Arshavin – this season’s Eboue?

January 21, 2011

Coming off the back of two highly satisfying away wins the Arsenal now have a run of six home games out of the next seven.

At our last home game great joy was had by ITV’s cameramen in capturing the negative reactions of the Ashburton Grove support to our number 23’s struggles to impose himself on the game.

Opinions varied as to whether there were murmurs of disappointment or outright booing of Arshavin whenever an ambitious through ball failed or a shot ballooned skyward instead of towards the goal.

It is ITV’s job to pick up anything newsworthy or a “story” developing and the camera director would have been alerted to the dissatisfaction being shown in certain sections of the crowd. Of course they will follow up on this angle and naturally their well acknowledged dislike of Arsenal would have meant they needed little prompting in order to portray us as a club in crisis and turning on our last big money transfer into our squad.

Certain quarters have also made great play of the fact that after spooning a shot over the bar or failing to latch onto a pass, rocking back on his heels in the manner that TH14 did in his last season with us, he smiles – clearly proving he doesn’t care and deserves to be shipped out in the summer, if not sooner.

What I see when Andrey is in such a situation is not a “smile” more a “grimace”, an external symptom of the internal conflict and lonely struggle to recapture the form of a month or two ago.

Arshavin is the archetypal enigma wrapped in a puzzle, bound together by a riddle, couched in a conundrum. His
behaviour will not be that of your typical footballer and his almost self-lacerating honesty can make some of what he says appear to be at best detached and at worst arrogant. Like any person he is a product of the environment of his formative years and having spent all of his life in “Mother Russia” his interaction with our support will not be of the same quality as, say, Walcott’s.

He is as truly Russian, and can be as breathlessly exciting, as this passage of Shostakovich sounds to me(and check out the crazy conductor):

His website reveals a quirky, cheeky side when it comes to things like his chauvinist views on women drivers but like any true Russian there will, in my view, always be an underlying melancholy which is exacerbated by his artistic temperament. I consider what he is capable of artistic in the way DB10’s abilities seemed to transcend mere sporting endeavour.

When he arrived in the snow of February 2009 we knew what we were getting, a creative mercurial midfield talent, who scored 51 goals in 232 appearances(approximately 1 goal in 5 games) for his only previous club Zenit St. Petersburg. Currently his record with us stands at 26 in 83, tending towards 1 goal in 3 games so he has shown his class over the long term.

For some what is grates them is his lack of tracking back and offering cover for the left back, given that he is predominantly deployed in midfield wide on the left.

This raises two questions, firstly are we expecting a Dirk Kuyt type midfielder who runs and runs but whose moments of inspiration are rarely, if ever, seen and secondly are we exploiting his abilities out wide?

Firstly, we all know Arshavin is not about being a trundling workhorse putting in the hard yards, like a Flamini or a Vieira would.

With our surfeit of playmaker midfielders not every player will be able to play in their favoured positions so the second point can be viewed as a case of “Needs must” as in the case of last season where, as Raspers has pointed out previously, Arshavin was employed as the lone striker up top.

In the FA Cup replay there was an occasion where he lost possession on the left wing to the Leeds right back and he chased the ball all the way back to our right full back position to win it back. Would he have done this a few games ago, when his confidence was probably at low ebb? Our game does function better when all the team presses the opposition when we do not have the ball so while it is not necessarily Arshavin’s strong point he is capable of offering some cover yet I feel he should be favouring demonstrating his strong points, namely creating openings, and occasionally finishing them.

I feel that while Arshavin may publicly appear to display some of the Cold War stereo type of being aloof and indifferent (for example he rarely joins in post-goal team huddles with a fan-pleasing gusto) negative feedback from the Arsenal support will surely have a detrimental effect.

“So what, he gets paid handsomely so he should just man up and get on with it” I hear some of you cry.
For a creative midfielder if you feel inhibited enough by reaction to a mistake to then prefer taking the safe option of a lower risk pass the moments of magic you close yourself off from mean your play will be that of a water carrier type of midfielder, and is that what we want from Arshavin?

Another complaint levelled against our attack is that we don’t shoot from distance enough, as one of the few that attempts long range shots will persistent groaning from the terraces could mean less shots from him also. Talk Spite had already tried to engineer a campaign for opposition fans to boo him for supporting Russia’s world Cup bid because they saw him sitting with the Russian delegation when the bid winners had been announced.

Our number 23 remained seated and clapped his approval in a very dignified manner whereas the Chavs owner bounded up and down, jumping like a dog trying to grab a bone being dangled above him. Perhaps unsurprisingly there were no protests from Talk Spite directed against Abramovich, one can’t imagine why.

It would be ironic if Arshavin’s own team’s supporters resorted to something that Talk Spite, a known anti Arsenal media outlet, was trying to get the opposition fans to do to undermine our team.
Eboue came back from the actual booing he received a few seasons ago however the crucial difference is that we HAVE seen what Arshavin is capable (and recently too) whereas the Ivorian’s abilities had been seen less regularly up till then.

My wish, as an unashamed admirer of “The Owl”, for anyone lucky enough to be going to any of the home games coming up is to drag our Russian out of his slump in form with your support.

When Nasri and/or Cesc are unavailable is it not better to have another option by which to unlock the defences of the many teams who will come to the Grove with a defensive approach?

In those games, the ones which could stand between us and silverware this season, the contribution of our Russian maestro could well be critical.


It’s Grin Up North!

January 20, 2011

Written  by Carlito 11

A result to put a smile back on our faces, a Nasri inspired Arsenal waltzed past a doggedly determined Leeds side to halt the slide against Championship opposition.

The game kicked off with some tough challenges signalling a hard fought encounter but we soon got our passing game going, Arshavin and Chamakh combining nicely before the latter dummied the return of a one/two letting a besnooded Nasri slip through the centre of defence and bury the ball in the 5th minute. The deafening noise from the home support receded and the game was going according to plan.

Chamakh had a couple of efforts thereafter- a great powerful header needing a good save from Kapser Schmeichel and a powder puff shot from the edge of the area. It is no wonder his first touch is so fantastic when a shot aimed on target has all the power of volleyed hacky sack. Where MC’s first touch is a thing of beauty, NB52’s has all the cushioning of a ping pong shot, one of which fortuitously ricocheted off Andy O’Brien to Sagna who took a touch and smashed it from the right hand side of the area- clean off the laces- to make it 2-0 and Arsenal were cruising at 2 nil. A superb goal from our Mr Reliable.

Nasri and Song were running the show at this stage but despite a good work rate from all three forwards, Nik Chamshavin was not producing much up front with some poor decision making from AA , poor touches from Nik and poor shooting from MC leading to the odd groan. But the defence was relatively untroubled and the team was playing for each other when Arshavin was fouled allowing Leeds to continue a build up around our box in the 37th minute. The ball found its way to Johnson who scored what must be the goal of his career, busting the net from 25 yards out. It was an unstoppable shot that Szczesny could do nothing about despite leaping valiantly in the right direction. The renewed fervour of their support did little to alter the fact that we were still much the better team and despite the best attempts of ITVs commentary team to convince us otherwise, there was no Arsenal wobble this time.

The second half started with a great move and a Song shot on target. Schmeichel was busy throughout and pulled off some good saves. Leeds countered and closed us down and tried to boss the game and if Song had not been there like a rock against the tide they may have done better against an otherwise lightweight Arsenal midfield. Arshavin had the look of a man desperately trying to play himself back into form but it was not to be and he and Chamakh were replaced by RvP and Fabregas .

We immediately shifted from 3rd to 4th gear and within minutes Bendtner had the ball down the right wing and flighted the perfect cross. Van Persie leapt and hung in the air before nodding emphatically through the outstretched grasp of Schmeichel. After that it was showtime with flicks and kicks- our away supporters singing the Rocastle, Henry and Wright songs loudly enough to be heard on TV.

Smiles all round at the final whistle- Huddersfield at home in the next round!

Arsenal verdict: Good performance with even those off form grafting hard.

Leeds verdict: They’ve got better players than I had given them credit for and play a fair tough tackling game. They deserve to do well this season based on this performance.

Support verdict: Leeds started at a tremendous volume but after initially being hushed by the first goal they kept it up well until the end. Our support could be heard well too 🙂

Man of the match: Nasri, Song and Sagna all deserve a special mention.

Moan of the match: Why do other teams’ fans always sing “same old, always cheating” when their players have committed the heaviest or clumsiest fouls?

Player ratings:

Szcenzny 7 Didn’t have much to do. Was a solid calming presence when required and couldn’t do anything about Johnson’s screamer.

Sagna 9 Reliable as ever and a gem of a strike for our second.

Djourou 8 Solid tidy play winning everything in the air.

Koscielny 8 Did nothing wrong and showed he is a ball-playing centre back!

Gibbs 8 Some good runs to link defence and attack. Untroubled by and large.

Song 9 Immense presence – at times winning out against 3 Leeds players. Had too much to do at times but managed very well.

Denilson 6 Just doesn’t have the presence to mix it even at this level. Left Song to do most of the breaking up and most of the link play.

Nasri (Captain) 9 Another gluefooted display of glide and finesse. A joy to watch and a great goal to get the game plan going.

Bendtner 7 Frustrating as he can be, his cross for the 3rd was top drawer and he put in a shift. Can he develop a better first touch at this stage?

Chamakh 6 Some excellent link play and a good header in the first half. Faded in the second. Can he develop a better shot?

Arshavin 6 Really tried, but it’s not coming off for him at the moment and his passing and decision making are suffering as a result.

If you don’t agree with Carlito’s player ratings have a look at London’s ………………….

Szczesny: noticeably different from his recent performances: much calmer body language, a sign I read to be growing maturity. Kicking was much better, although, he obviously needs to keep practicing that part of his game. 8

Sagna: it is obvious to say that footballers play better after a rest but never is it truer than with Sagna, watch and notice the difference the next time this happens which will probably be after the Barcelona game, oops I almost forgot to mention, he scored a lucky goal, only joking. Dammed if he was going to try and roll another ball across the box for Bendtner to miss again. Pick that beauty out of the net Shmeichel. 8

Djourou: back to his calm, laid back, reassured, Swiss self; he has come a long way this season, not the finished article so we shouldn’t be too hard on him when he slips up and slip up he will but that is for the future; tonight, I felt very comfortable with him there. 7.5

Koscielny: top drawer performance, some superb long range passes, I know that Leeds are not Prem opposition but if he carries on improving at the rate he is we are going to be very happy bunnies. 8

Gibbs: got caught out of position far too many times for my liking; although, he improved as the game went on. I still don’t understand how people can rate him higher than Clichy? 6

Song: I have run out of superlatives for the best player of that position in the EPL, would you still take Essien over our Alex? I wouldn’t. 8

Denilson: tut, tut thinking that the English press won’t pick up on interviews given in Brazil is a bit naïve. A functional performance but nothing special; the only positive I can think of is that with Song being so obviously being first choice DM at least we have someone who is prepared to spend most of his time on the bench acting as back up in emergencies, conclusion, hurry back Frimpong. 7

Nasri: I wrote a post the other day on my perception of how certain players like playing with certain others, Nasri and Chamakh are obviously bezzy North African mates living in London and loving playing their football together. Tonight he was given a chance to practice for his inevitable, soon to be central midfield role; he is not quite ready yet as the fact that his performance tailed off towards the end demonstrated but it is now when and not if. I almost forgot his goal as well, class, pure class. 8.5

Bendtner: the first thing I would say is that there is no doubt in my mind that he is getting better with every game, that said with every game I get more confused as to what we are going to do with him, great cross for the goal though. 7

Chamakh: lots more defensive work going on tonight, lots more chasing down and chasing back. I like it; he needs a goal now to fully regain his confidence. 7

Arshavin: BR put forward the idea that it is not right to accuse a player of not trying as how could we know if he is or not (forgive me if I misunderstood). I judge a player on whether he is trying or not by the effort he puts in to regain the ball once it is lost and within that criteria I don’t think Arshavin can be criticised in the slightest tonight; he was unlucky, I thought, that the extravagant things he tried didn’t come off. 7

Subs

Fabregas: we’ve got Cesc Fabregas, we’ve got Cesc Fabregas. 8.5

Van Persie: biased moi (said in a Miss Piggy voice). 10


Which team would you pick?

January 19, 2011

Written by Big Raddy

Elland Road mid-week in January, 40,000 noisy fans up for the Cup, a promising Leeds team looking to cement their reputations; the joys of the F.A. Cup 3rd round.

Being honest, we were fortunate to have the chance of this replay, the very late penalty saving Arsenal from the ignominy of an early Cup exit to a team from a lower division. Leeds outfought us at the Grove, they showed a grit  we struggled to cope with and Mr. Wenger  will consider himself fortunate to have another opportunity to progress into the 4th round. One can say that we played a second team but it remained a team packed with Internationals and expensive recruits – we had the personnel, we were at home, we should have won.

Some of the media around the game is focused upon Walcott’s “dive” admission which showed Theo to be an honest, if naive, young man. The Leeds manager Simon Grayson has called for Theo to be banned for tonight (according the the Daily Mail!). We can expect the crowd to get on Theo’s case from his first kick which will hopefully inspire him, because from the moment Theo came on as sub in the home tie we looked more dangerous.

I like Simon Grayson, he did a fine job with Blackpool, giving Holloway the basis for the team who have recently done the double over Liverpool. His work at Leeds has been nothing short of remarkable. Since Grayson’s arrival Leeds have had unremitting success, gaining promotion from Div 1 and now on the verge of a return to the Premiership, and he has done so without resorting to DirtyLeeds tactics.  Grayson’s star in is the ascendant.

We saw in the first tie how Leeds play. Based upon a very solid central defence and backed by a Schmeichel they work extremely hard. A midfield that will look to harry our skill payers into making rash and inaccurate passes, and fullbacks who have pace (I was very impressed with their right back Max Gradel). Upfront Sanchez Watt will be looking to impress Mr Wenger – but not too much. Beccchio is Leeds top scorer but may be out injured tonight.

What side will Mr Wenger play?  Who knows? Will he play a quasi- first 11 with Cesc, RvP and Theo starting or will he continue with the side that escaped at the Grove? Sagna is back and rested but AW likes to use Eboue in Cup games, and we have an important meeting with Wigan on the weekend. Will he continue with Djourou who played poorly at Upton Park  and surely needs a break? Could he risk playing Miquel? The Nik B / Chamakh combination didn’t work at all in the first game, and Nik is clearly not a right winger. Either could start  – my heart goes with Nik and my head with Chamakh. One player I would be surprised to see is Van Persie who despite having a huge impact recently should be rested and I expect Theo to come on as an impact sub should we need him.

Here’s my guess:

Chesney

Eboue  JD  Koscielny  Gibbs

Song  Denilson  Cesc Rosicky

Bendtner  Arshavin

Bench:  GK? Sagna  Nasri  Walcott  Eastmond  Miquel  Chamakh  Ramsey

This team has enough to defeat any side in the PL let alone the Championship. Should the unthinkable happen, let it be down to poor refereeing or a superb Leeds performance and not lack of application and desire.

Tonight is a tricky tie, one we could easily lose but I see us beating Dirty Leeds, disappointing 40,000 fans, and moving onto the 4th round

COYRRG


Who is the Leader of the Gang?

January 18, 2011

Were you ever in a gang at school or shortly after, maybe not a gang but a group of people you always gravitated towards?

Security in numbers: there is often a leader that others look to whose presence empowers and energises the rest; when missing there is a tangible drop in the collective self belief but on his return confidence is restored and a feeling prevails that things can be achieved when at other times they might not.

I am, of course, talking about Robin van Persie, the return of the Boy Wonder has reenergised the whole team, giving them a self belief that was clearly lacking in his absence.

The person who benefits the most from this is Cesc; the difference in his attitude is chalk and cheese, look at his play against Ipswich and West Ham, in the former he looked as though he was just going through the motions where as in the latter he was world class. It’s true that West Ham were very poor but the observation still holds true in my opinion when the Chelsea and Birmingham games are brought into the equation.

This confidence is infectious, when Cesc is on his game Nasri is lifted. Samir is Cesc’s present day Hleb: Fàbregas used to love playing with the Belarusian; he could always find him and our captain knew he would always get the ball back which encouraged him to drive forward just that bit harder. Nasri is obviously head and shoulders better than Hleb his goal tally says it all.

You can probably sense the elephant in the room right now; the one that you possibly think I am ignoring, the “I” question. To many Van Persie is a brittle as a Kit Kat, an injury waiting to happen; the most persuasive argument I have ever read on this point was written by Rocky.

RockyLives says:

December 9, 2010 at 8:13

“Where I disagree with you (I think) is when you suggest that the chances of all players suffering an injury are equal. I believe some players’ bodies are less prone to picking up strains and sprains than others’. All players have an equal chance of being Shawcrossed, or of breaking a leg in an unfortunate fall, but I don’t think they share the same likelihood of picking up smaller, niggly injuries.
I would be prepared to bet quite a few bob that in the next 12 months RvP misses more time through injury than Chamakh. Again, no blame attached to RvP, it’s just a fact that he suffers a lot of injuries. Some people have more robust physiologies than others.”

This had me flummoxed and has taken ages to put into words why I disagree:

The fact is, we only know that a player suffers more injuries than others at the end of his career, it is only then can we average out if he has spent more time in the sick bay than others. While a player is still playing there is no certainty that that player is more likely to be injured than any other. It is like the heads or tails trap that people fall into when flicking a coin; the mistake is to assume that after the coin has landed on heads five times, for example, then by the law of averages it is more than likely to land on tails the next time: this is not true, there is still only a fifty fifty chance that the coin will land on tails the next throw.

Clichy backs up the point I am trying to make; he seemed to be permanantly crocked in his early days at Arsenal but now he has the reputation of being one of the least likely to be injured. This could just as easily turn out to be that case with the present day Mr Arsenal.

Van Persie is the leader of the gang and when he is around the others are cocky as hell, he fills them with a self belief that they can win anything.

Written by London


Let’s Lay Off The Szczesny Hype

January 17, 2011

To listen to some people you would think our promising young reserve ‘keeper is David Seaman, Peter Schmeichel, Gordon Banks and Lev Yashin all rolled into one.

He’s not.

Right now Wojciech Szczesny is a raw, inexperienced player with bags of promise and the chance of becoming great in the future. A bit like Alex Manninger, Stuart Taylor and Richard Wright before him.

In his performances for the first team this season he has been good but far from exceptional, which is entirely as you would expect for a 20-year-old taking his inaugural steps in the top flight.

All of which makes the fashionable hysteria about his talents premature, not to say ridiculous. It is also potentially detrimental to his progress: I have seen him described as a cert to be the world’s best goalkeeper within two years, which is an awful lot of pressure to pile on a young man’s shoulders, however broad.

So where did all the hype come from?

Quite simply, it emerged towards the end of last season and early this one when Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski were dropping more bollocks than a vet at steer-castrating time. It was like their own private game of dueling banjos…

“Diddle-ing-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding… I can palm the ball into my own net…”

“Diddle-ing-ding-ding-ding-ding-dang-dong… I can hand it to the opposition for a quick free kick…”

And while we watched and groaned and cried bitter tears, a certain young reserve goalie’s stature was growing with every game he didn’t play.

If either Almunia or Fabianski had been making us feel secure would we really have gone so overboard about an up-and-coming youngster? Of course not. But they didn’t make us feel secure, so Szczesny gradually assumed the stature of a saviour in waiting, a prince across the water (even if the water was only Colney Reservoir).

What worries me is what will happen when Chesney (to use his affectionate nickname) has a couple of bad games as he undoubtedly will. He came close to some serious howlers against Ipswich in a performance which included poor kicking, bad decision making about when to come off his line and, once, handling the ball outside of the area. He got away with the latter offence, but if it had been Fabianski people would be screaming about how he’s a disaster waiting to happen.

When Wojciech screws up a few times, will he be next in line for the ironic cheers when he catches a ball cleanly? Will the home support start dumping on him the way they dumped on Fabianksi? And if so, will he have Fabianski’s strength of character to come out the other side?

There’s lots to be hopeful about with the younger of our two Poles. His stature is reassuring, as is his confidence and his willingness to shout at the defence. The way he makes himself big in one-on-ones really is reminiscent of Schmeichel, but there’s a long way to go yet before he can bracketed in that class.

Szczesny may well be a once-in-a-generation goalkeeper who will star for The Arsenal for 15 years or more. I certainly hope so. But at the moment he is, quite rightly, second in line behind Fabianski and it’s time that we, the supporters, stopped putting so much pressure on him.

RockyLives


Theo crosses Bridge …. Dutch Mastery ….. living up to the form book

January 16, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

West Ham 0 – Arsenal 3

This game doesn’t really require a report the stats say it all:

………………………………..WH             ARS

Possession                     34%            66%

Shots on Target              6                 13

Shots off Target              1                 7

Corners                          4                 10

As complete a victory as you are likely to see. With Song, Nasri and Van Persie returning to the starting line up alongside Theo, Cesc and Wilshere the line up looked capable of winning the game. With Eboue still in for Sagna, and Chesney continuing to deputise for the injured Fabianski we were only two players short of Arsene’s first choice starting eleven.

With those players on the pitch there could only be one outcome, couldn’t there?

To say we started well is an understatement, first to the ball, first to the pass, first to the tackle, the players seemed to be in control of the game from kick off and never looked back. Thankfully our early possession paid off within fifteen minutes, a period of possession leading to Theo having all the space and time in the world to pick a pass, which he did to perfection, a gorgeous stepover from Nasri later and Van Persie was burying the ball in the back of the net with his right foot.

Whilst we continued to dominate possession there was an occasional slip or misjudgement at the back that if punished would so easily have undone all the good work.

One of these moments came from a poor back pass from Big Johan which let in Cole, Chesney was very quick to rush off his line and make a great blocking save to spare JD’s blushes. With every game Chesney plays his stock rises, he gives me an overwhelming sense of confidence, he has the one ingredient that all the best keepers possess, belief in his own ability. He seems to be unflappable, something we have not had the privilege of seeing in the Arsenal goal since safe hands Seaman.

The team needed the second goal before half time, just to settle any underlying nerves, Theo duly obliged with a left foot strikers finish rounding off a lovely move involving Cesc, Clichy and Nasri. The great thing about the finish was Theo’s desire to reach the ball before Bridge, moving around him to apply the decisive touch like a true centre forward.

The second half was more of the same, complete domination of possession, Chesney was called on to make another fine save from Sears miscued cross, but the result was never in doubt and the players ran out at a canter.

Van Persie converted the third from the penalty spot after Theo had worked his way in to the area and debut boy Bridge completed a pretty disastrous day by bringing him down.

Nasri gave us something different today and showed us what we were missing against Leeds and Ipswich, a player who is willing to run at and past defenders either with ball at his feet or with little give and go passing. He gave another string to our bow today and he sure knows how to play it.

The early goal helps us, we now need to see that we can play this way for 88 minutes without scoring and nick a game 1-0, then we can start dreaming of trophies.

Player ratings:

Szczesny……….9

Koscielny…….. 8 (calmness personified)

Djourou……….  6 (few tricky moments under pressure from Cole)

Clichy …………. 7

Eboue …………. 7

Fabregas……… 7

Song ……………  7

Wilshere …….. 8 (continues to play with maturity beyond his years)

Nasri …………..  8

van Persie…..   8

Walcott ………. 8

Some may think the 7’s harsh, but I just think they all did what was expected of them no more no less.


Can Arsenal put the Hammers to the Sword?

January 15, 2011

A trip to the Boleyn on a cold January day – what delights the football calendar brings us. It is many years since I last visited that part of East London but I started my working career just down the road and still have many friends who support the Hammers.  More fool them.

There are not many positives with this West Ham team; Scott Parker, the running of Piquenne, Noble can be effective occasionally, Robert Green, but  the current Hammers deserve their current League position. The problem for us is can we get back to winning ways after a poor run of form over the last 2 weeks?

Looking at the WHU side one thinks back to this time last year when there was clammering on the AFC websites to sign Carlton Cole. What a difference a year makes! This season there has been talk of Scott Parker, a man who really is a diamond in the rough. Should we sign him when the Hammers take the inevitable drop at season’s end?  If so, where would he play?

Avram Grant is a strange manager, I cannot see any reason why he has the job. He appears to be a decent chap and has his coaching badges, but what is his footballing philosophy?  WHU have a sorry history with manager’s over the past few years, one which is well deserved because if AW and SAF reigns prove anything, it is that consistency to one’s principles as a club reaps rewards.  The future is bleak both for Grant and West Ham. Fat Sam is waiting in the wings !!

As to our team, I am still in shock over Wednesday’s debacle. AW looked totally exhausted after the game and for once really looked his age. Many more performances like that and I can see him walking away from the Grove because there has to be a point when the physical and psychological toll becomes too much to bear. This is a point I would like to emphasise, Arsenal should be grooming our next manager and at the moment there seems to be only Plan A – Wenger is manager as long as he wishes, but what happens when he has had enough?

My team:

We really have to take 3 points today and hope for a slip up by MU at Spurs (should be a cracking game) if we are to have title pretensions.

Ham was mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) and the first mention of West  as opposed to East Ham occurred in 1186. Ham, meaning a place between rivers or marshes – in this case the Lea and Thames. Flatlands; murky, damp and without prospect, much like their team … hence the song , “And  like my dreams they fade and die!!”

COYRRG


Where’s our YouTube Striker?

January 14, 2011

Written by MickyDidIt89

A couple of things have got me thinking a little more laterally just now. One is the presence of Thierry Henry around the camp, and the other is transfer window talk. Lets see. We could buy a Right Back as cover for Sagna or even a top notch Goalkeeper. Maybe another Centre Half. Perhaps a world class leader in as a Midfield Dynamo. However, I have had an epiphany. I have noticed how scoring one more than the opposition can quite often win matches. Unsuprisingly, we have not won a trophy since Henry played for us. Robin van Persie is not an out and out striker, nor is Chamakh, and Bendy may have great hair and super footwear,  but is hardly prolific in front of goal.

I shall get straight to the point. I am talking about the League now, not Cup games. We are over the half way point, and here are the goalscoring figures for the players who are, or have played, the central striker role:

Chamakh 7  Bendtner 2  Van Persie 1

Overall, our “Goals For” tally is very good. This is largely down to the weighty contribution of 9 goals from Nasri.  The “Goals Against” is not so pretty, however this pales into insignificance when compared to the number of “Games Lost”. The presence of TH has made me hark back to the invincibles season. The Great Man scored 30 League goals.

There is much I like about Chamakh, sadly though I believe he is entirely the wrong type of player for us as first choice striker. Apart from his great work rate, he has a marvellous ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play. Therein lies my beef. By the time the ball gets to my striker, there should be no-one to “bring into play”. The ball into him should represent the last pass before the strike on goal. I want someone so utterly selfish when confronted by the whiffiest of whiffs of a goal that he would make my mother in law look charitable.

I am not going into the pros and cons of playing the high line, and the lack of opportunity it gives us to hit fast against smaller numbers on the break , but what it does mean is that many of our goals are going to involve a thread, a needle and the pin point accuracy of a damn good surgeon. Attack is a very effective form of defence, but in football speak, the attack must end in a goal. Playing a high line must not be interpreted as a form of attack, it is not. It is a positional stance. In the same way, sitting deep and hitting on the break is also a positional thing, and not therefore a defensive stance.

Everything about our football says “no” to the high ball into the box. Why drill nine outfield players in the fine art of pass and move, and then employ the tenth whose main asset is his heading ability?

Marouanne was bought to add another dimension to our play, and he does. For a first six months in the premiership, his goals scored figures are impressive. What I have not seen are the “You Tube” clips. The moments of individual brilliance that single handedly turn a dire team performance into three points. With MC, as well as Bendy, it is all about the inclusiveness in the build up play, which cannot be their primary role. TH’s first season was not littered with YouTube moments, so can MC go on and do a TH? At 27, I don’t think so. For all this, I love the man and his attitude. He is not one of our strikers I would be happy to see the back of.

Please don’t think for a moment that because I raise the striker issue, that I am saying this is our sole or even primary concern. I am not. All I am doing is highlighting one of my “lateral” thoughts.

To underline that, I have asked Rasp/Peaches to include this pic of Martin Keown. Firstly, because I got up twenty minutes early to write this, so I choose, and secondly to hint at  my other concern! The bit we are going to need this weekend.


Why did the best team lose? …… answers on a postcard please

January 13, 2011

Once again this Arsenal team have torn up the form book and dumbfounded everyone with their ability to be as mediocre and ineffectual in one game as they can be brilliant and inspirational in another. This was demonstrated in the space of one game in the two contrasting halves against sp**s – but why are we the Jekyll and Hyde of the Premiership?

Two disappointing cup games in the space of  five days against teams that, cup games or not, surely we should beat handsomely. Last night’s away tie against a struggling Ipswich served up an even worse 90 minutes of football than Saturdays’ against Leeds and having started the game with more or less our strongest side it’s impossible to understand why.

After a really dire first 45 minutes in which we created two attempts on goal compared to their seven you would have thought AW would have sent them out second half with rockets up ’em. Unfortunately the rockets didn’t appear until Ipswich had got hold of the umpteenth ball over the top and scored a very nice little goal for themselves in the 78th minute. Eboue was missing again leaving Priskin only Kos and Djourou to beat.

There had been numerous warnings of the ball over the top and clearly Eboue didn’t feel it was his responsibilty as he was caught too far up field each time. He had a stinker and its a real worry that he’s our only right-back cover. He’ll be required to play against West Ham on Saturday and also with Sagna’s suspension, will play the first leg against Barcelona in the Champions League.

With Cesc and Jack starting in mid-field the game plan had to be to score a few and then rest some players, obviously Arsene decided to try it my way for this game and start with a strong side.  I’ve been championing that idea for a couple of months now – every time we’ve played a weakened team in fact – now I’m sorry I interferred, these players have now taken part in a demoralising 90 minutes and who’s to say what the knock on effect will be.

A front three of Arshavin, Nikki and Theo should be able to tear apart any defense but with Arshavin not really in the game, Nikki just not good enough and Theo seeming to be trying too hard there was little creativity and Ipswich concentrated and defended very well. I thought they would tire and we’d lauch an all out attack in the last 15 minutes so how bizarre for them to score in the last quarter.

The Theo van Nasregas formation that was stunningly creative against the Man City dustbins obviously needs all four of the parts to be on the pitch to have any effect. This team just wasn’t balanced – Arshavin doesn’t work hard enough to give Cesc the outlets he needs to spray the passes around. Saying that, Cesc was also not at his game and hardly stamped any authority on the mid-field.

It has to be said that while Chesney did appear to be a little flakey – appearing to handle the ball outside of his area and coming off his line in a rather dodgy fashion – Koscielny and Djourou are growing in confidence as a centre-back partnership. Gibbs was strong and worked tirelessly up and down his wing.

At least the flurry of activity in the last 10 minutes made the stats more respectable – 59% possession with 9 shots on target to their 7. There can be no excuses, although Ipswich defended very well they didn’t park the  bus as evidence of their shots on target shows, so what’s up with our young team? Let’s hope Arsene has an answer and knows how to correct it as we have a rush of games now that we need to win to keep us in contention for the cup competitions and the title.

Will the consolation of beating them in the second tie and winning the Carling Cup be enough to bury these feelings of embarrassment – probably, do they want it badly enough – who knows?

If anyone wants to add some player ratings I’ll attach them to the end of the post.

Written by peachesgooner


Connor Wickham: Will he be a Heskey or a Drogba?

January 12, 2011

Written by Big Raddy

Can you feel the tension? Are you moist with excitement? Breathlessly fearful of the possibility of defeat? Come on …. it is Semi-Final day.

These days do not come along as often as they used to – I recall getting Wembley fatigue followed by even worse Cardiff fatigue, but now a Semi-Final is an unusual event. Am I excited? …… mildly. Yes, I want us to win tonight, and yes, I want us to silence the bleating from the media and glory-hunters, but if we do lift this trophy we will hear a chorus of “it is only the Carling/League/Milk Cup”, and if I am honest, if Sp*rs won it, I would say the same.

But a trophy is a trophy and apart from the Emirates Cup we have been through a few lean years. So let’s start the ball rolling with a rousing victory this evening.

We couldn’t have wished for better opponents; a team lying 19th in the Championship, rudderless, having just removed the odious Roy Keane and leaking goals a plenty, Ipswich could be forgiven for concentrating upon league survival and letting this game go. But roared on by a full house of frozen East Anglian’s they will be trying to impress their new manager and give themselves a chance at the Grove.

One Ipswich player I am really looking forward to seeing is Connor Wickham, a young man who has been attracting Premiership attention. I watched him playing for England youth alongside Benik Afobe and he looks a fine player. Huge for his age (or any age!), skillful, pacy and good in the air, Wickham could well be the first choice England striker of the future. Right now though, he is more Bendtner than Eto’o.

It is a puzzle who will start tonight. Squillaci is out meaning a JD and Koscielny centreback pairing. Let us hope nothing happens to either of them! With hindsight it would have been wise to curtail Kyle Bartley’s loan spell at Sheffield; having watched him at the weekend, he appears to have all the attributes necessary for an Arsenal CB; big, strong, comfortable on the ball and what is more, a natural leader. Bartley would certainly have played tonight.

Who would have imagined at the start of the season that we would miss Wilshere in midfield? Yet his absence was felt against Leeds and young Jack has quickly established himself as an integral cog in our team, he is a shoe-in for Young Player of the Year. I hope he starts as our attacking MF tonight allowing him to show his natural offensive flair.

My team;

Bench: Fabianski  Cesc  Miquel  Bendtner  Ramsey  Clichy  Walcott

I don’t know how many of you have been to Ipswich, but the ground is a classic, cosy English League stadium, a fine atmosphere will be generated, not least by the travelling Gooners who have been exceptional this season.

I expect us to make it difficult and leave with a one goal victory, setting up a 4 goal hammering for Paul Jewell’s men at the Grove

COYRRG