him.

    Arshavin on the other hand is a different problem. I’m the first to admit he can be sensational, and I know he has a very good assist count this season, but football is about more than being an attacker, especially if you play in midfield! Clichy looks a better player with Nasri in front of him as Nasri will track back, if Nasri, Wilshere, or Cesc and even Theo are dumped on the floor (if not injured) they bounce back up and work to get back and defend. I’m sure Arshavin used to do this but it seems missing from his game at the moment. Hopefully it will return because he has shown previously a lot of courage physically and was unperturbed by the physicality of the Premier League.

  81. MickyDidIt89 says:

    GiE Morning,
    Spot on about the influence of Nasri on the pressing side of our game. Chelsea were never given a moment to dominate the midfield.
    On the Diaby issue, many people put his inconsistency down to persistent injuries. However, I have long argued his real issues are in his head, and that he simply does not “want it” enough.
    I am not one for too much transfer speculation, but I do have too much time on my hands at the moment, and seeing as we are in January, I can’t help myself. I wonder where we lack cover. I have stated before that an experienced leader/winner would be a great addition, however, I am now getting increasingly concerned about TV. Searching for news on his progress, I stumbled on AW’s pre Chelsea match press conference, and his answers concerning TV appeared to me to be slightly merky.
    Statistically, we are stronger with JD in the side (height?) and considerably weaker with Squill. So I am now turning my attentions to a tall defender. Trawling the net, there is considerable speculation over Per Mertersacker. 27 and loads of International experience. Any thoughts?

  82. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I was keeping an eye on this page last night as I worked, and no mention of the Chelsea result, which I only discovered this morning. Real shame that Chelsea fans are now turning on Abramovich for the lack of investment!!
    Was the lack of comment on here because we would rather Chavs finished in fourth above the Spuds?

  83. Big Raddy says:

    And I would be very surprised if we buy in January. Song can cover at CB should it be required and I have faith in Squillaci, who I believe suffered from over-exposure at the start of his AFC career.

  84. MickyDidIt89 says:

    BR Hi,
    I did see your 3:42, but somehow thought that was a half time update. Nice article. I really would not want to see Song as CB as he is way too valuable in midfield. It is funny how things change during a season. I never thought I would be saying that our season could be derailed through a serious injury to JD.

  85. MickyDidIt89 says:

    BR,
    For you, would it be Spuds or Chavs in fourth?

  86. Big Raddy says:

    Blackpool 😀

  87. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Coward 🙂

  88. Big Raddy says:

    OK…. the Chavs. I have had enough of my Spurs mates telling me how they are the future of London football.

  89. Morning all

    There’s a NEW POST

  90. I agree – chavs, although Sunderland would be good or even Bolton under Owen Coyle, any team but spuds

  91. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I feel like something of a traitor in even thinking this, but I would go for the Spuds. Two reasons. One is that it would be so nice to see Chelsea back to where they belong, and also to silence those loud mouth gobby johnny-come-lately’s, and secondly I believe that we will always finish above Spurs on top of the fact that their spending is about to be abruptly curtailed when thet start improvements on their dump of a ground.

  92. Abdallah says:

    I need to be a member of the club.

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