Have we ANY chance of winning at Bloomfield Rd?

April 10, 2011

This will be a positive post, so those of a cup half empty disposition, look away.

Firstly, we are on a long unbeaten run in the PL extending to almost four months. During that time we have conceded just 10 goals. Taking out the madness at St. James, we have conceded 6 in 12 PL games – hardly the stats of a dodgy defence.

Secondly, we have the best away record in the PL, amassing 26 points and losing only twice (MU & Chelsea).

Thirdly, this season we have beaten the PL Champions, the Champions of Spain (who are supposedly the best team of all time), and beaten a CL quarter finalist 5-1 (Shaktar).

We have done this despite a constantly full medical centre and without the services of our strongest CB. Which other team has suffered as we have? Down to our 3rd choice GK, 3rd choice DM, 4th choice CB.

Furthermore, we have a young player who had he continued his early season form would be a shoe-in for PL player of the Year, and we have an almost guaranteed winner of the Young Player of the Year.

Has all this good work been totally destroyed by the past few weeks very average performances? Some would say so, however at season’s start, had anyone offered me the position we are in early April, I would have taken it immediately. What is overlooked is that most Arsenal “fans” were predicting us failing to achieve Top 4 and that Spurs would be top North London club under the “genius of Harry.” In fact, most predicted a 6th place behind Liverpool. Sure the last month has been painful and in retrospect the B’ham CC game was a precursor for a difficult spell, but a true assessment of the season can only be made on May 23rd.

Onto today’s fixture. Everyone likes Blackpool (well, at least the football club!). The manager, the style of football, Charlie Adam, the David & Goliath theme etc etc. Well just for today, I say “Sod them”, we need the 3 points. Let them get the points they need to avoid relegation elsewhere because we are desperate for a confidence boosting win. A flukey 1-0 will do it, as long as it is accompanied by our usual 60+% possession.

Our injuries are as usual a major factor. This would be a good game for Theo to regain form and he awaits a fitness test. Song, Diaby, and Denilson are definitely out and there is a question mark over Sagna. Could Eboue get his final start in an Arsenal shirt (I hope it is final 🙂 )?

Could we repeat our home demolition of Blackpool? I doubt it, Blackpool lost a player early at the Grove and we were in a fine run of form. We can expect B’pool to fight all the way and with the return of their top scorer DJ Campbell will not be easy opposition, we will have to go toe to toe with them and hope Cesc and Nasri can create the chances to win all 3 points.

My team:

I really hope that should we not be winning at half-time, AW makes an early substitution. It worked at WBA, yet he didn’t repeat it with Blackburn which left us with only 10 minutes of all out attack. Chamakh and Bendtner should be on early if we are struggling.

Blackpool is best known as a holiday destination. I have been a few times (conferences!) and left shell-shocked. What is less known is that it is the birthplace of my fave bands at different times in my life. Starting with Graham Nash OBE of The Hollies and later the brilliant C,S & N, onto Maddy Prior of Steelye Span and Roy Harper, followed by Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, then Robert Smith and The Cure, Chris Lowe of Pet Shop Boys and more recently Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand. Not too Metally, but for a small town, Blackpool has a fine musical heritage.

I made the fundamental mistake of predicting a win last weekend, I promise never to do so again.

COYRRG

Written by BigRaddy


Success, Expectations and Wenger’s Beliefs……

April 9, 2011

Written by Harry

Right everyone, stick with me, a bit of a ramble, Peaches collared me late last night…..

Yesterday, Arsene Wenger staunchly defended his team, his players, his beliefs, the season, something he certainly didn’t do on Saturday after the lacklustre display against Blackburn…..

Wenger really came out fighting, throwing several verbal right hooks, taking no prisoners, no quarter given, well if the players show half of that spirit on Sunday, at least we will give them a game…..Sometimes that is all we ask…..

Wenger was quoted as saying   “Personally, I am very proud of the attitude, the behaviour and the quality of our season. I will defend that until the end. It is important that we finish as well as we can and the quality of the team is linked with the mental attitude that we have and how much you are ready to fight until the end of the season.”

So what is success?

According to Wenger, “It is getting the best out of what is available, fight to the end to beat United to the title”

Success and failure are states of the mind that can limit our physical and more notably mental boundaries, if success is seen as the final goal, and then surely as we get that feeling, we will not grow and show further improvement?

You have technically three states of play in our desire to be the best in what we do and try and achieve, we can either grow and improve, you can plateau and become stale or you can regress and wither……..

So for each step forward, an improvement no matter how little, can be seen technically as a milestone of success in your long term goal of growing to be the best…..?

Now “if” we do claim 2nd place, its an improvement on last season, so therefore, it can be deemed a success, but many fans will not see that and many will not accept that, Wenger will claim it as a success though……..

Although It could be more than reasonably argued that we have regressed far from 2004, the heights were reached and we all dreamed of total domination, to have that truly glorious era reminiscent of United in the 90’s or Liverpool in the 80’s…..

But was that level of success the pinnacle that couldn’t be bettered? Success that had not been equaled in the previous 100years!!, have we withered and become stale or did Wenger meddle too much in what we had, why did it break up, so quickly……?

It does happen though, it’s cyclic, every great team withers in the end, some last 1 year others 6 maybe 7 years, but no team has ever dominated continually, why do the teams that dominate with great players and managers not sustain this level?………..

We had a glorious period in the 30’s, not sure any of our regulars will remember that?

“Wee Alex James with the FA Cup in 1936……the Arshavin of his day……..”

Back to my ramble, stick with it……..

The influx of foreign investors has warped much of the natural balance of the premiership as un-fancied teams with little or no history, have had dramatic improvements, which then affects their competitors, who don’t invest to that level, due to varying reasons…

So are we right to have such high expectations? Well we have a personal right to set our expectations to what ever level we want, but realistically we should not set our goals so high and raise the belief too high, the fall is often painful and pride will often be damaged…..

Every 2 years England painfully demonstrate this, most recently South Africa was truly painful, but did England fans wrongly set their expectations too high?

But we all argue Arsenal are so close, we all see our limitations so why doesn’t our wise manager who has managed over 1500 games which he pointed out to the mass media….

The margin is so fine; success and failure as much as they are opposites are just so similar in that they can follow each other so quickly in today’s unforgiving society…….

Look at the example this season of the Newcastle Away game, at half time we were on fire, Arsenal fans were on a high, 45minutes later, our worlds had caved in, that was a mighty fall, too quick, for me this is where our mental block really took hold of our young side, we haven’t recovered fully……

Wenger was quoted “You are judged only on your last game. We live in a society where everybody has an opinion and very few people do something. We have to act and we want to be judged on our actions.

“For the rest, our society lives at the moment only on opinion. I have grown up by judging people on what they do, not what they say. We want to be judged on Sunday on what we do, that means a good performance.”

And he is right in so many ways, say Fulham tip up at United on Saturday and bag a draw, then we put 6 past Blackpool again, then the following week, we shoot down the Scousers, the following day sees United getting turned over at St James Park, we would be only 2 points behind and then expectations would rise exponentially again……

Funnily enough I was looking back at old articles I had wrote for other sites and I found an article with this final paragraph…..

Quote from Harry: 7 April 2007

“So in my opinion the end is not near for Wenger, but time is running short, 1 or 2 seasons max is what is left for him to succeed with this squad, he deserves that much time, what do you all think?”

So where does that leave me? I gave him 2 seasons, 4 years ago!! I am frustrated, hurt and in deep despair.  But I will give him these 8 games, support them to the season ends and see what happens.

Well we all have our own expectations, Wenger has his beliefs, but ultimately all will be measured by success. It all comes down to what success is for you?

Would you have swapped a place (by no means guaranteed yet) in next year’s champions league by finishing 5th, for winning the Carling Cup? Or Would you prefer 2nd place?A bit of a ramble, if your still with me, what are your expectations, what defines success for you?

And how long would you give Wenger or do you want a different type of manger?


The Messi Deception

April 8, 2011

Written by mickydidit89

Over the last day or two, I have been alluding to the latest of my brilliant ideas. The beauty about this one is that I have unearthed not only the cause of our troubles but also the solution. The other day Mike talked about Eto on RA’s excellent post about Wengerball, and between them, I thought they were going to steal my thunder.

Few could argue about the best to watch as well as most effective of Arsène’s teams. One immediately has images of Bobby, Freddy, DB10 and TH cutting loose in a swift, elegant, fluid, incisive and most importantly decisive move.

So, AW’s most perfect team, and not a whiff of 4-3-3. Then, along came a superb Barca team. Gradually, I believe AW became infatuated with their style. Everything about Barca appeared to gel with his beliefs about the beautiful game, the pedigree, and the style.

Now many of you may recall my call for “Thrust” but I am now going to add meat to that theory. I believe we are modelled on elements both the Ajax and Barca templates from a footballing standpoint as well as a structural environment. However, it is the footballing angle I want to focus on, and this brings me onto the Barca 4-3-3. I do believe the way Barca employ this system has served as Arsene’s inspiration. The question I am asking is: Which Barca Model.

I believe there are two.  I shall call  MK1 and  MK2.

How good are the present (Mk2)  Barca without the “Little Fella”? I say they would be alright, pretty to watch but lack end product and thrust. Great build up, lots of possession but lack the killer instinct. Oh and the attack lacks strength and above all explosive power.  Sounds familiar?  Now the day Arsene became obsessed with the 4-3-3 Barca (Mk1)  model, they were not reliant on one man. Their front three were very powerful and all had goals in them. Think Henry and Eto. Big, strong and immensely powerful front men, who along with young Messi, could move seamlessly anywhere along the front and each capable of scoring goals out of nothing.

The Invincibles shared many similar characteristics to the Mk1 Model. Think Eto and Henry with Messi the provider. Now think Bobby, Henry with DB10 the provider. Power, thrust and guile. Both set ups possessed that immense and explosive  power. Now consider the present Barca front three to our own. Again remarkably similar. A whole lot less power. The real difference is that the Catalans have Messi. He is now about 12 years old, a full three years more mature. I believe that without him the two teams would be on a par. The theory that one man a team doth not make is utter bollocks. Ask  Juve, Inter, and the AC players of the 80’s what they thought of the title winning Napoli side. Yip one man band. The other Little Fella. Let’s not forget that given Messi’s age, we are almost certainly witnessing the Worlds’ Greatest Ever Footballer.

So, in a nutshell, here’s how I see it. Arsène had the Invincibles, and he thought to himself: “This is very good. We are the Masters of the English Game. Now Europe. Look at Barca. They play 4-3-3 and it looks unbelievably sexy to me. We shall do the same. We shall recreate the Invincibles, only this time we will send them out three up top Europeany style, and they shall wear tutu’s”.

The problem is this. He has been deceived into thinking that the Messi and MK2 is a more evolved version of Messi and MK1. It is not. It is considerably less effective when confronted by powerful teams, versatile and well set up teams. The 4-3-3 without power lacks bite, and becomes very easy to nullify.. Ask Jose. Arsene is modelling our system on the Messi MK2 Barca and not the Messi MK1. They are very very different.

Some are calling for us to revert to the 4-4-2 in an attempt to recapture the winning formula of old, and I understand this, however, we should be able to play both systems. We cannot, at present, play either effectively, and nor I believe could Barca without their Argentine Maestro.

We are rapidly approaching the summer break and everything that entails regarding rethinking  personnel, tactics, formations and additions. I don’t believe the root of our troubles lies at the back. Our defensive record is not so bad (injuries in that department are). We need to address the Power Dimension of our game.

Do not be deceived by The Messi Effect. To the “Thrust” I feel we need to add “Power, Intensity”. Oh, and keep the Tutu’s naturally!


Cramping our style

April 7, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

I read with interest Craig Bellamy’s comments before the England Wales game the other week. Although I don’t like the irritating little bugger I thought this quote may shine some light on our recent performances.

“Are England players scared? I remember Steven Gerrard, before playing Andorra, saying he didn’t want to give the ball away because he was afraid of the boos, that’s Steven Gerrard, one of the greatest players in the world over the past 10 years.”

Substitute Arsenal for England, Denilson for Steven Gerrard, and WBA for Andorra and he could be talking about the boys in Red and White.

I have been to a few games this season, and watched most of the rest on the box, and what have I noticed more than anything else, its the lack of flicks and tricks, something that is so prevalent in our game when confident has slowly ebbed away this season. When this current side was in their pomp you see moments of brilliance that bamboozle defences and create openings.

When did this stop, I personally can’t remember the last goal coming from a neat piece of skill providing the assist, it seems to have become about playing percentages, ball to feet, to feet, to feet, to feet, to feet wide and deliver to no one. What happened to the clever pass, the gamble. The problem with this type of percentage football, it is not going to be enough for us to break down a park the bus team of defenders.

The reaction of the fans in the ground to misplaced forward passes or any passes for that matter has become so negative that our players appear to have decided keeping possession is more important than going forward and taking risks. Rather than flicks they try and be precise with all passes as long as it keeps possession, as long as their not the culprit to concede possession. Against Blackburn on Saturday the amount of forward passes around the 18 yard box were counted on one hand. This in turn leads to what we have seen lately the slowing down of every attack to make sure someone is there to receive the ball to feet.

The groaning that greets nearly every misplaced pass will only prevent the pass from being tried again as the player, it even happened to Cesc when trying to lift it through to Van Persie, the groan went around the North Bank instantly. Surely we should have appreciated or encouraged the intent rather than bemoan that it didn’t get where he wanted it to.

Think back to the Barca game in the Nou Camp our defence stood firm for 44 minutes, and then for a further 30 minutes of the second half, in that time how many times did Xavi, Iniesta, or Messi have their moves break down battering against our defence. However they kept coming back and trying it again again and again. Were they disheartened? No, did you hear their fans groan, no they greeted every near miss, every close pass with oohs and aahs encouraging their players to do it again, making our lads feel like they had lived dangerously again, and that the pressure was building.

When Lee Dixon was once asked by another ex pro about his time under Wenger:

‘Was it true that Bergkamp was the only one allowed to be back to goal and go towards the ball and everyone else had to move forward?’

Dixon laughed and said “nothing of the sort, Wenger just told us to play without fear”.

Perhaps thats what needs to be re instilled into the team to play, for that to happen I think the supporters need to have to change the reaction to missed passes. Not every pass will be successful, but its about time we got off their backs and allowed them to play with the freedom and expression that has been so joyous to watch in the past. It won’t always come off but if they try it enough times it eventually will.

Some stats to leave you with.

Our most consistent passers:

Denilson 90.8% completion

Diaby 90.7% completion

Our worst outfield passer:

Arshavin 70.65% completion

Who has the most assists? Arshavin with eleven. The point is if we want our team to prove they are technically better than the rest of the Premier League we need to allow them the freedom to play, they need to be allowed to hit the occasional mis pass or be encouraged to try the impossible ball, because sometimes it works.

As a side note if you want to see the negative effect of the boo boys and groaners:

Denilson Stats

Pass completion:

2008/09 – 86%

2009/10 – 86%

2010/11 – 91%

Chances Created:

2008/09 – 35

2009/10 – 11

2010/11 – 1

And before anyone tells me that it is not the fans job to give these boys encouragement that the coaching team at Arsenal should be good enough to send them out confident ask youself this:

If you went to work today and your boss told you had a great day but on the way home a third of the people on the train told you you had been awful today, which one would affect you more?


Temporary depression hangs over the Arsenal

April 6, 2011

Written by dandan

So three days of gloomy inquests have come and gone. It’s amazing how quickly hope turns to depression in the blogging world.

Leaving aside those sites that are used primarily by the doomers and verbal bovver boys to vent their spleen and whose anger is in many cases directed at clubs like the Arsenal. For them, it is simply a way to assuage the bile that chokes them, whilst they struggle to face the realities of a fast changing world they believe has no place for them.

Witness Rooney and his foul-mouthed rant at the cameras. He has everything that most young people could aspire to and yet still cannot handle the fires that consume him.

What chance then for those who really do have nothing, no job, no real role models, no hope or expectation of personal success?  Those supporters whose standing among their peers, associates and indeed life in general, is dependent on the bragging rights and reflected glory provided by the achievements of their chosen football team. Remove that success and the result, as we have seen, is predictable and inevitable.

But even beyond that, the contributors to respected mainstream sites of which ours is one, struggle to hide the anger and frustration that has come bubbling to the surface of our red and white world. That corner of every fan’s mind that is never far from his thoughts as he lives his daily life, among commitments to family, job and himself has taken over in a sort of collective disappointment that is thrashing around looking for a scapegoat.

We failed to win a football match on Saturday. No, worse than that, our heroes didn’t perform, they let us down. But did they? We all have bad days at the office, why not footballers? Do we expect those that support us to react so angrily when we have a bad day? No of course not, so why so hard on the team? Does the booing solve the problems? Does nagging solve yours?  Again I suspect not.

The clouds are lifting. Spurs have been well beaten by Real Madrid and the man who did the damage was ex gunner Adebayor. How that man loves scoring against the spuds. How they will hate the fact that he put them out of the CL barring a miracle. Will they finish in the top four this season or is that one appearance in the champions league in fifty years and out again?

Chelsea and Utd  have a very important first leg CL game tonight, they can’t both win. So one or the other is going to be feeling down by tomorrow. Will they raise themselves enough to bounce back for the weekend or maybe do an Arsenal and have an off day and re-open the title race? You see the imponderables have started again.

Football is like that, down one week, up the next. None of us knows what lies ahead, but the great guessing game keeps us fans  hooked and we will be back, pumped up again next week, next month, next season.

Ah!! Next season, not so far away is it? A new transfer window awaits. Fact and speculation will soon become entwined as myriad players are named and shamed as likely ins and outs at clubs large and small.

But we at The Arsenal, what do we need? Well, a goalkeeper of course, goes without saying, but a back up or number one? That’s anybody’s guess.

Clichy, is he away as per the rumours? Will Gibbs stay if he isn’t?Will we indeed play Gibbs or buy another full back? Everton’s Baines is flavour of the month according to the tabloids, but do we need or want him?

A centre half is a popular choice, now who could he be? The blogs demand a colossus, a man mountain of a player, a natural instinctive leader, so a captain as well perhaps. How is Cesc going to take to that? Will we lose Cesc? Probably. It’s almost a certainty if he loses the captaincy. But if he is fit and stays, is there a better midfield in the league than the Cesc/Jack combination with Aaron coming through? Maybe, as they say, Denilson is on his way, has he had enough of the constant flack, who else will go with him?

What can we offer Song to stay? We also need someone to lead the line and score the goals we missed this season. Fragile RvP is hardly a good bet to manage a full season; great player that he is, he will have to be nursed.

Who then is out there available to be purchased with Premier League experience? Will the other clubs sell us the missing link we need? I think not, so it’s abroad again for another foreigner to bed in, how long will he take to settle?

Do we perhaps owe our reserves and out-on-loan players a chance? Could those guys, schooled in the Arsenal way, do the job?

If they don’t get the chance, will other clubs faced with same dilemma descend en-masse to steal tomorrow’s stars at a bargain price from under our noses (Barca and Cesc anybody)?

Then there is Arsène: will he stick to his own beliefs regardless of what others think, is the club even bothered what fans think, providing he keeps us in the gold mine that is the champions league, do they know more than we do, are their deals already done?

Questions hundreds of them: just think, some fans are down now, how will they cope in the close season? No football, just the endless controversy. Will the blogosphere melt if clubs and supporters are at odds on the way forward and the clubs take a different route to the fans perceived preference?

Money talks they say – do we have the money? My word it’s going to be a great summer for cyber warriors. I see smoking keyboards and exploding irate fans. Bring it on, say I.


Wengerball or Not Wengerball

April 5, 2011

Written by Red Arse

Wengerball or Not Wengerball? That is the Question!

OK, so everyone is disappointed and frustrated by Arsenal’s recurring annual springtime aversion to winning games and clinching titles. The Blackburn game is just the most recent example of a flaccid performance leading to an unsatisfactory anti-climax.

Look, it’s not over until the fat lady toots her flute so let’s not give up yet, there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, as you well know. That being said, what the heck is going wrong?

There is a pernicious and increasingly acrimonious split, verging on a gulf, emerging between Gooners with very different schools of thought as to what they see as an acceptable level of  achievement for the club, and we need to determine if there is anything to be learnt from this division.

A First up; In the pro-Wengerball camp there is a firm belief that Arsène Wenger, and his vision of playing an exquisite style of fast, technical football, is the right way to go, while also remaining within tight financial constraints to ensure the long-term financial and commercial viability of the club.
An important rider to this is that many of the slightly older supporters do not want to return to the days of unedifying clogging and exhaustingly dire football which blighted their lives in the past.

B In the other camp; there is a frustrated, angry and increasingly strident element whose impatience is leading them to declaim the manager and many of his players. Their mantra seems to be ‘we want trophies, at whatever price’ and if that requires more prosaic, ‘industrial’ football, as well as Wenger and several of his players going, then so be it.

The consequences of this approach calls for an end to Arsène’s derided youth project and the purchase of expensive established footballers and to hell with financial stability.

These are, of course, broad brush descriptions of the opposing camps views and there are many variants on these themes.

I fall, unapologetically, into the pro-Wenger camp, but with my own addendum. I firmly believe that playing wonderful football will, in and of itself, produce the longed for trophies, provided we can establish what has brought on this annual malaise and rectify it, as discussed below.

Watching the Blackburn and other games on TV, and recording them for more sober reflection, it becomes apparent that the Wengerball style has gone into hibernation. Gone is the fast, slick passing, high scoring, attacking game many of us so love. Instead we are being treated to a team of imposters who present a slow, cumbersome, poor passing game sadly lacking in guile, creativity or firepower.

Why has this happened? Well, if Denilson or Diaby had been playing recently we could have blamed our ritual scapegoats. But they were not. If Almunia had let in a couple more goals on Saturday, which he did his best to do, we could have blamed him. But he did not.

So what has happened to the team who have played so beautifully, earlier in the season, and have achieved success which leaves us a creditable second in the EPL at the moment?

‘Confidence has deserted a number of our players,’ I can hear many of you say, and that is undoubtedly true, but that is surely not the whole story. Good teams can overcome individual drops both in form and/or confidence and still come out on top.

Debates will surely rage about the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the team’s demise, but I will not attempt to engage in that discussion in this article.

What I can say, is that the team’s performances, however forensically we may examine the individuals or the tactics involved, will no doubt reveal various shortcomings, to one degree or another, but will not reveal the main cause of the problem.

I have been quietly watching our main competitors, both in the EPL and Europe, and also looking back at our successful teams of the past to discover the missing ingredient, and hopefully find the solution to our current problem.

And eureka I have arrived at what seems a blindingly obvious difference between success and failure.

The ‘old’ Arsenal teams, and the most successful contemporary football teams, had that va-va voom ingredient, able to pull irons out of the fire when things were not going smoothly.

That special ingredient, capable of turning a good team into perennial winners, is/was the possession of a very special player, or two, such as Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Paddy Vierra, Messi, Villa, Bale and, yes, Rooney.

Much though I treasure many of the talented players in our current team, Cesc, Jack or Samir, for example, I also believe we need someone special, in addition, to make us all tremble with anticipation. That player should be capable of grabbing the game by the ghoulies and changing a loss to a draw, or a draw to a win. That player could be a special centre back or a special centre forward or a special midfielder, or better yet, all three.

Note the deliberate use of that word ‘special’. We do not need another player with potential or an inexpensive journeyman who can ‘do a job’, but someone ‘special’.

I can already hear the yells of the financially aware Wengerball literati out there saying that we cannot afford the money such ‘special’ purchases would require. Others are, probably, yelling that they are not prepared to watch ‘pretty’ football any longer and go trophyless, as a consequence.
Clearly neither camp is happy with the current situation.

The paradox is that if we do not invest in special players because of the risk to our current financial stability, we risk losing our place at the top table which will affect both our prize money and our commercial income to the detriment of the club’s future financial stability.

It’s a tough call, but if we need ‘special’ players, and I think we do, with all that means financially, the club and Arsene have got to carefully reconsider their strategy and act accordingly.

My advice, Arsène, would be to trust your instincts, continue with the youth project, please carry on with Wengerball but also select and buy the right ‘special’ player(s) and he or they will repay you with trophies and be a self funding project to boot.
That will close the divide between the fans and you will rightly be a hero to all!

This year’s EPL trophy is still within our grasp, but following the above advice would make next year a sure fire certainty for success.

Go for it!!


Who Do You Ask When The Professor Has No Answers?

April 4, 2011

You can count on one hand the amount of times Arsène Wenger has blamed his team after a defeat.

His usual patter is to put it down to any of the following:

Bad pitch.

Bad officiating.

Bad luck.

Opposition goalie being Man of the Match.

Opposition being too dirty.

Opposition being too oppositiony.

Tired players.

Injured players.

Tired players getting injured.

Sir Alex Faustuson’s pact with the Devil.

Mice.

Ok, he may never have actually blamed a defeat on the activities of mice, but if he remotely could he would.

The point being that, whatever he says to the players in private, for public consumption he never lays the blame on them.

Which makes his words after yesterday’s disappointing home draw against Blackburn quite significant:

“It was a flat performance with a lack of energy level, a lack of sharpness. It was quite a big concern to see what we have seen today. It is difficult to identify one special thing. I felt we started OK and after, our game became flat. Very few players looked to have the resources to put the pace up in the game. Part of it is down to the fact that Blackburn defended well but I don’t put the majority of reasons down to that. I feel it is more down to our poor offensive performance today.

“I am concerned about our performance today. Before we speak about the title we have to focus on our performance level, because it was not good enough today. That is our first concern.”

Watching him talk in the televised post match interviews I had the sense of a man grasping to understand what’s gone wrong – and not finding many answers.

Normally after a result and performance like this we can fall back on injuries and the usual scapedonkeys – players like Diaby and Denilson – as an excuse. But on Saturday we had our full complement of attacking options available.

We may have been injury-hit at the back, but we can’t shift the blame to that end of the park given that we kept a clean sheet.

The stark fact is that our first choice attacking line-up could not score against a team that has failed to keep a clean sheet away from home all season.

Man Utd put seven past Blackburn at Old Toilet.

Spurs put four past them at Wet Fart Lane.

Wigan and Villa also scored four against them at home.

Even Fulham and Sunderland hit three each against them.

We drew a blank.

If scoring against Blackburn on their travels is like shooting fish in a barrel, we ended up with a hole in our foot and the fish laughing at us.

I would hate to think the Arsène sceptics may be proved right, but his quotes imply that he has no idea why his team couldn’t perform and, by inference, he has little idea how to get them to rediscover their mojo.

That’s quite frightening, because it hints at the absence of a key quality that every successful team needs: call it heart, drive, mental strength, morale.

Whatever it is we don’t seem to possess it at the moment and, whatever you say about Manchester United, they have it in spades.

Worryingly, Arsène was hinting that he doesn’t know where to find it; he was admitting that he could not motivate the team (even though you would think players with a serious chance of becoming champions shouldn’t need any motivation).

I believe he has always felt that if he can get all his best attacking players on the pitch at the same time their technical ability will simply overrun the opposition. On Saturday the Ferrari was primed and ready, but it was packing a Reliant Robin engine.

Which brings me back to the question at the top of this post: when the priest loses his faith, to whom do you turn to bolster your own? When the writer hits a block, who provides the words? When the professor has no answers, who do you ask?

Is it possible that Arsène has realised that he does not have it in him to motivate this particular group of players?

When his previous teams won trophies, was he motivating them to perform so well, or were those teams full of players capable of motivating themselves?

We’ll never know the answer – perhaps it was a bit of both – but one thing is sure: Arsène seems to have realised that he is now staring at the biggest challenge he’s ever faced in football management.

RockyLives


You arsHAVIN a laugh Arsène?

April 3, 2011

Written by Harry

As the sun broke the Saturday morning clouds across the Capital, West Ham were taking a shock half time lead against Man united, even better was the early team news filtering through, Theo van nasregas was fit and to top that even further Carlito was already on his tenth peroni at the Tavern, as he laid claim to been the first at the meeting point of the largest gathering of AA’ers ever to be assembled.

From around the globe, they dragged their weary bodies, from far and wide, from the sodden plains of Norwich, the far reaches of Denmark and even from the darkest depths of Devon. AAer’s are a motley crew ushered to the cause by the cries of Peaches the dark raven haired warrior princess, who’s renowned for strict discipline and persuasive powers……
The list of attendees was long, Peaches stood firm and assertive as she introduced her trusty bloggers, London, Mickydidit, 26may,Rasp, Carlito, GIE, Evonne, Big Radders, Chary, SharkeySure and yours truly completed the lineup……..

Ok, long intro, but there isnt much to say on the match to be honest, so just trying to make the report newsworthy………

Before the match, a Highbury legend was remembered, with the tenth anniversary of Rocky Rocastle’s untimely passing…….. How we could have done with him out there today……He is one of my favourites of all time, I remember clearly the day it was announced that Graham had sold him to Leeds, I was devastated, never ever understood that decision…..?
The team line up was ok, Cesc was on what looked a strong bench which included a new addition called Jens Lehmann, a sprightly young German with potential so I have heard, On the pitch was attacking flair aplenty, which nicely wetted the appetite, surely we would put Blackburn to the metaphorical sword….?

As the sun faded across the skies of London, West Hams bubble well and truly burst, Arsenal seemed in a positive mood but somehow started their game in 2nd gear and rarely ventured out of it, only occasionally stepping into a higher gear, but usually slipping back, Arsenal just couldn’t get the pace of the game going, nor could the crowd, Premiership beckons.. you’d have thought this was a meaningless mid table stroll about….
For me, Arshavin looked sharp and was up for it, Theo also looked liked he would be pivotal….jack was his usual tenacious terrier like…. Robin showed good touches, as Nasri looked to dictate play…BUt all that said the team just wasnt gelling, it lacked zip and spark, passing was slow and showed little imagination…

A bang on his head saw Nasri concussed momentarily, he looked groggy and took an age to get back into the game; Arsenal also kept banging their heads against the Blackburn wall and looked devoid of ideas……

Chances came and went, they were never really going to test robinson, the closest we got in the 1st half was when a ball back across the area went straight to young Jack, he tried to steer it in, but it woefully went wide, imagine the pelters Bendtner would have got for that one……

Almunia was having a very mixed bag, as ironic cheers greeted any catches, not helpful really? And when he walked towards the clock end at the start of the 2nd half, he looked a beaten and broken man, rarely have I seen such a poor round of applause for an Arsenal keeper, it was shocking and in my opinion it was out of order, when will fans learn that they need to get behind their team?

With the team lacking a creative edge and the game into the final third, Wenger brought on Cesc, but he replaced Arshavin who for me was the best player on the pitch, he was even tracking back, making a truly memorable challenge in the 1st half, why? I was dumbfounded, the little russian wont be here next season thats for sure……

Although there was a few daft decisions, Dowd for once was not the centre of attention, early in the 2nd half he had a chance to showed he really hated us as Blackburn claimed for a penalty,the crowd waited for the inevitable penalty but Dowd waved it away, did he forget who the teams were? I was right in front of the incident and it was not a penalty.  Dowd even managed to send off N’Zonzi for a two footed challenge on Kozzer, but still we didn’t put them under any serious pressure when down to ten men…(I hate us playing against 10)

Even with Fabregas on, we still stuttered and flattered to deceive, there just seemed a lack of thought and urgency, although we did have a few headed chances in the last few minutes with Bendtner and Robin having chances to win it for us, although to be honest we just didn’t really look like scoring from the start…..

My major gripe, apart from the negative crowd, was the bizarre substitutions, why take our best player in Arshavin off? And then 15mins later Chamakh came on for Walcott, who although was not having his best game, did have that extra gear so now we were without now any real attacking pace….And then to cap it off, Wenger took off Nasri, who had woken from his concussion for Bendtner, whom played out wide again…….

Ratings:

Almunia: Little to do, but still made errors of judgment, doesn’t look safe and has no confidence. 5

Sagna: Good defending, but not his best game and his crossing kept hitting the first man.  6

Kozzer: Had a decent game, solid player, he has a future here. 7

Squillaci: Not a bad game, although he kept trying back passes to almunia which were too short. 6

Clichy: Worked hard in both defensive and offensive play, cannot remember any mistakes of note.  7

Song: Erratic display that saw him booked and lucky to stay on. Not his best display. 6

Wilshere: His first half miss was so embarassing but he worked hard And kept throwing the tackles in, showed more character than senior players around him. 7

Nasri: Started well but was visibly shaken after the blow to the head, never really got in the game, moments of genius though.  6.5

Walcott: Lively on his first start in months, but faded as he didn’t get used properly by the team, should have stayed on.  7

Arshavin: Focussed and determined, played with heart and desire, tried some fancy passes which didnt work but the team didn’t respond by upping their game. 8 MoTM….(I think if he stayed on he would have got us a goal…)

Van Persie: Led the line But needed more support, didnt influence the play enough. 6.5

Subs: Fabregas 5, Chamakh 5, and Bendtner 5……None of them did much, Fabregas sprayed some passes about but didnt add what we were lacking..

Wenger: Poor tactics and you have to question, was there any motivation out there? The substitutions were strange to say at least. 5

The fans: Poor support by most, failed to get behind the team, why come with those voices of doom! 4….

Overview:

So it’s out of our hands now, but realistically there is 24 points to play for, so it is likely that Man United will lose some points before the end of the season….

But now we have to up our game physically and mentally, I found it amusing that Wenger said we lacked sharpness, so why then substitute your best and sharpest player?

A great day was ruined by a lacklustre and tepid display, I will never call for Wengers head, but he needs to alter his stubborness more often and so do the fans, learn to support and be positive when your team needs you……. I am so frustrated…..

Next up: Blackpool (A)……..That’s a rocky match……


Arsenal to clean up Blackburn

April 2, 2011

Ready for a rant?

I have developed an irrational dislike of Blackburn Rovers. Firstly, there’s the name …. Rovers. Where do they rove,? Has Gamst Pederson roved and if so why wasn’t he arrested in the act of roving?  Blackburn, so named because it is dirty, the civil buildings are swathed in soot and the street urchins have a clear dislike of water (before I am accused of Northern-ism, I have spent many happy weekends in the town).

Then there is their football. Perhaps the club thought loaning out the odious Hadji Diouf would improve their image, but they ruined that by sacking Fat Sam in a manner which turned all the pundits against them. Installing an untried (and cheaper) manager they now face the prospect of relegation , and other than their fans, I believe you would struggle to find anyone who will be sorry to see them decline. How one can take a team full of fine footballers and turn them into the tedious, mundane cloggers seen week in week out at Ewood is a mystery known only to their manager and the Chicken men.

Seriously, if Arsene Wenger OBE managed Blackburn they would be a top 8 side. Look at the talent at their disposal. In defence, an England GK, the New Zealand Captain Nelsen, the monstrous Samba, Martin Olsson, who is getting rave reviews in Scandanavia, and the enormous experience of Salgado (over 250 games for Real Madrid). In midfield, the creativity and graft of Gamst, Emerton and Dunn. Upfront, the pace of Benjani, and MU’s young Diouf, allied to the height and movement of Santa Cruz. This SHOULD be a decent team – but they are not.

And why not? Perhaps a Blackburn fan could tell us (if they read this far without closing the page in fury).

Now I dislike Fat Sam as much as the next man, to me he is the antithesis of Wengerball, a man who believes in the Charles Hughes school of long ball, aggressive football, but whatever one thinks of him, he did a damned sight better job with this team than the current dummy whose only recommendation appears to be that he is Scottish…

John Jensen is Keen’s no.2. arriving after a disastrous time as manager of Randers in Denmark  (9 losses and 2 draws in 11 games). How on earth do these guys get their highly paid jobs??   Oh, & I was there when Jensen scored!

Enough of Blackburn, let us move onto the men in the white hats.

2 weeks break and a return to the first team for 3 players who have been sorely missed: Song, Cesc and Theo.  It appears all the players who went away on International duty have returned fit, even Chocolate Legs, so apart from the difficulties at CB and in goal, we have a proper team.

Big words those …. “apart from“…… The success of this season will turn upon the strength of our defence. We have no difficulties scoring, especially when Theo and Cesc are both fit and firing.  If Almunia and Squillaci find a decent run of form and Kosciely continues his improvement, I believe we will win the title,. The return of the very influential Song should add some much needed defensive security, but ultimately it will be the CB’s and in particular the GK who will come under immense pressure, because every T, D & H knows they are fallible.

My team:

We should even be able to have a very strong bench (apart from CB).

I expect Arsenal to come out very fast and attempt to win the game in the first 20 minutes. If we score early, B’burn are doomed. However, after the recent frustrations, a poor first half will have a detrimental effect upon the faithful and the tension will mount. That said, I am confident of 3 points.

Big Raddy is very much looking forward to meeting fellow AA’ers today and will raise a glass to absent friends.

To The Tavern …..

COYRRG


Arsenal – The Times of our Lives?

April 1, 2011

Written by Red Arse

Have you ever wished you could go back in time to see the Gunners of an earlier era?

Now for those scientifically inclined, I know it is not possible to go back in time, and we could have an interesting chat as to why that is, but let’s just dream that it is possible for a moment!

What would be your choice? Would you go back in a ‘time machine’ to the beginning, in 1886, to see history unfold, to see how the Arsenal got up and running and to witness our founding?

Who were these ordinary/extraordinary working guys from the Woolwich firm, ‘Royal Arsenal’ who founded our club? We were nicknamed: The Gunners: because the firm was an armaments factory. The guns (cannons) that we are associated with since and which are on display outside the Arsenal Museum and the Emirates, were made here, and would have been used on ships of that era.

We were originally called “Dial Square” from the designation of one of the armament workshops. Then at Christmas time in 1886, the name was changed to “Royal Arsenal”. We were also, for a time, known as “Woolwich Reds” and “Woolwich Arsenal” until finally we became Arsenal Football Club, in 1914, and were henceforth always referred to as “The Arsenal”.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall, so as to hear the machinations over the move from Woolwich, in South London, to Highbury, in North London, and our subsequent political elevation to the old First Division, courtesy of Sir Henry Norris, much to the chagrin of the cockerel lovers?

If that is not to your taste, how about the 1930’s which, under Herbert Chapman, began with a famous 2:0 FA Cup Final win over Huddersfield? That was the start of a sublimely successful era with some of the all time great footballers of that or any other era playing for us. Our cup winning team, that day in 1930, included Cliff Bastin, and Joe Hulme, celebrated wingers of contrasting but complementary styles, with both possessing deadly accurate crossing ability and blistering shots.

How about watching the Jack Wilshere/Liam Brady of those years; Alex James was a footballing genius, if there ever was one, despite wearing the longest baggiest shorts ever designed to embarrass mankind?  Other names to leap out of that team line up were Lambert Jack, and Hapgood. It would have been a joy to be there and witness the start of one of our most successful periods.

Another FA Cup Final victory came along in 1936 with many of the same names cropping up along with that of one of our all time best forwards, Ted Drake, who scored in the 1:0 Cup Final win over Sheffield United.

The decade was full of League titles too, commencing in 1931 and encompassing 1933, 1935 and 1938. Who would not have wanted to see that period through the eyes of those who lived through it?

Or, perhaps, you would prefer to experience the next key period for trophy success in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when under manager Tom Whittaker we won titles in 1948 and 1953, together with another FA Cup win in 1950. From what I have heard of this era, following on from WW2, it was still a desolate time for many, and the football must have been a desperately needed opiate to make up for the post war drudgery.

The first Arsenal “Double” year of 1970/71 through to the current season is a period many of you were fortunate enough to witness first hand.

But would you not want to go back and again experience the excitement and euphoria of the trophy winning George Graham era?

In 1987, we won the old League Cup under George, and then in 1989 came that fabulous last minute, Mickey Thomas goal that won us the old First Division title, before we went on to win it again in 1991, followed by the League Cup and FA Cup double in 1993, as well as the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994 with an Alan Smith special.

We all know that George’s teams, though remarkably successful, could not hold a candle to Arsene’s entertainingly skilful little ball players, and their style still leaves many shuddering at the thought of going back to it. But isn’t that what many fans are now calling out for. “Sod the style”, they say, “we want trophies” they yell. Well, first go back and look and remind yourselves what you might be letting us all in for!

Over the 40 years from 1970 until today, it has been possible to bask in the glory of the teams and see the brilliance of wonderful or charismatic players like Charlie George, Frank McLintock, George ‘the Stroller’ Graham, Denis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and all the others, as we won FA Cups, League and Premier League titles and Doubles.

There are so many other times, games and players you might like to go back and experience first hand, not least during the changes that happened in professional football as a result of our own George Eastham’s successful court battle over players’ salaries.

Known for his short arms and deep pockets, how did his team-mates of the time, Joe Baker, Geoff Strong, Geordie Armstrong and Alan Skirton react? Did they play better as a result?

Yes, if a time machine was available, I would simply be unable to resist going back to see the stars and events that surrounded our wonderful club from its foundation in the 19th century.

There is such a wealth of history about Arsenal and you and I are all part of it!

So, how about you? What era would you go back to? What players would you like to see? And why?